Real or Fake?

Artificial turf isn’t just for stadiums anymore.

WHY ON EARTH would any Florida homeowner opt for synthetic grass instead of the real thing? One reason: St. Augustine, the most common type of grass used in Florida lawns, isn’t like the velvety swaths of green found up north. It’s prickly and no place for a blanket-free picnic, which makes an artificial alternative sound pretty attractive.

“One of the great benefits of having artificial grass in Florida is being able to get down on the ground and enjoy your lawn with your children or dogs without suffering from grass pollen allergies or dealing with fire ant mounds, itchy grass or dirty bare spots,” says David Sheffer, president of Sarasota-based AlternaScapes.

Today’s manmade turf isn’t that stiff, crunchy, doormat-with-a-daisy type from the past; now artificial grass comes in a broad range of options, from close-cropped putting green styles to thick and lush lawn varieties that are soft to the touch and look virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. And it can be “grown” anywhere, even in shady or high-traffic areas where real grass won’t thrive, and it can actually cut down on dirt tracked into the home, since there’s no exposed soil.

Installation starts with excavation and the positioning of a drainage layer, then the artificial turf is attached to a framework with staples, nails or other fasteners. Finally, the faux lawn is in-filled with sand or a sand-and-rubber mixture to stabilize and protect the turf.

It’s a big project, and it comes with a big price tag. Most installations cost between $9 and $15 a square foot, depending on the project’s size (in most cases, the bigger the project, the lower the square-foot price), the amount of site preparation required, and the grade of artificial turf selected.

Costly for sure, but this is one of those home-improvement projects that should be viewed from a long-term, cost-averaging perspective. “The biggest pros about artificial turf for residential use are that there’s no mowing, no fertilizing or pest treatment, and no watering,” says David Barbera, president of Artificial Turf Supply in Dalton, Georgia. “It’s a huge time- and money-saver.”

No Lawn equipment is needed, save for a leaf blower and a plastic rake or stiff-bristled push broom to remove leaves and other debris. Weed-killer can be used if any errant plants take root. But what if Fido marks his territory? There are enzyme sprays available to neutralize the odor—some even smell like fresh-cut grass. With proper care, an artificial lawn can last as long as 15 to 20 years.

If you’re thinking about retiring your lawn mower and going unnatural, keep in mind that not all synthetic turf is created equal. This may not be the best place to try to save a buck by getting a cheaper product; choose one from a reputable company with a proven track record and a solid warranty.

DRAINAGE is a big concern when installing artificial turf. The fake stuff can retain moisture, which harbors mold, mildew and bacteria growth, so proper installation at the onset and ongoing chemical maintenance are essential. Ask your installer about the project’s drainage plan, as well as adding antibacterial infill material to retard microbial growth.

Categories: Home Improvement, Landscaping