When you look at your backyard do you see a lush lawn -- the kind that your children can romp around on, the cat can graze on and the dog can lie on while basking in the sun? The kind of lawn that's freshly mowed, that's ever green and never spotty? Perhaps it's the kind of lawn that you can only see when you look over the fence into your neighbor's yard? Of course the grass is always greener but in this case it might indeed be true.
If that's the case then synthetic lawns might be the answer for you. I know what you're thinking -- my backyard is not a putting range (or maybe some of you would like it to be). Anyway, regardless of whether you want to practice your golf swing or simply have a carefree lawn, synthetic grass is growing on some homeowners.
"We see it kind of going in regions. The southwest and west are leading the charge for the US," says Dale Karmie, Director of Operations for ForeverLawn.
Karmie says that drought conditions and water restrictions have made homeowners turn to synthetic grass as a way to stay green all year long. He says that while people may first put in the synthetic grass because of water conditions, he claims that after it's installed, "People realize that it does look good and it is functional and it is nice and it doesn't look like the old cheesy astroturf. It's gained acceptance," says Karmie.
As for initial cost, "I would say the [synthetic] grass will run four to five times the cost of putting in sod initially for irrigation system and grass, but when you start looking at the ongoing cost of maintenance, watering, fertilizing and doing the things you have to do to keep a nice lawn…. We'll see a pay back rate typically in about five to six years," says Karmie.
Depending on where you live, there are some things to watch out for with synthetic grass. For instance, it is made of plastic so on a hot day your lawn could really cook.
"What I tell people is this, if it's 110 degrees in the middle of the afternoon, you may not want to be walking in your bare feet," says Karmie.
He says, however, that it won't prevent children from running around on it. "We use it in playgrounds, day care centers, sports fields, it's in all climates, all locations and kids play on it," explains Karmie.
Karmie claims synthetic grass, if chosen correctly, can be headache free. But it's important to make sure that the proper types of sub base are used. Some companies use sand to fill in between the blades of grass which can cause the synthetic grass to not be able to drain properly.
"Some products don't use sand, and ForeverLawn is one of them. We use rubber granules from recycled tire. It doesn't pack down into a hard base and block the draining of the grass," explains Karmie.
If you're planning on purchasing synthetic grass, Karmie has some vital tips for you.
First make sure the quality of the blade structure is parallel fibrillated blades as opposed to honeycomb fibrillated. Karmie says the parallel fibrillated resist wear as much as five to 10 times more than the other kind.
The next thing is to make sure the in-fill will not be sand, but rather rubber as mentioned previously. In-fill is used to help make the blades of grass stand up.
Also look for a product that has a thick durable backing. Urethane is typically used but it tends to shrink and expand depending on climate conditions. If additional layers and fiber backing are used this won't pose a problem.
Karmie recommends that consumers check how the seams are held together. He says that many manufacturers use glue but that makes the product susceptible to breaking down when the climate changes. Products such as ForeverLawn use no glue or adhesive; instead a mechanical bond is used.
Finally, as with any type of home repair or remodel, make certain that you use an educated team of professionals. The synthetic grass business is growing stronger daily. Karmie warns that many people are jumping into the industry without fully understanding the product. So do your research on the company before you spend your money.
There is a wide range of types and prices of synthetic grass, but if you choose a good quality product it should last 10 to 20 years. That's a whole lot of weekends free from mowing the lawn.