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Artificial Turf Cost – How to Get the Best Value
Have you ever dreamed of having the perfect grass, the one that all the neighbors envy? Where all the blades of grass are the same length and there are no dead brown spots?
Everyone wants a lawn like that, but it can be expensive and require a lot of work to maintain a high-quality natural lawn. The great news is that there’s an alternative – artificial turf – that requires very little work for the perfect lawn.
Artificial Grass vs. Natural Grass: Cost Comparison
The cost of artificial turf may not be what you expect. Read on to learn more.
The type of turf you choose, whether natural grass or synthetic lawn materials, will vary depending on your budget and maintenance preferences. The cost of artificial grass is significantly higher upfront compared to natural grass. Artificial turf systems require several synthetic components:
Synthetic turf installation also requires high-quality base materials beneath the fake grass to allow drainage. The turf material itself can range from $2-$7 per square foot depending on the realism and durability. All in all, the materials costs for artificial grass run $8-$20 per square foot installed.
For natural grass, the material costs are much lower – grass seed can cost as little as 50 cents per square foot. Sod ranges from 25 cents to $1 per square foot.
So the base materials for a natural lawn are quite cheap in comparison. However, the ongoing material costs for maintenance add up over time.
Installing artificial turf requires less intensive labor compared to laying natural sod. Artificial turf can often be installed by handy homeowners as a DIY project. The process involves:
- Clearing and leveling the installation area
- Compacting and grading a crushed stone base layer
- Unrolling the synthetic turf and securing the seams
- Spreading and raking the infill material
While physical labor is required, the process is straightforward without the need for advanced skills. Installation costs depend on whether you hire a professional turf installer or do it yourself.
Laying natural sod has more complex steps:
- Digging up and amending the topsoil
- Leveling the lawn area
- Rolling out sod strips in rows, ensuring seams line up
- Tamping down the sod so roots take hold
- Thoroughly watering the new sod daily
Proper sod installation requires careful prep work and technique to avoid patches and uneven areas. This typically requires hiring experienced landscaping crews, adding $1,000-$5,000 in labor costs for an average lawn. Ongoing mowing and maintenance could also require paid labor.
So while artificial turf has higher upfront material expenses, the ability to install it yourself without professional help means lower labor costs overall.
Over time, natural grass lawns accrue major hidden costs to the environment. Maintaining healthy grass requires substantial water usage, fertilizers, and pesticides:
- Watering – The average lawn needs 55 gallons of water per square foot annually. For a 5,000 sq ft lawn, that equates to over 270,000 gallons a year, even in rainy climates. This depletes groundwater reserves.
- Fertilizer – Synthetic fertilizers contain compounds like nitrogen and phosphorus that run off into waterways and cause algal blooms and ecosystem damage.
- Pesticides – Chemical weed and insect controls also contain toxic substances that leach into soils and groundwater supplies.
- Equipment emissions – Gas mowers and other lawn tools emit air pollutants over their lifetime.
- Waste – Grass clippings add to landfill waste if not composted.
Artificial grass has no ongoing environmental effect. It eliminates all water use, chemical applications, emissions, and waste versus natural grass care.
From a cost perspective, any potential future regulations on lawn chemicals or water use would drive up the maintenance costs of natural grass. Artificial turf avoids these hidden environmental expenses.
Caring for a natural grass lawn requires significant time and costs compared to an artificial one:
- Mowing – Grass grows up to 6 inches per month in peak season. Weekly or bi-weekly mowing is needed to maintain an attractive lawn. Mowing costs can exceed $1,000 annually if outsourcing the work.
- Watering – During hot and dry periods, lawns may need to be watered 2-3 times per week. Installation of irrigation systems can cost $2,000 or more.
- Aeration – Core aeration should be done 1-2 times per year to improve nutrient delivery. Aeration services average $200 per treatment.
- Overseeding – Bare and thin areas need re-seeding every 2-3 years. Grass seed costs add up, along with labor for prep and planting.
- Fertilizer – Applying synthetic or organic fertilizers 2-4 times per year maintains color and growth. Products can cost $30 or more per application.
For artificial grass, maintenance costs are near zero. Other than occasional rinsing with a hose, no ongoing care is required. The materials are designed to maintain their appearance for over a decade. This provides major cost savings compared to natural grass care.
Repairs and Replacement
Natural grass requires periodic patching and re-seeding of worn or bare areas every 2-5 years. Fully replacing the lawn may be needed every 10-15 years as the soil becomes less fertile.
Quality artificial turf is engineered to last up to 15 years with proper base prep. Repairs are minimal – a seam re-gluing or infill topping off every few years. Though artificial turf cost is higher initially, the fact it may need only one replacement over the lifespan of natural grass makes it a smarter long-term investment.
Innovative Landscaping: 10 Smart Ways to Use Artificial Grass
Artificial grass offers a versatile, low-maintenance alternative for transforming outdoor spaces. Here are 10 creative ideas to utilize for your home landscaping.
1. Use Artificial Grass in Hard-to-Grow Areas
Using artificial grass in places where natural grass struggles to grow, like heavily shaded areas or sloped sections of the yard, allows you to have a lush green lawn without the hassle. Artificial grass thrives in all conditions and never needs watering or mowing. Install it on the shady side of the house or a steep hill for hassle-free greenery.
2. Line Walkways and Patios
Lining walkways and patios with artificial turf creates clean, defined edges and prevents weeds from encroaching on hardscapes. It also helps limit dirt and mud from being tracked onto paths. Choose a short-pile artificial grass that mimics a manicured lawn.
3. Create a Pet-Friendly Yard
For pet owners, artificial grass is a dream come true. It won’t get muddy, stained, or worn down from animal traffic. Make a designated potty area with artificial grass for easy cleanup. You can also install artificial turf throughout the backyard for a comfortable play surface for dogs.
4. Use in Kids’ Play Areas
Artificial grass creates a soft, realistic surface for kids to play on. It provides a cushioned landing for play equipment like swings or slides. It also doesn’t get muddy or hold standing water like real grass. Use it to cover all or part of your play area for clean, all-weather play.
5. Line Garden Beds and Tree Rings
Placing artificial grass around garden beds or tree rings gives a tidy, finished look. It prevents weeds and eliminates the need to mulch or add edging. The artificial turf will neatly frame plants and trees while adding greenery to tie the area together. Choose a style and color to coordinate with your beds.
6. Accent Hardscapes and Rock Gardens
Adding patches of artificial turf to complement hardscapes and rock gardens infuses more color and softens the look. For example, placing artificial grass under or next to a decorative bench, winding through stone paths, or mixed in with gravel creates visual interest.
7. Line Planter Boxes
Lining planter boxes with artificial turf keeps soil and mulch contained. It will cascade over the edges for a finished look. Use it to edge vegetable garden boxes, potted plants, or anywhere else soil can spill out. The turf also prevents weed growth between planters.
8. Create a Putting Green
For golf enthusiasts, installing an artificial putting green is easy with turf. Choose a short-pile turf designed specifically for putting to get an authentic roll and feel. Build your own putting green in the yard for practice any time or make a miniature golf course for family fun.
9. Replace Grass Around Pool
The area around in-ground and above-ground pools often suffers from lackluster grass. Replace it with artificial turf for lush, maintenance-free greenery that provides cushioning and withstands plenty of foot traffic. Use turf designed for pool surrounds that drains well and inhibits bacterial growth.