10 Reasons To NOT Install Artificial Turf

by Ben Bowen

"You've come a long way baby."

portland oregon artificial turf

Artificial turf used be reserved for mini-golf, sports fields, and surreal retirement community homes. Now it is being considered by homeowners from coast-to-coast. People are looking for landscapes that are low maintenance and don't take much water. And as those requirements have become more important, the quality of fake grass has risen considerably.

Even here in Portland, where the rain is plentiful and "authenticity" is valued, the demand for artificial lawns is growing rapidly.

Before you rip out the JB Sod and go synthetic there are some things you should know and consider.

Here are 10 things that might make you think twice about artificial turf:

  1. Price. I'm not going to bury the lead... there is a significant investment involved. A properly installed artificial lawn is more like your paver patio than your traditional lawn. Expect to pay $20-$25 a square foot. Yes, a 1000 square foot lawn will be over $20K.
  2. Low maintenance, not NO maintenance. Yes, your required mowings will go from 40 per year to 0. However, it will need to be cleared of leaves and debris if you have trees nearby. And even if you don't, fake grass really wants to be raked occasionally to keep it looking its best. There is no app for that, but we do provide a special rake with every installation.
  3. Infill scares you. One of the final steps when installing a synthetic lawn is to apply "infill". This product filters down into the turf, weighing it down, making it look better and feel softer on your feet. But you don't live in a cave so you heard about the dangers of infill. The good news is that the "crumb rubber" infill that caused problems is no longer in use. We use a ceramic coated sand product that is totally safe.
  4. You have south facing windows.... that get full sun in the summer. This is a tough one. The sun may reflect off the windows and melt some of the turf! This situation is common enough that it is not covered by turf manufacturer's warranties. It is also common enough that we can usually design a way around it.
  5. The seams are the tough part. If more than one role of turf is required for your lawn there will be a place where the rolls meet. (Just like carpet in a large room.) Matching these two and seaming them well is the hardest part of installing synthetic grass. This means you probably shouldn't DIY or be the first synthetic grass project your landscaper has ever done.
  6. It doesn't look like your old lawn. It looks better. And while a traditional lawn never looks better than it does shortly after installation, your synthetic lawn will look just as perfect in 5 years. 
  7. Kids love it. This stuff begs to be played on, even in the winter. So if you don't want kids running around in your yard consider installing some really splintery bark dust instead. But if you want to let your future Timber play soccer year-round, synthetic lawn is what you need.
  8. Drainage. You do not want water to be sitting under your lawn for days. It will eventually cause problems with the base it is installed on. So, depending on the grade if your yard and how well your soil drains we may need to install some drainage underneath.
  9. The color won't last forever (but what will?) The deep green of a syn-lawn is pretty hard to resist. But eventually that color will be begin to fade. The turf Ross NW Watergardens installs has a 10 year warranty on the color. So how long will the color last? Ask me in 20 years.
  10. Envy is bad for the neighborhood. Your perfect lawn (that requires no mowing, watering, fertilizing, aerating, dethatching, etc) is sure to catch the eye of your neighbors. Can they handle how much better your yard is?
portland synthetic turf installation

Now that you know the truth about synthetic lawns you can make an educated choice: traditional or artificial lawn? (Maybe even no lawn.)

What now? Contact a Portland based landscape designer to get started! Or check out these great sources of artificial turf information:

Cascade Greens Blog

Synthetic Turf Council

Forever Lawn Photo Gallery

How Much Water Can You Save?