Taking care of a lawn is a lot of work and a lot of resources. Water, fertilizer, and labor can all eat up your time and money. If you live in a hot area or are just tired of regular yard maintenance, then an artificial turf lawn or artificial grass might be the right choice for you.
Fake grass and turf consist of threaded filaments on top of a web backing. Most artificial grasses nowadays are made from nylon and are laid on a layer of compacted gravel. They can also be made from polyethylene or polypropylene that is colored to mimic grass’s natural coloring. The gaps of the webbing are then filled with a crumb rubber or type of sand to mimic the texture of dirt and soil.
Artificial turf costs anywhere between $1 to $8 per square foot for materials depending on the type of synthetic grass you choose and the maker. Well-known brands like Astroturf will cost more than $5 per square foot while less known makers of artificial grass may charge as little as $1 to $3 per square foot. You’ll also need to factor in installation costs, which can easily double the upfront costs of a new artificial turf lawn.
It costs between $5-$20 per square foot to install artificial turf. This is fairly expensive. For example, normal sod costs about $0.28-$0.45 per sq. ft. and $1-$2 per square foot laid down. However, artificial turf has much fewer costs in the long term.
Let’s do some quick calculations to estimate the costs of artificial turf compared to a natural grass lawn. Using a $5 per sq. ft price for materials and $12 average installation for 500 sq. ft. of synthetic turf, that comes out to approximately $8,500 installed ($2,500 for turf and $6000 for installation).
Now, Assuming a $0.38 average per sq. ft. of sod and an average of $2 per sq. ft. installed, laying down 500 sq. ft. of sod would cost about $1,200.
Installation costs are just part of the equation, though. You also need to consider maintenance costs. Assuming a 500 sq. ft. yard, maintenance costs for natural sod grass would cost approximately $750-$2,000, factoring in fertilizer, gardening costs, and 6 months of water (as you won’t be watering the lawn for half the year)
Artificial turf, in contrast, has zero maintenance or labor costs. That means overall, installing and maintaining sod for a year costs anywhere between $2,000-$4,000, give or take a few hundred dollars. You also need to keep in mind the annual maintenance costs of about $1,000 each year afterward.
That is a large difference, but you need to keep in mind that the artificial turf will pay for itself in a few years because there are very few costs associated with upkeep. Based on our estimated calculation, an artificial turf will pay for itself in about 3-4 years. So if you plan to stay at your current location for a few years, then artificial turf could be a good choice.
The main benefit of artificial grass and why most people buy it is the lack of maintenance it requires. Artificial grass and turf do not need to be watered or fertilized and will not wilt or die from excess sunlight. Artificial turf will stay green and healthy-looking year-round, without you having to spend hundreds in soil and labor to keep it maintained.
Despite all of the benefits, artificial grass is not perfect and has some drawbacks.
First off, artificial turf cannot be recycled with traditional means. As such, it is not as eco-friendly as a traditional sod yard. Fortunately, most modern artificial turfs are made from recycled materials, so they are not completely environmentally unfriendly.
Additionally, although they do not require maintenance per se, you do need to clean artificial turf periodically. Specifically, artificial turf cannot break down organic materials like grass can. This includes things like pet urine and feces. Rotted leaves and dust can also spur the growth of weeds and other plants, which can damage your artificial grass.
Another drawback is that artificial turf can get very hot in the sun. Since artificial turf is typically filled with rubber granules, these can absorb sunlight and get very hot. This downside can be combated with trees providing shade.
Lastly, some HOA and municipalities in the US ban artificial turfs due to their environmental effects. If you live in one of these areas, then, unfortunately, you might be out of luck.
Artificial grass is becoming more popular due to its low maintenance requirements and ease of use. Artificial turf can save you hundreds of years in lawn care costs. Even though artificial turf has a high upfront cost, it can be very cost-effective in the long run.