Artificial turf vs grass: this has been an ongoing debate since the introduction of synthetic grass in the market. Turf has been gradually gaining popularity, primarily because it looks exactly like its natural counterpart. Not only this, it is eco-friendly, saves water, does not need mowing or the application of fertilizers. However, as reported by homeowners, it does have some drawbacks. It has been found to generate a lot of heat on hotter days. Its first-time costs are also quite high. Therefore, like all other good things, artificial turf has its pros and cons.
On the other hand, several users claim it is better to grow natural grass on the earth that smother it below a synthetic layer. Real grass, after all, is all-natural and comes with many advantages — such as purifying your outdoor air, preventing soil erosion, and nurturing the earth beneath it. In terms of disadvantages, it results in a lot of water usage and also contributes to pollution because of the application of gas-powered mowers and pesticides.
So today, let’s compare the differences between real grass and turf lawns in terms of benefits and drawbacks. After reading this detailed comparison guide on turf vs grass, you will be able to decide which is the best option for your landscape. So, let us begin!
How do turf and grass vary from each other?
Artificial turf, made from synthetic fibers — polypropylene, polyethylene, or nylon — uncannily resembles real grass in terms of appearance and has a long life span of 20-25 years. The newer generations of turf are available in a variety of materials, pile heights or blade sizes, and colors. You can opt for this alternative when your lawn is frequently used by pets, kids, or for other activities. As for sports, playing on artificial grass is preferred over natural grass since it is more resilient, hardy, and durable.
Natural grass is the traditional option, which arrives in several types and species, depending on the blade length, growth rate, seasonal availability, and water requirements. While you can choose any type of fake grass, you need to be careful when picking a category, according to your terrain and regional climatic conditions. The most common types of grass include bent, Bermuda, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, and tall fescue. You can grow a natural grass lawn by either planting seeds or laying down sod. If you wish to spend less time and effort, then you can go for sod, which is pre-grown and arrives in rolls.
Now that you know the definitions, let us begin the debate between turf vs grass. How? By guiding you through the major pros and cons of both these variants.
Turf vs grass: Maintenance needs
Artificial turf requires minimal maintenance. The only upkeep you require is periodically rinsing it to remove accumulated dust and raking to remove large debris. Moreover, you don’t need to water it. This is a huge advantage with water growing increasingly scarce and its rates rapidly rising every year. Since no application of pesticides, fertilizers, and fungicides is needed, it is eco-friendly. You also protect your environment from pollutants and carbon emissions that are otherwise a concern when you use gas-powered mowers in real grass lawns.
Natural grass fields, of course, demand a dedicated maintenance schedule. You need to regularly water it at required intervals by means of sprinkler systems. Other upkeep practices include frequent mowing, aerating the soil, applying fertilizers, and plucking out weeds. You need to stick to these measures so that your lawn remains lush and green for a longer period of time.
Differences in terms of environmental impact
Synthetic grass is obviously quite environment-friendly because it promotes water conservation and does not use harmful fertilizers or produce toxic fumes during mowing. However, it does have a negative impact during its manufacturing process. Moreover, it is not bio-degradable.
On the other hand, natural grass, after all, is a living organism and a real part of nature. It purifies its surrounding air by breaking down airborne pollutants in the soil, which is, in turn, trapped by the grass blades. It releases oxygen, improves soil quality, reduces water runoff, minimizes erosion, absorbs heat, and cools the ecosystem. However, it leads to increased water usage and contaminates the surroundings by means of applied pesticides.
Turf vs grass: Initial and long-term costs
Synthetic turf comes at a much higher price as compared to real grass. The cost factors which determine the final installation costs are inclusive of materials, operation fees, labor charges, company overhead, and company profit. The first-time cost of artificial grass ranges from $5-$20 per square foot.
On the other hand, a natural grass lawn is planted either through sodding or seeding. Sods, which are pre-grown, come at a higher price, with its cost ranging from $1 to $2 per square foot. Now, if you go for seeding, you shall end up spending even lesser. Seeds cost around $0.05 per square foot.
When you plant a lawn, you will definitely plan it to last for a long time — minimum up to 20 years. And since artificial grass involves minimum maintenance, you are almost free of any additional costs in the long run. Simple monthly rinsing might require the use of only a quarter of an inch of water every time. Additionally, you may need to brush it periodically, which may cost you around $40 for a piece.
As for real grass, maintenance costs are much higher. If you employ a professional for mowing, edging, and clipping your lawn, you have to factor-in per-visit rates — which will be minimum twice every month. Aeration and overseeding are required to be done at least twice annually. So, factor in these prices as well. Application of fertilizers and herbicides, along with weed control, also contribute to your maintenance costs — the frequency of which depends on your grass type and climate. Lastly, there are watering costs involved. Regular grass variants require one to two inches of water each week. This adds up to almost 2,000 inches of water in 20 years. Now, depending on your area’s water rates, you need to figure out the total expenses for your entire duration of 20-25 years.
Above, we have outlined the major benefits and drawbacks of both artificial turf and natural grass. As you can see, the long-term costs of real grass are much higher when compared to that of fake turf. And the budget is an important factor to consider during any home improvement project. Additionally, you also need to think about your lawn’s usage and its environmental impact. After analyzing each factor, make an informed choice between turf vs grass — as to which tradeoff is better for your region, climate, and personal requirements.