Considered a novelty just a few years ago, artificial grass is here to stay. Unlike a traditional lawn which develops with each season, artificial turf always looks lush and needs minimal work.
As it’s a growing market, deciding on the best artificial grass for you can be tricky. So here’s our look at the subject.
Does it look fake?
Let’s start with the most pressing question. Does it look fake?
If you had asked us 5 years ago, the answer would be a resounding yes. However, as more brands have entered the market, the quality and style of the grass available has developed.
Take Easigrass, who sells a range of artificial grass. Each type looks authentically like grass but can be used for a wider range of applications. Easigrass has even won medal approval at the Chelsea Flower Show. So you know it’s top quality faux!
Types of artificial grass
Buying artificial grass is a lot like purchasing carpet. Generally, you buy by the square metre. Like carpet, your order will arrive in rolls – usually 2 or 4 metres wide.
Pile height varies massively between brands and styles. One of the UK’s leading supplier Artificial Grass Direct offers a range from 7mm to 45mm. Easigrass, however, offers a range from 23mm to 45mm. We’ve also seen commercial types which ranged from 10mm up to 80mm.
If you’re after a lush-looking lawn then you’ll want to choose a pile height of 30 to 37 mm. Any larger and gravity will pull it down, making your new lawn look flat. If you like the fresh cut look, then choose a smaller pile.
Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that taller grass will be less resilient and therefore may need replacing sooner. However, taller grass will feel better to touch.
It’s worth considering all of these factors when purchasing. Don’t buy blind, if you’re DIYing, then order some samples. Some retailers will send you some for free or a small fee. A good landscape company will bring samples to the first meeting.
When choosing the best artificial grass, it’s critical that you do your research and compare potential products on more than just their aesthetic appeal.
Unfortunately, comparing the upfront cost of real vs fake is only partially helpful as it doesn’t take into account long term costs.
For example, imagine you’ve just moved. Your new back garden is just dirt. Laying real grass yourself would costs you around £6 per m2.
Artificial grass, on the other hand, costs between £8 and £70 per m2. While you can install it yourself, getting the professionals in is likely to double the price. It’s typical to spend somewhere between £1,000 and £2,500 on fitting a lawn of 50 m2.
However, and it’s a big one, consider ongoing costs.
Cutting real grass involves times and money. You might replace your lawn mower every five years and while we’ve covered a range under £100, buying one costs something. Not to mention the cost of hiring a gardener if you’re lucky enough to have the money.
Whereas fake grass, once installed, should cost nothing to maintain. Plus it will always look superb.
DIY vs professionals
As getting the pros to install can double the cost, can you DIY? In short, Yes. It’s fairly easy to install artificial grass. However, it’s a time-consuming process.
If you don’t want to spend a few days working hard and have the money, then we would recommend hiring a professional. Make sure you get a few quotes and chose the firm which you feel is best. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest as it could end up costing you more in the long run.
Firstly we need to measure the area we wish to add turf too.
If you have a square patch then measure the length and width in metres. Multiplying these figures together will give your area in square metres.
If you don’t have a square lawn then you’ll need to divide it into sections. Calculate the area of each section and add them together. This final figure is how many square metres of turf you’ll need.
However you arrive at your end figure, it’s worth adding at least 10% as you’ll lose some to wastage, etc.
Order ya turf
Online is the best place to look for artificial grass. The more research you can do the better. If you’re happy with what you see online, then order some samples. Don’t go straight into spending loads of cash.
When the sample arrives, if you’re still happy then it’s time to check your figures and order.
A tip on price, some of the big box chains might be able to give you a better price. It could be they have a sale on or you have a discount code. If you don’t, it’s still worth trying to negotiate.
Clear existing grass
While you wait for delivery, it’s time to get dirty and remove the existing turf. First, plan what you’ll do with the waste. Can you hire a skip? Or use your car to dump it?
Once removed, you’ll need to dig down by around 50mm and then spray the area with weed killer. You’ll also want to tidy the garden to enable you to move quickly while laying the new grass.
Add a base layer
Using general builders sand, spread a base layer over your area. Considering the pile height, you need to add enough sand to create a firm base yet not so much that your new lawn looks out of portion with the rest of the garden.
Compact base layer
You next want to compact the sand to create a solid foundation. A scaffold plank and hammer is the cheapest way to compact sand. You could, of course, hire/buy a heavy roller. Whichever method use a spirit level to check that the surface is even.
Your artificial turf might have a weed membrane already built-in. If not, you’ll need to lay one on top the compacted sand and nail down.
You’re now ready to un-roll your new artificial turf. Use a craft knife to cut rolls to size, score the underneath and when happy cut.
Join the seams together
This step is the tricky part. Where two seams meet, you need to apply joining tape underneath the grass. Start by folding the edges back. Apply adhesive to the tape and fold back the grass. This should successfully join the two edges together.
Pin the edges
If you’re happy then using a hammer and pins, secure the grass. You’ll want to hammer a pin in every 200 mm or so as this will prevent the turf from coming loose. Try to hide the nails within the pile.
Using a wire brush, ruffle the grass. This should hide any visible signs of the installation. Finally, using a craft knife tidy up the edges and corners.
Most realistic artificial grass
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a range of colour tones available. You can choose from greens, browns and even white.
If you pick some grass from a lawn, you’ll see there are many shades of green and some browns in there as well. So to achieve a realistic appearance you need a blend of colours.
A bright green tone is more likely to look like a bowling green, whereas a lime green tone with a brown fleck will look more natural. Your colour choice is down to your personal preference, budget and requirements.
So, that’s why it’s always best to start with samples. Try each sample in different locations to get an accurate picture.
Imagine you’re choosing paint colours for your lounge. You wouldn’t buy a large paint pot, start painting and hope for the best. You’d test different options first.
Real turf requires a lot of maintenance and this can have an environmental impact. However, when made from recycled material, artificial grass has little environmental impact.
Fake turf doesn’t need watering, mowing or feeding. Plus as it lasts 25 years, over its lifespan the artificial turf is less costly, overall.
However, fake grass doesn’t enable worms and soil insects to thrive. So expect to see fewer birds as your lawn is less attractive to them.
A real lawn absorbs carbon dioxide and has a cooling effect in summer. Neither is present in the fake turf.
That said, both real and fake grass will have the same draining and so you won’t get standing water if you do decide to replace your real turf.
Artificial turf has come a long way in the last decade. So much, in fact, you’ll probably not know the difference!
When it comes to changing your lawn, it is a big investment upfront, whether you choose to DIY or hire a landscaper. With that said, going fake should save you money over the lifetime of the lawn and will be kinder to the environment.
While we’ve outlined the process, If you do decide to hire the professionals, make sure you interview a few firms.
Ask what the quote includes. Some companies add hidden charges for things such as hire of machines and skips. Also, ask what kind of warranty is included.
If you do DIY, do your research and order samples. Make sure you have enough time to get the job done and plan your time. There’s nothing worse than having to return to work after a bank holiday with half the lawn unfinished.
Here’s to your always fresh looking lawn!