It would appear at a cursory glance that synthetic grass is a very expensive replacement for natural grass, but the high cost is only up front. When measured over the life of the grass you will find that synthetic grass is actually a cheaper alternative to the real stuff and the savings may not simply be the cost of maintaining the grass.
So, that higher upfront cost of a synthetic grass surface is pretty quickly recouped by the lower maintenance requirements. Time, energy and the possibility of greater usage gives you a surface that will pay for itself over its lifetime.
The Evolution Of Artificial Turf
Nowadays, commercial artificial grass is far from an uncommon sight in back gardens and sports pitches the world over. The synthetic material seems to well and truly have gained space over its natural counterpart, with traits such as its durability and ease of maintenance endearing it to the general public.
Time was, however, when the situation was markedly difference. Outside of a sporting context, commercial artificial grass was regarded as tacky and an inferior substitute for the real thing, and even when used to cover playing surfaces for sports it was far from consensual.
In the midst of all the disapproval, however, turf always had a few admirers, and it is them who are largely responsible for its eventual expansion and success. This article harks back to a time before commercial artificial grass existed, to give an overview of its origin, evolution and eventual rise to popularity worldwide.
The origins of commercial artificial grass date back to 1960s America. The material was first researched and devised by a team of scientists from the North Carolina State University College of Textiles, under the supervision of the dean himself, David Chaney. Together, these men came up with a material which looked and felt somewhat similar to grass, but without any of the shortcomings this material possesses; in short, what is nowadays known as turf.
Having created and perfected this material for optimal performance, Chaney and his team began searching for parties potentially interested in a test run. It did not take them long at all to find a considerably prominent ‘guinea-pig’, in the form of baseball team the Houston Astros, based out of the city of the same name in Texas. In 1966, the Astros’ home field, the Astrodome, became the first sports pitch in the world to be covered in commercial artificial grass. It was the beginning of a story which would only go uphill from there.
Once commercial artificial grass had proven its mettle as the playing surface for the Astros, and become known as ‘Astroturf’ as a result, other sports team owners across North American began taking an interest in the material. The late 1960s and early 1970s would see synthetic turf carpets spread across both major and minor league baseball fields, and eventually make their way into American football stadiums as well. Franklin Field, home to the Philadelphia Eagles and the University of Pennsylvania varsity football team, was the first venue to feature commercial artificial grass, but other pitches would soon follow suit, further cementing awareness for the material in public consciousness.
As popular as it was becoming with sports fans, however, commercial artificial grass still had one hurdle left to jump: the residential and landscaping market. Among home-owners, turf continued to be considered a cheap-looking, shoddy material, not at all an alternative to a real grass lawn. This generalised opinion stemmed from the first few artificial turf carpets looking somewhat less than realistic, as well as from the material’s connotation with lower-income homes. As such, commercial artificial grass faced a challenge when trying to prove its worth in the home market.
This challenge would eventually be overcome, but not for another two decades. It was not until the 1990s, more than twenty-five years after it had first been invented, that commercial artificial grass finally gained traction as a valid alternative within the home and garden market. This was largely due to the vastly improved appearance and realism level of modern turf carpets in relation to their predecessors, which helped do away with many of the concerns and prejudices keeping commercial artificial grass from establishing itself a landscaping alternative.
For the following two decades, commercial artificial grass saw its popularity continue to rise, until it could stand side by side with natural grass. Nowadays, many people even consider the material superior to its natural counterpart, at least for certain purposes, and it is expectable that this trend will continue in years to come. It is interesting, however, to think of a time when commercial artificial grass was not as popular as it is today, and to learn exactly how it came to achieve its present standing in society.
Artificial Field Turf
As pleasant-looking and –feeling as natural grass is, it nevertheless possesses a series of characteristics which make it less than ideal in certain situations. Not only does it require considerable maintenance in order to maintain its vivid look, but it may also not be suited to certain climates or soils.
These particularities are a major factor behind the rise in popularity of artificial grass. Much more durable than natural grass, not to mention weather-proof and requiring a minimum of upkeep, this material has slowly but surely been catching up to, and oftentimes replacing, its natural partner. There are certain circumstances where turf, as it is also called, can definitely constitute the better option, and even in situations where either choice would work, synthetic turf can still hold a number of advantages over natural grass. The lines below provide a few examples to illustrate this point.
Advantages of Artificial Grass
As noted above, artificial grass is significantly more weather-resistant than natural grass. Rolls of turf also tend to be durable, enduring a fair amount of wear and tear, and require very little by way of trimming or tending once they have been laid down. The majority of artificial turf options are also excellent for homes with pets and children, as, unlike real grass, they cannot be dug up or through and do not generate mud – a parent’s dream!
When To Go With Artificial Grass
The characteristics outlined above make artificial turf suitable for a variety of situations. Elderly people, who are no longer able to tend after a real lawn, will find turf carpets to be an excellent, alternative for their back garden, which requires no upkeep and will stay permanently verdant, smooth and even. Holiday home-owners may also find it an excellent option for their summer or winter homes, as unlike real grass it does not require them to be physically present to tend after it regularly. Finally, as noted above, homes with children and pets may also benefit from this type of lawn, as opposed to a natural and easily damageable one.
Despite its growing popularity among private home-owners, however, it is for its role in public spaces that artificial grass continues to be best known. While parks continue to go with natural grass as a general rule, almost every other public space has opted for artificial turf, or astro-turf, as the perfect lining for their floors. Swimming pools, for example, often employ it, as it allows for safe barefoot padding without creating muddy footprints as a result.
Similarly, roof gardens where the covering is too light to support natural grass often go with substitute, as do dog runs and kennels, to prevent the pooches from digging holes or otherwise damaging the ground beneath them. Finally, areas of heavy public use, such as playgrounds or event grounds, also often resort to artificial grass to cover their floors. This is due to the fact that, as noted above, this material is capable of withstanding significant wear and tear, which makes it the perfect surface for children to play on or partygoers to tramp over. Perhaps if they forwent the usual meadows for astro-turf expanses, festival organisers would not have such woes once the event is over and they are forced to repair damages to the grass!
It is clear, then, that there are a number of situations in which artificial grass is more suitable than its natural counterpart. While many continue to dismiss this material as looking phony or tacky, or to regard it as a poor man’s substitute for a real lawn, the truth is, using it instead of natural grass can often make a home or land owner’s life much simpler and more hassle-free. Fortunately, more and more people have been catching on to that fact, and artificial lawns are enjoying a resurgence the world over!