With the increasing need to preserve water, many Australians are looking for alternatives to natural lawn. General maintenance, water restrictions and problems growing natural grass are all increasing reasons why there is a growing demand for a synthetic lawn surface that can replace natural lawn.
A synthetic product that feels and looks like real grass, and has all of the benefits of natural grass, is proving to be a popular choice for hard to grow areas.
Synthetic lawn, also called artificial grass, astroturf, or fake grass , has come a long way from the plastic looking grass of the 1970’s. Modern synthetic grass is a serious industry and the new synthetic products really do look and feel like real grass. Sure the new synthetic grass does not look exactly the same, but it looks real enough to make it very difficult to tell the difference without closer examination.
In the past, the most popular outdoor artificial grass was made from a short pile, carpet like product (20 mm thick) that typically would require a sand in fill to make it durable. This surface is often used on playgrounds at childcare centres or for tennis court surfacing. Whilst this traditional grass remains popular for its economic benefits and longevity, the modern long pile grass is rapidly increasing in popularity mainly due to its close resemblance and feel to a real lush green lawn. The modern longer pile product can be up to 40mm thick and is constructed from polyethylene fibres which are woven into a rubber backing (similar to carpet) to produce a very durable and strong surface.
A number of synthetic grasses have even been approved by the world soccer governing body, FIFA for use in the surfacing of football fields. Because the modern longer grasses are softer they allow athletes to slide without getting carpet burns. Typically the new synthetic grasses have a thin layer of small rubber granules swept into the base of the fibres. This provides a cushioning effect yet still allows for traction underfoot. For greater comfort artificial grass can laid over an impact absorbing soft rubber base similar to that used in Olympic running tracks or found as softfall surfacing around play equipment.
The new synthetic grass is also proving popular on the domestic market. Often homeowners do not have the resources or the time to take the care that is required to achieve a lush green lawn. In a garden setting, synthetic lawn can be perforated to let water through and to reduce the impact on nearby plants and trees. It also has the advantage of being able to be taken up and re-installed in a new area.
Depending on application artificial grass may be installed over a variety of bases including compacted road base, dirt, wetpour rubber or concrete. It can be secured to the ground by nailing it to a timber edge or border, or by pegging it to the ground. Often the combined weight of the rubber and sand infill is enough to hold it securely in place.
As is often the way, good quality artificial grass can be expensive and that remains a hindrance to its use. However in numerous instances the initial expense is outweighed by the longer term advantages. It is clear that the demand for synthetic grass will continue to grow.
Next time you walk past a green lawn that seems to good to be real, take a second look. It may well be that its not.
Nicholas Warren LLB (Macquarie University) and BA (Sydney University) is a playground and sports surfacing builder and designer. He is the director of PlayCover an Australian business that installs sports and play surfaces, including wetpour rubber, soft fall and synthetic grass.