‘I give it ten years before water costs as much as gas costs now,” said Patrick as he looked up from his morning Internet browse. “Maybe we should think about ripping out the grass in back, putting in some drought-tolerant landscaping.”

“Easy for you to say,” I replied. “I’m the one who needs to be able to send the kids out to play in the yard. ‘Oh, and watch out for the cactus!’ I don’t think so.” But I saw his point. It takes a lot of water to keep grass green. In fact, according to Chris Payne at Omega Turf (619-841-4010; omegaturf.com), “The typical lawn will eat 50 gallons of water per square foot per year. For the average household with a lawn, maybe half the water they use is for the lawn.” Payne, of course, had an alternative to offer, one that would maybe make everyone happy: synthetic grass.

“It started as Astroturf, back in the late ’60s” explained Payne. “It became very prevalent on sports fields in the ’70s. It was very short — maybe a quarter-inch tall — and not very realistic looking.” But that was then. “We’re now in the fourth generation of synthetic turf; the form it’s in now has been around for about seven years. On athletic fields, the blades are one and a half to two inches long. To give it structure — to keep the blades standing up — and to make it playable for tackling, there’s fill in between the blades. We call it ‘crumb rubber’ — it’s car tires ground up into little bits like breadcrumbs. If you saw the Colts game against the Chargers, and you saw someone drag their toe, you might have noticed a little rooster tail flying up behind them. That wasn’t dirt — it was crumb rubber.”

For a while, installers were using the same stuff on residential applications, but “there were some limitations to that. The crumb rubber would travel around, get in your shoes. And the grass still looked plastic and shiny.” But these days, grass is looking greener. “The shine and color have been getting better, and by increasing the density of the blades, we’ve eliminated the need for crumb rubber. The blades are made from polyethylene, and then there’s a shorter nylon fiber down low to help give structure. We are at the point now where a cut piece of synthetic tossed down on a lawn blends right in. The blade lengths vary, but they’re around one and three-quarter inches long. If it were much longer, it would mat down; shorter, and it wouldn’t look realistic. You want your neighbor to say, ‘Wow, nice lawn,’ not ‘Wow, nice fake lawn.’”

Installation begins with tearing out your old lawn, down past the root layer, “about four inches. We do that mostly by hand. Then we spray Roundup. If I find nutgrass, I use a product called Sledgehammer, which is specifically made for nutgrass. Then we put down four inches of class-two road base. Most companies use decomposed granite, but granite is more variable, and I find the road base to be more stable. It compacts very nicely when we use the vibrating plate tamper to tamp it into place. We can even shape in little hills if you want them. Next comes a 30-year weed block, which is a commercial cloth — very heavy and very reliable. Finally, we put down the synthetic grass. It comes in 15-foot-wide rolls, so there are points where you have to do seams, and that’s where experience matters. If it’s done well, you won’t notice the seams. The grass is attached by five-inch stakes that we drive into the road base. It’s compacted more tightly than dirt, so the stakes hold really well.” To allow drainage, the turf is perforated. “Water goes right through. And that’s another advantage that road base has over decomposed granite — it’s very porous, and will hold a few inches of rain as it percolates it into the ground.”

Omega’s lawns don’t fade from exposure to UV radiation, said Payne, and “most factories will give an eight-year warranty on their product. There are four major factories in Georgia, and they’re all within 20 miles of each other. They make almost all of the artificial turf sold in America. There’s some that comes out of China, but it’s not of the same quality. One day, it will be, but not right now. Our focus is to get the most realistic grass available, grass with a high face-weight and density. We differentiate ourselves from other companies by giving you an eight-year warranty on the installation as well. Most companies, it’s just two years. But I think that, depending on use, you can get between 10 and 20 years out of a synthetic lawn.”

Cost for installed turf can vary greatly, cautioned Payne — “anywhere from $7 to $18 a square foot. At the high end, those guys have a lot of commercials to pay for. On the low end, you have to cut corners somewhere — maybe they put down only one inch of decomposed granite, or maybe they use turf made in China. We shoot for the highest quality at a fair price — it floats around $10 to $11 a square foot, installed. As the installation gets bigger, the price goes down a bit.”

Finally, Payne noted that some water districts are offering rebates to customers who currently water their lawns if they decide to switch over to synthetic turf. “The Padre Dam and Helix districts are offering $1 a square foot, up to 1000 square feet.” For details, check with your district.

More from SDReader

Comments

craftylady March 9, 2009 @ 6:48 p.m.

I wholeheartedly disagree with the comment made here about needing to go to a showroom to view turf. My experience with OmegaTurf was more than satisfactory. The owner brought us samples of turf to decide from right here at home, and it was so lovely to compare colors and see them in different lighting throughout the day.

This certainly was a very big decision for a family like ours, and I was shocked that several other companies wouldn't give us a sample to hold on to. When I bought my carpeting I took several samples home with me, and I did expect the same option with purchasing my artificial grass.

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duaneruth Jan. 6, 2009 @ 11:32 p.m.

AstroTurf is actually a leading brand- it's the most advanced system of artificial turf surfaces for sports fields & it's not anything like what's being described as the old AstroTurf - it's the sister company of the nation’s number one brand of synthetic landscape grass - SYNLawn. SYNLawn & AstroTurf are one of those factories that is mentioned in the "article" - the biggest one by far.

SYNLawn & AstroTurf invented these products being described that don't contain rubber crumbs - about 7 years ago. The texturized nylon at the bottom is called a Root Zone (TM) in AstroTurf products & a Thatch Zone (TM) in SYNLawn products.

Today, SYNLawn manufactures & installs over 50 styles of the highest quality synthetic grass & putting green surfaces nationwide through its own SYNLawn retail outlets. Responsible for most of the prominent installations around the country, SYNLawn is also featured in Lowe's Home Improvement Stores.

If you want to be floored by Synthetic grass in its true "state of the art" then go see SYNLawn for yourself. Our unique 8,000 Sq. Ft. display of over 20 of our installed products speaks for itself. 7050 Miramar Road, San Diego, CA 92121.

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duaneruth Jan. 6, 2009 @ 11:34 p.m.

Some useful information-

"Sledgehammer" does not really seem to work on Nut Grass - not in our experience - hardly anything will. But Nut Grass is pretty rare.

It's hard to imagine why an 8 year installation warranty would be needed – and of course, it pre-supposes that the company doing the installation will be in business 8 years from now.

Most manufacturers do not give 8 year warrantees, some do - but in most cases with installer companies, your warranty recourse is simply with the installer who put the generic grass in for you.

4" of base is acceptable, but not at all necessary - 3" is all that is needed. However, making it look good is quite another matter. That's where the skill & expertise comes in.

Check out various installer company web sites & look very closely at their photos - you will generally see pictures of flat, carpet-like, dark, green fake grass. That is if the pictures are actually of their work.

Many sites feature photos of work that is not at all done by the company showing the photos. In fact, there are many installer companies that use cookie cutter web sites showing the same photos- even identical sites with a logo change. In many cases, the photos pre-date the products allegedly being sold.

That’s not "state-of-the-art" at all. These projects are easily recognizable as fake carpet. There are many of these sites in San Diego & way too many installations that are publicly visible showing this type of work.

Incredible synthetic grass doesn't look anything like a flat carpet. There's a lot to learn about synthetic grass so please, go visit the show rooms & warehouses of any company you are considering & look at their displays of their product.

Above all, remember that synthetic grass is a product, not a service & you definitely get what you pay for!

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NotSynlawn Jan. 22, 2009 @ 9:07 a.m.

Man - for such a great product Synlawn seem to be having some real trouble with lawsuits.

*Recent reports have found high lead levels in turf on artificial turf playing fields, but the CEH testing shows that artificial grass used by residential installers and sold to do-it-yourselfers can also be a health threat.

The recent CEH testing found high lead levels in turf from these other companies while the Attorney General and other California officials filed suits against turf makers

* Field Turf
* AstroTurf, including sister-companies Crystal Turf and Synlawn
* Beaulieu of America.*****

I don't know about OmegaTurf - but they weren't on any list. EasyTurf weren't on there either. But SynLawn sure were.

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NotSynlawn Jan. 22, 2009 @ 9:14 a.m.

And you might want to check this history of AstroTurf.

They seem to go bankrupt or transfer their on a regular basis, so why worry about an 8 year warranty, as their track record of sticking around as an entity isn't stellar.

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duaneruth June 10, 2009 @ 10:41 p.m.

Uh, that law suit is about labeling of products and pertains to almost all artificial grass products. It talks about concerns that maybe some products should be labeled, not that they are dangerous.

They named manufacturers, not installers- that's why EasyTurf and OmegaTurf were not on there. They also named some stores that sell turf. FieldTurf is what EasyTurf sells. Check to see if they were on there. And if you knew what Omega Turf was, you could check that too. No worries though, artificial turf is safe and those law suits, when resolved, will result in backing that claim up.

I can say that the SYNLawn we are installing here is lead free. All of it- so don't let people tell you different. And don't let them tell you that nylon is dangerous- it's the strongest, most resilient, most durable fiber in the industry.

And AstroTurf did go bankrupt many years ago. GM just did as well. They were both the biggest companies in their category at one time. That has nothing to do with AstroTurf today and the products they make today have no relation to the older products. Today they make the most advanced systems available for sports surfaces. What they do have is a rich history of product development and manufacturing knowledge that is unequaled in the industry. Other brands of sports field product are bought and sold. Simplistic analysis of these concepts serves no purpose.

Finally, all companies, including SYNLawn bring samples to your home. But little pieces have little to do with demonstrating what the product looks like installed! You are correct, that many companies won't leave samples- for many reasons- they don't want you to figure out that the 6 companies you are calling all sell that same generic product for drastically different prices, or they don't want you to be able to compare them side by side- just for the visual impact, or they don't have much to give away, because they really don't do much installing, etc....

Stop and consider the wisdom of purchasing an expensive product that has a supposed long term warranty from a company that doesn't even have a building, something anchoring them to the community, a business address, at least a permanent parking spot for their truck! These are the mistakes people make over and over.

Pay no attention to the man behind the green curtain is the mantra in the synthetic grass industry. I want you to start paying really close attention. Because you just might find that it's a man ready to take off in a hot-air balloon he filled with all his promises and leave you with your problem lawn and no ruby slippers to click together!

Ok- enough of this - it's starting to sound like a Lakers / Magic debate!

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