Natural turf or Synthetic grass - Which is right for you?

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 5 January 2022 

There are some fairly strong opinions around on which is the better option between synthetic grass and natural grass. While everyone may have their preferences, sometimes there are genuine reasons why one will work out better than the other.

It’s often not the case of which one is better or worse but rather which option will suit your circumstances better. Let’s consider some of the pros and cons of each.

Aesthetics

Appearances are subjective so the best way to decide what look you prefer is to come down and visit our display centre where you can see synthetic grass and natural turf displayed side by side. 

When it comes to natural lawns, most people appreciate the beauty of a well-kept turf surface.  To keep it looking good though, as you will know, there is a level of maintenance involved. Don’t discard the natural lawn just yet though – with a little bit of knowledge, it is definitely possible to keep a natural lawn green and looking good throughout the year without tipping excessive amounts of time money into it. 

Synthetic grass on the other hand was originally manufactured for sporting surfaces where performance was the most important factor. As its popularity extended to landscape use, synthetic turf manufacturers began to refine its appearance. Today there are plenty of attractive synthetic grasses that look very realistic. There has been a real focus on making them as realistic as possible. With modern technology, some synthetic varieties are hard to tell from the real thing. In recent years, hybrid products such as Cover Lawn have been developed which give the base and durability of synthetic grass with the appearance of natural grass which grows through it.

Feel

Artificial and natural turf feel quite different. While most people know what natural turf feels like, you may be surprised at how good some types of synthetic grass feels. Thick, soft and lush are some words that people use to describe some of the higher-end varieties of synthetic grass, like Genesis and GT40.  A key difference of course is that natural turf will feel cool to touch and synthetic grass will warm up in the sun.

Position

The position of the proposed lawn will often determine which type you use. Some areas are simply too shady for natural grass to grow. Sometimes there is too much traffic for natural grass - such as child care centres or areas that receive excessive wear. You may even find that the ground won’t support natural grass. I have some synthetic grass at my home simply because I live on a hillside and the rear yard is carved out of rock. To dig out a 100mm layer of rock to make way for soil for lawn represented too much cost. I do have plenty of natural lawn in the front yard though to make up for it!

Maintenance and Longevity

A natural lawn will last forever providing it is maintained properly. It does require more maintenance than synthetic grasses though by way of regular mowing, fertilising, watering and weed control.

On the other hand, a good synthetic turf should last around 15 years in a landscape setting before needing to be replaced. It is extremely hardwearing, with many carrying a 7-10 year warranty. A definite bonus is that there are no dead spots, worn spots, insect damage or disease problems. It stands up to dogs very well and looks great all year round. Damage can be repaired similarly to carpet.  Synthetic grass isn’t completely maintenance-free though – it requires brushing, grooming and refilling once per year to keep it clean and to ensure that the grass blades stand upright. You can get a contractor to do this for around $100 for a 50 square metre lawn or you can do it yourself but you’ll need to buy or hire the right equipment.

Other Implications

Synthetic turf can be great for people suffering from grass or insect allergies. It can be installed anywhere, without regard to sun, shade or soil. On the downside, it does heat up in warm weather. 

Natural turf is up to 15 C cooler than the ambient temperature on a hot day in comparison to paving or bitumen and can help cool down your home. Research has shown that a natural lawn cools the environment equivalent to 4 evaporative air conditioners. Cracking of homes is reduced or stopped where lawns are watered and they filter rainwater into the soil so it doesn’t just run off into the gutter. Many homes have been saved from bush fires by having a real lawn around the perimeter.

Environmental Issues

Natural lawns obviously require watering which is a definite consideration in South Australia. They also require mowing and the use of fertilisers and chemicals. However, grass also filters rain into the soil instead of allowing it to run off down the gutter and eradicates greenhouse gases such as Co2, Co and So2 plus many other pollutants. 100 square metres of lawn emits enough oxygen throughout the day for a family of four. Natural turf is up to 15 C cooler than the ambient temperature on a hot day in comparison to paving or bitumen and can help cool down your home. Research has shown that a natural lawn cools the environment equivalent to 4 evaporative air conditioners.  Many homes have been saved from bush fires by having a real lawn around the perimeter.

Synthetic turf on the other hand doesn’t require watering, fertilisers, chemicals or mowing. Most however are manufactured from plastics containing petrochemicals. This is changing though, with some new types such as Classic GT being made from environmentally friendly material. This new product is an Australian and World first made from 60% renewable sources (Sugar Cane). 

Affordability and Installation

Initial or upfront cost is a key factor that drives a lot of people in going one way or the other. Synthetic grass will cost you somewhere between $75 – $150 per square metre to have it professionally supplied and installed including base preparation. Natural turf will cost around $35 - $50 per square metre to supply and install depending on base preparation.

The upside with artificial grass is that it costs very little to maintain after it’s installed, whereas natural grass will have ongoing maintenance costs. This is a grey area that is easily exaggerated by those wishing to influence you towards whatever they’d prefer to sell you. Some say it takes only 5 years for the initial investment of synthetic grass to pay for itself compared to natural lawn. We tend to think it’s more like 10 years.

What’s Better For You?

There are many factors to consider when choosing between natural turf and synthetic grass. As outlined above – both have their unique set of pros and cons. If you’re planning on keeping the lawn for 10 years or more, then cost considerations basically even themselves out. So as far as what’s better for you – think about what you like the look and feel of, how much time you have to give to maintenance, your environmental preferences, and of course, which one better suits your more unique needs.