6 Benefits of Using an Artificial Grass Foam Underlay
If you are considering having artificial grass installed, you may be wondering whether it’s necessary to use a foam underlay underneath your fake lawn.
The obvious benefit of a foam shockpad is that it will give your lawn an ultra-soft feel, but are there any other benefits or circumstances in which you should consider installing an underlay?
Generally speaking, using a shockpad underneath your artificial lawn is not essential unless you are looking to install artificial grass on top of existing concrete, decking or an old patio.
However, there are several additional reasons for which you might consider using an artificial grass foam underlay and in this article we are going to look at some of the benefits installing one confers.
1. It Complies with Head Injury Criterion (HIC)
This benefit mainly concerns professional artificial grass installers and those looking to have artificial grass installed in a school or playground.
The internationally recognised measure for the likelihood of head injury is known as the ‘Head Injury Criterion’, or HIC.
This test involves dropping a hemispheric object from increasing heights to replicate the potential impact on the human head.
Typically, a good quality artificial grass will naturally have a minimum critical fall height of 1.7m.
However, in some installations, namely schools and playgrounds, there is the potential for falls from greater heights than 1.7m to occur, due to the presence and usage of play equipment. Around 200,000 children per year are injured in playground falls, with 40,000 requiring a visit to hospital.
Of course, the danger is not limited to a school or playground environment, as many domestic gardens also have play equipment installed that may put users at risk of falls over 1.7m.
It’s under these circumstances that a foam underlay is essential, as it will increase the critical fall height of the surface and provide better protection from head impacts.
The soft, resilient nature of the foam will cushion the impact of falls and reduce the chances of serious injury.
2. It Provides a Soft Feel Underfoot
While it is not essential for a typical fake lawn to have a foam underlay installed underneath the grass, many people are finding that a soft, cushioned surface provides a more luxurious feel to their lawns. It can make you feel like you are walking on air.
It’s a unique feeling that will make your fake grass a pleasure to walk on.
The softness will also create a safer environment and provide better protection for you and your family.
In our experience, kids absolutely love playing on fake grass; they like the feeling underfoot and the fact that they can play on it all year round, as there is no mud and mess for their parents to worry about.
But all this extra play time increases the potential for trips and falls in the garden.
However, a foam underlay will decrease the severity of potential injuries and provide a safer environment for children to play in, which also means there’s one less thing for parents to worry about.
3. It’s Perfect for Transforming Tired Concrete, Decks and Patios
With the help of a foam underlay, it’s a relatively easy process to transform dull concrete, aging patios or slippery decks into lush green lawn areas.
This is becoming a more and more popular option for homeowners as it provides a comparatively inexpensive way of giving virtually any garden a facelift.
One of the issues many people are finding with soft wood decking is that during the winter months, the boards become extremely slippery and the potential for injury is quite high.
However, by turning your decking into a lush green fake grass area, you’ll no longer need to worry about slipping as you’ll find that your new artificial grass provides plenty of grip underfoot.
One of the major advantages of installing synthetic grass in these types of areas is that the installation is a relatively quick and easy process, as well as being a cost-effective installation.
There is virtually none of the heavy work typically involved with converting an existing real lawn into a fake one.
This is because the concrete, patio or deck can often remain in place, meaning all that is required is to secure an artificial grass foam underlay to the existing area, followed by your chosen artificial grass.
There is often no need to dig out the existing surface, which removes the need for hiring expensive skips and – even better – the back-breaking work that is typically required.
For further information on how to install artificial grass on concrete, please see ‘How to Install Artificial Grass on Concrete – A Step-by-Step Guide’. (The same principles apply when installing fake grass onto patios or decking.)
Remember, though, in some circumstances it may be necessary to remove the old surfacing; if it is not in adequate condition, then it will have to go.
Artificial grass is much like any surface; the structural strength is in the ground preparation and if this is not done correctly then it will have a negative impact on the performance of your AstroTurf.
If your concrete or patio is cracked, you may be better off removing the concrete and installing a typical sub-base.
Likewise, if your decking is damaged or if there is movement in the existing boards, you’ll probably be better off removing the deck before considering installing your fake grass.
4. It Conceals Ridges and Bumps
As we have learnt, one of the main benefits of an artificial grass foam underlay is that it’s great for transforming patios, concrete and decking, as it’s a relatively inexpensive and easy installation process.
However, when installing artificial grass on top of these types of surface, it’s extremely important that you don’t cut corners.
In these instances, it is essential that you install a foam underlay underneath your fake grass.
The foam shockpad doesn’t just make your grass feel extremely soft underfoot, it also serves the purpose of concealing any bumps or ridges in the surface below.
For example, if you were to install fake grass directly onto an existing deck, after the installation was completed, the ridges of the deck boards would be visible through the turf.
The same goes for installing on top of concrete. Even minor undulations would be visible.
This will spoil the look of your fake grass.
But the good news is that this unsightly effect can be avoided.
It really is as simple as installing a foam underlay, as it will ‘absorb’ any undulations in the existing surface, leaving a flat, flawless finish to your fake turf.
Typically, a 10mm foam would be more than adequate for this job.
5. It Can Save You Money
Another benefit of using a foam underlay is that it can save you money.
A typical artificial grass installation involves excavating 75-100mm below the finished height of a new lawn.
This allows enough depth to install a MOT Type 1 sub base of between 50-75mm and a laying course consisting of 25mm of 0-6mm granite dust.
The artificial grass can then be installed.
However, when using an artificial grass foam underlay the installation procedures are slightly different.
In the case of using an existing surface such as concrete, an old patio or existing deck, it can simply mean cleaning the existing surface, securing a foam underlay using specialist adhesive, and then cutting and fitting the grass.
This is a far cheaper process than following the standard installation procedures as it involves very little waste disposal, which is good news when you consider that an 8yd skip can cost over £200.
Then there is the fact that you won’t need to purchase any aggregates to make up the sub-base and laying course, or hire a vibrating plate compactor from a local hire shop, either.
In the case of using a professional to carry out the installation, you’ll find that they’ll be able to quote you a better price because of the speed of the installation.
All this results in financial savings that can make artificial turf an excellent investment in your home.
And it’s an investment that not only adds value to your property but will also make your life far easier, as there is very little maintenance needed to keep fake turf in great condition.
6. It Makes an Artificial Grass Installation Quicker and Easier to complete
Following on from the last benefit, we have learnt that using a foam underlay removes the need for as much ground preparation.
Without as much aggregate required, the job of installing artificial grass will be far easier on your back.
Generally, most fake grass installations will involve shovelling aggregate into a wheelbarrow and carting it into position.
For someone who is not used to this kind of work, it can feel like a struggle.
However, the very nature of foam means that it is extremely light, therefore making it relatively effortless to install.
It really is just a case of rolling it out into position and securing the perimeter.
You can cover large areas in a fraction of the time it would take to cart, level and compact sub-base material.
The logistics of the job can be far easier, too, as in some properties, access to a rear garden can be restricted.
If you live in a terraced house, the only access to your garden is often directly through your house; using a foam underlay will reduce or even eradicate the amount of aggregate that you’ll have to transport through your home.
Rather than running a wheelbarrow across your interior flooring, it could just be a case of carrying through a roll of foam, preventing potential damage to your carpets and boards.
Additionally, it will require far fewer tools to install.
With a typical fake turf installation, you’ll require a shovel, wheelbarrow, rake and vibrating plate compactor. When using a foam underlay, these tools will be not necessary.
On the whole, installing a foam underlay can take away a lot of the physical work involved in installing artificial grass, making the installation process far quicker and easier.
As you’ll have now learnt, there are many advantages to installing a foam underlay other than the obvious benefit of it being soft and springy underfoot.
We have spoken a lot about the benefits of using a foam underlay when transforming decks or concrete; but in addition, while it is certainly not essential, a foam underlay will make a great addition to a standard fake lawn, too.
However, if you are considering installing a foam shockpad underneath your artificial lawn, it is extremely important that you chose a good quality foam.
Try to avoid recycled foams as they tend to absorb moisture, causing them to expand and contract.
It also means that smells such as dog urine can become trapped in the foam, making odour very difficult to remove.
Therefore you should always ensure you choose a foam underlay that has built-in draining holes that allow liquids to run through freely, without being absorbed.
You’ll also need to decide whether to go for a 10mm or 20mm foam.
Generally, for most domestic uses a 10mm foam is more than adequate for a soft feel underfoot.
A 20mm will obviously be more springy, but this thickness of foam is generally only necessary where the Head Injury Criterion deems it necessary, such as in schools and playgrounds where the risk from falling from play equipment is high.
For further information on installing an artificial grass underlay, please see our previous article ‘How to Install Artificial Grass on Concrete – A Step-by-Step Guide’, as it contains lots of useful installation tips.
Both foams are hard-wearing, free draining and simple to install.
If you have any questions regarding the use of an artificial grass foam underlay or know of any more advantages that using one can bring to a fake lawn, then please leave us a comment below, as we would love to hear from you.