Here’s Why Fibre Material is So Important When Choosing the Best Quality Artificial Grass
Buying artificial grass is an investment in your property. Also, the initial outlay of having artificial turf installed is often recouped in added value to your property.
You’ll also benefit from a low-maintenance garden that the whole family and their pets can enjoy all year round, without the worry of anything destroying your beautifully manicured lawn.
However, there is more to choosing a good quality artificial turf than maybe first meets the eye.
Naturally, choosing a turf that looks good is very important, but you should also be looking for a turf that will perform well.
The old saying, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’, couldn’t be more apt when it comes to choosing artificial turf.
An aesthetically pleasing turf isn’t necessarily one that will perform well.
There are many different characteristics that contribute towards creating the best quality artificial grass.
In today’s article we are looking specifically at fibre material, and why it has such a big impact on the strength, resilience and longevity of an artificial lawn.
Let’s start by looking at what types of plastic artificial fibres can be made from.
What are Synthetic Fibres Made From?
Synthetic or artificial fibres are made from plastic.
There are three types of plastic used by artificial turf manufacturers: polypropylene, polyethylene and nylon (also known as polyamide).
Let’s look at each plastic individually.
Polypropylene is one of the most commonly produced plastics in the world and it’s also the cheapest type of plastic used in artificial grass manufacturing.
It was first polymerized in 1951, by scientists J. Paul Hogan and Robert Banks. Today, it is most commonly used for product packaging, textiles, consumer products, and plastic parts for the automotive industry.
It has a good level of strength and resilience, making it ideal for medium-use areas, such as domestic garden lawns.
One of the biggest issues with polypropylene is its susceptibility to UV degradation, which means it can fade in colour.
It also has a naturally shiny and polished surface. This can make it slippery underfoot, while its reflective properties mean that it can be difficult to produce a natural-looking turf using polypropylene.
Polyethylene is another one of the most popular types of plastic consumed across the world. It is also the most commonly used plastic in the artificial grass industry.
It is generally more expensive than polypropylene, but cheaper than nylon.
It has a good trade-off between softness and resilience.
As a general rule of thumb, the softer the fibre, the weaker it is.
But the stronger the fibre, the more abrasive it is.
Polyethylene is a good all-rounder, that strikes a balance between both softness and strength. This makes it a popular choice for artificial turf for a wide variety of applications.
Nylon was, in fact, the very first type of plastic used to manufacture synthetic fibres. It was chosen by Chemstrand, the inventors of artificial turf.
The first synthetic grass was used at the Astrodome stadium in Houston, Texas, back in the 1960s – hence the name, AstroTurf.
Nylon was the obvious choice, due to its high strength and excellent resilience, both of which made it perfect for withstanding the heavy use placed upon the sports pitch.
Nylon is also the dominant fibre choice for commercial carpet use, due to its excellent wearability, abrasion resistance and resilience.
In addition, it is used to make fishing line, seatbelts, parachute cord, and toothbrushes.
The main downside to nylon, though, is that it’s by far the most expensive plastic, which makes the initial cost of installing an artificial lawn higher.
For low traffic areas, this additional expense is not cost-effective. If, however, the turf is being used for a high traffic application, the additional lifespan of nylon over the other types of plastic on offer makes it a cheaper product in the long term.
Of course, the flipside of its excellent resistance and durability is that its coarse texture means that it is not as soft as polyethylene or polypropylene.
Nylon vs Polyethylene vs Polypropylene – A Comparison
Now that we know a little more about each type of plastic, let’s compare their characteristics.
There are three important characteristics to compare when choosing the best fibre material for creating the best artificial turf – strength, resilience and melting point.
The table below compares the strength of polypropylene, polyethylene and nylon (polyamide).
It shows the ‘tensile strength’ of each plastic, which is the load at which the plastic fails when it is pulled from both ends.
Nylon outperforms polypropylene and polyethylene significantly.
The table below shows the ‘flexural modulus of elasticity’ – the flexural stiffness of a plastic prior to breaking or permanently deforming. In other words, the resilience.
A high level of resilience is extremely important in artificial grass manufacturing as it will ensure that the turf can withstand foot traffic and pressure from items of furniture.
Again, nylon is the clear winner here.
The chart below shows the melting temperatures of polypropylene, polyethylene (HDPE) and nylon (polyamide).
It is important to consider the melting point of each product as, although an artificial lawn would never be subjected to temperatures as high as those shown below, it will be subjected to heat from the sun. That is sometimes reflected from glass, which intensifies the rays.
This heat can affect the performance and longevity of artificial grass, and the higher the melting point, the better.
Which Fibre Material is Best for Artificial Grass Manufacturing?
Although science clearly shows that nylon is the strongest plastic, it isn’t always the best one to use.
Identifying the best fibre material to use really depends upon the application.
For the best all-round turf, we highly recommend choosing a product that uses a blend of nylon and polyethylene.
Its important to have a hard-wearing artificial turf, but not one that’s so tough that it’s uncomfortable to sit, lie or walk on barefoot.
Through our extensive research and testing, we’ve found that combining polyethylene with a nylon lower thatch provides the best trade-off between strength and comfort.
Of course, there are many other factors to consider when choosing the best type of artificial grass.
What Type of Fibre Material is Suitable for my Application?
The table below shows the best type of fibre to use for different levels of usage.
It compares polypropylene, polyethylene and a nylon/polyethylene blend.
It assumes that other factors, such as pile height, pile density, fibre shape, fibre material, Decitex, and fibre thickness are equal.
|Low Use Applications (e.g. front garden, ornamental lawns)||Polypropylene
|Medium Use Applications (e.g. back gardens, artificial grass for dogs)||Nylon/polyethylene combination||Polypropylene
|Heavy Use Applications (e.g. public areas, playgrounds, commercial use)||Nylon/polyethylene combination||Polypropylene
When it comes to choosing the best type of plastic fibre for your synthetic lawn, it all boils down to the application.
Yes, nylon is the best performing fibre, but there would be little point in using it for an ornamental lawn that won’t receive much foot traffic. The additional cost wouldn’t be worth it, and you’d be better off choosing a polypropylene or polyethylene turf, as the cost would be lower.
We’d recommend using the table above to consider your intended application and then choose the most suitable type of plastic from there.
If in doubt, we’d highly recommend choosing a product that combines nylon and polyethylene, such as Aberdeen, Arena or Inverness, as these products offer the best results in terms of a balance between strength and comfort.
You can request your free samples, here, so you can see for yourself how the products look and feel.
But, remember, it’s not just the fibre material that you should consider when searching for the best artificial grass.
We hope that this article has given you some insight into the different types of fibre used in artificial grass manufacturing and, if you have any questions, please leave them below and we’ll gladly answer them.