The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Artificial Grass For Your Garden Lawn
Just five minutes of online research will inform you that there is now a vast array of artificial grass available on the market.
With such a wide range of manufacturers and products, choosing the best artificial grass for your garden can be a little daunting.
There are many differing attributes that you should be taking a close look at before making a purchase.
You’ll also need to consider exactly what you will be using your artificial lawn for.
So how do you know which type of grass will suit your needs? And what exactly should you be looking for when comparing artificial grasses?
Well, we’ve written this guide to help you take a closer look at exactly what goes into producing synthetic grass to arm you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.
A decision that will hopefully result in a fantastic artificial lawn that will not only look amazing, but also save you hours of maintenance work and last long into the future.
The key thing to remember is that it’s vital to look at more than just the aesthetics of artificial grass, as it’s dangerous to choose a product based on this aspect alone.
Of course the grass must look good, but it also needs to perform well to ensure a long-lasting, lush green lawn.
To avoid disappointment, we must take a closer look at the artificial grass in order to make a wise investment.
This guide has been written to help you choose the best artificial grass for your garden.
What Will Your Artificial Lawn be Used For?
This is a key question to ask yourself when choosing the best artificial grass for your garden.
There are many different types of artificial grass and they all have varying strengths and weaknesses.
This is because some are designed for different uses. For example, some grasses are manufactured to be hard-wearing, which usually means using a plastic fibre made from nylon (polyamide).
However, the trade-off here is that nylon is not quite as soft as polypropylene or polyethylene, the two other types of artificial fibre used in manufacturing artificial grass.
Nylon is also more expensive. Therefore, if your artificial lawn will get little foot traffic, choosing a lawn made from nylon fibres wouldn’t be necessary. It would, however, be the ideal choice for a family that spends lots of time in their garden.
There are generally five main types of usage for an artificial lawn:
- Ornamental/show lawn – a low trafficked artificial lawn intended to improve the aesthetics of a garden whilst dramatically reducing maintenance.
- Family lawn/play area – a heavily trafficked artificial lawn that receives high levels of usage all year round.
- Pet-friendly lawn – a heavily trafficked area that will also need to handle urine and excrement.
- Lawn for garden parties and entertaining – an occasionally heavily trafficked area able to cope with spillages and stains.
- All-rounder – some or all of the above.
Naturally, each of the above types of usage requires different strengths and qualities in an artificial lawn.
Below you’ll find some useful information to help you choose the best artificial grass to suit your own individual needs.
When choosing a fake grass for your garden, start by looking at the potential grasses from an aesthetic point of view. This is because it is, of course, extremely important that you choose an artificial grass that you’ll enjoy looking at and that improves the look of your garden.
Choosing a pile height is usually just a matter of taste.
For those that like the look of freshly cut grass, anything between 25-30mm is a good choice. For a natural looking lawn, we recommend choosing something between 30-38mm.
Anything longer than this and the fibres tend to lie flat under their own weight rather than standing upright.
There is some debate as to whether shorter piles are harder wearing.
In our testing we have found that shorter pile heights do perform better than longer piles in the long term for grasses manufactured using either polypropylene or polyethylene.
But with nylon artificial grasses, we haven’t noticed any difference between a 25mm and a 35mm pile in terms of performance. This is as a result of the hard-wearing nature of nylon.
Comparing the pile density of artificial grass is very important.
The greater the pile density, the more lush the grass will look.
Low pile density fake grass can look sparse and thin.
For heavy use areas, we recommend choosing a dense pile with somewhere between 16,500 and 18,000 stitches per square metre.
For ornamen tal lawns that receive low levels of foot traffic, you may want to consider a thinner lawn with somewhere between 13,000 and 16,000 stitches per square metre, as you will find this to be more cost-effective.
It’s also very important to consider the angles from which you will be viewing your artificial grass.
Typically, in the case of a garden you’ll be viewing the lawn from your house or patio, and also from above.
If you won’t be spending much time on your lawn you may be better off saving yourself some money and choosing a pile with fewer fibres as, from the right angles, thinner grasses have the illusion of looking thicker than they really are.
But for a balcony or roof garden, you’ll need to remember that the grass will typically be viewed from above.
This means that it’s very important to choose a dense grass, and ideally a specialist grass that has been designed specifically for roof gardens, patios and balconies, such as Tempo by NeoGrass.
Tempo is manufactured with a staggering 48,000 stiches per square metre.
If in doubt when choosing the best pile density, it’s advisable to go with something between 16,000 and 18,000 stitches per square metre as a good all-rounder.
Like pile height, colour choice is entirely dependent upon personal taste. There is no right and wrong.
You’ll notice a wide range of colours when it comes to artificial grass and that’s because there are many differing shades of green found within real grass.
Many manufacturers offer free samples and it’s highly recommended that you take advantage of this before making any purchase decision as, unfortunately, you cannot rely on Internet pictures to get a true indication of the colour of your chosen artificial grass.
When choosing colours, it is vitally important to remember to place the samples where the turf will be laid; i.e., outside on your lawn.
This is because different lighting conditions will make the artificial grass appear different in colour. For example, your samples will look darker indoors due to lower levels of natural light.
Place your samples side-by-side on your lawn and compare the colours with your real grass. Many people prefer to choose a colour that most resembles their current lawn.
If your garden is sheltered and receives little sunlight, it may be best to choose a light coloured artificial lawn as it will brighten up your garden.
How to Choose the Best Quality Artificial Grass
When searching for the best quality artificial grass, it’s vitally important to look at more than just aesthetic appeal.
The following list of 11 questions will help you compare artificial grass in order to find the best performing product.
Before purchasing, find the answers to these questions by looking on manufacturer’s websites, datasheets, or by speaking with them directly.
1. What Type of Plastic are the Fibres Made From?
There are only three different types of plastic used to make artificial grass.
These are polypropylene, polyethylene and nylon (polyamide), with each having various strengths and weaknesses.
Polyethylene is the most commonly used type of plastic fibre, as it is generally a very good all-rounder.
Nylon is by far the strongest fibre utilised in artificial grass manufacturing. It’s up to 33% stronger than polyethylene and 26% stronger than polypropylene.
It’s also up to 40% more resilient than polyethylene and 22% more resilient than polypropylene, which are both softer fibres.
Nylon is naturally very hard-wearing, but the trade-off is that it is a more abrasive fibre than its two counterparts.
But it’s also more expensive.
The perfect mix of artificial fibre is for the lower thatch to be strengthened with the use of nylon fibres, which then work in conjunction with longer polyethylene fibres.
For low trafficked areas, choose a lawn manufactured entirely from either polyethylene or polypropylene.
For frequently used areas, nylon will outperform and outlast anything else, so choose a turf that incorporates nylon in this instance.
2. Is it Fire-resistant?
When choosing artificial grass it is very important to check with the manufacturer that it is fire-resistant.
In the highly unlikely event of fire, you’ll want to be reassured that the flames will not spread via your artificial lawn.
To check whether an artificial grass is fire-resistant ask your chosen manufacturer if they have any industry accreditations and also if they comply with European regulations.
Any flooring product manufactured including artificial grass can be assessed to meet Cfl-s1 in fire-retardant tests for fire-resistant flooring, according to UNE EN 13501-12007.
Ensuring that your chosen artificial grass meets this criterion is highly recommended, as it means your lawn will not spread a fire should the worst happen.
3. Is it Tested for Harmful Substances?
You may have heard some stories in the media of artificial grass containing harmful substances, such as lead.
Unfortunately, in the past some of these stories have been true.
Substances such as lead can, of course, be extremely dangerous and have harmful effects on humans and their pets.
A good starting point is to choose an artificial grass manufactured within the European Union, as the safety tests and manufacturing standards are higher than those found in parts of Asia, including China.
For further confidence, it’s vitally important to ensure that any fake grass that you choose has been independently tested and verified against harmful substances.
The certification awarded by the Oeko-Tex, the textile industry’s leading independent testing and certification system, is designed to give consumers peace of mind that their chosen artificial lawn is free from harmful substances.
4.Where is the Grass Manufactured?
As we have briefly touched upon above, manufacturing standards vary throughout the world.
Fake grass produced in Europe is typically far better quality than that produced in China – a major player in the artificial grass industry.
When choosing an artificial grass, it’s vitally important to check where it has been manufactured. Speak directly with retailers to obtain the country of origin.
The best way to do this is to ask for a certification. If a retailer or manufacturer is unable to provide this, there’s a high chance the products may be manufactured outside of the European Union.
It’s relatively straightforward to spot an inferior artificial grass. The easiest way is to take a closer look at the backing and fibre thickness.
Thin fibres and the ability to easily separate the primary and secondary backing (because they contain lower quantities of latex) point towards poor quality synthetic grass.
We will be looking more closely at these two attributes of artificial grass below.
5. How Long is the Manufacturer’s Warranty?
It goes without saying, but clearly the longer the warranty, the better the product is likely to be.
However, it’s extremely important to check the small print.
Some warranties can be very vague and may not give the consumer much protection.
Be sure to look for a warranty that includes cover against UV stability and fibre loss.
UV stability protects against fading, whilst a warranty protecting against fibre loss will give you peace of mind that the fibres will stay intact, which, of course, is key to a lush looking artificial lawn.
Of course, no warranty will protect against damage caused by improper use or failure to maintain your artificial lawn.
To find out further details on maintenance and what constitutes improper use of your chosen artificial grass, speak directly with the manufacturer.
You may also find our article, ‘The Ultimate Artificial Grass Maintenance Guide’, useful to learn more about maintaining an artificial lawn.
You may be surprised to learn that there is maintenance involved with artificial grass, but unfortunately it is true and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being entirely honest.
Fortunately, however, the required maintenance is minimal and will take a fraction of the time required to maintain a real lawn.
6. How Good is the Backing?
A good way to check the quality of artificial grass is to look at the backing.
Artificial grass backing is made up of primary and secondary layers.
The primary backing is the layer of material that the plastic fibres of the artificial grass are stitched to.
The secondary backing used during the manufacturing process is typically made from latex. This is basically the ‘glue’ that holds everything together.
With poorer quality artificial grasses these layers can separate due to low quantities of latex having been used.
It’s straightforward to test how good the backing of an artificial grass is simply by attempting to pull the layers apart with your hands.
The easier this is done, the lower the quality of the artificial grass.
It’s extremely important that high levels of latex are used, not only to prevent an artificial grass from separating, but also to prevent yarn loss.
Low quantities of latex mean that the fibres will easily separate from the backing, resulting in an artificial lawn gradually becoming thin and matted, and ultimately looking unnatural.
Check with the manufacturer to find out the anchoring resistance of their products. It should be able to withstand a force of 25Newtons, at a minimum.
7. How Thick are the Synthetic Fibres?
Synthetic fibre thickness is often overlooked when comparing artificial grass.
But it’s one of the most important factors to consider.
Natural looking artificial grass can only be achieved with upright fibres.
When the fibres of a fake lawn lie flat, we call this ‘matting’. Matting will result in an unnatural looking lawn.
One of the main causes of matting is thin fibres. Whilst your chosen artificial grass may look great initially, heavy usage will break down thin fibres quickly.
When comparing artificial grass samples, break off a fibre from each sample and compare fibre thickness. The thicker the fibre, the better it will perform.
Manufacturers should be able to give you information on the fibre thickness, measured in microns.
A fibre measuring 200/99 microns is considered very thick.
8. Is the Grass a Factory Second?
You’ve probably seen some very cheap artificial grass available on the market.
As with so many things, you really do get what you pay for. Cheap artificial grass will be made using poor quality materials and shoddy manufacturing techniques.
Another reason that some artificial grass is so cheap is that it may be a factory second or overrun.
Factory seconds will have some form of defect. This can be OK when choosing an artificial grass for an area that will rarely be seen or trodden on, such as down the side of a house or shed, but they should otherwise be avoided.
Most factory seconds will have lines running through the turf. This is due to a spool of yarn having a different dye and the error not being spotted by the machine operator.
Always ask manufacturers directly whether their products are factory seconds.
To be sure, ask them for a written agreement that the product they are supplying will not contain any defects. It’s also advisable to ask for copies of the warranty details.
But the big clue is the very low prices.
9. Do You Need Instant Recovery Technology?
The increase in research over the years to produce the best quality artificial grass has led to the development of some important technology that has improved both the performance and aesthetics of fake grass.
One of these developments has been Instant Recovery Technology.
If a synthetic grass has Instant Recovery Technology, it means that it has been manufactured with nylon (polyamide) fibres.
Nylon is the strongest and most resilient fibre used in the artificial grass industry.
It’s used to make parachute cord, fishing lines, tennis racket strings and, of course, the best quality carpets and rugs.
You can be sure that when you purchase a grass with Instant Recovery Technology you are getting a hard-wearing artificial grass that will stand up to foot traffic and heavy use from children and pets.
See the above section, ‘What Type of Plastic are the Fibres Made From?’, for further information on the hard-wearing nature of nylon.
Whether or not you need to choose a grass with Instant Recovery Technology depends on the expected usage of your artificial lawn.
Nylon fibres are far more expensive than its polyethylene and polypropylene counterparts.
If your lawn will be for ornamental purposes and will receive little foot traffic, then the additional cost would be unnecessary.
But if it will receive lots of use, then it’s worth considering a lawn with Instant Recovery Technology. The additional cost will prove to be a worthwhile investment that will result in a higher performing, longer-lasting artificial lawn.
For further information on the advantages of choosing a grass made from nylon please read this article.
10. Do You Need Feelgood Technology?
Another technology to consider is Feelgood.
One of the downsides of artificial grass used to be that during hot summer days, when the sun is beating down on an artificial lawn, the plastic fibres could become hot to the touch.
Feelgood Technology was developed to keep artificial grass cool.
The video below shows this in action.
Feelgood Technology enables artificial grass to stay up to 12 degrees cooler than standard synthetic grass.
It works by reflecting and dissipating the heat into the atmosphere; leaving your grass feeling as good as it looks.
If you intend on using your lawn during the summer months, it would be a good idea to choose a grass with Feelgood Technology.
For ornamental lawns it would be unnecessary.
11. Do You Need Natural Look Technology?
Natural Look, as the name suggests, was developed to ensure that the artificial grass looks natural from every angle.
Some artificial lawns can appear to be a different shade of colour, depending on lighting conditions and the angle that they are viewed from.
This is because synthetic fibres are reflective by nature, due to their smooth, polished appearance.
This smooth appearance results in glare, making artificial grass looking lighter in colour from certain angles.
Natural Look Technology was developed to minimise this glare and ensure that your artificial lawn will look as natural as possible from every angle.
Choosing a grass with Natural Look will not be necessary in every situation, however.
For example, if your lawn will be placed at the bottom of your garden it will typically only be viewed from one angle, therefore making Natural Look unnecessary.
If, however, your lawn will be viewed from several angles on a regular basis, it’s highly recommended that you choose a lawn with Natural Look Technology.
Who Will Install Your Artificial Lawn?
The final thing to remember when considering artificial grass is that the quality of the installation plays a vital role in a long-lasting artificial lawn
You can have the best artificial grass on the market, but without a good installation, the grass won’t perform at its best.
We normally recommend using the services of a professional installer. A good place to start is to find your nearest NeoGrass Approved Installer [link].
You may find our article, ‘17 Questions to Help You Choose an Artificial Grass Installer’, to be a useful guide in helping you find a reputable installer.
The knowledge and experience of a professional installer will mean that they can tailor the installation to your individual needs.
For example, if you have a poor draining lawn, a professional will be able to advise on the best draining sub-base to install.
The installation techniques used when laying artificial grass on existing surfaces, such as concrete or decking, are different to those employed when installing fake grass to replace a real lawn.
A professional installer will be well versed in handling any situation.
However, with the right knowledge it is possible to install artificial grass as a DIY project.
If you are considering this option, check out ‘How to Install Artificial Grass’.
For a list of the tools you’ll need, click here.
Choosing an artificial lawn needn’t be difficult but, as you’ll have learnt from this guide, it’s extremely important to look at more than just the aesthetics of a fake grass.
You’ll need to think about the levels of usage that your lawn will be receiving and then take into consideration aspects such as type of plastic, fibre thickness, fibre density, etc., to ensure a high performing artificial grass that lasts long into the future.
There’s little point in spending large amounts of money on the best artificial grass if it’s unlikely to receive much foot traffic.
Likewise, if your family spends lots of time out in the garden relaxing, playing games or entertaining friends and family, it’s equally important to choose an artificial grass that’s up to the job.
We hope that this guide has proved useful and we recommend the next step you take is to request free samples of artificial grass to compare the different products available.
You should be able to request any of the above technical information directly from the manufacturer in order to compare different products.
If they are unable to provide this information, they may be best avoided.
If you have any questions on choosing the best artificial grass for your garden, please leave us a comment below as our experienced team will be more than happy to help you.