Water & Drought

What are the pros and cons of replacing a yard with Astroturf or a similar artificial grass?

Q: What are the pros and cons of replacing a yard with Astroturf or a similar artificial grass? I have not seen any discussion of this issue in The Bee; however, I may have missed it. – Tom Parks, Sacramento

A: We devoted a cover story in our March 15 Home & Garden section to synthetic lawns. Find that story here.

Several readers wrote in with their recommendations and personal experiences. Most loved it, but artificial turf is not for everybody. Some cities, including Sacramento, forbid artificial turf in city codes. But in light of the drought, those restrictions may be lifting as more people seek low-water landscape options.

Before installing synthetic grass, check with your local water agency or city utilities department. While some communities have restrictions on artificial turf use, others offer rebates for installation. The Synthetic Turf Council’s website offers links to many distributors and manufacturers, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

Recent technological innovations make today’s fake grass look just as good – or better – than the real thing with little maintenance. The biggest benefit: green play space that requires no water.

“It is amazing that a healthy grass lawn typically requires 55 gallons of water per square foot per year,” said Brian McGibbon of Fields of Green, a Northern California synthetic lawn company. “That is 44,000 gallons of water per year for a 800-square-foot lawn. Our products can last 15 to 20 years. That means a new 800-square-foot waterless lawn (can) save 660,000 gallons over 15 years.”

On the down side, some synthetics can get hot to the touch, especially if located in full sun. Also, fake turf, unlike real grass, is not biodegradable. The biggest issue may come when trying to resell your home. According to real estate agents, artificial grass turns off most prospective buyers.