Know the 6 major types of synthetic turf to avoid costly buying mistakes

There are six different types of synthetic turf made for different applications. Understanding which synthetic turf best suits your needs will help you to make a better purchase decision.

Landscape Turf
Landscape Turf is characterized by the thatch layer of yarn, also called the “root zone” or “micro fiber layer”. Regardless of what it is called, this curly lower layer of yarn is there to hold up the long blades that replicate the blades of grass and at the same time minimize, or in some cases totally eliminate, the need for infill to help keep the blades up. These artificial grasses are made to most look like real grass with some models even having a tan thatch to mimic the dead grass that you can see in a natural healthy lawn. Landscape grasses typically have the highest amount of yarn per square yard and combined with the stitching of the thatch layer can make these the most expensive types of grasses to purchase.

Pet Grass
Artificial turf made specifically for use with dogs has a couple of unique characteristics. One,the turf will have antimicrobial agents built into the yarn to help minimize odors by killing the bacteria that cause the odors. Two, artificial turf made specifically for use with dogs should have excellent drainage. Both of these products have antimicrobial agents built into their yarn and unique backing styles designed to maximize drainage.

This is also a good time to point out that the leading products designed for use with dogs are designed to be used without any infill. Some turf companies argue that a synthetic turf filled with rubber or sand or a combination of both, or ceramic “Durafill” or a “special odor control infill” can be used with dogs. Thinking of the need to occasionally rinse a runny feces (diarrhea) through the turf, does this make sense to you? Could turf filled with any infill do anything other than retain moisture and make this a difficult, possibly stinky situation? There are companies that are just trying to sell their standard turf as something special for dogs and then there are companies that have taken the time to develop specific products designed especially for use with dogs.

Athletic Field Turf
Artificial turf made for athletic fields is easy to identify. It will have no thatch layer and is typically 2 inches to 3 inches tall. The turf is designed to be infilled with crumb rubber, silica sand, or most commonly a mixture of crumb rubber and silica sand. There are other alternative infills such as TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) and coconut-cork products, but these are much more expensive and/or unproven for long-term effectiveness as of 2010.

Athletic field turf provides the safety for sports use, but can be problematic when used for general landscaping purposes. If no infill is used, the turf will lay on its side and not be attractive. When infill is used in a residential or commercial landscape application, the property owner must be aware that they may be experiencing these small rubber pellets all over their property and house. It is usually not a good idea to use athletic field turf for anything other than athletic use.

A competent sales rep should explain which type of turf is best for your specific needs and if you as the consumer are feeling that the sales rep is just trying to sell you the turf that they have in stock, then you are likely not getting
the turf that best meets your specific needs. Claims that “we have hundreds of residential and commercial properties that use our athletic field turf for their landscaping” should not be accepted as evidence that this type of system is best for landscape applications. It is more likely the fact that athletic field turf has been used for many more years than the newer landscape turf and that’s why many property owners ended up with this type of turf for their landscape applications.

Putting Green Turf
There are two types of synthetic turf used for putting greens. Nylon putting green turf is the kind that you will see inside a sports store, at a miniature golf facility, or most any indoor applications. It can also be used outdoors. This turf is characterized by the curly nylon yarn that is typically about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch high. It is often called “non-infill” turf because it does not require any sand infill. The advantage of nylon putting green turf is that it will roll at approximately a 10 stimpmeter rating right from the day it is installed. The yarns are unidirectional meeting that it will roll true from both directions the day it is installed. For the do it yourself customer a nylon putting green turf is a little easier to install. The disadvantages include shorter expected life span versus polypropylene putting greens, no ability to adjust
the speed, and a ball roll that is not as smooth as a properly installed polypropylene turf.

The second type of putting green turf is called polypropylene or “sand filled” turf. As the name would imply, this turf is filled with silica sand to approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch below the top of the blades. The blades are then bent down with a water-filled roller so that the completed putting green mimics a bent grass green. The advantages of a polypropylene putting green include a longer expected life span, the ability to adjust the speed, and the ability to accept a shot from a distance as the sand will dissipate the energy of the ball and allow the polypropylene putting green to act more like a natural green than the non-infilled nylon green. A polypropylene putting green does have some disadvantages as well. There is more work involved in installing one giving that it must be filled with silica sand and rolled repeatedly until the tips of the blades stay down. This “break-in process” can take days or weeks depending on the amount of sun the putting green gets, the temperature and the amount it is rolled. Once the sand-filled putting green is broken in, it will typically have the better ball roll as compared to nylon.

Playground Turf
Synthetic turf for playgrounds is actually a very dense landscape turf laid over some type of padding. Common padding includes rubber or foam padding that is made specifically to be used outdoors. Depending on the thickness of the padding and the density of the artificial grass, these systems can provide fall height protection of up to 10 feet without using rubber infill in the turf. An alternative would be to use athletic field turf filled with rubber, however since most playgrounds are adjacent to schools or daycare centers, the use of rubber infill can be very messy as the children play and the rubber gets on their clothes and shoes and is brought into the facility. This is why the modern padded systems are becoming popular over the traditional rubber infill systems. The modern padded systems are typically less expensive than poured in place rubber or rubber tiles and provide a natural look and often a longer lifespan than these two common playground surface options.

Specialty Turf
Any artificial turf that does not fit in one of the categories above can be considered Specialty Turf. For example, Perfect Turf’s Multiuse Turf would fit in this category. Turf that is designed for indoor use, balconies, or other special plications would be in this category. Often times, special applications such as turf used for road medians are a combination of landscape turf and specially designed base construction and turf attachment methods that make up the overall turf system. Turf for Bocce Ball courts, tennis courts, and running tracks would all fit in this category.


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