Synthetic Lawns Grow in Popularity

They look lush and feel real and can save time and money.


Yes, this is fake grass, but it looks and feels real, and Junko Green and her family couldn't be happier with their synthetic lawn.

Photo by Lance Yamamoto

During the worst of the California drought, Oakland resident Junko Green and her family opted for a synthetic lawn for their backyard remodel. “We didn’t want to use a lot of water and also wanted to have a safe place for the kids to play.” Three years later, Green is happy with the decision, even though the installation and materials for a synthetic lawn cost more than natural grass.

Like the Greens, more East Bay residents are opting for a synthetic lawn for a variety of reasons: environmental concerns, saving money (and time) over the long-term, and ease of care. Today’s synthetic lawns are far removed from the rock-hard Astroturf that have carpeted sports fields for decades.

Green’s lawn is lush and looks and feels surprisingly real, even up close. Maintenance consists of some leaf blowing and an occasional rinse with the hose, especially since the family has a dog (a terrier mix named Chai). Every so often, a weed or two might poke through, but the lawn never needs regular watering, mowing, or fertilizing, nor does it attract bugs like real grass. During the rainy season, the kids and Chai don’t track mud into the house.

The Green family used Bay Area Turf, a family-owned business in Brentwood. Bay Area Turf offers an eight- to 10-year warranty on the turf itself, as well as a three-year installation warranty. Matt Watkins, the owner, estimates that it takes three to five years to recoup the cost of an artificial lawn through savings on lawn maintenance and water. Since half of each water bill is spent on outdoor use, on average, the savings on water alone are significant. Bay Area Turf currently charges $10-$12 per square foot for a complete installation of its most popular S-Blade 90 artificial grass, which is manufactured by Global Syn Turf, a Hayward company. 

Green’s biggest worry was that the lawn might smell after years of use by the family dog. But even on hot days, the lawn emits no odor. Part of Bay Area Turf’s installation consists of using a combination of antibacterial and deodorizing infills after the turf is rolled out onto a level area. Watkins also recommends that pet owners clean up regularly after their pet and consider using a turf cleaning product that you spray from the hose every week or so. Cleaning frequency depends on the size of the lawn (and the pet).  

In the three-plus years since they have installed a synthetic lawn, Green isn’t sure how much money the family has saved. But she does know that they have saved loads of time and didn’t have to purchase a lawn mower. “With two working parents and three soccer-playing kids, we just don’t have the time for the upkeep that a regular lawn requires.”