Artificial grass can be a great option for landscaping in areas where natural grass is too hard to maintain. Homeowners may opt for the installation of artificial turf because their climate is so dry it’s hard to maintain natural grass or simply because they want to save time by not having to maintain a natural yard.
In addition to the personal benefits, installing artificial grass can also help the environment. Read more to learn about important regulations around artificial grass.
Artificial grass will save you money on your water bill and protect the environment. Turf grass is one of the most water-intensive plants in your landscape. Turf grass is so water-intensive that there are different types of rebates in California to incentivize homeowners to make the switch. There are also regulations over artificial grass that are important to know when planning your project.
Due to water shortages around California, now is a great time to replace your lawn with water-saving artificial grass. Water and utility providers offer rebates that save you money on installing artificial grass. You can save 40-65 gallons of water per square foot of synthetic grass per year on average!
Your yard will look great all year long with minimum effort on your part, as artificial grass doesn’t need watering and requires very little upkeep. There is no irrigation needed, no mowing and no fertilizers. While you don’t have to mow artificial grass, it will need to be cleared of leaves and other debris depending on the types of trees you have around your yard. You won’t experience dead spots or mud with synthetic turf - and it’s great for pets too!
The most recently introduced synthetic grass product is made from polyethylene. It behaves the most like real grass, for example it bends well while remaining strong. Another advantage of polyethylene is that it is extremely water resistant - so if you have a pet and are worried about odors this is the material that will work best for your project.
Disadvantages of polyethylene include a low melting point - 248-266 degrees Fahrenheit - and being susceptible to UV degradation. It is almost always combined with stabilizers during the manufacturing process. Lower quality polyethylene is not combined with stabilizers and can become brittle in the sun. You’ll want to watch the sun that reflects off your south facing windows, it could melt some of your turf. This is where professional design and installation becomes important.
Another part of installing artificial grass that needs a professional are the seams. Just like carpet meets in a large room and needs to be matched at the seams, synthetic grass also must be matched if more than one roll of turf is needed for the project.
Other factors to consider when designing your artificial grass project is the minimum face weight of the turf. This refers to the measurement of how many ounces of grass fiber material per square yard are used. The higher the face weight is, the more dense the turf is. Another is the infill which refers to the material that is used to keep the blades of grass standing upright. It is the material that makes the yard springy and also provides drainage for the yard.
Recent legislation has been enacted that supports the use of artificial turf - especially in drought-hit states like California. AB 349, which took effect in early 2020, protects homeowners in HOAs from being forced to replace artificial grass with natural grass at the end of drought conditions.
California’s state government began enacting mandatory water reductions across the state in 2015 to reduce water usage by 25 percent. One component of the executive order called for the replacement of 50 million square feet of lawns throughout California with drought tolerant landscaping. One option for that drought tolerant landscaping is synthetic grass or artificial grass.
Throughout the state there are programs that support the installation of artificial turf. One of those is the Cash for Grass Rebate Program. The Sacramento County Water Agency provides this voluntary program to rebate qualifying residential and commercial customers for converting existing grass with native and drought tolerant landscaping. SCWA residential customers can receive rebates of $.50/square foot up to a maximum of $1,000 per household or $1.50/square foot up to a maximum of $2,500 for commercial and industrial customers.
Artificial grass can be used in the conversion, and must be installed by a licensed contractor in compliance with local codes. The landscaped areas must be properly prepared for installation according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Turf must be securely fastened to the ground and seams should be glued and stapled to minimize tearing. Any products installed must be non-flammable and permeable to water and air, and they must have a minimum ten year manufacturer warranty. Artificial grass has to end at least three inches from the base of any plant or tree.
California cities have regulations over the use of artificial turf that regulates things like the slope of the yard where the synthetic grass is being installed and what percentage of the area can be replaced with synthetic grass. If you’re thinking of having artificial grass installed in your front yard, it’s a good idea to check in with your city council to make sure there aren’t any regulations that will affect your project. In addition to state laws, there are city regulations that can determine where and how much artificial grass can be installed on your residential property. Below are several municipalities that have regulations on artificial grass.
In Sacramento City, regulations over the use of artificial turf include that it must have a minimum pile height - the height of the artificial grass product - of 1.25 inches and is not located in the dripline of any trees. The dripline is the area directly located under the outer circumference of the tree branches. When the tree canopy gets wet, any excess is shed to the ground along this dripline, much like an umbrella. Artificial grass has significantly more runoff and decreased water retention compared to live plant material.
Turf should not exceed twenty-five percent of the landscape area in residential areas and shouldn’t be planted on sloped areas. Artificial grass is not eligible for the Grass Conversion Rebate in Sacramento City.
Regulations for the use of artificial grass in Citrus Heights City prohibit turf in any area of eight feet or less in width or on any slope exceeding ten percent. Artificial grass also cannot be installed within ten feet of the dripline of native oak trees.
In Folsom City, artificial grass cannot exceed twenty-five percent of the landscape area in residential areas. It is also not permitted on slopes greater than twenty-five percent. Artificial grass is prohibited in parkways less than ten feet wide. Artificial grass is eligible in the Grass Conversion Rebate in Folsom City.
Artificial grass is an acceptable ground cover material in residential areas. Its approval shall be determined on a case-by-case basis to ensure quality design and a sample must be provided to the Planning Department for review before installation. There are city installation standards that must be followed as well. Artificial grass is not included in the County Landscape Rebate Program.
In the Hillside, Neighborhood and Planned RH, ND, PUD overlay zones the use of artificial turf is subject to design review.
There are no regulations on the use of artificial turf although the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan recommends not replacing lawn with artificial grass.
Although artificial grass can provide green landscape it is not recommended for environmental and health reasons. Turf shall not exceed twenty-five percent of the total landscape area in residential areas and in nonresidential areas it is prohibited. It is also not allowed on slopes greater than twenty-five percent where the toe of the slope is adjacent to an impermeable hardscape.