If you’re installing artificial grass in your yard, you need to ask yourself one important question first:
What type of synthetic grass will you be using?
Most homeowners don’t realize there are different materials used in the design and construction of artificial turf.
Today, we will discuss the choices of material available for your artificial grass.
Our team of experts will compare the different types on the market right now, and make a recommendation on the best material for your new lawn.
In This Article:
What Is Artificial Grass Made Of? The Top 3 Materials Explained
All artificial grass fibers feature design and construction with polymers. However, there are different types of polymers, each with special properties to suit different needs.
Modern day artificial grass grass comes in a variety of materials, namely polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon (polyamide).
Before we compare them and decide which one is the best choice, here’s a brief overview of the choices available:
Polypropylene is the most widely used commercial plastic product. It’s an affordable solution and the material of choice for cheaper artificial lawns.
It’s an affordable choice for homes that don’t get much sunlight. This is because it tends to fade in the sun, reducing the color quality of your artificial lawn.
Polypropylene also features a shiny surface, providing an artificial look. For this reason, it’s not the most realistic artificial grass available.
With other choices available today, we do not recommend polypropylene unless you are on a budget.
2. Nylon (Polyamide)
Chemstrand, the inventors of “AstroTurf”, used nylon in its first product. In fact, the Houston Astrodome was the first major sports stadium to fit an artificial turf playing surface back in the 1960s.
It was a huge success, and artificial grass starting blowing up in popularity ever since!
Nylon provided the ideal fabric for the surface, with excellent resilience and strength. It was the perfect material choice for a long-lasting surface suitable for professional sports.
Nylon also provides the ideal fiber choice for commercial carpets, and it has a host of other uses in a variety of products, like seatbelts and paracord.
The biggest downside to nylon is the cost. This material is the most expensive option of the three. For low-traffic yards, nylon isn’t a cost-effective choice for your artificial lawn.
However, fitting nylon artificial lawn results in a durable and long-lasting surface that is cost-effective in the long run.
It’s important to note that nylon’s high strength and durability also comes with a rough feeling underfoot.
Polyethylene is another well-known plastic in commercial manufacturing. This material is the most common type found in synthetic grass.
It comes with a higher price tag than polypropylene products, but it more affordable than nylon.
Polyethylene offers homeowners a good balance between resilience, strength, and softness underfoot. It’s important to note that the softer the fiber feels, the easier it breaks.
Strong fibers do have a rougher feeling underfoot, so make sure you try it out and inspect it in person before committing to a specific lawn.
Polyethylene is an excellent all-around choice suitable for a variety of artificial lawn applications, including your backyard.
Which Artificial Grass Material Is Best? Nylon vs Polypropylene vs Polyethylene
Now that you understand the differences in the plastics used in artificial lawns, let’s compare these materials to see which one is best for you!
The tensile strength of the material plays a significant role in its strength and durability. High-tensile strength means that the grass blades won’t break, even under heavy pressure.
Low-tensile strength, on the other hand, means the grass can snap and break if there’s too much pressure on the material (such as sharp turns).
Nylon is bar far the toughest material with the highest tensile strength, with polypropylene is the next best choice. Polyethylene is the weakest choice, but is also the most lifelike due to its soft nature.
The Winner: Nylon
Blade resilience refers to how well the individual grass blades hold their original shape.
A more resilient grass will bounce back to its original shape quickly after stepping on it. Conversely, softer materials may stay flat and matted after spending time under heavy objects.
Nylon offers you the best resilience. In fact, it is 40% more resilient than polyethylene and 22% more than polypropylene.
However, unless you expect a lot of daily traffic on your lawn, this added resilience isn’t always necessary.
In fact, many homeowners opt for polyethylene despite the lower resilience, because it feels a lot better under their feet.
You can easily prevent any flattening by brush your lawn every week as part of your maintenance routine.
The Winner: Nylon and Polyethylene
When choosing your material, make sure you pay attention to the melting point. This refers to the temperature at which the plastic melts.
While all lawns have a high enough melt point to prevent sun damage, some might struggle with magnification.
If you have eco-friendly, double-paned windows in your home facing your yard, this could reflect and magnify light onto the lawn.
In extreme heat, grass blades made from polypropylene and polyethylene may soften up and become pliable. This causes the fibers to weaken, and if heavy weight is put on them it could lead to permanent damage.
In contrast, the higher melting point of nylon means it remains rigid and upright, even in extreme heat.
The Winner: Nylon
Looks and Realism
All three forms of plastic come in a variety of colors. However, polypropylene features a shiny, reflective surface.
This gives off both an unrealistic look, and a weird, slippery feeling underfoot.
Artificial grass made from nylon tend to come in more realistic shades, but still lacks the soft, grassy feel that a real lawn offers.
Finally, polyethylene is a great choice that offers the best of both worlds. You will find lifelike colors and shades, all with a realistic finish and feel.
For added realism, be sure to look for brands that include brown shades in the tufts. This is a layer called “thatching”, which is also found in real grass.
This will make your artificial grass look exactly like the real thing, instead of the neon-green color that is often associated with “fake grass”. It will also add a pleasant softness and springy “bounce” to your lawn.
The Winner: Polyethylene
Conclusion: What Is the Best Material for Artificial Grass?
The science shows us that nylon is the clear winner in terms of strength and durability.
However, that does NOT always mean it’s the best choice for your yard.
While this added resilience is great for sporting applications, it is often not necessary for domestic use. It also comes at a significantly higher price, and a stiff and dry feel.
While nylon provides durability and is guaranteed to hold its shape in the long run, polyethylene gives a soft feeling underfoot with excellent bounce and decent resilience.
Choosing the best material for your artificial lawn depends more on the application.
If you’re looking for the best all-around material for use in your yard, we recommend going with polyethylene grass.
On the other hand, if you expect to have kids running around all the time, or plan to build a putting green in your back yard, nylon is the clear choice, as it needs to be tough enough to withstand the heavy usage.
There are plenty of other factors to consider when selecting your artificial lawn. Remember to look at the pile height, the density of fibers, fiber shapes, and thickness. All these factors play a role in determining the final look and feel of your artificial lawn.
Composite materials using both polyethylene and nylon are a great choice, but they might be harder to find.
Where possible, we recommend looking for artificial lawn products featuring a nylon thatch with polyethylene blades.
This combination gives you the best outcome for residential artificial lawns. The grass feels soft underfoot, providing the springy-feeling of a real lawn, thanks to the nylon thatching.
This is a great balance between comfort and durability and the ideal choice for your artificial turf.