If you’re planning to landscape your lawn, garden, or backyard in a low-maintenance style, you have two main choices; artificial turf or concrete. But what’s the better material? Let’s look at both landscaping options to help you decide which to choose for your house’s outdoor areas.
The choice between artificial turf and concrete will depend on the look you prefer, plus where and how you plan to use them. In fact, you may end up using a mix of both! A good rule of thumb is to use concrete for areas under frequent and intense activity like driveways and walkways and artificial turf for other areas.
Each has its own pros and cons that we’ll go over to make sure you spend your hard-earned money on something that fits your home. To learn more about these great low-maintenance yard options, keep reading!
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Should I Get Concrete for my Outdoor Areas?
Concrete is iconic. No matter where you are, chances are you can see or are standing on concrete. There’s a reason it’s a staple in modern construction, but is it the best option for your backyard? Here’s what to keep in mind when considering concrete for a project.
Pros of Concrete
Properly installed concrete is sturdy and will last for decades. This makes it better—or even necessary—for highly trafficked areas.
It’s ideal in your home for driveways, walkways, or even a small basketball court if you plan to hoop at home. It’s a common option for patios as well. Artificial grass can also be used for driveways, but it won’t endure the frequent use like concrete, especially if you drive on it a lot.
Concrete also has next to no required maintenance. No weeds will grow on it, and you don’t need to wash it too often. With only a few washes a year, any concrete you have will be looking its best for as long as possible. A straightforward brushing, washing and rinsing with soap and water should be enough to keep dirt and grime from building up.
You can customise the look of your concrete outdoor areas. Gone are the days where all concrete looked grey and dull. You can now choose a fitting colour, shade, and design pattern that complements your house’s overall appearance. Landscapers usually have a catalogue of stylish concrete designs for you to choose from.
Concrete usually is cheaper than artificial turf, at least up front. In Australia, it will cost you around $60 per square metre to install concrete. It’s also easy to install, which is why it’s so cost-effective; another significant reason to choose concrete.
Meanwhile, installing artificial turf will cost you anywhere from $50 to upwards of $100 per square metre, depending on the brand, quality, and installation difficulty.
Cons of Concrete
Even though concrete is more customisable than ever, it can still look dull compared to a lush green lawn, especially the cheaper variants.
Although concrete works great for walkways and driveways, use it sparingly. You want your outdoor areas to look vibrant and relaxing, not like a concrete jungle – so when choosing concrete, make sure your landscaper is integrating some greenery in your yard design.
If you’re using cheaper concrete that isn’t resistant to stains, make sure not to spill paint or oil or get tire markings on it. Those stains can last for a long time, if they even come off at all, and this can spoil the appearance of your outdoor living spaces.
It’s Difficult To Repair
While solid, concrete can still crack over time. Having it installed professionally will help avoid as much cracking as possible. Repair any cracks as soon as possible to prevent them from getting bigger and harder to deal with.
If concrete cracks significantly or breaks, it’s almost impossible to repair. You’re probably going to need it removed and replace the entire section, which is more expensive and invasive.
Concrete should be solid, unaffected even by water, meaning run-off and drainage planning is critical. There’s bound to be water run-off when it rains or when you wash the concrete, and it’ll flow straight into the sewers instead of into the soil on the ground.
Particularly if you’re using concrete in a driveway or other area where vehicles are parked, this run-off will contain dirt and oil, further polluting the waterways. Not to mention, concrete isn’t exactly the most environmentally friendly thing to produce. If you can, try to design concrete areas so that they’ll direct water straight into a garden bed or install a backyard drainage system.
Should I Get Artificial Turf for my Backyard?
Artificial turf is fake grass, usually made of polyethylene or a similar plastic material. It’s made to look and feel similar to the real thing—without most of its downsides. Through constant research and development, modern artificial turf seems so lifelike that most people won’t even notice it’s not real grass. Nothing’s perfect, however, so it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of artificial turf.
Pros of Artificial Turf
Requiring little to no consistent lawn care is one of its most attractive features.
Remember, these aren’t real plants, so watering won’t be an issue. You can forget about using fertiliser or pesticides. Trimming or lawn mowing will be a thing of the past, and you can leave it and get on with the rest of your life.
This means you can remove maintenance costs from your budget, making that initial investment cost a lot easier to justify.
It may not be real grass, but it definitely looks like it. As people, we inherently find nature good-looking and relaxing. Artificial turf provides that pleasant, softer look that concrete just can’t match.
There are also different styles available, with varying grass blade lengths, colour shades, and textures.
Soft But Durable
Unlike grass on real soil, artificial turf can take quite a beating. Real grass can easily create a muddy mess or be damaged by rough activity. However, artificial turf will look the same, no matter what.
This is especially true if you have infill installed with it. Having infill will give your turf an even softer and cushier feel and help the leaf blades remain upright – however, it does cost extra and take longer to install if you’d like infill.
Artificial turf can be used virtually anywhere. It looks great in a wide variety of settings. Because it requires no sunlight, you can use it for shaded areas, too. From your poolside to your balcony and even roof terraces, artificial turf is very versatile.
Avoids Runoff & Water Waste
Unlike concrete, which has inevitable water run-off, artificial turf is primarily porous. Water won’t accumulate on them and will instead drain through micro holes in the turf’s base directly into the ground below it. In fact, it dries up a bit more quickly than real grass.
Speaking of water, remember the part about not needing to water them? Or lawnmowers? Artificial grass saves both the environment and your water bills.
It Can Be Repaired
Artificial turf is durable in its own right, but it isn’t completely invulnerable. It may be a fairly rare occurrence, but damage isn’t the end of the world, unlike concrete. You can easily get the affected area replaced with a new patch of artificial turf without needing to replace the whole lawn.
Cons of Artificial Turf
It Can Get Really Hot
Artificial grass is made of a material that easily absorbs heat. This means it gets really hot in summer and doesn’t offer the same cooling effect real grass does. You may have to spray it with cool water to lower their temperature if it gets too much.
Even though you’ll save more money in the long term with fewer maintenance costs, the initial cost of getting artificial grass installed is higher than both concrete and real grass. It’s difficult to justify for those on a strict budget or looking for the cheapest landscaping option possible – in that case, laying concrete will generally cost less upfront.
On the flip side, artificial grass won’t last forever. Most landscapers will claim that their artificial grass will last somewhere around 10-20 years. Concrete can last 30 years, and real grass can last indefinitely with proper maintenance. You’ll also find the appearance of artificial turf will decline after years of wear and tear.
It’s Still Fake Grass
At the end of the day, it’s still essentially a mat with plastic leaf blades on it, and it doesn’t completely replicate the experience of natural grass. This might be a deal-breaker for nature lovers who appreciate the way grass actually feels. You can’t expect the same crisp smell of nature that comes from real grass.
Expect your options to be limited as well if you want to garden. For example, you obviously can’t plant flowers in artificial grass, whereas you have more landscaping options with real grass.
Environmental Impact of Manufacturing & Disposal
Manufacturing artificial turf produces waste and has its toll on the environment, just like creating concrete does. After its lifetime, it will also inevitably end up as non-biodegradable garbage in a landfill, since artificial turf is made from plastic.
Artificial Turf vs Concrete: Which Is Best For A Family Home?
Most outdoor family activities like barbeques or outdoor meals can held on both concrete and artificial lawns – and a mix of both may be the perfect option for the family home.
Artificial turf does has advantages for outdoor play. If kids or pets make up part of your family, artificial grass will provide a safer space for playing than concrete. It’s a kinder surface with a softer touch, so your children and pets can comfortably roll around on it with minimal risk of injury.
With artificial turf, don’t have to worry about mud or damaging the grass, nor will your pets risk getting fleas caught in their fur. Muddy paw prints and huge holes with buried bones will be a thing of the past. Neither your kids nor your pets will accidentally ingest any harmful chemicals from pesticides or herbicides used on the lawn too.
When it comes to the family pets’ toileting, artificial turf will drain urine, but pick up solid pet waste ASAP as the plastic material can trap in odours. Then you can use pressurised water and detergent or specific pet waste cleaning products to clean the turf.
However, if you’re into basketball, go for concrete where you can dribble a ball. You can install a hoop and play ball in the comfort of your own home!
Low-Maintenance Outdoor Spaces: What About Pavers, Decking, Or Something Else?
If you’re still looking for other options, particularly if you want solid surfaces like concrete, pavers and decking are other alternatives worth considering.
Pavers are individual pieces of shaped stone (or other materials) laid down to interlock and create flooring, often with a visible design pattern.
Pavers are aesthetically appealing as they naturally create an eye-catching pattern. They can look like bricks or even stony tiles and provide a more natural feel than concrete’s artificiality. Pavers come in many designs with various cuts, sizes, and colours.
This makes them incredibly versatile and can be used in virtually any part of your house. They are also easily repairable: just replace affected areas with new paver pieces without needing to redo the entire installation.
Pavers can be around 15% more expensive to install than concrete. You’ll have to pay for each paving stone and lay it down piece by piece. This takes far more labour, so be prepared to pay more to have paving installed.
Keep in mind that weeds will inevitably grow between the gaps in the pavers, and they will loosen over time, so pavers do need some ongoing maintenance.
Decking involves wooden planks laid side-by-side together to create outdoor flooring.
They are often slightly elevated from the actual ground and can also be used for entirely elevated outdoor platforms like porches. If you don’t want the stonelike feel of pavers or concrete, wooden decking might be for you.
Wooden decking is highly visually appealing. It gives your home a warm, cozy look in a way that’s hard to match. You can have them painted or stained to suit your home’s appearance too.
Decking, however, is more expensive than pavers or concrete, starting at $200 per square metre. It also has moderate maintenance needs, requiring consistent cleaning and staining. It’s also susceptible to breaking, rotting, fungi growth, and even algae if not properly maintained, so committing to a deck means taking on a routine maintenance schedule.
Decking made of high-quality wood, PVC or composite materials is less susceptible to these issues, but requires more of an upfront investment.
Bricks, gravel, stone and asphalt are other alternatives to consider for your backyard landscaping.
Is Concrete Maintenance Difficult?
Concrete isn’t too difficult to maintain. Maintaining outdoor concrete is fairly hands-off; that’s one of its key strengths. But taking these steps will ensure that your concrete looks its best for as long as possible.
Make sure you give it a thorough wash a few times a year to keep the dirt and grime off. Try to sweep it off using a broom anytime you see sand or dust build-up. A quick daily sweep makes it much easier to stay on top of.
However, if you see any oil or tire stains, it’s important to clean that off as quickly as you can. Mould can also appear on concrete if placed in damp, unlit areas. A pressure washer paired with a bleach or detergent solution makes for a quick and easy clean.
Reseal the concrete surface every 3-5 years. In case you don’t know yet, it’s a good idea to seal your concrete and an even better one to reseal it regularly. Concrete sealers make it much more resistant, helping it look brand new for longer.
However, it’s essential to watch out for cracks; the thicker they are, the sooner you should contact a professional for help.
Is Artifical Turf Maintenance Difficult?
No, artificial turf is fairly easy to maintain, especially in comparison to real grass. The most consistent maintenance for artificial turf is removing any debris that falls on it, like twigs and dead leaves. Use a rake, brush, or broom to collect them up. If you have a lawn vacuum or leaf blower, they can work wonders too.
Spray the area with water using a hose to rinse off dust, dirt, and pollen. Try to do this at least once a week. This also helps keep the artificial grass cool during hot days. If there are any stains, try cleaning them off with detergent.
Brush the turf often to remove flattened areas and keep the grass upright, especially after rough play. Avoid brushing too hard to avoid damaging the turf. Without infill, you’ll have to do this more often. If you have infill in your turf, replenish it regularly. Your landscaper can let you know how often you should replace the infill for your artificial grass product.
If you have pets, it may be wise to hose down those urine spots more often than your weekly hosing session. For poop, scoop up the waste, then rinse off the area with hose water afterwards.
There are also artificial turf sprays and deodorisers designed to clean those areas more effectively to avoid odour build-up, especially if pets are toileting in the area.
Sam Christie is the owner and operator of Christies landscapes, founded in 2013 Sam and his team of landscapers and designers have many years experience in the landscape construction industry. Over the years they have developed and refined a broad range of skills, qualifications and techniques to deliver outstanding projects throughout the Canberra region.