Artificial or fake grass has become an extremely popular alternative to natural grass for lawns, landscapes, and sports fields around the world. With advanced technology and materials, high-quality artificial grass mimics the look and feel of lush, vibrant natural grass. One important component that helps create realistic artificial grass is the infill material inside the blades. Let’s take an in-depth look at infill technology and its role in artificial grass systems.
What is Infill?
Infill is the material that is brushed down between the blades of artificial grass once it is installed. It is a critical component in a high-performance artificial grass system. Here are some key facts about infill:
- Provides weight and stability to the grass blades to help them stand upright
- Allows the blades to retain their shape, color, and appearance over years of use
- Creates a cushioning effect for safety and shock absorption
- Facilitates water drainage through the turf
- Protects the turf backing and foundation from UV rays
- Gives the artificial grass a natural, lush feel when walked on
- Prevents movement and compaction of the turf over time
There are a few different types of infill that can be used, each with their own characteristics and benefits. The infill type can affect the look, feel, and performance of the artificial grass.
Types of Infill
Sand is one of the most common infill types used in artificial grass. Silica sand particles provide weight and stability to the synthetic blades to help them stand upright. Sharp, granular sand particles also allow water to drain vertically through the turf. Using sand as an infill provides a firm feel underfoot. Sand infill requires occasional grooming to keep the blades upright. It can also be prone to compaction over time.
Small rubber particles made from recycled tires are also widely used as an infill. The rubber provides a slight bounce and cushioning effect. Rubber infill offers shock absorption and typically lasts longer than sand before needing replacement. It comes in various colors to help enhance the look of the turf. The rounded rubber particles don’t compact as easily as sand. However, rubber infill can retain heat and emit an odor on hot days.
Acrylic Coated Sand
For a smooth and lush feel, acrylic-coated sand infill combines sand with an acrylic coating. The acrylic resin coating on the sand particles creates a cushioning effect. It also helps retain moisture and vivid color within the turf blades. However, acrylic-coated sand is one of the more expensive infill options.
For a soft, spongy feel underfoot, cork granules can be used as an infill. Cork infill provides great shock absorption and cushioning. It’s also environmentally friendly as it comes from the bark of the cork oak tree. However, cork can break down faster than other infill materials and may need frequent replenishment.
The latest development in infill technology combines two materials to create a high-performance hybrid infill. A popular mixture is half sand and half rubber or crumb rubber. This provides both traction and stability from the sand with the bounce and forgiveness of rubber.
Benefits of Using Infill
There are many important benefits that infill provides within an artificial grass system:
Supports the grass blades – Infill supports the vertical blades to help them stand upright and not get matted down or crushed. This maintains the lush, realistic look of the artificial turf.
Retains blade color and shape – The infill protects the grass blades from excessive wear and abrasion. This allows them to maintain their original shape, thickness, and vivid color over years of use.
Provides a cushion – Infill creates a shock-absorbing effect which reduces impact injuries. It makes the synthetic turf more forgiving for sports and play.
Allows drainage – The infill allows rainwater and irrigation to drain vertically down through the turf. This prevents puddles or runoff.
Protects turf backing – By supporting the blades up, infill prevents ultraviolet rays from breaking down the backing of the artificial turf. This extends the life of the system.
Gives natural feel – Infill makes the artificial grass feel more natural under your feet and when walking across it. It compresses soil and natural turf.
Adds weight and stability – The weight of the infill helps keep the turf in place and prevents shifts or ripples on the surface.
Minimizes compaction – Quality infill resists compacting down over years of use. This maintains cushioning and performance.
Supports heavy use – For sports fields and high-traffic areas, infill stands up to intensive use without excessive wear or compacting down.
Choosing the right infill is key to maximizing these benefits and getting the most out of an artificial grass installation. The infill type affects the playability, cushioning, natural feel, drainage, and longevity of the turf system.
Using Infill for Artificial Grass in NZ
In New Zealand, artificial grass is popular for gardens, landscapes, playgrounds, and sports fields. The weather and sporting culture make artificial turf a practical choice. When installing artificial grass in NZ, there are a few common infill options:
Sand/Rubber Mix – The most popular infill choice is a mixture of sand and crumb rubber. This provides great stability and traction from the sand particles. The rubber lends shock absorption and a soft feel underfoot. A 50/50 sand and rubber infill blend is common.
Acrylic Coated Sand – For additional cushioning and vibrant color retention, acrylic-coated sand is a great choice. The acrylic resin coating on the sand makes the turf feel lush and smooth. Acrylic-coated sand infill looks fantastic but costs more.
Cork – For playgrounds, play areas, or a very forgiving surface, cork infill is a good option. The super soft natural cork granules provide unmatched cushioning for safety. Cork also helps artificial grass retain moisture in drier regions.
Pure Silica Sand – On a tight budget, pure sand infill can work. It provides weight to anchor the grass blades down but requires more frequent grooming and replenishment to prevent compaction.
Maintaining and Grooming Infill
Proper maintenance helps maximize the life and performance of infill within artificial grass. Here are some best practices for care:
Redistribute – Regularly rake and groom the infill to spread and redistribute it evenly across the turf. This prevents uneven clumping and matting.
Top dress – Add extra infill periodically in high-traffic areas to maintain cushioning. Top dressing replenishes the infill that gets kicked out.
Deep clean – Deep clean the turf 1-2 times per year to prevent organic buildup from collecting in the infill layer.
Replace – Expect to replace some infill each year as it gets kicked out. Rubber and sand may need complete replacement every 8-10 years.
Inspect – Check infill levels and distribution often. Add more in concentrated wear areas before wear is visible on the blades.
Protect – Prevent excessive loss by keeping infill away from mow strips, hard edges, landscaping, etc.
With proper care, quality infill will keep an artificial grass surface performing beautifully for over a decade.
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The Bottom Line
Infill plays a critical role within artificial and synthetic turf systems. The type of infill used impacts the look, feel, and performance of artificial grass. Advanced infill materials like coated sand and rubber provide cushioning, resilience, and longevity. Quality infill supports the grass blades, allows drainage, and protects the turf backing. This helps maximize the lifecycle of a synthetic turf system. When choosing infill, consider the desired feel underfoot, traffic levels, and maintenance requirements. With the right infill technology, artificial grass offers endless possibilities for stunning, lush, durable lawns and landscapes.