We like the cool green look of a grass yard, but want to be water-wise with the new home we'll be building soon near Sioux City, Iowa. For trees and ornamentals we'll use drip irrigation. It may be heretical, but we're thinking of artificial turf. Over a 15-year period, what are the costs--sod, installation, water, fertilizer, moving, weeding-- of real grass versus artificial turf landscaping?
Becky ~ Sioux City, Iowa
Hi Becky, this is a complicated question and can depend a lot on several big variables; how large your yard is going to be and how much lawn work you do yourself and how much a lawn service does. A lot can also depend on how much different costs are in Sioux City, Iowa as compared to where I live on the east coast.
For the sake of this example I'm going to figure that you are going to have about 1/2 acre of lawn as most people seed rather than sod areas larger than that. Where I live sod costs about $2 per square yard to purchase and $2 per square yard to install. A half acre is 2420 square yards so you are talking about approximately $9,680 to install sod on your lawn. If the sod is properly maintained it should be pretty good for 15 years other than some minor patching on occasion.
My neighbor pays about $40 a week to have her lawn mowed and it's approximately a half acre so lets say you have your lawn mowed every week for 7 months of the year. That comes to about $1,120 a year and $16,800 for 15 years.
Watering can vary a lot depending on how often it rains and how green you want your lawn. The area I live in is farming country and people don't water their lawns; they water their gardens. However, I have built homes in Country Club communities and I know many homeowners there spent around $100 a month in the spring and summer watering their lawns. So let's figure half that amount for 6 months each year which would total $300 and $4,500 for 15 years.
Fertilizing and weeding is going to depend on how involved the company gets with your yard, but lets say they come out four times a year to weed and fertilize and charge $300 each time. That's $1,200 a year and $18,000 for 15 years. So lets add up the possible costs for maintaining a sod lawn over 15 years:
- Sod $9,680
- Mowing $16,800
- Fertilizing and weeding $18,000
- Watering $4,500
- Total $49,980
That comes to almost $50,000 for installing and maintaining a sod lawn on a half acre lawn for 15 years. Again keep in mind that a some of these costs could be a lot lower such as if you did your own mowing and fertilizing. You could even have a sod farm right next to you there in Sioux City, Iowa and pay half what I have figured for sod.
Okay, now for the artificial turf costs. There are a lot of companies that have artificial turf products for residential use and costs can vary based on the company you choose and which product you have installed. You will need to have the company install their product and costs can range from $8 to $20 a square foot depending on the product. Let's take an average of $14 a square foot for a half acre which is 21780 square feet; that comes to $304,920 which might explain why people with large yards rarely use artificial turf for their lawns. If you have a very small yard it might be well worth it to use artificial turf, but if you have a large yard, unless you hit the Iowa lottery you might want to stick with sod or seed.