HOA’s and Synthetic Turf

by admin on September 19, 2010

If your happy with your HOA clap your hands. I assume silence as few people really like their homeowners associations. These “quasi-governmental agencies” wield a tremendous amount of power and frequently sue the people they are supposed to assist and protect. So what do they think about synthetic turf? Well, many of our client’s live in HOA’s and some of these “quasi-government agencies” feel their sovereignty, understanding of facts and values and aesthetic judgements are far superior to the average homeowner or, in our case, the average synthetic turf company.

Luckily, not all turf companies are the same, some, like True Turf, are willing to stand up to some of the silly claims made by these tyrants, if you will. A homeowner recently reviewed on of our installations in La Jolla, CA and was so impressed with the job, suggested that the water saving, eco-friendly fake grass be used in a redevelopment project in her HOA. Her HOA responded to her with some of the most baseless claims we have come across. Here they are:

Turf is far more expensive
The longevity of turf is questionable
The guarantees of turf company’s are unreliable, irrigation will not cool the turf and debris, burns or gums cannot be removed
Turf is hotter than black asphalt
The “Toxology” [sic] is questionable with blades containing lead, infill being volatile organic chemicals containing metal
There have been reports of “Staff” [sic] infections
Disposal of synthetic turf must be budgeted for.

Wild claims, “toxology”, and “staff” infections. This is the holy decree of one local HOA. Their bullet point list of claims without support was supposed to suffice as an answer to the homeowner that wanted an eco-friendly, synthetic lawn to grace the HOA’s grounds. Our owner, Fritz Quindt IV, decided to respond to the HOA’s claims point by point. Here’s a transcript of his rebuttal:

Dear Jan,

I enjoyed speaking with you today regarding one of my subjects — synthetic turf, my chosen livelihood — and appreciate the opportunity to clear the air regarding “The Facts” of synthetic lawns as presented to your homeowner association.

In general, the landscaping company that delivered these points was, at best, ill-informed, and at worst was clearly attempting only to ensure an uninterrupted flow of business for its gardening services via deceptive portrayals and slanted conclusions.

Here is a point-by-point rebuttal on behalf of True Turf, our family owned and operated company and the best-selling authorized dealer of TigerTurf synthetic landscaping products.

COST

► Strictly speaking as an material, “Turf” (or in the parlance of most industry, “sod”) is not expensive. It can be purchased every day at Home Depot for less than $0.50 per square foot. The cumulative cost factors necessary for a natural grass installation can become a steamroller, however. There’s periodic soil amendments, fertilizer, herbicides; installing and maintaining a sprinkler system; the essential (but limited by law) scheduling of watering, with rates escalating yearly. And, of course, the weekly cost of labor involved in mowing and manicuring grass and the disposal of clippings … unless you mow your own lawn.
► Synthetic lawns by True Turf, at full retail price and no discounts for our complete installation, typically cost between $6.95 and $10.95 per square foot. The entire cost is up-front, at the time of installation; maintenance costs for the life of the product are virtually zero.
► Our real-world analysis, with footnotes, indicates that the 10-year cost for a 500-square foot sample installation of synthetic lawn by True Turf costs $3,975, compared to as much as $11,690 to install and maintain a natural grass lawn of that size and scope for 10 years.
► Ten years is used as a benchmark because that’s the length of True Turf’s manufacturer warranty, guaranteeing against fading and degradation.
► We advise our customers, conservatively, that the “break-even” point of synthetic lawn installation occurs before or at Year 4. That concept means the owner of a True Turf lawn is promised at least six years of cost-free, maintenance-free performance.

LONGEVITY

► It’s correct to put a question mark next to the lifespan expectancy of sod. Without water, or with too much, or in the event of a grub or gopher onslaught etc., grass can and will die in a matter of days. Reseeding and resodding are expected, and a likely eventual expense.
► True Turf features a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty — the longest in the industry. Some synthetic lawn providers claim a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. While our products are made of the highest-quality polyethylene and polyurethane, True Turf makes no such claim, nor does the industry have a history to accurately predict lifespan. The first noteworthy installation of synthetic lawn in North America didn’t occur until 1999, a football field at the University of Nebraska.

GUARANTEE

► Some synthetic lawn companies come and go; a good number have adjusted their home improvement businesses from pools and concrete to fake grass, seeing the brighter short- and long-term future. Most companies are comparatively new, as the industry is young compared to, say, landscaping. However, there is no data from the California EDD or U.S. Department of Labor to suggest stability of synthetic turf providers is greater or lesser than other businesses.
► True Turf does not require any water to keep its warranties valid, and I have never heard of a synthetic lawn product or company that “requires irrigation.”
► Debris, cigarettes and gum can create problems for synthetic lawn installations — but they can’t be described as major.
► True Turf suggests keeping its installations as free of rubbish as possible, just for cleanliness’ sake.
► If lit cigarettes are extinguished in our products, they will only melt the area directly affected, perhaps leaving a blemish of ¼ inch or less, but usually deep in the pile where it can’t be noticed. True Turf is non-combustible, and ideal for wildfire areas; it merely melts, and when it does melt no toxic fumes are produced. If, say, 1,000 cigarettes happened to be extinguished in an area of one square foot of synthetic lawn, that area affected could simply be replaced at little or no cost.
► Each of our customers receives an Owner’s Manual at the time of installation, which includes a section with simple how-to instructions for removing such undesirables as chewing gum, and lipstick, motor oil, kitchen grease, ink, oil and latex point, etc. True Turf is virtually stain-free, and doesn’t fade even if gasoline or bleach gets poured on.

TEMPERATURE

► Fact: Any synthetic lawn is going to be warmer than natural grass under the sun; Mother Nature knows how to release heat better than the best-engineered plastics. But hotter than asphalt? No.
► I can speak for True Turf products, installed with a standard infill featuring FlexSand elastomer-coated silica. We use FlexSand as our “soil substitute” distributed between the turf fibers, because: it offers shock absorbency, won’t absorb liquids such as pet waste, is non-abrasive and doesn’t compact and turn hard. But mostly, FlexSand helps keep True Turf cooler than other synthetic lawns — its natural color reflects, not absorbs, the sun’s heat. With FlexSand, we promise you’ll be able to walk barefoot comfortable on our fake grass, even under the scalding summer sun.
► I’ve personally conducted my own heat comparison test (June 9, 2009) and here is my report:
► On an 80-degree morning under a cloudless sky, I filled a 24″ x 24″ sample of True Turf with a competitor’s infill, black granular crumb rubber (made from recycled tires) and silica, left it in the sun for an hour and measured the temperature with a laser surface thermometer. The temperature: 119 degrees. I then removed the rubber and sand, filled the turf sample with FlexSand, waited one hour and pulled out thermometer again. The temperature: 95 degrees. On this day, True Turf was 15 degrees warmer than the air temperature, but 24 degrees cooler than “conventional” synthetic lawn filled with black rubber.
► In shade, synthetic lawn and natural grass are going to be the same temperature. In full sun areas, synthetic lawn will be warmer. In 115-degree days in Palm Desert or Las Vegas, temperatures of turf filled with black rubber indeed can reach 140 degrees or more. A typical antidote for these surfaces has been to apply water, and there is a temporary cooling effect. However, this situation is highly unlikely to occur in the milder climes of San Diego, especially coastal areas.
► There is a large True Turf installation in your neighborhood, across the street at the Alta Vista Master Council clubhouse’s pool. We completed this job in one day, last winter. I have heard no reports of “blistering on feet.” I have heard that many of the patrons do enjoy sunbathing on the clean True Turf , however.

TOXICOLOGY (not “toxology,” the study of archery)

► Almost all of the current generation of synthetic lawn is composed of polyethylene fiber, which is lead-free and also free of other heavy metals that can be hazardous.
► Turf with Nylon fiber, common in old-fashioned brands such as Astroturf, was less healthy for living things. The color on those clear plastic grass blades was essentially “painted on” with pigment that contained lead. Polyethylene — the plastic used in today’s milk cartions — contains no lead, and its color comes from naturally occurring pigment that is embedded in the plastic. It doesn’t fade like Nylon, and it’s 100% recyclable.
►Moreover, True Turf’s infill, made with FlexSand infill, contains no volatile organic or inorganic chemicals and is toxin-free. The grains are coated with an food-grade, FDA-approved elastomer that is non-absorbent. Competitors who use infill made from recycled tires are not able to make these claims, nor completely refute charges that their rubber — after contacting thousands of miles of road — that has possibly been contaminated.
True Turf can provide testing results upon request.

PATHOGENS

► True Turf is far less likely to retain bacteria, good or bad, than most other forms of landscape, particularly those that are organic-based. Our fiber and infill components are sterile at manufacture and non-absorbent.
► Our company has never received a report of staph (not “staff”) infection related to a True Turf product or installation, and we haven’t heard of any such incidents pertaining to the industry.

DISPOSAL
► As stated previously, the business of synthetic lawns is relatively new, and True Turf has replaced less than 15 lawns where earlier-generation turf was installed. In those cases, disposal was handled in a manner identical to the disposal after our crews have removed natural grass from a residential yard — we take everything to approved landfills, where we pay as much as $90.00 per ton for dumping. In all cases of replacement, True Turf assessed no extra charge to the homeowner for disposing of the old turf.

Please contact me if I can be of further service — or if your neighbors and members of the Ventana HOA wish to hear a candid, full-disclosure presentation regarding synthetic lawns in advance of any future landscaping enhancements.

True Turf strives to be a company you’ll keep. It is truly our pleasure to serve you.

Frederick “Fritz” Quindt IV
Chief Executive

As expected, the HOA has yet to respond.

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