Tom Kraeutler: This is the Money Pit’s Top Products Podcast. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
Leslie Segrete: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
Tom Kraeutler: Here in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the 2018 National Hardware Show. We are perched outside in the biggest backyard space I’ve ever seen.
Leslie Segrete: It’s one huge yard.
Tom Kraeutler: It’s thousands of square feet, 300-plus exhibitors showing us all the cool outdoor products. Just earlier today, we’re in a parking lot. This is all set up in a parking lot. But we were walking on a beautiful lawn. Of course, it wasn’t a real lawn.
Leslie Segrete: Perfectly manicured, gorgeous and green.
Tom Kraeutler: It was synthetic lawn. I noticed you took your shoes off for it.
Leslie Segrete: I did. I always have a weird thing with synthetic turf. I want to feel it. I want to know does it feel realistic? And truly, SYNLawn has one of the most realistic-feeling and lush-looking, I guess you would call it turfs out there. It’s gorgeous.
Tom Kraeutler: Well, they’ve been in the business a long time because they’re a sister company of AstroTurf. That has to be the original artificial field for sporting fields as well. Let’s talk about that with Matthew Wagner. Matthew is the Customer Engagement Manager. Matthew, did Leslie just describe for you a very positive customer engagement with your product?
Matthew Wagner: Oh, absolutely.
Tom Kraeutler: The barefoot test. That’s gotta be the ultimate customer engagement test for lawns.
Matthew Wagner: You just nailed it right on the head. That is exactly what we want you to do is take off your shoes and see how it feels between your toes, and hopefully your feet will like it, and you will too.
Tom Kraeutler: You know, we’ve actually gotten several questions over the last year about synthetic lawns. I think folks are really attracted to the fact that there’s just no maintenance associated with it.
Leslie Segrete: People are lazy, and yet they still want things to be gorgeous.
Tom Kraeutler: Right, but they wonder, they hear things like they’re hot in the summer and other types of things like that. Is my house going to look weird in the winter when I’m the only one with a green lawn?
Matthew Wagner: Sure.
Tom Kraeutler: There certainly are trade-offs. But let’s talk about that temperature question first because we do get that a lot.
Matthew Wagner: Sure, sure.
Tom Kraeutler: Is that an issue with synthetic lawns?
Matthew Wagner: It is. For most companies, it totally is. We incorporate a heat block technology into most of our products to address that. But the real answer, the real short answer is when it is too hot to be on artificial grass, you probably don’t want to be outside anyway.
Leslie Segrete: True.
Matthew Wagner: It’s probably not a good idea to go outside anyway whenever it’s 120 degrees outside. Yeah, it’s going to get hot. Over the generations, every generation of synthetic turf, we’ve gotten better and better, improved our technology to try and combat heat.
Tom Kraeutler: Right.
Matthew Wagner: Even the winter months, this is great, and it performs. It won’t mat down. It’ll spring right back up. It goes through all climates. We’re so sure about that, we actually have a limited lifetime warranty on the product now.
Leslie Segrete: Is it a geographical need? People just have a difficult time due to the weather or a droughtage issue, and they just want to make sure that the lawn looks lush. Or is it that people just are lacking the skills to keep a green lawn? Why are people coming to you to get a lawn for the house?
Matthew Wagner: Well, there’s a number of different factors, and it spans all of North America and beyond. We’re expanding into Australia. We have Australia going on now, U.K., Ireland, and Southern California, the desert area here in Las Vegas. I mean, there’s a huge need here because people want to have that look and feel of a real grass lawn, but you just can’t grow grass here.
Tom Kraeutler: Right.
Leslie Segrete: Right.
Matthew Wagner: You have to xeriscape and conserve water and that sort of stuff, so in the southwest of the United States absolutely is our target demographic. However, we have 85 locations throughout North America, including Canada and places like Montreal and down in Miami, Florida, where there’s lots of moisture and rain.
People come to us, usually trying to address a need, including a lot of pet owners. The majority of our customers are pet owners, and their pets may be dig up the yard, or they make brown spots in the yard. This solves a problem for them, like the place I live in central Florida. We have sugar sand, and it’s really difficult to grow really lush grass there. Underneath trees and stuff like this, this can be a great solution for a small or large backyard for those maintenance costs even. You make an ROI over a few years. Yeah, it really does solve a problem for people.
Tom Kraeutler: Talk to me about the installation. What do you have to do to prepare the soil to apply the synthetic lawn? Is there some sort of an attachment system that won’t allow it to uplift, for example, in a severe storm?
Matthew Wagner: Well, we have different systems. We go with different systems for different applications because with SYNLawn we focus on all surfacing, so almost everything flooring that you can even think of, including that basketball court over there, the Pour in Place you see in a playground. Artificial grass is our main focus with bread and butter, so we do have servicing solutions and systems for each application.
Now, for installation, this is not necessarily a DIY unless it’s a small project. Anything over 100 square feet, it might be a little too much for some people. I know from personal experience, my first installation was a little bit over 100 square feet, and it was difficult. It was way more labor-intensive than I thought, but you would clear out all the bad stuff that you didn’t want there, like say old grass, and you put some decomposed granite down there, compact it down, and then you just use landscape staples or even long nails. You can secure it into the base, and it won’t move.
Tom Kraeutler: Huh.
Leslie Segrete: I mean, that’s really amazing.
Tom Kraeutler: Yeah.
Leslie Segrete: Is there anything that you put on top? Because sometimes I’ve seen with an artificial turf, almost a little rubberized pellet that you sort of brush over. Does it mimic dirt? Does it make it softer?
Matthew Wagner: Right. That’s a big misconception about artificial grass. Because of AstroTurf and the field turf companies, what they see on TV like during an NFL game, for instance, with the rubber crumbs and stuff, we don’t use any of that stuff. First of all, we just don’t feel comfortable because we are an eco-friendly product.
Tom Kraeutler: And that’s for a different purpose, right? That’s mostly sporting fields where you see that.
Matthew Wagner: Right, right. We use what is sort of a coated crystal. It’s an odor-reducing crystal, and it’s rounded, so it helps actually add ballast to the grass as weight to keep it down, and it also prolongs the life cycle of the turf. Whenever you want to come and say brush it up periodically to make the turf fiber stand up again, it really helps hold the blades in place so you don’t have to maintain it as much.
Leslie Segrete: And is that really what you would do? Would you just rake it, or is there a special comb or brush that you have to use?
Tom Kraeutler: Also, what about when it comes up to the edge of like a sidewalk? I think of carpet where you have it tacked up against the wall.
Matthew Wagner: Sure, sure. Well, we have transitions for that, ADA-compliant transitions.
Leslie Segrete: There’s a turf threshold.
Matthew Wagner: Yes, there absolutely is. There absolutely is.
Tom Kraeutler: Find it at your local hardware store.
Matthew Wagner: Yes, right. Yes, we have addressed all those issues over the years, as far as transitions, thresholds, that sort of thing. I don’t know what else we can say except we have a solution for just about anything you can think of.
Leslie Segrete: Is it very expensive?
Matthew Wagner: It is fairly expensive. We are sort of on the high end here. There are some competitors here-
Leslie Segrete: It feels it.
Tom Kraeutler: Yeah, you can tell.
Matthew Wagner: Right, right. We’re talking between $3 to $5 a square foot for the product itself. You can buy it at Lowe’s. You can buy it at Ace Hardware. You can come to us, and we’ll be happy to hook you up. We have a variety of styles that will fit any budget. But when it comes to installation, as you were referring to, I’d factor in about five bucks a square foot just to get the ball rolling, get a dollar figure going in your head.
Tom Kraeutler: Right.
Matthew Wagner: If it becomes expensive, this is when I strongly suggest that you work with a designer and make your grass into something special. Make a cool garden. Make something that your neighbors are going to really envy, instead of just having this big green carpet on the ground.
Tom Kraeutler: Also, too, when you’re thinking about the cost, sure, it’s more expensive up front, but you’re not talking about all those years and years and years of lawn maintenance and fertilizers and everything else and watering.
Matthew Wagner: Right.
Leslie Segrete: And troubleshooting.
Tom Kraeutler: Right.
Leslie Segrete: It’s like your lawn can be perfect one season, and the next season something’s horribly awry.
Tom Kraeutler: You ever have gophers that are trying to get through it, and they’re like, “Wait a minute, it looks like grass. Can’t dig like grass.”
Matthew Wagner: No. Animals cannot dig through this, and it doesn’t support biological life as in bacteria and mold and ants. Where I live, fire ants are crazy. You have to combat them all the time, but they don’t like this stuff because we’re not using actual sand, so they can’t build their dunes out of it.
Tom Kraeutler: Yeah, all right. The company is called SYNLawn. That is also their website, SYNLawn.com. Matt Wagner, thank you so much for stopping by the Money Pit’s Top Products Podcast.
Matthew Wagner: Oh my gosh, guys, this was the most awesome thing I’ve done all day.
Tom Kraeutler: All right.
Leslie Segrete: Glad we made your day. Thanks so much.
Tom Kraeutler: Thanks again.
Matthew Wagner: All right, thank you, guys.