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9 Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Artificial Turf

Manufacturers rarely design artificial turf for exclusive outdoor or indoor use. The synthetic grass installed on football pitches can also provide carpeting in an indoor gym, rooftop, or patio. But because indoor and outdoor grass needs differ, manufacturers often make special alterations to artificial turf earmarked for indoor use. Here are nine of the differences that arise from these adaptations:

1. Backing and Drainage

The base of outdoor turf features an advanced drainage system. When it rains, this system directs water away from the synthetic grass to prevent waterlogging. Some manufacturers punch holes into the back of artificial turf every four inches or so to create drainage. Others produce turf with a fine mesh backing. 

Turf designed for indoor use does not feature a drainage system. Because it is installed indoors, it is safe from the rain and the risk of waterlogging. During manufacturing, manufacturers skip the “punching” process so indoor turf does not have drainage holes. Owners must then clean spills manually.

2. Artificial Turf Material

Much of outdoor artificial turf is made from nylon or a nylon-polyethylene polymer. Nylon is strong, durable, and abrasion-resistant, which is ideal for high-traffic areas like sports fields and putting greens. It is UV-resistant and better able to withstand exposure to the elements. Nylon blades are also sturdy and spring back up faster upon impact.

Indoor turf is commonly made from polyethylene or polypropylene. Both materials are softer than nylon and more closely mimic the feel of natural grass or soft carpeting. Polyethylene is the most water-resistant turf option and ideal if you have a pet and wish to avoid odors. It is more susceptible to UV degradation and more suited for indoor use.

3. Pile Height

Manufacturers prefer a medium to high pile height for outdoor turf. Ranging from 1¼ to 2½ inches, taller blades look and feel more like natural grass and provide more cushioning. Shorter blades of between ⅜ and ⅝ inches work better for indoor turf. They resemble carpeting and provide more support for furniture and equipment. You are also less likely to trip on short blades as you move around indoors.

4. Sub-Base and Installation

Installing turf outdoors involves laying down a sub-base, while indoor turf does not. A sub-base is a layer of gravel, river rocks, decomposed granite, and compacted sand. Installers lay it beneath artificial turf to create a foundation and prevent the turf from wrinkling when the soil expands and contracts. Indoor turf often features a padded underlay that allows it to be installed directly onto a smooth surface. 

5. Built-in Padding   

Indoor turf often includes built-in padding. This feature creates a cushiony or bouncy feel and is common in indoor gyms with heavy equipment and people engaging in high-impact activities. Manufacturers, however, avoid adding padding to outdoor turf because it expands when heated. If exposed to heat from the sun, it may cause the turf to shift, creating a tripping hazard.  

6. Thatch

Turf manufacturers often add thatch to outdoor turf to give it a more authentic look. Thatch is a fiber of a different color, texture, and weight added between turf blades to mimic the inconsistency of natural grass. Most thatch is brown and resembles dying grass underlayers. Manufacturers leave it out for indoor turf because the lack of sun indoors would make “dried” grass look out of place.

7. Face Weight

Outdoor turf often has a heavier face weight than indoor turf. Face weight refers to the weight of materials per square yard on a turf. The heavier the face weight, the tougher and more durable synthetic grass is. High face weights are more common in sports fields, putting greens, and lawns where there is heavy foot traffic than in indoor arenas, patios, etc.

8. Stitch Count

The lack of thatch in indoor turf often means this type of synthetic grass has a higher stitch count. The stitch count, or density, is the number of grass blades per square inch. Denser turfs have a more carpet-like appearance and are preferred for indoor arenas and spaces. Outdoors, turf blades are often mixed in with thatch to create a natural look, resulting in a lower stitch count. 

9. Color 

Artificial turf comes in a variety of colors. For outdoor turf, you will likely only see green blades mixed in with brown thatch. Indoor turf offers more flexibility because there is no pressure to mimic natural grass perfectly. Thus, indoor turf is often available in maroon, red, gold, blue, and other colors.

Finding the Right Turf for Your Space

Choosing between indoor and outdoor artificial turf comes down to your needs. Outdoor turf is stronger, more durable, UV and element-resistant, and built to withstand heavy foot traffic. Indoor turf is softer, denser, water-resistant, more versatile, and designed for comfort. If you need help fitting your space with the right turf, contact an artificial turf supplier today to schedule a consultation.

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