Almanac

News - August 13, 2014

Atherton resident replaces lawn with artificial turf

by Barbara Wood

Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton's Lindenwood neighborhood, said he hopes his recent installation of artificial turf to replace a water-hogging lawn will be an inspiration to others.

Mr. Carpenter, who is a member of the governing board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, said he and his wife, Jane Shaw Carpenter, began thinking about replacing their 8,500 square feet of lawn a few years ago.

"Our water bills were about $600 a month more when we were watering the lawn than when we weren't," he said.

The worsening of the drought prompted them to "look for a long-term solution," he said.

Research led them to choose artificial turf over alternatives, such as low water-use plantings, which wouldn't provide the flat surface they needed for activities, such as croquet, and a play area for their five grandchildren.

Gravel was an option, but "we thought that looked relatively unattractive," and would be hard to maintain, he said.

They chose a company recommended by neighbors after checking out its work.

"It looks magnificent," he said recently, with the project 80 percent completed. "I think it will look even better when they get finished."

Mr. Carpenter said the company he chose offers a 15-year, full-replacement guarantee and has done a meticulous job, even rolling croquet balls across the croquet court area to make sure the ground was completely flat before putting down the turf.

Because they chose such a high-end installation, however, spending about $90,000 in total, it won't save the couple much money.

"It will take us probably 10 to 15 years to pay back with what we're saving," he said. But if water gets more expensive, which he hopes it will, then they will recover their investment more quickly.

Mr. Carpenter said that he thinks local water providers should make their tiered pricing more steep, with low-priced water only at a "lifeline" level.

"If you want more water than that, then you should pay substantially more than that," he said.

Asking all customers to cut back by a certain percentage only penalizes those who already have cut back, he said.

"Our neighbors who are aware of what we're doing are really pleased with how it's turning out," he said. "The only reason you can tell it's not regular lawn is because it's all the same color." The product they installed, he said, does have brown "thatch" with the green.

And if neighbors happen to notice Mr. Carpenter shaking leaves out of his oak trees, there's an explanation for that, too. "What actually makes it look really good is when it has a few fallen oak leaves on it," he said.

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