Planning a synthetic grass project for your home or business is a big undertaking, and often a significant investment. Many improvements like this require valuable resources like time and money, both of which homeowners and businesses tend to try to save as often as possible. ForeverLawn of Tampa Bay office staff often hear responses like “Can I install this myself?” or “I’ll just have my landscaper do it” in pursuit of savings.
Yes, you can install turf yourself, but it is labor-intensive and requires specialized equipment. Yes, you can have your landscaper do it, but that is sort of like asking your plumbers to make the resin and wood waterfall table you saved on Pinterest. They are there fixing the sink anyway, they have tools, and they see water all the time, so just have them do it. Do you see where we’re going?
Installing synthetic grass correctly takes years of experience and constant training. In fact, recently the Synthetic Turf Council (STC) established the Certified Turf Installer-Landscape program to train and oversee the professionalism and craft of installing artificial grass in landscapes. Yes, there is an art to installations.
This is precisely why ForeverLawn of Tampa Bay continues to lead the local synthetic grass market – we value professionalism, innovation, integrity, and quality in our installations, in our relationships, and in our people. Recently our Operations Manager Jonathan Marshall joined the elite ranks of certified landscape installers. With almost 15 years of experience, Jon supervises and trains all the Tampa Bay installation crews to uphold those values.
As synthetic turf markets grow nationally and products become more universally accepted for a myriad of applications and solutions, so too grow the number of unqualified people trying to lay down turf. Landscapers would not, and often should not, be the first trade homeowners turn to to install synthetic grass. The first step in the process is getting rid of all existing organic material, and landscapers only deal in organic material.
A good deal of time is spent preparing the base layers and materials before turf is even unrolled. Paver companies spend almost as much time preparing base, which is why a number of them have attempted to add turf to their offerings. But base work is only part of the turf installation process.
Turf comes in rolls, and most likely from Dalton, Georgia (if not), which is quite possibly the carpet capital of the United States. Many aspects of turf installation are like carpet installation, but speaking with carpet installers about proper drainage, infill selection, or safety padding requirements for critical fall heights would earn blank stares.
“Synthetic grass in my market has taken years to get established,” said Troy Johnson, the owner of ForeverLawn Minnesota, who has been in the industry for more than 15 years. “When I started, synthetic grass companies didn’t have any credibility, and there were a lot of unethical people that didn’t care about the industry – they were only out to make a fast buck.”
In those 15 years, Marshall and Johnson have seen artificial turf companies come and go, with plenty of bad installations left in their wakes. But current synthetic grass industry professionals have tools under their belts that set them apart from the fly-by-night discount companies.
The growth of the industry has meant that the organization acting as its voice, the STC, has seen the need not only to face head-on the outside challenges facing the industry’s manufacturers, suppliers, specifiers, and installers, but its own regulation of standards and guidelines to enhance the credibility and professionalism within the turf business. Taking it a step further, the STC is spearheading certification programs for landscape and sports field installations so that consumers can rest assured that by hiring a certified installer, they are hiring experts with the credentials to prove it.
“The STC CTI-L program is a great example of how the STC can make a positive impact on the industry,” said Dan Bond, president and CEO of the STC. “Members asked us to create a program that improves quality and end-user perceptions of the industry. The CTI-L program does just that by promoting industry-recognized best practices for landscape synthetic grass installation.”
“As professionals we must all work to keep our industry moving forward with good customer reviews,” said Johnson, who like ForeverLawn of Tampa Bay’s Marshall earned certification this year. “Being certified ensures customers can get a quality installation. Bad installations can leave a negative lasting impression for someone seeing an installation for the first time.”
Turf companies growing with the long game in mind are joining trade organizations like the STC and pursuing continuing education and training opportunities to keep standards high and to maintain credibility and integrity within their markets. And more importantly, they are striving to meet ever-demanding project specifications and requirements.
“With more than 100 CTI-L holders, the program is now being recognized in the marketplace by designers and architects in their bid specifications,” said Bond.
Certification is not just insurance for project specifiers and end-users. It can be beneficial to synthetic turf installers themselves for several reasons, according to Joe Wadkins, a synthetic turf consultant and CTI-L instructor. The CTI-L allows installers to demonstrate their professional commitment to the industry, gives them an avenue to promote themselves by separating them from the competition and giving them verified status in STC CTI-L listings, expands installation skills and knowledge through continuing education, and increases their business’ bottom lines through greater work efficiency.
“The CTI-L program is a crucial step for every synthetic turf installer to prove themselves, and to prove to their clients that they instill craftsmanship, integrity, and skills needed to be successful in this challenging and ever-growing industry,” said Wadkins.
Johnson said he plans to add the certification badge to all ForeverLawn Minnesota’s marketing, and even encourages his competitors to seek certification.
“Without competition, we cannot move the industry forward, and being certified sets the professionals apart from the part-timers.”
To learn more about the Synthetic Turf Council, visit https://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org and to learn about the CTI-L program or find the nearest certified installer, go to https://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/mpage/CTIL.