Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by ReTurf

When you’re looking at artificial turf, whether it’s for your lawn, a sports field, or maybe just a small putting green in your backyard, you’ll bump into a bunch of new terminology. One of the key terms you’ll keep coming across is “pile.”

Naturally, you might be wondering, “What’s this pile business, and why should I care?” Let’s break down what pile means in the context of synthetic grass, and why and how it makes a difference in the final results of your turf installation project.

What is Pile?

The term “pile” refers to the individual blades of your artificial turf. When you’re looking at different turf options, the pile is about the length and the orientation of these grass blades.

You can think of of it like carpeting, or the fur on your dog or cat. It has to do with the length and direction it lays.

Pile Height

This is exactly what it sounds like—the height of the grass blades. Measured from the backing layer to the tip of the blade, pile height can range quite a bit. Some synthetic grass can measure less than 0.5 inches (think of a closely-cropped putting green), while lawn, landscaping, and playground turf might fall more in the range of 1.5 inches or so.

a picture of various types of artificial grass used to save water in lawns.

The “right” height depends on what exactly you need from your turf. In general, shorter pile heights are less “lush” but more rugged, making them great for sports fields. Longer piles create a soft, lush feel, perfect for your backyard where you might want to walk barefoot.

Pile height also plays a big role in how your turfgrass feels underfoot and how it recovers after being compressed. Higher piles might feel softer and more like natural grass, but they can also lay flat and require more brushing if they get a ton of foot traffic. Shorter piles are more resilient, but might not feel as nice.


Pile Direction

The direction of pile refers to the way your blades of your artificial grass lean. When turf is manufactured, the blades are oriented in a particular way, typically noted when you unroll it. The direction of the pile is a little bit like the grain of wood, or the nap on a carpet.

When you get your turf, it’s helpful to lay it out and observe the direction of the pile before permanently securing it in place.  This can be important for a few reasons:

  • For sports fields, the pile direction can affect how the ball rolls or slides.
  • For residential lawns, it impacts how the light catches the grass blades, which in turn affects the color and appearance.

If you’re installing turf, whether DIY or hiring installers, it’s important to consider where your main viewpoint will be and align the pile direction to get the best visual effect. If all the blades are leaning in one direction, the grass might look darker or lighter from one side compared to the other. This is because the direction of the blades can influence how light reflects off the surface.

Think about when you vacuum a carpet. The direction you push and pull the vacuum affects how the carpet looks. The fibers of the carpet will stand up or lay down depending on which way you move the vacuum. This can make the carpet appear darker or lighter in certain areas because of how the light reflects off the fibers. Similarly if all the turfgrass blades lean in one direction, landscaping might look uniformly colored from one angle and slightly different from another because of how light hits the angled surfaces.

For home lawns, you’d typically want the pile direction to face the point from which you’ll most often view the turf, like your house or patio, to ensure it always looks its best. For sports fields, pile direction is even more important because it can influence how the ball moves over the surface. (For example, a soccer ball will roll faster and smoother in the direction of the pile. This can affect gameplay, so it’s something designers consider when installing turf in sports fields and stadiums.)

  • For putting greens, pile direction is crucial because it affects how the ball rolls. If you’re serious about practicing your putting, you want the surface to behave consistently, mimicking the conditions you’d find on a real golf course.
  • In bocce ball courts, like putting greens, the roll of the ball can be subtly influenced by the pile direction. (However, unless you are playing at a very competitive level, this might not be that critical.)
  • For dog runs, while pile direction doesn’t affect the functionality as much, it can make cleaning easier. If the blades are aligned towards the direction you typically hose it down, it can help water and debris move off the turf more effectively.
  • For small general play areas for children or pets, the impact of pile direction is minimal. It’s more important to choose a pile height and density that is appropriately soft, can withstand regular activity, and make maintenance manageable.

Why Does It Matter?

Choosing the right pile direction and especially height can make a difference in the maintenance and longevity of your turf. A poorly chosen pile direction can lead to a “fake grass” look that looks uneven from your patio, and the wrong pile height could mean a less lush feeling than you’re hoping for—or replacing your turf sooner than you’d like due to wear and tear. Plus, if aesthetics are important to you, getting the pile right is essential to achieving that perfect, lush green look that you can enjoy all year.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re envisioning installing a verdant, evergreen turf lawn that defies the seasons, a rugged sports field that can withstand intense games, or the perfect little putting green or bocce ball court in your backyard, there’s a lot to think about.

So when you’re getting ready to install your next patch of green, keep these terms in mind. They can be the difference between turf that looks good, and turf that looks great.

Questions about Artificial Turf?

Do you have questions about purchasing or installing artificial turf? Give us a call at (828) 518-5787 or click here to email us. Our staff is ready to answer your questions and assist with your project planning needs!