The debate involving man-made versus natural building and landscape materials is an interesting one, with many professionals siding strongly with one or the other, often in the interests of what they’re selling. As a more balanced view, it’s fair to say that both have their potential advantages and disadvantages, but in the end it comes down to the needs of the client and what they prefer to use to express themselves in their home environment. Here we’ll break down some of the more popular options used today in an attempt to shed some light on the subject.
There’s no doubt about it, wood-plastic composites have come a long way since they first ventured onto the market in the early 1990’s. While early products were susceptible to splintering and general decay, the technology has been all but perfected, making newer products more natural-looking, usable and far more durable, outstripping its natural counterpart in almost all aspects. Composite wood is highly resistant to UV and heat damage from the sun, and it won’t rot or warp. It also has the added possibility of being custom moulded to meet the requirements of an unusual design. Although the deep grain and texture of minimally treated logs and reclaimed wood can’t be beaten for a rustic appearance, for decking and general purpose, composite wood is an excellent option that requires a fraction of the maintenance of natural wood.
As an alternative to natural stone, concrete pavers, blocks and wall veneer are now a more viable option than ever. Transport and quarrying costs, as well as the occasional lack of availability, makes natural stone a less accessible option. Given the authenticity of stone products, many homeowners vie for a lower quality stone as a means to bypass these frustrations. However, concrete products do provide some impressive advantages. Many are treated with surface technologies that prevent fading and allow for easier cleaning. They’re hardy, durable and boast an impressive weight bearing load. Some of the higher end concrete products are also almost perfect replicas of their natural stone counterparts. Certainly concrete products should be considered before choosing low-grade natural stone. When compared to high-grade stone, concrete products hold their own in all areas, but the choice is often a personal matter and more often than not a point of pride or authenticity.
As a bid to reduce water consumption, maintenance and ensure a lawn that remains perfectly manicured all year round, many homeowners are turning to artificial grass as an alternative to a traditional lawn. Synthetic lawn is another technology that has come a long way since its inception, with many products boasting a natural texture and realistic coloring - some even come with light brown blades interwoven to create an authentic appearance! However, synthetic turf doesn’t always stand up to closer inspection and some variations have the tendency to become excessively hot in the sun. Uneven terrain also remains a challenge for synthetic turf coverage. Still, it’s not without its uses and can provide a solution for covering sections where grass will not grow or for providing an evergreen covering for areas prone to weathering.