Is Artificial Grass Legal in Vancouver?

by Mar 3, 2022Blog

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a turf installer in Vancouver is working around the ambiguous regulations imposed by the city of Vancouver. You may have heard from a friend or a neighbour that “The city doesn’t allow artificial grass”, but truthfully it’s a bit of a grey area so let’s break this down and simplify what it means for you:

In 2016, the city of Vancouver put out a bulletin, essentially trying to ban new artificial grass installations. In fairness, I think they were worried about how quickly the turf industry was growing and they didn’t want every lawn in Vancouver replaced with synthetic grass. I totally get that. The problem was, they did not give a valid reason for banning it, claiming that:

“The Director of Planning does not deem artificial turf to have fully permeable Characteristics”

Essentially, one or more highly ranked people within the COV do not like Artificial grass, so they tried to make up an excuse to justify a new bylaw against it. What they mean by “not fully permeable” is that it does not drain properly, which is completely false. All turf products meant for landscapes are manufactured with drainage holes in the backing so that water can flow freely through the turf. I have a whole article here on how artificial turf drains, however the important part is that a proper drainage base has been constructed underneath. Once this is in place, artificial grass actually drains at a significantly faster rate than a natural lawn, as perfectly demonstrated here by Bella Turf: ​​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKvyQDyc6xI&t=126s 

After many attempted calls to the COV, I finally got a hold of someone to ask some questions about this vague bylaw. They told me the following:

  1. Artificial grass is not permitted on city land (basically the boulevards outside of your property)
  2. Newly built homes need to pass a final landscape inspection, and the inspection will not be approved if there is artificial grass installed on the landscape (so just hold off until after final inspections)
  3. Your landscape needs to have a minimum 30% fully permeable area, meaning only up to 70% can be impermeable materials such as concrete, paving stones, artificial grass etc. (Even though artificial grass is fully permeable, the city has classified it as impermeable to put a limit on it). In general, City inspectors do not like to see entire landscapes replaced with artificial grass (or concrete/paving stones for that matter), so it helps if you have some trees, plants and garden space in your landscape as well.
  4. If a nosy neighbour or bylaw inspector reports your artificial grass to the city, they may ask you to replace it back to a natural lawn or ensure that at least 30% of the landscape is what they consider “fully permeable”. (We had this happen only once, we appealed, they did a drainage test, and we never heard from them again). We discovered another loophole that if you claim the turf was installed before 2016, there is nothing they can do.

At the time of writing this in early 2023, the City of Vancouver has apparently removed the turf bylaw from their website, and we have not experienced any issues with them in the past 4 years of installing in Vancouver. You do not need a permit to install turf on your residential property, and I believe the same goes for commercial applications. So is artificial turf allowed in Vancouver? The answer is “Yes*, with an asterix”. If you, or someone you know, is wondering if it’s okay to install turf, proceed with slight caution and read over this article again for the details. 

If you take a look at the front yard below, we maintain the minimum ratio of up to 70% impermeable and 30% permeable. That is the most important thing to ensure the city won’t have an issue with your turf:

If you have any specific questions that were not addressed, feel free to reach out to us at info@turfteamlandscaping.com

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