I live in an apartment in Maryland and have a SSW facing balcony about 12′ x 10′. The surface appears to be a sort of roofing felt with a hole for the drainage. After heavy rain the water tends to pool there before drying out. I would like to fit it with the most realistic artificial grass possible, subject to the limitations or drainage, UV risk etc. There are no pets, and it receives fairly light foot traffic. What product would you recommend?
You are in luck because your situation mostly lines up with exactly what you are looking for without too many things to worry about. That said, it is important to consider exactly what you expect when you say “the most realistic artificial grass possible.” The reason I phrase it like that is that the most realistic will inherently be the most expensive. Because you did not list the cost as a concern anywhere in your question, I will not be treating it as a primary factor. Still, I will offer an alternative if the cost actually does present some issues further down the line when it actually comes time to purchase the artificial grass.
One thing to note is that your location should not present too much issue with UV risk for a couple of different reasons. First, you noted that your apartment faces SSW which means you should not have to worry about any direct sunlight. This may not hold true if your balcony is only partially covered, but even still, you should only really have to worry about the sun afternoon – likely closer to 3 or 4 pm. Granted, this does not mean that you should ignore UV protections altogether, but they likely do not have to be as big of a concern as other factors.
One thing that might be more of a concern that you mentioned is the moisture due to the fact that you will regularly encounter standing water. This is technically an issue with any kind of artificial grass, regardless of what the backing is made of. Granted, different materials will respond to this issue better than others, but there is not a backing on the market that is immune to standing water. This means that after those heavy rains when the water has pooled on your balcony, you will want to fold or roll your artificial grass up to allow the water to dry out as you would normally.
One possible solution to this is to provide infill for your artificial grass which, depending on the material of the infill, may help in soaking up some of the heavy rains. However, it is worth noting that the heaviest rains will still pool on your balcony, regardless of the infill material. Furthermore, if you choose an absorbent infill material, it will then be more difficult to roll or fold the artificial grass and be similarly difficult to level the infill back out once the balcony is dry.
I am unsure if you are able or allowed to do so, but my suggestion for the standing water after heavy rains is to actually get something which allows you to relevel the balcony. You mentioned that the flooring of the balcony uses a roofing felt with drainage holes. Perhaps you could add another layer of that material where the water pools so that the water does not pool in those sections and drains off of the balcony. Unfortunately, without a better idea of how the balcony is constructed, it is a bit of guesswork on my end to offer solutions.
Keeping that in mind, there are artificial grass products that can help account for that problem by providing anti-mildew and anti-mold treatments. This will help limit the potential issue of those growths, though it is important to remember that it will not prevent those growths below the surface on the felt material over which the artificial grass sits. Basically, only allowing the pooled water to dry will solve the problem of mold or mildew growth, and the likely lack of sunlight the balcony receives makes that all the more difficult.
In terms of pure aesthetics, our suggestion would definitely have to be Artificial Grass Wholesalers, though what exactly you mean by “realistic” may shift the specific focus a bit. Basically, Artificial Grass Wholesalers offers a standard and a premium version, with the premium version being a bit more expensive – though the brand itself is already one of the more expensive regardless of the type you choose. Still, this brand looks exceptionally real with numerous types and colors of thread used on every type. However, only their premium model comes with grass that feels soft to the touch, but the 2” pile is also one of the thickest you can find as well.
If you do not mind sacrificing a bit in the realism department to get something that will stand up to mold and mildew a bit better, the iCustomRug is the most durable option that we reviewed. Aside from the fact that it is mildew resistant, it is also stain-resistant, flame retardant, and 100-percent Olefin UV stabilized. Considering the standing water issue, this is the more convenient option to avoid letting the balcony air out after heavy rains. That said, the pile height is limited to 1 ¼”, but it does feel soft to the touch. On the other hand, it will need to be aired out for a couple of days as it has a tendency to smell a bit strongly when first laid out. Thankfully, you will not have to worry about the occasional lay variation as they sell a model in your exact balcony dimensions.