The most time-consuming chore your artificial grass will ever put you through is its installation. Granted, most people have it installed professionally and neatly forego even this small semblance of lawn maintenance. Then there are those of us who own a tiny balcony we’d like to transform into a garden pocket or a back yard without enough square footage to excuse the cost of outsourced installation.
Whatever your situation, we’re going to explain the process of installing artificial turf and allow you to make an informed decision about whether this is a project you can take on yourself or something you’d rather put in the hands of a professional.
Gauge Your Plot
The great thing about artificial grass is that it can be installed anywhere, which is why a pocket garden perched atop a tiny balcony is possible. The not-so-great thing about artificial grass is that, well… it’s not real. Since the grass doesn’t have organic functions, the foundation or surface on which you’re going to install it has to be prepped for evenness, draining capacity, and then secured for durability. Basically, your surface will double as your turf’s life support.
A well-installed base can last up to 30 years, which means that even if you have to replace the turf, your platform should be a one-time ordeal. The most important function of the foundation is draining capacity because this will ensure that your turf can handle rain, pet use, and cleaning. It will also ensure good ventilation and hygiene.
So now, taking this into account, look again at your barren plot and make sure that it can accommodate a few extra inches in height or depth.
Disregard this if you are having your turf professionally installed. If not, you might want take another look at your tool shed to make sure you’ve got all the necessary equipment to install artificial grass.
Your preferred choice of artificial turf
This site features some very helpful posts that will not only explain which turf will best suit your personal needs, but also reviews of popular turf brands.
A spade or turf cutter
Laying turf is much like laying carpet and like such, a perfect fit is crucial. Artificial grass is sold in large square sheets and many people choose artificial grass to accommodate intricate landscape designs. A spade or turf cutter will help ensure a tight and precise fit.
While installing the foundation, you’ll be working with hefty amounts of sand, gravel, crushed stones, grit, and/ or dirt. A wheelbarrow will aid in carrying and distributing the material.
A weed-suppressing membrane is simply a layer of material you’ll lay right on top of the bottom layer of gravel (or whatever serves as your yard space). As its name describes, this membrane will prevent rogue weeds from sneaking into your yard and disfiguring your turf.
Sand or crushed stone
Sand and/or crushed stone is used for draining purposes- if you were wondering, this is why we didn’t suggest dirt. Stone and sand allow water to move freely while also serving as a firm medium to support the turf layer.
Flatboard with a level
In this case, you can also substitute a piece of wood. You will need this to smooth out the surface once you’ve assembled the layer of crushed stone and sand. The level is a bonus as it will enable you to form a more precisely even surface.
Shock Absorbent Layer
This is an optional material, but recommended if you want to create a realistic feel. A shock absorbent layer is a thin layer of fabric that creates a cushion right beneath the layer of turf. This makes stepping or sitting on the grass feel more like the real thing.
This is an optional step and depends on whether you’ll need to layer or add odd bits and pieces of turf, usually something you’d do when covering a large area. The adhesive is useful because it secures the turf and ensures that it doesn’t fold in, flip over, or buckle.
Silica Sand (Seed Spreader & Coarse Broom)
The silica sand is also an optional material and you only need a seed spreader if you’re using silica sand. The sand adds an extra layer of stability to artificial turf and on top of giving it a more realistic feel, it also prevents the grass from moving.
An additional tool that’s only used if your adding silica sand is a coarse broom- you’ll use it to mix the sand in and brush off the excess.
How to Lay Artificial Grass
Okay, now for the part you’ve been waiting for. Once you make sure you have all of the necessary tools, the installation process is quite simple.
Remove existing turf
This step involves making space for the artificial turf along with a couple of layers of crushed stone, sand, and protective layers of material. When dealing with a residential lawn in which the turf will rest on top of soil, this process involves digging into the soil to a depth of around 1.5 to 2.5 inches. In landscape designs with lots of edging, the turf needs to have about half an inch of space above the surface of the edge.
Installing artificial turf on top of a surface that can’t be dug into (such as concrete, or that balcony space) is a little trickier. In this case, the first step is amended to “Create a Turf Bed”.
When creating a turf bed for a permanent base, the surface needs to be completely waterproof and resistant to rotting, splitting, swelling, or chipping. Saying you have a reliable surface, the first step will involve attaching a plastic blender board on the area where artificial turf will be installed. Depending on the size of the area and its exposure to moisture, a customized draining system will have to be installed- while the plastic board will provide some protection, it is not a sustainable surface for the highly porous material of artificial grass.
Protect turf from weeds
The second step involves lining the base of your lawn area with a weed-resistant membrane. Those unsightly cracks in sidewalks are proof enough that nature is persistent and resilient- without some sort of weed repellent, weeds will try to seep through the turf, causing disfigurement and organic growth underneath the surface. The membrane is also sold in sheets and can be cut to fit specific spaces and shapes precisely.
Apply a filling agent
The next step is filling in the space designated for your artificial lawn with crushed stone, sand, or a mixture of both. Stones are an excellent draining agent and sand provides stability and firmness- as well as a natural, micro-draining system.
There are different choices for infill material and this is an area you’ll have to do some research on given the concern for overheating and rubber crumb infill, especially if you’re installing turf for athletic purposes.
Create an even surface
After you’ve filled your foundation cavity, use a plank of wood with an even edge or a flatboard with a level to create a smooth surface. Make sure there aren’t any concave spots and that the surface is even throughout the installation.
Add some shock protection
This step is optional, but crucial to a lawn that feels like the real thing. If you plan to be walking across your artificial grass or expect your children to play on it, then adding a shock absorbent membrane right before placing the turf layer is recommended. This will simply consist of placing a sheet of shock-absorbing material cut out to the dimensions of your lawn area right above your even surface.
Place and align your turf
Finally, place and align your turf by cutting it to fit your space and securing its edges by nailing them down. If you are applying more than one sheet, you may need to use adhesive to ensure that the spread is a single, consistent layer.
Add a final touch of stability
The final step is optional, but recommended. This involves using a seed spreader to distribute silica sand throughout your lawn bed. The sand grounds the turf, adding stability and durability while simultaneously providing an efficient draining medium.
Once you spread the sand evenly throughout the grass, use a broom with a coarse brush to push the sand into the turf and remove the excess.