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How to Install Artificial Grass [DIY Guide]

What is Artificial Grass?

Artificial grass was developed in the 1960s and quickly changed the world of professional sports before becoming popular in residential projects later on. It is made of plastic pellets which have been melted and combined with green colors and chemical stabilizers. This mixture is pressed through metal sheets with flat, rectangular holes to create long, thin strands of plastic. After the strands are cooled and solidified in a pool of water, they are stretched to an even lesser width to strengthen them and give the appearance of real grass strands. Spools of different colored strands are combined to form a weaved yarn. This plastic yarn is threaded into a large, mesh sheeting through a mechanized process involving hundreds of needles. Loops of yarn formed in this process are then cut to the appropriate length of real grass strands. After this, adhesive is coated onto the the mesh backing to hold the artificial grass strands in place and the turf sheet passes through a drying enclosure. Finally, hot pins puncture the turf to break through the adhesive and create many small holes which allow the artificial grass to remain permeable once installed. 

Pros

  • Requires no watering, mowing, or feeding like you would with planting grass seed.
  • Some manufacturers use recycled materials like old tires or plastic bottles.
  • It can last for up to 25 years.
  • Water will not pool on artificial turf after heavy rains.
  • With less still water in your yard, you should have fewer mosquitos.
  • If you consider care, it can be less costly than real grass over the course of its lifetime.
  • Many types are made from recyclable materials and may be recycled after use.

Cons

  • High cost of installation.
  • Even the most realistic looking grass will still feel like plastic to touch.
  • It is a petroleum based product which creates pollution and waste during the manufacturing process
  • Even if made with recycled materials, it is not biodegradable and will eventually end up in a landfill. 
  • It can absorb heat and become quite hot to the touch, which can be dangerous for kids and pets. 
  • It requires cleaning or disinfecting if pets leave waste. 

Most people think of sports fields when they think artificial grass. However, it is also great for yards where heavy rains or drought create difficult conditions for maintaining natural grass. Certain types of artificial grass are also great for playgrounds, especially as you can add rubber which creates a much softer and safer surface than hard ground. Finally, putting greens are often surfaced with artificial grass because it creates a smoother, more consistent surface and protects against holes and divots where a ball could get stuck. There are different types of artificial grass produced by different manufacturers. Each of these is best suited for a different purpose such as pet use, child use, backyard cover, gardens, sports or balconies. 

How to Install Artificial Grass

Step 1: Pre-Installation

This process begins with demolition, or the removal of any existing materials like soil, weeds or rocks. You will also want to rough grade the area, uncovering subterranean electric wiring, irrigation, and pipes. This will also give you material to form a solid sub base for your turf. If you have existing sprinklers or drainage in the area, now is the time to cap or make modifications to these before moving on in the installation process. Make sure to fill in any depressions in the ground at this point too. The last step in pre-installation is to install bender board, or the edge of the area in which you are laying the turf. The bender board is important because it creates a clean edge for your turf and helps to hold it in place. 

Step 2: Base Preparation

Install 1/2” or less of crushed gravel base 3” deep, distributing it so that it is level and accounts for any sloping areas. This layer will determine the appearance of the top turf layer once completed so you’ll want it to be as smooth as possible. Crushed gravel is an ideal base layer because it is permeable and easy to level. 

Step 3: Compacting Base

It is best to wet the base gravel for this step as this makes it easier to compact. You should vibrate, tamp, and roll the gravel evenly throughout the turf area using a compacting machine or other tools if you prefer. You can also use this step to continue to smooth and level the base. This step ensures the base is solid enough to hold nails in place to secure your turf. 

Step 4 (optional): Weed Retardant layer

To help prevent natural growth and weeds from sprouting up between your turf blades, you may want to consider laying down a weed retardant layer over top of your compacted base. Overlap edges of the weed cloth by at least 6 inches and secure it with flathead nails to prevent it from moving or wrinkling during the rest of the installation process. When trimming the weed cloth, leave a quarter inch gap between the edge and the surrounding hardscape or border to allow space for tucking of the turf in your final steps. 

Step 5: Laying Turf

Start with a straight edge or two perpendicular edges to align your turf to your project area. Square it off as much as possible to minimize cutting off unneeded turf. Use temporary nails to hold the turf in place along the squared edges as you continue with the following steps. 

Step 6: Custom Fitting Turf

Trim the turf along the opposite edges of your project area, leaving 1/8” extra to allow for tucking. In areas where you will have a seam in the turf, use a seaming tool to cut the two edges that will meet and then line them up next to each other. It is best to cut seams in an “S” shape, as this prevents the seam from folding or slipping. Install nails along the seam edges, approximately 6 inches apart. Drive nails down only 3/4 of their length to prevent indents in the turf. You will also want to make sure the artificial grass blades are pulled away during this step so they aren’t pinned down by the nails. To join turf pieces together along the seams, use 6” “U” nails, following the same guidelines as regular nails in placement and hammering depth.

Step 7: Tucking Turf

Once you have placed your turf and cut it to the appropriate size and shape, you can begin tucking it along your hardscape or border edges using a wonderbar. The existing edges of artificial grass sheets helps to create flush borders around your project area. 

Step 8: Apply Infill

To apply filler, you’ll need a power brush. This tool uses heavy, strong bristles to pull grass against the grain, lifting it up so that sand can fall between the turf strands. Next, apply the sand evenly throughout the turf area. This sand will help keep the blades upright and weigh down the turf sheets to keep them in place. Three common types of infill include Envirofill, sand, and crumb rubber. Envirofill is an acrylic coated sand which is commonly used by professionals for its anti-microbial and non-abrasive properties. This would be ideal for backyard and playground spaces while sand is best for putting greens and crumb rubber is best for sports fields and some playgrounds.

Step 9: Final Groom

For this final step, you will want to lightly groom the turf with the power brush to force the sand or other fill granules into the base of the turf. You may want to repeat this process one more time or use brush brooms to remove any excess material and brush out the turf. 

Alternative Installation Tips

Pet Installation: If you anticipate pets using the turf covered area, you should apply a layer of artificial turf deodorizer on top of the base layer to neutralize the smell of pet urine. You should also lay an extra membrane over the base layer to facilitate proper drainage. 

Putting Green Installation: For a putting green, you’ll want to make the base 1-2” thicker than a standard installation. You should use road base followed by 1/8” of silica sand on top of the compacted base for putting greens.

Playground installation: Be aware of the safety manual for your product. Frame the turf area with wood to begin with and then level the base and place playground padding over top of the base layer. Leave 1/8 – 1/4” between each pad to allow for expansion and contraction of the pads under varying environmental conditions. Attach each pad to the base with a nail at the center. Next, lay the synthetic grass on top of the pads, attaching them to the wood frame with deck screws or finished nails. For your fill, it’s important to use something that won’t be abrasive for children playing, such as Envirofill, which will also serve as a disinfectant. For any seams, use seaming tape or glue rather than nails to prevent injury.

Maintaining Artificial Grass

Although it is a bit more work to clean pet waste from artificial grass, it is fairly simple with the right treatment. If it is solid waste, you should remove it as you would from regular grass and then rinse the affected area with water. If the waste is not completely solid and dry, you will want to spot treat the area with a disinfecting cleaner such as enzyme cleaner, a TurFresh product, or vinegar. It is best to assume that when it comes to liquid waste, your pet is using the entire area. Use a sprinkler setting on a hose and wash down your turf area to rinse off any urine. You do not want to use any cleaners or methods that contain alcohol, pressurized water, or harsh acids, as these will damage your turf over time!

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While moss and algae cannot grow directly on artificial turf itself, a buildup of organic matter on your lawn can allow them to survive. The best way to prevent growth of algae and moss in your turf lawn is to regularly clean the area, removing all debris from the surface. Removing overhanging trees or other nearby plant material will also help keep the area clean. Once you have taken these steps you can apply non-oil based moss or algae killers to the area, following the instructions on the product. Rinse the moss or algae killer away after a few hours and rake up dead moss once it has dried out. You may need to repeat this process every few weeks to keep your turf clean. Bioadvanced 2-in-1 Moss and Algae Killer is one product that will get the job done and can be used on many surfaces.

Bayer Advanced 704710B Moss and Algae Killer Ready-To-Spray, 32 oz
  • Kills Moss and algae wherever it grows
  • Kills within hours, protects for months
  • Ready-to-Spray formula; no messy clean-up

For other contaminants, such as dirt, mold, and pollen, rinsing the turf area regularly is a sufficient treatment. Because most turf is made from polyethylene, it should not absorb stains but it is still recommended to wipe spills whenever they occur.

FAQ

How much does it cost to have artificial grass installed?

There are usually two costs involved in the installation of artificial grass: the actual cost per square foot of turf and the cost of labor and installation. If you plan to install yourself, you’ll only need to consider the cost of the turf itself. If you will be paying for installation, you’ll want to consider a combined cost, which averages $7-$15 per square foot in the United States. The cost of installation heavily depends on the size of your desired area as well as the prep work required and the type of turf you select. However, the average cost of installation projects in the US is $2,000 and these can range from $200-$9,000. 

What are the disadvantages of artificial grass?

You don’t need to water, fertilize, or mow artificial grass. You can create soft surfaces that normal soil can’t always achieve. Artificial grass is great for natural looking sports fields or playground areas. It will also maintain its color in severe weather conditions and won’t cause water to pool during heavy rains. 

How long will artificial grass last?

15 – 25 years, depending on how well you care for your artificial grass and the type of use it receives. 

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