Install Artificial Grass on a Budget
Updated October 21, 2021:
We’re proud to announce the publication of our new “DIY Install Guide”. If you’re looking for more information about how to install artificial grass yourself, this is the guide for you. Click here to read our 2021 DIY Install Guide and become the expert on artificial turf installation.
So, you’re interested in artificial grass for your home, but not really feelin’ the up-front cost of installation? Today, we’re going to show you how to install artificial grass inexpensively, making modifications along the way to bring your project’s price tag down.
Make no mistake, though. In order for this to work, you’ll need to be prepared to get your hands dirty, put in a substantial amount of time and energy, and problem-solve as you go.
Further, while all of the techniques discussed below will reduce your price point, they will also increase the amount of labor you’ll have to do yourself. You’ll be using hand tools, like a shovel, and carrying up to 50 pounds repeatedly, even if you have help.
Sound like the kind of challenge you’re up for? Let’s get to it!
There are five components to almost every installation that can be modified to reduce the cost of installing artificial grass without posing a significant threat to the performance and longevity of it. They are:
- Artificial Grass Remnants
- Site Layout
- Seaming Method
- Installation Tools
1. High-Quality, Low-Cost Artificial Grass Remnants
Depending on the total square footage of your project, artificial grass remnants can be a great money-saver! Remnants are unused turf pieces from past jobs that are sold at discounted rates. They vary in size, but will not typically be larger than 15′ x 15′.
Remnant availability is different from location to location, and they must be picked up from the store and cannot be delivered, but you can shop available remnants here before stopping in! Simply select the nearest location to you in the dropdown menu and shop what’s in stock – updated weekly.
However, keep in mind that artificial grasses are produced in dye lots. This means that two sepearately manufactured rolls of the same product type might have slight variations in color. If having remnant pieces from the same dye lot does not matter to you, great! But if it does, you can ask your Purchase Green representative to confirm if the dye lots are the same or different before buying.
Although, many DIYers have installed remnant pieces from different dye lots. Sometimes the individual pieces are installed in separate areas, or have planters or other landscape elements in between them – distracting the eye from their (somewhat) noticable difference in color.
2. The Secret to Low-Cost Subbase
Subbase. What is it? Who needs it? Well, if you’re installing artificial grass, you do, my friend.
Subbase goes where your natural grass was once you’ve excavated down a few inches and before you install the grass. Its primary job is to prevent the natural expansion and contraction of your yard’s native soil from affecting the turf, thus preventing wrinkles from popping up.
In most professional installations, it’s one of three things:
- crushed miscellaneous base – CMB,
- class II road base, or
- decomposed granite.
Decomposed granite is considered the best of the three due to its superior drainage and ability to render a consistently flat surface. Certain types of installations, like putting greens, need decomposed granite subbase more in order to perform and last.
The problem with decomposed granite is it’s expensive.
Is there a workaround?
In most cases, you can get good performance and longevity out of artificial grass with the use of only a small amount of decomposed granite. In fact, only the top few inches of subbase need to be decomposed granite in order to get good drainage and overall performance. This means you can fill most of your excavated area with inexpensive class II or CMB, then just spread a few inches of decomposed granite on the surface. This will bring down the cost considerably and produce fair results.
That being said, there are some installations for which we never recommend skimping on decomposed granite subbase. If you receive lots of rainfall, or already have drainage issues in your yard, this strategy isn’t likely to work out. Be sure to discuss your project’s particulars with our turf experts for more guidance.
3. Save Money by Re-evaluating Your Layout and Reducing Material Waste
It’s virtually impossible that all the grass you purchase will be used up in your installation, unless your installation area is the exact shape and size of a roll of turf. Most likely, you’ll have to do some cutting and seaming together of multiple pieces, and some turf will be discarded. The trick here is to figure out how to make the most of a 13′ or 15′ wide roll of turf. One way to do that is to ignore the standard rule for grain direction.
Artificial grass grain direction is one of the main culprits behind wasted grass. Grain direction is the direction in which the grass blades are predominantly pointing – typically leaning from the top of the roll downward.
Crews will usually install artificial grass pieces so that their grain is facing the ‘main vantage point’, creating the most aesthetically-pleasing lawn. The main vantage point is where the lawn will be most often viewed from. For backyard installations, the main vantage point is usually the house. And for front yards, the main vantage point is the street.
However, irregularly-shaped installation sites can often result in excess material waste when you’re limited to laying turf pieces in only one particular direction. If perfect aesthetics aren’t terribly important to you, there’s a good chance you can save money by installing the pieces of grass you’ve purchased however they best fit the installation site, regardless of their grain direction.
4. The Seaming Method Hack
As mentioned above, you’ll probably have to cut and seam together multiple pieces of turf when you install artificial grass. Most of the time, this is accomplished using seaming tape, seaming glue, and nails. This method is considered the most secure and reliable, but also the most expensive. While the cost of seaming tape and glue might be negligible for a small installation, it can become substantial for larger ones.
The cheap alternative? Just use nails – a lot of them. This is a perfectly viable seaming method for some installations, though not quite as secure. Nails can and often do work loose over time and with enough foot traffic, so we only recommend this method if your grass isn’t going to get a lot of that.
If you’ve got a large installation area that won’t see much foot traffic, a box or two of inexpensive 5-inch nails might just do it.
5 (Bonus!). Cost-cutting Tools
When it comes to specialized tools for installing artificial grass, the options are endless. Professional install crews have a myriad of gizmos and gadgets at their disposal to make the work go faster, including tools like the sod cutter, plate compactor, power broom, turf cutter, turf gripper, puller, kicker, and the list goes on. If you wanted to do it by the book, you could rent all these tools to automate your installation project and impress your neighbors.
We’re guessing you’re not doing this by the book, though. If not, our recommendation to you is to ditch the fancy gear and get back to basics with hand tools. It turns out, just about everything those power tools do can be done with low-tech hand tools. Switch out the sod cutter for a pick-ax, the plate compactor for a hand compactor, the power broom for a push broom, and the turf cutter for a carpet knife. Just get ready to apply some serious elbow grease and work up a sweat!
Even though it’ll take some hard work, it’s well worth it. If you’re still unsure about how to install artificial grass, we have a super helpful DIY guide. The guide has step-by-step instructions on how to install artificial grass, so you’ll have all the info you need to have an easier install process. And, of course, our PG team is always happy to help if you come across any issues or have any questions before, during, or even after your install. Check out that artificial grass installation guide to get the low-down on how to install artificial grass yourself!
Installing artificial grass yourself may appear to be a daunting task. While it’s certainly a lot of work, Purchase Green is here to make it as easy, painless, and inexpensive as possible.