Jim and Morgan Gosselin, lifelong Colorado residents, had an 800 square foot front lawn that struggled to grow grass. They were familiar with artificial turf, as they had some installed in their backyard seven years prior, but their contractor cut corners. The Gosselin’s and their two dogs were left with a backyard that regularly smelled of urine. But, this summer, Jim and Morgan decided it was time to do it the right way – now being much more informed of the product selection and installation processes. Below they kindly share with us their artificial grass installation cost, their return on investment so far, as well as some beautiful before and after photos!
Artificial Grass Installation Process and Materials
With a skilled crew, the topsoil was excavated from the Gosselin’s front lawn and replaced with a compacted subbase. Subbase is a non-expansive gravel mixture that creates an unmovable foundation for the turf. It’s a critical step for a lasting installation, as native soil will expand and contract from changing weather – an unstable surface that would create the look of wrinkles in your lawn over time.
But before dropping subbase onto the excavated site, installers secure the perimeter line with Bend-a-Board: a pliable composite board that turf is nailed to. Bend-a-Board creates the look of a realistic lawn edge and ensures a robust hold, as the perimeter is the most vulnerable area of every artificial grass installation. Once the board is secured, the subbase is then installed in 1-2″ layers, with each layer being lightly moistened with a hose and compacted with a vibratory plate compactor.
Following subbase comes weed barrier, an extra layer of defense against plants and critters; then finally, the artificial grass. From 40 variations to choose from, Jim and Morgan narrowed it down to Purchase Green’s Bluegrass Supreme for its comfort and style. Bluegrass Supreme is a plush 2.4″ tall grass with a 108 oz face weight, and its C-shaped grass blades provide better structural support to mitigate the appearance of matting patterns from foot traffic.
Due to the size of the Gosselin’s lawn, their installation required multiple pieces of grass, creating seams. Seaming is another particularly important part of the installation process. Installers must be precise and patient, ensuring that individual pieces are trimmed and lined appropriately to conceal the seam.
The final step is infill. Infill is a sand-like mixture that helps turf blades bounce back after being compressed, protects the backing material from UV exposure, and adds necessary weight to the application – mitigating excessive movement. The general rule of thumb is for infill to cover all but the top ¾” of the blade, roughly two to four pounds per square foot. Bear in mind that taller grasses do require a fair amount of infill in order to appropriately support blade ballast. For Jim and Morgan, they applied about 3 pounds of infill per square foot, and may still add more.
Another important note about infill is that there are different kinds for different use cases. For instance, the reason the Gosselin’s backyard struggles with odor retention is that their contractor opted for the cheapest infill option – Silica Sand. Silica Sand is a good basic infill, but the contractor either did not know or chose to not inform his customers that Silica Sand absorbs ammonia from urine, trapping odor (the ammonia buildup in pet urine is what you typically associate with the smell).
This time around, the Gosselin’s opted for Zeodorizer infill – an organic infill made to significantly reduce odors from pet waste. Zeodorizer contains zeolite – a natural, inert, non-toxic substance used as an absorbent for spills in food processing facilities and complies with federal and state environmental requirements. The zeolite and the method in which its mined creates a product that traps and neutralizes ammonia from pet urine. This is because Zeolite is a negatively charged honey-combed molecular structure that absorbs liquids and gases like a magnet, preventing the ammonia from forming a gas. This molecular structure holds the ammonia until the sodium ions (Na+) in rainwater release the magnetic ability, which forces the odor-causing bacteria into the ground – ultimately “flushing out” the ammonia smell. Cool stuff, right?
And by the end of the 4th installation day, the Gosselin’s had an entirely new landscape!
How Much Does It Cost to Install Artificial Grass?
Artificial grass installation costs can vary depending on multiple factors. For instance, are you installing yourself or hiring a contractor? Artificial turf installations can absolutely be done as a DIY project, and you’ll save a lot of money that way. However, while the process is pretty straightforward, it is quite labor-intensive, too. So, it’s best to dedicate a few days to the task – and recruit some help if you can.
On average, a Purchase Green DIY artificial grass project will cost between $3 – $6 per square foot, inclusive of turf and all accessories necessary to complete an installation (nails, infill, weed barrier, etc.).
On the other hand, turnkey installation rates have a much broader range that is heavily dependent on the region you’re located and the type of application you’re installing (putting green, playground, pet run, rooftop/patio, landscape). Labor rates can also increase due to the removal of rocks and roots, or installing around them – or even from limited site accessibility that prolonged the installation. Typically, turnkey installation services for most residential application types fall somewhere between $7 – $14 per square foot.
Moreover, premium products and a premium installation method will also impact the total cost, which was the case for the Gosselins. Jim and Morgan opted for a premium turf (Bluegrass Supreme), a premium infill (Zeodorizer), and a premium installation method with perimeter edging (Bend-a-Board). In the end, the Gosselin’s total investment for their 800 square foot front yard turf installation was just under $11,000.
When shopping for installation quotes, it is to your benefit to be familiar with the basic necessities for a lasting artificial turf installation. When asked if they had any tips or recommendations for other homeowners considering a similar project, Jim responded:
“Take your time, select the right grass for the area, and do the research. Know what goes into a professional installation job and then hold the installer accountable to doing it the right way. We see a lot of corners getting cut to save on the cost of material, so the contractor makes more money. Things like not using proper infill, not doing weed barrier, edging techniques are lacking, and so on.”
Artificial Grass Saves You Money, Time, and Resources
According to their water bill, Jim and Morgan have saved approximately 12,000 gallons of water per month since installing artificial grass and now pay up to 22% less on their monthly bill! At this rate, the Gosselins will have completely paid off their artificial turf installation by 2027 – just under 6 years into the 20-year life expectancy of their turf. On average, artificial turf installations pay for themselves within the first 3-7 years.
A special thank you to Jim and Morgan Gosselin for kindly sharing their landscape journey with us!