Whether you’re a landscape professional or a handy DIYer, the general guidelines for how to prepare for an artificial grass installation are the same. Below we’re diving into exactly what it takes to expertly plan for your project – such as how to thoroughly evaluate a job site, identify risk factors, and how to achieve a successful and lasting installation.
Step 1: Examine and Identify Risk Factors
First, observe the streets and path leading up to the install site and take notes if you see potential obstacles for either the crew, the tools, or delivery trucks. Narrow streets can be difficult or even impossible to maneuver with a large trailer, and narrow gates or steps can make it much more difficult to move material.
Next, seek out and take note of all risk factors, including irrigation or electrical systems, large rocks, trees, roots, and nearby reflective surfaces.
Job sites with irrigation systems often have their sprinklers capped at the pipe level. Although, some elect to leave sprinklers as they are and simply install the turf around them. The latter is usually recommended for DIYers, but it’s completely optional and up to personal preference.
To cap a sprinkler head, ensure that the new cap is compatible with the system. In most cases, a threaded half-inch cap will suffice, and in fewer cases, you may need a three-quarter-inch cap. To begin, turn off the water line and remove the dirt surrounding the head, creating a hole roughly two to three inches in diameter. Remove the pre-existing sprinkler head and lightly coat both the new cap and the opening of the sprinkler line with a primer and sealer. Once primed, screw on the new flat cap and refill the hole.
Then, turn the water line back on and observe the capped sprinklers, making sure there are no leaks. If the sprinkler system for the lawn is an isolated system – meaning, all the sprinkler heads on that valve are located in only the installation area – you may cut and cap the line right at the valve; this is typically a one-inch non-threaded cap, which you would prime and seal in the same way.
Alternatively, drip lines can also be installed for more precise and conservative watering. However, if more complex solutions are needed, Purchase Green recommends seeking instruction from irrigation professionals before you install artificial turf.
Electrical systems and underground wiring may exist in landscapes to power lights, water features, and other elements. Electrical wiring is even a factor for some putting green projects that include our lighted cups. Unless the contractor or DIYer is familiar with handling these types of systems, again, Purchase Green recommends consulting with a professional before installing turf.
Identifying underground systems is critical in the estimation stage. Their exact location must be known and/or avoided during installation to prevent punctures.
As for trees, they can either be removed or installed around. Though, as you can imagine, installing around root systems can present certain challenges. The task is possible, just tedious. To be safe, Purchase Green suggests conferring with an arborist to ensure that the installation process will not harm the trees and their roots.
Beware Localized Heating
Another common risk factor is reflective surfaces, often from south or west-facing windows, resulting in localized heating – which is not covered by Purchase Green’s product warranty.
Localized heating occurs when reflective surfaces catch sunlight at a particular angle, then redirect and focus that light onto a surface below. In many cases, the reflected light creates temperatures that the surface material cannot withstand, so the material deforms.
Common culprits of localized heating are nearby metal objects, such as cars or barbeques, and even everyday objects like plastic pools, tarps, fire pits, white fences, or glass tables – even neighboring windows. Purchase Green recommends using turf samples to test potential areas of concern by placing them in the path of nearby reflective surfaces and observing. If it is recognized that there is potential for melting, you can opt to install window tints, awnings, solar screens, or not install turf in zones where there is a risk.
The presence of critters such as gophers or moles can be challenging, and while the process of excavating three to four inches typically deters them, it is still possible that they will return. To help curb this problem, you have the option of installing one or multiple layers of weed barrier, and in some instances even gopher wire; though it’s important to note that this is not a guaranteed solution, unfortunately.
Additionally, weeds can be just as stubborn. Like gophers, if weeds are preexisting in or around the installation site, it may be challenging to keep them away. However, there are proactive actions you can take to mitigate their invasion, such as applying a pre-emergent product to help prevent weeds from protruding and using non-toxic weed killers to eliminate those that do without damaging the turf. If the weeds are particularly invasive, installing a layer of weed barrier is recommended both below and above the subbase.
Step 2: Measuring Square Footage
Now it’s time to measure. You can begin with measuring the total linear footage of the perimeter – most easily achieved using a measuring wheel. Walking the perimeter line with your measuring wheel will allow you an opportunity to determine where a perimeter product should be installed and how much of it you need. Remember that steeply graded areas or areas without a constructed restraint, such as a retaining wall or sidewalk, will likely require a perimeter board – such as Bend-a-Board.
Next, calculate the actual square footage. To do so, simply multiply the length and width of the install area, but don’t forget to subtract planters, trees, and other areas within the perimeter that would not be replaced with turf, as the goal is to establish the true square footage so that we know the minimum amount of artificial grass required. If needed, here is a handy square footage calculator.
After you’ve established the length of the perimeter and calculated the true square footage, you will have enough information to determine the linear footage of grass required for the project. Though, factors such as the grass’ roll width, the desired grain orientation, as well as the shape and size of the installation area will impact this number. For example, if a job site is odd-shaped and orienting the grass grain in the standard direction increases the material cost, then you may elect to install in a different direction. Alternatively, you could consider a 13-foot-wide product rather than a 15-foot-wide to reduce material waste.
Step 3: Illustrations and Visualization
Now to illustrate your estimate and calculations with drawings of the job site. These drawings should be to scale and as accurate as possible, seeing as they will be used as references when quoting and planning the job – such as indicating the placement of a perimeter product, seams, and the grain of the turf. Though there is no perfect plan, in the end, there are a variety of ways to approach every project; simply do your best to be smart and creative.
Below are some examples of project illustrations from our install managers:
Notice how the estimator draws arrows to indicate the main vantage point of the job site – where the majority of spectators will be when viewing the lawn. For the most aesthetic outcome, it is recommended to install turf in such a way that the grain or direction of the grass is pointing toward the main vantage point. As previously mentioned, installing turf in this way is not a hard and fast rule, and is often disregarded if orienting the turf in a different direction could conserve material.
Illustrations will also greatly assist in calculating the material and labor required for seams, if applicable. The estimator will draw dotted lines of the grass’ roll width to indicate where individual pieces would meet and be seamed. This visualization helps to accurately place and measure seam lengths so that you know exactly how many nails or how much seam tape your project requires.
We believe that it’s incredibly important for DIYers and homeowners looking for a turnkey installation to have every bit of knowledge they can get – and for landscape professionals to go into every job prepared.
Our goal is to educate our customers to make the best decisions for their projects, not sell them products that they don’t need. With this guide, you can be assured that you have the knowledge to start planning your artificial grass project, and the understanding of what our installation crews and team members do to help you get the lawn of your dreams.