Wrinkles in artificial grass are a common but treatable outcome of manufacturing – due to the method and duration in which turf is stored. However, while wrinkles in turf can be removed prior to installation and steps can be taken to prevent them from forming in the future, the wrinkles that occur post-install are incredibly difficult (and often costly) to fix. So, today we’re discussing 7 tips to avoid wrinkles in artificial grass.
Why Wrinkles, Creases, and Lines Appear in the First Place
If you’ve ever left your clean clothes in the dryer for too long, or neglected to put them away immediately, then you probably get the gist of what can happen to the turf.
At various stages of manufacturing, artificial grass is exposed to extreme heat, then immediately rolled around a cylinder tube where it remains for weeks until it reaches the final destination. Within that time, the turf has completely cooled and settled into its shape around the cylinder. Sometimes the roll will become loose, and the turf will start to bunch and crinkle in a way it’s not supposed to, and after a while that bunching creates wrinkles.
But fear not, wrinkles can be relaxed! We’ve summarized our recommended precautionary measures into the 7 tips below.
How to Prevent Wrinkles in Artificial Grass
Tip #1: Unroll and Warm
One of the first steps of every artificial grass installation is to completely unroll the turf in full sun exposure for at least one hour – preferably two hours. The warmth will relax the stiff backing material, allowing the blades to stand upright and release any creases. At this point, most – if not all – wrinkles will be gone.
Tip #2: Excavate Soil and Organic Debris
No matter what, never skip soil excavation. It’s not the corner you want to cut. Removing pre-existing soil from an installation site is critical for a long-lasting application. Organic soil will naturally expand and contract due to changes in climate, creating an unstable foundation for turf and will result in the look of wrinkles over time.
For most installation sites, a minimum excavation depth of 3 inches will suffice. Then, replace the excavated soil with a non-expansive base mixture – common base types are Class 2 Roadbase or Crushed Miscellaneous Base (CMB). Moreover, while excavating, be sure to remove roots and other large chunks or groupings of organic debris that would decompose over time. When this material breaks down, it’s possible for it to create gaps in your base that could concave and create the look of divots in the yard.
Tip #3: Aim for 95-98% Subbase Compaction
Speaking of subbase, it’s really important that it is sufficiently compacted – your goal should be between 95-98% compaction. To achieve this, Purchase Green installation pros recommend installing the base in “lifts,” or layers, that are roughly 1-2 inches thick. After each layer of subbase is dropped, lightly moisten with a hose and walk over with a vibratory plate compactor 2-3 times.
Again, the point of removing the native soil, replacing it with a non-expansive base mixture, and then compacting that base mixture is to create an un-moving foundation for artificial grass. Otherwise, a foundation that continually shifts will eventually cause the turf to look like a carpet that needs to be stretched.
Tip #4: Use a Carpet Kicker
Carpet kickers are a must-have installation tool for artificial grass. Just like carpet, turf comes in a roll where the material becomes compressed and – once it’s being installed – could use a few extra tugs to ensure it’s pulled nice and taut.
First, appropriately orient and rough cut the turf to fit the general shape of the perimeter. Next, anchor one side of the turf’s perimeter line with a row of 5″ non-galvanized nails spaced 6 inches apart. After the row of anchor nails has been set along the top perimeter, use a carpet kicker to stretch the turf outward. As you kick and stretch, loose turf will begin to bunch; just in from the bunched material, hammer the non-galvanized nail where the turf is now pulled taut, securing the hold. Continue stretching and securing in horizontal rows with nails every 2-3 square feet – or approximately 2 feet between each row and 2 feet between each nail – like a grid.
Tip #5: Secure the Perimeter
Did you know that the perimeter is the most vulnerable part of an artificial grass installation? This is why installing a perimeter board is strongly suggested for areas that expect to receive moderate to heavy amounts of foot traffic – as the perimeter is the most susceptible to visible wear over time. Without a strong perimeter hold, the interior of the application becomes compromised and is susceptible to wrinkles.
Purchase Green recommends using sub-grade Bend-a-Board, which adds about $0.30 per square foot to the total job cost. While the use of a perimeter board mainly serves a structural purpose – providing a sturdy boundary along the outermost edges of your project for a more robust installation – Bend-a-Board also adds an aesthetic bonus by creating realistic curvatures.
For the most realistic appearance, the top of your Bend-A-Board and the top of your subbase should be about 1/2-inch below the grade of any bordering sidewalks, patios, and walkways. This maximizes the amount of pile height that is exposed above the adjacent flatwork. However, this gap between the height of the base and constructed restraint can be greater or less depending on the pile height of the turf being installed and personal aesthetic preferences. If you have any questions, consult with your Purchase Green Install Pro.
Tip #6: Add Weight with Infill
Infill serves three main purposes: 1) protects the backing material from UV exposure, extending the useful life of turf, 2) supports blade ballast, supporting the grass blades against foot traffic and preventing them from matting down permanently, and 3) adds weight to the application.
Most synthetic turf products and the components they’re made of will expand and contract as temperatures rise and cool – just as we discussed with native soil. Infill helps to combat this excess movement by adding weight and holding the turf in place. The amount of infill that is needed depends on the density and pile height of the artificial grass being installed, as well as the expected foot traffic. At a minimum, Purchase Green recommends that infill be added at a rate of 2-3 lbs per square foot.
Tip #7: Purchase Green Products that Fight Against Wrinkles in Artificial Grass
In early 2020, Purchase Green introduced a line of products with a particularly special backing material: ArmorLoc 3L©.
What’s most distinguishable about ArmorLoc 3L is its construction. With traditional manufacturing, the 2-3 layers in a primary backing would be held together solely by individually tufted fibers, but this resulted in a backing system vulnerable to excess movement over time.
In response to this manufacturing flaw, ArmorLoc 3L was designed, which uses three layers of a polypropylene and polyester blend that are woven and stitched together before the tufting process. The layers are arranged in such a way that the direction of each’s filaments are intersecting in different directions, producing a non-directional primary backing material that increases the finished product’s dimensional stability and significantly reduces movement.
Purchase Green grasses with an ArmorLoc 3L backing material are:
- Eco Olive 50, 60, 75, and 80 (for landscapes)
- Eco Spring 50, 60, 75, and 80 (for landscapes)
- Pet Heaven (for pet runs and landscapes)
- Playtime (for playgrounds and landscapes)
- Soft Landing (for putting greens)
When it comes to successful artificial grass installations, preparation is key. It’s always worth the time to do the research to know exactly what to expect – whether you’re a handy DIY’er or a seasoned landscape professional!