For most homeowners, the thought of installing a backyard full of artificial grass may seem like a daunting task – and to be fair – it is! That being said, for DIY enthusiasts and people who are physically healthy and have family or friends willing to pitch in, going the DIY route is totally possible. The process requires an investment of time and effort, as well as an attention to detail.
The biggest thing for making sure your project runs smoothly is taking the time to prepare. Preparation is the key here and anyone taking on a project like this should have a good grasp of the fundamentals before they start. Here’s a quick rundown on what you’ll need to know and what you’ll need to do:
Walk the Site
Take a survey of the ground that will be covered. Identify high and low spots that may need to be fixed. Examine the area to see if there are any utilities-based equipment that may need to lie under the artificial grass and consider the implications that come with relocating them. In addition, any aesthetic concerns should be decided before the work actually begins. Do you want to use pavers, or other decorational elements? Finally, decide on a staging area near the installation site where tools and materials can be made easily accessible.
The first step in the excavation process involves using a sod cutter to remove the top layer of grass and its roots. This initial step should take you down about 3-4 inches. In the second step, you’ll excavate soil and any exposed rocks so that the area is as level or “rolling” as you desire. Small hand tools will be needed to finish the excavation around trees, pathways and other obstacles that will not be covered in the final installation.
Install the Perimeter Board
While the use of a perimeter board creates a “clean” finish between the lawn and adjacent spaces like flower beds, it does require thorough cleaning of any debris (especially roots) from around the edge. A hand trowel should used to completely remove all roots near the perimeter board and, if necessary, a herbicide should also be applied to deter future growth.
Install Underlayment Fabrics
The use of porous, soil-stabilizing filter fabrics is essential for the proper functioning of your artificial lawn. Not only do these fabrics allow water to pass through to the soil underneath, they keep the native clay or other soils from mixing with your base materials. This step is essential for a long-lasting lawn that does not shift over time. It also ensures that the artificial grass will be able to handle heavy loads without deforming
Installation of Base Materials
The best results are obtained by installing 3-4 inches of compactable coarse aggregate – that is, rocks that measure 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch with a few finer stones mixed in to a limited degree. Avoid decomposed granite (DG) and 1/4 stone as it can hold a significant amount of water which might allow the lawn to shift after a heavy rainstorm. Most backyards will have to be filled in by wheel barrow. Start at the back and feather succeeding loads into the earlier ones.
Compact the Base
Avoid walking on and even laying heavy objects on the already installed aggregate until you are ready to compact it. Another common mistake is to spread the aggregate with the tines of the rake. This separates the different sizes and degrades the quality of the job. Instead, use the back of the rake for leveling. Next, use a power compactor to settle the entire base of aggregate, one layer at a time. When done, the finished base should be approximately 3/4 to 1 inch below the perimeter board.
Measure Twice, Cut Once and Lay the New Grass
Unroll the artificial grass and allow it to relax before measuring and cutting to avoid any unnecessary waste. It is best to measure and cut the largest pieces possible and then fill in the gaps. In a similar vein, keep your cutting tool as sharp as possible and cut slowly to ensure precision and accuracy. This attention to detail will pay enormous dividends when it comes to seaming the joints and in the overall look of the final result.
Anchor and Trim Edges
Until the turf is anchored, tread lightly or it may shift. Cut the edges about 1/4 inch away from walkways, walls and other hard surfaces. Then, secure the edges with 3½ – 5½ inch nail or 7 – 11 gauge staples set every 4-6 inches around the entire perimeter.
Secure the Seams
If you’ve cut carefully,the seam lines should be relatively unnoticeable. Always use seaming materials to keep any weeds from intruding in the future. In addition, secure the “in-line” seams first and then the butt seams or you may have trouble getting the turf to lay flat.
Infill and Finishing
Infilling is the application of another layer of material to help weigh down the artificial grass, improve its foot feel, and hide any irregularities in the seams. It is best applied with a drop spreader and then raked in with a stiff synthetic broom using short even strokes.
If after reading this quick intro guide you’re interested in learning more about installing artificial grass yourself, be sure to download the free DIY Easy Install Guide which covers the entire process in detail, step-by-step.