DIY Artificial Grass: A Step-By-Step Guide
Tackling that landscaping remodel can be a daunting task for any homeowner, not to mention that maintenance that comes after the project is finalized. That’s why artificial grass can be the perfect choice when it comes to a low-maintenance yard.
Knowing how to install artificial grass comes with its own set of challenges and can be difficult if you don’t know the proper steps. Install It Direct’s DIY guide will take you through the step-by-step process to ensure that the installation goes smoothly and you end up with a lush looking lawn.
What We’ll Cover:
Can You Lay Artificial Grass on Natural Grass
You might be wondering if you can just lay down artificial grass on top of natural grass. Simply put, the answer is, yes. However, just like any shortcut, there are pros and cons.
While laying artificial grass on top of natural grass can save you some money and time spent in removing your existing lawn, there’s also a chance that you’ll run into some issues down the road when using this method. Review the pros and cons below of laying down artificial grass on top of natural grass.
- Saving time: Removing the existing grass can be time intensive, especially if you do it yourself. Laying down turf on your current lawn can be a shortcut if you don’t have the time or resources for a DIY removal.
- Save money (short term): Preparing the ground prior to laying down artificial grass can be expensive after adding up the costs of drain rock, weed barrier fabric, and infill sand.
- Improper drainage: One of the main issues with foregoing the removal of your existing lawn is the lack of drainage underneath. Normally, water from sprinklers and rain will quickly drain, dry, or evaporate, but in skipping the removal step, this moisture often has nowhere to go and can accumulate into puddles that deteriorate the turf over time.
- Weed problems: If you install artificial grass over natural grass without a good weed barrier, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll start seeing weeds pop up through the artificial grass over time.
- Uneven surfaces: Most of your existing grass will die once you lay down turf on top and with that, the dead lawn will compact causing uneven surfaces which can’t be resolved by itself. Not only does this look visually unappealing, but it can also lead to tripping hazards.
- Decreased longevity: Artificial grass is a long-term investment and will not perform as well as turf that has been installed properly.
Now that you’ve weighed the pros and cons, it’s likely that you’ll choose to remove your existing lawn and prepare the ground for artificial grass. Below we outline the necessary installation tools, materials and steps for how to install synthetic grass properly both on a soil base and on a concrete one.
Artificial Grass Installation Tools
Installing artificial grass requires a number of different tools. Below are the materials you’ll need to gather to pull off a successful DIY installation project.
- Turf cutter or carpet knife
- Wheelbarrow or shovel
- Tape measure
- Planks or roller for compacting
- Joining tap
- Grass glue
- Weed membrane
- Ground pins
- Sub-base material
How to Install Artificial Grass on Dirt Surfaces
Once you’ve put together your materials, it’s time to start the lawn remodel and DIY your artificial grass installation. Follow the steps below for an artificial lawn that you can sit back and admire for years to come.
Step 1: Check for Underground Hazards and Measure the Area
Prior to measuring the area, you should pinpoint any sprinklers, water pipes, and electric lines that may be under the surface of your desired installation area. In most cases, you can simply cover sprinklers at the pipe level or remove them if they are no longer needed. If you need to keep existing sprinklers to water other parts of the yard, be sure to mark the location to avoid uneven surfaces and damage to the sprinklers when you lay down the turf.
Next, add drainage pipes (optional) for easy water clear out and protect any electrical wires by moving them away from the perimeter of the area by six to eight inches — this will make sure they won’t be damaged when you secure the turf edges with landscaping pins.
After you’ve completed your pre-installation prep and checked for any underground hazards your next step is to take down the proper measurements. Measure out the length and width of the area you want to cover with turf, while considering any joins or odd shapes you may need to cut turf for.
As most artificial grass comes in rolls, measuring the space you’re looking to cover will help you calculate how many rolls you’ll need as well as the amount of joining tape and glue you’ll need to purchase.
Step 2: Remove the Current Surface
Removing the current surface includes everything from pulling up weeds and existing grass to removing rocks and other debris that could inhibit a flat surface for your new lawn. If weeds are a pesky problem, we recommend spraying a weed killer (the all natural environmentally safe kind) two to three weeks in advance of the removal since these can take some time to take effect.
Once you’ve done that, the next step is to remove the top level of soil — for most yards this means removing the top 3-4 inches of soil to make room for your new base.
Step 3: Install a Bender Board (Optional)
For a little help getting a clean line to separate the artificial grass from other components of your yard, you can install a bender board. While not necessary, bender boards can help you map out the perimeter and give a clean and polished look.
Step 4: Compact the Ground
Prior to putting down a base layer, you’ll want to compact the existing soil to create an even layer–around 95% compaction. A vibrating plate, roller, or other flat compacting object is best to ensure a smooth surface.
Step 5: Install a Weed Barrier
Even if you sprayed a weed killer upon removing the pre-existing surface, it’s a good idea to lay down a geotextile weed barrier layer (also called landscape fabric), especially if your yard is prone to weeds. This will help prevent any weeds from sprouting up through your artificial grass later on and protect your investment. If you have pets that are going to use the turf areas as their bathroom, then we recommend against the weed fabric. The reason being is that the weed cloth will help to inhibit the weeds, however, it will also absorb the urine from your pets which will leave an awful ammonia smell. If you install weed cloth or not and have pets, we recommend Urine Zero to rid the odors.
Step 6: Lay Your Base
Having a base layer that allows for proper drainage is one of the single most important steps in the process of laying down artificial grass. In most climates, a 3-4 inch layer of stone, gravel or ¾” construction grade crushed rock will allow for excess water to easily pass through.
Step 7: Water the Base
After you’ve compacted the ground and laid down your base layer, use a hose to water the base layer and further compact it. Be careful not to overwater as this can also wash away your base layer or cause slumping.
Step 8: Seam Your Turf Pieces Together
Once you’ve prepared and finalized your base layer, it’s time to attach the artificial grass. Roll out your artificial grass at least 2-3 hours prior to installation (if not overnight) to allow it to acclimate and settle so there aren’t any creases. Be careful not to don’t drag the grass over the base or you might ruin the smooth surface
Lay out artificial grass onto your base layer and position where needed. As artificial grass has a pattern, place it so all the blades of grass are facing the same direction for the most natural look.
Fix any pieces that need to be connected by joining them together with quality outdoor tape or turf glue, by following the specific instructions on the products. Typically this is done by applying tape lengthwise to the bottom side of turf, lining up the turf edges to match the lines on the seaming tape. Apply pressure to the seams by placing heavy objects like plant pots, stones or other heavy materials on top to solidify the adhesive. We recommend that you utilize S shaped seams as opposed to straight seams in order to hide them. Seams are almost always going to be inevitable so any tips or tricks to hide them as best as possible is what you will want to do.
Step 9: Trim Where Necessary
After the adhesive has settled, cut and trim the grass using a carpet knife or razor knife to remove excess turf and fit it to the desired area (doing so on the backside).
Step 10: Pin the Grass with Landscaping Pins
Pin down the turf with ground pins every 6–8 inches around the perimeter of the turf. You can also place pins along the seam to secure the turf further. Hammer them down flat being careful to not hammer excessively and cause dips in your new turf lawn.
Step 11: Brush Up Your Grass
For a final touch use a broom to brush up the fibers of the grass (against the grain) to fluff them up and help them appear more natural.
How to Install Artificial Grass on Concrete
If your backyard has an existing hard surface like pavement or concrete that needs a facelift, artificial grass can be just the solution to turn a plain looking space into a lush backyard.
In fact, artificial grass can be installed on top of concrete, block paving and even patio paving slabs. That being said, there are some problems with laying down turf on these types of solid surfaces, the most common issue being inadequate drainage — this can cause mold or mildew issues under the grass since excess water has nowhere to go. Drainage can be improved in a number of ways like adding a layer of sand between the concrete and turf or by drilling holes into the concrete to allow for water to drain into the earth below.
Similar to how to install turf on a soil surface, there are a number of steps you should follow for proper installation.
Step 1: Measure the Area
Plan out the length and width of the area you intend to cover, while factoring in any joins you may need to have if you’re working with multiple pieces of turf.
Step 2: Clear off the Area
Next you’ll want to ensure the surface is brushed off and there is no debris like trash, weeds or major cracks that will cause an uneven surface. If your concrete or brick surface is especially dirty, it may require that you power wash the area to start fresh with a clean and even surface.
Furthermore, if your concrete surface has large cracks or is uneven, it may not be a good surface for a base. In this case we recommend removing the concrete and following the soil base method discussed above.
Step 3: Cover the Area with Foam or Shock Pads
One downside to laying down artificial grass on a concrete or pavement surface is the lack of cushion. If you plan to have kids or pets playing in this area, padding is something you’ll likely want to consider to provide more cushioning for falls.
Roll out designated foam or shock pads onto the areas before laying down your turf.
Step 4: Lay the Artificial Grass on the Foam/Pads
Next, it’s time to lay down the artificial grass on the newly padded space. Similar to a soil surface, you’ll want to roll out the turf onto the space and let it sit for 2-3 hours, if not overnight, to let the material settle and and prevent wrinkles or creases before you join the rolls and secure the edges.
Step 5: Seam your turf pieces together
Similar to the process of installing artificial grass on soil, connect any joins of the turf pieces with outdoor tape or turf glue by applying tape lengthwise to the bottom side of turf, lining up the turf edges to match the lines on the seaming tape and applying pressure.
Step 6: Trim Where Necessary
After seaming together the joins and letting the adhesive set, it’s time to trim the excess material at the borders of your artificial grass. Trim and cut using a carpet knife or similar razor for a clean edge.
Step 7: Secure the Grass
When installing artificial grass on concrete, you won’t have the ability to pin down the turf like you would with a soil base. In this case, it’s recommended to join the back of the artificial grass and concrete base with an adhesive. Do so every 6-8 inches along the perimeter of the grass.
An alternative option is to secure the edges of the perimeter with plants or other garden accessories. However, this won’t provide as secure of an installation as adhesive.
Enjoy Your New Artificial Turf!
If after reading this guide you’ve decided you’d rather leave it to the professionals, Install It Direct has you covered! We serve the greater San Diego County with a variety of outdoor living services including paver installation, outdoor kitchen, BBQ and retaining wall installation, landscape design and artificial turf installation services.
Calculate the costs of your artificial grass project with this Artificial Grass Calculator or get a detailed view of pricing with the Artificial Grass Costs Guide. Once you have a better idea of the cost of your project, schedule a free consultation and estimate with one of our landscape design experts!