How to Prepare Your Yard for Artificial Grass Installation

Artificial grass continues to grow in popularity, particularly in areas prone to drought. It is an easy way to have a lawn that is always lush and green without high water bills and spending hours on lawn maintenance. Keeping a natural grass lawn healthy and functional requires regular mowing, weeding, edging, aerating, watering, fertilizing, and applying herbicides and pesticides. You can avoid all of this with low-maintenance manufactured grass so that you can spend less time caring for your lawn and more time enjoying it.

Realistic, functional, faux grass provides a level playing surface for children, acts as a play area and restroom for pets, is a better choice for folks with environmental allergies, and is a great surface for seating areas and outdoor entertaining.

For all of these reasons and more, more homeowners than ever are looking into artificial grass installation to meet their low-care, low-water lawn and landscaping needs. Some leave this job to professional installers, while others take this on as a do-it-yourself home improvement project. While it is generally a good idea to have artificial grass installed by professionals to ensure proper installation with no sagging or buckling, to create a level and safer surface to minimize tripping hazards, and to preserve the integrity of your investment, it is possible for handy homeowners to take on this project themselves.

To help you decide whether this is a backyard improvement project you want to do yourself or if you would rather leave it to the pros, let’s take a look at the groundwork you will need to do as part of your artificial grass prep.

Ground Prep for Artificial Grass Installation

Prepare Your Yard for Artificial Grass Installation

1. Prepare to demo the current ground cover.

Before you start removing your lawn or digging into the soil, it’s a good idea to locate any utilities (i.e. gas, electrical, etc.) in the area so as to not cause collateral damage. If you will no longer need irrigation for this area, you can remove or cap your sprinkler system as part of your prep work. To locate underground utilities prior to digging, call DigAlert at 811. There is no charge for this service.

2. Remove natural grass or ground covers.

If you have natural grass or another living ground cover in the area where you plan to install your synthetic turf, the first step in the artificial grass installation process is to remove it.

Some folks believe they can install manufactured grass over natural grass or other living plants, since these will die back and decompose once they are covered. It is important that you do not do this. While they will die, this will result in an uneven, unstable surface that will significantly affect the integrity of your installation. Instead, you must remove all of the grass or other ground covers. Plus, you will need to make sure you dig deep enough to also get most of the root system to keep the grass from trying to grow up through the permeable backing on your artificial grass.

You can remove your grass with a turf cutter and spade or shovel. You can also kill the natural grass first for easier removal.

If there are hardscapes in the area, such as a concrete patio or brick walkway, these may require hand tools or machinery for removal prior to installing your new lawn.

3. Kill additional weeds.

The next step is to hinder weed growth in this area as much as possible. Artificial grass does not require much maintenance, but if you do not take steps to ensure the elimination of weeds, pulling weeds will be one of the tasks you will need to add to your list. Adding a weed barrier can be part of the artificial grass prep process, but first, you want to make sure you kill any existing weeds. Spray the area with non-toxic weed killer to accomplish this.

4. Complete excavation and grading.

You will now need to excavate the area to dig down between 2.5 and 4.5 inches, grade the area for proper drainage, and, if necessary, add drains.

5. Install the border.

If you are planning on installing a border to help maintain the installation and make caring for your lawn and adjacent landscaping easier, now is the time to install your border material (i.e. paver border, bender board, etc.).

6. Compact the sub-base (native soils).

The soil you see in your lawn area before you have added any base material is your sub-base. Compacting the sub-base is an essential step that must be properly completed to avoid issues later (i.e. air gaps, settling, undulations, etc.). Use a plate compactor to thoroughly compact the sub-base to ensure a flat, level, even surface for your future lawn.

7. Add and compact class II road base.

The next step in your artificial grass prep is to add the base material and compact the base. Add two to three inches of class II road base to the entire area, wet the base with a garden hose, and compact the base. Continue hosing down and compacting the base until you reach 95% compaction, which is basically like a solid surface.

8. Place weed barrier fabric.

The final step in preparing the ground for your artificial grass installation is to place the weed barrier fabric. Using a weed barrier does not guarantee that you will never get weeds in your artificial grass lawn, but it is an important step in limiting weed growth to keep your lawn as low maintenance as possible. The caveat here is that if you have pets that will be using your artificial turf as their bathroom then we highly recommend against installing the weed barrier. Yes, the weed cloth is attempting to inhibit weeds but it is also soaking up the urine and if your pets have been doing their business there for a long time, that is going to be very difficult to remove. We recommend Urine Zero to remove the urine odors on your artificial turf.

9. Turf Preparation.

Before you begin to install the turf, and while you are working on the previous 8 steps listed above, make sure to roll out the turf and allow it to warm up in the sun. Due to the fact that the turf has been rolled up like a carpet, you will want to make sure to eliminate any wrinkles and bunching before you install it.

Artificial Grass Installation: Additional Resources

To read about the remaining steps for artificial grass installation, visit our artificial grass installation page learn how to install turf yourself with our step-by-step How To Install Artificial Grass Guide.

You may also want to read up on how to clean and maintain artificial grass or some comparisons between natural grass and artificial grass to help you determine which is best for you.

Working with a professional can help you increase the longevity of your lawn, improve the visual appeal with fewer seams, and ensure that your pets, kids, and guests have a level, even surface on which to walk, play, or gather.

To talk to a professional design consultant who can help you design and plan your lawn and estimate the cost of professional installation, contact us today.