Once you’ve decided on a transition to synthetic turf, your next consideration will be installing the artificial grass at your designated location. For this article, we worked with a home-owner in Illinois on exploring a variety of options to lower annual maintenance costs and raise the aesthetic profile of their property. In this area, the issue wasn’t insufficient rainfall as we encounter in States like Nevada and Arizona, is was the cyclical impact of going from harsh cold conditions during Winter, to short periods of high ambient temperatures and low rainfall in the Summer. This was an Illinois home where temperatures fall as low is minus 50 degrees in the Winter, and occasionally max out at 100 degrees during Summer.
Design Scope and Considerations.
The installation of an artificial lawn can range between straightforward and fairly complex, depending on the surface. In most cases it should be within the scope of those who are comfortable with general outdoor DIY tasks. If this is something new to you then you have the option of working with a professional landscaper. You may also decide to save some money by doing most of the prep work yourself, then bringing in the Landscaper for the final installation steps, as was the path chosen by our customer in Illinois.
The first stage is to assess the type of ground onto which the synthetic turf is to be installed. In this instance, the new turf was a more conventional type of lawn installation, and not a more esoteric install such as on a roof or balcony.
Assuming that you are replacing a natural grass lawn with artificial grass, as was the case here. How does your present lawn handle drainage? Does it become excessively waterlogged during heavy rainfall or is it able to drain water away naturally?
If the area becomes waterlogged and puddles form which take time to drain away, then you’re probably going to need to install some basic drainage channels before introducing the new synthetic turf. This can generally be done quite simply and there are many online resources where you can gather the necessary information to install simple drainage. Just follow the guidelines for drainage on a conventional turfed lawn and they will apply to a synthetic lawn also.
If you’re not sure if your designated area is going to require additional drains, modifications to existing drains or additional grading, then it’s better to seek professional advice, rather than risk problems down the line. Our Illinois customer was able to adequately describe the specifics of the ground/soil and sent along several photos to help us help him make the assessment.
If you determine that additional drainage is necessary, then give thought to the position of electrical and other services such as water and phone lines, so you don’t cut into any pipes/cables.
Next, give some consideration to the type of surface material and the general application for your new lawned area. What is the surface? If it is soil, what is the soil condition? If you’re removing sod, are there rocks or roots in the underlying soil which may need to be removed?
If the ground is inhabited in some way by rodents such as rabbits or moles, then you may need to fill holes and use meshed wire over the holes to prevent subsequent digging after the new artificial turf is laid.
Once you’ve completed your assessment and you’re ready to begin removing old turf, you can rent a turf/sod cutter to assist in the task or simply use a shovel/spade. If it’s a larger area then we’d highly recommend a sod cutter.
Clear out all debris and any protruding materials such as old roots, rocks etc, at which point you should be ready to install any additional drainage and move on to installing the sub-base.
There are various approaches to the sub-base and in part you’ll want to give consideration to the final application of your new lawn. For example, if the application is a golf putting green then you may opt for a firmer sub-base (we can supply you with specific recommendations, just ask). If your application is a kid’s playground, then you may opt for a slightly softer sub-base with more cushion and compliance.
Generally, a layer of crushed stone or ‘Chat’ should be spread over the area to a depth of around 1/2”, depending on the under-surface and the application. Ensure the surface is flat and even and that it is compressed using a compactor. This is important as you may be compacting the base material into an under-surface of different compositions, so it may compact unevenly requiring the addition of more Chat in certain areas. You don’t want to lay the artificial turf then find that it beds-in unevenly. (this is the same concern when installing a regular turfed lawn).
You can of course install artificial grass on uneven ground, the recommendations above are for where the surface should be flat and even after installation, as with our Illinois based customer.
You may at this stage decide to install corrosion resistant mesh wire to prevent rodent damage to the new turf.
How you dress or finish the perimeter of the new lawn will depend on your specific application and how you plan to integrate the lawn into the landscape. Generally we recommend that the height of the artificial grass blades be around 1 inch above surrounding/adjacent landscape, and that you use some form of treated lumber or stone material to provide a but-fit edge to the turf. This will prevent animals from trying to tear at the edges of the turf and pull up whole sections or panels.
If you’re unclear about any of these preparation steps then we recommend that you seek professional help before moving forward. Synthetic grass can be a considerable investment and it’s important to protect the longevity of your investment with a good installation.
Step 2 – Installing the turf – click here