Thinking about installing artificial grass in your own home? Maybe you’ve just decided to replace your natural lawn, and you’re not sure whether to do it yourself or pay a contractor. Or perhaps you’re still thinking about it, and you’re curious about the installation process…
Whatever your reason is for learning about artificial grass installation, you’ve come to the right place!
Today, our team of artificial grass experts will show you exactly how to install artificial grass in your own home.
Laying artificial grass properly requires a careful step by step process, from gathering the right materials and preparing the ground to laying the sub-base and getting the lawn sized and secured. Each step plays a specific role in ensuring that your artificial lawn is both attractive and long-lasting.
Read on for a detailed discussion of this step-by-step process. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of installing it yourself vs. outsourcing the work and some handy tips to help the process go as smoothly as possible.
In This Article:
The Step-by-Step Guide: How To Install Artificial Grass
It’s not difficult to see why artificial grass is so popular nowadays. Maybe you want to cut down on yard maintenance, add greenery in an area where grass won’t grow, or create a more uniform, aesthetically pleasing lawn all year round…
Whatever your reason is, we’re here to help! Our team has installed artificial lawns in hundreds of households around the world.
And now, it’s your turn! Here is a complete step-by-step guide for artificial grass installation:
Step 1: Decide Whether To DIY Or Hire
You may have already made this decision and, if you decided to do the installation yourself, congratulations! You’re ready to move on to the next step.
If you’re still on the fence about whether to do it yourself or have a contractor do it for you, now is the time to decide…
There are a few questions you have to ask yourself before making this decision, such as “Are you handy around the house and yard?” “Are you willing to put in the time and effort?” and “Is cost a factor for you?”
Later in this article, we’ll take a closer look at these questions and help you make a final decision.
But for now, let’s just assume you’ve chosen to install the artificial lawn yourself. You’re ready to move on to step 2!
Step 2: Gather Your Materials And Make Plans
For most households with average-size lawns, installing the grass will only take a few days, but the overall process may take a few weeks from start to finish.
For this reason, make sure you set aside enough time and plan out everything beforehand so you can get the job done efficiently.
Before getting started, you’ll want to have all your tools and materials in one place. Obviously, you’ll need your artificial grass and any sub-base materials on hand and ready to use.
Some other tools and supplies you may need include:
- Turf cutter
- Tape measure and measuring stick
- Hand tamp
- Plate compactor
- Galvanized nails or spikes
- Box cutter / Utility knife
- Transit level
- Artificial grass tape and glue
- Plastic-toothed leaf rake and push broom
- Artificial grass infill
- Seed spreader
Most of the tools listed can be rented at your local home improvement store. This is especially helpful when it comes to more specialized heavy-duty equipment, such as the plate compactor and turf cutter.
Make a checklist of everything you need before moving on with the actual installation process.
Now is also a good time to figure out the size of the area that needs to be covered with artificial grass, and in turn how much grass is needed.
After you’ve done this, it’s time to make plans and mark out the exact area you want to lay artificial grass over. You can do so by laying down lawn edging or a chalk line.
This will ensure a smooth installation and prevent mistakes down the road. Take your time to do this, and always remember: Failing to plan is planning to fail!
Step 3: Prepare The Ground
If you’re replacing a natural lawn with synthetic grass, you’ll need to first remove the existing lawn, along with any plants and obstacles in the way.
Before doing this, make sure the area is free of pipes and wires that may be under the surface. If you must work around them, make sure you flag them or are otherwise aware of them at all times.
At this stage, it is helpful to contact the contractors who built your house and refer to the building plans used. These blueprints will give you a clear idea of any issues you might come across as you remove the existing ground and prepare your yard for an artificial lawn.
After doing so, do the following to prepare the ground:
Break up the ground and remove unwanted weeds and shrubs. Your best bet is to use a motorized turf cutter to remove the existing turf efficiently. If you do not have access to one, however, a regular garden spade can serve as a handy (albeit time-consuming) alternative.
Excavate down at least 3 to 4 inches (or 7 to 10 centimeters) – Enough to get underneath the bulk of the root system. You can measure this depth at the edges of the laying area you drew out previously.
For the perfect installation, we recommend grading your artificial lawn to ensure good drainage in the long run. This requires the use of transit level, as well as help from a friend or family member. However, the quality of your installation down the line will be well worth the extra bit of effort right now.
We recommend having your artificial lawn slope downwards away from the house, with a gradient depth of around 1/4 inch per foot (or 20 millimeters per 1 meter).
To make this process easier, you may want to dig and establish the proper depths at each end of the lawn first, and then excavating across the yard to ensure a smooth change in elevation. To help keep the depth uniform across the yard, simply drag a straight piece of timber or a measuring stick across the ground.
Once you’ve excavated the top soil and established a rough gradient, use a hand tamp or plate compactor to lightly compact the dirt. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth at this stage, but it will provide a better foundation for the next steps if it is lightly compacted. Remove any stones or sharp objects by hand along the way.
At this stage, you may opt to lay down a weed membrane or apply a weed killer. A weed membrane is a layer that will help discourage weeds from growing up from the ground and through your artificial grass. This is especially important if you are installing artificial grass in an area that previously had weed growth.
However, a membrane is not recommended for households with pets, as it may trap urine deep underneath your lawn. In any case, you may use a chemical weed killer to treat the area too.
Step 4: Install The Edging
While not entirely necessary, we highly recommend installing lawn edging around your installation area.
Doing so will keep your final artificial lawn neat and contained, prevent your installation from creeping or spilling over, and cleanly separate your artificial grass from other parts of your lawn.
There are many options to choose from that will suit your lawn’s needs. Lawn edging is typically made from timber and comes in straight lengths, though you may opt for flexible edging if there are any curves in the edges of your planned artificial lawn.
Step 5: Apply Your Sub-Base
When you’re ready to begin laying the artificial grass, you’ll first need to install a layer of sub-base.
The sub-base serves as your foundation underneath the artificial grass. This layer typically consists of an aggregate material, often a form of crushed stone. This material allows for good drainage while providing a solid, level surface.
The characteristics of your sub-base are determined by its size and material. Larger particles allow for more air pockets through which water can drain easily, while a finer sub-bases will be easier to compact into a level surface.
For the best results, however, we recommend selecting a sub-base with rocks or stones that are smaller than 3/8 inches (or 90mm) in diameter.
Once you’ve chosen your ideal sub-base material, start by spreading the material evenly across your surface. Once again, you may use a straight piece of wood or a measuring stick to spread everything out smoothly.
After this, it’s time to compact it down with a plate compactor. This makes for a flat layer and reduces the likelihood of uneven settling in the future. Wet the aggregate material lightly with a garden hose (without soaking it) to help the sub-base settle and reduce dust before running your plate compactor over it.
It is important to check regularly that the gradient established in the previous step is maintained throughout this entire process.
For most domestic uses, we recommend a sub-base layer that is around 3 to 4 inches thick, leaving a small gap of about 1/2 inches so your artificial grass surface blends smoothly with your lawn edging, or more if you plan to install a laying course (explained below).
A standard plate compactor can compact 2 inches at a time up to a desirable degree of compaction. Therefore, you will likely have to repeat this process multiple times before you achieve your desired sub-base thickness.
As a finishing touch, some contractors opt to install a laying course. This is a thin final layer made from finer materials, compacted to form a smooth surface directly underneath your artificial grass.
Should you choose to install one, we recommend using granite dust (or “grano”), installed at a final depth of 1 inch.
At this stage, some contractors will opt to apply another weed membrane for extra protection against stray vegetation. You may also consider installing a foam shock pad here. This will give your lawn a softer feel, and provide a safer surface for kids to play on.
Again, both should be avoided for households with pets because they have the potential to trap urine and odors.
Step 6: Prepare Your Artificial Grass
After preparing your sub-base, we can now shift our focus to the artificial grass itself.
Before installing, it is important to roll out the artificial grass from its package, and lay it on a flat surface (preferably outdoors on a sunny day) for at least 24 hours.
This resting period is critical to allow the grass fibers and backing to return to its natural shape.
Looking closely at the grass backing, you will notice that the individual grass blades are arranged in rows. The gap in between the rows is called the “gauge” of the artificial grass.
You will also notice that the grass blades, given sufficient time to return to its natural shape, lean slightly one way. This is known as the “pile direction”.
Each piece of grass will also feature a couple of bare rows without grass at the edges. This is known as the “selvedge”, which helps prevent the roll from unravelling in transport. This will be removed later when trimming the grass pieces to size.
For smaller yards, one piece of artificial grass may be enough to cover the whole lawn. However, you may find that your yard requires multiple pieces of artificial grass.
In this case, start by laying the artificial grass panels across your yard, rotated such that the pile direction is facing towards the house. This gives you the best viewing angle, and keeps the pile direction uniform across the entire lawn.
Step 7: Prepare The Joining Edges
If your lawn is made up of one piece of artificial grass, you may skip directly to Step 9. If you require multiple pieces, you are now ready to make the final trimmings at the joining edges.
The ideal joint will feature a small gap between the pieces, the width of which is identical to the gauge of the rows of grass blades. This will ensure an invisible joint and uniformity across the entire lawn.
It is worth mentioning that you must trim away 3 rows of grass in addiction to the selvedge. The grass fibers on these 3 outermost rows will inevitably lean outwards towards the selvedge, and will press against the grass on the joined piece. This creates a “mohawk effect”, giving you a visible line of compressed grass in the finished product and making your joints look unnatural.
When it comes time to make the actual cuts, use a fresh blade to keep the cuts sharp and tidy. Cut from the backing side, as close to the stitch row as possible, and avoid any overhanging backing.
Step 8: Secure The Inner Joints
Once you’ve prepared the joining edges, double checked the dry joints and are satisfied with the overall look, it is time to secure them.
At this point, it may be helpful to temporarily put in some small nails a few inches from the joining edge. This will prevent the grass pieces from moving around on the ground as you make the joints.
Carefully lift the grass backing at the joints and gently fold it backwards to reveal the ground below. Lay down a strip of seam tape, glossy side down, and tack it down with a small nail on each end.
Next, spread a thin and even layer of glue on the surface of the tape. Then, carefully fold both edges back down onto the glue, working from one end of the joint to the other and connecting the edges like a zipper.
Once you’ve completed the joint, press along the joint to ensure good adhesion, and lay down some weights as the glue dries.
Where there is any excess glue that squeezes out of the joint between the grass fibers, now is the time to wipe it away with a damp cloth.
Most artificial grass glues will dry in 24 hours, and reach its maximum strength in 96 hours. We recommend waiting the full 96 hours before removing the nails you placed along the joints and resuming work.
Step 9: Secure The Lawn Perimeter
Once the joints have been made, it’s time to secure your artificial lawn at the perimeters of your yard.
We highly recommend using a carpet kicker to assist you in this step. This will help keep the entire lawn flat and smooth, and prevent any unevenness in the final product.
First, trim any excess grass to the perimeter of your lawn. Next, slowly work around the perimeter, using the carpet kicker to keep the lawn taut while you install landscape spikes or galvanized nails at the edge of the lawn at 1 meter intervals.
Take care when hammering in the spikes or nails – Make sure they are seated flush, and that no grass blades are trapped underneath. Finally, give the area a light brushing to hide the nail head or spike inside the grass fibers.
Step 10: Apply Infill And Brush
Congratulations, you’re almost finished! Just a few more finishing touches, and your lawn will be ready to enjoy for years to come.
The first step is to choose and apply an infill. This is a grainy material that fills in the spaces between the grass, and serves a number of purposes. It helps the blades of grass stand up, and is important in adding weight to your lawn and reducing wrinkles and damage down the road.
For most domestic applications, silica sand is a great all-round infill. For pet owners, an organic infill is recommended instead to prevent trapping urine and odors.
The best way to apply the infill evenly is with a seed spreader, although spreading it by hand can also work if you’re careful enough. We recommend anywhere between 1 to 2 pounds of infill per square foot, or 5 to 10 kilograms of infill per square meter.
To apply infill, sprinkle the material over the lawn as evenly as possible. The best tool to use is a seed spreader, which will cast the infill in even layers.
Finally, give the entire lawn a good brushing with a stiff bristled push broom by brushing against the pile direction. This will help seat the infill, and fluff up any matted spots, giving your lawn a lively, fresh look.
Outsourcing vs DIY Artificial Grass Installation: Which Is Better?
So, you’ve made the decision to install artificial grass, and you’re wondering whether to outsource the work or do it yourself. Maybe you’re willing to pay the extra money to save yourself a hassle.
If you think you’re up to the task of laying it yourself, you probably want to know for sure what you’re getting yourself into.
As you consider your options and determine which one is best for you, there are some questions you should ask yourself along the way.
Are You Handy Around The House And Yard?
Laying artificial grass involves measuring, cutting, lifting, bending, kneeling, and using various tools you may not have seen before. Are you confident in your ability to pick up new skills quickly? Are you in decent physical shape? Do you do a lot of work around the house and yard already?
In short, if you would define yourself as a do-it-yourselfer, you probably won’t have much trouble laying the grass yourself. On the other hand, if you don’t have a lot of experience using tools and working outside, the installation may prove a bit more challenging.
Are You Willing To Put In The Time And Effort?
This is a big one. Laying artificial grass may take several days depending on the size of your yard, the obstacles that need to be removed, and the speed at which you’re able to work.
Try to be as realistic as possible when it comes to estimating your time commitment. Do you have a lot of trees and bushes to remove before the installation? How many hours a day can you handle physically? How large is the area where you plan to lay the grass?
If you’re worried about how much time you’ll have to spend on the installation, or if you think it’s possible to just rush through it and get it done quickly, it might be best to hire someone to lay the grass for you.
Is Cost A Factor For You?
Of course, hiring a contractor will add additional expenses to the overall costs. Are you willing to pay extra in order to avoid the hassle of laying it yourself? And if so, how much are you willing to pay?
If you’re hoping to save money and are reasonably confident in your ability to lay the grass yourself, there’s no reason to hire someone to do it.
Tips For A Smooth Installation Process
At this point, you may have made the decision to lay your new artificial lawn yourself. Congratulations! Let’s take a look at some tips to help you make sure the whole process goes as smoothly as possible.
Digging up the natural grass, measuring the various sections of turf, laying down heavy sub-base materials… Can you imagine doing all these things by yourself?
Many hands make light work, and each step of the installation process will go more quickly if you round up a few friends to help you out.
Remember, the installation will last for several days if you can get a few good friends to commit to the entire process, great! If not, make sure you secure enough help on the days you’ll need it most, such as when you’re removing the natural grass.
Give Yourself Plenty Of Time
As mentioned earlier, it isn’t a good idea to try and rush through the process or force the entire installation into an unrealistic time frame.
Keep in mind; you’re spending a fair amount of money on materials. If you don’t take care in following the proper steps and paying attention to the details, you’ll have nothing but a sloppy-looking DIY job to show for it. Plus, poorly installed synthetic grass will be more prone to weathering and damage and may prove to be a waste of time and money.
Spread out the process if you need to. Take time between the steps if necessary. But give yourself time to do a good job.
Make Sure The Ground Is Level And Compacted
In general, artificial grass is meant to be laid on a flat surface. Hills and dips might make for nice landscaping, but they’re a nightmare if you’re installing artificial grass for the first time.
Take extra care when digging and compacting the ground that you keep the surface level. Even if the dirt isn’t perfectly level, you can make up for it by adding more sub-base material where necessary. Whatever you do, though, make sure that by the time you roll out your artificial grass, the surface is flat.
Special Considerations For Families With Children
If you have children who enjoy playing in the yard, you may be wondering if artificial grass is a good idea. Maybe you’ve already made the decision to install it, but you’re starting to have second thoughts. Is it any good for kids? Is it safer than a natural lawn or more hazardous?
There are several considerations when determining whether artificial grass is the right choice for your family. Let’s take a closer look at these factors:
Choosing The Best Grass Types
Not all artificial grass is the same. If you’ve already been looking at various options, you probably know that the grass comes in various colors, thicknesses, lengths, and materials.
The materials most commonly used for artificial grass are polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon. Some grasses are made from combining two (A great combination being polyethylene grass blades with nylon thatching). By combining them in different amounts, a wide variety of textures can be created.
- Best material or combination for kids: Nylon is a top choice for its durability and strength. On the other hand, polyethylene provides a softer, more realistic feel, while being less resilient.
- Thatching: This refers to a dense brown layer woven deep between the grass fibers, imitating the dying organic material in a real lawn. It provides more cushioning across the lawn as well as a more realistic feel, so look for an artificial grass that features it.
- Pile length: Long piles can be easier to trip over, especially for small feet. However, too short of a pile can mean a stiffer lawn overall. While pile height can go up to 3 to 3 1/2 inches, something between 1 and 2 inches (or 25 mm and 50 mm) is a good choice for most yards for kids or play areas.
- Softness: The shorter the pile, the stiffer the feel of the grass, and vice-versa. A longer, softer pile presents a better cushion for falls.
- Density: Weight and density of artificial grass are related, with a higher density able to stand up to heavier traffic and a softer cushion underfoot.
You can see that finding a balance between softness, durability and stability is important if children will be running around on your artificial grass. The factors above are what determine those characteristics.
Before selecting an artificial grass, read the customer reviews. If possible, order a sample of any artificial grass you’re considering, so you see and feel it in person.
Shock pads will add an extra expense to your artificial grass installation, but they may provide exactly what you’re looking for in terms of creating a child-friendly lawn.
Like the foam padding under carpeting, shock pads are installed over the sub-base and under the artificial grass, creating a much softer surface for your kids to play. If you’re concerned about your artificial lawn being too hard and unsafe for your kids, consider investing in shock pads to soften the ground and allay your concerns.
Special Considerations For Dog Owners
Pet owners have a different set of concerns when selecting an artificial grass. If your dog loves to run, dig, or otherwise wreak havoc in your natural lawn, you may be concerned about your high-energy pup tearing up the artificial grass. Are there any ways to keep an artificial lawn looking nice?
Best Grass Types For Pets
If your dog tries to dig holes or chew on the artificial grass, you won’t have to worry about irreparable damage to your lawn because the grass blades will stand up to the abuse. Artificial grass is also easier to clean and less prone to damage from pet urine and feces, as long as you install the right kind.
There are lots of different pet-specific grass options. These grasses are made specifically with dogs in mind. Our recommendation would be nylon, as it provides the most resilience and durability for pets to play on.
Infill Options For Homes With Dogs
For any household with pets, you want to ensure both the safety of your furry friends and the hygiene of your yard. An ideal infill for your home therefore has to be completely non-toxic, but also takes care of urine and odors.
Thankfully, there are plenty of pet-specific infill options available. Organic infill will neutralize any odors, and keep your yard fresh and pleasant.
Other Considerations When Installing Artificial Grass
Even if you don’t have kids or pets, you may still have other factors to consider. What if you want to install your grass over a concrete driveway or patio? What if your yard is full of trees and shrubs? And what about the cost involved with installing artificial grass?
We’ll discuss each of these concerns below.
Installing Over Concrete
If you’re looking to turn an old driveway or patio into a beautiful green lawn, take heart. Installing artificial grass over concrete is actually easier in some ways than installing it on natural ground. There are fewer steps involved.
To lay artificial grass on concrete, start by measuring and cleaning the area. There is no need to do any digging, and you won’t need a sub-base material because the concrete will act as your sub-base.
However, there are some inherent challenges when laying artificial grass on concrete. Mainly, since the concrete is solid, it will not allow rainwater to permeate. That is why it is important for the concrete to have a slight pitch to shed water and avoid puddling.
It’s a good idea to use shock pads or some other type of padding on top of the concrete. This will help to soften the surface better than the grass could on its own, reducing the risk of injury from falling.
Working Around Existing Installations
Say you’ve got lots of trees and shrubs throughout your lawn. Or perhaps you have a swimming pool in your yard…
All of these existing installations are an obstacle you’ll have to account for when laying artificial grass.
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide whether you want to keep all of these installations. Any shrubs that you want to get rid of, you should simply uproot. For removing larger trees, you may need to consult a professional tree removal service.
Of course, you can lay artificial grass without removing anything, but this can call for some challenging cuts. This usually entails carefully cutting curves around the objects in question.
Here’s the good news: Installing artificial grass around a tree or vegetation is not harmful to the plants. The layers will not interfere with the root’s ability to spread.
The Overall Cost Of Artificial Grass
If you’re still deciding whether to make the switch to artificial grass, you may be wondering about the cost involved.
In our experience, the cost of installing artificial grass in an average home costs anywhere between $2,500 to $6,500. Factors that help determine the cost include the types of materials you use, the size of your yard, and whether or not you install the grass yourself or hire someone else to do it.
Though artificial grass is a sizable investment up front, it may save you as much or more money over time as it needs much less care and maintenance than a natural lawn.
Natural lawns call for constant mowing, watering, seeding, weeding, fertilizing and pest control. They are also very sensitive to harsh weather and climates.
Artificial lawns, on the other hand, requires minimal maintenance, and far less hassle down the road. With a good installation and very little care, your artificial lawn will stay fresh and green for decades to come!
Conclusion: Your Guide To Artificial Grass Installation
And there you have it! By now, you should have a pretty good idea of the process for installing artificial grass, as well as some special circumstances you may need to take into consideration. You may have even made the decision of whether to install the grass yourself or to outsource the job.
Installing artificial grass is a bit of a process, but for the average DIY enthusiast, it’s completely possible to do it on your own. So, what are you waiting for? Your beautiful new synthetic lawn is just a few days or weeks away!