Installing Artificial Turf | A DIY Guide
When it comes to ground cover, most homeowners want something “low maintenance.” Few things are as low maintenance as artificial turf. Advancements in turf tech have come a long way from the classic green carpet days. Today I’m going to show you how you can install a beautiful artificial turf lawn at your home. Watch the video above to follow along.
Click here for a complete list of tools I mentioned in this project. (affiliates)
For this project I’ll be using the SynAugustine547 artificial turf which was provided to me by SynLawn. I found Synlawn after doing a lot of research on artificial turf. What I really like about this product is that Synlawn uses a biobased material that is made from soybeans to create a realistic looking turf that is environmentally friendly and not petroleum based. It’s also anti-microbial, and manufactured in the United States.
This is one of the rare instances where I’ll say that this isn’t really a pure “DIY” job. Meaning that it’s not really something I recommend doing on your own. That’s not to say it can’t be done (as you’ll see) but at least having several people available to help you will make your life so much easier. But given the social distancing measures in place at the moment, I chose to try and see if I could tackle it on my own.
Preparing the Base
The first and most important step to getting a quality installation is to properly prepare the base. In this case, I am working in a newly constructed area so it requires filling with base material, vibrating it to force the material to settle, and to grade the base properly. If you’re installing over an existing lawn area, your first step will be to kill the existing lawn and remove as much of it as possible. If you have a solid base to work from and want to skip ahead over the next part, I’ll leave a timecode link down below to take you to the next steps. Otherwise, if you need to fill and grade the area. I’ll show you how to do that now.
How to Properly Grade the Area
One of the most important steps is making sure the area is graded properly. That means is that it is sloped properly for adequate drainage. In this case, I worked with my building transit to create a grading map of the area. The transit allows you to set a level point of reference so that you can measure the elevation differences across your area to create a grading map. Many pros now use laser levels to achieve this but it’s not a tool I currently own. In this case, I want the highest elevation to be up against the house and slope towards the outer retaining walls at ¼” per foot slope. This area is roughly 18 ft wide, so I want the highest area by the house to be 4.5” higher than the outer wall grade.
As I fill and compact the fill, I repeatedly check the grade to make sure that it is what I need it to be. Compaction is important because the loose soil/or fill will settle over time so compaction speeds up the settling process and will make sure the installation lasts over time. Adding water throughout the process helps the soil or fill settle and also helps keep the dust down. You can rent both a vibratory plate, which is good for vibrating about 4” deep of material. Or a jumping jack which allows you to compact a little thicker base material. If you are adding a lot of fill to an area, it’s a good idea to compact it in layers along the way until you get the elevation about ½” to ¾” below where you want your final turf elevation to be.
Now this is where I made a mistake in my initial installation. As I reached my final grade, I should have used a fill material with smalleraggregate like a decomposed granite for the final 4” or so of fill. The road base I used had larger rocks in it (even than what it was supposed to) so it didn’t compact super smooth. When I rolled out the turf initially, I could feel all the little discrepancies. That’s why I’m saying the base preparation is the most important part of the installation.
Cutting and Installing
Roll out the turf and cut it to the proper size using a utility knife or turf cutting tool. Be sure to cut the turf slightly larger than the area you’re installing in. That way you can trim off any excess later on and ensure complete coverage. If your area is larger than the turf roll you’ll need to seam the turf.
Seaming the Turf
To seam the pieces together, I ripped another strip of the turf (paying attention to make sure the fibers were in the same direction) and then aligned the edges along with the other piece. Once I made sure the pieces lined up properly, I used a few landscape spikes to hold the pieces in place and folded open the seam. Next I rolled out some turf seam tape and staked it in place along the length of the seam. (Don’t buy cheap landscape staples off Amazon unless you want to waste half of them by bending them) I’d recommend just buying 6” galvanized landscape spikes.
From there, you’ll want to apply a liberal amount of outdoor carpet adhesive to the tape, and spread it evenly across using a notched trowel. Let the glue cure for 10-15 minutes and then slowly work your way down the seam, connecting the two sides and securing the seam in place with landscape spikes. Pay careful attention to make sure you get a tight seam between the two pieces.
Tightening and Trimming
Make your way around the perimeter of the installed area and use landscape spikes to secure the turf in place. If you notice any loose areas, you can use a carpet kicker to get the turf nice and tight. You can use a variety of different tools to cut off the excess on the edges but I had the best luck with just a regular utility knife. Take your time to carefully cut around any obstacles like trees, planter beds, or drains.
Once you have the turf laid out and installed, next you’ll need to add the infill. For residential use, the most common infill is sand. In this case I’m using Envirofill sand which is an antimicrobial that helps prevent bacteria, mold, and mildew from forming in your turf. This infill is perfect for play areas and pets. The infill helps the grass fibers of the turf to stand up, and adds weight to hold the turf in place. It also keeps the turf much cooler than the rubber infill alternatives.
I used a large seed spreader to spread the sand around the turf making sure to cover the entire surface. I used about 1 bag per 20 Sq. ft as instructed on the bag.
And finally, once the sand is installed, the final step for the installation is to use a stiff bristled push broom or turf rake to sweep the sand into the fibers and help them stand up. Make sure to work in the same direction across the turf to help create a uniform surface. From there you can do any last minute touch ups around the edges or at the seams with a pair of scissors which will be the last time you’ll ever have to cut this grass!
And that’s it, you are finished with this project.
I hope you guys enjoyed it and I hope you learned something new. I know I did as this was my first time installing synthetic turf like this. It’s not a project I recommend you tackle as a one person operation. But it’s definitely something you and a few friends could knock out in a weekend. My family absolutely loves the way this space came together and it’s such a comfortable and nice play area for my son.
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Thanks for your support!