I’ve been putting this post off for some time since there is lots to write about! There is a lot more to laying artificial grass than meets the eye with more than one way of doing it! You may be wondering if you can lay artificial grass straight onto concrete or replacing your real turf with it, or maybe you have obstacles in the way such as drain covers and wondering whether you can simply go over it or around it. Well no matter your question, I hope to cover it all here! If you are thinking about paying a professional to do the work for you then why not have a look at our ‘How much does it cost to install artificial turf’ page which will cover the professional labor fees as well as the cost of materials should you wish to install the fake grass yourself.
First, lets look at why artificial grass is so popular
I myself am actually a big fan of real turf, the smell of freshly cut grass is something I look forward to in the Spring and Summer months as well as the satisfaction of having a healthy lawn to show off to friends and family due to maintaining it correctly. So with this in mind, why exactly is artificial grass getting more and more popular as the years go by? I wrote a more in depth post about this here called fake grass or real grass – What’s the difference?
The first benefit of having artificial grass is low maintenance. Not everyone has time to cut and maintain their lawn and see it more as a nuisance when there are more important things to do. As soon as you start seeing garden maintenance as a chore, it takes the fun out of it! Of course you could pay a professional gardener to come and maintain your garden on a fortnightly basis but this would mean needing access unless you are planning on being at home when they come, as well as paying extra money. Yes it costs more money to initially install artificial grass, but as time goes by it will work out more cost effective to have fake grass instead of real grass since those regular payments to your gardener will increase over time.
As well as this, if you have pets such as a dog, you may notice yellow patches on your real grass from when they urinate. Fake grass does not come with this risk but you should avoid getting anything over 30mm thick (blade length) as this will make it easier when clearing up dog mess. Although it’s best to use granite dust as a sub base instead of sharp sand as this will help keep the smell away.
What materials will I need to install my artificial turf?
We use to use 50mm of type 1 MOT with another 50mm layer of sharp sand as a sub base before laying the membrane and artificial turf. How ever, many of us are switching to an aggregate called granite dust which is mostly stones with a little dust, the best way to describe it is that it looks similar to cat litter! This means that no type 1 MOT will be needed and you only need to dig to a depth of 50mm. If you are looking to lay your artificial grass straight onto concrete instead of where your grass currently sits then I have written a separate post below. The materials you need will be:
- Granite dust – A general rule of thumb is that one 850kg bulk bag will cover 10 squared meters at a depth of 50mm
- Weed control fabric or membrane – This is to prevent weeds from growing through the drain holes of your fake turf
- Artificial turf – Keep in mind that most suppliers offer this in 2 and 4 meter wide rolls
- Timber – This is for the edging (explained in more detail below) which can be anything from roofing baton to edging boards depending on how you are laying your fake grass
What tools will I need to install my artificial turf?
For smaller projects you will get away with using hand tools, although heavy duty equipment is available from most plant hire companies which will save time, certainly on larger projects. The tools needed to install your fake turf include:
- Spade(s) – Unless you are able to get your hands on a turf cutter which are available to rent from approximately £40 per day from most plant hire companies
- Wheel barrow(s) – This is to move the granite dust from one location to another
- wacker plate (also known as a compactor)
- Drill, tape measure, screws, 6 inch nails and a hand saw
Step by step guide to laying artificial grass
These instructions would be for laying artificial grass where your earth currently sits, which means digging out the area that you will be installing the fake grass. Don’t worry if you are thinking about installing your fake turf straight onto a patio or concrete path as I have written about this further below. Since laying artificial grass where your real turf sits is the most common option I will start here first.
Step 1 – Measure the area that you will be laying your fake grass
The first thing you will want to do is grab your tape measure and measure the length and width of the area that you would like artificial grass installed. Most suppliers offer rolls with a maximum width of 4 meters (sometimes 5m) but don’t worry if the area is wider than this as you can join two pieces of artificial turf together and if done well, you shouldn’t be able to see the join. Measuring the area before you order will allow for minimal waste, saving you money and off cuts. To work out the total area needed, all you need to do is multiply the width by the length. For example, if you have a width of 6 meters and a length of 8 meters, then you have a total area of 48 squared meters. If ordering from a supplier offering only 2 and 4 meter widths, then you would purchase one 4×8 meter roll and one 2×8 meter roll and join them together.
You will also need to use these measurements when ordering other materials. You will need some timber to go around the border of the artificial turf. This will allow you to have something to hold the sub base in place which will also need to be compacted, as well as provide something for the artificial grass to be screwed into along the edges. If you have paving or some other form of edging already in place then just some roofing batten will suffice, but if you are going to have a flower bed around the outside of your artificial grass then I would recommend adding some edging boards and raising the flower bed slightly as to keep the soil away from your new fake turf.
If using the example above of 48 squared meters, in theory you will need 5 ton bags of granite dust providing that it’s dug out to a depth of 50mm. Each 850kg bag will cover 10 squared meters at a 50mm depth. It’s worth having an extra bag to be on the safe side providing that you have somewhere to put any wastage. Otherwise you can purchase as you go along, with most local building merchants offering a next day delivery service.
Step 2 – Dig the area where you will be laying your artificial turf
The best way of doing this is with a turf cutter machine which can be expensive to purchase so for a one off job is better to rent from a plant hire company, although if you are unable to get one of these then a simple spade will do the job just fine! Using a turf cutter however will take the manual strain of using a spade away and will allow to easily have a level 50mm cut, minimizing waste and reducing the risk of over buying the granite dust (or type 1 MOT and sharp sand if doing it that way) since you will be digging deeper than required.
To be honest, due to access and the condition of the ground that we are working on we often use spades when digging the ground out. The best way to do this is to dig squared sections out of the ground but if the ground is hard then this may be hard to do. If you have time to plan ahead then try to soak the ground for a few days before starting work. One trick we have learned over the years is to turn the ground over by use of a tiller and then simply using the spade to scoop the soil out. Cheap electric tillers are available from the £30 – £40 mark. In fact I wrote a review about one here.
Step 3 – Install your boarder around the perimeter where your artificial grass will be installed
Not everyone does this, but trust me when I say it’s worth doing! Using timber, create a border to the height of where the fake grass will be laid. Making sure that the edges of the artificial lawn are secure is more important than anchoring the center of the lawn, although still important.
Later, we will screw the edges of your new lawn into the baton below, which will stop it from being kicked up and being tripped on when the kids are running back and forth!
Step 4 – Fill the area within the boarder with granite dust
Instead of using granite dust, you can use a layer of type 1 MOT followed by sharp sand, it’s all down to personal preference although if you have pets then using the sharp sand may carry a bad smell over time. The benefits of using granite dust compared to sharp sand how ever is that it may be easier to even the surface if you don’t have the professional tools required such as a wacker plate, as well as having a better ability to keep bad smells away such as dog urine. In all honesty, the sharp sand method is the old way of doing this, with most professionals now using granite dust.
Once you have filled the area with your type 1 MOT and sand / granite dust then it’s time to level the surface. We do this by raking it with a landscaping rake and then using a wacker plate to compact it. Once compacted you should look for any low spots, fill with your chosen material, before compacting it again until you are happy that you have a flat and even surface.
If you are unable to use a wacker plate (they can be hired from a plant hire company) then try using a manual tamper as best you can, a spirit level may help too!
Step 5 – Lay your geotextile membrane
Not everyone installs a membrane when laying their artificial turf, but this is likely the cheapest material to buy when it comes to installing your fake grass and definitely worth doing if you have came this far!
Fake grass has drainage holes approximately every squared foot and I have seen my fair share of gardens that haven’t had it installed and have had weeds grow from these holes! This geotextile membrane is an inexpensive way of preventing these weeds from growing and in turn will help keep the quality of your artificial grass lasting a lot longer.
All you need to do is simply roll it out across your granite dust or sharp sand and trim the edges, making sure to cover the hole of the area to where your new lawn will be laid. No screws, nails, glue or any other adhesive is required.
Step 6 – Lay your artificial grass
Finally it’s time to install your new fake grass! The hard bit is the preparation so now it’s time for the easy bit. The first thing you will want to do is place your roll of fake turf at an edge and screwing it into the wooden borders that you installed at the very beginning. This will stop the turf from moving when rolling it out in the first instance as well as allow the edges to be secure and prevent any seeds from getting under the artificial turf and stop anyone from kicking and tripping over the edges. If you haven’t used a boarder then you will need to pin it down with 6 inch nails.
We usually roll it out approximately 2-3 feet at a time and checking for any obviously signs of an uneven sub base. This makes it easier to roll the artificial turf back, fix the uneven surface and roll back again until you reach the very end.
Once you have rolled out your artificial grass, it will be time to trim the edges into shape. Make sure that you don’t rush this process as there’s no going back if you cut the fake grass incorrectly! It is best to use a Stanley blade. If using a Stanley blade then make sure you have some spare blades ready as it doesn’t take long for them to go blunt when cutting through plastic!
Once you are happy with the cut edges, screw down the artificial turf around all of the edges and into the boarders/baton. Then using a hammer, insert 6 inch nails every squared foot to pin the rest of the lawn down.
Once this is done, all you need to do is brush in some kiln dried sand! Lots of people won’t bother doing this but it really does help add weight to the artificial grass, helping it stay pinned down with little to no movement.
How do I lay artificial grass on concrete?
You can lay artificial grass on just about anything including a concrete base or path, as well as an existing patio or any other hard surface. There are essentially 2 ways to do this. Before choosing the best option for you, make sure that you cut the artificial grass to shape before pinning it to the hard surface.
The first and easiest option is to use some all weather adhesive to simply glue the fake grass to your concrete path or patio. Although these tubes don’t go very far, and the general rule of thumb is ‘the more the better’, you might want to prepare yourself with more than enough tubes of adhesive! This should be enough to install your new artificial turf.
The second option is to screw your fake turf into your concrete path or patio. This is a less favorable option due to the extra work required, but it will be sure to last a lot longer than the adhesive. Why not use both? All we do is lay the artificial grass out and cut it to shape, and drill holes with an SDS drill (a standard battery powered drill may not have enough power to drill through concrete). Then, keeping your finger to mark where the hole is, insert a all plug followed by a screw. There is no need to roll back the fake grass to insert the wall plug. Here is a picture of a job we complete where we had to install the artificial turf with screws as the turf sits under water for 1 month of the year (an old boat house).
If I haven’t managed to answer all of your questions when it comes to install your very own artificial grass then please post a comment below and I will answer within 24 hours! Or why not go to our forum page to ask the question where we all come together to help eachother out? Please don’t forget to subscribe for updates on new articles in the future.