Imagine a lush green lawn. All of the time. Without any maintenance. That means no watering, no cutting, no aerating, no over-seeding, and no worries of areas dying. You have the lawn that you have always wanted without any work. Impossible with real grass unless you are paying somebody to do all of that maintenance for you. That is where artificial grass comes in. Installed once and you have a lawn that will stay green for as long as that product will last.
Artificial grass definitely has its place in the market for homeowners that just do not want to deal with the maintenance of their grass on an ongoing basis. It also has its uses for recreational mini putting without having to leave your own property. There are many benefits involved in laying an artificial turf to replace your lawn.
In this article, we are going to get into the pros and cons of installing artificial turf, maintenance required with an artificial turf, and how you can add this to your business’ services and sell your clients on the concept of an artificial turf, what tools you need for installing artificial grass, and how to install artificial grass.
How to Choose Artificial Grass
When it comes to selling artificial grass in your business to your clients, it mainly comes down to being able to offer a near maintenance-free option to your customer. Artificial grass is a great alternative to real grass and will reduce the amount of maintenance that comes with grass, but there is still some maintenance that comes with this artificial grass that your clients should be aware of. Because of this, the pros and cons of choosing artificial grass becomes apparent and is something you should understand before offering this to your clients.
Choosing the right artificial grass requires you to decide on the pile height, face weight, and functionality. What this comes down to is knowing what the usage of the turf will be, whether there will be light to heavy foot traffic, if they have kids or pets, and knowing what about the region to recommend a product that will blend in to its environment.
Face weight refers to the yarn weight in one square yard including the blades of the grass and thatch layer. This does not include the weight of the infill sand or the backing of the turf. The higher the number of ounces, the more durable and dense the product will be. This also means that it will cost more, so choosing the grass based on the budget and functionality is key.
Pile height refers to the length of the blades of grass from the backing to the top of the blade. The difference in pile heights depend on the usage of the turf. For example, the pile height is very low for a putting green. Pile height affects the ability of the blades to stand upright and thus mimicking real grass. You should also consider that the higher the pile height, the better the feel of the grass will be as they are more flexible. This means there is a sweet spot for the pile height in terms of finding the best fit that will stand upright and be the most flexible to touch.
You additionally want to ensure that you are installing a quality product that is lead free and is not going to fade over time. Modern synthetic grass have color embedded into the polyethylene grass blades rather than being applied to the surface ensuring that this color will not be lost over time. Blades of quality manufacturers are also treated with UV inhibitors to prevent further degradation from the sun’s rays.
Finally when choosing whether or not to install artificial turf, you will need to understand certain bylaws or anything prohibiting the use of this material in your city or region in which you are installing it. It would not be good for anyone involved if you had to return to remove the installation because it does not comply with certain restrictions in your area.
How Long Does Artificial Grass Last
Artificial grass will last at least as long as the warranty that you see with the manufacturer. Some of these warranties will be as high as 15 years, but with proper care you will see your grass last even longer than this warranty. This begins with choosing the right grass to suit your needs. For example, choosing a grass that is ideal for having pets because it allows for more drainage will keep your grass from growing harmful bacteria.
The longevity also depends on the quality of install. If installed incorrectly with improper base that does not allow for drainage, your turf will not last long and it will become damaged or your yard will turn into a muddy mess.
One problem of note with artificial turf would be melting that can be caused from the reflection of shiny surfaces. This can be prevented with design and installing protective screens or films over windows that may be the culprit. Preparation can help you identify these areas by using a thermometer to identify any areas exceeding 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If any areas are identified in your pre-planning, you can design around those by providing shade or privacy screens into your design or opting to not install turf in that area.
Maintenance of Artificial Grass
Spring / Summer
Pollen that lands on your artificial turf will remain there which is why it should be washed off or you can use a biodegradable spray to keep your turf clean and removing any allergens and odors from your grass. You will want to make sure that you are using a spray that is safe for people who will be on that grass and for your pets. Weeds will grow anywhere. If you are beginning to see weeds coming through your grass, you can use different herbicides to keep them away that are formulated for synthetic lawns. After the matting down of your turf over the winter snow, it may be worthwhile to fluff up your turf while possibly adding additional infill to retain the level needed just below the thatch layer.
Summer / Fall
It is important to clear debris from your turf to avoid any blockages in drainage ability or decomposing of materials on top. This is even more so important in the fall when the leaves will clutter your yard. You can also introduce some water to your lawn to ensure that any dirt, pollen, or dust is removed from the blades as it is collected through the year.
Winter maintenance comes down to being careful walking on the grass when the blades freeze. When this happens, they can become brittle and damage can occur when they are walked on. It is important that you allow the snow and frost to melt and drain through the grass before having traffic on your artificial grass or at least being very careful when walking over it when it is frozen.
If there is snow on your artificial grass and there is regular traffic on it, you can walk on it but you should not allow snow to pile up on these areas otherwise it will pack down and eventually become icy. This snow can be removed with a plastic shovel. After the snow has melted, your artificial grass will have been compressed but it will bounce back up over time and can be helped with a simple brushing against the grain of grass. You should also advise against using salt on the artificial grass as it can create blockages in the perforation on the backside of the grass and preventing drainage.
Cleaning Artificial Grass
Cleaning artificial turf typically involves simply spraying the area that needs to be cleaned. This can be done to remove dirt and other fine debris that is collected on it through the year. You can install stain-resistant turf to avoid having to worry about staining your new yard. For those more difficult stains, you can use a mild soap with warm water to scrub out the stain. Alternatively you can use a vinegar and water combo to remove the stain. The faster you can work to remove the stain, the easier it will be to remove and avoid permanent staining.
When it comes to pet droppings on the grass, picking up as you normally would and spraying down the area helps to drain away the remainders and to keep your lawn odor-free. In addition to this, prior to installation you should choose the best artificial grass for dogs that allows for ample drainage.
Cost of Artificial Grass
The cost for artificial grass depends on the area in which you live which directly affects the cost of installation. The cost for the labor is something we cannot speak on and the best thing we can refer to when answering how much does artificial grass cost is the cost of the grass itself.
Typically an economical choice will cost around $2.50 per square foot while a quality product or specialized use product like putting greens will cost upwards of $4.00 per square foot. It is also important to note that there will be waste in irregular yards and these cut off pieces will likely not be able to be reused and should be included into the cost of the project. For example, you should not reference square footage when costing out the grass. Rather you should understand the dimensions of the roll and work to fit that into the yard with minimal waste and keeping the grains of the grass moving in the same direction. More on this later.
Pros and Cons of Artificial Grass
We have already outlined some advantages and disadvantages of artificial grass so far in this article, but below is a basic list of the various benefits and problems that come with choosing this product.
Benefits of Artificial Grass
- Does not require regular maintenance.
- Eliminates gasoline-powered tools.
- Eliminates fertilizer chemicals.
- Safe and allergen free.
- Easy to clean.
- Saves water.
- Saves time and money in the long term.
Problems with Artificial Grass
- Upfront costs.
- No fresh grass smell.
- Improper installation problems.
- Bylaw issues.
Tools for Artificial Grass
After the initial excavation and base preparation, there are some tools that would be required to complete the installation of artificial grass to ensure that you are able to create a professional looking project. You can click here to learn more about the tools required to complete the excavation and base preparation process.
- Utility Knife
- Marking Paint
- Tape Measure
- Artificial Grass Broom – Stiff Bristled Push / Shop Broom or Power Broom for Ease
All of the other tools required to complete the installation are covered in the article linked above and fall into the category of excavation and base preparation. Though knowing the materials required for the installation is also key to know before beginning your project.
- Roll of Artificial Turf
- Seam Tape
- Pins or Nails
- Infill – Silica Sand
- Base Material
- Geotextile Fabric
Installing Artificial Grass
The proper installation of artificial grass begins with educating yourself with the steps and processes involved in ensuring that you can create a professional looking yard. This comes down to knowing your excavation, base preparation, drainage, and how to lay artificial turf. If you already know how to install a paver patio, then you already understand the majority of the steps in laying artificial grass. The excavation and base preparation is almost identical in order to achieve proper drainage. The remainder is where knowing the ins and outs of artificial grass and the intricacies involved in getting that professional look comes into play. For everyone, we have outlined the steps in how to install artificial grass in great detail below.
Base Preparation for Artificial Grass
Drainage for Artificial Grass
Fitting Artificial Grass
Cutting Artificial Grass
Joining Artificial Grass
Artificial Grass Glue
Artificial Grass Pins
Sand for Artificial Grass
Base preparation for artificial turf begins with excavation. This excavation is similar to that of the excavation for a paver patio. This depends largely on your area, but in regions that experience freeze-thaw cycles you will likely be excavating a minimum of 6″-8″ in depth. The best way to do this is with a mini skid steer for those tight to get to backyards or a sod cutter with some helpers to excavate by hand if you cannot are unwilling to rent a piece of equipment.
When excavating, you want to ensure that the area is level or following the slope of the final grade to ensure a consistent finish. Then, compact the sub-grade with a plate compactor. Following the compaction of the sub grade, install a non-woven geotextile fabric that will allow for the drainage of water through it will providing separation between the base material and the sub-grade to prevent contamination.
Prepare the base material in lifts relative to the size of your compactor until you get to the final grade where the synthetic turf will be laid on top. Use a 3/4″ angular crushed stone with fines or Granular “A” to complete this base material. This material allows for proper drainage while achieving ample compaction. Lay this down in lifts that are level following whatever slope is present and in equal amounts before wetting and compacting with a plate compactor. This is the best sub base for artificial grass.
Click here for more detailed information on base preparation and compaction.
Drainage is extremely important when it comes to installing artificial grass which is why the base is crucial. In addition to the base, the rolls of synthetic turf should come with holes punched in the bottom that allow for the drainage of water. The more holes you see, the better the drainage will be and less likely that there will be pooling of water.
It is also because of this that synthetic turf should not be installed over dirt. It is not a product that is the solution to a muddy yard. A proper base should be installed with attention to where the water is being directed and whether or not flooding is a problem in the area that you are installing. The slope should always be away from the foundation of the house into a swale or French drain that daylights away from the house. Drainage is a topic that will be featured in future articles.
The fibers and gauges on the underside of the rolls should be placed in the same direction, as should the fibers or blades of grass on the surface to ensure a uniform look throughout the lawn. This is where pre-planning of measurements and creating a layout for where the rolls will fit to ensure the maximum usage is extremely important if you want to professionally lay artificial turf. Additionally, designing to minimize seams will ensure that the project will look excellent for many years. One of the main problems with artificial turf is the product separating at the seams over time. Keeping these seams away from foot traffic is the best way of keeping it intact.
Use a chalk line when making straight cuts of the roll to fit the area. To prevent any wrinkling, lay the turf on the ground and have it lay on the base flat while moving it around to do so. Stretch it out tightly to remove any excess wrinkles and push out any wrinkles with rollers or even the inner tube from the turf roll.
Cut off the excess on either side of the rows of the roll when it is rolled out. Cut in between the second or third row of fibers on the back of the roll to provide a solid edge and seam without cutting into the fibers themselves. This will also ensure that when two pieces come together, the fibers are equal distance apart from one another. Using a chalk line to snap a straight line when cutting seams or cutting the roll to size helps to keep those cut lines straight.
A serrated knife meant for cutting artificial grass can help with cutting seams that curve, but for wider curves or straight cuts it is always easier to go mechanical and let the cutter do the work for you. This electric fabric cutter works like a charm for artificial turf cutting.
In order to get the seam to line up perfectly, you may prefer to purchase a carpet kicker to allow you to position the turf properly.
When fitting the artificial grass to improper shapes such as a tree, rounded garden beds, or walls, fold the grass back and cut relief cuts perpendicular to the object in order to get a tight fit to the object in question. Then, cut these relief cuts to conform to the irregular shape as needed.
With the pieces of artificial grass fit together, peel back both of the pieces to expose the base material and lay a length of seam tape or joining tape for artificial grass down the length of the two pieces so that when they are put back in place they are both laying on top of the seam tape. This tape will likely have a film side and a dull side. The film side should face towards the base with the dull side facing upwards towards the turf. The film prevents the moisture from the ground from affecting the curing process of the glue. Spike both ends of the seam tape to the base to prevent it from moving around during this process and to minimize wrinkles. When spiking the tape, do not drive the spikes past the level of the tape to create an area where glue will pool. Also opt to do this process in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the glue from prematurely curing.
Adhesive for artificial grass will be applied to the dull side of the tape. This can be poured on and then moved around with a flat object to achieve a uniform thin layer of glue. Then place both pieces of turf down onto the glue from one end to the other, moving slowly, and having assistance keeping the remainder of the turf from falling onto the glue prematurely. You will want to move slowly to make sure that the seam is coming together perfectly. Once the seams have been glued, move from one end to the other applying firm pressure to allow the glue to make full contact to the underside of the artificial turf. Apply weights such as bags of infill to the full length of the seam and allow for one hour of curing time.
Seam tape and glue for artificial grass can be purchased through the manufacturer of the grass itself and should be. Always refer to their installation instructions should they differ from what is outlined here. Additionally, use the proper width trowel to spread the glue as directed by the manufacturer.
Artificial grass pegs, pins, or spikes are also supplied by the manufacturer. These spikes are typically non-galvanized so that they create a strong bond to the base over time. Spikes should be driven down the length of the seam on both sides where two pieces of turf meet at approximately 4″ apart from one another and as close to the seam as possible.
To do this, place the spike where you want to drive it and move any blades or thatch out of the way of the spike so that you can get the spike all the way down to the backing. Then you can begin to drive the spike through the backing and into the base material. Try not to hit them too hard with your hammer or you will create a divot in the base material.
Infill is extremely important to the installation of artificial grass. This is typically in the form of artificial grass sand or some sort of non-absorbent infill when dealing with an area that pets will be. This sand has many different purposes including providing a natural feeling of walking on grass, providing weight to the turf, and helping the blades of the grass stand tall by providing something for them to lean against.
When it comes to installing this infill, you will want to fill enough to be just below the thatch fiber in the turf. This is specified by the manufacturer and is somewhere around 2 pounds per square foot. Refer to the manufacturer for the proper infill and granular size specified for the type of turf you are installing. You will also want to ensure that the infill level is maintained as over time it will be reduced and need to be replenished especially during the summer months when temperatures could cause the turf to move and wrinkle. The more traffic that the area gets, the more it will need to be topped up with infill.
Installing the infill requires that the grass is not wet and there is no rain prior to the installation on the day of. This is because the moisture will cause the sand to stick to the blades of grass and not allow them to reach the bottom of the thatch layer where they should end up. This will cause many issues with the installation as the infill is crucial in providing weight to the grass and the stability of the blades to prevent wrinkling and matting. Do not rush a project, do it right the first time. If there is some morning dew, you can always blow it off with a leaf blower to ensure that it is dry before installing the infill.
Before beginning the installation of the infill, brush up the grass blades moving against the grain with a stiff bristle push broom. To install the infill, spread it throughout the area evenly. Ensure that you are working in straight lines and dropping it in equal amounts on the turf. You do not want to drop too much, but just enough that it is visible. You can use a drop spreader that allows you to adjust the volume that is dropped for every square foot or work with a large flat head shovel to cover more area and drop in a back dragging action. This is a more accurate way of spreading the infill, but you will still required a flat shovel to reach those hard to get to areas like near walls or edging.
Once the area is covered, use a stiff bristle push or shop broom to move against the blades in straight lines from one end to another. This will push of the grass blades and allow the infill to work its way below the top of the thatch layer to where it should rest. A power broom will speed up this process and is definitely a tool you will want to invest in if you plan to do more than one artificial turf installation.
Then, spread another layer of infill much like the previous and follow the steps to broom this infill to its space. Ensure afterwards that your infill level is consistent through the area, laying just below the top of the thatch layer. Add more where needed and broom in. To provide an excellent finish, use a leaf blower to remove any excess sand and dust from the lawn.
When using a broom, especially a power broom, be careful to not over-brush the fibers of the grass at the seam. This can cause more visible lines as the grass fibers are scuffed and look different than other around it. It is important that the entire area of turf has a similar look including brush lines and pressure applied to the broom when brushing.
Proper edging around areas such as garden beds will allow for a solid space to which the artificial turf butts up against and creates a finished edge to the turf itself. This ensures a professional finish to your project. This edging could be a concrete edge, natural stone edging, metal edging, or other more economic options.
Pricing Artificial Grass Installs
The cost of installing artificial grass in your business depends on the overhead costs, labor costs, material costs, and the profit margins in your business. Therefore, there is not one answer to this question. What is most important is knowing your numbers in this case and how long the install will take you to complete so that you can accurately quote a project. You can click here to learn more about knowing your numbers and how to price projects.
Additionally you can calculate the cost of artificial grass installed by calculating your own costs in your business using our Budget and Estimate Spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will allow you to input your overhead expenses, labor costs, profit margin, and calculate a project using production rates. With synthetic grass likely being a new service you are thinking about offering if you are reading this article, you likely do not have production rates. However, you do know how long it would take you to prepare the base and you can likely create an estimate based on how long you think it would take you to complete the remainder of the work. Alternatively, you can do a project at your own house or for somebody that you know to get these production rates down first before you begin sending out quotes for this work. This provides you with some experience prior to getting out there and offering your services to others professionally.
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