Are you researching the possibility of installing an artificial lawn for your home? Do the different companies and the artificial grass that they offer seem to all be about the same? Perhaps one of the biggest differences is what you CAN’T see, and that is what’s hidden beneath the blades. This is the definitive guide to how an artificial lawn is installed – from start to finish with details on what should be best practice, and what you should watch out for.
First, make sure to take the time to investigate each company’s specific installation methods. Synthetic lawns should last 15 to 20 years. It is important that the installation process and materials are of the highest quality. There are good ways to go about installing an artificial lawn and there is the best way to go about the job. You need to know the difference.
Here are the procedures for installing an artificial lawn.
1. Excavation: Standard procedure in the industry for installing a residential artificial lawn is to first excavate the area to a depth of 3 ½ to 4 inches. If there is an existing irrigation system, most companies will cap it off or redirect your water for free. Removing the soil should also be part of the installation cost. If you do not need any excavation, a per square foot price reduction should apply.
2. Bender Board Installation: The best bender board is made entirely from recycled products. It is waterproof and won’t crack, rot or chip. It should measure 3 ½ by 1½, not 3 ½ by ¾. The best method of installation is to install the plastic bender board around the entire perimeter. This provides a secure edge for the installers to staple the grass to. They should use galvanized staples placed at three inch intervals.
Some companies will only put bender board where there are no existing concrete borders, such as the soft landscape areas that border flower beds. Unfortunately, this does not guarantee that tripping hazards will not develop over time or that critters will not lift up or burrow under the edges that are without bender board. This short-cut may save their company time and money but it is not best practice.
Some installers will use wooden stakes to secure the bender board in place. This is fine when the bender board is up against concrete boarders such as sidewalks and driveways because ultimately it will be pinned in place between the compacted substrate and existing concrete, but remember this: wood rots. Make sure that the installers use plastic stakes, not wooden stakes, out in the soft landscape areas, otherwise, the wooden stakes will rot over time and the bender board may capsize, ruining your lawn.
Most companies guarantee their installation for five years. It may take five years plus for the wooden stakes to rot and you could end up paying for the repairs yourself. Again, the bender board and stakes should be part of the installation cost.
3. Substrate Installation: Crushed granite will be brought in and raked out and compacted to 100% compaction. This provides excellent drainage for your lawn. The crushed granite should be installed in such a way that there is a slight crown in the middle which insures proper water run-off. Some companies use two inches or more of base rock and top it off with decomposed granite. This is how pathways in parks are constructed.
The problem with this method is that the decomposed granite gets harder and harder over time and also, it continues to decompose. Synthetic grass installed over decomposed granite feels like a carpet lying on pavement. The crushed granite remains firm but never hardens, which results in a more natural feel. Crushed granite is more expensive, which is why so few companies use it.
4. The Turf: First, a little information about the grass itself. Artificial lawns are basically large carpeted areas. In fact, there are only seven manufacturers of synthetic lawns in the United States and six of them are located in Dalton, Georgia, (the carpet capital of the United States).
The synthetic grass comes in 15’ rolls and has a variety of backings. The best backing is made from polyolefin. It is also know as Duroflo. It has a number of advantages over the more commonly used urethane backings: it is completely permeable throughout, rather than relying on holes punched into the backing for drainage, which can become clogged. It also functions as a weed barrier, which the hole punch variety can not guarantee. Finally, the backing and grass fibers are 100% recyclable. Synthetic turf using urethane backings are not.
5. Artificial Lawn Installation: The installers will roll out the artificial lawn and install it with some of the same tools that a carpet layer uses. They will custom cut and fit the lawn to the designated areas as they go using carpet knifes and carpet kickers. The perimeter will be stapled in place with pneumatic staple guns and galvanized staples. The area in the middle, known as the field, will be anchored in place with six inch galvanized foundation spikes placed at one foot centers. Think of these as really big nails.
Some companies use u-shaped ground hooks to anchor the grass down. These wire u-hooks are most commonly used to hold drip system tubing in place. They are easy to put in but unfortunately they also come out easily. They are very thin and they are not galvanized so consequently they will rust away over time. They will not last for the lifetime of your lawn. Companies use them because they cost about three cents a piece which is about ten percent of the cost of the foundation spikes.
6. Blooming: Once the lawn is in place, the installers will use power brooms to ‘bloom’ the fibers to get them to stand up straight. If you have purchased a no-fill product, this is the final step. If not, the installers will fill in between the blades with sand and a top coat of rubber granules made from recycled tires.
A word about infill: it can be messy. It gets in your shoes and if you have kids, it will get in their shoes and clothes. If you have any pets, it will get into their paws. Water and wind move it around. It migrates. The reason no-fill products don’t need fill is because they have more blades per square inch and they also have an additional thatch layer which lives between the backing and about half way up the length of the blades. Think of it as the distinction between fine linen and regular bedsheets where the stitching per square inch makes the all difference.
Once your lawn is installed, the only tools you will need to maintain it is a nylon rake, which the synthetic grass company should provide, and perhaps a leaf blower.
If you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would like to speak to someone about installing an artificial lawn, feel free to call the professionals at onelawn. They will happily walk you through the process of installing an artificial lawn whether you buy from their or not. They can be reached at 1-877-661-5296 or one through the contact form on site.