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How to lay artificial grass: A quick guide

Artificial grass is about convenience. It’s a time-saving alternative to a natural lawn which lets people can enjoy a beautiful garden without the need to fertilise, mow or water their lawns.

The practicality of artificial grass, combined with changes in the UK climate, has seen its popularity skyrocket in recent years. Research from Aviva has shown that one in 10 homeowners with outside space has replaced at least some of their garden’s natural lawn with artificial grass.

And that means a big chunk of people are potentially thinking about swapping natural grass for synthetic turf. 

Artificial grass can last 15-20 years, but this depends on many factors, including the installation quality. Laying artificial grass in a garden can be a bit trickier than it looks, so hiring a professional to install artificial grass will help avoid costly mistakes and ensure a lush-looking lawn.

How much artificial grass do I need?

Before removing the existing turf, measure the garden to determine how much artificial grass you need to order. Like a carpet in a house, synthetic grass is measured in m², so work out the length and width of the area you plan to cover and multiply them to get your total. Always allow for extra length, as you will lose some when trimming and fitting.
Artificial grass often comes in rolls that are 2m or 4m wide, so consider this when measuring to minimise joins and keep installation simple.

You can measure the size of the garden by mapping it out on a grid system or do a rough sketch on paper and use a tape measure. 

Remember, it’s always best to double-check your measurements, so don’t place an order until you are 100% satisfied with your measurements. As well as a tape measure to see how much m² of artificial grass you’ll need, the right tools for the job will make installing artificial grass straightforward.

How to lay artificial grass on soil

The key steps for laying artificial grass on soil.

Remove existing turf

1. Remove existing turf

Clear the area of existing turf. For small areas, you can use a shovel to do this. Hiring a turf cutter will speed things up if you have to tackle a big garden. A cutting depth of between 40mm to 50mm is often recommended, ensuring cables or water pipes are below this depth. Remove large stones and bricks.

Create edges

2. Create an edge

While edging systems aren’t essential, they help give artificial lawns an attractive finish. They also separate the grass and flower beds while securing the perimeter, so edges don’t lift and cause a trip hazard.

Knock the edging into the soil with a hammer and a piece of wood, leaving around 3cm exposed. Make sure the edging does not rise above the final grass line so that water can run off the turf.

Prepare the base layer

3. Prepare the base layer

Once you’ve inserted the edging, you’re ready to lay the base for your artificial turf. Add type 1 crushed limestone onto the surface to a 70-75mm depth and compact using a compacting plate or roller. A 20mm grade aggregate is often recommended. A limestone base layer helps drainage and will give you a firmer, harder-wearing base.

Next, add a layer of sharp builder’s sand — around a 20mm depth. Smooth the sand evenly across the area using a heavy-duty roller or a builder’s plank and hammer.
Don’t worry if there are minor imperfections, as the odd bump or dip in the lawn can make it look natural (if you’re not happy with this, you can use a shock pad underlay). The sand should come level to the top of the perimeter edging.

Keep weeds out

4. Keep the weeds out

Install a non-woven weed membrane over the sand to prevent weeds from growing through the surface of the artificial grass, while allowing water drainage.

Allow a 300mm overlap between the sheets of weed membrane and secure with 4” galvanised steel nails around the perimeter. Trim off any waste membrane from the edges.

Roll out new turf

5. Roll out the new lawn

Now the preparation is complete, it’s time to lay the synthetic grass. Unroll the grass onto the levelled area, allowing 5-10mm of extra grass on all sides and being careful not to move the weed membrane. This gives you enough material to achieve a perfect edge.

Remember that artificial grass has a slight angle to it, so it’s best for the pile direction to be running towards the house for a full, natural look when viewing from inside the property. Allow the grass to settle for 2-3 hours to iron out creases.

Join rolls of grass

6. Join the grass

Bigger outdoor spaces will require more than one piece of grass. Some high-quality jointing tape and glue are all you need to fix different rolls together.

Spread the jointing tape rough side up where the rolls would join and apply the adhesive. Pull the grass edges together and put some weight on them, using a plant pot or similar. To disguise the seal of the joins, ruffle up the grass fibres.

Trim the edges

7. Trim and fix the edges

Trim the excess artificial grass, using a sharp Stanley knife to cut neatly around the edges. Once you’ve achieved the desired shape, secure the artificial grass to the ground with ground pins. Ruffle the grass over the pin heads to keep them neatly hidden from view.

Finishing touches

8. Finishing touches

To finish, apply kiln-dried sand to the artificial grass and brush with a stiff brush to bring the grass fibres straight and upright.

Artificial grass aftercare

It can take up to eight weeks for a new artificial grass lawn to find its feet. However, there are several things you can advise your customer(s) to do in the days after fitting to keep their artificial grass green and luscious.

  • Brush the artificial grass regularly with a stiff brush or plastic leaf rake to keep the fibres straight and even.
  • Keep leaves and other dirt at bay with a brush, leaf rake or leaf blower.
  • Wash away spillages with water. If your customer has pets, they should leave any dog or cat poo to harden before removing it.
  • Use an artificial grass cleaner to wash away residue and deodorise the lawn.
  • Keep indentations to a minimum by making sure play equipment, trampolines and other heavy garden furniture isn’t all in one area.
  • Don’t put something hot – like a barbecue – on the grass.

Does artificial grass need underlay?

Always use underlay if you plan to put the synthetic grass on top of a rigid base such as concrete or tarmac — it will mask any unevenness caused by lumps and bumps. Remember that the concrete surface needs adequate drainage, so use a geotextile membrane underlay to drain the water properly. 

While putting an underlay on top of a soil base isn’t crucial, it can help absorb impact and make artificial grass feel natural. Fit this after the weed membrane step, pegging it down every 300m x 300mm.

Can you lay artificial grass on gravel?

If the drainage is good and the gravel doesn’t have sharp edges, you can lay artificial grass without moving the stones. A layer of smoothed sand between the gravel and grass turf will provide an even base surface. An artificial grass (shock pad) underlay will make it more comfortable to walk on.

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