Artificial Turf: Installing and Maintaining
Written by: Dave Falo, Outdoor Living Specialist, Hydro-Scape
With the drought and water restrictions being enforced, some people have chosen to install artificial turf. While it’s not best to remove all of your lawn with artificial grass, replacing some parts of your landscape definitely has its benefits. Synthetic turf is a fairly low-care and great-looking alternative.
This guide will show you how to install and care for your new artificial lawn.
Getting Started with Artificial Turf
- Artificial turf
- Turf cutter or spade
- Weed-suppressing membrane
- Utility knife
- Sand, grit or crushed stones
- A level
- Shock-absorbent material (optional)
- Adhesive (optional)
- Wooden plank
- Hammer and nails
- Silica sand
- Seed spreader for the silica sand
- Coarse broom
- Warm, soapy water (optional)
Step 1: Removing the existing turf
Use the turf spade or cutter to cut out the existing grass. Remove about 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches of the soil. Your artificial turf needs to settle down to about ½-inch on top of your edging.
Step 2: Protecting your turf from weeds
You don’t want weeds growing up through your artificial turf or buckling it, so cut the weed-suppressing membrane to the shape of your space and lay it.
Step 3: Applying a layer of sand
Put down a thin layer of sand, grit or crushed stone on the membrane and compact it. This gives you a well-draining, hard surface to support everything else.
Step 4: Creating an even surface
Apply a ½- to ¾-inch layer of sand (not the silica sand) and compact it. Smooth and level it using the wooden plank and a level.
Step 5: Putting down a layer of shock-absorbent material
If you wish for more cushioning (think carpet padding) for your lawn, cut a layer of shock-absorbent material and fit it to your space. If your space is large enough that you need to lay multiple pieces of material, put a thin layer of the adhesive under the places where the pieces meet to keep them in place, for preventing buckling, shifting and it also gives you more even coverage.
Step 6: Removing the grass-free border
If your turf comes with a grass-free border, now is the time to cut it off. Use a level to make sure your cuts are straight.
Step 7: Aligning the grass
Place the artificial turf flush against one corner of your area or a straight edge, if easier. This makes it easier to roll your turf out squarely and prevent it from shifting.
Step 8: Cutting the turf to the shape you want
Once your turf is in place and your area is completely covered, cut the turf along the edges with a utility knife. Use a straight edge or a level as a guide.
Step 9: Nailing the grass into place
Now that your turf is cut, make sure it covers your area. Once done, anchor each corner of the turf by driving a nail into it (and the ground under it). Continue placing nails 12 – 16 inches apart around edges. If part of your space is vertical, use adhesive instead.
Step 10: Applying a layer of silica sand
Fill your spreader with the silica sand and apply a thin layer to your artificial turf and brush it into the turf with the coarse broom. This adds stability and helps prevent it from shifting.
You have successful installed a fresh artificial turf.
Maintenance and Care
Artificial turf normally does not require maintenance. However, there are three things to keep in mind: cleaning it, brushing it and TLC (tender loving care).
Basically, you have to watch out for:
- Airborne pollutants, such as dust & pollen
- Spills & stains (sticky and greasy)
- Solids (animal waste and gum)
- Special stains, such as oil paints
Pollen and Dust are easy to clean up. If you live in a rain-heavy area, you don’t have to anything as the rain will do it for you. However, if there’s no rain, all your turf needs is an occasional water flush. General cleaning of more soiled areas is easily handled with a sponge mop and a 5% solution of low-suds detergent in hot water, followed by a hot water rinse.
Stains are best cleaned up when they are fresh, not dried. Use a spatula or table knife to remove solid or pasty spills and blot up liquids with a rag, paper towels or a dry absorbent like kitty litter. You can sweep or vacuum up the kitty litter once it’s done its job.
Sticky spills are also easy to clean. You can hand or mop clean them using low-suds detergent. Rinse thoroughly with cold water and blot up left-over liquid. Never use cleaners that contain chlorine bleach, are caustic (pH above 9) or acidic (pH below 5), as these are harmful to your turf.
Greasy spills are tougher to clean up. You can only use these cleaners at the area of the stain and you must be careful not to let them absorb into the turf. Grease spot removers and mineral spirits are used for greasy and oil-based stains. These cleaners are highly flammable and the fumes are dangerous. Keep open flames away and make sure the area is well-ventilated.
Solid “spills” are usually not too hard to clean, depending on the spill. Animal waste can be picked up and the area sanitized with equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Rinse thoroughly afterwards. Here are some Pet considerations for Artificial Turf. Chewing gum presents a unique challenge, as you can imagine. Gum can be cleaned either with dry cleaning fluid or through freezing and scraping. We advise freezing the gum with a small amount of dry ice and scraping it off with a knife.
Special stains fall into two categories: easy and call a professional. Fungus and mold can be cleaned with a 1% hydrogen peroxide and water solution. Simply sponge it onto the affected area. Oil paints and other tougher stains may need to be addressed by a professional carpet cleaner.
Think of your turf as carpet. If you never vacuumed your carpet, the fibers would eventually mat, especially in high-traffic areas. The same is true of your artificial turf. Simply “cross brush” your turf (brush against the nap, grain or sweep of the fibers) to “fluff” them up, using a brush with synthetic bristles. Don’t use metal or wire bristle brushes as they will damage the fibers.
There are some things you should never do to your artificial turf. If you do these things, your turf may be irreparably damaged. Avoid:
- Dropping lit cigarettes or fireworks on your turf. It won’t ignite, but the fibers will melt together.
- Placing furniture with jagged or sharp edges on your turf. They could puncture or tear it.
- Parking an idling vehicle on it.
- Water from nearby sprinklers as it can leave mineral deposits that may discolor your turf.
- Sunlight reflected off of windows as the heat may fuse your turf fibers to each other.