Many people are surprised to learn just how much is involved when it comes to installing artificial grass.
That’s why we usually recommend that you enlist the help of a professional to install your artificial lawn.
Their experience and expertise will result in a longer lasting, better performing fake lawn.
But, understandably, many people choose to install their own artificial grass to keep costs down.
That’s fine as long as you learn as much as possible about the different techniques used and the tools required to carry out an adequate installation.
To help you avoid some of the pitfalls we regularly see from customers attempting to install their own fake lawns, we have compiled a list of the most common installation mistakes and, more importantly, how to solve them.
Mistake 1: Insufficient excavations
Unfortunately laying artificial grass directly on top of soil or existing grass just will not work. The finished result would be an extremely uneven looking lawn.
The key to long-lasting artificial grass is just as much about getting the groundworks right as it is choosing the right fake grass.
We recommend removing a minimum of 75mm (3 inches) below the finished height of your lawn, which includes removing all existing grass and weeds.
For poor draining areas, we recommend excavating to 100mm (4 inches).
To check your excavated depth, pull a string line tight across your lawn and measure between the string line and the subgrade/soil level.
To make the excavation process as quick and as easy as possible, we highly recommend that you hire a turf cutter from your local tool hire shop. The cutting blade can be adjusted to remove your existing turf in easy to handle rolls.
Solution: Excavate to a minimum depth of 75mm.
Mistake 2: Failure to excavate soft spots in the subgrade
After excavating your existing lawn, check the subgrade/soil for soft spots.
Soft spots are areas in which the ground begins to sink under your body weight. You can test this by walking over the exposed earth.
If you find your feet sinking into the ground you should excavate the offending area and backfill with sub-base material.
Failure to remove soft spots may potentially result in certain areas of your lawn sinking.
Solution: Remove any soft spots during the excavation works. Remember it’s better to remove too much than not enough.
Mistake 3: Failure to install a weed membrane
Without a weed membrane, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll get weeds growing through your fake lawn.
One of the main benefits of having artificial grass is that you no longer have to deal with weeds.
To prevent weed growth, we strongly recommend installing a weed membrane to the subgrade. The below picture shows what happens if a weed membrane is not installed to the subgrade.
As an extra line of defence, we also recommend installing a second layer of weed membrane on top of the laying course, directly beneath your artificial grass.
Solution: Install a weed membrane to the subgrade (earth) to prevent weed growth.
Mistake 4: Inadequate sub-base installation
When installing artificial grass there are two layers of aggregates that need to be installed prior to laying the grass.
The first of these is the sub-base. The sub-base will give your artificial lawn the strength to handle the weight of foot traffic.
Typically, we recommend a minimum of 50mm of MOT Type 1 to make up the sub-base. For poor draining gardens you may wish to consider installing 50mm of 12mm granite or limestone chippings to form a permeable sub-base.
For areas that will be subjected to heavy use you may want to consider installing a 75mm sub-base.
To calculate how much sub-base material you’ll need to order to carry out your artificial grass installation, please visit our artificial grass calculators page.
Solution: Install a minimum of 50mm of MOT Type 1 as a sub-base.
Mistake 5: Using sharp sand as a laying course
The next layer of aggregate that should be installed is known as the laying course.
The laying course provides a flat, smooth, even surface for the grass to lie on top of.
It’s vitally important that you install a laying course that will be capable of withstanding foot traffic and rainfall.
Unfortunately, many installers still use compacted sharp sand to form the sub-base, but the problem with using sand is that it doesn’t bind together particularly well, causing movement of the laying course, which results in an uneven lawn.
The other issue with sharp sand is that eventually it will wash away.
Artificial grass has perforated holes in the backing which allow water to drain through the surface of the turf. This water will gradually wash away the sharp sand beneath your fake grass and, again, will result in your lawn developing an uneven appearance.
We recommend that you install a laying course to a depth of 25mm that consists of either 0-6mm granite or limestone dust, sometimes referred to as grano (use whatever you can source locally).
Granite or limestone dust forms a much stronger, harder wearing laying course that provides a far superior finish to sharp sand.
Solution: Install a 25mm laying course consisting of granite or limestone dust.
Mistake 6: Inadequate compaction of sub-base and laying course
After levelling the sub-base the next step, before spreading the laying course material, is to ensure that the sub-base is adequately compacted.
The only way to do this is with a vibrating plate compactor. If you are conducting a DIY installation, you’ll find that you can hire one from your local tool hire shop at relatively little expense.
When using the plate compactor ensure that the entire area is thoroughly compacted, by moving it up and down and side to side across your lawn.
Failure to do so will result in an uneven finish to the surface of your lawn.
And don’t be too hasty to take the whacker plate back to the hire shop as you’ll need to use it again on the laying course.
Bonus tip: you’ll find it easier if you use your garden hose to lightly sprinkle water onto the granite or limestone dust before compaction to prevent the dust from becoming airborne.
Solution: Compact both the sub-base and laying course with a vibrating plate compactor.
Mistake 7: Uneven laying course
Not only is it important to use the correct form of aggregate and to ensure proper compaction, but the final step when installing the laying course is to ensure that the surface is perfectly flat prior to laying the grass.
You’ll find that after running a plate compactor over the laying course it will leave minor indentations in the aggregate.
Before laying the grass, it’s vital that you flatten out any ridges or bumps. This can be done with a plastic float.
If you don’t, you’ll see these through the artificial grass as it will lie flat against them and take their shape.
Solution: To avoid any unsightly ridges or bumps showing through your artificial grass, use a float to ‘iron them out’ before laying the artificial turf.
Mistake 8: Failure to install an appropriate edge restraint
Another common mistake we see is the failure to install an edge restraint.
Edge restraints are an important aspect of artificial grass installation for two reasons.
Firstly, they retain the sub-base and laying course, preventing the lawn from collapsing at the edges, and secondly, an edge restraint will give you an anchoring point to which you can secure the perimeter of the grass.
When it comes to choosing the edging material for your lawn you have several options.
Treated timber, plastic lumber, treated sleepers, concrete edging or a metal edging system will all do the required job.
The perimeter of the lawn can be secured using either galvanised nails (if using a timber edging) or artificial grass adhesive such as Aquabond or Multipurpose Adhesive.
Solution: Use a secure edging system capable of retaining the sub-base and laying course.
Mistake 9: Failure to allow the artificial grass to acclimatise
Another frequent problem we see with artificial grass installation is the failure to allow the artificial grass to acclimatise.
Many people forget this important step.
The only viable way to ship artificial grass is in the form of rolls.
After being rolled up tightly on a cardboard core, you’ll need to unroll the fake turf across your new lawn and leave it for a minimum of 24 hours to ‘acclimatise’. The acclimatisation process will make the grass far easier to install.
When first unrolling your artificial grass it’s perfectly normally for there to be minor ridges and ripples. This is due to the hard-wearing backing holding its shape.
But after leaving the grass unrolled for 24 hours these ridges or bumps will naturally fall out, making it far easier to lay the grass without any undulations.
Solution: Unroll your artificial grass on your lawn and allow it to acclimatise for a minimum of 24 hours.
Mistake 10: Pile is facing in the wrong direction
When you look closely, all artificial grass has a slight pile direction, i.e. the fibres of the turf are all pointing in same direction.
When joining two pieces of artificial grass together it’s extremely important to ensure that the pile direction on both rolls of turf is facing the same way.
Usually it’s quite easy to spot as the grass will look a slightly different shade of green.
If you don’t face the grass the correct way, you’ll always be able to see where the join between the two pieces of grass is.
A further tip is to ensure that the pile direction is facing towards the angle the lawn will be viewed from the most. This usually means the pile facing towards your house.
This is because this side is generally considered to be the best viewing angle.
Solution: When joining two rolls of artificial grass, ensure the pile is facing in the same direction on each roll to avoid a visible join.
Mistake 11: Joins are cut incorrectly
Artificial grass is supplied in rolls of 2m and 4m width. Due to the shape of your lawn, you may need to join multiple rolls of grass together to cover it.
For the inexperienced, this is where potential problems can occur if you do not follow the correct process.
Firstly, when you look at your roll of artificial grass, you’ll notice a strip of membrane attached to the outside edge of the roll, known in the trade as the ‘selvedge’.
The selvedge is used to feed the primary backing through the stitching machine.
It is imperative that the selvedge is removed before attempting to glue two pieces of grass together.
Further still, to ensure an invisible join, you’ll need to count 3 stitches in from the edge of the roll and cut close to the fourth stitch.
This is because the fibres of the outer edge are frayed outwards and will be impossible to blend in naturally with another roll of grass.
Our rolls are supplied at approximately 4.1m and 2.05m to allow for the removal of the outer edge.
If you don’t get it right first time, you may be able to cut a couple more stitches if you have enough width to play with.
Solution: To ensure an invisible join, cut 3 stitches off the edge of your artificial grass.
Mistake 12: Not securing joins sufficiently well
When joining two pieces of artificial grass it’s extremely important to ensure that they are properly secured together, to prevent them from coming apart.
Some manufacturers recommend pinning the joins together using galvanized U-pins, but in our testing and experience, this will not be sufficient to form a strong, invisible join.
Solution: Use joining tape and specialist adhesive to join two pieces of grass.
Mistake 13: Joining tape is used incorrectly
Joining tape is supplied in lengths up to 100m and is placed between the two pieces of turf.
Joining tape is 300mm wide and firstly, it’s important to ensure that it is rolled out so that each piece of grass will make contact with the tape and adhere to it.
You’ll also need to make sure that you have the correct side of the joining tape facing upwards, otherwise the adhesive will not bond correctly.
You’ll also notice that both sides of the tape have different textures. One side is smooth and shiny, and the other is rough. To use the joining tape correctly, ensure that the rough side is facing UP, as this is the side you’ll need to apply the glue to.
If you apply the glue to the smooth side, the adhesive will not adequately bond the artificial grass to the joining tape.
Solution: Before applying the adhesive, ensure the rough side of the joining tape is facing upwards.
Mistake 14: Using too much or not enough adhesive
When securing joins, its also important to use the correct quantities of glue.
Use a notched flooring trowel to apply and spread approximately 2mm of adhesive to the entire width of the joining tape.
Using excessive glue may result in the adhesive leeching onto the fibres, making it difficult to remove.
Too little adhesive and your fake grass won’t bond correctly.
To ensure proper bonding between the adhesive and the joining tape, place some heavy objects along the joins, for example, the bags of kiln-dried sand that you should have on site ready to be used as the infill.
To calculate how much adhesive you’ll need for your artificial grass joins you can use our handy calculator, found here.
Bonus tip: if you get adhesive on the plastic fibres, use a small amount of white spirit to remove it, before it sets.
Solution: Apply a 2mm layer of adhesive to the entire width of the joining tape.
Mistake 15: Failure to secure the edges of your lawn
We spoke earlier in the article about the need to install an edging to the perimeter of your lawn.
Not only will this retain the aggregates installed under your fake lawn, but it will also give you something to secure the perimeter of the grass to.
Failure to do this will result in your grass lifting at the edges.
For this purpose we recommend using 330ml cartridges of Aquabond, rather than tubs of glue, as you’ll be able to apply it more accurately using a gun applicator.
If you have chosen to edge your lawn with timber or sleepers, you can fix the perimeter of the grass to the timber using galvanised nails.
Solution: Secure the perimeter of your lawn using either galvanised nails, U-pins or adhesive.
Mistake 16: Failure to install a sand infill
This is a hotly debated topic in the online world. Should you or shouldn’t you install a sand dressing/infill?
The answer to this is categorically yes.
There are several reasons for this:
-It adds ballast to the grass, preventing movement and rippling
-It supports the artificial fibres
-It regulates the temperature of the grass
-It increases fire resistance
-It improves and regulates drainage
-It prevents static
You may hear some people claiming that it is unnecessary or that they have a ‘non-infill’ artificial grass, but unfortunately this type of product does not exist.
It’s just marketing spin to make a product seem cheaper to install.
The additional cost of installing a sand infill is certainly worth it. You can pick up bags of kiln-dried sand from your local DIY store for just a few pounds each.
You may find our calculator on this page useful in working out just how much sand your artificial lawn will require.
For further information on using a sand infill, please read our previous article, ‘Should You Use a Sand Infill for Artificial Grass? We Reveal the Truth’.
Solution: Install a sand infill to your artificial lawn.
Mistake 17: Failure to brush the turf
The final task when installing artificial grass is to brush the turf with either an artificial grass rake, a stiff broom or a mechanical brush. This enables the sand infill to fall to the bottom of the pile, so it sits on and helps protect the latex backing. It also means that the fibres will stand upright, making the grass appear even more realistic.
If you don’t brush the turf, then the sand infill will sit on top of the fibres, flattening them down. It also means that the protection against sharp objects – including dog claws, if you have a pet that likes to dig – will be lost, meaning the latex backing might be lacerated.
Bonus tip: make sure you don’t use a brush with metal prongs, as this will damage the fibres.
Solution: When you’ve applied the sand infill, brush the turf to ensure it falls to the bottom of the pile.
Mistake 18: Choosing poor quality artificial turf
Our last mistake isn’t really an installation mistake, but is potentially a devastating error all the same.
Choosing the best artificial grass isn’t an easy task, especially when you consider the vast array of pile heights, colours, materials and manufacturing processes used to make artificial grass.
Like anything, you get what you pay for and if you want a realistic artificial grass that will stand the test of time, then you’re best steering well clear of the cheaper products on the market.
Solution: To avoid disappointment, choose a good quality artificial grass. To help you choose, please read our previous articles, ‘7 Important Considerations When Choosing the Best Artificial Grass’ and ‘The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Artificial Grass for Your Garden Lawn’. They are packed with useful advice.
As we said at the start of this article, you’ll get a far better, longer lasting finish to your artificial lawn if it is installed by an experienced, professional installer.
The additional costs involved in using a pro may be a worthwhile investment if you consider that your artificial lawn is likely to last longer and perform better.
A professional will also take away a lot of the potential stress that can be involved in installing artificial grass.
They’ll be able to handle everything from start to finish and advise you on the best products to suit your needs.
If you would like to find your nearest NeoGrass approved installer, you can do so by entering your postcode here.
But if you are going to go ahead with a DIY installation, then hopefully you’ve found this article useful in helping you to avoid potential pitfalls.
DIYers may also find our previous article, ‘22 Essential Tools for Installing Artificial Grass’, helpful, as you’ll learn about the tools you’ll need to carry out your installation.
If you would like to request free samples of our range of artificial grass, then fill out the form found here.
If you have any other questions regarding the installation of artificial grass, please leave them below and we’ll answer them for you.