Can I Lay Artificial Grass On Soil?

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Turf Factory Direct Can I Lay Artificial Turf on Soil How to Install Turf on Soil

Originally posted on May 6, 2021

The short answer to this question: absolutely. Artificial turf is a great alternative to a natural grass lawn, especially when it comes to saving water or increasing the value of your property. However, laying artificial grass over soil requires some prep work and understanding of the overall turf installation process in order to be successful. Turf Factory Direct is here to help. Keep reading to get more information about installing turf, or browse our blogs for helpful information about turf

Can I install artificial grass on top of natural grass?

Unfortunately, no. You must remove natural grass and all other organic matter, and lay a base before installing artificial turf on soil. Laying artificial grass on top of soil is a great option, but laying artificial turf on top of natural grass creates an uneven and unattractive surface that is more likely to become damaged. If grass were to continue to grow under turf, it could poke through the turf backing, lift the turf up, cause the turf to sink, or trap moisture, leading to damage and an unattractive lawn. A base provides a stable surface for turf and allows for drainage.

How to Lay Artificial Grass on Soil

Laying artificial grass on dirt isn’t a particularly involved process, but it does have some important steps to follow.

Step 1. Gather Your Tools

Installing artificial grass probably doesn’t require any tools that you don’t have, but you’ll need a few specialized tools for the installation:

  • Shovel 
  • Sod cutter
  • Rake
  • Utility Knife
  • Stiff bristle broom
  • Lawn roller
  • Garden hose
  • Turf nails
  • Seam tape
  • Adhesive
  • Hammer
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk or paint
  • Lawn spreader 

Additionally, renting a compactor might be a helpful thing to do if you have a large area to cover. Stomping with a shovel or using a temper is an option, but it takes more time. 

Step 2. Remove the Topsoil

Utilizing a sod cutter, hoe, or shovel, cut away the grass, sod, and unwanted vegetation from the marked areas, taking care to remove large unwanted rocks or roots. The typical depth of a sod cutter will need to set at 2-3 inches; however, in colder areas of the country, you may need to excavate up to 4 inches due to the need for more base material to address cold-weather ground expansion and contraction. Check in with your Turf Factory Direct representative to see which is appropriate for your area. 

Turf Factory Direct Can I lay Turf on Soil Turf Installation Grade the Surface

Step 3. Grade the Surface

After you’ve removed the topsoil, you’re going to need to grade the turf areas. Using a rake, grade the areas of application, and then lightly water them down with a garden hose. If you’re really trying to be thorough, use your plate compactor or heavy drum roller to level out the dirt, otherwise, you can just walk over it repeatedly. Keep making passes over the project area until you have ensured that your compaction is acceptable. 80-90% compaction is recommended.

Step 4. Base Application

Around a ton of rock base covers 100 sq ft of an artificial turf yard with a 2” base. You’ll need to upgrade to 2 tons of rock for a 4” base. Spread it around as evenly as possible, and make sure that you pace yourself with a bow rake or similar tool so you don’t end up hurting yourself. 

What is the best base for artificial grass?

In most artificial turf installations, the best base is ¾” to ¼” crushed drain rock. You can find these rocks at a local gravel pit or rock yard. Don’t use pea gravel because it won’t compact well. Decomposed granite, crusher fine gravel, and class 2 aggregates all work well. The purpose of the base material is to provide drainage and a level surface. The base material can help drain up to 30 inches of water per hour. 

Homeowners and pet facilities have experienced faster and better drainage of dog urine to reduce odor with a ¾” rock.

Base Depth

Base heights may vary from climate to climate and from project to project.  A 4” base is the standard recommended base; however, in some arid climates, the base may be as low as 2”.  In colder climates, a deeper base of 4” will most likely be needed to aid in the ground’s expansion and contraction due to freezing weather.

Level & Compact the Base

Using a sod roller or plate compactor, you will need to compact the base as much as possible so it’s smooth and solid when you’re walking on it. Wetting down the area will keep it compact and make the overall process easier. 

Dampen the base material with a hose, then compact it with a roller compactor, vibratory plate compactor, or hand tamp. This will require several sweeps of the area. The base is ready when it has dropped about 0.3 inches from its original depth.

Smooth this material with a rake until it has an even appearance. For flat surfaces, create a 2 to 3 percent slope using a ruler, bubble level, and string. The slope should lead to the curb or a drainage system if you have one installed.

If there’s an area with a depression or any sinking, apply screening or stone dust until it’s level. 

Turf Factory Direct Can I lay Artificial Turf on Soil Turf Underlay

Do I need underlay for artificial grass?

It is not a requirement to apply an additional underlay beneath turf. However, many people use and recommend certain turf underlays for different applications: 

  • Padded underlay for sports fields or turf laid on concrete to provide extra cushioning underfoot; 
  • Drainage underlay on roofs with turf, concrete patios, lawns with poor drainage or flooding problems, and indoor athletic or pet facilities;
  • Weed barriers for lawns and landscaping that’s prone to weed growth. Artificial turf itself and the turf installation process is usually enough to suppress weed growth, but every once in a while, a few can sneak through, and it’s hard to get rid of them once they do.If you are concerned about weeds growing, you can prevent this by installing a geotextile barrier around the outer edges. Alternatively, this weed barrier can be installed at the base. You can also place rodent wire here if your area is prone to mice or rats. 

You should never lay artificial grass directly on top of existing grass or bare dirt. A base is required to  keep the artificial turf laying flat and even, allowing for drainage and preventing tears and damage. 

What can I put under artificial grass for my dog?

For an outdoor turf lawn, there’s not much that needs to be added to artificial grass for dogs besides a pet-friendly turf infill. Turf that is installed on concrete and indoors will likely need a drainage underlay to help prevent a build up of urine, leading to odor. Additionally, we recommend laying padding under turf on concrete to provide extra comfort and cushion to our furry friends, whether running around or taking a nap. Regular cleaning and removal of waste is always a must to maintain pet turf. 

Step 5. Prepare the Turf

While waiting for the base material to be fully dried, roll out the artificial turf next to the area. Compact the base material again if it is still not smooth after drying. Add another layer of base material if the base ends up being too low. Be sure to lay the turf out ahead of time to work out any misshapen spots so it can lay flat during installation. 

Step 6. Place the Turf

Take measurements of the area where the turf will be installed, along with measurements of each turf strip. Have another person help you stretch each panel of turf, lift it up, and place it on the base. Always lift and carry panels of turf, and do not drag the turf onto the base, since doing so can make the surface uneven.

Turf Factory Direct Can I lay Artificial Turf on Soil Install Turf Cut the Turf

Step 7. Cut the Turf

Cut panels of turf on the underside with a utility knife if needed. When you need to make longer cuts, make a series of shorter cuts along the length. Make sure to pull back the blades of glass and be careful to cut the backing between them, not the fibers themselves. Your cuts should leave the two panels as close as possible without actually touching.  Then, you can trim the turf to match your edges around the borders.

Turf Factory Direct Can I Lay Artificial Turf on Soil Install turf Secure the Turf at the Seams

Step 7. Attach the Turf

Fold the edges of adjoining panels back, then use artificial lawn seaming material on the base. Apply adhesive to the seaming material, then put the turf edges back in place. Do not overlap the grass or leave a gap, otherwise, the joins will be visible. Add weight down the length of the seam or use a heavy roller. The drying time for adhesives will vary. 

Since there are several methods for attaching turf panels, be sure to check with Turf Factory Direct about which method is best for your specific turf product.

Fasten the Turf Perimeter 

Fasten the turf around the outer edges by placing turf staples, turf nails, landscaping anchor pins, or galvanized stakes about 6 inches apart. Flatten them with a hammer.

Turf Factory Direct Can I Lay Artificial turf on Soil Install Turf Brush the Turf

Step 8. Brush the Turf Fibers

Brush or comb the turf with your desired tool such as a push broom, backside of rake, or carpet comb. You will also brush the turf with a power broom in between each application of infill material in the next step. 

Turf Factory Direct Can I Lay Artificial Turf on Soil Install Turf Spread Infill

Step 9. Spread the Infill

Infill helps weigh the turf down while allowing the bristles to remain upright. It also adds cushioning to the surface. Materials that are commonly used include black crumb rubber and washed silica sand.

Make sure to evenly apply the infill over the entire area, one layer at a time, using either a drop spreader or a broadcast spreader. Take your time and pay attention to how much area you are covering. You should walk at a consistent speed and adjust speed depending on how fast the infill is falling out of your spreader. You can hand spread these areas for hard to reach or small areas such as corners or against walls where a spreader cannot reach. 

Brush or comb again, and repeat these two steps until you are out of infill or have reached your desired level of infill. Spraying the turf with water after installation can help some infill settle as well.

If any uneven areas of infill that the broom or comb cannot fix, quickly use a leaf blower about 3 inches from this area, and the infill will soon disperse. Feel free to level out any other areas, especially corners and walls, with the blower also. Once you are happy with your infill and brushing, generously hose the entire project area down evenly.

What is the best time of year to lay turf?

The best time of year to lay artificial turf is when the weather is warm and dry, mostly during the spring and summer months. 

Turf not only requires a dry climate to allow for the adhesive to dry, it also requires a warm temperature to allow it to lay flat for installation. Turf responds to changes in temperature the same way many other materials do— it expands and contracts. If you install turf while the climate is cold and the turf is more contracted, it is more likely to slump and wrinkle when it warms up and expands, which makes it unattractive and more prone to damage. 

Summer time might be the only option for some parts of the world, as you don’t want to lay down turf when it’s wet and rainy, and that can eliminate the spring rainy period for some people. 

For best results, the best time to install your artificial turf is when the temperature is close to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and above.

How long will artificial grass last?

Well maintained artificial turf can last up to 20 years, but the average turf lifespan is 10 to 15 year.

The Versatility of Turf 

When compared to natural grass, artificial grass can’t be beat. Artificial turf is one of the best materials you can lay down on a yard, deck, or gym. Turf saves water, is eminently affordable, and can be installed as a DIY weekend project. Whether you’re installing artificial grass on dirt, or anchoring a swing set on artificial grass, Turf Factory Direct is your source of high quality artificial grass for your next project. Our helpful and knowledgeable staff is there to help you complete the yard project of your dreams. Get in touch with us today!