Installing artificial grass is an appealing option for homeowners looking for a low maintenance, pet and kid-friendly landscape. However, properly preparing the base beneath the synthetic turf is vital to ensure the lawn lasts and looks great for years. So an important question arises — can I lay artificial grass directly on soil or sand?
This article will cover:
- Key benefits of artificial grass
- Considerations before installing turf
- Challenges with soil and solutions
- Using sand as a base layer
- Proper installation techniques
- Borders and finishing the project
We will also examine key considerations around preparing common ground surfaces under artificial grass, including:
- Using native soil, dirt and topsoil
- Leveraging sand, crushed stone and gravel
- Installing purpose-made base layers
- Vital ground preparation work
- Following manufacturer base guidelines
- Choosing edging materials for trimming
We will compare the site preparation, associated costs, drainage capacities, and durability differences for each base option.
Equipped with this knowledge, you can determine the optimal materials for anchoring resilient artificial turf able to withstand ages of lively foot traffic.
Is Artificial Turf Right for My Yard?
The first stage entails deciding if adopting synthetic turf works for your landscape and lifestyle by weighing:
- Major time savings on lawn care maintenance
- Slash outdoor water usage
- Wet and child friendly soft blades
- Withstands high traffic activities
- Cushioned surface prevents injuries
- Higher home resale values
Considerations before installing
- Costs more upfront than sod
- Removal of existing grass/plants
- Site preparation work involved
- Customizing color/pile limited
- Heat absorption in direct sunlight
If the benefits prevail, advancements in materials and installation methods make embedding high-performance artificial grass possible over soil, sand, gravel or other common bases.
Challenges With Soil Bases for Turf
Utilizing existing soil, uncompressed surface dirt, or imported topsoil offers cost savings for homeowners. However, taking vital steps to stabilize the subsurface and provide adequate drainage proves critical to prevent common issues like:
- Weeds can still sprout up through the turf from seeds in soil.
- Settling and depressions form over time without a sturdy base.
- Poor drainage causes water pooling under grass.
- Loose dirt lacks stability for anchoring turf.
Impacted Aspects From Poor Soil Conditions
- Reduced surface stability
- Louder audible noise when walking
- Gapping visible at the seams
- Shortened product lifespan
But remedies exist for each issue when working with soil…
Useful Solutions for Soil Substrates
To bolster load-bearing capacity, consider incorporating:
- Tilling in masonry sand for firmness
- Grading slopes for optimal drainage
- Mixing crushed granite for rigidity
- Compressing with mechanical equipment
- Applying weed barrier fabrics
- Excavating to add drainage pipes or trenches
- Testing porosity and nutrient levels
The extra materials and labor radically strengthen the soil’s physical profile to support surface loading compared to simply overlaying synthetic grass mats atop inferior unaltered dirt.
For lowest long range costs, assess improving site conditions rather than total topsoil removal and import.
Why Sand Makes a Great Base Layer
High-quality builder’s sand reigns as the longtime preferred fill layer in artificial turf installations. Reasons include how sand:
- Self-levels when raked smooth
- Naturally conforms around contours
- Won’t compact or compromise drainage
- Supplies cushioning with firmness
This forgiving yet stable nature provides suitable padding for active kids and pets. Sand also resists erosion better than dirt when heavy storms hit.
What Type Sand Works Best?
Seek medium-grade Masonry sand versus Play and Pool grades. The coarser rubble composition compacts less over time for ongoing porosity and drainage.
Step-By-Step Sand Preparation Process
Properly install atop sand by:
- Inspecting and addressing grading/drainage
- Excavating/leveling area several inches
- Hauling and pouring clean sand
- Raking smooth to uniform height
- Optional compacting for added rigidity
- Rolling out synthetic grass sections
- Anchoring perimeter nails/adhesive
- Infilling rubber granules to stabilize pile
This forms a resilient pad for artificial grass while allowing precipitation to permeate instead of puddling.
How Gravel And Crushed Stone Fares As Bases
Gravel, decomposed granite, crushed limestone/concrete blends, and other loose aggregated rocks serve well too for synthetic lawns.
- Strong foundations for heavy traffic
- Often locally-sourced for lower costs
- Combine with sand for improved stability
- Simpler installation than many options
However, their sharper composition demands careful grading and installation to prevent potential punctures. Over time, splintered fragments may also surface upward, requiring removal and fresh infill.
Purpose-Made Fake Grass Base Materials
Besides natural minerals from the earth, engineered substrates specifically for subsurface turf applications exist too, like:
Plastic Interlocking Base Mats – Provide superb drainage and cushioning but costs escalate quickly for larger yards.
Coconut Coir – Resists decomposition better than wood fibers when wetness lingers. Allows easier resurfacing than porcelains or ceramics later on.
Tire Crumb Rubber Padding – Cradles impact while extremely stable. However, may hold uncomfortable warmth and features darker coloration prone to showing around edges compared to natural earthen materials.
These proprietary materials perform wonderfully but come at higher price points for average homeowners.
Vital Ground Preparation To Aid Any Base
Regardless of which base medium you select, also address:
- Compression using mechanical rollers
- Grading, sloping and contouring
- Consulting the turf manufacturer guidelines
- Weed prevention fabrics
- Stabilizer anchoring nails/adhesive
This fortifies the substrate, allows precipitation drainage, and prevents eventual shifting or gapping over years of play.
Choosing Edge Trims to Border Synthetic Lawn
A final vital finishing aspect includes selecting perimeter edging solutions to contain the turf and limit fraying around the margins.
Options range from:
Wood Boards – Natural appearance but requires protective staining
Plastic Edging – Resilient to moisture but creates hard, sharp corners
Aluminum U-channels – Withstand traffic but conducts heat poorly
Concrete Curbs – Provides firm consistent barrier yet difficult adjusting later
Be sure to anchor well with galvanized pikes every 6-12 inches apart.
Concluding Key Takeaways
We covered multiple factors around preparing and installing synthetic turf over various base medium options. Main lessons:
- Numerous materials like soil, sand and gravel can support turf
- Assess drainage, compression and slope regardless
- Specialized proprietary bases offer cushioning too
- Edge trims neatly contain turf at boundaries
You can now select bases catering to your property’s exact site and cost conditions. Properly installed, today’s realistic-looking resilient artificial grass withstands years of lively activity with vastly less upkeep than traditional sod lawn alternatives.
Now feel free to begin your project assessment and surface preparations to soon enjoy lively playtimes on refreshing lush hassle-free grass!