Synthetic turf has come a long way since its
first commercial application at the Houston Astrodome in 1966. Since then new materials
and advances in manufacturing allow the production of a more natural looking and durable product.
When you take into account the costs associated with maintaining natural turf synthetic turf
is also much more cost-effective. With a little time, a few friends, and some good old fashioned
elbow grease you can have a great looking low-maintenance lawn for years to come.
Installation is fairly simple as you’ll see over the next few minutes. The product we
used on this job is EPS Turf which is made in the US and is available exclusively through
Ewing Irrigation. There are several varieties and colors to choose from depending on the
look you prefer and how the turf will be used. Before installing your new synthetic turf
you’ll need a base consisting of two to three inches of compacted and level decomposed
granite or a quarter of minus road base. This is something you can do yourself but it’s
not uncommon to a hire landscape contractor for this part of the job.
The supplies and tools you’ll need for a typical synthetic turf installation include an EPS
seam kit which includes enough seam tape and glue to install 32 linear feet of seam, a
large caulking gun to dispense the glue, a spray bottle which will be used to activate
the glue in the seaming process, six inch steel nails to anchor the turf to the base.
You will need enough nails to cover the perimeter of the turf at a spacing of eight to 12 inches,
a hammer, a tape measure, and a utility knife with plenty of extra blades is essential.
For a more natural look you’ll need a material referred to as infill. Typically infill is
coated silica sand that helps the grass blades to stand up. However a rubber infill is often
used for athletic fields and play areas. A drop spreader will help give you more even
distribution on the infill, but spreading by hand will work as well. We suggest using
a turf rake to brush the infill down into the turf. A power broom will give you the
best result in less time but even a push broom would work. Depending on the job or the look
you’re going for you may also want to consider landscape edging.
The first thing you need to do to achieve a successful install is to plan it all out
on paper. Draw up a simple sketch of the area to be covered and measure it out. The turf
rolls are 15 foot wide and can be cut to length, so determine the best layout using your sketch
to keep waste to a minimum. This extra effort in planning will help save you some cash.
Once your turf arrives the first thing you want to do is move it to an area where you
have enough room to roll it out, preferably in the sun. The turf has been compacted as
a result of packaging and shipping so it will need a chance to warm up and expand before
you install it. A minimum of six hours is required but leaving it out for day is recommended.
Not doing so can lead to ripples or bubbles that will appear after the turf has been anchored
down. Before cutting your turf into manageable sections
that you will later seam together take into account the directions of the grain so that
your seam areas will match up. The other thing you want to do is trim the ends of each piece
where they will be seamed together in a way that mimics the stitching pattern on the back
of the material. Where the seam comes together one side should be cut right at the stitch,
while the other will include the span of the material between stitches.
When moving your turf sections to the job area roll them up and carry them to the site
rather than dragging them. Dragging can damage the turf and lead to problems down the line.
Roll your sections out per your plan and line up your seams. Once everything is in place
you can rough cut excess turf around the edges. Leave about four inches from where you’ll
make your final cut, which will happen after you’ve completed your seams.
The next step is to seam your sections together. Double check that the two edges are properly
aligned with each other. If you have a border or some other obstruction at the perimeter
cut a notch out of the excess turf so that the seam will be able to lie flat on the ground.
Now you can roll out your seam tape and cut it to length.
Next you want to identify which side of the seam tape that needs to face upwards. If you
look closely you’ll see that one side is dull and the other side has a slight shine to it.
The dull side needs to face up so that is the side that will be glued to the turf backing.
Then fold back one side of the turf and slip your seam tape underneath the opposite side.
Align the tape so that it divides the seam as evenly as possible. Then mark a line down
the center. This will help guide your application, preventing the glue from being forced up through
the seam and into the blades. Now fold back both sides of the turf so that the tape is
fully exposed. Then prepare your glue for dispensing.
Using an S pattern apply the glue down one side of your marked line keeping the glue
about a quarter of an inch from the seam. Then do the same for the opposite side. In
order to activate the glue you will need to mist it with water using your spray bottle.
Just enough to dampen it will do. Applying too much water can limit the effectiveness
of the glue. Once wet the glue will set within 15 minutes so you want to join the two sides
immediately after misting. Start at one end and carefully fold the two
sides together. Make an effort to keep the blades from being folded under or caught in
between the seam. Once both sides have been secured to the seam tape apply pressure to
the seam with your feet or use a weighted roller commonly used in vinyl flooring installation.
Now that your seam is complete you can make your final cuts around the perimeter. Use
a quality utility knife and replace the blades often. A sharp blade will make your job much
easier and will produce a clean-cut. Before you make cuts around corners make structurally
cuts in the fabric from the backside. Doing so will make it easier to make the final precision
cut, especially when you’re cutting to a curb, pavers, or other surface. If no physical border
exists you can use a garden hose to mark the path of your cut.
After finishing all your final cuts you’ll need to nail down the perimeter edge of the
turf using the six inch steel nails. 12 inch spacing between the nails is fine for low
traffic areas, otherwise you should space them about eight inches apart. When you part
the blades you’ll see gaps in the pattern. This is where you place your nail. You can
use another nail to help you spread the blades apart and prevent them from getting caught
under the nail head. When you drive the nail in do it at a slight angle and be careful
not to countersink it. Knock it down to where the head sets firmly on top of the fabric
without causing an indentation. If you have an existing sprinkler system it’s
okay to leave it operational as it will give you an easy way to clean and keep the synthetic
turf cool in the summertime. Place a nail or two in each head to keep the turf secure
to the ground. If you choose to keep your irrigation system operational be aware that
if a line breaks under your base material you will have to remove the turf to make the
repair. If you prefer not to take a chance of this occurring you can remove the heads,
cap the risers, and keep irrigation valves closed. It is recommended that you place nails
only around the perimeter. Nailing the center areas of your turf will prevent it from expanding
and contracting as temperatures fluctuate which can lead to ripples and bubbles.
At this point you can apply your infill. Using a drop spreader will help distribute the materials
evenly, but you can also spread it by hand. The infill will help the blades to stand up
giving the turf a more natural look. Infill also helps to weigh down the turf keeping
it in place. Once your infill is down brush it in using
a power broom or synthetic turf rake like the one shown here. Continue to brush it in
until you can no longer see the infill on top of the turf. The recommended application
rate if you’re using sand is one to two pounds per square foot. If using rubber infill
the rate is half the application rate of the sand.
The last step is to apply water to the entire turf area so the infill settles down in between
the blades. That’s all there is to it. If you’re considering installing synthetic
turf and would like to learn more contact your local Ewing branch and one of our experts
will be glad to get you started. You can also learn more about EPS turf products online