What kind of preparation is required before artificial turf installation?

Installing artificial turf can be a great way to achieve a lush, low-maintenance landscape. But before you get to rolling out the green carpet, there’s crucial groundwork to be done. Proper preparation ensures a smooth installation process, prevents future problems, and guarantees a long-lasting, beautiful artificial lawn. Here, Blackrock landscape and construction will delve into the essential steps for preparing your ground for artificial turf installation:

Calling for Underground Hazard Location:

Before breaking ground (literally!), safety comes first. Underground utility lines like gas, water, and electrical cables can be lurking beneath the surface. To avoid any nasty surprises during excavation, contact your local utility locating service, often referred to as 811 (in the US). They will mark the location of any buried utilities on your property, ensuring a safe and worry-free excavation process.

Assessing Ground Conditions:

Once you’ve ensured a safe digging zone, it’s time to take stock of your existing ground conditions. Ideally, your lawn should have a slight slope for proper drainage. If your area slopes significantly, you may need to create a terraced effect with retaining walls to ensure proper water flow.
The type of soil on your property will influence the base material selection for your artificial turf. Clay soils, for example, may require additional drainage solutions compared to sandy soils.
ake note of any existing features like sprinkler systems, fire pits, or patios that will need to be incorporated or adjusted during the installation process.

Eliminating Existing Vegetation:

Existing vegetation, including grass, weeds, and even trees (depending on size), needs to be completely removed to create a clean and stable base for the artificial turf.

For established lawns, a sod cutter is a powerful tool that efficiently removes the top layer of soil along with the grass roots.
For smaller areas or uneven terrain, removing vegetation manually with a shovel is an option.
A non-residual herbicide applied before excavation helps prevent any remaining roots or weed seeds from sprouting and disrupting your new artificial lawn.

Applying Weed Killer:

Even after removing existing vegetation, persistent weed seeds can remain dormant in the soil. To prevent future weed problems that could push through the artificial turf, applying a pre-emergent herbicide is highly recommended.

Here are some key points to remember when using weed killer for artificial turf installation:

Select a pre-emergent herbicide formulated specifically for use before laying artificial turf.
Always adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and safety precautions.
After applying the herbicide, wait the recommended amount of time before proceeding with the next steps to ensure its effectiveness.

Excavating the Subgrade:

Now comes the physical transformation of your landscape. This involves excavating the designated area to create a level subgrade for the base material. The depth of excavation will vary depending on the thickness of your chosen base material, the desired finished height of the turf, and any drainage solutions you might be incorporating.

Remember to maintain a slight slope during excavation to ensure proper water drainage away from your house and other structures. Once you’ve reached the desired depth, compact the exposed soil using a plate compactor to create a firm and stable base.

Installing Drainage Solutions (if needed):

Proper drainage is crucial for a long-lasting artificial turf installation. If your soil has poor drainage or your area receives heavy rainfall, installing a drainage system becomes necessary. Here are two common drainage solutions:

A perforated drainage pipe installed along the perimeter of the excavated area can collect and channel excess water away from the turf.
A specialized drainage mat with channels or bumps placed over the compacted soil allows water to flow freely through the base material and drain out through the perforated drainage pipe or directly into the surrounding soil.

Choosing and Compacting the Base Material:

The base material acts as a critical layer between the compacted soil and the artificial turf. It provides drainage, stability, and helps level uneven surfaces. Here’s what to consider when selecting your base material:

This is a popular and versatile choice offering excellent drainage and stability. Choose a variety with a consistent particle size for optimal performance.
This finely crushed material creates a smooth and level base. It’s a good option for areas with minimal drainage concerns.
An eco-friendly option, recycled concrete offers good drainage and can be a cost-effective choice depending on availability.

Laying a Weed Barrier (optional):

While not always necessary, a weed barrier can be a valuable addition to your artificial turf installation, especially if you have persistent weed problems or use a base material with less weed-suppressing properties. Here’s what to consider:

A weed barrier helps prevent weeds from pushing through the turf and spoiling the aesthetics of your landscape.
Opt for a heavy-duty, landscape-grade fabric specifically designed for weed control beneath artificial turf.
Lay the weed barrier over the compacted base material, ensuring it overlaps at seams by at least 12 inches. Secure the edges and seams with landscape staples to prevent them from shifting.

Adding Padding (optional for comfort):

For areas where comfort is a priority, such as around a playset or pet area, adding a layer of padding beneath the turf can be beneficial. Here’s what to consider:

Padding provides a softer surface underfoot, making your artificial turf more comfortable for activities like playing or lounging.
Common padding options include recycled rubber crumb or urethane pads. Choose a pad with good drainage properties to prevent waterlogging.
Spread the padding material evenly over the weed barrier or directly on the compacted base material (if a weed barrier isn’t used). Ensure the padding maintains the desired slope for drainage.

Preparing for Edges and Seams:

If your artificial turf installation requires multiple pieces to be joined, proper edge preparation ensures a seamless and aesthetically pleasing result. Here’s what to consider:

1. Installing Edging:

Edging material made of plastic, metal, or concrete helps secure the perimeter of the turf and prevents it from fraying or shifting over time. Choose edging with a height that matches the thickness of your chosen turf.

2. Trenching for Edging (optional):

For a more secure and finished look, consider trenching a shallow groove around the perimeter and inserting the edging material before backfilling with compacted base material.

3. Seaming Preparation:

If using multiple turf rolls, ensure the edges to be joined are clean and free of debris. You may need to trim the selvage (edge with stitching) for a seamless connection.

Disposing of Removed Materials:

The excavation process and weed removal will generate waste materials like soil, sod, and debris. Here are some responsible ways to dispose of them:

Hire a hauling service for large quantities of removed materials.
Consider composting organic materials like removed sod, following proper guidelines for yard waste.
Explore reusing some of the excavated soil for raised garden beds or landscaping projects in other parts of your property.

Final Grading and Leveling:

Before installing the artificial turf, it’s crucial to ensure the entire subgrade is level and properly graded for drainage. Here’s what to consider:

Use a long level and straight edge of artificial turf to check for any high or low spots in the base material, padding, and edging.
If necessary, add or remove base material to achieve a perfectly level surface with the desired.


Proper groundwork is crucial for a long-lasting artificial turf installation. The first steps involve clearing the area of existing vegetation, rocks, and debris. Drainage is key, so ensure the soil allows water to flow freely. In some cases, a weed barrier and a layer of compacted crushed rock will be needed. The base should be level and compacted to prevent future dips and unevenness. By following these steps, you’ll create a solid foundation for your artificial turf to thrive on for years to come.

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