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How To Install Artificial Turf Over Grass / Dirt [Outdoor Installation Guide]

Installing synthetic turf outdoors is a process. While not incredibly technical, there are key steps to ensure your turf area looks good, performs well, and doesn’t get washed away.

3 Keys to Success When Installing Synthetic Turf

  1. Proper excavation
  2. Solid base
  3. Anchoring the turf

Excavation / Installation of Base Foundation

The first step is to clear the area for the turf. You will need a relatively level piece of land, which will allow water to drain properly.

A sod cutter is vital to completing this step. Without a sod cutter, you would spend 10 times the time, with 100 times the blisters. You can rent a sod cutter for about $50 a day from a local rental store.

Next, scrape and clean out all roots, trees & top soil. Remove about 4 inches of top soil, down to a firm type of clay, shale or compacted dirt.

For states in the Southwest, with less top soil, this removal is less important.

Proper Slope

The foundation should have a slope of 1-2 degrees in all directions from North, South, East & West from the high point of the area. For example, use laser grading when available, marking the area with stakes. All sides, corners and middle should be pulled to check grade. The typical cost for this process is roughly $.50 per square foot.


For professional fields, installation of drains is critical.

Unless in a very rainy area, residential or amateur fields or batting cages can skip this step.

Drains should be covered and placed about 30 feet apart. The drains need to be near the bottom of a drainage ditch which is roughly 8″ below field level. Remove the water to a central storm drain or collection pond. Most of the water is taken to the sides and not through the base. As a result, the amount of water weeping through the turf will not be strong enough to erode the base. Extremely rainy climates may take extra precautions by installing an underground drainage system.

The pipes used to remove the water from the storm drains can be solid or perforated. If the pipe has holes, place 1/2″ drain rock around the pipe and cover with strips of scrape turf or a geotextile fabric so the drains do not clog.

Forming the Base

If you do not have a firm layer after the sod has been disposed of and the top-soil removed, you will need to tamp the dirt to make it compact. A machine will make this step easier.

For those looking for a good work-out, a hand tamper will also do the job.

After the dirt has been compacted, there are 3 options from this point

A) Concrete slab

This option is pretty self-explanatory. There are several pros & cons to consider with concrete bases.


  • Provides a solid base won’t wash away
  • Gives a solid surface to glue turf to


  • Permanent
  • Invasive
  • Can be expensive
  • Long cure time
  • Not DIY

Contact a local concrete company for a quote.

B) Compacted Limestone Base

After you have a solid layer of dirt, a layer of crushed rock / limestone “pug mix” will need to be added to give the base solid stability. This should be spread in layers, to prevent the machinery from cutting into the dirt. Ideally, the base should be several inches above the surrounding land so a natural run-off will occur.

The final top 2″ should consist of limestone “screenings”, also referred to as crusher rock. Crusher rock is a fine dust-like limestone that will be mixed with water to create a solid “concrete like” layer under your turf. As a result, your turf should be level and smooth with no more than 1-2 degrees of slope.

After the screenings have been applied, moisten the entire area with water.

Finally, drive your compacter machine over the limestone, this results in a compacted solid state.

This is an excellent video for demonstrating this process:


  • DIY
  • Least expensive of 3 options (unless extensive drainage required)
  • Can offer good drainage if installed properly


  • Can create drainage problems
  • Not as level of a surface
  • No solid surface to adhere / staple to

C) Plastic Modular Base System

The interlocking modular base system from Ultra Base Systems (UBS Professional Tile / UBS Champion Tile) is an excellent alternative to concrete. As a result, you can skip the cure time, and enjoy the portability of a modular system for a lower overall cost.

Steps required to complete a base using UBS:

  1. Remove sod
  2. Tamp dirt
  3. Apply geo-textile fabric
  4. Apply modular pieces
  5. Staple down turf

We are authorized dealers for Ultra Base Systems. If you would like a quote for your project, please contact us with your details.


  • DIY
  • Less expensive than concrete
  • Quicker set-up time than concrete
  • Excellent drainage
  • Solid surface to attach turf to
  • Level surface


  • Can be more expensive than crushed rock
  • Can take longer than crushed rock solution

Installation of Synthetic Turf

When installing synthetic turf outdoors, it will need to be cut on-site to create perfectly straight edges.

The factory edges are often not a perfect angle. As a result, you’ll need to use a laser to identify the imperfect edge, and chalk a straight line down the turf. Trim the edge of the turf with a box cutter / carpet blade. Trimming from the back side makes this step easier.

The seams can be glued with seaming tape.

Does your turf have a white “waffle pattern” action-bac backing? If so, an indoor seaming tape can be used. Seaming tape has adhesive built-in. That means you will need to melt it from the top with a hot iron to join the sections together.

Here is a great demo video for this process:

If your backing is not white action-bac, perhaps a black marine back or black urethane, then seaming tape will need to be applied and adhesive applied to the tape as you go.

Henry’s makes a great multi-purpose adhesive that works well. Find an adhesive that works in your climate and is urethane compatible.

Landscaping stakes are great for anchoring the outside edges and seams into the ground.

We hope you enjoy this guide to installing synthetic turf outdoors. Leave questions in the comments section below.

Happy turf trails!

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