by Ashley Moore

A synthetic grass project consists of many components and phases, but it all starts with the Base System.  The base system is the foundation upon which the entire synthetic grass project is built. It is akin to the foundation of a building, where every other phase depends on its strength, smoothness, durability, slope, and permeability.

If a proper base system is not put in place, then an artificial turf project can fail.  It is that important.  Natural grass and soil work together to drain and filter water so it can move through the substrate into deeper soil zones.  This is an intricate balance, so the synthetic grass base system needs to mimic Mother Nature’s natural ability to drain water.  And, in fact, a good base system is now able to improve on what Mother Nature herself is able to do and takes it a few steps further, allowing for up to 30 inches of water per hour / square foot to be drained away.

The steps below describe the site preparation, base system characteristics and the proper way to install a synthetic grass base system that will result in the project being a success.  

Utilities & Water

Before any landscaping project begins, it is important to identify any electrical, phone, cable or other utility lines that could be running under where the project is planned.  The same goes for water lines, sprinkler heads, drainage lines or natural drainage patterns.  All sprinkler heads in the project area should be capped or removed.  And the same holds true for any electrical features that are not wanted or needed.

Existing Material Removal

When a synthetic grass project begins, and prior to any base system installation, all existing grass, sod, roots, large rocks, mulch, and other vegetation is removed with sod cutters, shovels, pickaxes, and other sod removal tools that will assist in the grass removal process.  The removed grass can be used elsewhere or hauled away.  

Base Preparation

Proper preparation of the base is critical to the viability of the entire project.  Once all the existing material is cleared and the ground leveled, the project area is backfilled with a combination of aggregate rock and decomposed granite to a depth of 3-4 inches.  


The area is then graded and leveled to meet design and drainage specifications.  It is during this step that the slope and desired appearance are set.


After lightly wetting the area, it is then compacted down using a plate compactor and tampers to ensure each corner is reached. This is an important step and allows for a hard, smooth surface void of any air pockets or loose material.  With continual compacting, making sure to reach every area, the compaction rate will reach about 90%.   When the area is dry again it should be smooth and free of any lumps, bumps or sharp objects.

The project area is now ready for the star of the show…the artificial grass.  With proper attention to all the base preparation details, it will set the project up for success when the grass is installed, along with siding and silica sand infill.   There is no substitute for a well designed and properly constructed base system.  It will set the tone for a successful project from start to finish.

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