Small section? No sunlight? Difficult access? Just can’t be bothered? Shrinking backyards and the Kiwi desire to build big houses leaves little space for an immaculate lawn. Why spend your time tending to a lawn when you can put down artificial grass instead?
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Artificial lawns have come a long way from the flat, green turf you saw in the backyard of The Brady Bunch house. Now it can look like the real deal and is available in different colours and lengths from a close-cropped bowling green to a longer, roughly 40mm high lawn. It probably still won’t fool anybody as it’ll always look healthier and brighter in comparison to other lawns nearby, especially at the end of a long, hot summer.
You can go down the DIY path for installation, but it’s not as simple as rolling out a green carpet over the top of your old lawn. The key to installing it correctly is having a stable and level base.
If you’re replacing an existing lawn, you’ll need to break out the shovel and dig down at least 60mm over the whole area before filling, levelling and compacting some gravel. This gives the new turf a base that won’t sink when it rains and will last for years.
Tip: Ideally you’ll have long, straight edges, such as planter boxes, pavers or a fence, to lay the lawn up against. Otherwise you’ll be left with a ragged-looking finish.
Laying and compacting gravel to achieve a level finish is not as easy as it sounds, and will probably be the trickiest part of your installation – using string lines will be a big help.
Putting down your “grass” is the easy part, but it requires an eye for detail. You can get 1.8m to 2m wide lengths of it in hardware stores for as little as $20/m.
Roll out the lengths next to each other and join them up using adhesive tape underneath. This part is fiddly, so take your time (or get someone else in to give another eye on operations) as any creases or gaps between sheets will stick and ruin the overall natural look.
Once laid out, trim the edges as neatly as possible using a sturdy craft knife. After pinning everything down, throw down some sand, which adds weight to the lawn so it can’t be picked up in the wind. Then, after brushing it in, you’ll have a perfect-looking lawn that never needs mowing.
If DIY isn’t in your DNA then you can always get a professional in to do it for you. What you’ll pay depends on several factors such as the turf you choose, access to your property and the local market.
You can expect to pay at least $120/m² and costs will climb from there. Make sure to get a few different quotes, check the company’s installation process and ask for referrals from past jobs so you can check out their handiwork. There are different schools of thought as to how deep you need to lay the base and this impacts the overall cost – the deeper the base, the higher the price.
There are still a few things you’ll need to do to maintain your new artificial lawn. Over time with weather and foot traffic you can expect the “grass” strands to flatten out, and there’s the chance sand can move from high-wear areas.
You can take care of this by:
The occasional weed can still sprout from the sand – just pluck them out when they appear.
By James le Page
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