How to Install Artificial Turf Between Concrete Pavers

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Our outdoor space has been a long time in the making and we are so excited to share it with you!  April here with Designer and the DIYer.  We have been waiting for the perfect time to reveal each and every part of the process, but now that summer is in full swing and the yard is littered with all the pool toys and summer things, are we ever going to be picture ready?  After an overwhelming response to Nick’s turf installation video, you all are clearly ready for the deets.  I hope this post gives you a good place to start and of course the confidence to install artificial turf in your own backyard! 

The Original Plan

Before we get ahead of ourselves though, let’s rewind and talk about “this project” and the original landscaping plan.  When Nick and I first discussed how we envisioned our yard, we both knew we wanted a design that incorporated concrete pavers with grass.  The look of concrete pavers with grass is classic, organic, and just the vibe we were after for our outdoor oasis.  The most beautifully designed spaces are never without textural elements that bring contrast and dynamic visual interest.  Texture can and should be added to outdoor design too! The grass between the pavers brings this element of texture and softness to balance other hardscaping, and we just had to have it.

Here were a couple of the original inspiration photos with diamond pavers and grass or turf. 

bomanitetorontoltd via Instagram

I love that they used the pavers and turf to define “living spaces”.  Have you noticed this movement towards creating outdoor spaces that are reminiscent of indoor living spaces?  Call me crazy, the diamond paver with turf look even reminds me of an indoor area rug, no?   Diamond pavers and turf can be used strategically to define spaces, add visual interest, and break up hardscaping.  This designer knocked it out of the park.

Beautiful designed outdoor living space by Matthew Murray Design.

In Texas we have stricter (than most) rules on impervious coverage, defined as human-made surface that doesn’t absorb rainfall including but not limited to patios, driveways, and pool decking.  These limits on impervious coverage can limit not only the size of the pool but also the decking surround.  We decided we actually preferred the softer more natural look of pavers and turf versus other hardscaping anyway, but if you are also limited in your part of the country by impervious coverage or maybe HOA restrictions, consider that this design may be a great way around those coverage limitations.  😊

While we briefly considered natural grass between the pavers, we were intrigued by all the natural looking turf options!  There is clearly a growing demand for luxury turf that so closely mimics the look and feel of grass.  Since are often in a drought here in Texas, so we loved the idea of having perfect looking grass minimum water usage and maintenance *right* next to the pool.  Once we worked the numbers, we decided the expense of turf installation (labor and materials) was one we could maybe justify versus the long-term expense of lawn maintenance. 

Lay it on the table : how much $$$

Well… turns out when we first got quotes for this project we were actually blown away at the cost for turf installation.  In the Austin, TX area the turf itself ranges from about $1.40 to $6.50 per square foot.  However, professional turf installation in Austin (materials NOT included) runs between $8.15 to $15.80 per square foot!  Keep in mind that when contractors bid for turf installation it is typically based on total square footage of the area, not just the tiny strips between pavers.  When Nick volunteered to take on the project, I was admittedly a bit wary. However, after researching the process a bit more we decided artificial turf installation is simply not rocket science and makes for a great DIY project!

Pick your turf wisely

When we made the decision to go with turf we also made the decision to find the closest match to our current Zoysia lawn. If you’ve ever selected white paint, you know that it is surprisingly very challenging!  Just like selecting white paint, it is impossible to see the undertones (and texture) from a computer screen.  Gather your samples and lay them side by side in full sunlight to see what textures and undertones you are drawn to most.  We went with SynLawn St Augustine 547 which has more olive undertones.  Also, many of the artificial turf options also have subtle flecks of brown that really mimic the natural look of grass so beautifully.

If you are installing the turf near a pool, take extra consideration of color undertones at play!   The pebble finish of our pool is French grey which typically produces a medium blue water color.  Because our pool is surrounded by a lot of vegetation and because the olive turf that naturally has more yellow/brown undertones, the pool color leans more green versus blue than we anticipated. 

Materials required for artificial turf installation

  • Decomposed granite
  • DIY hand tamper
  • 6” nails
  • Garden staples
  • Marker
  • Hammer
  • Seam tape
  • Shears: Most videos use a utility knife, which you do need for some cutting, but these worked so well, we could not have done this project without them.
  • Knee pads (not required, but highly recommended for this project)
  • Utility knife

The Process: How To Install Artificial Turf In Between Concrete Pavers

The first step is to make the tamper.  What is this used for? The hand tamper is used to pack the decomposed granite. I found this was a really useful tool to quickly level the granite prior to placement of the turf.   Because the width between pavers is 4” we were able to nail together to 2×4’s and then attach a PVC pipe “handle” to easily compact the granite. 

We created a second jig to help us measure out the appropriate strips of turf.  Again, because the width between pavers was 4”, we simply cut and nailed together two 2×4’s to use as a template when measuring and marking the turf.   If you decide go with a different width between pavers, you will of course need to modify both your tamper and jig to match the width.  

  1. Place the decomposed granite between the concrete pavers.  Use your DIY tamper to compact the decomposed granite so that it is even and level with the concrete paver height.  
  2. Place your 2×4 jig along the turf and use it as a guide to mark your strips.
  3. Use the utility knife to your longest strips first, and always cut your strips slightly longer than the required length.  Again, always make sure you pay attention to the grain of the blades!
  4. Cut small strips of seem tape to place below the points where the strips intersect.  Remove the backing so that the adhesive is face-up and lay the smaller strips of turf. 
  5. Add three nails, one in the middle and two on the edge.  As you place the nails you will need to wiggle them a bit Make sure to dig between the blades of grass to find a hole that is at least the width of the top of the hammer?? (help)
  6. Add staples as needed if there are areas or seams that do not seem to connect as tightly. 
Before, you get started we want to cover one quick topic to ensure the most professional looking results.

Artificial grass has a directional pile which means that the blades tend to lean in a single direction. When artificial turf is manufactured, it is rolled onto a core, much like a large area rug.  The materials in artificial grass have “memory” to the direction that they are rolled and compressed on the core.  Even after the turf is unrolled and relaxed in the sun, the blades point to the same direction.  In order to achieve the look of professionally installed, natural looking turf, the blade direction for each strip of turf needs to remain as consistent as possible.

Why? Several reasons. 

  1. When strips of turf are installed with the grain in varying directions, the seams become very obvious. This project requires many small strips of turf, and seams are going to be inevitable.  However, the idea is to hide those seams as best as you can for the most natural look. 
  2. Artificial turf tends to look best when you look into the pile direction but should be laid based on personal preference! To determine the most visually appealing turf grain direction, the easiest thing to do is lay out a strip of turf and see how the color and texture varies from four different sides.  We found the most natural and visually appealing blade direction was leaning or pointing towards us.  Therefore, it was important to us to lay the turf with the blades pointing towards the house and our main outdoor living space looking out to the pool.   Determine the viewpoint or perspective from your yard that you care most about.  You are going to want to lay the turf based on this perspective and remain consistent.  This can result in more waste, but it is just really important in the overall look. 
  3. You know the look of the stripes on a newly mowed lawn? If you lay two strips of turf side by side with opposing pile directions, you will notice that there is also noticeable color variation.  Even if you struggle to identify directional differences on the blades, you will notice the strange visual effect of varying pile directions.

Bottom line: pay attention to pile direction!

Thanks so much for stopping by the Designer and the DIYer and check back for more posts and tutorials to come on how to DIY your dream outdoor space and pool.  I’ll leave you with some after pics here.  What do you think?

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