What’s In Your Tool Bag?
The Essentials for Every Synthetic Grass Installation
What’s in Your Tool Bag?
During my travels across the nation, I have noticed contractors using the incorrect tools and materials needed to be a productive and successful installer. I actually get the weird eye look and multiple questions when I break open my tool bag. Everyone has the right to use whatever tool that they desire when it comes to installing synthetic turf, but will the tools you use make you a successful installer with bigger profits?
This month Ask JW will provide you a list of tools you will need to do the job right.
Other than picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, below are tools and machinery that I recommend for the installation of synthetic turf projects.
Sod Cutter Machine
Productively faster than a pick a shovel, a sod cutter machine mechanically cuts natural grass from below the root level. When the sod cutter machine is put at the correct elevation it allows you to roll up the removed natural grass for easier removal from the project. The Sod cutter machine can also be used to loosen up the subgrade soils after the natural grass is removed.
I recommend this type of grade rake for grading subgrade materials. The edge is approximately 1inch in height which allows the user to precisely level fine imported sand. This type of grade rake is great for installing subgrade materials for putting greens. It allows the installer to create undulations much easier that other rakes.
A must tool for installing subgrade materials below the synthetic turf. Water must be introduced into the soil to for proper compaction. Compaction prevents synthetic turf subgrade from settlement. I recommend wetting down the synthetic turf surface after your installation. This will settle all infill to an even consistency and rid all fine dust on the surface of the fibers to give your finished project a clean look.
Upside Down Marking Paint
When marking lay out and exterior edge of putting greens it is advantageous to carry upside down marking paint. I prefer dark green just in case you drop the can or get overspray on the synthetic turf.
This mechanical compactor is a must for all synthetic turf installations. If the subgrade is not properly compacted you will have settlement of the subgrade soils and will have to remove the turf and redo the grading. You can rent mechanical compactors for most rental facilities.
A hand tamper is a compaction tool. This tool is used for all edges that a mechanical plate compactor cannot reach. It also is useful for compacting sidewalls of slopes and sand traps for putting greens.
Hammers are used to install staples and nails. I recommend using hammers with straight claws other than curled claws. Using a straight clawed hammer will allow you to use the claws to bury the nail heads mush faster and efficiently without the head of the hammer causing depressions in the turf and subgrade by over hammering. The straight claws of the hammer will also remove nails easily that have been bent during installation due to hard underlying surfaces and rocks.
If the installation requires grass removal it is important to either use SGW Weed barrier or a SGW pre-emergent. This will prevent weeds coming through the drainage holes. For more information please go to the “ASK JW Weed Prevention Column for more details and information.
In some parts of the country Gofers are digging up and through the synthetic turf. This is very costly to patch and many times the entire area must be removed, holes filled and new synthetic placed. Gofer screen is a wire mesh barrier that is laid on top of the compacted subgrade materials prior to placing the synthetic turf.
I recommend having a 35’ feet tape measure along with a 100’ feet tape measure. The 35 feet taper measure allows you to have enough length to lay out two sections of synthetic turf at 15’ feet for more accuracy.
When marking your measurements on the turf I recommend a grey metallic sharpie marker and a yellow paint marker. The grey metallic sharpie marker is very visible when marked on the backing of the synthetic turf. The Yellow paint marker is great for marking the scrim when snapping chalk lines for cutting sections of turf off the roll. It is very visible for fast paced production projects. Be careful not to get yellow paint on the fibers.
Large Chalk Box
It is advantageous that you snap chalk lines when cutting sections for your layout of synthetic turf. It is a good habit to have and will lower your waste percentages. I prefer a large chalk box instead of a small one. The large chalk box will give you more visible lines to cut on and you rarely have to fill up when needed. I recommend using a “Lime Green” chalk that you can purchase at Home Depot or Lowes. The lime green is easier to clean up than other colors and it blends with the turf fibers if you have a spill.
If you want to prevent back injuries, and be a more productive installer then I would suggest purchasing a Turf Dolly. This Turf Dolly makes transporting your heavy rolls with ease. It takes the place of several men depending on how big and heavy the rolls are. One man can transport the entire roll to a backyard with ease. You may purchase a Dolly/Transport form any carpet wholesale supply company.
The push cutter is one of the most important tools that should be in your tool bag. When cutting sections to be placed on your project, snap a chalk line first then follow with the push cutter. This will also eliminate mistakes of cutting too much turf off the roll. This tool allows you to cut excess waste off the perimeter of the turf with speed and accuracy. The push cutter blade cuts from the bottom of the turf (the backing) without cutting the top fibers. The push cutter is great for cutting circles around trees. Make sure you change out the blade every 30’ feet for fast smooth cutting.
Edge Push Cutter
This is a specialty tool for low pile height turfs. I recommend using this on long runs that are up against vertical walls. It takes practice to use but when perfected it is awesome!
I know every installer has their preference on the knives that they use, but I strongly recommend the “Personna” knife shown at the picture to the left. I have used all types of knives over my 20 years installing synthetic turf and the “Personna” proves to be the best. Its design allows it to last for decades. Its blades are the sharpest on the market. Most knives break down and fall apart due to its mechanical mechanisms. The “Personna” design carries extra blades inside itself and can be changed out within seconds. I recommend a “Four sided round blade”. The four sides allow you to change the blade out four times using the same blade. The round blades cut through thick backings without dragging which slows down production.
I highly recommend using a nail bucket when installing turf. It keeps your nails organized and not all over the place. It prevents nails and staples getting hot while spread out on the lawn. The bucket filled with nails is lighter than a 50lb box to carry around plus it doesn’t leave a depression in the turf when you move around. The nail bucket also provides safety so that nails and staples are not left behind. Be productive and go to your nearest hardware store and purchase a few they are only a couple of dollars.
A Carpet/Turf kicker is a must to have for every install. It allows the installer to stretch and remove wrinkles while installing nail or staples. If a mistake is made while cutting an edge the kicker can stretch the turf to close the gaps. When the turf is stretched it prevents “heat wrinkles” in the hot summer days.
The Superseam Tools are available for regular turf grass and putting greens. This tool eliminates the dreaded “Mohawk” and hides seams in all turf and putting greens.
The strongest glue on the market today for seaming synthetic turf. This glue will outlast the life of your turf. It comes in 5 gallon, 1 gallon and 29 oz. tubes. SGW carries a Superseam 1/8” trowel to make sure the glue is applied evenly.
When you are installing large runs of synthetic turf, use the inside core of the synthetic turf roll to push out the wrinkles and follow nailing behind. This is very fast and productive.
I recommend using sidewalk chalk when marking the radius of putting greens. After you mark the putting green use the push cutter and cut on the inside of the chalk line. It rubs off easy after installation.
Every successful installer should always carry a power broom. This machine not only saves time and money but fibrillates the fibers prior to placement of infill.
I recommend a curled rake for brushing up synthetic turf. The curled ends pull up interior thatch better than regular flat ended rakes.
The drop spreader is needed to place the infill into the fibers of the synthetic turf. The drop spreader places the infill evenly and prevents excessive infill from trapping the fibers. I recommend an industrial drop spreader for larger projects.
I recommend carrying a soft bristle push broom and a stiff (asphalt broom) for all installations of synthetic turf. The stiff bristle is used for infill placement and the soft bristle for clean up after the installation is finished.
A leaf blower will clean up your project and will also be useful blowing excessive infill that is piled up.
when installing Sports fields, Playgrounds and larger installations, I recommend using a magnet sweeper after the installation is complete. This will pick up any blades, nails and staples that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
I recommend carrying at least two pairs of scissors in your tool bag. They are very useful in trimming elevated fibers and great for blending in seams.
A wire brush is great for manipulating and hiding seams in regular turf and putting greens.
This tool is a must when installing putting green cups. If the cups are not installed level the flags will all be tilted and will make a golfer unhappy.
When the projects are completed and you have turf left over I recommend using strapping tape (1” wide) to secure all synthetic turf. Roll up the left over turf remnants and use this tape to keep the remnant tight. Unlike duct tape the glue will not fade and get sticky in hot summer months. It is the strongest tape on the market.
Stay tuned for next month’s ‘Ask J.W.’ installment!
For more information, contact J.W.: email@example.com or call 888.846.3598