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Set up Node.js, Grunt and Node-Sass from scratch

Run the following steps inside a clean directory

Not sure if you are in the same boat as I, but I could not find any good resource out there that pulled this all together. So here is a step-by-step tutorial for creating a Node.js app from scratch, adding in Grunt and then Node-Sass. Yeah, try and find good docs on Node-Sass alone :(

Hope this is of help!

Create your Node.js project

  • npm init - create a clean node project
  • NOTE: be sure to add "private": true, to the package.json so that your project is not globally distributed as a npm app

Install Express

  • npm install --save express - install the Express package and save to your package.json file

Install Grunt

  • npm install --save-dev grunt - install the Grunt package and save to your package.json file

Set up skeleton project framework

  • mkdir public - at the root of the project, crate a new 'public' directory
  • mkdir public/stylesheets - create stylesheets directory within the public directory

Get the app started

  • touch app.js - create the core application .js file

  • add the following

      // set variables for environment
      var express = require('express');
      var app = express();
      var path = require('path');
      // Set server port
      console.log('server is running');

Install template language

  • npm install --save ejs - to install ejs -- or --
  • npm install --save jade - to install jade
  • mkdir views - create views directory for template views
  • touch views/something.ejs - create any view file -- or --
  • touch views/something.jade - create any view file

Update the app.js file

  • add the following above setting the server port

      // views as directory for all template files
      app.set('views', path.join(__dirname, 'views'));
      app.set('view engine', 'jade'); // use either jade or ejs		// instruct express to server up static assets

Adding routes, make a home page

  • NOTE: ALL routes need to come BEFORE app.listen(4000);

  • update app.js to reflect template being used per the route

  • mkdir views where all view templates will live

  • touch views/index.jade - create base index file

  • Open app.js and crate root route that points to that template file

      	// set routes
      	app.get('/', function(req, res) {
  • Just before the </body> in your template file, be sure to add in the script for LiveReload

      	<script src="//localhost:35729/livereload.js"></scrip>

Install Grunt-Sass

  • npm install --save-dev grunt-sass - install grunt-sass

Add Sass to the project

  • mkdir sass - create Sass directory in the root of the project

Create Gruntfile

  • touch gruntfile.js - create a new Gruntfile in the root of your project, add the following code to the empty file

      	module.exports = function(grunt) {
      	  grunt.initConfig ({
      	    sass: {
      	      dist: {
      	        files: {
      	          'public/stylesheets/style.css' : 'sass/style.scss'
      	  grunt.registerTask('default', ['sass']);

Install Grunt Watch

  • npm install grunt-contrib-watch --save-dev - install Grunt watcher and save as a Dev resource

  • Add the following to the Gruntfile within the grunt.initConfig

  • Add the livereload: true option so that LiveReload will work on your project

      	watch: {
            source: {
              files: ['sass/**/*.scss'],
              tasks: ['sass'],
              options: {
                livereload: true, // needed to run LiveReload

Our desired file structure

	|- node_modules/
	|- public/
	|--- stylesheets/
	|- sass/
	|- views/

Get things running

Now that you have a bare bones project set up, we need to get things running. Typically I will be running three terminal windows/tabs for this.

  • user terminal for file navigation
  • run Node server $ node app.js
  • run grunt server $ grunt watch

Now you should be able to navigate to http://localhost:4000/ and see your project running.

Install a Sass framework

For this project I choose to use Thoughtbot's Bourbon library.

While this library is a Ruby Gem, this does not place a Ruby dependency on your project. The Gem installs a version of the Sass mixin library directly into your project.

Before installing the library, update your file structure to contain a lib/ directory within your sass/ directory.

|- node_modules/
|- public/
|--- stylesheets/
|- sass/
|--- lib/
|- views/

Let's install Bourbon.

  • $ gem install bourbon or sudo gem install bourbon (if you are not running RVM)
  • $ cd sass/lib change directories to the new Sass lib directory
  • bourbon install to install the library
  • Open the style.scss file and add @import "lib/bourbon/bourbon";

Install UI foundational framework

Within the sass/ directory, we need to install a foundational directory framework to start constructing our site. I recommend the following:

|- _buttons.scss
|- _config.scss
|- _forms.scss
|- _modules.scss
|- _reset.scss
|- _typography.scss
|- _vendors.scss
|- application.scss
|- buttons/
|- colors/
|- forms/
|- layouts/
|- lib/
|- modules/
|- ui_patterns/
|- vendors/

In our application.scss file, we need to import a few files to get this started.

// App Config - this is where most of your magic will happen
// ---------------------------------------------------------
@import "config";  // Editing the config file sets the theme for the project

// Import core Sass libraries
// ---------------------------------------------------------
@import "lib/bourbon/bourbon";

// Standard CSS reset stuff here
// ---------------------------------------------------------
@import "reset";

The reset I have included in this project is a modified version of Eric Meyer's reset plus some ideas from the HTML5 reset project. Additionally I have updated this reset to be more Sass driven using variables.

Next add the individual Sass files that will make up the base, module, vendor and layout portions of the project

// Base
@import "typography";
@import "forms";
@import "buttons";

// UI Patterns and Modules
// State is addressed within the component code itself
@import "ui_patterns/manifest";
@import "modules/manifest";

// Vendor specific styles / modules
@import "vendors/manifest";

// Layouts
@import "layouts/manifest";

This will complete the initial set up of the bare bones project. From here you will be able to customize the Sass to fit the design of your project.

NOTE: When you say 'Get the app started' you say touch app.js, you should make it clear that during the init process you recommend to change the default index.js to app.js ;)

JGallardo commented Dec 31, 2016

grunt Warning Task “watch” not found

so this has many missing steps and fallbacks. Searching on stackoeverflow was of little help here

actually the gruntfile code has errors fixed code is something like this

module.exports = function(grunt) {
  grunt.initConfig ({
    sass: {
      dist: {
        files: {
          'public/stylesheets/style.css' : 'sass/style.scss'

    watch: {
      source: {
        files: ['sass/**/*.scss'],
        tasks: ['sass'],
        options: {
          livereload: true,


  grunt.registerTask('default', ['watch','sass']);
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