Growing a lush, green, and healthy lawn is easy when you lay sod. Growing grass from seed has its advantages but expediency is not one of them. It can take years for the grass to fully root and spread.
By contrast, sod is already there: the sprouted seed that’s securely rooted in inches of soil. Once you know how to lay sod, you can have a gorgeous lawn anywhere in your yard in just a few days.
- Working time: 2 to 3 days
- Total time: 5 to 7 days
- Skill level: Intermediate
- Project Cost: $400 to $600 for 50-foot by 20-foot coverage area
When to Lay Sod
In most areas, early autumn and spring are the best times of the year to lay sod. Temperatures are moderate and precipitation is usually plentiful. But it is possible to push the project to nearly any time of year since one advantage of laying sod overseeding is that sod is hardy and better able to withstand temperature spikes.
Can You Lay Sod Over Existing Grass?
In most cases, it is not possible to lay sod on top of an existing lawn. Sod must have soil contact on the bottom to properly take root. An intervening layer of grass will compete with the new grass for nutrients. Also, an existing lawn may not provide a flat surface for the new sod.
Killing the existing lawn and weeds, then removing it with a sod cutter, is the best way to provide a healthy environment for the sod to grow.
If you need to remove existing turf prior to laying the sod, call your local utilities locating service. Free in most areas, this service will visit your property and mark electrical lines, plumbing pipes, and other critical services with temporary marking paint.
Sod is heavy. Pallets of sod can weigh upwards of 3,000 pounds, so be sure to have the delivery service set the pallets on a flat, solid, and level surface to avoid tipping. Each roll of sod can weigh between 30 and 45 pounds, depending on the moisture content. So hold each roll close to your body to avoid straining your back. When lifting sod from the ground, lift with your legs, not your back.
If you decide to use a glyphosate-based herbicide to kill existing grass and weeds, observe all safety instructions that come with the product.
- Sod cutter
- Lawn roller
- Flat shovel
- Garden hose and sprayer
- Twine and stakes
- Nylon rope or plastic safety fencing
- Tape measure
- Sod rolls
- Soil pH test kit
- Topsoil (optional)
1. Measure Yard and Order Sod
Using a long tape measure, measure the length and width of the area to be covered. Multiply the length by the width to arrive at the total square footage. Add another 5 to 10% to account for wastage. Order sod from a local supplier to ensure sod that’s right for where you live. Ideally, have the sod delivered within 24 to 48 hours of when you expect to start rolling it out.
2. Mow Existing Grass
Mow the lawn with the lawnmower set at the lowest level. Bag and dispose of the lawn clippings.
3. Apply Herbicide
Several days before you plan to roll out the new sod, apply a herbicide to the existing lawn. Glyphosate-based herbicides are effective and will kill the grass and all weeds within a few days.
TIP: If you prefer, you may use an organic herbicide, but be prepared for repeated applications.
4. Cut Sod
For large areas of sod, it’s usually best to either rent a motorized sod cutter or hire a professional who can do the job with their own sod cutter. A motorized sod cutter can cut 1,000 square feet of sod in just an hour or two.
As an alternative, you can use a kick-style sod cutter. This manual cutter slices the sod off of the soil with repeated kicks to a lower pedal. Expect to cut about 80 to 100 square feet of sod in an hour.
5. Remove Sod
Once you cut the sod, the sod remains on the ground. Starting at one end of a cut slice, roll up the sod. Stop every three feet and cut off the slice with the shovel. Remove the roll, then come back and continue rolling up the slice. Continue until all of the sod is gone.
6. Dispose of Sod
Dispose of the sod by using it to fix other areas of the lawn, composting it, or gradually disposing of it in your yard waste bin.
7. Till Soil
Using a rented rototiller, till the soil to a depth of six inches. Well-aerated soil is one of the keys to successfully laying sod and having it thrive.
8. Clear and Flatten Soil
With the rake, clear out large rocks, tree roots, and other obstructions. Also with the rake, flatten down bumpy areas of the soil and fill in depressions.
TIP: An easy way to identify depressions in the soil is to spray it down with water. The resulting puddles point to depressions. Immediately fill in those depressions with soil before the water drains away.
9. Test Soil pH
Test the soil’s pH levels with an inexpensive pH testing kit, available at most home centers or nurseries. Amend the soil as needed with fresh, bagged topsoil and fertilizer.
10. Prepare For Rollout
Devote an entire day for rolling out the sod. Begin early in the morning. Uncover the sod but keep it shaded.
11. Dampen Soil
With a garden hose and sprayer nozzle, lightly dampen the soil. Be careful not to create pits or wash away any of the topsoil or fertilizer.
12. Begin First Roll
Identify a straight section of the driveway or sideways to use as a reference line for starting the first roll. If your yard doesn’t have a feature like this, create a line with the twine and two stakes. Run the taut line between the stakes.
13. Finish First Roll, Continue Next
Follow the first roll to its end. Start the next roll at the end of the first roll. Push the second roll firmly against the first roll to prevent gaps, but not so tightly that you create a hump or wave. Continue in this manner until you reach the end of the first line.
14. Roll Rest of Sod
Lay the next line of sod against the first line. Push the two lines of sod firmly together, side-to-side. Keep rolling out sod.
15. Wet and Rake
Occasionally, wet down the soil again and rake out the remaining soil to level it and remove footprints.
16. Patch Sod
Use extra rolls of sod to patch gaps. With the shovel, chop off a necessary amount of sod from a roll, then push it into the gap.
17. Flatten Sod
When all of the sod is complete, use the lawn roller to flatten down the sod. This helps the sod make better contact with the damp soil underneath and gives the sod a smoother profile.
18. Water Lawn
Your sod is now a lawn. Use a sprinkler and hose to thoroughly water the lawn until it is soaking wet.
19. Avoid Contact
Set up stakes around the lawn and run the nylon rope around the stakes to form a barrier. Or use plastic safety fencing stapled against stakes. Leave the lawn alone, with no foot traffic, for at least three days.
20. Mow Lawn
Let the lawn grow to at least 3 inches high before mowing it. Mow down 1 inch. Leave a thick mat of 2-inch-thick grass to preserve the moisture. Fertilize the lawn after mowing.
When to Call a Pro
You may want to hire a professional landscaper for certain steps within the sod installation project: cutting the sod, removing the sod, disposing of the soil, or tilling the soil. If the lawn is greater than 1,000 square feet, you may want to hire a pro for the entire project due to its scale.
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