Laying sod

Laying sod

Do you want to renew your barren, brown, or weedy yard into a thick, green, lush lawn? Doing so is possible almost instantly, thanks to sod! 

Sod or turf is grass and the part of the soil beneath it held together by its roots or another piece of thin material. Sod installation may be labor intensive and in general, you should expect to pay at least 40 cents per square foot for sod you install yourself. That comes out to $400 for a 1,000-square-foot lawn area. 

Install your sod in spring, late summer, or early fall if you will be working with cool-season turf and any time of year for warm-season grasses. We have provided the following steps for a successful, instant, green, lush lawn.

Evaluate and solve current lawn problems

What went wrong?

Before anything else, do a reality check and figure out what happened to your old turf. Underwatering, overwatering, too much shade, poor mowing practice, and soil compaction are possible reasons why lawns fail. Make sure to evaluate your lawn and to make amendments to avoid the same issue with your new sod. 

How to water

Water your lawn deeply and less frequently to avoid over or under watering. Set an appropriate schedule in watering your lawn, usually two to three times per week and give your lawn one to one and a half inches of water per week.


If the area has a lot of shade, get a sod that will thrive with the amount of sunlight the area will be receiving. You can also overseed using a shade grass seed once the new sod has been established.


Aerate your lawn to avoid soil compaction and to improve air circulation. Aerations should be performed at least once per year. For lawns with compacted soil or soil with high clay content, it is best to aerate twice annually.

Test the soil

Test your soil first before buying sod to determine the soil’s pH. This step is vital to determine the lacking or abundant nutrients of the soil and so you can amend it if necessary. It takes about two weeks to get results back, and it will take more time to adjust soil as specified by the results. Be advised that sod should be laid down immediately upon receiving so you should not buy sod yet at this stage. A reading of soil pH from 6.0 to 7.5 is good for sod installation

Remove old turf

NEVER lay sod over existing grass, scrape off the existing turf. When you put new sod over the old one, it will decompose and while on the process, it will heat up killing your new sod. You can spray herbicide to kill the old turf and pull out with a sod cutter, or cover with newspapers or tarps to smother them. You can also use a rototiller however, make sure to call the call-before-you-dig hotline to avoid hitting utility lines. Whatever way you want to do it, try to shake off the soil from the as save valuable dirt for your topsoil. 

Till the area

Tilling will remove old turf, if you have a sparse lawn, and loosen the soil for the roots of the new sod will have a nice space to grow. Till existing soil to a minimum depth of at least two inches and then add topsoil to achieve four to six inches depth. For a perfect topsoil, mix one-third of black dirt, one-third of sand, and one-third of compost. This topsoil is more likely to retain nutrients, allow air flow and will provide a nutrient-rich and fertile bed for your new sod to take hold and grow properly and healthy. 


Level and smooth the surface. Leaving hills and valleys in your dirt will give you a hard time mowing later. It is okay if it is not perfect, just make sure that it is not bumpy, has no dips, and is nice and smooth. Pay special attention to the areas adjacent to curbs and sidewalks. Sod is about an inch thick, so level it with your old turf. Use a rake or flat shovel to lower the soil level by an inch or two below the grade of any paved surface, such as a walkway or driveway. Sod that rests too high next to concrete will tend to dry out quickly, get scalped by the lawn mower and eventually die.


You can apply fertilizer under the sod before it’s laid down to improve the soil quality or on top of it, after installation. Fertilizer will help the sod to become established and for the leaves to grow. Applying fertilizer will also depend on the soil test results.

Choose and buy the right turf

Installing a high-quality sod is the best solution to attaining a gorgeous lawn. In choosing the sod you want to install, consider your local climate, sun exposure, foot traffic, soil condition, and your irrigation system. Calculate your lawn size and purchase sod with roughly five percent extra so that you can use it to cut and fit around curves. Remember, it is wiser and cheaper to buy another roll than disposing rolls of excess sod. 

To pick up the right sod, inspect the grass side of the sod. Look for pieces of sod that have bright green blades that are uniform in color and that are about two inches long. Sod is perishable and must be installed immediately upon receipt. Heat can build up within a roll and cause damage to turf. Most successful sod installations are installed right after delivery to the jobsite. You should make sure that the sod is installed within 24 hours.

Lay sod 

The most important rule of laying sod is “green side up”. Lay your sod like bricks and avoid one long seam which encourages water to channel and makes seams come apart and become exposed. Seams should be staggered by no less than one-third the length of a roll or you’ll end up with a few long seams that will be noticeable and dry out faster. It will also avoid gaps, big dry sprouts and failing to establish a nice, straight line. 

Another way is to picture-frame your yard with “header row”. It hides all the cut ends, resulting in smoother, more unified edges. Lay sod against the edge, make sure that you push it up hard on each side. It should be tight up against each other without overlapping to avoid air pockets. For off-cut sections, you can use an edging tool, a knife or a shovel to cut the overlapping turf. When laying sod on a slope, do not forget to stake using a sod staple to avoid turf to float away during heavy rain. Install two stakes about 1 ft. in from each end.

Roll over new sod

This is a very important step in installing new sod. This will remove air pockets, promote good contact with the soil and allow your sod’s roots to go more quickly. Fill your lawn roller three fourths of the way full with water. Walk your lawn roller over your sod slowly where two pieces meet. Rolling over the edges of the sod flattens them out and bonds the both pieces of sod together.


The newly installed sod should be kept thoroughly wet to a depth of four to six inches and watered two to three times a day during the first two weeks, depending on the season for the root system to develop and become established. Lift a corner of the sod to determine the depth of moisture. As a general rule, keep sod and soil moist throughout the day but do not drench. After two weeks or once the turf has taken roots, you can water the lawn deeply and less frequently. Water two to three times per week, giving your lawn one to one and a half inches of water per week to develop a stronger root system.


Wait for the turf to get to three to four inches high before mowing. Use a walk-behind mower instead of a heavier equipment and you must do it carefully to avoid tearing up the newly-rooted grass. As a rule of thumb, do not cut it too short and do not cut more than one-third of its height as it will stress out the grass.


Again, creating a lush lawn is almost instant. This process will still require dedication and hard work but it is possible!

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