DIY Installing Sod

Hard work and a little elbow grease may be the deciding factor of choosing sod or grass seed when improving your landscaping.  If your budget will allow you to purchase sod, consider installing it yourself to save costs.  The cost of sod installation is usually two to three times the cost of the product itself.  But it’s not easy yard work, particularly if you’re covering a large yard.

Either way, you’re going to have to prep the site, which is the most difficult part of the project.  For grass seed to grow or sod to take root, it needs clean, tilled, fertilized soil.  


Measure the area to be sodded.  Use the width multiplied by length (in feet) to get your square footage, sketching your yard with measurements is helpful.  Use the sketch when consulting with the sod farm.

Prep Soil

You’ll need to remove existing grass either with a turf remover or grass killer.  One is a backbreaking tool, the other a chemical, it’s your choice.  The chemical can take up to two weeks to kill the existing grass, and make sure not to kill the garden, shrubs and trees in the process.

Once you've cleared the yard of exising grass, loosen soil to a depth of four to six inches.  A rototiller is perfect for the job.  For larger areas, consider renting a motorized garden rototiiller. 

Rake and smooth out soil, removing rocks and any other debris.  This sounds easier than it actually is, as you’ll have tree roots to contend with.  Consider soil additives to help your sod find a healthy home.


Now’s the time to regrade your yard if you need to.  If you have drainage issues, slope the soil away from buildings and driveways.
Smooth soil, keeping a constant grade while fixing holes.  The level should be approximately 1-1/2 to 2 inches below the surface of a driveway or sidewalk.

Now that you’ve loosened and  graded, you need to firm the soil back up and recheck the grade.  You’ll need to rent a lawn roller to do this.

Water the soil to a depth of about 6 inches to provide a base for the sod and firming up soil even more.


Install sod immediately when it is delivered.  It needs installation with 12 hours for best results.  This is the reason buying sod at a ‘big box’ store isn’t a good idea – goodness knows how long it’s been there.

Begin installing along a straight line, such as a driveway, sidewalk or the side of a building. Stagger joints like you would in brick installation. 

Pull the edges together without overlapping or leaving gaps, butt up as close as possible.

Sod must be watered within 30 minutes of installation, so have the sprinklers ready, willing and able to water each section as it is installed.


It probably looks wonderful!  Now, you need to keep it that way.  Your goal is to have sod root to your yard to become your new lawn.  To do this, you need to water at least 1-2 times per day for the first two weeks.

Follow the mowing and use recommendations for your particular sod.  Generally, your yard can be mowed and used within three weeks, when the sod has ‘knitted’ or rooted to your yard.

The immediate gratification in seeing your new lawn cannot be equaled with grass seed.  But you’re sure going to have some blisters to show for it as well!