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How to Install Sod Yourself

Updated on February 13, 2018
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge is an avid reader who enjoys learning about beautiful things in the garden. Among other things, she has worked with a florist.

Sure, you can pay a company to lay sod in your yard, but why pay someone els to have all the fun? Okay, so laying fun might not be so much fun, as it is work, but there is something to be said for a job well-done, a good day's work.

Laying sod will take many man-hours, so be sure to enlist help from friends and family for your installation day. Many hands make light work! Before beginning, have a plan so you know what to expect.

Ordering and Planning

Do your research so you know what sod will work best in your location. For example, do you need "cool season" or "warm season" sod? Does the place where you'll be laying sod get direct sunlight or is in in a mostly shadly location? Different types of grasses tend to grow better in different locations. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service, or a nearby local college for suggested grass varieties for your area.

Ask your local sod seller for the suggested amount of soil you may need to import to your installation site. Contact your local "811" office (call811.com) to have underground utlities marked. Although you may not need to take sprinklers, power or electrical lines into account, it's best to be sure you won't have any unexpected issues in the future.

Although you can lay sod during grass-growing season, most sod companies suggest choosing spring or early autumn. During this time of the year temperatures are milder, which will lower the amount of stress on the newly growing grass. On installation day, begin laying sod early in the morning when temperatures are lower and the humidity is higher.

Position sod pieces as close together as possible to avoid dry patches and holes in your lawn.
Position sod pieces as close together as possible to avoid dry patches and holes in your lawn. | Source

Installation Day

Lay down the new soil so it's flat, but not overly packed. Use the flat side of a rake to smooth things out, or break up any large clumps of soil. Pick out any loose rocks or other debris that you may find in the soil. Although your soil provider likely sorted the soil, since it's a natural product you are likely to find some non-soil material in the mix. Moistureize the soil so it's damp, but not overly soggy.

Start laying sod near your high-traffic areas first, using straight lines as a guide. For example, start next to your sidewalk or driveway first. Position the sod piece as close to the edge as possible, and then step or kneel on a piece of plywood or cardboard as you go to install the next piece. Using the plywood displaces your weight and also helps to compact the sod piece into the soil, assuring a better connection between the sod and soil. (Avoid walking directly on the grass for a few weeks until the roots have had a chance to grow deeply into the soil line.)

Snuggle the next piece of sod as close to the original piece as possible, avoiding gaps between the pieces. Gaps between sod pieces will take longer to fill in with grass growth, and may cause brown patches in the lawn. Conversely, avoid overlapping the sod pieces, and cut-off pieces that are appear dried out or dead. Use a sharp trowel or utility knife to get the exact shape you’ll need to fit the sod pieces as close together as possible. Continue laying sod across the yard until you end up in the farthest corner of the yard.

Friends and family members come in handy with a sort of assembly line selecting pieces of sod from the delivery and handing them to the actual installer. Another helper can help with the watering. Don't be afraid to toss pieces of sod that look compromised, flat or otherwise unsightly; those pieces likely won't take hold to the soil.

Thoroughly water in your lawn once all the pieces are set in place. Better Homes and Gardens suggests watering your lawn to a depth of four inches, every day for the next few weeks, or until the roots have taken hold into the soil. Check for rooting by gently tugging on a section of sod in an inconspicuous place on your lawn, such as the far corner. If the section resists, you know the sod is taking root.

What's best for you though, seeding or sodding? Check out this video from the Sears Blue Crew for more information.

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