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How to Lay Sod

Man Laying A Slab Of Grass Sod Down

Installing sod for a new lawn can be a little stressful. It’s typically a larger investment and the new lawn is a living product. Whether you’re installing sod yourself or using a professional, it’s good to know how to lay sod down so that you know it’s being done properly.

If you choose to hire a new lawn installation company, make sure you review everything with your landscaper to avoid issues or dead grass in the future and check out our Sod University blog, How to Choose a Sod Installation Company: What to Look For.

If you decide to lay sod yourself, visit Tools Needed to Lay Sod in order to be well-prepared. Read on for a list of steps to lay sod.

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Looking to buy new sod? Use the Sod Sales Tool below to request a free quote. Start by entering in your address and amount of square feet you need to cover. If you aren’t sure how many square feet you will need to cover, find out in Step 3: Measure Your Planting Area.

How to Lay Sod

Materials:

  • A Soil Analysis (optional)
  • A Sod Cutter or Rototiller
  • A Non-selective Herbicide
  • Top Soil
  • Lawnifi New Lawn Starter Box
  • Sod Knife or Landscape Edger
  • Sod Roller (optional)
Step 1: Test Your Soil

The first step we recommend is testing your soil—before you apply chemicals to kill off your old grass and before you install the new sod. Your soil’s health is what determines the overall health of your grass. Working from the ground up is the best way to ensure superior grass quality.

It also helps balance your soil’s pH so that when you apply nutrients found in fertilizers, your grass is able to actually absorb them. In other words, if your soil’s pH is off, nutrients won’t be absorbed as effectively, meaning the fertilizer you apply may be a waste of money.

Taking a soil analysis and sending it to a laboratory is affordable, but typically takes about two weeks to complete depending on where you send it. Keep this timeframe in mind before installing sod so that you have enough time to receive results and determine what your soil needs.

Lastly, this step should be completed before applying a non-selective herbicide in step 2 below. Once applied, the chemicals in the herbicide may alter your soil pH temporarily before returning back to normal. Take a soil test before applying a non-selective herbicide for a more accurate reading. Be sure to check out our article on How to Test Your Soil for more information on soil tests.

Step 2: Choose a Type of Grass to Install

Selecting the type of grass for your lawn is probably one of the most enjoyable parts of the lawn installation process.

With that being said, be wary of picking a grass solely for its aesthetic and beauty. Make sure the grass can thrive in your environment and climate first. 

For example, if your lawn has a lot of shade, make sure you pick a shade tolerant grass. Also be sure to ask how much maintenance goes into the different types of grasses available. Here is a list of some things to do and think about before selecting a new turfgrass:

  • Research the area and climate you are located in.
  • Familiarize yourself with the different grass characteristics.
  • Understand the visual differences between grass colors, textures and other physical aspects.

Learn more in How to Choose the Right Type of Sod.

Step 3: Measure Your Planting Area

The third step involves finding out how much sod you will need to order. We recommend using the Area Calculator Tool to draw and measure how much surface area you’ll need to cover and determine how much sod you’ll need to purchase. 

  • Start by entering your address.
  • Draw an overlay shape for where you plan to install new sod.
  • You can now move forward with this square footage number and request a free quote.

Find more detailed instructions here or watch the video below. Once this step is complete, be sure to check out How Many Square Feet are on a Pallet of Sod?.

Step 4: Kill and Remove Old Grass

Before installing new sod, it’s important to clear the area of any currently existing grass, vegetation or debris in the area you want to replace with new sod. This should be done AFTER a soil test. Killing the grass first makes it significantly easier to remove.

The difference between a selective and a non-selective herbicide is that a non-selective herbicide kills all vegetation it comes in contact with—so be careful not to get it on any desired shrubs, trees or your garden. A selective herbicide only works to kill the weeds it’s labeled to kill.

Be sure the product you purchase is a non-selective herbicide that will kill everything it comes in contact with to ensure your lawn is completely dead. A non-selective herbicide is more effective in making sure your old grass (along with previously existing weeds) doesn’t invade your new sod.

If you are removing grass, we recommend following these steps:

  • Begin by making an application of Specticle or some other glyphosate-based/nonselective product 10–14 days before new sod installation takes place.
  • Wait 3–4 days and then make a second application if the grass isn’t dying quickly enough.
  • Once your grass is dead, use a sod cutter or a rototiller to remove the top layer of grass and debris.
  • Follow all label instructions and safety precautions with your glyphosate product.

If you plan to use a sod cutter or rototiller, don’t be intimidated! You can rent this piece of equipment from a local hardware store. Home Depot has a rental service, for example. Check it out. Read How to Use Sod Cutters When Sod Needs Removal for more information on what a sod cutter is and how to operate them.

Step 5: Prep Soil & Level

This step is very important. Proper site preparation makes it easier for new grass roots to penetrate deeply and evenly.

Deep roots will make the lawn denser and drought resistant, allowing for more efficient use of water and nutrients. A dense lawn will outcompete weeds and resists insects and disease better as well.

Follow these steps to begin prepping and leveling your soil:

  • Reduce compacted soil with a rake or hoe.
  • Pull up or add organic matter.
  • Smooth out the soil’s surface to get a visual for how leveled your yard is.
  • Wait for rain or irrigate with a sprinkler to help settle the soil a little more.
  • Smooth the soil’s surface one last time.

Be sure to moisten the surface of the planting area before laying sod. For more information on prepping and leveling your soil, take a look at our article, Leveling Your Soil and Preparing for Installation

Step 6: Lay and Roll Out New Sod

Once you have done all the preparation work, it’s time to have your sod delivered and installed. The grass should be off the pallet and in your lawn in 48 hours or less.

When laying out the new sod, it is recommended to follow these tips:

  • Plan on where the sod will be delivered and have them place it in a convenient location in your yard.
  • Use wagons or wheelbarrows to help transport slabs to where you’re working as you move around.
  • Place slabs of sod in temporary shady areas while you’re installing to keep it from drying out. Consider creating different piles of slabs throughout the yard so that the slabs are located closer to the area you’re working in as you move around.
  • Plan on having the appropriate amount of people handy to help with labor. We generally recommend a team of three for an average-sized yard.
  • Have the right hand-tools, such as utility knife box-cutter to cut oddly shaped pieces to fit around curbs or other landscaping.
  • Use a brick pattern when laying with off-setting seams.
  • Use a landscape edger or machete to cut around corners and at the edges.
  • Place the pieces together as tightly as possible to prevent weeds from pushing through the seams and to retain moisture.
  • Once installed, the grass should be rolled for smoothness.
  • Find more handy tips for sod installation projects in Tips for Your Next Sod Job

Pictured above from left to right: Sod laid in a brick-like pattern and a man using a sod roller to smooth the new sod out into the soil.

Step 7: Water and Fertilize

During sod installation, it is essential that the sod is watered thoroughly. Soak the area after the sod is laid as water is needed to keep your grass from drying out. 

The edges of sod pieces are more prone to drying out. Sod laid around the edge of the yard, near sidewalks or driveways are also more likely to dry out. Be careful not to overwater as this may create opportunities for disease outbreaks in your new sod. For more details, visit When to Water Newly Installed Sod.

Select a fertilizer that provides the necessary nutrients your soil may need according to the soil analysis results you should’ve received by now. Your new sod needs plenty of phosphorus at this time.

Phosphorus helps roots grow so that the new sod can establish successfully. Sometimes it can be hard to understand a fertilizer label so we discuss a few ways to interpret and find what you’re looking for here. We recommend using Lawnifi’s® New Lawn Starter Box, which comes with three bottles of liquid fertilizer.

Grow, the first and second bottle of the New Lawn Starter Box, is especially useful during the establishment process. It serves to promote healthy root growth of newly installed grass by providing nutrients like phosphorus, potassium and carbon.

Apply the first bottle of Lawnifi Grow at half rate (only use a half of the bottle). The soil should be moist 3–4 inches deep. You’ll apply the remainder of this first bottle between days 2 and 5 as you’ll see in How to Care for New Sod.

Then follow the schedule that comes with the box and read When to Fertilize Newly Installed Sod for more information.


What’s Next?

Congratulations on your new lawn! Now you know how to install sod. If you’ve officially finished installing your new sod, you may be at the “now what?” stage. Check out the three articles below and don’t forget to subscribe to Sod University, our free educational newsletter we send out on lawn and garden.

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