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Sod—also known as turf grass—is fully mature lawn (grass, soil, and roots) that's professionally grown and sold in squares or rolls. This "instant lawn" is ready to install and transforms bare dirt into lush, green lawn in a matter of hours. Laying sod is a feasible do-it-yourself project but professional installation ensures better and faster results.
Considerations for Laying Sod
Keep the following points in mind if you're thinking about installing a sod lawn:
Laying sod has a number of advantages compared to growing grass from seed, including:
- Faster: Sod allows you to have a mature and beautiful lawn in a single day. Establishing a new lawn by seed can take up to two years.
- Less work: A seeded lawn requires not only laying the seed, but also watering, applying fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide, and mowing to achieve a full, healthy lawn. Sod has no bare or thin spots. Once installed, you only need to water, mow, fertilize, and aerate it as needed.
- Better quality: The best quality grass—often Kentucky bluegrass—is grown to perfection by experts to create sod. This full and thick grass not only boosts property value but also provides environmental benefits, including erosion control, oxygen production, carbon dioxide absorption, solar reflection, and rain water purification.
DIY vs. Professional Installation
It works out cheaper if you install sod yourself, but there's quite a bit of work involved. The need for equipment rental will also offset somewhat DIY savings. Moreover, it can be tricky to make it come out looking seamless.
Before laying sod the lawn must be cleared of grass and weeds, stones, leaves, branches, and other debris. After that the soil should be prepared to receive the sod. Depending on soil conditions a number of measures—such as addressing drainage, improving the soil, and adding topsoil—may be required. The final step before sod installation is to grade the soil. For a complete explanation of installing a sod lawn, read this fact sheet from the University of Rhode Island Landscape
Improper preparation could result in sod that doesn't take well. The major advantage of hiring a professional is that such mistakes are avoided. A landscape company or garden center will also ensure that seams between sod rolls or squares are minimal. And last but not least, professional sod installation means faster results.
- Expect to pay $0.15 to $1.00 per square foot (depending on grass variety) for sod that you pick up. Delivered sod can cost an additional $100 to $300 or so per load.
- DIY tool rental might run $200 to $300 (for a rototiller, sod cutter, lawn roller, sod tiller, fertilizer spreader, and tamper). You may also consider a soil testing kit ($10 to $15), mulch ($100 to $150), over seed ($.02 to $.05 per square foot) and fertilizer ($20 to $25 per bag). Visit DIY Network to see a complete tool list and step-by-step instructions for removing old sod and laying new sod.
- Professional sod installation typically costs $500 to $1,000 for a 2,000 sq. ft. or smaller lawn. Per square foot installation costs average $.50 to $1.00. Installing sod on smaller lawns tends to cost more per square foot.
- Installation charges usually cover delivery but may not cover prep work or tear out/haul away. Find out what's included (and not included) before hiring a company.