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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.
How Much Does Sod Cost?
The cost of sod is determined by a variety of factors, such as your location, the type of sod, the amount you need, and the dealer you purchase through. That being said, here is a general pricing guide to provide an idea of what you might pay for your sod:
- The average cost of a pallet of sod is between $120 and $400, with most homeowners paying around $260 per pallet.
- Going by square footage, prices range between $0.30 and $0.80 per square foot of sod, with most customers paying around $0.50 per square foot.
- Overall, you can expect to pay between $2,485 and $6,620 for an average-size lawn (about 1/5 of an acre).
- Professional sod installation typically costs $1,000 to $2,000 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. For those that charge by the hour, costs average between $45 and $75 per hour for sod installation.
- 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.
A Guide to Sod Choices: What are the Different Types of Sod?
One of the best ways to improve the curb appeal of your home and general appearance of your yard is to have a well-maintained lawn. But not every home comes with the perfect lawn, and many don't even have the proper grass for their location. Luckily, with the right sod, your lawn can be the envy of the neighborhood.
What Is Your Current Lawn Like?
Before you start your journey to the perfect lawn, it is important to think about the current conditions in your yard. A yard with no challenges typically does fine with primary grasses of the region. However, yards with shade, soil, or water issues often need the right species to flourish.
- High-traffic lawns: If your grass receives heavy foot traffic, you need sod that both recovers quickly and works in your area. Blends of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are recommended in the North, while Bermudagrass is recommended in the South.
- Low-input areas: When your yard has areas that are difficult to supply with fertilizer or water, it is a challenge to keep your lawn healthy. Buffalo grass is a great remedy for this and works well across the majority of North America.
- Salty sites: Coastal regions and other areas with a higher salt content in their water generally need a sod capable of withstanding those conditions. Seashore paspalum is the ideal choice in these regions, as it is incredibly tolerant to salt.
- Shaded sites: Shady yards come with the risk of not enough sun for your grass to prosper. Fine-leaf fescues offer the most shade tolerance and can be used just about anywhere. If you are in the South, most St. Augustine varieties (barring Floratam) have high shade tolerance as well.
Most seed companies have mixes that have been selected for specific types of yards, which often perform better under the right conditions than a single species would.
Where You Live Makes a Difference
The type (or types) of grass that works best for your lawn is directly affected by where you live. If you live in the Northern Zone, which is in Canada and the Northern U.S., you need grasses that withstand cold winters and mild summers. Primary grass choices in the Northern Zone include Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. In the Southern Zone, where winters are mild but the summers are hot, you need grass that stands up to higher temperatures. Varieties of Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustine are ideal choices.
The Transition Zone, attributed to areas with extreme temperatures in both summer and winter, is more challenging to maintain. Grasses that thrive in one temperature range tend to do poorly in others, so it is difficult to find the right sod. The recommended choice for the Transition Zone is tall fescue, as it has high tolerance in the face of cold and heat.
Types of Sod
The different types of sod are divided into cool season and warm season grasses.
Cool Season Grasses
Certain grass-types are better suited to lower temperatures. Some cool season grasses include:
- Fine fescues: Highly tolerant to shade and able to go long periods without water, fescues are able to withstand even the most extreme temperatures. Fine fescues include chewing fescue, creeping red fescue, and hard fescue.
- Kentucky Bluegrass: A popular choice that is found all over North America. It is known for its longevity and its bluish hue. Kentucky bluegrass does not grow or die too fast, making it easy to maintain.
- Perennial ryegrass: This grass does well in cold temperatures and stands up to heavy traffic. Perennial ryegrass is highly resistant to disease and stress and, unlike annual ryegrass, does not need to be re-established each year.
Warm Season Grasses
Some grasses flourish in warmer climates. Some warm season grasses include:
- Bermuda grass: One of the most popular choices for warm weather areas, Bermuda grass is renowned for its ability to survive in high heat and drought conditions. However, it is also an aggressive grower and has been known to infiltrate nearby flower beds.
- Centipede grass: Ideal for lawns with more sunlight than shade, centipede grass is a low-maintenance sod choice. It performs well in acidic and low-fertility soils.
- St. Augustine grass: Though this is a popular warm season grass, it is more difficult to maintain than others. But if you put in the time, St. Augustine grass hardy and strong in the face of the heat.
DIY vs. Professional Installation
Sod installation seems like a simple project. Just order your materials, lay them down, and you're done. Unfortunately, it isn't quite that simple, and an error at any point in the process can lead to expensive fixes and repairs. Before you tackle a sod laying project yourself, it is a good idea to consider hiring a professional.
Can I Install Sod Myself? Benefits to Hiring a Sod Installation Pro
If you plan to install the sod yourself, there are some steps you must take first. After all, sod can't just be dropped on the dirt for an instant lawn. You must prepare the ground for the sod. First, remove any weeds or existing grass from the area where you plan to lay the sod. You also need to till the area and take out anything that might contribute to an uneven lawn.
Test the pH balance of the soil. Sod is definitely a quicker way to a beautiful lawn than growing it from the seed, but you still have to care for and maintain it. If the pH balance of the soil is off, your grass is more likely to become brown or patchy. If your pH balance needs to be corrected, add top soil, then wait a week and add fertilizers. Once the pH balance is where it needs to be, it is recommended that you till the area one more time. Try to complete the preparation before your sod has even been delivered, as it makes the overall process from start to finish go more smoothly and quickly.
Now that you have finished the preparation, you are ready to lay your sod. First, water the soil where you plan to lay the sod. It is recommended that you do this the day before your sod arrives and to water it every few hours until six inches of ground has been thoroughly soaked.
After you have watered the area, lay the sod in even, straight lines so that all of the edges fit together tightly. It is best to use larger pieces of sod as opposed to smaller pieces, because smaller pieces do not take root as well. If you find yourself navigating around curves, use a sharp knife to cut the sod as closely as possible.
With the sod laid, all that is left to do is press it with a lawn roller (you can rent these, so there's no need to spend the money on an outright purchase) and water the sod.
If this seems like a lot of work to you, then you may prefer to hire a professional landscaper.
Advantages to Hiring a Sod Installation Pro
There are several advantages to hiring a professional to install your sod, the most obvious of which is their experience. Hiring a reputable installer to lay your sod for you guarantees that someone with plenty of experience does the job. A professional knows how to deal with complex installations and the proper way to prepare the area before laying. He or she also has access to tools and equipment that you most likely do not, and laying sod requires a plethora of tools.
Another advantage to hiring a professional installer is that they set your lawn up to thrive. They also offer tips on what you can do to help it prosper. Since your installer has plenty of experience, he or she puts your lawn on the path to success and ensures it lives a long, healthy life. Realistically, the best way to have a gorgeous lawn is to get someone with experience to lay it for you.
For a complete explanation of installing a sod lawn, read this fact sheet from the University of Rhode Island Landscape