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Project Guide

How to Lay Sod

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Measure the Space and Purchase Sod
Someone measures a bare yard for sod with a measuring wheel.

Preparation is key for getting your sod to take root. Start planning a few weeks before you’re ready to lay the new sod. Plan to lay sod on a day when the weather forecast is clear. Rain may delay this project.

On the other hand, too little water will also affect sod success. Avoid laying sod during times of drought or water restriction. New sod needs plenty of water once it's in place. It’s best to wait if watering your sod will be difficult.

Before you begin, take measurements of your yard to make sure you purchase enough sod. Landscaping is generally measured in square feet. The easiest way to calculate your space is to walk the area.

The average human step is roughly three feet. It may be less for shorter people. You can measure your step if you’d like to be exact. To measure your yard by walking, follow these steps:

  • Walk the length of your yard and note the number of steps. Then walk the width.
  • Multiply the number of steps by 3 for length. Do the same for width. Multiply by 2.5 if you’re shorter or by your exact step length in feet if you have it. 
  • Multiply those two numbers, length and width, to find the square footage. 

You could also use a measuring wheel if you’d prefer. It’s a simple tool to measure long distances. A measuring wheel will give you a more exact measurement.

Once you’ve measured your yard, it’s time to plan your sod order:

  • Choose your sod type: strips or slabs. Growers offer different size sod cuts. For most people, 16" x 24" sod pieces work great on home lawns. If you need to lay sod in a larger area, it’s more cost-effective to buy larger rolls. 
  • Plan the sod pickup or schedule the delivery for the day you want to complete the project. Fresh sod needs to be planted quickly. This is so it can be watered and start receiving nutrients from the soil.
  • Don’t skimp on how much sod you order. Order a little more than you think you need. It’s much easier to have all the turf you need during installation. Going out for more sod will slow down your project. It might affect your lawn too if the sod comes from a different source.
Prep the Soil
A bare patch of lawn with a roller, roll of sod and a rake.

You'll need to get the ground ready for your new sod. It can’t be laid over existing growth. Preparing for sod means your yard must be a clean slate. To prep your lawn, kill all the weeds and stray plant life. 

  • Start by watering the area. Spray an herbicide over the entire yard. 
  • Next, lay compost on the lawn. Let it sit for a few weeks to fully suppress growth in the soil. 
  • Once the existing plant life dies, till and rake the ground. This loosens the dirt and uncovers any buried rocks. Use a rototiller to quicken the process. 
  • Your prepped dirt should be at least 6 inches deep. That way, your sod will grow into deeply rooted grass.
  • Test the fresh terrain using a soil test kit. You’ll want to assure the pH and mineral levels are ideal. The testing kits are generally color-coded and include charts for easy reading.
  • Lay fresh topsoil if needed. Add lawn fertilizer or lime to the ground, depending on the pH of your soil. This makes your property healthy and ready to receive the new sod.

Tip: Vinegar is an all-natural, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional herbicides. You can get rid of unwanted weeds with vinegar instead of chemicals.

Your bare lawn must be level. The ground should be 1 inch below the level of any sidewalks, patios or protruding sprinkler heads. Otherwise, the edges of your new lawn will degrade as the turf gets walked on and pressed down. Keep in mind that any new soil settles after it’s been raked or tilled.

If you’re unsure if your ground is level, give it a good watering. Fill in any puddles with extra topsoil. As you rake and level the dirt, assure that the water drains away from your house.

Lay Sod in Neat Rows
Someone rolling out the first piece of sod along paving stones.

On installation day, you’ll need fresh rolls of sod on hand so you can finish the job before nightfall. Sod needs to be laid and watered as soon as possible for the best results. Keep sod in the shade until you unroll it. Storing it in a cool garage or shed works too.

To make this project go as quickly as possible, ask a friend for help. Sod can be heavy and cumbersome. An extra pair of hands will make the sod installation process much easier.

  • Dampen the soil before unrolling your new turf.
  • Using a straight edge in your yard, unroll the first row of sod. Try following the line of your patio, driveway or fence to keep the edges straight and even. 
  • Rake the soil as you lay the sod to clear any bumps under the surface. 
  • After you’ve laid the first row, smooth out any areas that have wrinkled or bunched up. Be careful not to step on the sod. Then, carefully pat the new patch into the ground with a shovel to remove any air pockets and encourage the sod to take root.
  • Water any newly installed sod as you go. Make sure it gets a good drink within half an hour of being unrolled.
  • Continue laying additional sod, making sure not to walk on it.
  • Finish unrolling the new sod one row at a time. Use a utility knife to cut each piece as needed. Lay the pieces flush with one another. Flush means that they butt right up against each other.
  • After sodding the lawn, continue patting each newly laid row into the ground to remove the air pockets.
Fill in the Gaps
A front lawn filled with rows of sod.

When the lawn is fully covered, check for gaps in hard-to-reach, curved or oddly shaped areas. Scraps from previously cut sod or pieces cut from extra sod work well.

  • Use a utility knife or grass shears to cut smaller pieces. Patch those open spaces accordingly. You'll need to cut openings for sprinkler heads and any other obstructions sticking up from the ground.
  • To trim, fold the excess sod up. Then run your knife where you need to cut. You’ll be cutting from the underside of the sod up to the grass-side.
  • Lay smaller rows of sod along the perimeter of flower beds, driveways and walkways. Fill in small seams with more topsoil. Continue patting to remove air pockets. 
Press Down the Sod
Someone using a roller to push new sod into the ground.

Making sure the sod is evenly pressed into the earth is important. It locks the moisture in the sod so it can put down roots.

  • For a large lawn, use a roller to smooth out the new sod after everything is neatly laid. This helps the sod take root in the soil.
  • A lawn roller also presses out any air pockets you may have missed.
  • Roll one way across your sod, then roll over it perpendicular to that.
  • Continue rolling the sod, crossing the horizontal rolls with vertical rolls. You're rolling a grid pattern.
  • If you don’t want to rent a lawn roller, you can DIY this step: Use a large piece of plywood to press down sod instead. Carefully walk over the wood to evenly embed the sod into the soil’s surface.

Tip: If heavy rain fell during or after installation, don’t use a roller. The soft ground will already accept the sod easily then. Rolling it could also shift the sod in the mud, undoing your hard work.

Water and Maintain the Sod
Sprinklers water a green lawn in front of a house.

New sod should be watered immediately to make sure it thrives. To check to see that the sod is making good contact, gently lift a corner. The ground below should be moist after watering the sod. If it’s bone dry or muddy, adjust your sod installation or watering technique.

  • Water it daily for the first week, preferably in the morning. Avoid walking on it if at all possible. Walking on it can shift the sod, making it uneven or bunched.
  • After the first week, you can reduce the irrigation schedule to every other day. Water twice per week as the sod begins to take root. 
  • Once the grass grows to roughly three inches high, it’s time for a trim. We recommend using a push mower as the new patches will still be fragile.
  • Fertilize the lawn after you mow it to add fresh nutrients to the soil.
  • As your sod matures and grows stronger roots, you can trim it lower with a mower.

Installing sod is a great DIY project for homeowners with instant results. Learning how to lay sod is the first step in upgrading your lawn. Get started now and order your landscape tools online. The Home Depot delivers online orders when and where you need them. 

If you plan on laying sod but don't want to do it all by hand, we’ve got you covered. Consider using a rototiller or lawn roller from our lawn and garden tool rental to get your project done. Use it once, then bring it back — no maintenance required.