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How to Lay Sod to Start a New Lawn

Sprinkler on grassy lawn with a detached home in the background

Laying sod is the perfect DIY project for any homeowner to spruce up their lawn. With our step-by-step guide on how to install sod the right way, you can use our preparation and maintenance tips to encourage root growth and a happy, healthy lawn!

Skill Level: Beginner
Time:
  1. Step 1 Choose the Best Time of Year to Lay Sod

    Grassy lawn with foliage, shrubs, and trees in the background

    Finding an ideal time for installing sod is crucial to a successful lawn. Although you can lay sod at any time of the year, it is best to choose a clear day, preferably in the fall when temperatures are cooler, but when grass is still able to grow.

    It might seem intuitive to choose the summer months to start your lawn, but temperatures can be too dry and lead to overwatering. However, spring can be a second-best option to fall, especially for grass that thrives in warmer weather.

    Depending on the type of grass you choose, you can follow the recommended care tips in terms of maintenance, watering, and mowing.

  2. Step 2 Measure and Plan Your New Lawn

    Two people measuring a lawn with a stake and tape measurer

    Before starting your project, measure your yard to ensure you purchase the right amount of sod. As yards are measured in square feet, you can walk the area to calculate the size of your space.

    Walk the perimeter and multiply the number of steps by three to determine the length and width. Then, multiply those two numbers to find the square footage.

  3. Step 3 Prepare the Ground

    Rake and lawn roller on top of soil

    Soil preparation is important before laying sod as it is the main determinant of a successful lawn.

    Keep in mind that new sod cannot be placed over existing growth, so remember to pull out any weeds or plants beforehand. This can be done by watering the area, spraying herbicide, then laying around 2 inches of compost atop the lawn. Let your lawn sit for a few weeks for the soil to be fully suppressed.

    Right before installing sod, rake the soil to loosen the terrain so the sod’s roots can reach deep. Use a soil test kit to make sure the pH and mineral levels are ideal, then, lay 4-6 inches of fresh topsoil and fertilize the ground.

    If your pH and mineral levels need improving, add nutrients and adjust pH levels based on the test results.

  4. Step 4 Buy Sod and Lay the First Row

    Person wearing gloves rolling out a strip of sod grass

    Once you’ve decided on the type of sod grass you want, purchase enough to cover the area you measured. Plan the pickup or delivery for the day you want to complete this project, as fresh sod should be planted quickly. Fresh sod has a short shelf life, so if not laid right away, you risk the sod drying out.

    When laying sod, start along a straight edge and unroll a row of sod. Following the lines of your fence, driveway, or patio will help you keep your lawn even. As you continue, rake the soil to level any uneven surfaces. Finally, pat down the patches into the ground with a shovel to remove air pockets and help it take root.

     

  5. Step 5 Keep Unrolling the Strips One at a Time

    Woman and man in casual clothing rolling out a strip of sod on a lawn

    One after the other, finish unrolling each strip of the new sod and check to see the pieces fit snugly together. If required, a utility knife can be used to cut and shape each piece. Staggering the pieces in a brick-like pattern can be beneficial for channeling water and for visual appeal.

    If your lawn has sloped areas, don’t forget to stake your sod when laying the pieces down.

  6. Step 6 Check for Gaps

    Finished lawn with rolled out sod in a brick-like pattern

    After you’ve covered your lawn with new sod, check for any gaps or areas you’ve missed. Use your utility knife to patch those spaces up with sod and cut around sprinkler heads and any other irregular spaces.

    Your new sod strips should not overlap, nor should there be gaps between the laid pieces.

  7. Step 7 Smooth Out the New Sod

    Person in jeans using lawn roller in a fenced yard

    When your lawn is ready, roll your lawn with a lawn roller to smooth out the new sod. Rolling your lawn helps your sod take root and make contact with the topsoil. In the case where your sod is overly dry, dampen the rolls before using your roller.

  8. Step 8 Water It Immediately After Installation

    Man in plaid shirt watering a lawn

    Your new lawn requires immediate watering for nourishment and to help it thrive. You’ll want to water your lawn daily over the course of the first week – lightly, but frequently, and avoid walking on your new sod as much as possible. Afterwards, you can reduce your watering schedule to twice a week until the sod takes root.

    To ensure you are watering your sod well, you can lift the sod pieces to check if water is absorbing an inch or two into the soil.

  9. Step 9 Maintenance Tips to Encourage Rooting and Growth

    Man in yellow shirt raking a lawn

    In addition to following our steps on how to lay sod, maintenance is crucial to keeping your lawn fresh and healthy year-round. Some tips we recommend include:

    • Mowing gently only when the new lawn is 3-4 inches tall
    • Avoid walking or any activity on the new sod too early
    • Leaving your lawn too dry or too saturated
    • Keeping an eye on how well you are watering your lawn by checking under the sod
    • Easing off frequent watering when the roots begin to break through the sod pieces
    • Watering your lawn deeply two or three times a week after the sod has taken root
    • Follow care recommendations for your specific type of grass

What You Need for This Project

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