How To Lay Sod: DIY Tips and Steps

For many of us, having a well-manicured lawn is the ultimate outdoor goal. It not only looks amazing, but it can also increase your home’s curb appeal and value. The best way to achieve this is by installing sod. While it may seem like a daunting task, we promise that it’s not as difficult as you might think – especially if you follow our helpful tips and steps below!

Laying sod is a great way to achieve a beautiful, lush lawn without having to wait for grass seed to germinate and grow. Plus, it’s a relatively simple do-it-yourself project that can be completed in a weekend. Whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced green thumb, you’ll be able to lay sod like a pro in no time. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to lay sod like a pro!

What is Sod?

In simple terms, sod is the same as grass. Sod is a portion of turf that has been cut from a larger piece of land, like a field or pasture. It’s commonly sold in square or rectangular pieces, and it can be placed on any non-grassy soil to produce an instant lawn over it.

New sod you’ll notice comes with 2 inches of soil attached. This allows the grass roots to grow more easily within the new dirt you lay the sod over. The grass and the soil are kept together by either the grass roots or a netting that surrounds the roll to prevent it from collapsing.

Grass Rolls

Grass rolls are the usual form in which sod is sold. These rolls are typically 2-3 feet wide and come in lengths of 10, 15, or even up to 20 feet. They’re also about 4 inches thick, with half being dirt and the other half being grass blades. Anyone with a little bit of DIY skill can install sod; however, hiring a professional gardener can be faster, more efficient, and tidier.

Grass Plugs

A grass plug is a piece of sod placed in a tray, which may be any size, although the majority are about 1.5 to 3 inches long by wide. The method for planting and growing these plugs does not differ much from that of other plants. They’re planted 9 to 12 inches apart in the soil and will spread out and fill in any bare spots over time.

Grass plugs are an excellent method to repair small sections of damaged grass, whether it’s from insects, disease, children, dogs, or other factors. If that is the type of work you need done to your yard, pick up some grass plugs at your local home and garden center.

This article will talk about how to lay out sod grass rolls, rather than grass plugs, because they are much more common and need a bit more preparation and effort.

Benefits of Sod Vs. Grass Seed

Sod is a versatile product, and there are several advantages to be gained from it. It is quick to put in and may be done at any time of year. It’s also simple to maintain and doesn’t require protection for months on end while it develops. Finally, sod can be utilized to cover difficult or uneven ground that seeds would struggle with.

The main benefit of sod is – although the actual installation of the sod is more laborious than spreading grass seed – everything else about the process is far easier and less complicated.

With regards to timing, grass seed needs to be planted in a very specific window, either in the spring or fall, and the weather needs to be relatively stable as well. Sod, on the other hand, can be rolled out almost all year round, giving you much more flexibility in terms of when you want to re-do your lawn.

Additionally, after laying sod you don’t have to be as vigilant in terms of maintenance. Grass seed needs near-constant watering every day for the first 6 weeks, you have to protect it from being eaten by birds and other animals like squirrels, and you can’t walk on it for that whole time.

Sod, in contrast, takes a maximum 2 to 3 weeks before it is fully integrated into your soil, and basically by the time it is laid you only need to water and mow it as often you would for a normal lawn.


On the other hand, there are a number of reasons that seeding your lawn is better than using sod. Seeding is less expensive, allows you to choose from a wider range of grasses, is easier to create a lawn with, and can help your grass grow healthier.

Cost is the biggest barrier for homeowners when it comes to laying sod. In some cases using sod could be up to 5X more expensive than using grass seed to create your lawn. DIY installing the sod yourself (which we give tips on how to do below) does reduce some of that cost, but it is still going to be a large expense.

Sod is also a more labor intensive project. For the amount of money you’re spending on it, you might think it would be easier than the less expensive way, but it is actually more complicated and requires more effort and precision. With spreading grass seed there’s more room for error.

Another drawback that people don’t often think about is that sod farms tend to have fewer options for the types of lawn grass you can buy. Grass seed has many different options, both warm-season and cool-season, in stock at a home and garden center, but with sod you mostly get only the few choices that your local sod grower provides.

Steps For Laying Sod

There are four main steps you should take when laying down sod in your yard. Let’s go through them each one by one!

Remove Old Grass

The first step to laying sod is to prepare your yard for it, and the first step toward this task is to remove the previous grass from your lawn. This can be done in two ways.

You can do this with a non-selective herbicide. Spray it over the entire section that you want to remove – make sure you don’t spray anything you want to keep! When it is dead, simply collect it and dispose of it in the compost. If you use an herbicide, however, you have to wait at least a month before laying new sod.

You may also utilize a sod cutter, which is a frame with a sharp blade attached that cuts through the grass roots, releasing the grass in long strips.

The objective is to get a level patch of dirt that is about an inch below the surrounding garden surfaces.

Prepare the Soil

Once the grass and top soil has been removed, you should go about prepping the soil that is left. Firstly, you should till the soil to better aerate, mix, and revitalize the ground, and to get soil and nutrients from below up to the top layer. The soil should be loose, not compacted, so the new roots may easily penetrate it.

The next step is to ensure your lawn is level. While sod is an effective way to add grass to a slope or an uneven patch of land, you want to give it the best chance to thrive, which is to provide a level and straight area to lay it down.

Lay the Sod

Now, everything has been prepared for you to actually get to work laying down the sod. First, you lay the first row. You want to find the longest and straightest open edge on the boundary of your lawn – this will be where you lay the first piece of sod.

While you’re working on it, try to keep off the sod, and rake clear any footprints as you go. Smooth out loose areas or wrinkles and pat down the sod so that it’s flat against the soil beneath it with no air pockets or bumps.

Continue laying the sod in straight lines as you go, but stagger the short ends in a brick-like style to avoid having a long seam perpendicular across the lawn. It’s more appealing from an aesthetic standpoint and has the benefit of avoiding water channeling, which makes the seams split.

Place a layer of sod over the whole area, and squeeze it into small pieces firmly and tightly. Cut sod pieces to fill in the gaps left by your brick design with a sharp knife, and also also cut pieces to fit around trees and any lawn obstacles. Keep pressing out air pockets and smoothing out bumps.

Once you’re done, you should press the sod down a bit. This can be done with a lawn roller filled one-third of the way with water, or you can do it slowly with your feet, pressing down the whole lawn.

The best way to lay sod is to start at one end and work your way to the other. Make sure, however, that when you’re laying the final pieces you have a path you can leave from without walking over the sod. You should try to end right by your driveway or house if possible.

Water and Fertilize the Sod

After your sod is all laid out and cut to fit your lawn, you should water and fertilize it, to ensure that it stays healthy and lush. You want to water the sod every day for at least the first 2 weeks, and if it is still not fully integrated into your native lawn soil, then continue to water it for a week after. After this, you won’t have to water it besides the regular watering you would give your lawn.

After you first water your sod, take a corner of it away. The original earth beneath it should be damp but not puddly. Use this as a guide to figure out how much to water each time until the sod and native soil merge together.

You should also fertilize your sod and soil, but not right away. Allow three to four weeks for your grass to grow, then fertilize it with a starter fertilizer to make up for any nutrients lost during the rigorous watering of those weeks.

You also will want to mow your sod about 3 to 4 weeks after planting, or once it grows above a height of 3-3.5 inches. Use a push-behind mower the first time, so you don’t weigh the sod down too much with a riding lawn mower.

DIY Tips For Sod Planting

For those who want to lay their own sod, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are a few simple tips that could make a big difference to your sod laying experience.

Which Direction To Lay Sod

The actual cardinal directions don’t necessarily matter in this case, but you want to lay down your sod lengthwise in the longer direction of your yard. If your lawn is a rectangle, choose one of longer sides that has an open, perfectly straight edge that you can lay your first strip of sod next to.

Stay Off New Sod

While sod is not as delicate as newly planted grass seed, you still want to avoid walking on it or putting large machines or toys on it for at least 2 to 3 weeks while the roots from the sod integrate into the soil. After three weeks, you should be good to go!

Overseed Shady Areas

Many sod farmers grow their grass in farms that get full sun all day long. Therefore, if your lawn has shady portions, you might want to overseed these portions with a grass seed that can thrive in shady conditions. This will ensure that your lawn will have an even green grass look throughout.

What Is the Best Time of the Year to Lay Sod?

One of the primary benefits of sod is that you can install it almost anytime throughout the year. Any time from spring to fall would work, and you can even do it in winter if you live in a mild climate.

However, there are best times of year to plant it. If you are using a cool-season grass, then the early fall or early spring would be best. For a warm-season grass, late spring or early summer is ideal.

Where to Buy Sod

It’s important to know what type of sod is best for your climate and soil conditions, and the best way to know this is to visit a local sod farmer and ask them questions. Any grass that they are able to grow locally would suffice for your lawn, because it already is used to the climate and soil conditions of your ares.

Should You Till Before Laying Sod?

Yes, you should till your soil before laying sod down. This will help prepare your soil and allow more nutrients, water, and oxygen to move around within it, which will then transfer to the new soil and sod when it is laid down on top of it.

Laying Sod Around Corners and Curves

Sod comes in rectangles. This is perfect for when you want to lay it down in perfectly straight rows, but it could be difficult to place around corners and curves. You might think you should cut off thin strips of sod in order to better curve them around obstacles in your lawn, but this will dry them out quickly and they won’t grow as healthy or lush.

What instead you want to do is keep the sod rolls whole, and cut small darts in it on the side that is being curved. This will allow the sod to better fold in on itself, and you can somewhat press it together to create the bend angle that you need. If it is a right angle corner, you will need to cut more of a slit than you would for a more gradual curve.

In Conclusion

So, there you have it! Everything you need to know about how to lay sod. Sod is a great option for anyone looking to have a lush, green lawn with little maintenance.

While the process can seem daunting at first, if you follow these simple steps and tips, you’ll be on your way to enjoying your new sod lawn in no time. It’s definitely not as hard as it seems, and will save you time and energy compared to seeding a lawn, if you do it properly.

Just make sure to plan ahead, remove any old grass or debris from the area where you want to lay your sod, prepare the soil properly, and water and fertilize regularly for best results. And don’t forget – stay off of the new sod until it has had time to root in and take hold!

We hope this guide was helpful and informative. If you have any questions or run into any problems during your own DIY sod planting project, feel free to reach out for help in the comments section below; we are always happy to help!

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Written by Linda Chan
Linda Chan is a passionate gardener and writer with a background in horticulture and landscape design. She has over 10 years of experience working in the lawn care industry and has a deep understanding of the science and art of keeping a lawn healthy and beautiful.