How To Install Sod

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How To Install Sod


So, you’re interested in installing sod on your lawn? After all, it is the quickest and easiest way to get a lush, green lawn. Seeding a lawn can sometimes take an entire season to mature. Planting sod is a relatively easy task to complete. You can lay sod anytime from early spring to late fall as long as you are willing to water enough. The greatest disadvantage to sod is its higher cost. Seed generally costs much less.

In this article, we will outline all the steps needed to install sod on your lawn.

  • Lay the first row in against a straight line
  • Tightly mash the ends of each sod roll together
  • Lay each row in a staggered pattern
  • Cut sod to fit irregularly shaped areas
  • Tamp seams with the back of a rake

Soil Preparation

lay the first row of sodSoil preparation for sod is very similar to seeding. The main difference is the finished grade of the soil. Because sod comes with its own soil, the grade should be approximately 1-1/2″ below surrounding hard surfaces. You should apply a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus to the soil surface and lightly rake it in to the soil. After soil preparation, you are ready to start planting the sod.

Laying Sod

man laying a row of sodSod should be planted as soon as possible after it is harvested. If you can’t lay it immediately, store it in the shade to prevent killing the sod. The first row should be placed along a straight edge such as a sidewalk or driveway. Place the next row at the end of the first mashing the ends together. Avoid gaps between each row. Each adjacent row should be laid in a staggered brickwork pattern. When sodding slopes, you should lay the sod perpendicular to the slope and use stakes to hold it in place.

You should use a board to stand on previous rows to spread your weight out as you work and prevent gouging the sod. Not all lawns are perfectly rectangular like sod. You will need to trim the sod along curves and irregular shapes. For a guide you can use string to cut straight lines and a garden hose for curves. It is easiest to cut the sod with a heavy knife, small hatchet or a half-moon edger.

watering newly laid sodWhen all the sod is in place, tamp down all the sod rows with the back of a rake to remove any air spaces between the sod and the soil. Air pockets cause the sod to dry out and die. The last task to perform is to water the newly laid sod. You should aim for wetting the upper 6 to 8 inches of soil. This will help the roots search for moisture and grow deep into the soil. Continue watering deeply, but space each application to avoid a constant saturation of the soil. Over-saturated soil can delay the growth of roots.

Final Notes

You should avoid walking on the lawn until the sod has rooted well to the soil beneath it. This often takes as long as two weeks. You can check by gently lifting up on the grass. If it doesn’t move up, then it is rooting. One month after sodding you can begin to treat it like a mature lawn. You should apply a standard lawn fertilizer and begin a regular watering schedule of around 1″ per week.

Author Bio

Matt Morrison is a lawn expert, homeowner, and website hobbyist from Texas. He enjoys working on his own lawn and helping others make their lawn the best it can be. You can read more of his articles here.

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  1. bill davis

    I tried to install several small sections of sod, 12″ – 30″. I purchased the sod from Home Depot ($4.99). I did everything as per your directions, but it browned out in 2-days? I did use cow manure to level out the area, before laying down the sod. I watered every day and sprayed with Miracle Grow fertilizer???? Should I purchase sod from a dealer/contractor/nursery and remove/replaced again?
    Any tips?
    Please help me.

  2. Bill,

    Thanks for checking out my article. Did you mix in the manure or just use a solid layer of it right below the sod? Was it fresh? I usually don’t recommend using manure unless it’s composted anyways, but fresh manure can burn plants. That may be the culprit. If you plan on using manure – make sure it’s aged – and use it sparingly. As long as the sod looks good at the store, I don’t see any reason to purchase it from somewhere else.

  3. Matt,

    I am planning on laying down sod in an area that is on a slight incline and that has some holes in it left from where I took out bushes. Is there anything in particular that I should do to prepare the ground before I put down the sod? Thank you.


    • David,

      At the very least you will want to fill in those holes to level out the incline as best you can. Ideally, you will mix in some soil amendments to fill the hole and improve the soil. You can see what I mean in this case study on soil preparation. Good luck!

  4. I had a chinch problem that attacked the lawn. What should I do prior to laying the new sod to ensure the “bugs” are gone? Also, can the ground be watered prior to laying the new sod? Does that help promote the rooting of the new sod?

    • Armand,


      “Examine the grass in the marginal areas of injured patches, not in the clearly dead grass. Spread the grass gently with your fingers and look in the thatch, near the soil surface. Chinch bugs are usually very active in the summer, so you will be able to see them scurrying around, especially on warm summer days. An alternative method of detecting chinch bugs is to remove both ends of a large tin can, such as a coffee can. Soften the soil a little with water, and insert one end of the can into the ground at least 5 to 8 cm (2-3 inches) deep, leaving at least 10 cm (4 inches) of the can above the ground. Fill the can with water and wait about five minutes. If chinch bugs are present, they will float to the surface of the water, where you can count them.”

      You don’t have to water prior to laying sod, but you will definitely want to at least water immediately after. Good luck.

  5. Douglas Mason


    It is getting cooler now in Houston. Still quite warm with high’s in the upper 80’s. Still drought conditions. I need to replace some areas of St. Augustine that have been damaged by the drought. We will not have “cold” weather until January. Can I safely re-sod the damaged areas or should I wait until March/April 2012? I’d like to work on the yard to improve the look.

    Thanks. Doug

    • Doug,

      You should be okay laying it now, but you will need to take special care as we’re still in a drought and temperatures will be cooling. The grass will be particularly vulnerable with current conditions so you don’t have a lot of room for error. The spring will be less risky I think. Good luck!

  6. I am planning on sodding my back yard that is all dirt now the dogs killed what little grass there was. How long do I need to keep dogs of the sod and what do I need to do to the dirt that is hard and packed before sodding.

    • The quick answer is as long as possible. Dogs make it very difficult to grow grass. Any areas that are hard and packed should be core aerated. You’ll probably have to rent a machine at the local rent-all place. Good luck David!

  7. Hi, If we are replacing a few areas the went bare within the lawn, should we follow the same soil prep? Or is it assumed that since there was St Augustine there before that direct placement should work without adding to the current soil mix?

  8. Matthew, I came across your site today looking for new tips on lawn services. I found myself reading every single comment. it is very interesting and informative. I have a question. I am finding some of my clients getting new sod installed. You say the ends should be mashed together. I am finding newly sodded lawns that have gaps between the pieces of sod that are half the width of my foot (size 8). and the home owners are told the sod will fill in. Will you please share your thoughts on this technique.

    • In a down economy, I can see why this would be a recommended technique. It’s all about saving money, but it does take time. You must weigh the time and cost to decide what’s best for you.

  9. I just tilled by backyard (approx 20 x 50)and the soil is very loose as you could imagine. Should I roll the soil first? My soil is very sandy. What should I add?


  10. Dave Clark

    Thanks for the great write-up!
    I will be laying sod tomorrow in my backyard. I didn’t use a tiller on the area as I had to dig about 6-8 inches down to remove a ton of large surface roots from a neighbors tree and re-do the irrigation layout. So the dirt was removed and then replaced.
    The area is only about 150sq ft, so it’s relatively small.
    How much should I compact that dirt before laying the sod? A full water roller didn’t do much to it and after all the recent rains we’ve had, the ground feels rather spongy. I have a tamper. Is this something I should consider using?

    My concern is developing pits later because I didn’t compact the soil enough…


    • Thanks Dave. I would tamp until I felt that the soil was sturdy enough to not develop pits from foot traffic. I’m surprised that a full-water roller didn’t do much to it.

  11. Mike oconnor

    I have a small front yard with a definite slope. The weeds have all but taken over and now eighty percent of the grass is gone leaving several areas of just dirt or sand as Florida doesn’t know what real dirt is.How far down should I dig before sodding and what do I use prior to sodding?

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