How to Lay Sod Squares Yourself In 13 Steps

May 24, 2018

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Want your yard to be the greenest on the block? Lay it down with Sod Yourself. Here’s a guide from our professional landscaping experts.

What To Know Before Laying Sod Down Yourself

Before you can start to lay your side there are several precautionary steps to take into consideration while planning installation. Check out the points below; ​
  1. Measuring the desired area.
  2. Testing the soil acidic level (results can take up to 2 weeks to receive).
  3. The area must be watered 24 to 48 hours before laying the new sod.
  4. After placing your sod order it takes about 24 hours for sod to be delivered and should be laid the same day.
  5. You will need to limit the foot traffic on the new soil for about four weeks after installation.
  6. Newly installed sod requires careful watering. If you don’t have a sprinkler system this might be an additional cost for lawn maintenance while at work
  7. Laying sod requires careful attention to detail.
  8. Two people should be able to cover 1,000 square feet of sod in a day.

Materials and Tools Needed for DIY Sod Installation

  • Soil testing kit- $15
  • Sod- .08 to .30 cents per square foot
  • Sod Cutter- $70 per day
  • Rototiller- $55 per day ​
  • Compost
  • Soil
  • Lime
  • Firm broom
  • Shovel ​

Follow Our Comprehensive Sod Installation Guide ​

Step one: Soil testing
Materials: soil testing kit
Most sod thrive best with soil that is more acidic (between 6 and 7.5 pH level). To see where your soil stands, make sure to take soil samples from various sections of the desired area. Once you’ve collected the samples, package and follow the shipment methods on your soil testing kit. Depending on the soil sample kit purchased, you should expect to get results within 2 weeks.
Step Two: Measure
Materials: Measuring tools
Here is where you have the potential to lose money! Carefully measure the desired area as to not buy more sod then you actually need.
Hint: Try buying slightly more than you measured to have enough for those “ hard to measure” areas.
Step Three: Buy Your Sod
Now you’re ready to head to your local garden center or sod distributor. Be prepared to answer questions about your lawn’s hardiness zone, sunlight, shade and tread. These questions will help the professional choose the best sod for your needs. The professional will use the information to choose a sod that has the best color, texture and heartiness for your specific lawn.  Once the sod has been chosen, be prepared to wait for another 24 hours for delivery.
Hint: make sure to schedule appropriately, as the sod should be laid the same day of delivery!
Step four: Start digging
Materials: Rototiller, Compost, lime and soil
Now that you have your measured area and the sod is delivered, it’s time to start the hard work. Begin by using the rototiller to loosen soil up to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. You will  have to remove any debris and rocks from the area. Once you’ve done that, you can spread 2 inches of finished compost to the tilled area. Adding a clay like soil will improve your drainage during watering.
Hint: depending on your soil test results you may have to add lime to increase the acidity level of your soil.
Step five: Time to Rake
Materials: Raking tools
Time to smooth out all that hard work.  Use a rake to level the newly tilled area, fill in any deep areas with soil. The soil should lay an inch below any sprinkler heads and paved areas like sidewalks or driveways.
Hint: raking encourages the grass roots from the sod to adhere better to the soil!
Step Six: Watering
Materials: Watering tools
Before you start laying the sod down, make sure the soil is damp. Start by watering the area 24 to 48 hours before installation.
Step Seven: Start unrolling
Materials: Sod and patience
Now you can unroll the sod! Use a straight edge as a reference like a driveway, patio or flower bed. It’s best to work with whole pieces, laying one at a time. Try not to step on your new green blades and rake out any footprints in the soil as you go. Then, pat the sod into place making sure there are no air pockets between the soil and sod. Keep an eye out for any bumps or wrinkles and be sure to smooth those out too.
Step Eight: Adding rows
Materials: Garden shears, sharp shovel, or hand shovel
Once you have the first sod piece in place, start layering the additional pieces against it. Tightly align the edges of the sod together but not overlapping. You can cut holes to fit in your sprinklers or any permanent garden gnomes. At this time, you can use garden shears or shovels to create straight lines for the trim work.
Hint: The tighter the seams the more neat your new sod will look. Tighter seams also decrease the chance of edges drying out and dying.
Step Nine:  Filling in the seams
Materials: Soil and firm broom
Use a strong push broom to push potting soil into any loose seams. This creates a seamless look across the lawn and helps the sod mold into the soil.
Step Ten:  Roll it out
Materials: lawn roller
Now that you’ve laid everything out, roll over the sod and soil with the lawn roller.  This step ensures that the sod will root itself to the soil.
Hint: Limit any foot traffic for the first three weeks, that includes the kiddos and dogs!
Step Eleven: Watering
Materials: Water Distribution Method
Your newly added sod should be watered thoroughly. If you notice any puddling, reduce the length or frequency of watering. Make sure to account for evaporation during hot summer days as this is when your new sod will need the water the most! After the first week, you can reduce watering to every other day.  By the third week, water only twice and by the fourth week try to give an inch of water per week through rainfall.
Hint:  Avoid watering at night, your sod may develop a fungal disease.
Step Twelve: Mowing
Before you start taming your flourishing lawn, it must be at least 10 days old and three inches tall. Opt for a walk-behind mower with a sharp blade this will be more gentle on your new lawn. Install a grass catcher to bag the clippings
Hint: Lawn clippings can create a harsh environment for your sod to thrive in.
Step Thirteen: Fertilizing
About four weeks into your new lawn, starter fertilizer should can applied. Continue to monitor heavy foot traffic until the fourth week. After that, kick off your shoes and enjoy your soft new grass! Continue to care for your lawn as you typically would.

How much to lay sod per square foot? ​

Depending on your local home goods provider the price can vary per square foot. However, the average cost for sod is about 08 to .30 cents per square foot. Including labor, materials and tools will raise this cost. Most lawn care services provide Sod services for approximately $1,100. ​

How can  I lay sod on a slope?

  • Laying sod on a slope you should follow the the steps above, but you should take extra steps to ensure a great installation. Growing normal grass on a hill is difficult enough. Rain water will drain off of the quickly of the slope, making it difficult to maintain new sod.
  • To start laying sod on a slope follow the previous steps 1-6.  Instead of laying the sod vertically, you’ll have to lay them horizontally.  To keep the sod in place you will need to use garden staples to secure them into the existing soil. Continue to follow the rest of the steps on how to care for your newly installed sod and you’re done!​​

Can I lay sod over existing lawn?

Laying sod over an existing lawn may not be the best option. Here’s why;

  1. Soil problems: The reason why grass isn’t growing may be the result of pre existing soil problems! Using sod to cover up the area that is damaged won’t fix the problem. Additionally the sod you purchased will not thrive, thus wasting your time and money.
  2. Height: When you stack new sod over a lawn with no preparation the treated area will be higher than the rest of the yard, sidewalks, driveways etc.
  3. Rooting: New sod needs to be in direct contact with the soil below, this will ensure rooting and healthy growth! Without direct contact with the sod cannot survive. Just like planting a seed!
  4. Decomposing grass: Laying new sod over existing grass will starve your lawn of it’s needed resources to survive (sunlight ,oxygen etc). Your lawn underneath will start to rot, similar to composted grass clippings.
  5. Unwanted plants: If you are trying to cover up unwanted plants they might continue to grow and infiltrate your lawn. ​​

How to prepare soil for sod?

Soil can be classified into three textures of sand silt and clay. Clay soil is defined as having very small particles and a high concentration of CEC (cation exchange capacity). Good news for you, this means your clay soil has better capacity to hold nutrient and water. However, because of its density clay soil is easily compact therefore it takes a longer time to reach a warm temperature. Unfortunately, these characteristics of clay can make successful grass growth difficult and time consuming. Although the process isn’t easy, it is possible.  You can follow these steps to ensure a healthy sod installation on your clay lawn.
Materials Needed

  1. Soil pH test
  2. Yard fork
  3. Yard rake
  4. Water-soluble, slow release, 10-20-10 NPK or 18-24-06 NPK starter fertilizer
  5. Broadcast spreader
  6. Compost
  7. Handland aerifier

Step By Step Guide

  1. First, you’ll need to test the clay soil’s  pH and nutrient levels at least one year before laying the new sod. Once given the results you will need to add sulfur or limestone to accommodate the recommended pH level.
  2. About six months prior to laying the new sod you can begin to remove all weeds and debris from the clay soil. At this time, you should also work the soil with a fork to loosen the clay soil.
  3. Start to grade the clay soil away from fixed points in your yard, like driveways or sidewalks.
  4. Once the following steps have been completed you will need to fertilize the yard. To do this you need to distribute 5 pounds of water-soluble, slow-release, 10-2-10 NPK fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of desired yard. Using a broadcast spreader, distribute the fertilizer over the clay soil in rows
  5. Repeat the last step but spread the fertilizer perpendicular to the first direction. This will help the to distribute the fertilizer more evenly.
  6. Once you have laid the fertilizer, you can begin to mix the fertilizer into the clay soil at least 6 inches deep. Make sure to thoroughly water the clay soil at least four inches deep.
  7. After the soil has dried, begin to hand spread 6 to 8 cubic feet of compost per 1,00 square feet over the clay soil. To mix the compost in to the clay, dig down about 8 to 12 inches with a shovel and consistently turning the soil and compost mixture.
  8. In order for the sod to take root with the clay soil it must be permeable which will also allow for better drainage.  Insert a handheld aerifer 3 to 4 inches deep every 4 to 6 inches to remove about ¼ to ⅓ inch diameter cores of clay soil

If this seems too labor intensive for you, check out how our professional sod installers at Boston landscaping services get the job done affordably and efficiently by requesting a free quote!

Can you lay sod over weeds?

All weeds and debris should be removed before laying new sod. Any existing imperfections can affected the ability of your new sod to thrive! ​

Is it hard to lay sod?

The following bullet points will help you gauge the maintenance required to properly lay new sod.

  • Labor - moderate to intense depending on the area size
  • Cost- moderate to intense depending on the area size
  • Skill- Mild to moderate
  • Maintenance- moderate to intense

Conclusion ​

The pleasure of having the greenest yard on the block is good, but knowing that you did all that hard work is better. Take a step back and admire your new green pasture. While using sod requires time and work, it’s a great alternative to get that green lawn in no time. If you follow our how to guide you’ll be sure to achieve your emerald dreams.
Alternatively if after reading our guide, you feel like the task is too much to take on.  We are happy to help our friends and neighbors in the greater boston area to professionally install sod at the most competitive prices in the area.

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