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Price Patrol: Laying Sod

Filed Under: Patios, Porches & Decks, Outdoors

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Getting a fresh batch of green grass could take as little as three to four days by laying sod.

When the weather calls for barbecues and lots of outdoor playtime, who wants to spend the day staring at a ragged lawn? Whether your grass has sprouted bald spots, dry patches, or become overrun with weeds or pest damage, it may time to start from scratch. If you'd rather not reseed the entire lawn, it's possible to get a fresh batch of green grass in three to four days by laying sod.

Basically, sod is fresh, green grass that's been grown by pros (so it's naturally resistant to weeds, infestations, and diseases) and sold in ready-to-lay rolls. But the benefits don't end there. In the south, choosing to sod over seed means you can cover your turf with warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass, zoysia grass, and centipede grass -- grasses that can't be grown from seeds. And you won't have to worry about battling the batches of weeds that inevitably pop up while seeding lawns in cooler climates.

Laying down a new lawn may sound daunting, which is why many people recruit a landscaper to get the job done, but with the right tools (and a lot of sweat), you can save about 50% of the cost by doing it yourself.


Installing sod is a job for more than one person. First, it in It involves pulling up old weeds and prepping the soil. Then, the sod must be lifted (those roll of grass are heavier than they look), unrolled, and lined up just so for an even look. Pushing a spreader and mower over the fragile new grass blades can be a laborious chore (but also, great exercise).

It's no wonder lots of people rely on professional landscapers to get the job done. Plus, a pro will know exactly how to treat the soil beforehand to eliminate the chance of over-treatment with fertilizer. (Studies have shown that DIYers typically over-treat their yards by about 50%.)

Of course, all this expertise comes at a hefty price. To lay sod on your front and back lawn, which is roughly 2,000 sq. ft. for most homeowners, you're likely to pay about $1,000 in labor costs. The landscaper will tack on extra fees if your lawn is on a slope, has some oddly shaped areas, or if the soil needs lots of prep work.


Down to DIY it? A few weeks before you get started, run a soil test (your local agricultural extension service will be able to send it off to a lab) so you can find out exactly how much fertilizer to add to your yard so you can avoid that pesky tendency to over-treat your turf.

Break up the job into two parts and give yourself one weekend to prep the turf and another weekend to lay down the sod. In the first weekend, remove your old patchy grass and amend the soil. It'll take two people about two days to lay down 2,000 square feet.

Ready? Not so fast. First, you'll need to rent and buy the following materials:

Tools to Rent

Sod cutter. This will help you remove your old lawn, so skip it if you are just working with dirt. About $80 a day

Rototiller. You'll need this to loosen the soil before you add compost. About $50 for four hours or $72 for full day

Tools & Materials to Buy

Soil test. You can use an at-home kit, or your local extension office can run a test that'll probably end up paying for itself since you won't waste money on too much (or the wrong type) of fertilizer. $12 to $15

Sod. You can buy it from your local garden center or home improvement store, such as The Home Depot, for about $1-$2 for each 16 x 24 sq. ft. patch. Before you call, you'll need to measure your yard carefully and allow for about 5% overage, which will give you some extra to work with when you need to cut around the edges. Be sure to choose the right type of turf for your lawn, taking into account if the majority of the grass will be in partial or full shade. $160-$600 to cover 2,000 sq. ft.

Landscape rake. You'll need a heavy-duty rake for this type of project. Pick a rake with either a high-grade aluminum or iron head. $40 to $60

2" cutting knife. You'll need this to cut down the grass squares to fit in tight corners or around sprinkler heads. $15 to $20

Push spreader.
Save money by opting for a smaller model. You'll still cover the same area -- you'll just have to refill a few more times. $40 to $70

Walk-behind mower. You can't use a heavy ride-on mower the first few times you mow, so you'll need to invest in the more compact version for $200 to $300. If you've had a lawn for a while, chances are you already own one of these. And it's worth the investment, as you'll use it every time you resod.

Compost. Depending on where you live you can find compost-soil blends that are formulated to thrive in your specific climate. $6 to $8 for two bags -- or you can make your own compost for free!

The Home Depot will let you return what you don't use, so don't worry about buying too much. $30-$75 for 3 bags

So, are you ready to lay down a new lawn and save a ton of cash?


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