I’m not a fan of doing backbreaking work, so I usually hire a professional to do yard work and any other dirty work outside. After researching the prices of laying sod so I can have a lawn worth mowing, I may change my mind on outdoor work because of the opportunity to save money.
Laying sod yourself can save 50-75 percent of the cost of a professional doing it. A 2-foot-by-5-foot piece of sod might cost $2-$3, while a landscaping company will charge $8 or more just for the sod plus add in service charges and labor, says Luke Belding, web manager for Arlington Power Equipment in Palatine, Illinois.
For that amount of savings, it might be worth it to plant your own lawn. After all, laying sod should be a technically easy thing to do without a specialized base of knowledge — it’s just rolling out patches of sod, for crying out loud. But one mistake can compromise an entire lawn, according to SodGod.com, which details how to lay sod and how much it should cost.
The potential heartache of watching all of your work die off because you didn’t hire a professional shouldn’t deter you. But before we get to the basics of how to lay sod like a pro, you should first have an idea of sod prices.
Variety of prices
The price of sod depends on the type, location of source, quantity, area where you’re laying it, and whether you’re hiring a pro or doing it yourself.
Location is one of the biggest factors. It costs more to ship longer distances, and some types of sod aren’t grown for long shipping times.
Sod is typically priced per square foot, requiring you to measure your lawn and make sure you have too much sod left over instead of not enough. Going back to buy smaller pieces of sod to fill spots you didn’t measure for will cost more in the long run.
Prices can range from 8 cents to 30 cents per square foot, bringing the total price of a 2,000-square-foot project to $160-$600.
Delivery charges will range from being free and included in the price to more than half of the total cost of the sod. Other expenses include tools (which we’ll detail later), fertilizer, seeds for spot seeding, and labor. That last big cost — labor — can be eliminated if you’re willing to do the work yourself so you can save money.
Costs of a professional
Sod is heavy, difficult to work with and dirty. That alone may be enough to get you to hire a pro, no matter how much money you would save by doing it yourself. They do this for a living, allowing you to avoid a mistake that can kill an entire lawn.
There are some factors that cause hiring a professional to be much more expensive than doing it yourself:
- Higher costs per square foot of sod: 14-60 cents, pushing our 2,000-square-foot lawn up to $280-$1,200.
- Lawn shape: A large, flat square is easier for a contractor to install sod on than an irregular shape.
- Slopes: If the lawn area has slopes or obstacles, the price will rise.
How to lay sod yourself
The work really begins before you even get your hands dirty. Here are some steps to installing sod yourself:
1. Pick the best grass for your lawn.
Along with researching the type of grass that has the look and feel you want, find out which grass will do well in your climate. Some types of grass need constant care, while others can do well with a mowing once a month or so. Pick the grass that matches your maintenance routine.
2. Shop around.
Shop for the best price for sod in your area. Mary Hart, an avid do-it-yourselfer in West Palm Beach, Florida, says that while shopping for sod at big-name nurseries, she found a local market that had the freshest and healthiest-looking sod. When Hart called, a worker was cutting up new sod in the field, so she drove over and bought some.
3. Do the prep work.
You’ll need some tools, which may require borrowing, renting or buying if you don’t already own them. Start by removing the existing ground cover. Till the soil and level the ground with a rake, with the goal of getting the ground as flat and even as possible.
Water the ground so it’s moist and not soggy or dry. Water it deeply one to two days before delivery. The last step of prep work is to spread fertilizer on the ground.
4. Keep it cool.
On the day of delivery, start laying the sod early in the morning, especially if your area has extreme temperatures. Keep the sod cool and moist to the touch, sprinkling it lightly with water to keep it cool.
5. Start at the edges.
Lay the first piece of sod along a straight edge, such as a sidewalk or side of a building. Get the sod as tight to the edges as possible so it doesn’t dry out and the roots die.
Lay the second piece of sod as close to the first without overlapping or crowding. Don’t stretch the sod.
6. Keep leveling.
Continue to level the ground as you lay sod, using the back of a rake to prevent bumps.
7. Cut ends of rows cleanly.
At the end of a row, roll out the sod over the edge and cut off the excess with a knife. Don’t tear the sod, which could damage other areas.
8. Fill the gaps the right way.
If you’re laying sod around in-ground sprinklers, trees or other obstacles, cut holes for these items. Put soil or other organic material such as peat moss in any gaps or seams. Don’t use leftover pieces of sod because they’ll dry out quickly.
9. Roll it.
Use a roller — you’ll likely have to rent one — filled with water over the sod, being careful not to push down on the roller. The roller helps make sure the ground is level and the soil and roots are in good contact.
10. Water your new lawn.
Water deeply so that there is wet soil six to eight inches below the sod. Check the depth of water with a stiff wire for several days or until the roots take hold.
As a DIY project, laying sod is high on the money-saving scale while not being too technically difficult. But the backbreaking work could leave you wishing you had a smaller lawn.
“Enjoy the fresh air, soak up some sun, and once you are finished with your project you have the satisfaction of knowing you accomplished your new yard all on your own,” says Hart, who installed her front lawn in Florida.