A beautiful lawn is perhaps the most important component involved in creating the right curb appeal—and it often starts with sod. Christopher S. Raimondi, CEO and president at Raimondi Horticultural Group in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, tells us that sod installation is an excellent option for those looking to quickly establish a lush, green lawn. However, if you’re trying to determine how much sod installation costs, it can vary, based on several factors. Here’s everything you need to know about sod installation and how to create a budget for your own lawn improvement project.
Species and Varieties of Sod
Getting the right sod for your yard unfortunately isn’t as easy as walking into a store (or calling a landscaping company) and asking for “some sod.” Raimondi says sod species vary across the county. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the different types before jumping in. “Most sod comes as a straight species or a blend, so you can, for example, get a straight variety, such as Bluegrass, or a blend of several species, like Fescue.”
These are the species of grass commonly produced for sod:
- Kentucky BlueGrass
- Bermuda Grass
- Perennial Rye
- St Augustine Grass
You also need to determine what’s best for your yard. If you have a full sun yard, you’ll want a different type of sod than someone with a full shade yard. And if your yard is partly sun and partly shade, well, that’s another factor to consider. “Also, you need to decide if you want a ballpark-like perfect lawn, or if children will be playing ball on the turf,” Raimondi says.
While the type of sod chosen can be determined by application, keep in mind that the sod type—and size—also play a role in the cost. “Varieties like Bermuda and Zoysia are often more expensive compared to others like Fescue,” explains Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal in Nashville, Tennessee. “Pricing can range from $0.30 to $0.80 per square foot for the sod itself.” In addition, the size of the lawn can determine the cost, as a larger area requires more sod.
Rolls of sod are generally 10 square feet, and Raimondi says the pricing can range from $1.20 to several dollars per square foot. Keep in mind that when the sod is installed, you’ll need to give it some time to get acclimated. “It will take a few weeks to root in before you can run and play on it—and mowing is delayed until it’s thoroughly rooted,” Raimondi says.
Location and Temperature Zones
As you can see from Caballero’s price range compared to Raimondi’s, the geographic location can impact the cost of the sod and installation. “Prices can vary due to differences in transportation costs, regional climate, and sod availability,” Caballero explains.
Also, some varieties of grass (cool, temperate, or warm season grasses) flourish naturally in certain temperature zones. “A Blue grass sod will thrive in the northern cooler climates, whereas the Bermuda grass will thrive in the warm climates of the South, so be sure you know which variety works best in your environment,” Caballero says.
The condition of your yard is another factor that can significantly affect the cost. “If the area requires extensive prep work such as leveling, soil enhancement, or old lawn removal, this can substantially increase the overall expenditure,” says Caballero.
Whether you’re going the DIY route or opting for sod installation by the pros, he recommends preparing the site. “This includes soil testing, clearing debris and weeds, and ensuring proper leveling and grading for drainage,” Caballero says. In addition, he says the state of your irrigation system should also be evaluated to be sure that it can handle the needs of your new lawn.
Raimondi agrees that preparation is the key to success with your sod installation—but he warns that this prep work can easily exceed the cost of the sod. “The more effort put into the soil prep, the faster the sod will root, and over time, provide a better high-quality disease and drought-resistant lawn,” he explains.
A good loamy topsoil and great drainage are crucial, and Raimondi says you need to think about microorganisms and nutrients active in the soil. “Proper drainage is addressed at this point in your prep as well, and this is where the costs and work start to climb—you’ll typically need a 2-inch to 3-inch base of a great soil blend,” he explains.
Tree Roots and Stones
If your yard has plenty of trees and large stones, they’ll affect the soil preparation and the new soil. “The roots will be anxious to utilize all that new water you will need to apply for the grass to root,” Raimondi explains. In fact, he says the roots will love the water and pull it away from the sod—so you’ll need to water, water, and then water again. “Unwatered sod will fail in hours, not days, in the summer heat, so it’s worth looking into an irrigation system to make life easier,” he says. As for underlying stones in the ground, Raimondi explains that these create uneven surfaces in the sod and eventually lead to its decay, since there will be minimal soil covering a larger rock.
Should You DIY or Hire Pros for Sod Installation?
DIY: Pros and Cons
“DIY can be cost-effective initially as you avoid labor charges; however, consider the long-term investment in tools and equipment,” she says.
Taking the DIY route requires you to learn about proper sod installation techniques, which is totally doable. However, Johnson warns that mistakes may lead to additional costs for replacements.
“DIY projects can be time-consuming, so be prepared for the physical effort, and dedicate sufficient time for the installation,” Johnson advises.
By installing the sod yourself, you’ll have full control over the process, and Johnson says this allows for adjustments and personalization.
Hiring Professionals: Pros and Cons
When you hire professionals, they bring experience and expertise, and Johnson says this ensures proper installation and the ability to address potential issues.
“Professionals are generally more efficient, completing the project in a shorter time frame,” Johnson says.
Since many professionals offer guarantees on their work, Johnson says you’ll have peace of mind regarding the quality and success of the installation.
Equipment and Materials
“Professionals have access to specialized equipment and may source materials at a better rate than individual consumers,” Johnson says.
Less Physical Strain
Sod installation is demanding work. If you’re not up to the task, Johnson says the professionals can handle the labor-intensive work.
DIY installations can save you on labor costs, but require a significant amount of time and expertise. “Labor costs for professional installation can vary, but on average, you can expect to pay between $1 to $2 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the job,” Caballero says. “This brings the total estimated cost, including the sod, to around $1.30 to $2.80 per square foot.”
Here’s something else to consider if you want to take the DIY route: “Only order the amount of sod that can be installed in one day,” Raimondi advises. “In the summer months, sod older than a day old will likely fail or compost right on the pallet—that’s where a team gets it done faster.”
Read the original article on Real Simple.