How Much Does Sod Cost to Install?

by Michael Franco
landscaper installing sod

There’s nothing quite like a healthy lawn. When it’s warm out, it’s the place to be — perfect for games of catch, family picnics and other recreation. And even as it gets colder, a robust lawn can assist in protecting the ground and preventing erosion, as the grass roots help water safely enter the soil. In addition, a well-maintained lawn looks good, improves curb appeal and even increases the value of your home. Put simply, investing in your lawn is a fertile pursuit.

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Whether you’re starting from scratch or repairing an old, patchy green space on your property, one of the best ways to get a great-looking lawn quickly is to install sod.

Is Sod Real Grass?

In essence, sod is farm-grown grass that’s been carefully cultivated and then removed with a thin layer of soil and roots to hold it together. It’s cut into even sections and then rolled so the sod is ready to be shipped to its destination. The sod is then unfurled on top of soil, where it takes root.

For lawn-ready homeowners looking to maximize their time and energy, sod is certainly a desirable option. Laying sod is instantly gratifying. While it may not yet be ready for heavy use, quality sod looks impressive right after unrolling it and placing it in the yard. Already healthy and weed-free, with regular watering, sod can be ready for full use in about 2 weeks.

Despite the near-instant gratification it provides, like all home landscaping projects, laying sod can feel like a daunting process. And if you haven’t planned accordingly, a sod installation project can quickly get expensive. It pays to have a little knowledge about sod installation as you begin your project to help prevent overspending and other surprises along the way.

How Much Does Sod Cost to Install?

Because sod grass is carefully cultivated on specialized farms, it’s almost always more expensive than seeding a lawn. Of course, that makes sense since you’re paying a farm to grow the grass for you. According to Lawn Love, sod costs around 35 cents to 80 cents (CAD 0.47 to CAD 1.07) per square foot.

Estimate roughly $135 to $374 (CAD 181 to CAD 500) per sod pallet. A sod pallet covers around 450 square feet. That translates to roughly $3,050 to $6,970 (CAD 4,079 to CAD 9,321) for a one-fifth-acre lawn for the sod itself. Add in professional labor and other installation materials and you’re looking at $7,840 to $15,680 (CAD 10,484 to CAD 20,968) for the same size lawn.

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Types of Sod

One of the biggest cost drivers per square foot of sod is the type of grass you install. And while this decision can depend in part on personal preference, it’s more often subject to your zip code, as well as the amount of available sun and shade your area receives. Other factors impacting sod choice include climate and the average amount of precipitation in the area.

For example, fescue and Bahia grass are two of the more popular types of grass in the Southeastern United States due to their low price point and resilience amid heat and humidity. Zoysia and palmetto grass, on the other hand, are softer, more delicate grasses that thrive in shaded, cooler areas. Bermuda grass, another common choice throughout the United States, is a great sod grass for hot, dry desert climates due to its natural resistance to drought. Chances are, wherever you live, there’s a sod farm relatively close by that grows the best types of sod for your climate.

How Much Sod Do You Need?

The size of your sod installation project is perhaps the most significant factor in determining how much it will cost. Obviously, the larger the square footage of the project, the more it will cost. Because of this, you’ll want to be extra-careful not to buy more sod than you’ll need. Unfortunately, that’s not always as easy as it sounds.

Much like laying tile or hanging wallpaper, sod rolls must be cut to fit certain areas of your lawn, so you may end up needing more rolls than you think. Because of this, professional sod installation services recommend you purchase 5% more sod than you anticipate needing for the project. Fortunately, there are several online sod calculator apps that can help you determine how much sod you’ll need to purchase.

Should You Hire a Professional?

Another factor that affects the cost of your sod project is whether you choose to install it yourself. As you can imagine, hiring a pro for your sod installation comes with its own set of perks. Contracting out the job allows you to sit back and relax, trusting that the job will be done correctly. A professional will typically remove your old grass, prepare and fertilize your soil and, finally, lay the new sod. It goes without saying that this service comes at a price: On average, homeowners can expect to pay 55 cents to $1 (CAD  0.74 to CAD 1.36) per square foot for professional sod installation, not including the cost of the sod itself.

That said, laying sod is a doable project for those who are up to the task. It’s a bit of a workout, and it will likely take you longer to tackle than it would a professional. However, you’ll save a lot of money, and when you’re finished, you can bask in the satisfaction of having completed the project yourself.

Still, you’ll need to keep in mind that there are other costs associated with a do-it-yourself sod installation besides purchasing the sod itself. For example, once you remove the old grass and weeds from the project area, you’ll need to loosen the dirt significantly. While you can use a shovel or a mattock to do this, it’s much quicker and easier if you use a rototiller. If you don’t have access to a rototiller, you can rent one from your local equipment rental store for roughly $63 (CAD 84) a day.

While the lawn is bare and the soil loose, it might be a good idea to test your soil to figure out what kind of fertilizer you’ll need to use after you lay the sod. You’ll also want to purchase a sod knife for the job, which typically costs around $18 (CAD 24). Overall, installing sod yourself costs $1,700 (CAD 2,273) on average.

Plan Ahead, Follow Through

In essence, sod installation is as simple as it sounds: You lay the sod down and let it take root. But, like any project, it can sometimes be worth it to hire a pro. If you have an especially large lawn, your lawn is an odd shape or you aren’t up to the physical demands, calling a professional might be the best decision. Whatever route you choose, make sure to care for your new sod by watering properly and avoiding heavy traffic in those first few weeks. It’s a massive bummer to invest time and money in a project only to have to turn around and redo large portions of it.

By planning accordingly, a sod installation project doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. In fact, with a little knowledge and planning, you can be on your way to enjoying the myriad benefits of a healthy lawn.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.