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In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook helps a homeowner lay sod in his backyard.


1. Use a soil probe to check the depth and texture of the topsoil.

2. Next, remove all the existing grass with a gas-powered sod cutter.

3. Place the old grass into a wheelbarrow and carry it away.

4. Loosen the topsoil with a large rotary tiller to a depth of at least 6 inches.

5. Use a mini-tiller to loosen the soil alongside fences, foundations, and other areas not accessible to the large rotary tiller.

6. Cover the entire tilled area to 2 inches deep with a 50/50 mixture of sand and compost.

7. Blend the sand and compost into the soil with the rotary tiller.

8. In the kid's play area, dig down 4 inches and cover the ground with landscape fabric.

9. Spread about 3 inches of wood chips on top of the landscape fabric.

10. Add starter fertilizer and lime to a walk-behind drop spreader and apply the mixture to the tilled area.

11. Rake the entire tilled area perfectly smooth.

12. Start laying sod, one strip at a time, along the edge of the lawn.

13. Butt the strips tightly together to produce undetectable joints.

14. After laying the first row of sod, rake the soil smooth and start the second row.

15. Use a utility knife to cut in half the first strip of sod for the second row.

16. Set the half-strip in place, then continue to lay full-length strips of sod to complete the second row. Starting with a half-strip staggers the joints between the rows.

17. Continue to lay sod, butting the strips tightly together and staggering all end joints.

18. Once you've laid all the sod, water the lawn three times per day the first week, twice a day the second week, once a day the third week, and then resume a normal watering schedule.