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is it really that hard?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by slikrick, Jan 17, 2005.

  1. slikrick

    slikrick LawnSite Member
    from FL
    Messages: 101

    have an opportunity to lay new sod at a clients house in about 2 months. he has junk grass back there now so that needs to be torn up and new sod installed.... a couple people told me that it sucks and its hard work. im not doubting that its going to be hard but isnt there equiptment to make it easier?
    anyone have any tricks or suggestions on how to go about the tear out and install? ive never done this before.
  2. newbomb

    newbomb LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 391

    I primarily mow but have done some minor sod work, mostly patching up behind a plumber. On my full time job we rent bobcats to landscapers all day for this. I think the biggest "deal" here is the soil condition and other existing conditions. How much shade? Is it all clay? Drainage? etc..

    If you blindly install new sod and it dies, then your screwed.

    Not knowing these factors here's how I would go about it.

    1 Use a skid steer loader (bobcat) TOOTHED BUCKET !!! to "peel" up the old sod and level and groom existing soil. If the soil is poor I would suggest a couple inches of good topsoil as a prep for the sod.

    2 Arrange to have a roll off dumpster w/low sides, probably a 10 yard can would be big enough. You can easily get rid of the old sod and debris this way.

    3 If topsoil is needed, have it there, ready to go down. Spread it with the bobcat. Your going to have some raking to do though, might want a helper or 2.

    4 I am not sure but I would guess you could put down a good spring fertilizer just before the sod goes in. Please get other advise on that one though, I'm not sure.

    5 Get 3 or 4 helpers for the day you install the sod. This part is labor intensive with not many other options. Most sod companies will set pallets where you need them to minimize carrying.

    A bobcat rented for a 24 hr "day" is around $250 - $300 delivered. ( I deliver these all day, get the damage waiver).
    A 10 yard dumpster is probably $400 or so. I haven't rented one in years. Other materials you'll have to price.

    Don't work cheap!!! One landscaper that rented from us did a lady's front yard just like you want to do. 8 hrs on site, 4 guys, 75X50 front yard, no dumpster, no topsoil, $3,000

    Hope this helps. -Paul
  3. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    here is the trick to sod work.

    charge enough to make it worth while.

    I have done 4000 sq ft by myself in the dead of summer in Florida and it took me about 8.5 hours including a quick rototill to loosen up the soil for better contact.

    My cost for sod delivered about $850. My charge to the client was $3100. $2750 for the sod and $350 for rototilling. He was happy to pay.

    If I was a little smarter, I would have brought out my helper for $100 for the day and had it done in 5 easier hours.

    Things to do:

    kill all the current weeds a week or so before. a lot of guys on here say it doesn't
    need to be that long of a delay and they are right, but your client feels a lot better
    when he sees the weeds die.

    Then the day before or early that morning, break up the soil with a rototiller.
    you aren't really trying to turn under all the old weeds and grass, just loosen up the
    soil and allow for easier root penetration.

    Optional fertilize soil with milorganites
    adds organic matter and can't burn the grass.

    throw sod. Make sure you are there when the delivery truck comes so you can
    position where you want the pallets in the yard. why walk if further than you have
    too. Also make sure you but the pieces up and stamp down any up edges.

    Water the sod. Water with at least an inch of water right away. you are wetting it,
    but you are also tamping down the soil and creating a bond between the sod and the
    soil and opening up the fertilizer. I don't roll it. why compact what you just loosened
    and make it more difficult on the roots.

    Make sure your client is going to water twice a day for a week and once a day for the next week then every other day for the next week. IMPRESS upon them that one skipped watering will delay the rooting of the sod for a week. Missing more than 3 in a row will likely cause dead spots in the lawn as the sod dries up and dies. OVEREMPHASIZE the need to water properly. If in doubt in the first TWO weeks, water again. AFTER that they need to slowly harden off the sod to get the roots to grow down. eventually when the rooting holding the sod in place they need to move to long waterings every third day. Make the roots chase the water.

    This is how I do it and have great results. No sod cutting, you are taking away the best soil and a good source of organic matter.

    It is difficult, dirty work, but people will pay well for it. They have no idea what they are doing, don't have a rototiller, and KNOW it is a real pain. They will pay.

    If I could only do sod and stop mowing, I would.
  4. Sir Mow-A-Lot

    Sir Mow-A-Lot LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    My only advice is to water the lawn area BEFORE you lay the sod. Water it after you lay the sod too but i think it keeps the roots nice and happy not to be on dusty dry soil.
  5. mcclureandson

    mcclureandson LawnSite Member
    Messages: 242

    brown side down...
  6. out4now

    out4now LawnSite Bronze Member
    from AZ
    Messages: 1,796

    Not necesarily hard, but get someone to work with you so you can learn to do it right. Cooperative extension may have a class that can show you. I know ALCA has a seminar for it here. It was I think 60 bucks for that one.
  7. rclay11541

    rclay11541 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 100

    Make sure you get a utility mark out!!!!!!! It is the law in most states and it saves you from going to jail/getting sued!

    1. Rototil the crap out of the area to be worked on. Rent an industrial machine and go at lease 8 inches down.

    2. Hand rake and level the area and use the dumpster to get rid of rocks, the old grass clumps etc..

    3. Lay down a good 1/4 inch of top quality organic top soil (the all black stuff)

    4. Water and lay down a basic low content potasium and potash granular fertilizer.

    5. Get the soil as close to 7ph as possible using lime

    6. With damp soil start laying down your sod. Make sure its very tight but dont pack it down. The roots must be able to breathe.

    7. Next day water the crap out of it.

    Good luck! I would rent a small backhoe not a bobcat because if your not that expiranced with a bobcat it can be difficult to create a leval surface. My advice would be to rent a JD gator and use that to cart your materials around the jobsite.

    Dont forget about that utility markout you must call 1 month in advance.
  8. procut

    procut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,852

    Could someone explain this in more detail? Thanks!
  9. rclay11541

    rclay11541 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 100

    Ill start a new thread about it.
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Ok. Most of the guys have some good advice so far. But I haven't seen anyone who got it 100% right yet. RClay is the closest so far.

    Newbomb suggested a skid-steer and removing the sod. I think that's going a little overboard, unless this is a huge area we're talking about.

    My company has done over 200 new sod lawns over the years and we're pretty good at it. Assuming we're talking about less than 8,000 sq. ft. Here's what I recommend;

    1) Kill the lawn with Round-up 8 weeks prior to job
    2) Call in utility locates (1-800-332-2344) at least 1 week prior to job
    3) Rent a big 16hp Barreto Rototiller and rototill the area 2-4 times. Rototill at 4" first, then 6", then 8". Once you can't see the sod much anymore and there are no big chunks, you've rototilled enough. It should be medium fine. Not TOO fine. It's possible to over-rototill.

    Here's the rototiller you want to get CLICK HERE

    4) Apply 1-2" of new sandy loam soil (like rclay said, the black stuff) to the entire area.
    *(Optionally; at this point you can rototill the new soil INTO the old soil if the old soil isn't very good.)
    5) Roll the entire area with a Lawn Roller twice
    6) Grade the area using a Landscaper's Rake twice
    7) Repeat steps 5 and 6 until area is totally flat
    8) Roll once more
    9) Paint out the area where the sod is going to be using Marking paint and a marking paint gun
    10) Lay down the sod, overlapping your paint marks by 6"+ everywhere.
    NOTE: if the soil is not very firm, you may mess up the perfectly graded soil. So you may need to re-grade and re-roll periodically if this happens.
    11) Cut sod with a sod knife or a nice serrated knife (e.g. steak knife) along your paint marks.
    12) Apply starter fertilizer
    13) Keep watered

    That's it. It's really not very difficult. The hardest part is the soil prep. and grading. From there, it's really simple.

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