wikiHow to Replace an Old Lawn

Three Parts:Removing Your Old LawnStarting Your New Lawn Using SeedsStarting Your New Lawn Using Sod

Two of the best ways to replace an old lawn with a new one are planting with seeds, or laying down grass that comes in strips of sod. Sodded grass cuts back significantly on the time you have to wait for your new lawn to replace your old. Seeded grass is cheaper and can be more dependable. Either choice will work to replace your old, patchy lawn with new grass.

Part 1
Removing Your Old Lawn

  1. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 1
    Remove the sod. Sod removal works best for grass that doesn't have long roots. Grasses that are perennial, Bermuda grass, for instance, have roots that go down several feet. It’s hard to get all of it by cutting away the sod. [1]
    • Rent a sod cutter if you don’t have one. They're about $70.00 per day.[2]
    • Alternately, you can use a flat shovel rather than a sod cutter. It’s less expensive, but it’s a lot more labor.[3]
    • Cut the sod into strips.[4] After cutting the sod, roll up the strips and dispose of them.
    • Alternately, you can leave the sod in place by inverting it and using it for compost. Cover the inverted sod in 6 to 10 layers of newspaper. The decomposed sod improves the soil and prevents grass from regrowing.[5]
    • You can also use the inverted sod to make high places on your lawn or to fill in low places.[6]
  2. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 2
    Smother your lawn. Smothering your lawn will block light and prevent photosynthesis, killing the grass and weeds. The smothering method is not as dependent upon the weather as solarization or herbicides.[7]
    • Mow the grass closely. Cover it with layers of cardboard or newspaper (use black ink; colored ink could contain metals).[8]
    • Wet the covering and top it off with grass clippings (four inches or more), compost or another mulch that’s organic.[9]
    • A variety of mulches can be used for the smothering process including old carpeting or 6-inch wood chips.[10]
    • Black plastic works. It will block the sun and prevent photosynthesis.[11]
    • Avoid heavy mulching in shady areas,which prevents the soil from warming up[12]causing too much moisture in the root zone.[13]
    • The layers of your old lawn will break down, making compost.[14]The soil is now ready for planting.[15]
  3. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 3
    Use solarization to remove your old lawn. Solarization uses the sun’s heat to kill the old grass by cooking it. Weeds, seeds and pathogens are also removed.You’ll need to cover the entire lawn with clear plastic[16]
    • Keep the lawn covered for about 7 weeks.[17]
    • Cloudy days slow things down. The hottest days with direct sunlight are optimal for solarization.[18]
    • Remove the plastic when the grass has died.[19]
    • The dead grass can also be removed, or you can leave it as compost.[20]
    • Clear plastic is preferable to opaque because more sunlight can get to the grass surface.[21]
    • Thick plastic will last longer because it’s sturdier and resists tears.[22]
  4. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 4
    Remove the old lawn using herbicides. Herbicides will kill weeds, roots and grass. Mix the herbicide in accordance with the directions on the product. Then cover the entire lawn with herbicide.[23]
    • Select a herbicide that will degrade quickly. This will minimize how long it stays in the environment. Herbicides containing glyphosate are a wise choice.[24]
    • Be careful not to spray the herbicide on your garden plants.[25]
    • Apply the herbicide on a sunny day (60 degrees or above) so that the herbicide will dry quickly.[26]
    • Reapply the herbicide if the turf has not completely died. Wait about four weeks before reapplying.[27]
    • Wait one week after the final application. Till the dead turf into your soil.[28]

Part 2
Starting Your New Lawn Using Seeds

  1. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 5
    Grade the turf for your new lawn. Do this once the old lawn has been removed by your selected process. This is a nice opportunity to fix existing grade problems.
    • The ground should slope away from your house in all directions. It should drop about 2 ½ inches every 10 feet (3 m).[29]
    • Use a landscaping rake if the grading adjustments are minor. [30]
    • Water the area and fill in puddled areas with soil from the high spots on your lawn.[31]
    • The finished grade should be at the level of surrounding areas like a patio or sidewalk.[32]
    • If you’re adding amendments to the soil than adjust the grading depth to about 2 inches (5 cm) lower than the fixed surfaces (such as a patio) bordering your new lawn.[33]
  2. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 6
    Amend the soil before planting your new lawn. Now that you’re starting from scratch, take advantage of your access to the soil of your lawn by preparing it for “hosting” grass seeds.[34]
    • Use a soil test to determine the best way to treat your soil. Cooperative Extension Services can analyze your soil. You can find them through a local state university.[35]
    • A commercial tester can also be used to test your soil.[36]
    • Add organic matter, lime, sulfur or fertilizer to serve as amendments for the site of your new lawn.[37]
    • Don’t cultivate the soil it too finely. You’ll want to avoid the soil crusting into a hard surface which prevents seeds from emerging. Aim for soil that isn’t dense and will allow seeds to grow.[38]
  3. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 7
    Seed your lawn. Lawns started from seed are best planted in the early fall or in the spring after frost season.[39]
    • Select the seed that works best for your lawn environment. Your seed-seller can make a recommendation.
    • Fill your seed spreader with the grass seed.
    • Use a drop-spreader to distribute the seeds. The drop-spreader has a dropper with adjustable holes. Most lawn products will suggest what size hole you should use.[40]
    • The drop spreader is good for most lawns under 4,000 square feet.[41]
    • For lawns over 4,000 feet (1,000 m), use a broadcast spreader. They're faster and allow for a wider distribution of seeds.[42]
    • Sow the seed evenly. Allow a 6 inch to 1 foot (0.30 m) overlap of seeds.[43]
    • Maintain a steady slow pace as you seed (3mph).[44]
    • Work the seed gently into the ground. Use an inverted plastic rake to avoid uneven distribution.[45]
  4. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 8
    Apply a fertilizer. Your local lawn and garden supplier will help you to choose the fertilizer appropriate for your lawn.[46]
    • Cover the seeds using the back of your rake[47]
    • Apply a thin mulch if you expect hot dry weather. Use an organic mulch.[48]
  5. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 9
    Water the newly seeded lawn thoroughly. Don't wash away the seeds. Keep the seeded area moist until the grass sprouts (about 3 weeks).[49]
    • Water for brief periods of time, but often. When the weather is warm, try for 4 or more times a day.[50]
  6. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 10
    Mow your new lawn. Mow for the first time after the grass has grown a third taller than its optimum height.[51]
    • On your first mowing you should go slowly. You’ll want to avoid damaging the new roots.[52]
    • After your first mowing, continue to water your new lawn frequently until it’s safely established. The top inch of soil should be moist and not dried out.[53]
  7. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 11
    Monitor your new lawn closely for the first 4-6 weeks. Avoid walking on the lawn for the first 4-6 weeks. .[54]
    • Refrain from weeding until you’ve mowed the lawn about 4 times (that’s about 6 weeks).[55]
    • Many of the weeds will have been removed by your lawn mower. Others will have been crowded out by the emerging new grass.[56]
    • Remove weeds after 6 weeks if they're still a problem. You can use a herbicide or pull them out by hand.[57]

Part 3
Starting Your New Lawn Using Sod

  1. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 12
    Grade the turf for your new lawn. You can fix existing problems by grading, as you prepare for sod to arrive.
    • Avoid too much slope for your new lawn. The maximum slope is about twelve inches for every four feet. If your slope is greater than that you might need to build a retaining wall.[58]
    • Use a hose to water the site for your new lawn. Note areas where puddles have formed.[59]
    • Use a rake to fill in the low areas on your lawn with soil from the high spots. [60]
    • Be sure the finished grade is level with the areas surrounding your lawn site.[61]
    • Amendments to the soil will require you to adjust the grading depth. Make the depth about 2 inches (5 cm) lower to accommodate the amendments you’ll be adding.[62]
  2. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 13
    Test your soil. You'll need to confirm that the base of your lawn site will be a good fit for the sod you'll order.
    • For about $15.00 your local extension will send it to a lab for analysis.[63]
    • If the sod is laid properly and bonds with the soil beneath you’ll have a good-to-go lawn in about two weeks.[64]
  3. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 14
    Buy your sod. It will generally be a mix of two to three turf grasses. You can order it from a garden center. Or you can order sod directly from a sod farm. Your source for buying sod will depend upon where you live.[65]
    • Sod has improved over the years so that there are more options and it’s cheaper than it used to be.[66]
    • Measure the square-footage of your lawn carefully so that you can order the right amount of sod. It’s best to go over a bit to cover cutting around curves . . . about 5% over should do the trick.[67]
    • It will cost about $400.00 to cover a 1,000-sq foot back yard. Double that if you’re having the sod installed rather than doing it yourself.[68]
    • Be sure to let your supplier know if you’ll be in full or partial shade when you speak to them about ordering the sod.[69]
    • Your sod should be delivered directly after it’s been cut. That should be within 24 hours.[70]
  4. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 15
    Lay the sod the same day it arrives. Two people could cover about a thousand square feet of sod in a day. If your yard is bigger, consider getting a little help from your friends to install the sod as quickly as possible.[71]
    • Find the longest straight section of your yard. This will be where you lay your first strip of sod.[72]
    • Keep off the sod while you’re unrolling and installing it. Rake out any footprints that are left on the sod.[73]
    • Pat down the sod so that it’s flat against the soil beneath it.[74]
    • Lay the next row of sod. Cut the sod in half first and lay it in a staggered design (as bricks are laid).[75]
    • Make sure the sections of sod are snug against each other. But don’t allow them to overlap. Continue this process for your whole lawn, cutting sections and staggering them as you lay them down.[76]
    • You can cut holes in the sod for ground sprinklers if you plan on using them.[77]
    • Use a knife to trim the sections of sod that abut paved areas.[78]
  5. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 16
    Water the newly sodded lawn every day. Be sure to soak thoroughly. This will help the sod to settle into the soil. If you water in the morning the sod will have all day to soak up the water.[79]
    • You’ll lose quite a bit of water during the day, due to evaporation.[80]
    • Keep foot traffic on the sod to a minimum.[81]
  6. Image titled Replace an Old Lawn Step 17
    Mow and fertilize the lawn. When the grass reaches about 3 inches (8 cm) cut it down to 2 inches. The grass is still fragile so use a regular lawnmower rather than heavier equipment.[82]
    • Bag the clippings and haul them away when you’re finished mowing.[83]
    • Grow the grass high during the summer months to encourage deep roots. But always cut about a third of the height off the grass when you mow.[84]
    • After three to four weeks growth, add fertilizer to the lawn. This will replace nutrients lost to watering and wet weather.[85]


  • Count on a weekend to prepare your soil and to either plant new seed or lay new sod. The more hands you can get to help, the better.[86]
  • After laying down the sod try using a roller to smooth it out. Use a roller half-filled with water to give it weight which will press down the sod.[87]
  • Sodded lawns don’t dry out as fast as seeded lawns. If you’re not able to water your new lawn throughout the day, a sodded lawn might be for you. It still requires lots of water. But not as much as a seeded lawn.
  • To keep newly sodded areas moist, consider watering the sod after you lay the first large area. Continue this process after each new large area has been laid down.[88]
  • Steep sloping lawns present problems for the smother method. Layered materials could slide on steep slopes.
  • Sod is the best way to cover grass in southern states for grasses that can’t be grown from seed. Centipede grass is an example.[89]ject</ref>


  • Roundup herbicide claims to be non-toxic.[90] However, recent studies have shown that it could be linked to a number of health problems including infertility and cancer.[91]
  • Sod can have problems bonding to the soil. If problems occur the lawn could have patchy spots. In some cases grass might not come in at all. Be sure to test your soil through a lab analysis to determine what type of sod will work best for you.[92]
  • The downside to removing a lawn by mulching is that your lawn will look unsightly for two months while the lawn is breaking down. And there's quite a bit of initial labor involved in laying down the mulching materials.[93]
  • Solarization does kill some beneficial organisms. But it does less damage to the environment than a herbicide.[94]

Things You'll Need

  • A seed spreader if you're planting grass.
  • Roundup or similar herbicide if you go the herbicide route.
  • A sod cutter to remove original sod if you choose sod removal. You can rent a sod cutter for about 70.00 dollar a day. They’ll cut grass at the roots and expose the bare ground beneath.[95] Speak to your garden shop about what kind of sod cutter you should rent for your particular needs.
  • A sod-cutting knife with a 2-inch blade
  • An an iron rake
  • Compost, and other soil additives like fertilizer and lime. What you add will depend on the results of your soil analysis.[96]
  • A roller if you're laying sod
  • Grass seed if seeding
  • Hose to keep lawn watered

Sources and Citations

Show more... (93)

Article Info

Categories: Lawn Care