How suppliers determine the price of sod

Posted June 12, 2018 5:12 p.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2018 2:26 p.m. EDT

A sodded lawn immediately increases the value of a property but the cost of that sod depends on many variables.

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Sod Producers Association.

A sodded lawn immediately increases the value of a property but the cost of that sod depends on many variables.

Your sod supplier, whether it’s a turf farm, retail store, landscape contractor or your favorite lawn care service must consider several factors in determining the sales price.

"Homeowners eagerly invest in their biggest asset, their home. New sod adds value immediately and enhances your quality of life," said Dr. Art Bruneau, professor emeritus at North Carolina State University.

"Paying for a luscious lawn is routine in North Carolina. Even without considering the cost of a newly sodded lawn, North Carolina homeowners annually spend more than $700 for green goods, equipment and supplies, according the N.C. Green Industry Council."

Here are some of the variables that go into determining the cost of sod for your lawn:

Grass Type & Quality

The grass you select for your lawn can affect the price.

Many of the turfgrasses grown as sod cannot be seeded and can only be vegetatively planted. Some of the grasses used for home lawns are the same as those used on professional and school athletic fields or golf courses. Some of them have been developed and/or tested at universities such to ensure that they perform well in N.C. conditions.

Some specialty grass varieties may require the turf farm to pay royalties to the developers or breeders or require certification to insure purity. Enhanced quality and added performance often compensates for the added cost.

With the state's diverse climate from the mountains to the coast, nearly all major turfgrasses can be grown somewhere in N.C.

Members of the N.C. Sod Producers Association can help you select the turfgrasses that are adapted and will grow best in your situation. Grass options in North Carolina include varieties that are cool season or warm season.

Some turfgrasses take longer to mature at the sod farm than others, which in turn can increase costs. Keep in mind that some of these slower establishing grasses can possess attributes that are not available in quicker growing turfgrasses, and often justify the added cost. Like any commodity, sod costs are related to supply and demand. A boom in building, for example, could affect supply.

The N.C. Sod Producers Association and N.C. State are good resources to help you find the right turf grass for your needs, and how to care for it once installed.

Size of Area

"The size of the area to be covered in sod is an obvious factor in determining costs, but it isn't as easy as what you learned in fourth grade, that length times width equals the area," Bruneau explained. "Driveways, sidewalks, flower beds and trees all complicate that figure. Yet, an accurate number can save you money and prevent waste by ordering too much sod."

To estimate the amount of sod needed to cover your lawn area, draw a diagram of the entire landscape. Divide the area where sod will be used into simple geometric shapes like rectangles and triangles, and measure and record the dimensions of each of these subsections.

Then, calculate the area of each sod subsection and add all of these areas together to determine the total area. Don't forget to subtract your house as well.

Pallets of sod typically contain 50 square yards (450 square feet) of sod. This will cover approximately 0.01 acres. Order about 5 percent to 10 percent more sod to accommodate any miscalculations, handling errors and waste.

If you hire a professional installer, they will take care of this step for you.


If you decide to install your sod lawn yourself, you still may want to leave delivery to someone else.

Sod is heavy, and wet sod can weigh 30 to 40 pounds per square yard. A medium-sized car can typically carry 5 to 10 square yards of sod, a pickup can transport 25 to 50 square yards, and a one-ton truck can handle 150 to 200 square yards.

Prior to ordering your sod, make sure that you have properly prepared the area. Appropriate steps to accomplish this can be found at the websites listed above.

Plan the delivery of the sod and its installation on the same day to reduce the chance of sod loss due to exposure to adverse weather conditions. Sod should be laid within 24 to 36 hours of delivery. If you cannot lay the sod in that timeframe, place it in a cool, shaded spot. Sod left on a pallet for very long can be injured by excessive heat from within the pallet due to microbial decomposition similar to what happens to a compost pile.

Expect to be charged a delivery fee to cover the freight, usually based on the distance from harvest at the sod farm to your lawn. A wooden pallet charge is generally added, which could be credited if they are returned.

Installation Labor

The size and the terrain of your landscape can impact the sod installation. While some yards can be easily done in a weekend, for larger areas and more complex terrains, you may want to consider hiring a professional installer. For these larger, more difficult terrains, special equipment may be required that is usually unavailable to most homeowners.

Whether you hire a professional installer or do it yourself, there are several items that should be considered:

  • Terrain. Just like a steep roof, a steep yard is harder to work with than flat land. Oftentimes, special equipment is needed to install sod. That equipment may not be adapted to use on sloped land or small areas, and then installation must be done by hand which can add to the cost.
  • Obstacles. When mowing, we have to work around patios, trees, rocks, flowers and other beautiful elements in our backyard. These obstacles also make it more difficult to install sod and will increase cost.

If you do use a professional installer, labor cost will be based on the size of your landscape, the terrain and the obstacles to be encountered.

This story was written for our sponsor, North Carolina Sod Producers Association.