Which Is Better for a Real Grass Lawn: Sod or Seed?

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 26, 2021

Family plays soccer in the backyard of their house
Kevin Dodge via Getty Images

Choosing between sodding and seeding your grounds is usually the first step in getting the kind of real grass lawn your neighbors will covet.

  1. What’s the Difference Between Sodding and Seeding?
    1. What Is Sodding?
    2. What Is Seeding?
    3. What Is Hydroseeding?
  2. Sod vs. Seed: Which Is Better for Your Lawn?
  3. Cost Comparison
    1. Seed
    2. Sod
  4. DIY vs. Hiring a Landscaper
    1. Seed
    2. Sod
  5. Reseed vs. Resod
    1. Seed
    2. Sod
  6. Transplanting Time
    1. Seed
    2. Sod
  7. Maintenance & Care
    1. Seed
    2. Sod
  8. Erosion, Soil Conditions, and Other Planting Considerations

What’s the Difference Between Sodding and Seeding?

Nothing quite captures the American Dream like a tree-lined street, a cozy house with a white picket fence, and a lush, emerald lawn for the kids and fur babies to play in.

But getting that picture-perfect natural grass yard isn’t always as simple as it may seem. Sometimes, your yard needs a little help. And the first step, usually, is choosing between sodding and seeding your yard. What’s the difference, though, and why does it matter?

What Is Sodding?

Sodding your lawn involves the installation of strips of pre-grown grass on exposed and prepared soil. The sod takes root within 2-3 weeks and makes for an instantly green lawn, so if you’re looking for fast and beautiful results, then sodding may be the way to go.

Sod comes in rolls of about 2 feet by 5 feet. Farmers harvest the grass in strips with up to 2 inches of soil intact so that the soil, roots, and grass stay together. You can purchase sod by the pallet, and a pallet’s worth of rolls usually covers 400 to 500 square feet. Sod also comes in economy, mid- and high-grades.

The average cost of a pallet sod ranges from $120 to $400, depending on lot size and sod grade.

The average cost of sod installation can range from just over $1,000 to nearly $3,000. Again, the final cost depends on the size of your yard, the quality of your materials, and whether you choose to hire a pro or install it yourself.

You can also opt for grass plugs instead of the traditional sod rolls. Grass plugs come in squares of about 3 inches with a layer of soil attached.

These smaller versions of sod pallets cost less than their counterpart, but you’ll need to wait a bit longer for the payoff. You plant them in a grid pattern and over time, they spread to form a lush yard. Like all grasses, different types grow best at different times of the year and in particular environments.

What Is Seeding?

For seeding, you or your professional must test and prep the soil extensively. Test and balance the soils’ pH level to ensure your seeds germinate and your grass thrives. The cost of soil testing averages anywhere from $800 to $2,000, depending on your home’s location and the size of your yard. Still, it can be a great investment to prevent a lot of wasted time, money, and effort should the grass fail because of poor soil conditions.

Distribute seeds evenly throughout the yard to prevent bare patches. Grass seeds come from grass plants that mature, sprout heads and then produce seeds. You plant them in your yard as part of the seeding process. They germinate when moist, sprouting into a lush new lawn.

Grass seeds come in hundreds of species, so you’ll want to make sure you choose the best variety for your climate and lawn.

But that’s not all. You will also need to plant it at the right time and in the right conditions. Otherwise, the seeds won’t flourish and you’ll have to start again. Fortunately, all grass seed species come packaged with standardized labels to help you choose the right one for your region.

Even though seeding a lawn can take a bit more effort and research to get it right, seeding can save you money. The average cost to seed a yard can range from as little as $400 to as much as $1,500, depending on how much seed you need and the species you choose.

What Is Hydroseeding?

Hydroseeding uses a machine to distribute a mixture of mulch, seeds, fertilizer, water, and additives across bare soil. The seeds develop deep root systems and deter erosion because they are surrounded by the moist, nutrient-rich mixture.

The cost of hydroseeding can run anywhere from $500 to $4,000, including the specialized equipment you’ll likely need to rent.

House with backyard landscape and manicured lawn
irina88w/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Sod vs. Seed: Which Is Better for Your Lawn?

This head-to-head comparison of sod versus seed will help you determine which is best for you, your lawn, and your budget:

Sod is Better for: Seed is Better for:
Immediate Results No-Rush Results
Preventing Soil Erosion Smaller Budgets
Less Restrictive Planting Times Greater Number of Options
Blocking Weeds DIY
Low-Maintenance Quality
Large-scale projects Easy Patching & Reseeding

Cost Comparison

Seed

The cost of materials ranges from $100 to $500. Professional seeding costs an average of $400 to $1,300. Typically, homeowners spend around $850.

Sod

The cost of sod itself tends to be $170 to $380. Professional installation costs between $1,000 to $2,500, with an average spend of $1,800.

MOST BUDGET-FRIENDLY: SEED

DIY vs. Hiring a Landscaper

Seed

PROS:

  • Easier and more economical to DIY than other methods. Costs around $100 to $300 for the materials, where hiring a professional could range from $400 to $1,500.

CONS:

  • You risk buying the wrong species and not taking the proper steps to prepare your soil and apply, resulting in poor growth.

Sod

PROS:

  • More flexibility for you to choose your materials, perhaps at a lower cost.

CONS

  • Improper installation could lead to bald, bare, patchy, and weed-prone gaps between sod sheets. DIY sodding can cost up to $2,000 for soil testing and equipment, whereas professional installation can cost $1,000 to $3,000.

BEST FOR DIY: SEED

Start Your Sod Installation Today

Reseed vs. Resod

Seed

Seed costs $60 to $200. When seeding an entire yard, you have to kill and remove the living grass. For reseeding small patches, you only need to plant in that area.

Sod

Sod costs $0.50 to $2.15 per square foot. For a 2,000-square-foot yard, this would mean $1,000 to $4,300. The service includes killing and removing the current grass, buying new grass, and having it installed.

LOWEST COST TO REPLANT: SEED

Transplanting Time

Seed

PROS:

  • For best results, plant seeds within a year of buying them, although they may work for 2 to 3 years post-purchase.

CONS:

  • Seeds can only be planted during times suited to their species and the environment. In most climates, however, the best time to plant grass is early spring or fall. This way, you avoid the extreme heat and cold that will prevent your seeds from germinating, as well as the daily watering that would be required if you planted your grass in the summer.

Sod

PROS:

  • Spring and early autumn provide ideal installation conditions due to the temperature and moisture, but you can install it through much of the growing season, so long as you’re prepared to water.

CONS:

  • You must plant the freshly harvested sheets within 24 hours of harvesting for best results.

LEAST RESTRICTIVE RULES FOR TRANSPLANTING: TIE

Maturation Time

Seed

PROS:

  • Though results take longer with this method, the mature grass will have a deeper root system.

CONS:

  • Long maturation time. Up to 2 years before you have a full lawn.

Sod

PROS:

  • Sodding provides an instant yard and it will only take 2-3 weeks for it to root in your soil.

CONS:

  • The roots may not run as deep or firm as with other methods. Some portions may not take root.

FASTEST RESULTS: SOD

Maintenance & Care

Seed

  • Requires up to three daily waterings for the first three weeks
  • Requires careful watering so seeds don’t wash away
  • Won’t hold up to foot traffic until roots have established
  • Can’t be mown until fully grown in
  • More prone to weeds
  • May demand extra fertilizer

Sod

  • Requires daily watering for the initial two weeks
  • Will not need as much water as a seeded yard during and after initial weeks
  • Less likely to have significant weed problems
  • Can hold up to foot traffic after 2-3 weeks
  • Can be mowed after 2-3 weeks

LOWEST MAINTENANCE: SOD

Erosion, Soil Conditions and Other Planting Considerations

Before spreading seed, you or your lawn service company must prepare the soil with any necessary herbicides and nutrients to prevent weeds and encourage germination. Because of its long maturation period, this installation will not do much to prevent erosion.

Before laying sod, you or your professional will need to prepare the soil by testing the quality and adjusting accordingly—but it doesn’t need to be nearly as extensive as with seed. This installation will also work to control erosion instantly.

MOST EFFECTIVE EROSION CONTROL: SOD

Start Your Reseeding Project Now

1 Comments

  1. Jim, November 29:

    Can’t stress this subject enough. The seasons are changing (dry to wet) here in southern california, and homeowners need to pay attention to which option they pick, especially with the impending restrictions on water useage.

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