Laying Sod over Existing Grass

I have a patch of dead grass in my lawn, and I’d like to repair it with sod. Do I need to dig out the old grass, or can I lay the new sod right on top of it? -David

Whether or not to remove the old grass before laying sod is a long-standing debate. There’s the “remove it all” camp, the “till it in” camp, and the “just lay the sod on top” camp, with all sides reporting success with their methods. I tend to be in the “dig it up” camp, because if I’m going to the trouble of planting something, I want to give it every possible advantage.

However, if you’re having problems with dead spots in your lawn, I’d definitely recommend digging out the sod before patching, and here’s why.

Advantages of Removing Grass Before Sodding

  • Soil problems: Do you know why that patch was dead to begin with? If you’ve got poor or compacted soil, insects, or diseases, then the new sod won’t fare any better than the old grass. Before you waste your time and money on more sod, make sure you’ve corrected the underlying problem.
  • Height: If you place a patch of sod directly on your lawn, it will be higher than the surrounding soil, and not only will it show, but it will dry out faster than the rest of the lawn. With some careful digging, you can install the patches at ground level so that they’ll never show. If you’re resodding your entire lawn, this is less of a problem, although you’ll probably want to dig out around walkways and curbs to slope the sod around the edges.
  • Access to Soil: The delicate roots of your new sod need to be able to reach out into the soil to enable the turf to be firmly rooted. You wouldn’t plant a flower by simply sitting it on top of the ground; likewise, your sod will establish faster if it’s nestled firmly against good soil.
  • Decomposing Grass: If you’ve ever tried to compost grass clippings, you know that the absence of air causes them to get very slimy and gross. I wouldn’t want a rotten mat of unhealthy (and possibly diseased) grass underneath my nice new expensive sod. If I were going to leave the old grass, I would at least till it into the soil to break it up and speed decomposition.
  • Unwanted Plants: If you’re covering up weeds or unwanted grass species, there’s a chance they could survive and infiltrate into your new sod. Digging out the old grass will give you a fresh start.

Further Information



  1. I have rototilled old lawns for over ten years without the removal of sod. Have killed existing Burmuda grass and similiar problem grasses. The additional organic matter and the labor savings have been a big plus. Money is saved and the landfills are preserved.
    These days all I do is prepare yards for sod installation. I use a rotodairon tiller design to shred and bury sod. I have never been able to determine any down side after doing this thousands of times.
    If you use a standard tiller the bulk of the grass makes it impossible to work with.My machine shreds and burys the existing grass and rocks. With the right machine it is very doable.
    Would like your input on this.

    Thanks, Glen

  2. I have a small tatty slopy lawn about 5ft x 5. The area around it is now two feet aprox higher as i’ve had path raised to be wheelchair friendly with a deck. I want to relay a turf lawn but wonder as I need to infill with topsoil/sand and level before relaying new turf whether I can leave the old stuff down. Or turn the sods over so I don’t need as much compost/soil/sand?

  3. We have some areas in the lawn that are 3 to 4 inches lower than the existing lawn and want to know if we can put sod over them to bring them up to level

  4. Our front lawn was newly sodded in 2015. A lot of the soil was washed off and sod was laid over uneven yard. The lawn is now very uneven and unsightly. Can we lay new sod over existing lawn? Would we have to level the lawn with new dirt first and then plant new sod? Would we have to remove existing grass (which we really don’t want to do). If we leave existing grass could we lay a different type of grass over the existing grass? Thanks!


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