How much do you overlap when mowing?

When it comes to mowing your lawn, one question that often comes up is “How much overlap should there be between passes with the mower?” Proper mowing technique is important for achieving an evenly cut lawn. Overlapping each mowing pass helps ensure no strips of uncut grass are left behind. However, overlapping too much leads to double-cutting and potential damage to the grass. Finding the right balance is key.

How Much Overlap is Recommended?

Most experts recommend an overlap of about 3-6 inches when mowing with a walk-behind or riding lawn mower. This means that each successive pass with the mower should overlap the previous cut by 3-6 inches.

For example, on the first pass down the lawn you mow an 18-inch wide strip. On the second pass, the mower should overlap and cut about 12-15 inches of that first strip, leaving 3-6 inches of overlap. This helps ensure complete coverage without excessive over-mowing any one area.

Why Overlap is Important

Overlapping mowing passes is important for several reasons:

  • It prevents missed strips of grass – Not overlapping enough can leave thin strips of unmowed grass, leading to an uneven appearance.
  • It avoids line marking – Overlapping minimizes visible “mowing lines” in the lawn from non-overlapped passes.
  • It improves cutting quality – The blades get a second pass at cutting any tall or missed blades for a more uniform cut.
  • It reduces grass clumping – Overlapping helps prevent clumps of grass from accumulating on the mower deck or being left behind.

Proper overlap leads to a more evenly mowed lawn free of missed patches or visible mowing lines. It allows each section of grass to get cut from multiple angles and helps prevent missed areas that can spoil the look of the lawn.

Disadvantages of Overlapping Too Much

While proper overlap is recommended, overlapping too aggressively can also cause issues including:

  • Grass damage from excess cutting – Going over the same area 4+ times can lead to frayed leaf tips.
  • Soil compaction – Repeated passes over the same areas compacts the soil, which can inhibit root growth.
  • Buildup on mower – Wet grass clippings accumulate faster on the deck with excessive overlap.
  • Stalled mowing – Too much overlap requires more passes to mow the lawn, taking more time.

Keeping overlap around 3-6 inches prevents over-mowing while still getting the benefits of multiple cutting angles. Wider overlaps waste time and fuel while providing minimal extra cut quality.

Factors That Affect Ideal Overlap

Several factors influence how much overlap is ideal when mowing:

Lawn Size

On very small lawns, less overlap is needed to get full coverage. On larger areas, increased overlap ensures you don’t miss any patches.

Mower Cutting Width

The wider the mower deck, the less overlap required. For example, a 21-inch mower needs less overlap than a 14-inch mower to get full coverage.

Grass Type

Thicker grass types like Bermuda or St. Augustine may require more overlap to avoid missed blades. Finer grasses like zoysia or centipede need less.

Grass Height

When maintaining a taller grass height, increase overlap to account for increased density. For low cuts, less overlap may suffice.

Mowing Frequency

If mowing infrequently, more overlap helps catch any excess growth. For frequent mowing, optimize overlap to avoid over-cutting.


Bumpy or uneven areas need extra overlap to avoid scalping high spots while getting low areas. Level ground needs less.

Tips for Proper Overlapping

Here are some tips for overlapping properly when mowing:

– Pick an overlap interval you can easily visualize, like 1-2 mower wheel widths.

– Pick a landmark like a sidewalk or garden bed to start and end each pass.

– Vary your mowing pattern from week to week to avoid excessive wear.

– With riding mowers, try offsetting the front and rear overlap slightly.

– On turns, overlap extra to account for reduced trimming ability.

– When stripe mowing, aim for 50% overlap and alternate direction.

– After mowing, do a final inspection to catch any thin strips.

How Much Overlap is Needed?

The amount of overlap needed depends primarily on your mower’s cutting width and lawn traits. Here are some general recommendations:

Mower Cutting Width Overlap Needed
14-18 inches 4-6 inches
20-22 inches 5-6 inches
30+ inches 6-8 inches

For thick, dense grass, favor the higher end of those ranges. On thinner, wispy grass, less overlap is fine. Adjust as needed based on your specific lawn.

Using Alternating Laps to Maximize Overlap

One advanced mowing technique to maximize overlap coverage is using alternating laps. This involves mowing the lawn in a pattern where each consecutive pass overlaps the previous one from the opposite direction.

For example, the first pass goes from left to right. The second pass overlaps from right to left. The third pass goes left to right again, overlapping the second. This creates a crisscross mowing pattern.

Benefits of this technique include:

  • Blades get cut from multiple angles for a smooth, even appearance.
  • Alternating laps prevent grass from leaning or matting in any one direction over time.
  • It minimizes visible mowing lines or “grain” in the lawn.
  • You get maximum overlap coverage with each pass.

The key is making each alternating lap the ideal 3-6 inches wider than the previous. This takes some concentration but delivers superior mowing results.

Should You Double Mow the Perimeter?

One related mowing question involves whether you should double cut the perimeter of the lawn. This means mowing the outermost loop around the lawn twice before starting the main mowing pattern.

The main benefit of double mowing the perimeter is reducing any visible line where the edge of the mowed lawn meets taller uncut areas. It creates a smooth, gradual transition.

Double mowing the perimeter takes extra time however, so it’s not essential. If your mower has a dedicated edge trimming function, that may suffice instead of a full extra pass.

Perimeter mowing is most useful when the lawn boundary is very visible or distinctly defined. Along garden beds, walls, or fences are good places to double cut to minimize lines.

Using a Striper for Visible Overlap Lines

Some specialized lawn mower attachments called lawn stripers are designed to create visible stripes in the lawn by bending the grass in alternating directions.

Striping kits attach to the rear of the mower and press the grass down under a roller bar. This reveals the lighter underside of the blades in stripes.

When striping, overlap should be around 50% to create defined stripes while still getting full mowing coverage. The alternating light/dark pattern emphasizes the overlap.

Done correctly, striping makes the overlapping mowing pattern an attractive landscape feature. But improper technique leads to missed strips and an uneven pattern.

Choosing Between Rotary and Reel Mowers

The amount of overlap needed can vary between rotary and reel mower styles:

Rotary Mowers

Rotary mowers use a spinning horizontal blade to cut grass. They require more overlap to avoid missed blades on their relatively imprecise cut. Overlap should be at the higher end of the 3-6 inch recommended range.

Reel Mowers

Reel mowers use overlapping spinning reels with stationary blades for an extremely close shear cut. They need less overlap than rotaries – often just 2-4 inches. Their precision cutting reaches more blades on each pass.

Overlap When Using Mulching or Side-Discharge Mowing

Proper overlap is important on both mulching and side-discharge mowers:

Mulching Mowers

Mulching mowers cut grass into fine clippings and blow them into the lawn. Overlap helps ensure even distribution of clippings and prevents clumping on the deck.

Side-Discharge Mowers

On side-discharge mowers, overlap minimizes rows of uncut grass between windrows. Set overlap based on discharge chute width.

In either case, let clippings dry before mowing again to avoid accumulation from excessive overlapping.

Key Takeaways on Overlapping When Mowing

Here are some key tips on maintaining proper overlap as you mow your lawn:

  • Overlap mower passes by 3-6 inches for full coverage without over-mowing.
  • Wider cutting decks need less overlap than narrow decks.
  • Adjust overlap based on grass density, height, and terrain.
  • Alternating overlapping laps provide the smoothest, most even cutting.
  • Overlap perimeter passes and use striping kits for visible mowing patterns.
  • Reel mowers need slightly less overlap than rotary models.

Proper overlapping technique is crucial for an attractive, healthy lawn. Take the time to evaluate your overlap needs and fine-tune your mowing methods. The beautiful results will be worth the effort.


Overlapping mower passes by 3-6 inches provides the ideal balance of full lawn coverage without excessive over-cutting. The proper amount of overlap depends on factors like mower width, grass density, terrain, and mowing frequency. Techniques like alternating laps and perimeter double-cutting can further improve cut quality and appearance. Adjusting your overlap practices based on mower type, lawn traits, and seasonal conditions will ensure your grass gets cut evenly and completely for a vibrant green lawn.

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