Is it better to turf or seed a lawn?

Quick Answer

There are pros and cons to both turfing and seeding a lawn. Turfing provides an instant lawn but is more expensive. Seeding takes longer to establish a lawn and requires more maintenance, but is cheaper. The best option depends on your budget, time frame, lawn conditions, and personal preferences.

Should I Turf or Seed My Lawn?

When starting a new lawn or overhauling an existing one, you have two main options – turfing or seeding. But which is better? Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of each method to help you decide.

Turfing a Lawn

Turfing, also known as sodding, involves laying squares of grass that have already been grown elsewhere. The key advantages of turfing include:

  • Instant lawn – You get an established lawn practically overnight compared to waiting weeks for seed to germinate and grow.
  • Less maintenance – Pre-grown turf is hardy and doesn’t require as much care as seeding.
  • Any time installation – Turf can be laid at any time of year as long as the ground isn’t frozen.
  • No weeds – High quality turf is weed-free unlike seeds which can contain weed seeds.
  • Less erosion – The instant coverage of turf prevents soil erosion issues.

The main disadvantages of turfing are:

  • High cost – Turfing is significantly more expensive than using seed.
  • Permanent commitment – It’s difficult to change turf if you want to alter your lawn later.
  • Watering – Turf requires heavy initial watering to take root until established.

So in summary, the pros of turfing are that you get an instant, lush, weed-free lawn. But it requires a higher upfront investment and water usage.

Seeding a Lawn

Seeding involves planting grass seeds and waiting for them to sprout and grow into a lawn. The main advantages of seeding are:

  • Cheap – Grass seed costs a fraction of the price of turf.
  • Customizable – You can plant your choice of grass types and mixes.
  • Phased growth – Seeds germinate at different rates for a more even spread.
  • Hardy Growth – Seeded lawns often have deeper roots and vigorous growth.

The key disadvantages of seeding include:

  • Slow establishment – It takes 2-3 weeks for seeds to germinate and months for full coverage.
  • Regular watering – Seeds need consistent moisture to germinate and survive.
  • Not guaranteed – Seeds may fail to germinate or grow depending on weather and lawn conditions.
  • More maintenance – Seeded lawns require more weeding, mowing, fertilizing, and care.

So in summary, seeding is much cheaper but requires patience and consistent care to grow a successful lawn. It allows customization but doesn’t guarantee results.

Key Factor Comparisons

To help you decide between turfing and seeding, here is a detailed comparison of some of the key factors:


Turfing costs from $6-12 per square foot installed. Seeding costs from $0.20-0.50 per square foot. So turfing can be 10-20 times more expensive than seeding for materials. However, factor in the labor involved in preparing, seeding, and maintaining a lawn. When total installation and maintenance costs are considered over a few years, turfing may not be much more expensive than seeding.


Turfing offers an instant lawn, while seeded lawns take 1-2 months to establish. However, preparing the lawn for turfing can take time. Overall turfing offers quicker results. But seeding requires less initial labor if you already have a prepared lawn bed.


The appearance is a matter of preference. Seeded lawns offer a more natural, varied look as the grass emerges. Turf provides a consistent, carpet-like appearance instantly. With proper care over time, seeded lawns can match the uniformity of a turfed lawn.


Turf’s well-developed root system makes it more drought resistant. But seeded grass can also establish deep roots over time. Proper seeding, watering, fertilizing, and mowing creates durable, hardy seeded lawns. But turfing offers greater resilience especially in the first year.


Seeded lawns require more frequent mowing, fertilizing, and weeding early on. But turf also needs substantial water and care initially. Ongoing maintenance is comparable for established seeded and turfed lawns. Minimize maintenance with grass types suited to your climate either way.

Should I Turf or Seed – What’s Best for My Lawn?

So when deciding between turfing vs seeding, consider:

  • Budget – Turfing costs significantly more upfront.
  • Timeframe – Turfing offers an instant lawn while seeding takes months.
  • Soil & conditions – Turfing suits poor quality soil. Seeding needs good preparation.
  • Water access – Turfing needs heavy initial watering. Seeding requires consistent moisture.
  • Grass type – Turf limits options. Seeding allows grass customization.
  • Usage – Turfing works better for high traffic areas. Seeding offers more natural appearance if used less intensively.

Also factor in your climate zone, sun/shade levels, lawn function, and personal preference.

Here is an overview of which situations favor turfing or seeding:

Turfing Recommended If:

  • Establishing a new lawn quickly is important
  • Lawn will get heavy use/traffic/activities
  • Have poor quality soil or conditions for growing from seed
  • Water access is ample for initial turf establishment
  • Don’t want weeds or patchy growth
  • Don’t need to customize grass types
  • Lawn is small to medium size
  • Budget allows the higher cost

Seeding Recommended If:

  • Cost is a major factor
  • Don’t mind waiting a few months for lawn establishment
  • Soil is prepared and conducive to seed germination
  • Regularly watering a newly seeded lawn is feasible
  • Want to pick custom grass types and mixes
  • Prefer the natural look of seeded growth
  • Have a large lawn making turfing very costly

These are general guidelines. You may choose to seed vulnerable high traffic areas and turf the rest for example. Do your research into grass types so your lawn thrives long-term whichever option you pick. And prepare the lawn bed properly to give either seed or turf the best start.

Preparing a Lawn for Turfing vs Seeding

While turfing and seeding have different requirements later on, initial soil preparation is similar:

Preparing Soil for Turfing or Seeding

  • Test and amend soil pH and nutrients as needed
  • Eliminate existing vegetation through sod removal or herbicide
  • Till to a depth of 6-8 inches to loosen the soil
  • Grade and level the lawn, removing bumps/hollows
  • Install any irrigation components if watering system is needed
  • For turfing, create a crushed stone base layer for drainage

Proper soil preparation provides ideal conditions for either seed or turf to thrive. It also makes installation much easier.

Other Lawn Considerations

Some other tips for establishing a great lawn:

  • Choose grass suited to your climate and conditions
  • Conduct soil testing to understand soil needs
  • Test drainage by watering area prior to planting
  • Time installation well – spring or fall is best
  • Allow 6-8 week lead time for seeding
  • Install edging around lawn perimeter after establishment

Do your prep work and research to ensure success whether you choose to turf or seed.

How to Turf a Lawn

If properly laying sod is new to you, follow this step-by-step turfing guide:

  1. Prepare the lawn – Follow the tips above to create ideal turfing conditions.
  2. Install edging (optional) – Edge around lawn perimeter with timber, plastic, or metal strips.
  3. Purchase turf – Buy high quality turf suited to site conditions.
  4. Unroll turf – Unroll strips of turf across lawn, staggering the seams.
  5. Secure turf – Use sod staples or stakes to secure turf firmly to soil.
  6. Fill gaps – Fill any small gaps between strips with spare turf pieces.
  7. Water thoroughly – Water newly laid turf deeply and frequently for 2-4 weeks.
  8. Let establish – Allow 8 weeks for turf to take root before heavy use.

If laying turf on a bank or slope:

  • Lay strips horizontally across the incline, not down it
  • Secure turf pieces well with multiple stakes
  • Consider terracing very steep sections

Turfing during hot or frosty conditions can damage turf. Avoid turfing in peak winter or summer. Overseed turfed lawns after a month to fill any thin patches. Proper initial watering and care ensures your turf thrives.

How to Seed a Lawn

Follow these lawn seeding tips for the best results:

  1. Prepare soil – Loosened, weed-free soil helps seeds germinate.
  2. Select seed mix – Choose a mix suited to your climate, sunlight, and conditions.
  3. Spread seed – Use a drop or rotary spreader for even coverage over the soil.
  4. Set depth – Rake seeds into soil to proper planting depth of 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inches.
  5. Apply fertilizer – Use starter fertilizer to feed seedlings when sprouting.
  6. Water – Ensure consistent moisture for seeds to germinate and grass to establish.
  7. Allow growth – First mowing at 3 inches after grass reaches this height.

The amount of seed needed depends on the seed mix. But plan for 2-6 lbs of seed per 1000 square feet as a general guideline.

During the first 2-3 months, ensure proper watering, monitor weeds, mow carefully, and fertilize lightly. Gradually increase mowing frequency and intensity once the lawn matures.

Overseeding Established Lawns

You can also overseed existing turf or seeded lawns to remedy thin or patchy areas:

  • Mow, dethatch, and aerate the lawn first
  • Spread seed mix at half the rate of new seeding
  • Rake seeds lightly into soil or existing grass
  • Water frequently to establish seeds
  • Let new grass mature before resuming normal mowing

Overseeding restores density and crowd out weeds. Dethatching helps with seed to soil contact. Consider overseeding high traffic areas of turfed lawns each year.

Lawn Care Tips

Proper ongoing care ensures a thick, healthy lawn after turfing or seeding. Here are some top lawn care tips:

Watering Tips

  • Water early morning or late evening to reduce evaporation
  • Adjust watering based on weather, avoiding runoff
  • Infrequent deep soakings are better than frequent light watering

Mowing Tips

  • Mow regularly, removing only 1/3 grass height per cut
  • Leave 3+ inch height for deeper grass roots
  • Use sharp mower blades for clean cuts
  • Change mowing direction each time
  • Leave clippings which break down and fertilize soil

Fertilizing Tips

  • Fertilize 2-4 times per year based on product instructions
  • Time fertilizing around pre-growth seasons of early spring and fall
  • Alternate fertilizer types for balanced nutrition

Other Care Tips

  • Dethatch and aerate annually for soil health
  • Overseed thin areas
  • Monitor diseases, pests, and weeds
  • Adjust watering, mowing, and care by season

Caring properly for your lawn ensures your investment in turfing or seeding pays off for years to come.

Turfing vs Seeding: Conclusion

Here’s a quick summary of the turf vs seed decision:

  • Budget – Seeding is far cheaper upfront
  • Timeline – Turfing provides an instant lawn
  • Durability – Turf better handles traffic but seed establishes eventually
  • Appearance – Seeded for natural look, turf for uniformity
  • Maintenance – Both need care but seeding requires more initially
  • Customization – Seeding allows grass species selection

In ideal conditions, both turfing and seeding can produce thriving lawns. Prepare the site properly and care for the new lawn attentively. Consider your unique situation. For many landscapes, high quality seeding offers an attractive, cost-effective lawn solution over time.

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