Installing sod is the quickest way to grow a lush lawn and a good lawn is the centerpiece of your landscape. A beautiful landscape does not just make your curb the pride of the neighborhood, it also improves your property value. An investment in an attractive landscape increases rental value by up to 7 percent and property value by as much as 10 percent, yielding a 135 percent return per dollar spent. The advantages of a professional installed landscape also include other health and environmental benefits like cooling effect and improving air quality.
While many handymen will claim to be sod layers, your sod installation should be left to professional landscapers near you who understand the tricks of soil sampling, grass selection, fertilizer selection and application, and soil rototilling. A compromise of any of these procedures will not only result in poor growth or patchy lawn but a total renovation that may include the cost of removing the bad sod. It is recommended you leave your sod installation to professional contractors nearby who can help you achieve the above objectives and provide relevant answers to the following questions:
Are You A Licensed Sodding Contractor?
Sod laying falls under the Landscaping and Groundworks Industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are over 900,000 practicing landscaping and groundwork professionals in the United States. Landscapers are required to hold a practicing license in 48 states excluding Kansas and South Carolina. For these professionals, certain regulations such as the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard guide some aspects of their work, for example, their use of pesticides and fertilizers. Hence, licensing is a requirement to ensure that these workers comply with the regulations guiding their jobs.
Licensing is a testament that a contractor or worker possesses the knowledge, skill, experience, and financial capabilities to provide sod laying services in the location in question. Licensing requirements vary across states in the United States, and licenses are awarded based on the job's scope and nature.
You must hire only sodding contractors near you licensed by state or county authorities. In states where there are no licensing requirements, ask for a license or certification issued by a professional association, such as the National Association of Landscape Professionals or the American Society of Landscape Architects. Also, on the issuing authority's website, verify the authenticity and validity of the license document presented to you. You may also consult your local consumer protection office to check if there are additional licensing requirements that you must verify.
Are You Bonded and Insured?
Work-related injuries and fatalities are fairly common among landscapers and groundworkers. In 2019 alone, there 12,380 occupational injuries and 124 fatalities suffered by this class of workers. Hence, hiring insured contractors near you provides cover for the eventualities of the risks and dangers inherent in their work. In all states, general contractors are required to have general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. The general liability insurance covers your contractor for financial losses which result from physical injuries, medical costs, property damages, and other work-related accidents. Worker's compensation, on the other hand, protects your contractor from personal injury lawsuits that workers may institute. It also covers medical costs and lost income as a result of occupational injuries. Certain insurance products such as â€œlandscaping insuranceâ€œ provide insurance coverage exclusively to landscape workers.
A surety bond is another form of protection that ensures that your job is not left uncompleted. In the event of a service default, the surety company will cover the costs of completing your project. Bonding requirements vary per state. Mississippi and Oregon are some of the states which in fact demand a surety bond as a requirement for issuing a landscaping license. Contact your local building authority to find out the specific bonding requirements for landscapers in your local area. Verify the insurance and bond certificates presented by your contractor, and ensure they have not passed their validity period.
What Kind of Sodding Work Are You Specialized In?
It is essential to determine that your contractor has expertise working with the type of sod you have chosen and the kind of soil mixture most suitable for your lawn as per the local conditions. The most common types of soil mixes to work with include:
- Topsoil: top layer of soil formed by decaying of organic matter, rich in nutrients and consists of sandy loam
- Triple Mix: a mixture of sandy soil, black loam, and compost.
- Black Garden Mix: a mix of 55 percent pure black loam, 30 percent composted manure, and 15 percent peat moss
- Pure Black Loam: 95 percent black loam and 5 percent peat moss.
- Enrich Soil Blends: a mix consisting varied amount of topsoil, compost, and peat moss black loam
- Organic Mulch: a mixture that retains moisture and maintains the soil temperature at an optimal level.
For the type of sod, a professional sodding contractor knows that there is a big distinction between warm season and cool season turfgrasses and will help you decide based on geographic location that fits your climate. The commonest sod grass varieties include Bahia, Bermuda, Zoysia, Centipede, and St. Augustine for warm season, and Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Fine Fescue, and Tall Fescue for cool season. Discuss with your sodding contractor to determine their expertise in handling your sod preferences.
Who Will Do The Work?
Sometimes, your sodding job may be subcontracted to a third party due to its size or some other specificities it involves. It would be best if you did not take your contractor's word for it about the licensing, skill, and experience of the third party. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends asking for proof of insurance, licensing, and past work references. While they may be subcontractors, an injury to them on your work - and property - without the requisite insurance coverage sets you up for a Personal Injury lawsuit. Also, verify that the subcontractors are trained on the exact kind of job you want to do.
Do You Offer A Warranty?
A warranty is an assurance issued by a manufacturer or service producer to rectify any default found in their products or service. Warranties may be implied, oral, or written. Besides asking for a service warranty from the contractor, ask if a warranty will be given for the sod they will be laying for you.
Owing to the perishable nature of sods, typical sod warranties only cover between 30 to 90 days after installation. Also, in order to be eligible for a warranty service or replacement, you must be found to have adhered to post-installation maintenance instructions such as:
- Regular watering
- Avoiding premature untimely use by both people and pets
- Not applying any chemical except as recommended, e.g pesticide, fertilizer, etc.
In addition, acts of nature such as erosion and storm may not qualify you for a warranty service if such an act leads to sod destruction. Some sodding contractors near you may offer you a longer warranty period if you enlist their sod maintenance service. It Is hence important to clearly understand the terms of the warranty your sodding contractor is offering.
Will This Job Require A Permit?
To prevent having issues with local authorities, ask your contractor whether their job will require a local permit and if they have obtained such permit. Certain local laws or regulations may apply in your locality. For example in the State of Missouri, and in at least some counties in Georgia (Whitfield County, Sandy Springs County), Tennessee (Murfreesboro County) and Virginia (Fairfax County), a land disturbance permit is required if the total area of land to be worked on exceeds a given threshold.
Check with the local building authority office near you if a permit is required for the type and scale of sodding job you want to do. Generally, a professional sodding contractor knows if your job will require a permit and how to secure such a permit. This is one more reason to hire a professional.
Will You Provide References?
A well-experienced sodding contractor with a good work history will have no problems pointing you to their past jobs. As a measure to further shield consumers from contractors with a bad reputation, the FTC recommends asking for references to at least three past jobs. If your contractor has a website or a professional profile online, sniff around for honest reviews on their services. Google Reviews, Yelp, and Better Business Reviews are good sources of business reviews provided by local clients near you.
Do You Have A Business License?
A business license is proof issued by government authorities that your contractors are authorized to do business in your area. While permits have more to do with compliance and safety, a business license handles the more financial aspects of a business, including business profile, certification, tax filings, capital requirements, annual fees, etc. States have different requirements for business licenses.
Hiring a contractor near you with a business license leaves you assured that the company has satisfied all licensing requirements and may legally conduct business in your locality. You may contact the Office of the Secretary of State to verify the business license of your contractor.
What Are Common Natural Grass Problems?
Some of the most common problems in natural grass turfs include the following:
- Compacted Turf: Compacted turf is a result of soil compaction. Soil compaction naturally occurs in heavy soils and may also be caused in other soil types by heavy leg traffic, mainly when they are wet - trampling. Curing soil of compaction requires the services of a trained professional and the use of an aerator. Aerators can open up and penetrate deep enough into the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to get to the roots of the turf.
- Worn Turf: Natural grass turfs become worn-out over time, especially sports and playground turfs subjected to heavy use. Worn-out turf may be rejuvenated by applying the right type of fertilizer and the right amount of moisture.
- Turf Thatching: This is the accumulation of non-decaying organic materials such as stems, roots, leaves, and clippings. Thatch may obstruct water and fertilizer from reaching the grass and hence render them ineffective. It also breeds harmful insects and diseases. Tailored use of rakes and powered mowers can help remove thatch from the turf.
- Insect Infestation: This primarily arises as a result of poor maintenance culture. White grubs, webworms, and chinch bugs are some of the most harmful turf insects. The use of pesticides to fight insects requires the right mix of lawn care knowledge, skill, and experience.
- Weeds: These are simply unwanted plants that compete with your grass for water, air, and nutrients. The best way to control weeds is to maintain a healthy turf, as a lush, dense lawn will give no room for weeds to thrive. Keeping a good maintenance culture and applying the right weedicide may be effective in fighting weed problems.
How Much Does Sodding Work Cost?
The cost of a sodding work is more accurately calculated by considering other factors such as sod quality and cost of labor. Keeping in mind the location-based variation in prices, an estimation is given below:
What Are The Factors Affecting The Cost of Sod Work?
In addition to cross state price differentials, some of the other important factors which influence the total cost of laying sod include:
- Size of Turf: The bigger the area over which sod has to be laid, the higher the cost of materials and labor required. Well-defined turfs, such as square-shaped and evenly graded turfs, usually cost less to sod than areas that may require lawn grading and/or extra pallets of sod to cover the rough and round edges of non-square turfs.
- Sod type and grade: The kind of sod to be laid, and the desired quality, are other important factors that influence the total cost of laying sod. Premium sod typically costs more than mid-grade sod, which in turn costs more than low-grade sod. Zoysia, Perennial Ryegrass, and Centipede are some of the most expensive species of sods, while Bahia, which can thrive in both warm and hot climates, is one of the cheapest kinds.
- Climate and Region: The most important determinant of the type of sod planted in your turf is the climate in your region. While some grasses such as the Zoysia and Bahia can survive in both cool and warm climates, some others may only be planted in one of either. For instance, Bermuda and Centipede are warm-climate grasses, while Kentucky Bluegrass and Bentgrass are cool-climate grasses.
What Qualifications Should A Sodding Professional Have?
A typical lawn care technician near you, at minimum, would hold a secondary education certificate. To advance to supervisory roles, a bachelor's or associate's degree in Business, Horticulture, or Agricultural science may be required. Professional associations will normally offer training and certification programs to bonafide members. These programs are usually tailored to meet the varying training needs of the early career workers and the experienced ones.
The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) offers training and certification programs for members, and for sod layers specifically, the Certified Exterior Technician credential is awarded. This program trains and certifies workers in landscape installation, maintenance, and irrigation. You may ask to see a qualification credential your sod layer has earned or proof of a training course they have taken and completed.
Do You Need A Sodding Professional or A Handyman?
Due to the technicalities and cost implications of transplanting, professional sodding contractors should be employed over unskilled and untrained ground workers. The use of potentially toxic chemicals also comes with the risk of exposure if improperly handled. You may incur financial liabilities if an uninsured and untrained worker handles your work and develops serious health complications as a result.
What Are Common Post Sodding Work Expenses?
Some of the essential and standard works necessary after sod laying are:
- Watering: Like every typical plant, newly laid sods will need frequent watering to aid them in implanting their roots firmly into the soil and growing.
- Fertilizing: Fresh sods may require fertilizer application to aid growth. Their fertilizer needs will depend on the kind of sod, the type of soil, and some other factors. It is best to only fertilize your new lawn as recommended by trained sod layers.
- Mowing: Once sodding is successful and your healthy lawn begins to flourish, it will require mowing at regular intervals to prevent overgrowth.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Sod Work Expenses?
Typical homeowner insurance products, also known as â€œhazard insurance products,â€ provide coverage for your property against damage or loss caused by fire and burglary. However, if one of the events covered by your insurance policy led to the destruction of your lawn then your homeowner insurance policy may cover the expenses of sodding. Nonetheless, to claim indemnity, you must not be found to have been at fault for such an incident, whether through negligence or poor maintenance. It is usually wise to have the terms and coverage of your policy clearly spelled-out to prevent problems between you and your insurance provider.
Can I Use Digital Payment To Pay My Sodding Professional?
Like most small businesses in the US today, sodding professionals near you would accept digital payment. The FTC recommends not paying cash to contractors while at the same time advising consumers to keep records of all payments. These two objectives may be achieved using digital payment platforms, which provide fast, safe, cheap, and convenient means of payment. Nonetheless, ask your contractor beforehand to be sure he accepts digital payments and has the means to do so. Digital records are also easily retrievable and difficult to destroy; you are therefore not at risk of losing your proof of payment.