How to lay turf

First time laying turf? It’s something that even the most inexperienced gardener or landscaper can handle. Plan ahead, follow our simple instructions and take your time; if a new lawn is maintained correctly once laid, it’s a project that should only need doing once. 

Tools required:

  • Turf cutter or weed killer (if applicable)
  • Long knife, hand saw or cutting spade to cut the turf
  • Spade/Fork
  • Wheelbarrow to move the turf rolls (optional)
  • Standard rake
  • Hose/watering can
  • A second pair of hands to help (optional!)


Step 1 – How much turf and topsoil do you need?

  • Woman holding a roll of turf to lay new lawnUse our Turf Calculator to work out how much turf is needed. We recommend adding 5% more rolls to the total so that you have enough for cutting and shaping.
  • You need a base of good quality topsoil to lay turf at a minimum depth of 150mm; our Topsoil Calculator can help with that too if you need to buy some.

ImportantTurf is a roll of living grass plants, so make sure all preparation work is complete before the turf arrives and with a convenient delivery date selected. Turf should be laid as soon as possible on the day of delivery in the spring/summer or the following day in the autumn/winter, at the latest.


Step 2 – Prepare the ground

  • If the area to be turfed has an existing lawn down, apply a weed killer that kills grasses (at least 14 days before laying the turf) or remove it using a turf cutter – these can be hired. A manual turf cutter or spade can also be used.
  • Next, the ground should be broken up, using a spade or fork, to a depth of 150-200mm. Stones, debris or weed roots should be removed at this point. You could use a rotavator for this step if working in a large area.
  • Ideally, spread a turf and seeding topsoil to a minimum depth of 150mm.

ImportantWeeds should be removed before using a rotavator to avoid working them into the ground or they may grow through the new turf!


Step 3 – Create a smooth, level surface

  • Use a rake to level out the surface and then tread the area in several directions to lightly compact the soil. Never use a roller for this because you only want the ground to be firm, not solid.
  • Allow the area to settle for a few days before laying the turf and remove any weeds that germinate before you start to lay the turf.
  • Water the prepared ground one or two days before the turf delivery, but don’t soak it too much.


Step 4 – Laying the new lawn

  • Lightly rake the surface of the topsoil so that there is a fine layer of soil for the turf to lay on.
  • To lay the next roll push the end tight into the short edge of the roll you’ve just laid (don’t pull the turf as it might tear); repeat this until you have completed the row, keeping the edges as close together as possible so there aren’t any gaps.
  • Moisten the prepared soil prior to laying the turf on to it.
  • Newly laid turf should not be walked on, if possible, until it is properly rooted, so start laying the turf at the corner furthest from you.
  • If the edge of the lawn area isn’t straight, overhang the roll so that you can shape the edge with a knife later, then unroll.
  • Gently firm down the turf using the back of the rake, to make sure it is in contact with the soil below.
  • Repeat the above steps keeping the long and short edges tight against each other and lay the turf in a brick pattern so that the short ends aren’t in a line. Use your knife to cut the rolls that are placed at the end of each row.


Step 5 – Watering a new lawn

  • Now that you’ve finished laying the lawn you need to water it thoroughly, making sure you pay particular attention to the edges which can dry out more quickly.
  • If you’re not sure whether you’ve watered it enough, when you’ve first laid it you can gently lift a corner to check that the water is draining through to the soil underneath.
  • If there are puddles of water on the lawn which don’t drain away, you are heavily overwatering.
  • See our article ‘How often should a new lawn be watered’ for further advice.

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