How to Remove Sod or Grass

A tiller working on soil.
What You'll Need
Cardboard or plywood
Biodegradable material
What You'll Need
Cardboard or plywood
Biodegradable material

It's no surprise that these days many homeowners are opting out of maintaining a front lawn. While a patch of green grass has great curb appeal, it does require a commitment of time and resources to look good. Many are trading in lawns for hardscaping or xeriscaping, which typically utilize less water and require less work and money over time than a lawn.

Once you decide to go this eco-friendly route in your landscaping, the task remains of actually removing any existing grass. Chances are simplicity is high on your list of requirements when considering removal methods. Luckily, we’re here with a range of effective methods to make this process easy and painless. From smothering the grass with plastic or cardboard to physically removing it with a tiller, here are three different methods for removing the grass in your front yard.

Method One: Dig Out the Sod

A shovel resting on soil next to grass.

This method of removing sod or grass is quick with clean results. It allows you to move onto your next yard project seamlessly, and avoids the use of chemicals and power tools. These factors all make this method desireable, however, keep in mind that it will be labor intensive and removes organic matter from your landscaping.

Water the Area

This method does require some forward thinking. Water the area a few days ahead of time to soften the soil, making it easier for you to dig. You’ll want your soil to be moist, but not overly soggy, as that would make it both heavy and susceptible to compaction.

Cut the Sod Into Strips

Next, using an edger or sharp spade, cut your sod or grass into parallel strips that are one foot wide each. These strips can be in one- or two-foot lengths. As you cut, pry up the end of each strip by sliding the spade or fork under it. Cut through taproots and lift the piece up completely, including any attached roots.

Roll up the Strips

This part is tricky, as rolling up your strips of grass or sod could get heavy. If you’re removing a large bed, you may want to consider renting a sod cutter. These come in both human and gas-powered models.

One helpful tip to this method is to sharpen your tools before you begin the process in order to make the work as easy as possible.

Method Two: Till the Soil

The next feasible method to use in removing sod or grass is with a tiller. This is another somewhat labor intensive option, but it’s an effective one at that. This requires a tiller, where the engine aids in the labor required to get the job done. This method also retains organic matter in the landscaping and allows for immediate planting after the tilling process is over, if desired.

Note that this method may not be best in areas that are rocky or have wet or clay soils.


The first step in this process is to do a bit of clean-up. Remove rocks and other structures from the grass that could damage your tiller.

Till the Area

Next, using a rear-tine tiller, till up the area where you want to remove your grass or sod. If you don’t own one of these machines, you can likely rent one from a local garden center or hardware store.

Remove Large Clumps

Now, remove any large clumps of grass that are left behind after tilling.

Method Three: Smother the Grass

Plastic sheeting on ground.

This is probably the easiest way to eliminate grass and sod, however, it takes more time than other methods. Depending on the time of year and materials used, this method could take up to several months, so plan accordingly. This method does not require much physical labor, though, which makes it an attractive choice for those who aren’t in a rush.

Stretch Plastic Over Your Lawn

The first step in this process is to securely anchor the edges of a piece of light-excluding plastic over the lawn that you wish to remove. This will increase the temperature under the plastic which, combined with a lack of light, will slowly kill your lawn.

Lay Down Cardboard or Newspaper

If you don’t want to use plastic, you can opt for cardboard or newspaper instead. Lay them down evenly along your lawn and then cover the area with a biodegradable material such as grass clippings or mulch. This will hold the cardboard or paper in place as well as trap in moisture and organic matter. Although these materials don’t increase temperature as much as plastic, they still eliminate light and cause your lawn to slowly die.

Each of these methods requires a different level of labor and planning as they all take a different amount of time to complete. Based on your landscaping needs, use one of these methods to prep your yard for a new look that you’ll love in relation to your home’s curb appeal.