Best Way To Remove Grass Lawn Uses a Simple Trick

  • 01 of 04

    It's The First Step For Many Outdoor Projects

    Cut With Shovel 1500 x 1300
    Cut Lawn With Flat Shovel. © Lee Wallender

    It gets to be a pattern after a while. Want a new front pathway? Dig up lawn first. Itching for a water feature? Dig up lawn. Lay electric cable for a new outdoor light? Dig up...well, you know.

    Pulling up grass is to outdoor remodel projects what priming is to painting and installing underlayment is to flooring.  It's not all that creative or fun; it's just a necessary thing to do.

    Here's a nice routine that gives you cleaner cuts, makes this heavy job less back breaking, and gives you better transplants.

    What You're Digging Up

    Sod.  Not just the top part--the grass--but the attached dirt, as well.  Believe it or not, it's far easier to pull out the grass with soil attached.  The more dirt, the easier it is.

    The amount of attached soil you want to bring with you is up for debate, but generally, the thickness of the sod will be 6".


    • A flat-bladed shovel. It helps you take out nicely shaped hunks of sod.
    • A transportation device. Best: plastic snow sled (yes, no kidding).  Second best:  a contractor's bag to act as a sled.  Worst but still better than carrying by hand: wheelbarrow.

    How to Begin

    Think in terms of "cutting" rather than "shoveling."  It's like you're cutting one of those flat, store-bought sheet birthday cakes.

    1. Place edge of shovel on intended cut point.
    2. Tilt shovel forward (away from your body).  Now your shovel blade is vertical.
    3. Try pushing down with one foot.  If the shovel doesn't depress, then step with both feet.  
    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Tilt Sod On Side and Knock Off Dirt

    Tilt Sod on Side and Knock Off Dirt 1500 x 1300
    Tilt Sod on Side and Knock Off Dirt. © Lee Wallender

    If you intend to transplant the sod to another part of your yard, make your "cake pieces" as large as you can move without hurting yourself.  Sod is both heavy and unwieldy, so pieces will be smaller than you might think.  

    The suggested max is about 24" x 12", but that's pushing it.  Kee[ the chunks to 18" x 12".

    After you have made your vertical cuts:

    1. Place the shovel blade in the cut that borders the rest of the lawn, as shown on the left side of this photo.
    2. Tilt shovel away from you. This acts as a lever to force the sod to tilt up.
    3. With the chunk on end, use your shovel as a knife to scrape off excess soil at the bottom of the sod. Continuing the birthday cake analogy, this is like scraping off frosting.
    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Tilt Sod Into Sled

    Put Sod in Shed 1500 x 1125
    Tilt Sod Into Sled. © Lee Wallender

    This is where that unexpected tool, the snow sled, comes into play.  Due to sod's weight, it's best to have a transportation device that hugs low to the ground.  Using a wheelbarrow means lifting the sod an unnecessary foot or two, just in order to drop it a foot or two back to the ground. Doesn't make much sense, does it?

    Sleds make more sense. If you don't happen to have a snow sled, anything sled-like without high sides will work:  sheet plastic, the smooth top of a garbage can, a contractor's bag. Be creative.

    1. If it's a rigid sled, tilt it to the side to match the angle of your sod.
    2. Let the sod and sled tilt down flat again.
    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Slide Sod To New Location With Sled

    Transport Sod By Sled 1500 x 1300
    Transport Sod By Sled. © Lee Wallender

    It's easy work to slide your sod to the transplant location with the sled.  Because "demo'ing" sod is a home remodeling task but laying new sod is not, here is some additional advice: