Is Adding Topsoil Necessary When Installing a New Lawn?

Tips from Buck’s Backyard

The right soil mix matters when installing new sod

A new lawn is a sizable investment, so it’s normal for homeowners to worry about getting it right. One of the most common questions is whether a homeowner’s yard requires all new topsoil for the new sod to take hold and grow properly.

The answer is “It depends.”

Truck load delivery of topsoil

A quality layer of topsoil is vital to a new lawn’s health

It’s a must to have good soil, so the short answer is “Yes it is necessary.”  However, if the soil is already in good condition, then you may be able to bypass this step. To be sure, you can have us take a soil sample for a complete analysis of the soil before you install a new lawn. This will give us and you a good baseline of the soil condition such as ph. levels, nutrient levels, and the cation exchange (which gives us the ability to see how well your soil holds nutrients.)

Let’s face it most of our soil is very sandy in Florida. The farther south you go the more sandy the soil is, and if you are on the beach, well it’s just about all sand. So adding a quality topsoil is always a good idea. Just know this when you buy it, make sure it is a good topsoil. Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil in your lawn. Most of the time it is a darker color because it has more organic (which is good) material in it. Look at the topsoil. Does it have a lot of debris in it? (That’s NOT a good sign!) Is it wet? (Another bad sign because it will make it very difficult to spread no matter who is doing the spreading.) Does it look dark and rich? If so ask the place where you are buying it what is the soil make up?

Determining the proper mix

Good soil should contain some loam (clay), some little rock fragments no more than 3” in diameter and never more than 50% sand, plus between 2% and 10% organic material. The seller should know this.

New Topsoil for new lawn

We recommend a 4″ layer of quality topsoil before installing or “sodding” a new lawn

Now to install the topsoil there is a formula. We recommend at least 4” of topsoil. The formula for this is 12 cubic yards for 1000 sq. ft. Now the top soil is sold in cubic yards. The minimum order is probably going to be at least 3 cubic yards. So if you are putting in a 3000 sq’ lawn you will need about 36 cubic yards of top soil and it will still need to be spread. (Just something to ponder if you are doing it yourself.)

Now the above is just our recommendation. Any topsoil will help, but if your soil sample comes back ok then you can install a new lawn without topsoil. St. Augustine grass is well suited for more sandy soils. Some of the others types of turf such as Zoysia and Bermuda will also grow without new topsoil but we highly recommend you do add topsoil to these types of warm season grasses. So in short, topsoil is great, but not always necessary if your soil has been kept in great shape.. Allow us to test your soil and make the recommendations before you start. One of our programs can and will help you out with your new lawn. Sometimes you might even be able to avoid installing a new lawn by having us bring it back with our treatment program and by installing grass plugs or just a few hundred sq. feet of new turf. So if you are uncertain, just call us. We will be more than happy to help you get started in the right direction. Just remember, the grass is always greener on the Harmony side!

Buck Moon serves as the Certified Pest Control Operator for Harmony Care. In this role, he supervises field personnelBuck Moon and ensures all operations proceed in a safe and effective manner. He writes regularly on best practices for maintaining a healthy vibrant lawn in his home state of Florida


  1. Marilyn dillard on April 9, 2017 at 6:16 am

    Thanks for info. I’m purchasing soil for old lawn that won’t good water..I have aerated dirt an want proper top soil to now cover before new grass is planted..I want organtic but it has sand 8n soil now is black and thick..clay like..could you recommend a good soil for me please..I’m in n the current soil is gummy black looking..HELP!

  2. Wendy on February 28, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Very helpful information. Also, choose a high quality topsoil. It should feel a little gritty when touched by your fingers. If possible, add some additional organic matter by mixing it with 1-3 inch layer of compost.