The great debate: seed versus sod, or in this case, hydroseed vs. sod.
Which is better?
Sod costs more than seed. As an install contractor, there is typically more margin to be made by hydroseeding as your material input costs are much lower than when laying sod.
Well, obviously all grass starts as seed, so the main difference is that sod is the result of seed that someone else put the work into establishing.. But there is more to consider:
As the recipient of the install, you can expect to pay 4-7x more for sod install than hydroseed install.
As an install contractor, Sod has less “call backs” than hydroseed. Either way, there is always a chance the customer will call and say a portion didn’t come in well, washed away or a portion of sod died.. But in general, the number of situations and reasons for a callback is much higher with hydroseed than it will be with sod.
Proper care and watering instructions are absolutely vital to provide to your hydroseed customer.
Hydroseed is much more environmentally adaptable than sod. One of our biggest gripes with sod is that it is grown in nutrient rich soil, fed a lot of fertilizer and water and full sun conditions with little to no traffic. So of course sod looks perfect when its laid.. The problem is that the environment that you lay sod in almost never matches the environment it was grown in. Oftentimes that means it will not adapt as well to the new conditions and likely won’t be as healthy in its “new home” versus where it was grown.
Seed on the other hand adapts to its environment. Especially with seed blends that can be carefully selected for sunny areas vs. shade areas and low traffic vs. high traffic areas. Seed will grow to its environment and thus will often be healthier in the long term than will sod.
Instant appeal. There is no denying that from a contractor or customer perspective, the instant gratification and curb appeal of laying sod is much greater than that of hydroseed.
Terrain adaptability. When it comes to steep slopes or inaccessible areas, hydroseed wins hands down. It is simply not practical to lay sod on steep slopes or in areas with limited access.
Code or policy requirements. Most municipalities have rules about establishing turf/erosion control on new construction sites. It used to be that the requirement was sod, but now, as hydroseed gains in popularity, it is becoming an approved method. Since hydroseed is much less expensive to apply, this can mean greater profit margins for contractors while still meeting code or law requirements.
Sell more work. If you are a landscape contractor, hydroseed may allow you to sell more hardscape or landscape work to your customer. If they can save 70% on their lawn establishment by hydroseeding instead of sodding, maybe they will put a portion or all of that saved budget towards other services.
There are many more points of comparison we could go over, but you get the point. Hydroseed is much cheaper and has potential to establish a better and healthier and more sustainable lawn than you can achieve with sod. The key word is potential. It takes effort by the contractor and especially from the customer to achieve these ideal results. When the perfect process is established, proper prep work is done, proper customer instruction and education is completed, you won’t get a better final product with anything than you can get with hydroseed.