Sod Cutter vs Tiller: Tools for Removing Grass?

Have you noticed thin grass, dry patches, or bald spots on various portions of your lawn? While your dream is to grow a lush green lawn, the grass may wither and die, losing its aesthetic value. The best way to mitigate this issue is by removing the grass and replacing it.

But how do you clear away the grass without destroying your landscape? Finding the best tools to remove grass can help complete the job efficiently and quickly. In this post, I’ll take you through a comparison between a sod cutter and a tiller to help you figure out which suits you best.

Sod Cutter vs Tiller Are They the Same

Sod cutters and tillers are designed to do the same work, remove grass from your lawn.

If you’re planning to replace old grass with a new one, a sod cutter or tiller can come in handy. These tools help you prepare your yard for laying new sod or planting seeds. But are they the same?

Before heading to your yard with a sod cutter or tiller, let’s closely look at each tool.

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What Is a Sod Cutter?

A sod cutter is a manual or motorized landscaping tool that removes lawn grass. The tool cuts horizontally through the soil, removing strips of grass with its roots and the soil attached to the roots.

After removing your lawn grass with a sod cutter, you expose a leveled ground where you’ll lay your new sod. The goal is to remove all traces of the existing grass, weeds, and weed seeds.

Using a sod cutter to clear your lawn grass results in long strips of rolled turf that you can replant elsewhere or dispose of.

A manual sod cutter also called a sod kicker, resembles a manual lawn mower. The tool has two handlebars and a horizontal blade that’s adjustable.

On the other hand, a motorized sod cutter uses gas to power the engine so it can move around cutting the sod. The base of the machine has a metal roller that makes it possible to move the sod cutter around your lawn.

Beneath the machine are adjustable blades that cut through the soil. With every cut, you roll the strips and lift them away for replanting or disposal.

If you’re working in a large area and don’t want to resort to chemicals or daunting methods, a sod cutter can be your best bet. The tool quickly removes a lot of grass, leaving your soil ready for new grass or sod.

Using a sod cutter to clear your lawn can be a great idea if:

  • You want to remove grass and install a patio, walkway, or fountain.
  • You want to replace old or dry patches with new sod or plant grass seed.
  • You want to replace the existing grass with a new one that adds more beauty and boosts the quality of your property.
  • You want to convert your lawn to a garden or flower bed.
Sod cutter.
Sod Cutter from Acme Tools

How Do Sod Cutters Work?

Follow the following steps if you’re using a manual sod cutter to remove grass from your lawn:

  • Place your tool at one end of the area you’re to cut the grass.
  • Set the horizontal blade depending on how deep you want to cut the sod. If you’re to replant your sod, you don’t want to cut near the surface to avoid killing the grass.
  • Press the handlebars to ensure the blade penetrates the soil. Ensure the blade is deep enough to cut the roots beneath the ground.
  • Kick the crossbar connecting the handlebars to move the tool forward. Ensure the horizontal blade slides beneath the soil to cut the sod.
  • You should continue kicking and pushing to move the sod cutter across the lawn where you’re cutting.
  • After cutting, remove the horizontal blade from the soil and roll up the strips for disposal or replanting.

To get the job done efficiently, you should look for the best tools for removing grass. And this is where a motorized sod cutter comes in.

Your motorized sod cutter has an operation manual that provides use directions. Below are steps to follow when using a motorized sod cutter:

  • Remove all rocks and tree branches around the area you want to remove the sod.
  • Check the machine’s oil level and add gas if needed. The operation manual provides the recommended oil level.
  • Ensure the gear is neutral and the blade is raised before pushing the sod cutter to the edge of your lawn.
  • Lower the blade and turn on the machine.
  • Change to low gear and push the sod cutter forward to cut into the soil.
  • Turn the cutter to neutral and check how deep the blade has penetrated the soil to determine whether or not it needs adjustment.
  • Turn the sod cutter back to low gear and push it forward to continue cutting.
  • Roll up the strips after cutting each row.

What Is a Tiller?

A tiller cuts into the earth with a twisting motion, turning the soil upside down. After tilling, most of the topsoil and grass go out of sight, leaving you with uneven ground.

Unlike a sod cutter, a tiller slices down the ground and breaks the compact soil into smaller pieces. It does so without removing the top layer of soil and grass from your lawn.

Removing grass with a tiller leaves all the organic material and adds more when the covered grass breaks down.

You’ll need to wait for the grass to break down and relevel the ground before laying new sod or planting seeds. Tillers are available in powerful large gas engine models or you can opt for lightweight electric tillers more suited to residential use in flower borders and loose soil.

Tiller from Acme Tools

How Do Tillers Work?

Here’s what you should do when removing grass from your lawn with a tiller.

  • Move the tiller to one end where you want to start tilling.
  • Set the depth adjuster depending on how deep you want when tilling.
  • Locate the On and Off switches and turn your machine on.
  • Open the throttle to allow fuel to get into the engine.
  • Engage the choke and close the valve to control air intake into the engine.
  • Locate the pull start and pull it back to start the engine. The pull start has a handle you should hold when pulling. Once the engine starts, disengage the choke.
  • Pull up the levers located under the handles to engage the tines.
  • Tip the tines into the soil by raising the handles upwards.
  • Pushing the tines into the soil will begin churning the soil.
  • Walk forward while tipping the rear tines into the soil and at the same depth. Continue until you’ve finished tilling the intended area.

Sod Cutter vs Tiller: What’s the Difference?

Sod cutters and tillers can be suitable tools for removing grass depending on the condition of the existing lawn. While sod cutters and tillers remove grass from your yard in preparation for new sod or seeds, they differ.

A sod cutter removes sod, roots, and topsoil. It cuts through the earth, forming rolled strips of grass for disposal. You’re then left with the bare, leveled ground.

Removing sod from your lawn removes all the nutrients, weeds, and seeds. When laying new sod or planting seeds, you must re-introduce the nutrients for your grass to thrive.

A tiller does not remove grass and topsoil. Instead, it cuts through the soil, breaking up the hard, compact layer and turning it upside down. Tilling moves the grass under to allow it to break down and serve as food for your new grass. Unlike a sod cutter, a tiller does not eliminate weeds and weed seeds.

Sod Cutter or Rototiller for Removing Grass

When it comes to the sod cutter vs tiller question, most homeowners wonder which is better than the other. Any will clear the grass from your lawn in preparation for the new grass. However, one might be more suitable for you than the other, depending on the results you’re aiming for.

Before I disclose my best choice, let’s see the pros and cons of using each so you can make an informed choice.

Using a Sod Cutter To Remove Grass

Here are the pros and cons of using a sod cutter to remove your grass.


  • It works faster and smarter over a large area
  • Creates a leveled surface for laying your new sod or planting seeds
  • Good choice for removing grass to install walkways, patios, and fountains
  • Good choice for removing lifting grass on hilly terrains
  • Delivers sizeable strips of grass that you can quickly dispose of or lay elsewhere
  • Using a motorized sod cutter makes your job effortless


  • You have to clear your working area by disposing of all the turf
  • Removing the turf carries all essential nutrients from the surface layer of the soil

Using a Tiller To Remove Grass

Below are the pros and cons of using a rototiller to remove grass.


  • It doesn’t create heaps of turf that need disposal
  • Retains the nutrients in the soil and adds more when the grass breaks down
  • Loosens the hard soil on the surface to create a convenient ground for your new sod or seeds


  • It Doesn’t get rid of existing weeds and weed seeds
  • Leaves uneven ground that you must relevel when laying new sod or planting seeds
  • You can’t lay new sod or plant seeds immediately because the ground takes some time to settle

Best Machine for Grass Removal

Still not sure which of the two tools for removing grass suits you best? A sod cutter is a better choice for lawn professionals looking for smart results when lifting sod over a large area. A sod cutter will remove your sod without damaging it. You can replant the sod elsewhere or use it as compost.

Unlike using a rototiller, removing grass with a sod cutter allows you to lay your new sod immediately. You don’t have to wait until the ground is ready because you already have level ground for laying the new sod. A sod cutter is a popular tool among homeowners. According to Benzinga, the demand for sod cutters is likely to rise considerably between 2022 and 2028.

When Should You Use a Tiller?

If you’re eco-conscious, a tiller can be your suitable choice. Tilling doesn’t remove the upper layer of the soil containing essential nutrients for disposal. Additionally, the method doesn’t result in heaps of turf that need removal.

Research your local land disposal restrictions to understand where to dispose of your sod. Disposing of heaps of turf means transporting it to a yard waste collection site using a gas-powered vehicle.

While a tiller is a considerable choice for removing lawns, its primary purpose is to dig, turn and cultivate the soil in preparation for new planting of landscaping.

Verdict: Best Tool For Removing Sod

Finding the best tools for removing grass can be a great way of taking good care of your lawn. A sod cutter and a tiller can remove grass from your yard, but both will present varying results.

A sod cutter is popular for homeowners who want to remove grass and leave a leveled ground for new sod. It’s also a fast and easy tool to use on a large area or hilly terrain.

FAQs Sod Cutters To Remove Grass

Let’s take a look at some common questions regarding sod cutters vs tillers: