Core Aeration vs. Spike Aeration. Electric aerator for lawn

Core Aeration vs. Spike Aeration

If your grass isn’t looking its best, it may need a breath of fresh air. Aerating your lawn is a natural way to solve soil compaction problems, improve drainage, and get your grass thick and healthy for peak growing.

Aeration is like an exfoliating facial for your lawn, loosening surface soil to give tender grass roots the nutrients they need. Core aeration and spike aeration are two major methods to give your lawn a spa day. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of core versus spike aeration to help you determine which method matches your budget and yard needs.

  • What is aeration?
  • What is core aeration?
  • 3 types of core aerators
  • 1. Manual core aerators
  • 2. Gas-powered core aerators
  • 3. Tow-behind core aerators
  • 4 types of spike aerators
  • 1. Pitchforks
  • 2. Spiked aeration shoes
  • 3. Rolling push aerators
  • 4. Tow-behind spike aerators
  • Core aeration
  • Spike aeration
  • Testing your lawn for compaction
  • Signs your lawn needs aeration
  • When to aerate
  • How else can I get my lawn to look its best?

What is aeration?

Aeration, also known as aerification, is the process of perforating (poking small holes in) your lawn to alleviate soil compaction, prevent excessive thatch buildup, and increase the flow of oxygen, water, and nutrients to the root zone.

Kids at play, construction projects, and severe weather can compact your soil, leaving roots without a place to grow. Aeration is an easy way to loosen the soil and give your grass space to spread out again.

Core aeration and spike aeration are the major two methods of lawn aeration for homeowners and lawn care professionals. Your lawn type, level of soil compaction in your lawn, and your budget will determine which aeration option is best for you.

When lawn experts talk about aeration, they’re usually referring to core aeration (also known as plug aeration). Core aeration is the preferred method for long-lasting lawn health.

However, spike aeration may be the way to go if your lawn is mildly compacted and you’d like an inexpensive DIY fix to spur grass growth.

What is core aeration?

A core aerator is basically a big hole punch for your yard. When you aerate, though, you aren’t preparing homework assignments. You’re giving roots space to breathe and access to essential water, oxygen, and nutrients.

Core aeration is done by poking hollow tines into the ground and extracting small plugs of soil. It’s the method of choice for lawn pros because it effectively loosens soil, giving root systems access to nutrients and keeping soil more nutrient-rich in the long term.

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Core aeration will leave your yard freckled with little holes, but they’ll fill in with denser, healthier grass. According to the Virginia Tech Extension, “Core aeration is very disruptive to surface smoothness, but it is the best way to relieve the physical limitations of soil compaction and improve soil oxygen levels.”

Manual core aerators

If you have a small yard and a free afternoon, a manual core aerator is an inexpensive option. It’s also a great choice for spot aeration if you have a few compacted problem areas.

Manual core aerators are best for: Small lawns with mild to moderate soil compaction, or highly compacted areas in need of spot aeration.

Price: 30 to 125, depending on the quality and number of tines.

Rental cost: Most manual aerators are only available to buy.

Gas-powered core aerators

Most homeowners opt for a gas-powered, push-behind core aerator, which looks similar to a lawn mower. You’ll want to go over your lawn at least twice with the aerator, “mowing” once in one direction, then the second time perpendicularly.

Gas-powered, push-behind core aerators are best for: Medium to large lawns with moderate to high soil compaction.

Price: 2,000 to over 5,000.

Rental cost: Approximately 65 for four hours or 100 for a full day.

Tow-behind core aerators

If you have a lawn tractor and want an easy solution to core aeration, you can invest in a tow-behind (also known as pull-behind) plug aerator. They’re pricey, but they’ll save you time and energy.

Tow-behind plug aerators are best for: Larger lawns with a moderate to severe compaction problem.

Price: range from 100 to 300 (though you could pay thousands for an industrial-grade model). For a high-quality tow-behind option, expect to pay more than 200.

Rental cost: Approximately 35 for four hours or 50 for a full day.

How core aeration works

Manual core aerators and aeration machines have hollow tines that perforate the ground 2 to 4 inches deep. The holes are 2 to 3 inches apart from each other. Because tines are hollow, cores of soil pop out from the top of the tine and fall onto the lawn.

  • Cores are long but thin: They’re only 0.5 to 0.75 inches in diameter, so coring won’t destroy your yard. It will just give your roots better access to oxygen.
  • Cores are left on the lawn as natural top dressing: They help decompose thatch.

Make sure that your lawn is moist but not wet when you aerate. The soil shouldn’t be so muddy that it sticks to the tines.

What type of lawn should be core aerated?

  • Are heavily compacted
  • Experience high foot traffic
  • Haven’t been aerated in multiple years
  • Recently underwent construction
  • Have heavy clay soil
  • Are medium or large
  • Have a severe thatch problem

What is spike aeration?

Spike aeration is basically core aeration minus the hollow cores. If core aeration is like using a hole puncher on paper, then spike aeration is like poking through the paper with the tips of scissors. When you spike aerate, no soil is removed. Instead, soil is squeezed to all sides of the solid tine.

Spike aeration loosens soil and alleviates compaction in the short term, but it increases compaction in the long run.


Pitchforks aren’t an efficient option for a larger lawn, but they’re excellent for smaller areas (less than 1,000 square feet) or for spots that get heavy foot traffic and need extra care.

Pitchforks are best for: Postage-stamp-sized lawns with mild soil compaction or specific areas that need special attention.

Price: 35 to 60 (but you probably already have one in your garage).

Rental cost: Pitchforks are only available for purchase.

Spiked aeration shoes

Spiked lawn aeration shoes are the least expensive spike aeration option. You can use them in small areas, but for larger areas, aerating with spiked shoes is a time-consuming, tiring task. Using spiked shoes is not a highly effective form of aerating, and many lawn pros warn against it.

Spiked aerator shoes are best for: Very small areas with mild compaction.

Rental cost: Spiked shoes are only available for purchase.

Rolling push aerators

Rolling push aerators look like large spiny paint rollers. They work well for small, mildly compacted areas. If your lawn is on the moderate or larger side or if your soil is rocky or highly compacted, a rolling spike aerator is not the best option: It takes a lot of muscle to use and the aerator may get damaged.

  • A rolling push spike aerator works like a manual mower. You’ll want to go over your lawn at least twice, once in one direction, and the next time perpendicular to that direction.
  • To maximize tine penetration, choose a model with a steel tray for additional weight.

Rolling push aerators are best for: Smaller lawns with mild soil compaction.

Rental cost: Approximately 13 per day.

Tow-behind spike aerators

Tow-behind spike aerators are on the expensive side, but they save time and labor and are excellent for larger lawns and fields. Make sure to purchase one with a weight tray to maximize contact with the soil.

Tow-behind spike aerators are best for: Larger lawns with mild to moderate compaction.

Price of a tow-behind spike aerator: 100-175. vary, but expect to pay 135 or more for a high-quality model.

Rental cost: Most tow-behind spike aerators are only available to buy.

How spike aeration works

Spike aeration works just like core aeration, except that spiked tines are solid, so you won’t have any plugs dotting your lawn.

Holes should be approximately 2 inches apart from each other. Spike aerators tend to pierce the soil 1-2.5 inches deep. The spike marks in your lawn will be less deep than the perforations created by core aeration.

What type of lawn should be spike aerated?

Spike aeration works well for lawns that:

  • Have mild to moderate compaction
  • Are small to medium in size
  • Don’t have many rocks, stones, or debris in the soil that could interfere with spikes
  • Have a mild thatch problem (a thatch layer of just over half an inch)
  • Don’t have a high clay content

Pros and cons of core and spike aeration

Core aeration

✓ Long-term fix: Hollow tines loosen and remove soil so air holes open up, roots can grow deeper, and grass grows more densely✓ Eco-friendly: Reduced compaction leads to less runoff and pollution and decreases the need for water and fertilizer✓ Increases the visual appeal of your lawn in the long term✓ Cores act as compost, so you can simultaneously aerate and top dress your lawn✓ Decreases the need to dethatch your lawn✓ Dense grass growth prevents weed from invading your lawn✓ Good for medium to large lawns with heavy compaction and heavy foot traffic

✗ Can stress your lawn if you aerate in the wrong season or too often✗ Before holes fill in, they can be visually unattractive✗ Plugs left on your lawn can look messy and unappealing (before they decompose)✗ Weeds can sprout in holes if pre-emergent herbicide is not applied

Spike aeration

✓ Quick fix: Solid spikes shift the soil and provide temporary air holes, but soil compacts at spike entry points ✓ Generally less expensive than core aeration✓ Less disruptive to the soil surface than core aeration✓ Creates less mess: Does not leave plugs of soil scattered around lawn✓ Can be used frequently in compaction-prone areas without disrupting lawn’s visual appeal✓ Good for small lawns with mild compaction and lower foot traffic

✗ Spikes increase compaction in the long term✗ Time-consuming and labor-intensive: Shoes and rolling spike tools are not ideal for larger areas✗ Less effective than core aeration✗ Does not penetrate as deeply into the ground as core aeration✗ Compaction leads to more lawn problems in the future: Grass will be weaker and more prone to diseases✗ Compaction harms surrounding ecosystems through increased fertilizer use, erosion, and runoff

To learn more about the benefits of aeration, from increasing your grass’s drought tolerance to protecting your lawn from diseases, check out Lawn Love’s “Benefits of Aerating Your Lawn.”

Does my lawn need to be aerated?

As a general rule, lawns need annual aeration to prevent compaction and keep grass growing densely.

  • Lawns with high clay content or foot traffic may require aeration twice per year.
  • If your soil is sandy or if you have no drainage issues, you may only need to aerate every two to three years or simply spot aerate as needed.

Spikes do not aerate as deeply or as thoroughly as cores, so if you choose spike aeration, you’ll need to aerate more frequently. Spike aerate two to three times per year during the growing season, targeting places prone to compaction.

Contact your local extension service for advice on your area’s specific aeration needs.

Testing your lawn for compaction

A quick test to check if your grass needs to be aerated? Cut out a square foot section of lawn at least 6 inches deep. If grass roots are growing only 1 to 2 inches deep, your soil may be compacted and need aeration.

Alternatively, give your lawn the old “screwdriver test.” If you can easily push a screwdriver 3 inches into moist soil (without undue force like jabbing), then coring is likely not necessary.

Signs your lawn needs aeration

If compacted soil is causing a problem, your grass won’t be shy to let you know. These lawn symptoms are good indicators that your lawn needs aerating:

  • Your lawn feels spongy and dries out easily.
  • Your soil is hard to the touch.
  • Your lawn isn’t draining properly during rainstorms, and puddles are forming where they did not before.
  • Your grass is thinning and becoming discolored.
  • Your grass is developing diseases like brown patch.
  • Your lawn gets heavy foot traffic.
  • Your house was newly built or you have recently had construction done.
  • Your lawn was laid from sod: If sod was not mixed with the soil underneath, grass roots may struggle to grow into the lower layer of soil. Aeration breaks up the soil layering to spur root growth.

Even if your lawn isn’t in desperate need, aeration is a natural way to stimulate beneficial microbial growth, promote thatch decomposition, and increase oxygen flow to roots, which will get your grass growing faster and looking healthier.

When to aerate

Aerate during your grass’s active growing season so that grass recovers quickly and fills the holes in your lawn.

  • For cool-season grass lawns with types like tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, fall is the ideal time to aerate. While cool-season lawns can be aerated in either early spring or early fall, fall is preferred because weeds are less likely to sprout in the holes.
  • For warm-season lawns with grasses like Bermudagrass and Zoysia, aerate in late spring or early summer when grass is growing most vigorously. This will ensure speedy lawn recovery.

Aerate in the right season for your region to prevent lawn stress. Avoid aerating during the peak heat of summer or in the cold of winter when grass is dormant.

FAQ about aeration

What lawn improvements can I expect from aeration?

Aeration will decrease your lawn’s susceptibility to pests and diseases, eliminate yellow and brown spots, and increase the number of beneficial organisms in your yard (like earthworms, which keep your soil loose and nutrient-rich for lasting grass health).

Aeration stimulates renewed growth, so you can expect your grass to grow greener and more rapidly than before, with deeper roots and stronger shoots. Your lawn will be lush and holes will be healed in three to four weeks after aerating.

How long does it take to aerate my lawn?

With a tow-behind or walk-behind aerator, you can aerate a medium-sized, 10,000-square-foot lawn in an hour to an hour and a half. If you want to call in the pros, they can do the job in as little as 30 minutes.

The less sunny news? If you’re using a manual core aerator or spiked shoes, it’ll likely take a full morning or longer, and you may have to take breaks depending on your lawn size.

How long will aeration’s benefits last?

Well, it depends on your soil type and lawn characteristics. Lawns with sandy soils could thrive for as long as five years after a single aeration, whereas with clay soils, your grass might start losing its color just eight months after being aerated. To make sure you’re aerating on the healthiest basis for lawns in your region, contact your local extension service.

Will aerating my lawn damage my irrigation system?

Not if you take precautions. Make sure you mark your sprinkler heads clearly with flags, stakes, or spray before you aerate. That way, you won’t have an aeration tine ramming right into your watering system.

What should I do after aerating my lawn?

Water your lawn thoroughly after aerating. This is also a great time to overseed, apply compost and fertilizer, and amend your soil (i.e. if your soil is too acidic, now is the time to apply lime).

After overseeding, you’ll need to water your newly aerated yard daily or twice daily for the first two to three weeks as grass germinates. It’s important to keep soil moist for grass seeds. Once your grass has germinated, switch to deeper, less frequent waterings to encourage deep root growth.

Want to make sure your grass grows evenly? Wait a month after aeration before overseeding so that holes are healed before you plant.

If you’re not planning to overseed directly after aerating, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent weeds from popping up in empty holes.

Can I combine core aeration with spike aeration to give my lawn some extra care?

You can, but use caution to ensure you’re not aerating too much.

Core aerate yearly to give your lawn thorough aeration. Then, if your lawn needs an extra boost during the growing season, you can spike aerate. The thin tines from spike aeration won’t disrupt the visual appeal of your lawn like the larger holes and plugs from core aeration.

If reducing compaction is your long-term goal, you’ll want to stick to core aeration.

How else can I get my lawn to look its best?

Aerating is the start to healthy, long-lasting grass. With nutrient-rich soil and strong grass roots, maintenance will be a whole lot easier. To keep your aerated lawn in peak condition, check out our articles on lawn health:

  • Mow:How to mow a lawn
  • Water:When is the best time to water your lawn?
  • Fertilize:How to fertilize your lawn
  • Overseed:4 steps to overseed a lawn
  • Weed and pest control:5 organic pest control options

Choosing spikes or cores

If you’re ready to give your grass a refreshing breath of air and a natural dose of nutrients, aeration is the way to go. Spike aeration is a quick fix for a mildly compacted lawn. But for a long-term lawn health solution, core aeration will give your grass what it needs for sustained, dense growth.

Want your grass to grow greener but don’t have the time to aerate? Call a local lawn care professional to aerate away the day, so you can breathe easier without sweating it out in your yard.

How to Aerate a Lawn

Aerating a lawn isn’t difficult, but this lawn care chore can be time consuming to do it right. In this guide we’ll show you how to aerate a lawn, benefits of aeration, and types of aeration.

We’ll even detail when is the best time of the year to aerate your lawn. Hint: That depends on your grass type.

First, though, what is aeration and how does it help your lawn?

Aeration creates holes in compacted soil so air, nutrients, and water can reach your grass’s roots. When the soil is too compact, your grass won’t have optimal access to the vital resources it needs to flourish and be as green as it can be.

Core Aeration vs. Spike Aeration

Core aeration vs. spike aeration? In a nutshell, your lawn will likely benefit more from core aeration than spike aeration.

Here’s why: Spike aeration offers a short-term solution for compact soil, whereas core aeration offers a long-term solution. And unlike core aeration, which relieves compact soil for the whole yard, spike aeration can increase compaction in certain spots.

Core Aeration

So, why is core aeration often preferred for long-term success? It comes down to how the aeration holes are made.

Here’s core aeration works: Core aeration creates holes by removing plugs of soil from the ground. The holes in the soil allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the roots, and the roots can grow into the open space.

A core aerator’s hollow tines are about three-quarter inches in diameter and can penetrate the soil about 2 to 3 inches deep.

How core aeration reduces compaction: Imagine your lawn as a crowded room where people are bumping into one another, elbows are hitting ribs, and it’s a challenge to breathe. Core aeration ”’relieves” the crowded space by removing people from the room. With fewer people in the room, everyone has a bit more space to stretch their arms and breathe easier.

Spike Aeration

Why do some homeowners prefer spike aeration? It’s a quick solution.

Haven’t got time to rent an aerator, but your lawn is showing signs that your soil is compacted? Run into the garden shed and grab your spading fork and poke a few holes in the ground. The holes will create space for water, oxygen, and nutrients, but only for the short term.

How spike aeration works: Spike aeration relieves compact soil by poking holes in the ground. The holes will create space for water, oxygen, and nutrients, but only for the short term.

Here’s the drawback: Spike aeration pokes holes in but doesn’t remove any soil. Instead, the aerator tool’s (or shoes’) solid tines push the soil further into the ground and toward the sides.

The spikes ultimately create small s of space while increasing soil compaction around the sides of the holes. The compact sides around the holes still block a significant amount of air, water, and nutrients from reaching the roots.

Not sure how spike aeration increases compaction? Let’s look at the crowded room example.

How spike aeration increases compaction: Imagine if people in the room created small s of open space by squishing themselves closer together. No one removes themselves from the room, which ultimately makes the room feel more crowded (and compact) than before, despite the free space.

Benefits of Core Aeration

You know that core aeration is an important lawn care task, but how does it benefit your lawn?

5 Ways Core Aeration Helps Your Lawn

  • Enriches the soil: When soil becomes compact, it squeezes so tight together that water, oxygen, and nutrients can’t move through the soil. Aeration creates small holes to allow oxygen, nutrients, and water to penetrate the soil.
  • Improves root growth: Grass roots struggle to develop in compact soil. The aeration process loosens the soil and encourages root growth.
  • Reduces thatch buildup: Lawn aeration penetrates thatch and helps minimize its buildup. Thatch is the dead and living organic matter that accumulates between the soil surface and the grass blades. When thatch becomes too thick, it blocks water, nutrients, and air from reaching the soil.
  • Benefits earthworms: Compact soil makes it difficult for earthworms to perform their beneficial duties. For example, earthworms help control lawn thatch, but compact soil impairs their ability. When thatch is left unchecked, it creates a breeding ground for pests and disease.
  • Lessens drainage issues: When compact soil blocks water from seeping into the ground, this causes drainage issues. Puddles, runoff, and soil erosion are less likely to occur after aeration.

When to Aerate Your Lawn

The best time to aerate your lawn is during your grass’s active growing season. Aeration is an invasive treatment, and your grass will heal best when the grass is actively growing.

I was WRONG about aeration

If you grow warm-season grass, such as Zoysia or bermudagrass, the best time of year to aerate the lawn is in summer.

If you grow cool-season grass, such as fescue or Kentucky bluegrass, the best time of year to aerate the lawn is fall.

FAQ About Lawn Aeration

If your lawn has heavy clay soil, you may need to aerate it once a year. If you have sandy soil or your soil doesn’t compact easily, aerating once every three years usually is enough.

These are common symptoms or indications your soil is compact:

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— The grass is thinning or turning yellow— Puddles form in low areas of the yard— Water quickly runs down elevated areas of your yard — Your grass grows slowly or not at all— Your yard has patches of bare soil where weeds and grass won’t grow— Your lawn has a thick, spongy thatch layer— Your lawn has frequent pest and disease problems— It’s challenging to stick a screwdriver in the soil

Compaction occurs when the soil particles are squeezed together, and the pore space reduces.

Here are some common causes of compact soil:

— Heavy traffic over the lawn from people, pets, equipment, or vehicles— A construction project recently was completed on the property— High precipitation levels or overwatering— Your soil has a high clay content (See our Guide to Soil Types)— Over-tilling the soil, especially when it’s too wet or too dry— Mixing sand into clay soil (this can give your soil a concrete texture)

— Install walking paths that redirect foot traffic away from the grass — Don’t park or drive cars or heavy equipment over the lawn — Don’t under-water or over-water your lawn. (Perform proper irrigation) — Don’t over-till the soil. I f you need to loosen the soil, add organic matter such as compost, leaf mold, or peat moss instead of sand. — Change mowing patterns often or opt for a lightweight lawn mower.

Another Option? Hire a Pro for Lawn Aeration

Aerating a lawn isn’t difficult, but this lawn care chore can be time consuming to do it right – especially if you use a manual core aerator. If aerating your lawn isn’t how you want to spend a couple of hours (or more), hire a LawnStarter lawn care pro to do it for you.

How much does aeration cost? Well, that depends on the size of your yard and the method you use, but lawn aeration costs between 75 to 225, with most homeowners paying 174.

Jane Purnell

Jane Purnell is a freelance writer and actor in New York City. She earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia and enjoys a warm cup of French press coffee.

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How To Aerate A Lawn

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Table of Contents

Just like humans and animals, grass needs water, nutrients and air to thrive. While mowing and fertilizing are likely already on your regular yard maintenance to-do list. you’ll also want to aerate your lawn. A lawn aerator bores holes into compacted soil, which loosens it up so the grass roots can breathe and more easily absorb rainwater, fertilizer, and other nutrients it needs to stay lush and green all season.

THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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When to Aerate a Lawn

As with other maintenance tasks, such as seeding and fertilizing, lawn aeration should be timed according to your region’s climate and growing season. If you live in an area where the grass grows when it’s warm, you should aerate as soon as the temperature starts to rise in mid to late spring. If you live in a region where the grass grows in the cooler weather, aerate your lawn in late summer to early fall.

Your lawn should be dethatched before you aerate it. Thatch refers to the layer of dead brown grass and other debris resting on the soil. It should be removed with a dethatching rake when it starts to get too thick, otherwise the dead layer will rob the soil of what it needs to grow.

How often you should aerate your lawn depends on its current health. While even a healthy lawn can benefit from additional aeration, here are some landscaping tips and warning signs that it’s time to aerate as soon as possible:

  • The grass is thin or has brown spots
  • Puddles form in the grass after a rainstorm, which means the soil is too compacted to absorb the moisture
  • Your yard sees a lot of foot traffic, which will compact the soil much faster
  • You’ve recently seeded, but the grass is not growing

Safety Considerations

If you are renting a machine, it’s a good idea to ask a pro at the store to demonstrate the device’s operation. There are some safety considerations with lawn aeration, depending on the type of tool you use:

  • When using a manual aerator, you’ll need to be careful not to strain your back as you dig the spikes into the ground.
  • If you use the aerator spikes that strap on your feet to perforate the soil as you walk about the yard, be sure to wear sturdy shoes that offer full coverage for your feet. MAke sure to plant your feet steadily so you don’t twist an ankle, and walk only on the grass, not on hard pavement.
  • For motorized aerators, whether they are the ones you push or the models that hook up to a tractor, follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully with each use.

In general, keep children and animals away from the aerator while it’s in use. Be sure that the rotating blades are used on the grass, not pavement, stone or any other hardscaping to avoid damaging the machine.

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When it’s time to aerate your lawn, here’s how it’s done:

Water Your Lawn

While you shouldn’t aerate a wet lawn—the ground will be far too soft and you’ll do more harm than good—you do want to give your grass a thorough watering one or two days before you aerate. When the soil is softer, it will be that much easier to poke holes in. A good rainstorm can do the trick, or you can give the a thorough dousing with the hose or sprinklers.

Mark Any Spots to Avoid in Your Lawn

Before you start aerating, be sure to mark any place in the grass that you should avoid, such as sprinkler heads or hard tree roots. If there are many spots to steer clear of, don’t rely on your memory—put out a stake flag or other marker.

Aerate the Lawn in at Least Two Directions

Aerate your lawn in rows up and down your yard, much like you would a lawn mower. Once you’ve done it in one direction, aerate the entire yard again in the other direction. By aerating in both directions, you can ensure better coverage and better results. If your yard hasn’t been aerated in a long time, you might want to aerate on the diagonal also.

Depending on the size of your yard, you can aerate your lawn manually using a spike aerator or you can rent a core aerator that takes on larger plots of land more easily. Spike aerators will perforate the ground while core aerators will remove plugs of soil. These plugs will break down within a week, so leave them on the ground.

Fertilize and/or Reseed

Now that the ground has air to breathe, it’s a good time to fertilize and/or add grass seed so the lawn can grow thicker. Fertilizer enhances the grass because it allows the soil to remain moist so it can absorb nutrients.

The Differences Between Aeration Tines

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When to Call a Pro

If you’re comfortable using a gas or electric-powered lawn mower, you might also be fine using a motorized aerator. However, if you are unaccustomed to cutting your own grass, it might be better to use a manual aerator or call in a professional to do the work for you instead.

Your lawn should be looking healthier after aeration, but if it’s not, something else could be affecting the health of your lawn. Consult with a lawn professional who can assess the matter and prescribe another course of action to get your landscaping vibrant once more.

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Lawn Aeration Doesn’t Have to Put a Hole In Your Wallet: Lawn Aeration Costs

If your family enjoys spending time outside, you probably use your yard regularly. However, heavy traffic can lead to soil compaction and an unhealthy lawn. If your lawn is looking tired, it may be time to aerate. Lawn aeration — also known as core aeration — is the process of breaking up compacted soil and thatch to allow air, water and nutrients to reach the root zone.

This relatively simple lawn maintenance task makes a great weekend DIY project. Or, you can hire a professional lawn care company to do the job. Average costs can be anywhere from 25 (CAD 34) all the way up to several hundred dollars. Costs depend on the tools used, the size of the lawn and whether you do the project yourself. Let’s take a look at average lawn aeration costs for both DIY and professional services.

DIY Lawn Aeration Costs

If you aerate your lawn yourself, you won’t have to pay for labor, but you will have to buy or rent an aerator. According to HomeGuide, purchasing your own lawn aerator costs between 100 and 400 (CAD 135 and CAD 540) on average. Some handheld lawn aerators cost as little as 20 (CAD 27), while a manual push spike aerator costs between 40 and 130 (CAD 57 and CAD 175). Expect to pay between 100 and 400 (CAD 135 and CAD 540) for a tow-behind plug or spike aerator.

If you’d prefer to rent equipment, it’s available at most large home improvement stores and equipment rental centers. Bob Vila says Lawn aerator rental costs vary by retailer, but they tend to run about 90 (CAD 120) for the entire day. You’ll also have to leave a deposit of around 150 (CAD 200), which is usually refundable as long as the equipment is returned on time and in good condition.

Additional DIY Considerations

DIYers may have several other expenses, depending on the scope of their project, including the cost of seed and fertilizer. Lawn Love estimates the average cost of overseeding a lawn at around 650 to 1,650 (CAD 880 to CAD 2,240). If you need to rent a truck to transport equipment, be sure to factor that cost into your budget as well.

Professional Lawn Aeration Costs

If you hire a lawn care company to do the job, they may charge by the hour or the square foot. Or, they may set a flat rate for every quarter acre. Professional lawn aeration service costs, on average, about 7 to 25 (CAD 9.50 to CAD 34) per thousand square feet. For a 5,000-square-foot lawn, that adds up to between 50 and 150. Companies that charge an hourly rate usually want 30 to 70 (CAD 40 to CAD 95) per hour, so the total cost can vary depending on the size of the yard and the job’s complexity.

How Much Does It Cost to Aerate 1 Acre?

Some companies charge a flat rate of about 55 to 115 (CAD 75 to CAD 155) per quarter acre, regardless of the job’s complexity. You’ll typically pay between 130 and 250 (CAD 175 and 340) for a full acre of land.

How Much Does Aeration and Overseeding Cost?

If your lawn is damaged, combining aeration with overseeding and fertilizing can help restore your grassy areas. If you opt to have it done by a lawn care company, the overall cost would be about 160 to 425 (CAD 215 to CAD 575) for 10,000 square feet of lawn.

Is Aerating Your Lawn Worth It?

For a relatively small cost, lawn aeration can improve your lawn’s health. But it isn’t always necessary to do it annually. Most healthy lawns should be aerated about every two to three years, The Spruce says. However, if your lawn grows in heavy soil or experiences heavy foot traffic, annual aeration may be beneficial. It may also be helpful to aerate your soil prior to laying sod.

All CAD conversions are based on the exchange rate on the date of publication.

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When and Where to Rent a Lawn Aerator


Renting an aerator is a great way to ensure a healthier lawn. Here’s a guide for picking the lawn aerator rental that’s right for you.

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One of the best ways to care for your lawn is with core aeration. Pulling out those little plugs of earth allows water and nutrients to penetrate deeper below ground, resulting in less watering and fertilizing. Best of all, aeration gives roots room to grow, so your lawn will be more resilient when faced with harsh conditions such as drought or high temperatures.

The bad news? Aerators are costly, difficult to store and only used once or twice a year. While those with small yards might get by with an inexpensive, easy-to-store hand aerator, it makes more sense for the vast majority of DIYers to rent a lawn aerator instead of buying one.

When Should I Rent a Lawn Aerator?

In general, you should aerate your lawn shortly before growing season. Early-growing, cool-season grass should be aerated in late fall or early spring, while a lawn with warm-season grass should be aerated in late spring. If you’re not sure when your grass’s growing season is, err on the early side of spring.

Aerate on the day after a moderate rainfall, when the ground is damp but not saturated. Too little water makes for a rough day as you struggle with a bouncing, jolting machine. Too much water makes it messy, with water spraying out of the machine and the plugs turning to mud.

If you rent during a dry spell, water the lawn the day before to guarantee good conditions.

What Type of Lawn Aerator to Rent

Be sure to look for a plug aerator, which pulls a small cylinder of soil from the ground. Spike aerators don’t remove the plug. While they do allow water and nutrients into the hole, spike aerators leave the soil immediately around the hole even more compacted than when you started.

There are three types of aerator to consider when renting.


Affordable and less expensive to rent than a powered aerator, these are a great choice if you already own a riding lawn mower. A pull-behind model such as this one from Brinly hitches to the rear of a riding lawn mower and can be dragged around as you are cutting the lawn or making an aeration tour. They’re great for larger lawns that would take forever to do by hand. Look for one with at least two height settings — one for aeration and one for transport — so you won’t leave pockmarks when you cross the driveway or sidewalk.

Gas Powered

These machines may look like a push mower or snow blower, but they’re more difficult to control. Because they’re penetrating the ground with significant force, they will buck and kick as they hit rocks and dense patches of soil. They’re heavy, noisy and can be difficult to transport, but they’re the best option for DIYers without a riding lawnmower.


Electric aerators run on a battery or power cable. Lacking the power of gas-powered machines, they also don’t have the weight required for effective coring, so most are spike aerators intended for light-duty work. It’s much easier to transport and use an electric aerator, and they’re often less expensive to rent than a gas aerator.

Where to Rent a Lawn Aerator

Aerators are available from rental centers such as:

  • Dedicated tool rental shops: These often have multiple rental options, with knowledgeable staff to guide you.
  • Home improvement centers: Big Box stores like Lowe’s and The Home Depot often have dedicated tool rental centers. There are plenty of locations, and it’s hard to beat the convenience of renting your aerator where you pick up your home improvement supplies. They do tend to have fewer options, however, and the knowledge of the staff varies greatly from location to location — or even shift to shift.
  • Nurseries and garden centers: Here the staff is usually quite knowledgeable, but often they don’t have many options or enough machines to meet demand.

No matter where you rent from, be sure to call ahead to verify they have one in stock. Consider reserving one ahead of time if you’re renting during peak springtime usage.

How Much Do Lawn Aerators Cost to Rent?

Pricing will vary by model and location, but as a general rule expect a quality gas-powered core aerator to rent for around 65 for a half day, or 100 for 24 hours. Electric and pull-behind models will be cheaper but have more variation from store to store. For those, figure around 35 to 65 for a half day, or 65 to 100 for a full day.

Be sure to check for options at the rental center as they often carry more than one model. Try out models with different widths, features and horsepower, and before long you’re sure to find the right match for your lawn.

Ohio-based freelance writer and author Dan Stout is a former residential remodeler, commercial site supervisor and maintenance manager. He’s worked on nearly all aspects of building and DIY including project planning and permitting, plumbing, basic electric, drywall, carpentry, tiling, painting and more. He also publishes noir fantasy thrillers, including The Carter Series, from Penguin imprint DAW Books.