How to Make an Outdoor Chessboard

The Lawn Chessboard

If you're handy with a tape measure and a mower, then creating your own lawn chessboard might be just what Garry Kasparov ordered. Before you start giving the lawn a haircut, however, you need to consider the available space in your yard. Remember, chess is played on a 64-square board made up of eight rows, each containing eight equal spaces. Each square alternates in color.

Mowing a chessboard onto your lawn is in reality "striping" your lawn, just as the professionals do on sports fields. You create stripes by bending the blades of grass in one direction or another. Let's get started. Note: For the sake of easier reading, we're going to skip the metric conversions in the directions.

  • First, figure out the size you want the chessboard to be. This is going to depend on the size of your mower and the swath it cuts. For example, if you have a 24-inch mower, then each square in your chessboard will be 2 feet by 2 feet. If you have a 36-inch mower, then each square will be 3 feet by 3 feet.
  • Once you measure the perimeter of the board, stake the corners with batter boards and a mason's line (see sidebar). Make sure your layout lines are level by using a water level or a line level. Use the 3-4-5 triangle method to make sure the corners are square. That is, pick a point 3 feet from the corner on one side and 4 feet from the corner on the other side. The corner will be square when the distance between the lines is 5 feet (the triangle's hypotenuse). If it doesn't measure up, adjust the boards and line accordingly. Do that for every corner.
  • If everything is plumb, fire up the mower. First, mow the perimeter around the area you want the chessboard to cover. Follow the outside edge of the mason's lines.
  • Next, mow the inside of the "chessboard" in opposing directions. For example, mow one line north to south, and mow the other line south to north. Use the accompanying diagram as a guide (it's three by three rather than eight by eight, but you get the idea).
Mowing your lawn north to south Mowing your lawn north to south
Mowing your lawn north to south
© HowStuffWorks 2013
  • Be careful when making turns from one line to the next. Experts say a "Y" type turn is the best to limit damage to the turf.
  • To complete the chessboard, change direction of the original mowing pattern. If you were mowing north to south, mow east to west.
  • Finally, mow the perimeter once again to remove any striped patterns and to clean up any mess you might have made.

Here's a tip: if you really want a colorful chessboard, buy lawn paint. It's made by a company called World Class Athletic Surfaces. It's the stuff sports stadiums use to paint all those neat designs. The paint covers the grass, but allows each blade to receive some sunlight so they can continue to grow. Paint one set of squares one color, and the other set another. Never use household paints. They'll kill your lawn [source: DIY Network].

If you don't feel like carving or cutting a chessboard into your lawn, there's no reason why you should. You can simply buy a life-size board and install it as if you were laying a rug in the living room. You can by chess blankets or nylon boards with 12-inch or 24-inch (30-centimeter or 60-centimeter) squares. You can also purchase rubberized vinyl, similar to the heavy-duty flooring you see at the school gym. These tiles clip together and can be rolled up and carted away.