Yard Grading 101: Everything you need to know (2023)

Steps to Regrade Your Lawn Yourself

If you’re making minor adjustments to the strip of land around your foundation or other yard features, regrading your lawn is a relatively manageable project. On the other hand, yard grading can become a huge undertaking if you have a large, uneven, or steeply-sloped lawn.

Measure the Existing Grade

The first step is to find out how large or small the existing slope is. For this measurement, you’ll need two stakes, about 10 feet of string, a hanging string level, and measuring tape.

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  1. Tie one end of the string around the first stake and pound it into the ground right next to the foundation of your home until the string is at ground level.
  2. Measure 100 inches away, or about 8 ⅓ feet, and pound the second stake into the ground just enough for it to stand up on its own. Tie the other end of the string around this stake.
  3. Hang the level at the approximate midpoint of the string and adjust the height of the string on the second stake until the bubble is in the center of the level.
  4. Measure the distance from the ground to the string on the second stake.
  5. Divide this measurement by 100 to find the land grading measurement, expressed as a percentage by moving the decimal two places to the right.

Thus, if the string is 6 ½ inches above the ground where it’s tied to the second stake, your calculations will come out to 0.065, or a grade of 6.5%. Repeat this measurement at several places around your foundation, including walkways and driveways. Write down your findings for later reference. It might also be good to physically mark the high and low spots with spray paint, stakes, or flags for future reference.

Rebuild the Slope

If the current slope of the yard is too shallow, you’ll want to raise the ground level near the foundation and smooth out any other high spots. If large changes are necessary, you may need to rent heavier machinery like a bobcat or a mini-excavator. However, for smaller changes, you may only need a power tiller, a landscaping rake, a wheelbarrow, and a sheet of plywood. Additionally, you’ll need enough extra soil to build up the grade. Here’s what to do next.

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Check for Obstacles

First, check around the perimeter of your home for any low-lying pipes or vents. You don’t want to block, bury or damage these features, so you can often extend the pipes or vents so that they’ll still be aboveground. It’s crucial to consult a professional about making changes if you don’t know the purpose of these features.

For basement windows that would potentially be covered up by adding soil, try window wells to hold the dirt away from the glass. If there are utility lines in the first few inches of topsoil, they need to be clearly marked, so you don’t disturb or damage them in the next step. Check with your local utility company, who may want to send a technician out to mark them. You may also need a permit from your city or county for larger projects.

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Distribute the Soil

Next, you’re ready to start removing about four inches of topsoil in order to work on the harder subsoil underneath. You’ll probably need to rent or purchase a power tiller to break up the soil enough that you can move it around with a landscaping rake. Additionally, be sure to purchase fill dirt to build up new high areas. You can use a soil calculator to estimate how much you might need by cubic foot or cubic yard. If it’s a small project, you may be able to get away with buying it by the bag, but for larger projects, it will make more sense to buy by the truckload.

Start taking the soil to the areas that need to be raised. You’ll want to start near the foundation, where the new high point needs to be. After laying the soil, use the back of your rake to smooth it into a reasonably level surface, then lay your plywood across it. Walk across or jump on the plywood to tamp the new soil down. If this doesn’t seem sufficient, you can also buy or rent a tamper to compact the new dirt.

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You can, of course, also remove dirt from areas that are too elevated. If you go this route, avoid creating new areas for runoff to pool. You’re looking to improve your overall yard drainage, after all. As you finish this step, make sure you leave 4 to 8 inches of your foundation uncovered above the new grade.

Measure the New Grade

Once your soil is in place, repeat the measuring process with the string between two stakes to check your work. Recommendations vary as to the ideal finished grade, but the general suggestion is between 2% and 5% slope. That’s a decrease of 2 to 5 inches over 100 inches (8 ⅓ ft). Now is the time to make any corrections that you need, so double-check that you’ve arrived at the right grade.

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Finish Your Work

To put the finishing touches on the new surface, add about 4 inches of topsoil to replace what you removed initially and till it into the surface of the subsoil. You don’t need to tamp this down, but water it well to compact it slightly.

We recommend planting grass seed or putting down sod at the same time to provide new ground cover. The roots will help bind the new topsoil together and act as erosion control. Make sure to keep up with watering the growing grass over the next days and weeks.

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Explore Other Options

Not all yard grading projects are quite this straightforward. For yards that are small or an unusual shape, you might not have enough room to grade the surface around your home properly. If this is the case, you can install a feature called a French drain beneath the ground to direct the water away from low points in your yard. Alternatively, if your yard has steep slopes, a retaining wall can help decrease erosion while maintaining proper drainage.


How can I grade my backyard myself? ›

How to Level a Yard [8 Steps]
  1. STEP 1: Mow Your Lawn. ...
  2. STEP 2: Dethatch Your Lawn [As Needed] ...
  3. STEP 3: Dig up the grass in the sunken area of the lawn. ...
  4. STEP 4: Make Soil Mix: Topsoil, Sand and Compost. ...
  5. STEP 5: Fill Sunken Areas and Holes with Soil Mixture. ...
  6. STEP 6: Even Out the Entire Lawn. ...
  7. STEP 7: Water the Lawn.
Oct 26, 2022

What is the best way to grade a yard? ›

The first rule of grading is that the ground should slope away from your house in all directions dropping at least two or three inches every ten feet. The maximum slope in a lawn should be twelve inches for every four feet.

Is grading a yard difficult? ›

If you're making minor adjustments to the strip of land around your foundation or other yard features, regrading your lawn is a relatively manageable project. On the other hand, yard grading can become a huge undertaking if you have a large, uneven, or steeply-sloped lawn.

How do I fix my yard grading problem? ›

To fix or improve the grading, you can add soil next to the foundation and slope away from the house, however, you should have at least four inches of your foundation (concrete, block, or stone) showing above the soil. The soil and vegetation should not be in contact with the siding or any wood.

What tool do you use to grade a yard? ›

Using the Bobcat

Using this piece of equipment is simple when grading a lawn, or any larger commercial space. The simple fact that it can excavate large plots of soil at a time, rather than having to use small handheld equipment, is going to cut the time it takes you to complete the job down quite a bit.

What equipment is used for grading? ›

A grader, also commonly referred to as a road grader, motor grader, or simply a blade, is a form of heavy equipment with a long blade used to create a flat surface during grading.

What is the proper grade for drainage? ›

For efficient drainage, paved surfaces should have a minimum 1-percent slope. Turf or landscaped areas should have a minimum slope of 2 percent.

How do you grade an uneven lawn? ›

Use a rake and shovel to smooth out high areas and depressions. Dig out your sod and set it aside (ideally in a shady spot) until it's time to replant it. Mix equal parts topsoil, compost, and sand to make a topdressing mixture. Fill dips in your lawn with the topdressing until the area is level.

What is the proper grade for yard drainage? ›

Healthy drainage occurs when the slope is between 2 percent and 5 percent, which equates to 2 to 5 inches of drop-off for every 10 feet you measure as you move away from your home.

Do I need to remove grass before grading? ›

In most regrading projects, grass will need to be removed in order to level out the ground. Other surrounding flowers, trees, and shrubs could also be affected in the process. You'll want to include the cost of new landscaping once the project is done to help bring life back to your space.

Can you grade a yard by hand? ›

Regrading Your Yard by Hand Can be Painless

Grading and leveling your lawn is a project that homeowners can often do themselves without any expensive equipment. But if you have a large property with significant grading issues, it might make sense to rent some equipment.

How long does it take to regrade yard? ›

Most yard grading jobs take from 2 or 3 days to a week. See below the average rental cost for grading equipment. (These costs are for DIY only – they do not include labor costs for a professional operator). Choosing the right piece of equipment depends on project and land.

What is a common problem with grading? ›

In this lesson we examined the problems with grading based off of learning ability, growth, or effort in a given assignment. Each of these had many issues, but the three primary issues of unfairness, difficulty in measuring, and inability to sustain motivation were common to each of them.

What is the best fill dirt for foundation? ›

Loam. Loam is the best soil type for construction due to its ideal combination of silt, sand, and clay. It combines the best of all their qualities into the ideal balance for supporting a foundation. Loam generally does not shift, expand, or shrink drastically and handles the presence of water very well.

What are signs of grading issues? ›

Issues such as low spots, slightly raised areas, ruts and water pooling at the base of the house are signs that grading problems are prevalent.

Can you put soil on top of grass to level? ›

Spread a layer of debris-free topsoil or potting soil into the hole—enough to bring the turf patch level with the surrounding lawn. As you work, water the soil lightly to remove air pockets; this helps to prevent future settling. Replace the turf patch, pressing the grass back into place with your hand or foot.

How do you level a bumpy lawn? ›

  1. STEP 1: Mow the lawn. ...
  2. STEP 2: Examine the amount of thatch at the lawn's roots, then dethatch as needed. ...
  3. STEP 3: Mix sand, topsoil, and compost. ...
  4. STEP 4: Dig up the grass in sunken parts of the lawn and fill with the soil mixture. ...
  5. STEP 5: Spread the rest of the soil mixture in a thin layer to even out the entire lawn.
May 3, 2022

How do you calculate yard grades? ›

Divide the change in elevation, in feet, by the distance between the two stakes, also in feet, and multiply this number by 100 to calculate the percent slope, or the grade change, between the two stakes.

What are the three components of grading? ›

Learners from Grades 1 to 12 are graded on Written Work, Performance Tasks, and Quarterly Assessment every quarter. These three are given specific percentage weights that vary according to the nature of the learning area.

What is the most common grading method? ›

The most commonly used grading system in the U.S. uses discrete evaluation in the form of letter grades. Many schools use a GPA (grade-point average) system in combination with letter grades. There are also many other systems in place. Some schools use a numerical scale of 100 instead of letter grades.

What are the two types of grading? ›

The two most common types of grading systems used at the university level are norm-referenced and criterion-referenced.

What is the minimum slope required for drainage? ›

Minimum drainage gradient

Most road design manuals require drainage gradient to exceed 0.5%, in order to drain water and prevent excessive skid accidents.

What is the minimum slope for water runoff? ›

To direct storm water runoff away from the foundation: Slope permeable surfaces away from the house at least 0.5 inch per foot for 10 feet.

What is the minimum slope for grass drainage? ›

Lawn Drainage

The minimum slope that we work with is two percent, or 1/4 inch per foot. As an example, the grade at a spot four feet away from your house should be one inch lower than the grade at the house. This will assure that water will be directed away from the building.

How do I smooth a bumpy lawn? ›

For a domestic lawn, topdressing is the perfect way to smooth out the surface of your lawn without going to the trouble of lifting it or returfing. Simply distribute the topdressing material around your lawn then work it into the sward using a broom or the back of your rake.

Can I put topsoil over grass and reseed? ›

Adding soil over grass can be another effective form of repairing a lawn. It is possible to dump new soil over top of what you have, and prepare it for sod or seed. This option will save you money on excavation costs of removing the old soil and grass.

Should I aerate my lawn before leveling? ›

Run your irrigation system after the turf has been aerated. Aeration will help ensure your soil is ready to absorb all of the nutrients and seeds that come its way with topdressing and overseeding. That's why you should aerate before overseeding.

How do you calculate drainage requirements? ›

To calculate the volume of water that needs to be stored, multiply the amount of runoff from each drainage zone by 15. The runoff for each zone was in gallons per minute. Multiplying by 15 minutes leaves you with the amount of gallons to be stored.

Do you roll before or after grass seed? ›

Again, it seems to make sense that rolling your lawn after seeding would help the seed-soil contact (which is important). However, it would be better to take a leaf-rake and lightly rake over the seed to incorporate it into the soil.

How do I know if my yard needs to be graded? ›

Here are some tell-tale signs that re-grading might be in order. Dips, humps, pooling water, and run-off are pretty basic signs that your yard might need some work. When the lawn mower mows off the top of the sod or you consistently fall into holes, something has gone awry.

Can you grade a yard with sand? ›

You should never use pure sand to level a lawn. Most lawns contain a lot of clay, which already makes growing grass difficult. However, adding pure sand on top of the clay only creates further problems by turning the soil into a nearly hardened cement-like consistency, as drainage abilities are worsened.

Can you grade a yard with a tiller? ›

There are also tiller attachments that are dragged behind a tractor or riding lawn mower that dig into the ground. Grading a yard with a significant slope with a tiller is a challenge. The tiller breaks up the soil, but it then must be moved from the higher grade to the lower grade.

How much work is it to level a yard? ›

The labor costs to regrade a yard are around $50 per hour. If the landscaping company you hire needs to clear the land, dig out any areas, and then put in the dirt, you're looking at around 12 to 24 hours' worth of labor. This will bring the total cost of labor to about $900 on average.

What is the most failing grade? ›

Grades A–F in the United States

In primary and secondary schools, a D is usually the lowest passing grade.

What is poor grading? ›

A poor grade is a substandard performance in an activity, usually academic, in which an individual is graded on. There is a variety of reasons and circumstances an individual receives a poor grade.

Is it common to fail a grade? ›

Failing a class in college is common. At The Ohio State University, around 10% of undergraduates retake a failed class every year. That means more than 1 in 10 undergrads fail a class (since not every student repeats a failed class).

Does sand make good fill dirt? ›

Projects in Wet Environments

Sand does not absorb water; it merely allows it to pass through. This makes sand ideal for applications in damp environments. Sand is often used for fill material in and around ponds, septic tanks, and other damp areas.

What foundation would be used on poor soil? ›

A raft foundation is used where soil does not have the right strength or heavy loads are expected. A raft foundation is used generally for the construction of commercial or industrial buildings. A short bored pile foundation is used where soil is weak.

Can I use topsoil as fill dirt? ›

Fill dirt contains few nutrients for plant growth, whereas topsoil contains essential minerals and organic matter. Fill dirt also has more rocks than topsoil. Can topsoil be used as fill? Topsoil tends to be looser than fill dirt, meaning it shifts and settles more.

What are the bases for grading? ›

In traditional grading, students are primarily measured by the percentage of work successfully completed. The assumption is that higher completion rates reflect greater mastery, and earn higher grades. Often 90% achieves an A, 80% a B, etc.

Which letter usually signifies a failing grade? ›

You'll usually need to receive a letter grade between A and D to pass a class, often the numerical equivalent of 65 percent or higher. Receiving an F—which stands for “fail”—indicates that you did not pass the class.

How do I decide what to grade? ›

Here's how to decide what grade to teach:
  1. Explore different curriculums.
  2. Consider the salaries being offered.
  3. Think about job prospects.
  4. Think about potential teaching challenges.
  5. Understand your personal teaching style.
  6. Decide on the type of relationships you want to form.
  7. Consider market trends.
Feb 6, 2023

How do I level my yard without a bobcat? ›

The Best Way to Level a Yard Without a Bobcat
  1. Remove any plants from the area to be leveled. ...
  2. Remove soil from the high points of the yard and spread it in holes and low-lying areas. ...
  3. Smooth out all areas of disturbed soil with a hard metal rake to create the final grade.
Dec 10, 2018

Is it easy to regrade a yard? ›

Regrading a yard is not a project that should be done on your own. It's best to leave it to skilled and experienced professionals who know just what it takes to get the job done right. When a regrading project is done incorrectly, you could be looking at much bigger problems down the road. Don't risk it.

How do you level uneven dirt in your backyard? ›

Use a rake and shovel to smooth out high areas and depressions. Dig out your sod and set it aside (ideally in a shady spot) until it's time to replant it. Mix equal parts topsoil, compost, and sand to make a topdressing mixture. Fill dips in your lawn with the topdressing until the area is level.

What is the best way to keep water away from foundation? ›

The three best options for redirecting water away from home foundations include French drains, gutter systems and swales. However, all of these options require professional installation to ensure they function as intended and drain or collect water in a responsible manner.

Can you level a yard with a roller? ›

If your soil does become compacted, however, you might be able to get it healthy and loose again by aerating it. By using a lawn roller safely and sparingly, you can flatten your yard and make it easy to walk across.

How do you level a bumpy yard? ›

How do I level my whole yard? With lawns, mow the grass and fill in low spots while digging out lumps or high spots. Put the grass back in place once level, then top-dress the lawn with a ½-inch layer of compost and level the lawn with the back of a bow rake. Use leveling sand to fix uneven pavers or flagstone paths.

What is the easiest way to level dirt? ›

Lawn roller, rake, and shovel: Use the shovel to dig into low spots and expose the dirt beneath the grass. Fill the divots with topdressing mix, then use the rake or lawn roller to level the lawn. If the uneven areas are large enough, use a tiller to dig them up.

Should I level my yard with dirt or sand? ›

The number one benefit to topdressing with sand is that it's the easiest and most effective way to level your lawn. Having used topsoil as well as various topdressing mixes over the years I can attest that sand is by far the easiest to spread (whether wet or dry).


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