A bumpy and uneven lawn can look unattractive and also cause a variety of water drainage, and safety issues. Leveling a yard can turn it back into an even and green landscape.
What Is Yard Leveling?
Leveling a yard means removing or adding soil until your lawn even and flat. Over time, natural shifts in earth and wear and tear cause lumps and uneven spaces in your yard. Bumpy lawns can cause all kinds of problems, from looking bad to making activities such as soccer and the like more difficult. All you need to level your yard are basic garden tools including a rake and wheelbarrow, and of course some extra soil.
How To Level Your Yard
- Check For Water or Gas Lines
- Mow Your Lawn
- Prepare Your Soil Mix
- Start Digging
- Lay Down New Soil
- Water Your Lawn
1. Check For Water or Gas Lines
Before you can start to level your yard you need to make sure that you know where any water pipes or gas lines are running through your lawn. If you dig in the wrong spot, you can damage these fixtures, which can cost thousands of dollars in materials and labor to repair. It’s important to be prepared so that the process of leveling your yard goes as smoothly as possible.
2. Mow Your Lawn
The next thing you should do to prepare your yard for leveling is to mow the grass as short as possible. The shorter your lawn is, the easier it will be to level it out. At the same time, you should also detach and remove any weeds from your yard. You should remove the majority of thatch your can but try to leave at least a small layer to help your lawn absorb water.
3. Prepare Your Soil Mix
After you’ve mowed and prepped your lawn, the next thing you’ll need to do to level your yard is to prepare your soil mix. You will need to make a mixture out of sand, topsoil, and compost. This kind of mixture will serve as the base of your lawn and does not compact easily. Make sure that you use gloves when making your topsoil mixture.
4. Start Digging
Next, it’s time to take a shovel to your lawn. You will want to dig up any sunken patches by removing the grass from them. Make sure you remove the grass from the holes first so you can lay the topsoil then reseed later. For bumps, take them down with a hoe or garden fork. Make sure you do not dig too deeply when taking down lawn bumps.
5. Lay Down New Soil
To make sure your yard will be level, you’ll need to lay down a new layer of soil. Start by placing a ¼” layer of soil in the problem areas and use the rake to spread it evenly. If necessary, repeat this until everything is level, but do not add so much topsoil that you cover any of the surrounding grass. Spread out the top layer to cover any missing patches.
6. Water Your Lawn
Lastly, you need to water your lawn. Watering your lawn will help the topsoil settle and fill any remaining air pockets in the soil. You can also look at where the water pools to find more places that you need to level out. If you need to, you can also add a bit of grass seed if you want to spruce up your yard a bit, or there are some bare patches.
How to Level a Yard FAQ
Why Should You Level a Lawn?
An adequately leveled lawn is key to having a happy and healthy lawn. Having a level lawn makes it easier to mow as your lawnmower won’t be scalping the tops of the dirt. Also, having uneven dips can cause the mower blades to go too low, making the grass cut very unevenly. Dips and holes in your lawn can also collect standing water, which can cause rot and other lawn diseases. So there are several reasons why you should keep your yard as level and even as possible.
What Causes Lawn Bumps?
Before trying to fix an uneven lawn, you first need to figure out what is causing the lumps in the first place. Removing the cause is an integral part of finding a long-term solution. The most common reason for bumpy lawns is water and drainage problems. Standing water can pool up and damage the integrity of your grass. Similarly, if you have a sprinkler system, that can be the culprit too. Sprinkler system pipes can burst and leak, causing lumps to appear on the surface. One way you can diagnose this problem is to check any sprinkler heads and fixtures. Check for low water pressure and make sure that the sprinkler heads are coming up all the way. Also, check to see that the nozzles are not clogged or damaged. Natural ground movements can also cause a bumpy lawn. Over time, dirt naturally shifts can settle in uneven ways. This is unavoidable and will happen to any lawn, given enough time. Heavy rainfall can accelerate this process, as well as freezing in cold climates. Lastly, bumps and divots can be caused by burrowing animals such as badgers, gophers, insects, and even domestic animals such as dogs.
What Equipment Do I Need to Level a Yard?
The basic equipment you will need to level a lawn is a simple rake, a landscaping rake, a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and a large push broom. You can also buy a leveling rake from your local hardware store. Landscaping rakes are very useful as they can break up clumps of dirt and remove rocks, but they are not explicitly necessary to level a yard.
When Is the Best Time to Level Your Yard?
As is the case with most other landscaping tasks, there is a best time to level your yard. In general, spring is the best time to level your yard. This is because the soil is an ideal mix between dry and moist, and your grass has already had some time to grow for the season. Grass is in the active stage during the spring, so it is the healthiest and most resilient to landscaping efforts. If you live in a colder climate, you can also level your yard in the summer without too many problems.
Leveling a Yard Bottom Line
Large yards look great and give you plenty of room for activities, but a large lawn is prone to developing more irregularities and lumpy parts. Yard leveling is an essential part of your lawn maintenance, as it ensures your yard is free from bumps and looks great. A bumpy law not only looks unattractive but can also be a potential safety hazard and cause trips and sprained ankles. Uneven yards can also cause problems with drainage, flooding, and damage underground structures such as pipes and sewage reservoirs. Homeowners spend countless hours manicuring, improving, and decorating their lawns to make them pristine and gorgeous, but many fall short when it comes to knowing how to level a yard. Contents
- Why you should level your yard
- How much does it cost to level a yard?
- Can you level a yard yourself?
- How to level a yard
The home’s lawn is crucial to maintaining the overall aesthetic of the property. Fertilizing, replacing sod, and regularly watering your lawn all go a long way in making it lush and vibrant. However, all that work on an uneven or bumpy lawn can still result in an imperfect and unkept yard. Aside from poor appearance, a yard that’s not leveled can lead to other issues such as improper draining. So, how do you level an uneven yard? Let’s get into the details.
Why you should level your yard
It’s a bit of a project to undertake, so you may be wondering why you should bother flattening out that uneven yard. The truth is, an uneven lawn leads to some annoying and possibly costly repairs down the road. Leveling out that yard now will save you a lot of time and money in the future.
Prevents standing water
One of the biggest problems with an unleveled yard is that it promotes standing water. A big dip in the surface of your lawn will inevitably collect water, which leads to:
- Dead grass
- Perpetual mud
- Mold growth
- Excessive mosquitos
Protects your gardens
An unleveled yard can also damage any flower and vegetable gardens you’ve worked so hard to maintain. Irregular or unpredictable water drainage can lead to puddling in your gardens and mold growth.
Ensures your home is protected from water damage
Similar to your gardens, standing water on the lawn, particularly if it’s close to the garage or the home’s foundation, can quickly damage the structure. Water can flood into the basement, corrode the structure, and cause wood rot and mold. Keeping water away from the foundation starts with a level and well-drained lawn.
How much does it cost to level a yard?
Hiring a professional landscaping service to level your yard will range in cost depending on the size of the project. If only a small portion of your lawn needs to be leveled, for example, the cost of the landscaping services will likely fall between $500 and $1,000. A whole yard that has major sloping issues could cost as much as $5,000.
Can you level a yard yourself?
The good news is that most homeowners can undertake a yard leveling project on their own, especially if only a portion of the yard is uneven. If the drop in the unleveled section is under two feet, it’s a great opportunity to flex some DIY skills. A drop of more than two feet, however, requires the assistance of a professional landscaper.
How to level a yard
If you have the drive to undertake this project, set aside a weekend to make sure it’s done properly. You may need to repeat portions of the project to ensure the lawn is properly leveled, so it’s best to have two consecutive days to do it. Here’s what you’ll need to gather:
- Lawn dethatcher or thatch rake
- Garden hose or sprinklers
Mow the grass short and dethatch
The first step in leveling a yard is cutting the grass. Mow it down pretty short, but not so short that the grass stems are visible. Then, examine the lawn to determine if there’s a need to remove any thatch buildup. If so, use a dethatcher or thatch rake and work to remove the excess.
Lift grass off of low spots
Locate spots in the yard that dip lower than the rest of the lawn. Use a shovel to lift the grass completely off of those spots. Be careful to get the entire root system of the grass by pushing the shovel down two or three inches under the soil.
Fill the low spots with soil mix
In a wheelbarrow, create a soil mix that’s two parts sand, two parts topsoil, and one part compost. Mix enough to fill all of the lawn dips. Shovel the mix into the uncovered dips so that they’re level with the surrounding areas. Then, replace the sod that was removed in the previous step and repeat the process for any other dips or holes.
Cover the lawn with topsoil
Now it’s time to even out the entire lawn by adding a layer of topsoil. Use the mix from step three, being sure to add no more than 1/2 inch of topsoil. Any more may prevent air and sunlight from reaching the grass’s roots.
Water the entire lawn
The final step is to generously water the whole yard. A fresh watering will allow the topsoil to sink into the grass’s roots and provide it with the nutrients it needs to recover from the leveling project. The yard is your pride and joy, so when it gets uneven, it’s a bit of a disappointment. An unlevel yard isn’t just unsightly, though, and it can lead to drainage issues and other damages. Luckily, you don’t have to let a bumpy yard get you down. With our tips for leveling your yard, it will be even and pristine in no time.
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Last Updated October 26, 2022
- Importance of Yard Leveling
- Reasons for Yard Leveling
- Yard Leveling Tools & Equipment
- How to Level a Yard in 8 Steps
- Things to Remember While Yard Leveling
- Conclusions on Landscape Grading
The Importance of Yard Leveling
If you are looking for information on how to level a yard, you probably know it is instrumental in keeping your landscape aesthetically pleasing. A level yard provides stability to your outdoor landscape. It also allows you to avoid serious damage and costly repairs to your foundation. Your lawn must slope away from your home gradually to allow rainwater to drain away slowly from your foundation. If rainwater runs toward your home, the water will accumulate around the foundation walls. This will cause moisture to build up. Weakening your foundation. It may even become more serious. Seeping through foundation walls and filling your basement with water. If your home does not have a basement or is built on a slab, moisture can seep into the wooden floor joists. The water will rot the joists. Threatening your home’s structural integrity. The problems don’t end there though. Poor leveling will also damage your gardens, trees, and landscaping. As well as potential standing water issues. A breeding ground for mosquitos. Which are not only pests but carry diseases.
Reasons for Yard Leveling
Even if you have leveled your yard in the past, landscape grading may be needed in cases where bumps and lums are created by:
- tree or brush removal
- sewer installation
- tree root growth
- damage from animals
- installation of new features (such as a pool)
- drainage issues
So over time, you will want to look for these signs that you need to level your yard.
How Do I Know if There is a Landscape Grading Problem?
The most simple way to look if you have yard leveling problems is to look for standing water. If you don’t have proper drainage, you know that you have a problem. If you want to be more precise with your landscape grading, you can measure your yard’s slope. To do this you will need the following tools:
- Two 3 ft. long stakes
- 100+ ft. string
- Carpenter’s level
The ground around your home should slope away approximately 1/4-inch down for every foot away from your home. This comes to around 2 ft. per 100 ft. So at 100 feet from your house, the ground should be 2 ft. lower than at the base of your home. To accurately measure the slope of your yard’s landscape grading grab a 3 ft. long wood stake. Drive it 1 ft. deep in the dirt at the bottom of your house. Then measure a 100 ft distance away from your house. At that spot drive a second 3 ft. long stake into the soil. At ground level on the stake by the house attach a string. Run the string to the second stake. Attach it to the stake with the string level. Use a carpenter’s level to achieve this. With the string attached to both stakes, measure the distance from the ground to the string on the far stake. If you measure a drop from 3 inches to 2 feet, you may be able to do the leveling yourself. However, if the drop is greater than that, or it slopes upward, it is recommended that you hire a professional to grade the yard. For very steep slopes you may consider planting ground covers or building terraces. If you decide to take on the task of landscape grading yourself, you will need:
- Lawn Mower
- Hand rake
- Thatch rake [or dethatching machine]
- Plastic leaf rake
- Large push broom
How to Level a Yard [8 Steps]
So you’re ready to take on landscape grading yourself. Use these 8 steps for how to level a yard to ensure great results.
STEP 1: Mow Your Lawn
Yard leveling starts with mowing your lawn. Make sure you cut it short. But be careful not to cut it too short. If you cut to the point that the stems of the blades of grass are visible, then your grass may dry out.
STEP 2: Dethatch Your Lawn [As Needed]
Begin preparing the lawn for landscaping grading by closely examining the roots of your grass. Assess your lawn’s amount of thatch. The thatch is a mix of living and dead plant material in a layer where the grass stems meet the soil and roots. A thatch greater than 1/4 to 1/2 inch will keep your grass from getting proper water and air. If you have more than 1/2-inch remove the thatch. For a smaller lawn, you can use a thatch rake. For larger lawns use a dethatching machine. Which you can rent at most home improvement stores.
STEP 3: Dig up the grass in the sunken area of the lawn
Check your yard for divots and low spots deeper than 2-3 inches. Remove the grass from on top of them. To do this, put the blade of a shovel on the outer edge of a low spot. Slide it down and under about 2-3 inches to make sure you get under the roots of the grass. Then remove the sod by prying the grass up with the shovel. Exposing the dirt underneath.
STEP 4: Make Soil Mix: Topsoil, Sand and Compost
Make a top dressing mix to fill in the area beneath the grass in sunken areas of your lawn:
- 2 parts topsoil
- 2 parts sand
- 1 part compost
The soil and compost give your grass the nutrients it needs to thrive. Sand on the other hand does not easily compact easily. Keeping your yard level over time.
STEP 5: Fill Sunken Areas and Holes with Soil Mixture
Fill the hole from step 3 with the mix from step 4. After filling the holes, be sure to place the grass back on top of it.
STEP 6: Even Out the Entire Lawn
Once you have filled the holes and divots, cover your entire lawn with about 1/4 to 1/2 inches of the mix. Keep this layer thin. Err on the side of caution. Even if you think you need more than 1/2 inch. If you put too much down, you may choke your grass. If you still think you need more, you can reapply in step 8.
STEP 7: Water the Lawn
Run sprinklers to water your lawn. This will help the soil mix settle in the grass to fill air pockets, and revitalize your lawn. Jumpstarting the introduction of the new nutrients from soil mixture.
STEP 8: Reapply Soil Mix [As Needed]
You might have to do more than 1 layer of the soil mix to completely level your yard. You should apply the 2nd layer by repeating steps 5 and 6 after you see the grass begin to grow, or when you can’t see the first soil mix layer anymore. That’s it. You’re done! Now you know how to level a yard.
Things to Remember While Yard Leveling
For best results keep these tips in mind:
- The best time to level your yard is during the dry season. If done during a rainy season there is a good chance for soil erosion
- Proper backfill at the foundation is very important. If the soil is too close to the wall cladding then you risk termites getting into your house
- Any soil removed from the lawn can be reused while grading
Conclusions on Landscape Grading
Leveling your yard is very important to protect your home and landscape from long-term damages and expensive costs to fix. If your landscape grading issues are minor you can follow the 8 steps above on how to level a yard yourself. However, if you have major issues with your lawn’s slope, you should contact a professional. They’ll know how to level a yard with more extensive issues. It may be that your landscape grading needs commercial-grade equipment, and a professional eye to identify all problems. If you’re in southeast Pennsylvania, Cider Mill Landscapes may be able to help you. Fill out the form below for a free consultation or call us at: (484) 574-4666. An uneven lawn isn’t only an eyesore, it’s a safety hazard that could devalue your home by up to 15% of its total worth. Yard leveling flattens a bumpy lawn by redistributing soil over the surface. On top of looking better, a level yard will protect a home’s foundation and basement against water damage. Lawns slope for many reasons, including tree root growth, home improvement projects or poor drainage. Although leveling a yard sounds complicated, with the correct instructions, anyone with basic yard equipment and landscaping knowledge can smooth out an uneven foundation quickly and inexpensively.
Step 1: Consider the Benefits of Leveling a Yard
Not everyone sees the value of a level lawn. This is because uneven landscape levels rarely cause short-term problems. However, leveling a yard with sand or dirt provides long-term benefits no homeowner should pass up on. They include:
- Preventing Damage And Boosting Value: An uneven lawn decreases the value of a home. On top of looking bad, sloping yards pool water around the base of a house. Pooled water can lead to structural damage that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix.
- Enhancing Drainage: Uneven lawns can’t effectively drain rainwater. Pools of water around a yard attract pests like grubs and mosquitos. A leveled garden or lawn helps keep your home pest-free and slows mold growth.
- Improving Safety: Uneven lawns are full of bumps and pockets homeowners and their children can trip on. Slopes can also affect driveways, creating surfaces that damage cars and impede safe steering.
Despite these benefits, there are a few potential downsides to consider. First, leveling a large yard with expensive equipment can cost thousands of dollars. Additionally, while a level yard looks better, flattening a lawn exposes mud and thatch, creating a temporary eyesore. To avoid this problem, level a lawn well before any events or putting a house on the market.
Step 2: Scope the Project
Before starting a leveling project, you have to outline your goals. Depending on your project’s scale, the size of your team and the tools they use will change. Some guidelines to consider include:
- Will you flatten an entire yard or just part of it?
- Do you intend to grade the soil or slope it away from the house?
- Would you like to use heavy equipment like compressors or hand-powered tools?
When Should I Level My Lawn?
Lawn leveling, along with most landscaping projects, should happen during the dry season. Leveling during spring also increases the speed at which grass regrows. If you try leveling a sloped yard before and after heavy rainfall, you run the risk of soil erosion, so avoid the fall and winter months.
What Is Backyard Grading?
Grading a backyard is a lawn leveling process that creates a mild incline. These graded lawns keep water from concentrating around the house. A graded yard will allow water to flow away from your home, where it can do the most damage. Homeowners can design a mild grade, but the best-designed slopes require a landscaping team. Although many leveling projects stop at flattening a yard, you should consider grading if water frequently builds up around the house. Effectively grading a lawn is more difficult and time-consuming than flattening one. Professional grade equipment will go a long way with backyard grading.
How Much Does it Cost To Level My Yard?
On average, leveling a yard costs around $2,000. Removing slopes in a small area around a pool or patio costs between $500 and $1,000. On the upper end, flattening an entire backyard costs between $2,000 and $5,000. Many homeowners try DIY leveling projects. While this approach is cheaper, larger yards require more tools and labor than one person can afford. Additionally, landscaping teams have access to different types of compactors that can level more soil in less time.
Step 3: Prepare and Gather Tools
Once you map out your leveling project, you’ll need to get the necessary tools together. While you can flatten a yard with heavy machinery, standard lawn tools can get the job done, as well. The equipment choice you go with should depend on the amount of ground you intend to level and the budget you’re working with.
What Equipment Is Needed To Level a Yard?
Once you’ve learned how to level a bumpy lawn, you need the right tools for the job. Since yard leveling doesn’t always require expensive equipment, not all teams need skid steers and mini excavators. Most landscaping teams will have the necessary equipment on hand. The essential tools for leveling dirt include:
- Carpenter’s level
- Push broom
- Hand Rake
- Dethatching machine or thatch rake
- Sprinklers or hose
- Lawn Mower
What Kind of Dirt Do You Use To Level a Lawn?
The best mixture is 40% topsoil, 4% sand and 20% compost. While the compost adds nutrients that promote grass growth, the sand allows for better drainage.
Step 4: Mow and Dethatch Your Lawn
First, you can begin by mowing the lawn. Don’t cut the grass so short that the stems become visible. Grass cut this short may dry out and die during the leveling process. To avoid this, keep the grass’ length around two and a half inches. Next, teams need to watch for thatch, a layer of decaying grass and other organic matter that builds up at the base of the turf. Less than a half inch of thatch is fine, but any more than that will keep grass from getting enough water and air. Before proceeding, use a thatch rake or dethatching machine to loosen and remove excess thatch.
Step 5: Make a Soil Mixture
After removing excess grass and thatch, you can prepare a top-dressing mixture. This lawn level mix requires one part compost, two parts topsoil and two parts sand. For ease of use, consider mixing these materials in a wheelbarrow. You’ll want 0.77 cubic feet of topsoil mix for every 1,00 square feet you intend to cover.
Step 6: Look for Sunken Patches of Grass
With excess grass and thatch out of the way, you can now look for low spots and sunken patches of grass. Remove the patches with a shovel if you spot an area deeper than two or three inches in the ground. Near the house, you should dig up any divots lower than one inch. This extra caution around a home prevents water from damaging the foundation or basement.
Step 7: Fill Sunken Areas With Soil
Once the low spots are exposed, fill these patches with your topsoil mix. Once they are level with the ground around them, put the grass back on top of the soil mixture. Put extra soil around the house to ensure water slopes away from it.
Step 8: Spread and Flatten the Soil Mixture
Once you’ve filled the divots, spread the remaining top-dressing mix across the yard. You can use a bow rake, broom or rototiller for an even finish. This coating should cover between one-quarter to one-half of an inch. Be careful not to use too much of the mix because it can stifle the grass and keep it from getting nutrients.
Step 9: Water the Lawn
Water will help the lawn leveling mixture settle into the grass and fill the remaining air pockets. Run the lawn sprinkles or a hose over the mix as soon as possible. While you want the grass and topsoil mix damp, don’t let the soil become muddy. As an added benefit, the water will help infuse the mixture’s nutrients into the soil.
Step 10: Reapply Soil as Needed
After watering the grass, check for runoff or puddles. Pockets of standing water indicate the lawn isn’t completely smooth. Reapply the lawn leveling mix and water it until the grass starts to grow or you can’t see the original mix layer anymore. Usually, this doesn’t take more than two layers, but particularly uneven lawns may require three.
Should You Rent or Buy Leveling Equipment?
While most teams will have basic yard leveling tools on hand, not all landscaping screws keep rollers and rammers at the ready. This leaves landscaping crews with the decision between buying or renting their equipment. While buying a compactor is tempting, renting is often the better investment. Renting offers the flexibility to choose a type of compactor best suited to each project’s size and terrain. With the right compactors on hand, landscaping crews set themselves up for success. BigRentz offers a wide selection of compaction equipment that can flatten terrain on any landscaping project.
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