How to Level a Yard

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The decision to level your yard is a big one. There are many factors to consider when deciding if you should level it. This depends on the budget, time, and the overall look you're going for.

But finding the right information can be difficult as between books, magazines, and the internet, there's no shortage of material on how to level a yard.

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However, a lot of that information is either overly simplistic or mainly technical - and a lot of it is just plain wrong.

Planning and leveling your backyard is no easy task. To help you do this complicated job easy, follow this guide.

Why is your lawn so bumpy?

Lawn can get bumpy for several reasons. The most common cause is the settling of soil due to poor drainage or use of heavy machines such as lawnmower and tractors, including several other natural and human-made reasons.

An unhealthy lawn due to lawn disease, poor lawn care practice, pest or insect problems remove the grass and expose the ground surface. The exposed area dirt then gets eroded due to rainfall and foot traffic. It causes depression on the soil surface.

If you have a sprinkler or ground irrigation system installed for lawn care and water flows through a particular path due to land contours, it makes bumps on the ground surface. Sometimes the drastic weather change from freezing to thawing and vice versa changes the soil density.

For example, the moisture and organic matter inside the loose soil in spring expand and loosen the ground. Simultaneously, the freezing condition contracts the water moisture that causes cracking and bumping up the surface.

If you have burrowing animals in your lawn, such as groundhogs or moles, they often dig holes in the ground and move the soil. This causes several cubic yard mounds to be formed in the lawn to create an uneven surface.

Heavy foot traffic, such as people walking or kids playing in the lawn after watering the lawn, causes the soft ground to compress. It not only impacts the health of turfs but also affects the soil structure that causes the bumps.

Lawn Grading

Why is it important to level your lawn?

A lawn is one of the popular landscaping features. Many homeowners take pride in having a beautiful looking lawn. It's common for people to spend several hours caring for their property, such as fertilizing, mowing, maintaining garden beds, and overseeding.

But there is one thing that sometimes people forget about their lawns that are very important: leveling. It's a common myth that leveling your backyard doesn't make a difference, but it's the key to a healthy lawn.

A leveled lawn gives the impression of an organized and well-cared property. That said, leveling your yard isn't just about it to look pretty—it's also about functionality.

A lawn that isn't leveled correctly makes it hard to use a mower. Worse, if there is a steep incline, you also risk breaking your mower.

Also, uneven lawn creates the safety risk of tripping and falling that may cause serious injuries such as sprained ankles and back. Plus, you can't have safer and enjoyable activities such as playing sports or running around with kids on the uneven lawn.

There is no doubt that an adequately leveled lawn with a flat surface looks competently maintained than an uneven property. This will help you sell your home quickly at a higher price in case if you're planning to move to a different place and looking to sell your current home.

Can you level a sloped backyard?

Yes, you can undoubtedly level a sloped backyard, though depending on the extent of a slope, it may not be a good idea. There is no doubt that slope makes it difficult to install decks, patios, and other landscaping features.

There are two basic ways you can level a sloped backyard, both of which will require moving soil from the lower portion of ground to higher, where it will be dumped.

You will more likely need a powered tool such as a bobcat or bulldozer to push the soil uphill. This may become a tricky job if you have steep slopes.

You will probably need a dump truck to move the soil on steeper slopes. We recommend that you attempt to fix a small level of backyard slope, but for anything significant, you should hire a professional landscaper.

How hard is it to level a yard?

If you don't have the time, money, or interest in hiring a professional landscaper, leveling your yard yourself is a great way to keep your property looks nice. The good news is that, even if you're not an experienced gardener, it's reasonably simple to do.

The required amount of effort and skill required depends on the lawn's landscaping area and the bumpiness on the ground.

If you don't have specialized tools or have no experience with complicated landscapes, you shouldn't attempt to do it independently as it can become quickly challenging and frustrating.

But this shouldn't discourage you from doing it yourself for few bumps. You can work at your leisurely pace and get it done in a day or two.

You should make a plan to tackle the leveling project one section at a time, and most people can fix 300 to 400 square feet of lawn in a day.

You can also hire a landscaper to determine what needs to be done to make the yard level stable.

In this way, you can get a plan and professional opinion without hiring them to do the job. This is a great way to save money and help you get a flat leveled backyard.

What time of year should you level your yard?

The best time to level your yard is in spring when the temperature starts to rise and the risk of frost has passed. This makes the ground soft and easy to work.

You will be digging and moving soil to make the ground flat. The mild weather of spring gives the turfs enough time to grow and provide the required moisture to set the soil.

Remember that leveling aims to create a flat surface for walking and planting without leaving large soil bumps that can be hard on your back.

While it's not necessary to flatten out every inch of the backyard, you must flatten large areas before planting or laying sod.

You shouldn't wait too long as the heat causes the soil to become dry and difficult to work in the summer. The high temperature causes the ground covers to get stressed, and you run the risk of thinning that you have to overseed later.

Filling A Low Spots in Lawn

How do you level an uneven yard?

There is no doubt that lawn maintenance can be a hassle. But a well-maintained and leveled lawn has several benefits that, as a homeowner, you can enjoy.

The primary step in leveling an uneven yard is simply removing high areas of dirt and filling it in the low spots.

Follow these steps to level an uneven yard.

Step 1: Mark the area and mow the lawn

Before you get started, you should make a plan first and mark the bumpy areas over existing grass. You can use a white lime to mark the bumps. You can also use paint markers to indicate the landscape fabric or ground cover from that area.

After you have marked the bumps, clean the areas and make sure it's free from rocks or debris. Use a lawnmower to cut short the grass and thatch rake old roots with a garden rake.

Don't over shorten or create ruts from mower wheels as it increases the risk of turfs to be drying out.

Step 2: Identify the bumps and determine if you need to remove any excess soil

Small bumps

For small bumps, you can use a lawn roller to flatten them. The water-filled or sand-filled roller is a great tool to have. You can half fill it with water or sand and move back and forth in the bumpy area.

You can also lightly moisten the ground with water to make the soil easy to move. If the surface doesn't smooth, you can fill the roller a bit more and repeat the process until you're satisfied.

You should only do it as much as needed since it compacts the soil that may affect the plant's health.

Large bumps

For larger bumps, you can use a shovel to remove the excess soil from the uneven ground.

If there is healthy turf at the spot, you can scalp it first and then dig out the extra soil mix from the soil. You can use the excavated soil to fill it in the low spots of your backyard.

Step 3: Fill in the bumps and low-level areas

Filling in the minor bumps and sunken area to raise the ground height are the easiest way for leveling. You can prepare topsoil with sand-soil mixes that you can use to fill the low-level surface.

When preparing the topsoil, you can use 30 - 40% organic soil or compost and fill the rest with sand. The compost and organic materials help provide necessary nutrients to plants that help the ground to recover fast.

Sand act as a filler and helps adjusts the ground and reduce the bumps from getting formed. Be careful not to overuse the sand because it may clamp onto the new soil. Too much sand reduces the soil's ability to hold on to water needed for grass and plant growth.

Topdressing a couple of inches of new soil is the easiest way to coverup low-level areas. It's useful for small low-level regions that are covered with healthy grass.

If you have holes dug by small animals and rodents in your lawn, fill them with the topsoil, and pack it to ensure that it's at a level.

You can also overseed the area to cover any thinning or damaged grass. A thick and denser grass helps cover minor low regions of the lawn.

As an added benefit, adding fertile nutrient-rich soil helps amend the soil, improves its water retention ability, and creates a stable soil structure.

Step 4: Spread the dirt on the lawn

After you have fixed the bumpy lawn, you can spread it to fill dirt in the existing lawn and level it. This covers any leftover small areas and helps smoothen the uneven surface.

You can spread soil evenly using a plate compactor or bow rake. This makes sure that you don't have any decompression on the ground, leading to uneven watering.

Step 5: Water the lawn

You should water your lawn after leveling to allow the newly added soil to settle. Watering also helps with the germination of grass seed. It helps grow the new grass in the bald and patchy lawn areas.

You should avoid walking on the ground level for a couple of days not to let the ground be compressed.

The moist soil adjusts itself as the grass weight on top, which uniformly distributes the lawn's dirt. You can reapply the soil mixture if you see any bumpy area in your yard.

How much does it cost to level a yard?

The cost to level a yard depends on several factors, such as the lawn's size and the extent of bumpiness.

If you're hiring a professional company, it may cost anywhere $1,500 to $2,500. If you decide to do it yourself, you can expect to spend $400 - $500 on materials such as dirt, compost, and tools for leveling small to medium size backyard.

One way to reduce your cost is to rent equipment rather than buying it outright. For example, you can rent a roller from your local hardware rental store for $40 - $50 per day rather than buying it.

Can you regrade the yard yourself?

Your ability to do successful land grading depends on your experience and the tools available to you. If you're a DIY landscaper who understands how grading works, you can regrade it yourself.

Before you get started, it's vital to know the difference between leveling and yard grading.

Leveling your backyard helps you flatten the lawn surface so there are no bumps or low-level depression on the ground. While grading involves carefully sloping down the ground away from the home foundation or retaining wall to allow the water to drain away from the property.

The primary purpose of grading is to prevent your home from getting waterlogged in case of heavy rain and protect the foundation and basement from excess moisture.

You need to have leveling tools to help you measure the high and low points around your home. If you're comfortable and have the necessary tools, you can regrade smaller areas.

To get started, you need to first identify the high and low points around your home. Some people also call it "Rise" and "Run" sections of your home.

You want the high point closer to your home foundation and the low point near a sidewalk or the direction you want the water to flow.

Don't attempt to eyeball the high and low points as you won't get accurate points and risk creating a water pool.

Mark these high and low points with paint or a removable marker. Spread the soil at the elevated area and start raking it toward the lower spot. You can use the rake's backside to make it easier to rake and move dirt smoothly over the ground.

You can lightly compact the ground and water it gently so the grassroots can hold the soil in its place. Keep an eye to ensure that there are no saturated areas that may need refilling.

A successful grading will allow the water to move away from the foundation and toward the sidewalk.

To stop water from flowing toward the home foundation, you should grade an inch of slope every four feet

Follow these tips when doing yard leveling or regrading:

  • Check with your local municipality for underground utility lines such as water, gas, and electricity
  • Lightly water the ground to soften the soil and wear safety gears such as closed-toe shoes
  • Cut the grass short so the ground is visible as it helps you get more accurate high and low points
  • Remove stones before mowing, but you can place them back to the low filled areas and fill them with dirt
  • Thatch the grass to encourage new and healthier growth

Conclusion

So now know how to level a yard the right way. As any landscaping professional will tell you, it takes more than just a shovel and water sprinkler to finish a great looking backyard.

Many elements involve creating a beautiful outdoor space, and lawn leveling or landscape grading is a must. The first part of leveling a yard is knowing what is causing the bumpy yard and using several leveling mixes to fix the uneven lawn.

If your lawn isn't level, you will have to spend a lot of time caring for and fixing drainage issues. Leveled lawn allows you to have a beautiful yard as it gives better drainage and an overall better appearance.

If you want some landscaping ideas with rocks, check out our 25 Best landscaping rocks ideas for home

How to grade your yard

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About the author 

Sunny Kay

Hi, I'm Sunny Kay, an avid gardener, home decorator and outdoor enthusiast. I help busy people get into gardening, create natural and good looking home decorations, and suggest outdoor activities and tools to explore the nature. Click Here to get started with my recommended gears.

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