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Dozer Ripping up grade on a leveling yard
Dozer Ripping up grade on a leveling yard
How to Grade a Yard: A Comprehensive Guide to Yard Grading
6 minute read
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Tim Forestell
July 3, 2023

How to Grade a Yard: A Comprehensive Guide to Yard Grading

Having an improperly graded yard can lead to numerous issues that outweigh any benefits. These problems range from potential damage to your house's foundation to the creation of a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is therefore highly advisable to ensure that your yard is properly graded and does yard maintenance.

By doing so, you will not only prevent future headaches but also have the opportunity to undertake a simple do-it-yourself landscaping project during the summer. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can hire a professional contractor to handle the task for you.

What is Yard Grading?

Creating a mild incline by leveling your yard is the definition of grading a yard. Grading a yard can also be known as sculpting the land for drainage improvement and preparing it to face specific elements.

Some essential principles of yard grading include assessing the current condition of your yard and identifying areas where water accumulates or drains improperly. It is advantageous to know the natural soil composition when designing your grade. The crucial aspect to consider in yard grading is establishing the correct slope that directs water away from your house and other structures, rather than towards your property.

While the slope is dependent on several different factors, grades between 3% and 25% are considered respectable. The optimal grading slope will depend on your yard and can be easily calculated for proper drainage. The rule of thumb when it comes to measurements is to have your grade drop about one inch for every foot you move away from your house. Although this isn't always possible, it's important to ensure that the ground is never sloping down towards your house.

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What are the Benefits of Having My Yard Graded?

After learning about the issues that can result from improper grading, you'll be ready to get grading. Improper grading can result in water penetrating the foundation of your house, resulting in structural damage and water pooling.

If not corrected in a timely manner, this can create leaks in your home and really damage your foundation. Excess water in certain areas of a lawn leads to waterlogging, which can kill plants and trees long term and provide mosquitoes the perfect breeding location.

What Equipment Should I Use to Grade My Yard?

When dealing with any type of DIY project, it is essential to have the right tools on-site. When working on a smaller-scale grading project, a shovel and some rocks may be all you need to dig and move soil and create drainage during the grading process. Finding a durable shovel with a grip you are comfortable with will help you get the job done.

A rake will be useful when leveling soil and removing debris. Wheelbarrows are an incredibly efficient tool when transporting soil or other materials across your yard. Having a string will help you to create a reference line. This will help to determine the optimal slope for your yard and ensure an even yard gradient. In addition to string level, stakes, and twine are helpful to use as reference points for consistency. Having a plate compactor or hand tamper is another beneficial tool to compact the ground and ensure the grade is level.

When dealing with a larger yard or a larger-scale project, using larger construction equipment will help expedite the process. When dealing with heavy soil or more challenging terrain, using larger equipment like a skid steer or a mini excavator makes manipulating materials easier. They have great grading technology and can be equipped with blades that can move dirt easily from one place to another.

One of the most common reasons to need heavy loading equipment is for yards with lots of debris or large debris, such as large rocks, tree stumps, and others. DOZR Marketplace is an ideal place to rent equipment for long or short-term projects.

Can I Grade My Own Backyard?

Before you begin any project it's important to plan it out and planning out how to grade your own backyard is no different. Although grading your own backyard can be a simple change to your yard, many factors should be considered.

Key factors to consider when planning to grade your yard are ensuring that you have identified the high and low points in your yard. It is important to make a note of any existing structures to ensure that there is enough space to effectively grade your yard for water drainage. Lastly, it is crucial to check for any raised pipes or vents that may be at risk of being hit during the grading process.

Here's a good video on how to create plans for grading your yard

Step-By-Step Guide to Grading Your Yard

  1. The first step is to assess the current state of your yard. From there, you should plan the grade by determining the slope and drainage pattern for your yard, remembering the one-inch-for-every-foot rule.

  2. Mark down the high and low points in your yard. Using a stake or something that is easily identifiable is strongly encouraged to make sure you don't lose the spot. A low point can be identified by finding where the water is pooling or where there are leaking issues. High points can be identified as dry or raised areas.

  3. The third step is to clear your yard of any vegetation and debris and dig up any grass from the sunken areas of the yard.

  4. Now that you have a cleared area with a grading plan, it's time to establish firm grade lines. By using stakes and twine to mark the desired grade lines, stretch the twine tightly between the stakes. This will create a straight and level reference line for you to reference throughout your project.

  5. The fifth step is to use your desired soil or material mixture to excavate or fill the marked areas. Use a shovel to remove excess soil and relocate it to even out your yard to achieve the perfect grading.

  6. From there, it's important to use a rake, or heavier equipment to shape the yard aligned with the grade lines. Mini excavators, skid steers, and compact track loaders are the most common grading equipment for a small yard. Dozers and excavators would be optimal for bigger areas. When completing this part of the process, it's important to continually check the grade using your string level or laser level.

  7. Step seven is to compact the soil, you may need additional tools to achieve the perfect yard. Using a plate compactor or hand tamper to compact the soil can help ensure a firm stable surface. You can use larger soil compactors for large projects. It's important to pay special attention to areas where there will be lots of activity or where structures will be located.

  8. Walk around the newly graded area and inspect it for inconsistencies or any potential adjustments. Feel free to check in with your reference line to ensure the ideal grade.

  9. The last step is to clean up your site and complete any finishing touches. Simply remove any excess soil or debris from your site and smooth out any rough areas. In addition to that we strongly recommend giving your yard some water and grass seed, to help the soil mix settle and revitalize your yard.

When to Call in Professionals

While grading a yard is fairly simple, sometimes it can be better to leave yard grading to professionals. Some situations where it might be better to call in a professional are when the area that needs grading is large, when the surrounding area is larger or more delicate structure, or when there are severe drainage issues. The type of dirt or landscape you're working with can also affect whether you need a professional or not.

Here are some tips for when picking a reputable professional landscaper or grading professional:

  1. Know the difference between a landscaping company and a lawn care company. While lawn care companies focus on the maintenance of the current landscape, landscaping, and excavating companies will help to create the design and install grades, walkways, and more.

  2. Begin researching landscapers in your area and consult friends and family. This will help make a shortlist of people or companies with high ratings and services you want. Having the chance to check references with well-trusted people, like family and friends, will help you get a good idea of their work quality.

  3. Get quotes from as many companies as possible and get a good idea of what the average price should be.

Overall, it's important to have your yard properly graded for both the land and structures on the land long term. And make sure to keep in mind all the steps when doing a DIY landscaping project to ensure you won't have any issues in the long run. If you need larger grading equipment for the job, you can search the DOZR Marketplace for construction equipment rentals.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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