how to grade a yard?

how to grade a yard

Grading a yard effectively involves leveling and sloping the landscape to ensure proper drainage and to prevent water damage to your home. This process not only helps to protect the foundation of your home but also improves the overall appearance and usability of your outdoor space. Here’s a step-by-step guide to grading your yard:

Plan and Prepare

Start by assessing the current slope of your yard and determining how it needs to be adjusted. You’ll want to ensure that the grade slopes away from your house at a rate of about 2-3% (which translates to a slope of about 2-3 inches of fall for every 100 inches of distance). Gather the necessary tools and equipment, such as a landscaper’s rake, shovel, wheelbarrow, and possibly a rented bobcat or tiller if you’re dealing with a large area.

Mark the Area

Use stakes and string to mark the area you need to grade. This will help you maintain an even slope and provide a visual guide. Measure the current elevation around the foundation and throughout the yard to determine how much soil you need to move or add.

Clear the Site

Remove any debris, rocks, and vegetation that might interfere with grading. If you plan to lay down new sod or plant new vegetation, it’s important to start with a clean slate.

Excavate or Fill

Depending on whether your yard needs to be raised or lowered, you will either remove soil or bring in new topsoil. Use a shovel or machinery to adjust the elevation as planned. If adding soil, make sure to use good quality, clean fill dirt that doesn’t contain roots or debris.

Rough Grading

Begin by spreading the soil around with a rake or a bobcat. Aim to get close to the final grade, keeping the slope consistent away from the house. This step doesn’t need to be perfect, as finer adjustments can be made later.

Fine Grading

Once the rough grading is complete, switch to a landscaper’s rake for fine grading. This is where precision is key. Remove any small bumps and fill in dips to create a smooth, even surface. This step is crucial for good drainage and a professional-looking finish.

Compact the Soil

Use a lawn roller or plate compactor to compact the soil. This step is important to prevent the soil from settling unevenly later. Water the soil lightly to help it settle, then compact it until the surface is firm.

Test Drainage

Before finalizing your project, it’s wise to test the drainage. You can do this by watering the yard heavily and observing how the water flows. Make sure no water pools near the foundation or in any undesired areas.

Seed or Sod

Once you’re satisfied with the grade and the soil is firmly settled, you can seed or lay sod. If you choose to seed, spread the seeds evenly and consider using a seed starter mat or straw to protect the seeds and retain moisture.


After planting, keep the soil moist to encourage seed germination or sod rooting. Monitor the new grade over time, especially after heavy rains, to ensure that the slope remains effective and adjustments are made if necessary.

    Grading your yard might seem like a daunting task, but with proper planning and execution, it can greatly enhance the functionality and aesthetics of your outdoor space. Remember, taking the time to grade your yard properly is an investment in the health of your landscape and the integrity of your home.