An uneven lawn can be more than just an inconvenient tripping hazard. Lumps, bumps, divots, and the exposed roots of mature trees can damage your lawnmower blades and cutting deck. It can also leave your turf more prone to gophers and other burrowing animals.
Worse still, the turf by your house is sloped toward the foundation it can lead to water intrusion issues, and damage to your home’s interior. If moisture pools near your home after a late fall rain or an unseasonal melting event in mid-winter, the cold could even cause cracks in your foundation when the water freezes and expands.
Most homeowners in a situation like this will choose to have their lawn leveled. The question is whether you can do it yourself, or should you hire the job out to a landscaping contractor?
How Much Does It Cost To Have A Professional Level Your Lawn?
The answer to this question can vary depending on the size and severity of the problem. The more square footage you need to be leveled, the longer the job will take. Things like increased manhours, special equipment, and the possible cost of bringing in new material could drive the total cost of a professional leveling as high as $2,000 to $3,000.
How Much Does It Cost To Level My Lawn Myself?
If we count your own labor time as being zero dollars, and we assume that you don’t need to bring in any new material, the cost can be significantly lower. If you can find a deal on rental equipment, or perhaps you know someone you can borrow a few items from, you might be able to level your own lawn for as little as $100 to $500! With this cost-saving potential looming, there are a few things to keep in mind throughout the yard leveling process.
The tradeoff here is in the time it takes to do it yourself. If you’re counting your own manhours as free, and you’re in reasonably fit shape, you should be able to level out 250 to 400 square feet per day. So, make sure to do some measuring to see if you can get the job done in the time you have allotted. If not, you might want to plan for additional days or recruit some helpers.
Is There A Difference Between Grading And Leveling?
When it comes to lawn care and landscaping there is a minor difference between grading and leveling. Though depending on your goals and the characteristics of your property you could feasibly do both in the scope of one project.
Grading is the process of sloping your yard. You will need to plan for some grading if the existing contours of your yard slope toward the foundation of your house. Insufficient grading can lead to all manner of water intrusion problems. With a lot of grading projects, you need to have extra material brought in, which you need to account for in your budget. Though sometimes, you can simply source soil from another part of the project.
Leveling is the process of making your turf smooth and as free of bumps as possible. Not only does this improve the esthetic appearance of your lawn, but it also reduces the chances of damaging your lawnmower, or “Scalping” your turf.
Tools You Will Need To Grade Or Level Your Lawn
Depending on the scale and scope of the project you should plan on needing the following things throughout the course of any grading & leveling project.
- A Landscaping rake
- A lawnmower
- Flat nose shovel
- Marking stakes
- A large carpenter’s or masonry level
- A heavy-duty lawn roller
- A wheelbarrow or a lawn cart
- Sod cutter (Recommended)
If you have a lot of established grass in the project area, you might want to rent a sod cutter. You can then remove any excess areas of grass without necessarily killing the grass. When you are done grading the subsoil, you can then relay your previous sod back in place. This will save you a lot of money in the process.
How to Level & Grade Your Backyard
- Step 1: Use your lawnmower to cut the grass. This is a good time to take stock of little details in your turf, as well as noting any abnormalities that you might need to give special attention to later.
- Step 2: Use a sod cutter to remove any areas of turf that want to reuse later.
- Step 3: Add additional topsoil or mulch to obvious depressions in your turf. They may be more pronounced now that the sod has been cut away. If you are grading your lawn to alter the pitch near the foundation of your house, you should have the new soil brought in.
- Step 4: Use a rake or flat nose shovel to level out inconsistencies in the exposed subsoil. As you go try to remove any rocks you see. Rocks in the subsoil are a key culprit that causes lumps and bumps as the seasons change.
- Step 5: Use the tiller to break up hard spots and soften mounds. This might make it easier to shovel certain sections away.
- Step 6: Stake out your lawn in sections and check it thoroughly with a large carpenter’s or masonry level. You might have to get down low to make sure you can see how the grade is changing from one area to the next. A lawn roller can be used to help flatten out soft areas.
- Step 7: Prepare the soil for the return of the sod. You can do this by leveling it with the back of your garden rake or your flat nose shovel.
- Step 8: Lay the old sod down in a staggered pattern. Ideally, you want the sections to line up like bricks. This will keep water from running off and causing erosion in the seams.
- Step 9: Thoroughly water your sod to make sure the lowest levels of the turf are saturated. This will encourage the roots to once again anchor themselves in the subsoil. As time goes on, the turf layers should naturally seal up the seams.
If you had to bring in additional soil to help alter the slope of your lawn, you might need to bring in additional sections of turf or scattering some grass seed.
Afterward, try to keep people and pets off the newly sodded or seeded areas for at least two weeks. This will give the roots time to properly establish themselves in the soil.