DIY Guide: How to Level a Yard

DIY Guide: How to Level a Yard

Is your yard uneven and bumpy? 

Leveling your yard can improve an uneven, rocky yard and protect your home’s basement or foundation from water damage. Rough yards are not only unsightly, but they can quickly become a safety hazard that can lead to people tripping or falling in your yard. 

Many issues can lead to a bumpy lawn and yard, including gophers, moles, drainage issues, pipe leaks, and much more. Start by identifying any problems in your yard that may cause future problems in how even your yard is. For example, if you have drainage issues, you’ll need to fix these before leveling your yard. Otherwise, the drainage issues will cause your yard to become uneven again over time. 

Keep reading to learn our top tips for how to level a yard yourself. 

Why Is It Important to Level a Yard?

There are many reasons why it’s important to level your yard. Here are a few of the most notable: 

  • Safety: Uneven lawns don’t just look unsightly, but they can be a danger to the safety of others. Low spots, depressions, and sunken areas can become possible tripping hazards and can lead to adults and kids injuring themselves in your yard. 
  • Drainage: When your lawn is uneven, your property can have drainage problems. Low areas in your yard will suddenly become pools of water that pests, like mosquitoes, will flock to for breeding. These pools of water can also encourage lawn diseases. 
  • Lawn care: Level lawns are not only more attractive, but they are easier to care for. Nobody enjoys the extra work of pulling a lawn mower over uneven areas in your lawn or trying to maintain precise cuts of grass when raised areas cause the grass to grow at different heights. 
  • Prevents standing water: Standing water can lead to dead grass, mold growth, and constant mud, which is an environment that nobody wants to hang around. Standing water can damage your garden, and mold growth can kill your plants. 
  • House damage: Lawns should slope away from your house to keep rainwater from pooling near your home’s foundation and causing damage. Uneven yards and lawns can lead to flooding if the rainwater collects and leaks inside your home. Excessive moisture can also lead to structural damage and rot. 

The Tools You’ll Need to Level a Yard

  • Lawn mower
  • Thatch rake
  • Dethatching machine
  • Sand 
  • Topsoil
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Push broom 
  • Bow rake

Not every leveling project will require all of these tools, but it’s a good idea to have at least your lawn mower, rake, soil, shovel, and compost on hand for the following projects. You’ll also need at least one of the following leveling methods for determining the correct height for a level yard. 

How to Level a Yard

  1. Mow your lawn. You’ll need to start by mowing your lawn. Mow your lawn as short as possible without scalping it so that you can easily see depressions and uneven areas of the ground. Don’t cut the grass so short that the grass blade is visible because your grass may dry out.
  2. Examine how much thatch is present at your lawn’s roots. Look at your grass roots and identify any thatch in your lawn. Thatch is any decayed grass or other organic matter at the base of your grass turf. Any more than half an inch of thatch will compromise your grass’ health and prevent it from getting enough water and air. Remove excess thatch.
  3. Make a plan. Assess your yard and lawn needs, then determine what kind of leveling plan you’ll need. Depending on your yard, you may need to level out uneven slopes, fill in depressions, cut back raised areas or ridges, etc. Mark these areas so that you can quickly identify which areas will require what kind of treatment.
  4. Prep your new soil. Make a topsoil dressing mixture with two parts sand, two parts topsoil, and one part compost in your wheelbarrow. Blend the soil mixture together. 
  5. Use one or more of our recommended leveling methods to level your yard. Take time to read through our next section, “Different Ways to Level a Yard,” which explains the home improvement steps for yard leveling in different ways and which methods are ideal for your situation. 
  6. Fill the holes and ground in and water. After leveling out an area of your yard, apply a small layer of your soil mix, about one-quarter to one-half inch deep, over the entire lawn. Use a push room or landscaping rake to evenly distribute the mixture, smoothing over any spots with hidden air pockets. 
  7. Lay sod to any bare parts of your new lawn. If you have any areas of your property that are completely bare, lay sod to fill them in, so the entire yard is covered.
  8. Water your lawn. Grab your hose or turn on your sprinklers and give your lawn a thorough watering to activate the soil mixture and help it sink into the existing soil. Don’t water to the point of muddiness. 
  9. Continue to reapply the soil mixture. Depending on the extent of your yard’s unevenness, you may need more than one application of your topdressing mix to create a level yard. Monitor your lawn and reapply your soil mixture in thin layers, watering it again until the new grass is peeking through. If you still notice standing water in puddles, continue reapplying until the problem ceases. 

Different Ways to Level a Yard

String Level Method

The string method is one of the best ways to level a large area in your yard. Pound stakes into the ground around the perimeter of the uneven area, then pull strings tautly between the stakes. Use a line level to double-check that the strings are level. 

If you have sloping ground, attach the string tightly to the ground on the high side, then stretch it tautly and attach it to the stake on the low side. Take care to ensure there is no sag in the middle of your string, then hang the carpenter’s level on your string to find the right ground level. Move the line level up or down the string as you go to center the level’s bubble. 

The level’s different measurements at the high and low sides will indicate how much soil you need to add to the low side to create a level yard. Alternatively, you can set the string at a slope you want if you are correcting a negative slope alongside your home. Add dirt with your earthmover or shovel, and keep the amount of dirt added uniform. 

Water Level

Water is a natural level that rises to the earth’s center of gravity. To take advantage of this phenomenon, fill a transparent plastic tube with dyed water so that you can see the level easier, then leave a tiny amount of air at each end of the tube. The water will naturally level at the ends to match a relative height to the earth’s center of gravity. 

We recommend this method over the laser and string method when you have plants or foliage blocking the areas you want to measure. It’s also ideal for pinpointing a gradual slope. 

High Tech Option: Laser Level

If you’re looking to save time, consider using a laser level so that you don’t have to pound stakes into your yard. Laser levels create a beam, much like an invisible string, which will help you make your yard even once more. 

Place the laser level’s transmitting end on the highest ground and a 2-by-4 plank of wood on the lowest end, laying vertically. The height difference between the plank and laser level will give you the slope of your yard. Then, you can fill the difference in with soil to fix it. 

Screen Method

If you have depressions in your yard, consider the screen method for your DIY project. 

Place a 2-by-4 screen over depressions in your yard. Attach the screen to the ground firmly by driving two rebar poles into it to hold the screen steady. Using the screen as your guide, use the screen to add dirt to the depression until it is level with the surrounding area. 

We recommend filling the depression with a little more dirt than needed. Then, remove the screen and use the edge of the screen to smooth the dirt over the depression, creating an even, smooth surface. Fresh dirt usually settles, so you may need to wet the soil to compact it with a lawn roller to fill the depression entirely. 

Spot Leveling

Moles and gophers can create a plethora of holes and depressions throughout your yard, which creates tripping hazards, breeding spots for mosquitoes, and makes mowing your lawn a tedious task. Examine the depressions to see how deep they are. If the pits are less than 2 inches deep, you may be able to fill them quickly with soil and move on with your day. 

However, if the depressions are more than 2 inches deep, avoid throwing dirt in the hole to fill it because it will likely wash away with the next rainfall. Use a shovel to cut and remove turf around the depressions, then fill the holes with a mixture of compost and soil. Afterward, replace the turf. This additional step will encourage nearby roots to grow through this area, reinforcing the newly added dirt. 

Final Thoughts

Leveling your yard creates a safer, more beautiful environment for you and your family to enjoy for years to come. Take the time today to assess your yard’s current condition. Look for existing depressions, uneven terrain, and other telltale signs of an uneven yard, such as pools of water, foundation rot, and uneven grass growth. 

Once you understand the basics of leveling your lawn and yard, it’s definitely a worthwhile project to take on. You’ll create a beautiful space for your family to enjoy and increase your home’s curb appeal. Not only this, but you will protect against water waste, and your home will be protected from poor water drainage, which can hurt your home’s foundation. 

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