When you think of your dream home and garden, it’s probably not sitting on a landscape full of hills and valleys. Most of us are more likely to fantasize about a large, flat yard with a lovely outdoor living space and loads of plants, and definitely void of any puddling problem areas and water damage. Luckily, those of us who aren’t blessed with a picture-perfect landscape can still achieve it and prevent water damage by grading our yards.
Why Grade Your Yard
Uneven or deeply sloped yards are simply less functional than even ones. It’s harder to install garden features, like fountains, pools, and firepits. It’s even harder for the kids to kick a ball or throw a frisbee. Not only is a sloped yard harder to enjoy, but its also less than ideal for your plants. When it rains, water will trickle down the hills and pool in the valleys, leaving plants near the top of the slope parched and plants at the bottom drenched.
Maybe a rolling landscape isn’t something you’re too concerned about, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch out for problem areas. While you can work around the slopes and be smart with your plant selection, grading your yard is important for preventing water damage. Standing water isn’t just an unattractive, mosquito magnet, it can even damage your home’s foundation and cause water to leak into your basement. At the very least, it’s important to grade your yard to divert slope runoff away from your house.
How to Even Out Your Yard
If water damage isn’t a threat to your house but you’d still like to even out the lawn, your job should be pretty easy. The best time to fix grading problems is when you’re planting a new lawn when the landscape is grass-less and the soil is easy to move around. You can still work with an existing lawn, but be prepared to remove and replace some areas of grass in the process.
Once the old turf is removed, water the area to identify where puddles form, and fill in those dips using soil from the higher, dry areas. For minor grade problems, you can simply use a landscape rake to work the soil and even out the ground.
How to Grade a Yard for Drainage
Evening out a few bumps is pretty simple, but grading your whole yard to prevent water damage takes a little more time and planning. You don’t want to jump into a large project headfirst, dig yourself into a hole (literally) and realize that you’ve made a mess. For larger projects, make sure you have the appropriate permits (if necessary) and take the time to mark out any utility lines and pipes so they don’t end up damaged. When you’re finally prepared to start digging, follow these simple steps to grade your yard for drainage:
1) Identify drainage areas. You definitely don’t want water running towards your home, but it still needs to go somewhere. Ideally, you should divert runoff to a public drain, but you can also force it to the edge of your property if there aren’t any accessible drainage areas.
2) Dig up the yard. Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to be able to save the grass you’ve already got. Begin by digging up the grass and about 8 inches of topsoil around the foundation of your home and any area that you would like to even out. You can probably get away with using a shovel for small grade adjustments, but larger projects will require the use of heavy equipment.
3) Level the bumps. Start to level uneven areas by filling dips and valleys in with soil from the hills, pressing the soil down to make it smooth and level.
4) Determine the grade of your yard. It can be hard to eyeball the current grade of your yard, especially if the unevenness is minor. To get a better visual of the grade, insert two stakes—one near the foundation of your house, and one near the drainage area—and connect them with a string.
5) Grade the yard. Using the string as a guide, start working the soil to form a slight downward slope towards the drainage area. Rake the soil as you go to smooth the soil and make sure it’s even.
6) Restore your lawn. Since you had to remove your existing lawn, you’ll have to plant new grass or lay sod over your newly-graded landscape.