Land Grading: 10 Things You Must Know In 2024

Land grading, also known as yard grading or yard leveling, helps to reshape the ground’s surface.

This action is often done to prepare for new construction projects; although, it is also sometimes done on properties where the drainage is destroying the foundation of the structures.

You may consider land grading for any of the following issues.

bulletTo prepare for landscaping

bulletTo make an addition to your home

bulletTo build a new home

bulletTo create a new driveway

bulletTo add a concrete patio

bulletTo correct a drainage problem

bulletTo stop soil erosion

bulletTo promote erosion control

In this blog, we’ll talk more about land grading and when you may want to utilize it on your property.

Here’s what you should know.

1. What is land grading?

Land grading is when you make the ground level.

Typically, this is in preparation for new construction.

However, sometimes people use land grading to improve the landscape or to create a slope to improve drainage.

For example, you may choose to re-grade an existing lawn that isn’t draining properly.

Often, this involves scraping off the existing topsoil, leveling the site, and then spreading new topsoil in its place.

Once finished, this prevents drainage issues and keeps water from pooling near the foundation of your home.

The land grading process will likely include digging, removing dirt, leveling slopes, filling low spots, compacting the soil, leveling the building site, and hauling dirt to fill a hole or hauling dirt out to level a slope.

Land grading is often done with heavy equipment like an excavator, skid steer loader, or backhoe.

Because of this (and based on a number of other factors), the job can be pretty pricey, especially if you have a large plot of land.

2. Who works on a land grading project?

Most often building contractors will collaborate with land surveyors to measure the land’s slope grading before a new construction project.

This will help them prepare to level the surface.

Or, if you’re experiencing negative drainage (meaning that water is flowing toward your structure instead of away from it) or any other drainage issues, you can also work with these individuals on land grading.

Once they’ve surveyed your land, they will understand how best to level the ground based on the specific grade percentage.

3. What are the different types of land grading?

Not all land is created equal.

Your current piece of land will have different natural grading, soil makeup, and vegetation than land you’ve previously owned.

As such, your needs will change, and you may consider various types of land grading to fit those needs.

Let’s look at what’s available.

bulletDrainage solutions:

Having poor drainage can drastically impact your land.

Grading the land to slope will help to carry water downhill and into a stream or runoff.

You can also install drainage pipes into the ground.

bulletExcavation:

In order to get the right land grade, sometimes you have to create a new hole (instead of filling one).

When you excavate, you dig down to create a low-lying area.

This may be a foundation or a structure for a road.

bulletSurface smoothing:

Sometimes even a flat piece of land isn’t flat.

If you want to create a good foundation for a process, you may need to go through the surface smoothing process first.

You’ve probably heard of a Bobcat before, and no, we’re not talking about the wild cat.

Bobcats are a type of versatile machinery that can scoop and move dirt out of the way.

They’re often found on construction sites, and they have various attachments that can be used to flatten and smooth out new surfaces.

bulletTopsoil installation:

You may need to bring in some additional topsoil in order to do some land grading.

This topsoil will help you to provide a healthy foundation for plants to grow.

Generally, it is also more attractive than existing dirt, which means you just got some curb appeal.

4. How does grading protect your foundation?

What’s the most important part of the structure of your home?

That’s right!

The foundation.

If you don’t have the proper land grading, negative drainage will constantly damage your foundation.

There will be pools of water and weight from that water pressing against the foundation.

You may find cracks and other evidence of water and structural damage.

Yikes! What do you do?

Get your land graded to ensure you’re properly protecting your foundation.

After you experience heavy rainfall in your area, make sure you do a search around your property to see where there may be pooling water.

Pooling water or flooded areas on your property is a sign of negative drainage.

Be sure to look in the garden, near paved areas, and around any other structures (pool or shed) during your search.

If you find any evidence of negative draining, you can call professionals to help you with the next step of implementing land grading.

5. How do you implement land grading?

bulletFor minor adjustments

Obtain a dirt rake or other earth-moving equipment. This equipment can help save time.

Then, use a leveling method to measure the slope of the property to see where the highest point is.

Your goal is to create a slope that drops at least 2 feet for every ten feet.

However, the max slope should not exceed 12 inches.

If the slope is over 12 inches, you may consider building a retaining wall to help support the slope.

While you are doing this, consider if you will be planting sod or laying any seed down for regrowth over the soil where you are leveling.

If you plan to do this, reduce the topsoil by 1 inch to account for regrowth.

bulletFor small areas with poor drainage

Search and mark any areas in your yard that have poor drainage.

You can do this by going out after a storm in the area.

Remove 2 inches of the topsoil from these areas and then use dirt collected from higher parts of your yard at the problem areas.

Once you have mixed the dirt together, continue to cover the area with another 4 inches of dirt.

This should help stop the pooling.

bulletFor large grading projects

If you’re continuing to notice issues or if you know that there are large areas requiring grading in your yard, call an excavation company to ensure that the regrading is done accurately the first time.

6. What are the essential land grading steps in a new construction project?

Having the right base to work with will set the tone for your construction project.

Here are some crucial steps you should make sure you do when prepping for a new project.

bulletUse a professional

bulletWork in the dry season

bulletCreate a buffer zone of vegetation

bulletSave time and money by recycling dirt

bulletBackfill correctly

bulletCheck regulations in your area (and make sure your professional grader follows them as well!)

7. How much does land grading cost?

The cost of land grading varies quite a bit.

Nationally, it can cost anywhere between $1,000 to $6,000 for grading a larger lot.

Your final price will be determined based on the size and complexity of the property.

8. What impacts the cost of grading?

Land grading contractors will charge anywhere from $50 to $180 an hour for labor.

In addition to this hourly rate, they will also charge by the cubic yard of dirt that they’ll need to level.

Then, they’ll also factor in the type of project, size of the property, the typography of the land, permits, and dirt removal.

Here’s what you may want to know about some of those factors more specifically. 

bulletSize and accessibility of the property

When your property is bigger, it will take more time and thus be more expensive to level.

Larger properties also require larger equipment and more labor to grade.

Also, keep in mind that having a fence or large structures on your property can make land grading more challenging because you’ll often have to move these in order for heavy equipment to access the site.

This will also make the job more complex and more expensive overall.

bulletSoil and terrain

Rocky soil and terrain can increase the price of the project significantly.

You should anticipate a rise of anywhere from $200 to $1,200 more ($40 to $100 per cubic yard).

Additionally, if you have trees that need to be removed, this can be a significant increase (anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000).

This will, of course, depend on the number and maturity of the trees.

The increase in price due to soil and terrain cost is because your contractor will need to remove trees and dig out boulders that are stuck in the soil.

This will require more equipment (such as a bulldozer) and also lengthen the timeline of the project.

bulletDirt removal

On top of the grading costs, you’ll need to pay for dirt removal at around $50 to $200 per cubic yard.

This will be necessary if your contractors level a steep slope or remove dirt from a home addition foundation.

The price will increase on your job because you must pay for the use of a dump truck and backhoe in addition to extra labor.

bulletFill dirt

Fill dirt is the opposite of dirt removal.

Sometimes your yard needs more dirt to fill a hole, and your contractor will need to haul in dirt to raise your yard.

You’ll pay around $5 to $25 per cubic yard just for the dirt.

This does not include the cost of spreading it, which will also raise your bill.

bulletPermits

Depending on your location, you may need a grading permit for the project.

A permit may cost anywhere from $250 to $500.

Be sure to do independent research on your area before you begin to check what you may need to begin!

bulletSlopes

Leveling a slope (also called cut and fill) will add to the price of your job because it will require more labor.

The professional will need to move dirt from the hill and place it in another location to help level your property.

This can cost anywhere from $1 to $15 per cubic yard of dirt.

Unfortunately, this can add up.

Just basic lawn re-sloping to prevent erosion and fix drainage can average at nearly $2,000 for homeowners.

bulletDrainage

Are you having drainage issues?

Your land grading contractors may be able to install a drainage system as well.

However, it will increase your project cost.

9. Are there any additional costs for landscape grading?

Once you’ve had your land graded, you may not like how it looks.

After all, with all the digging and removing of dirt, it won’t look like a perfectly manicured lawn anymore.

You may want to invest in some landscaping options to return your yard to normal.

Here’s where you may encounter additional costs.

bulletTopsoil

Landscaping grading includes putting down an additional layer of topsoil.

This topsoil will contain nutrients that are necessary to grow plants on site.

This will cost roughly $10 to $50 per cubic foot (not including labor).

bulletSod

Having your land graded will return it to bare dirt.

You may like it this way, or you may want to put sod down.

If you prefer sod, then that will cost you anywhere from $1 to $2 per square foot.

You’ll find that the national average cost for 1,000 square feet of sod is $1,850 once it’s installed.

Not everyone needs sod, though, and they’re happy to wait for grass to grow.

If you’re patient, you can seed your lawn instead.

This provides a savings of as much as 90 percent.

10. How do you find a land grading professional?

If you require this service, you may be wondering how to find a land grading professional.

Some companies will specialize in land grading only.

However, other companies will include land grading as one of many services.

For example, companies that install septic systems and landscaping companies in your area may also do land grading.

If you’re not able to find a specific land grading professional or if you’re already working with one of the other professionals named above, consider asking them if they’d be willing to help you with your land grading project.

Furthermore, be sure to check if your land grading professional is a licensed and qualified contractor with experience in the field.

You’ll also want to get an estimate before they start to make sure you’re on the same page.

Be sure to ask if the estimate includes hauling in fill dirt, land clearing, and pulling permits.

Final thoughts

Property owners pursue land grading for a variety of reasons.

Whether you need to install irrigation, smooth out your yard for better landscape design, or resolve drainage issues, the time to do it is now!

Don’t delay this project – you can’t improve your property until you’ve got a good foundation.

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Erika Gokce Capital

Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

Erika

4 thoughts on “Land Grading: 10 Things You Must Know In 2024”

  1. A cable company got permission by our city to install fibre optic 5G lines in our neighbourhood. Residents didn’t even get notified until after the work was started. Next to my cement driveway, I have a rock-swale on the North side of the house where downspouts from the back and front of the houses drain for mine and my neighbour’s house. In November 2021 the cable company dug a huge hole where the rock-swale meets up at the sidewalk, which is at the end of my driveway. Because I live in Canada, the ground was already frozen so they used pressurized water while digging. The hole was approximately 4 square feet and extended underneath the driveway; in fact a corner piece of the driveway cement fell in the hole. Underneath the bottom edge of the driveway a 4” trench was made for the cables to run to the next property. They didn’t finish before winter, so they left piles of dirt and rocks in the swale. For the first time ever, we had huge pools of water where the downspouts drain and my driveway did not heave up, it slowly continued to sink. More then 10 years ago I had the driveway mudjacked and since then it normally heaved up during winter and then in spring/summer it sunk back down until the weather got cold again. Our city was built on many areas of Muskeg and old farm land, so this is normal for most homes. When the cable company came back in spring to finish the lines, they simply spread out the dirt and rocks and didn’t repair the grade. I learned that the company doing the work didn’t know about fluffy or the expansion factor, so this was never taken into consideration. This has caused negative drainage. The rain, melting snow and water from the downspouts can no longer flow towards the street. It sits in that area by the top of my driveway until it gets absorbed or evaporates. My driveway is divided into six sections by expansion joints. It is now 2-3” lower at the garage foundation and 2” lower then the city sidewalk, and the two sides of the driveway are no longer level with each other. The north side of the driveway where the digging occurred is slightly tipped down at the outer edge, and higher at the center expansion joint. The space between the garage foundation and the driveway also continues to widen. A company that does cement lifting said this widening was because the driveway was “sliding” away from the house.

    I get the sense that because I’m female, this company isn’t listening to my concerns. When I asked the person in charge if he knew anything about proper landscaping and grading, his response was, “No, but I know about gravity.” I’m wondering if you could offer you expert opinion. My first questions is… can driveways really slide away from a home? I had never heard of this before, so I want to make sure that I wasn’t fed BS from the cement repair company. My second question is… Is it possible that the changes to the driveway are related to the cable company’s work and the improper grading? As I mentioned, I had not had any issues prior and the property’s drainage and driveway went through the same process every year. Any advise or information you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Reply
    • Hello Jenny, thank you for your detailed comment. Unfortunately, I’m not an engineer, so I can’t answer your question in detail, but I would think that it is possible for a driveway to move as the ground settles. I would also think that it’s possible for improper grading to cause this; however, I cannot confirm that this is the case for your situation. I would recommend having a geotech or civil engineer take a look. You can also get a second and third opinion from a few other repair companies. Best of luck!

      Reply
  2. How can the homeowner know whether or not the drainage/ grading is repaired at a high level and the best standards are being used, once there is an agreement to fix the negative drainage problem. It’s a relatively small housing development. It appears that the standards used and okayed by the municipality & builder were not sufficient and as a result there is now a problem that potentially could cause foundation issues.

    Reply
    • Hello Cee, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. I’ve heard of this happening in a number of different housing developments. The best thing you can do is hire an engineer to give you an opinion on the correct way to fix the problem. I hope this helps!

      Reply

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