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.
To prepare for landscaping
To make an addition to your home
To add a concrete patio
To correct a drainage problem
To stop soil erosion
To 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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?
For 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.
For 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.
For 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 regarding 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.
Use a professional
Work in the dry season
Create a buffer zone of vegetation
Save time and money by recycling dirt
Check 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 $1,500 to $6,000 for grading a larger lot.
If you’re looking for a price on your residential job, you can get a range by calculating the price at $5 to $10 per square foot.
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 $40 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.
Size 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.
Soil 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 also 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.
On top of the grading costs, you’ll need to pay for dirt removal at around $140 to $175 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.
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 $7 to $12 per cubic yard just for the dirt.
This does not include the cost of spreading it, which will also run up your bill.
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!
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.
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.
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 $12 to $55 per cubic foot (not including labor).
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.
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.
For more information on buying, selling, or investing in vacant land, check out our other resources below.
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Additional ResourcesIf you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. And before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.
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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.