Swift and Affordable Backyard Leveling: A Step-by-Step Guide

The majority of backyards do not start with a perfectly smooth carpet of turf. The high traffic, frost-heaving, animals and encroaching plants can all damage your lawn and cause sunken areas. It may take some physical work and patience to achieve a level lawn, depending on the severity and location of the dips, swales and low spots.

This project doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can fix low spots in your yard with a few tools and the correct soil mix. This will allow you to enjoy the outdoors and make maintenance easier.

The Benefits of Leveling Your Lawn
The leveling of your lawn will do much more for your property than just give it a pleasing appearance. You’ll also enjoy these other benefits when you finish this project.

Improved drainage
Easy mowing in less time
Safer surfaces for outdoor games and activities
Reduced risk of accidents caused by tripping and falling
Improved overall health and appearance to turf

How to level your lawn
After the grass has begun to actively grow, level lawns using warm-season grass. The best time to level cool-season lawns is in the late summer or early autumn. When the ground is dry, leveling is easier and less messy.

Before You Start
Avoid cutting the grass to the stems. It is important to keep the grass growing on areas that will be leveled. If you cut the grass too short, it will dry out, and any new seeds will struggle.

Check for the buildup of thatch in your target areas. Use a dethatching tool or a hard rake to loosen soil that is heavily compacted.

What you’ll need
Equipment and Tools
Bow rake
Push broom
Markers or stakes
garden spade or edger
Wheelbarrow (if required)
Grass seed
In 6 Easy Steps, you can level your lawn.
Mark areas to be leveled
Set stakes around the perimeter of the area to be leveled.
You can estimate the amount of filling you will need by allowing six to eight inches on each side.
Filling Material
Assess the soil composition.
Fill material options include sand or a mix of topsoil with compost, or a mix of sand, compost, and topsoil.
Use your wheelbarrow for large repair jobs to mix materials.
Most soils and grasses can be treated with a sand-topsoil mixture. Sand helps lighten heavy soils, while topsoil (or a mixture of topsoil with compost) provides nutrients. Two parts sand and two parts topsoil are a good mixture. Most garden centers sell ready-to-use filler material.

Remove existing grass
Dig straight down 2 to 3 inches with the edger or garden spade to remove existing grass. This depth is sufficient to catch the roots.
Put the grass to one side.
Add Soil Mix
Fill in the hole with soil mixture.
Smooth the area with the hard rake.
Replace the grass that you have removed.
Sprinkle grass seed over any areas that are not covered with grass.
Use a top dressing
Top dress the repaired area with a soil mix of no more than 1/2 inch. A top dressing that is too thick can choke the grass roots and prevent the seeds from germinating.
By lightly brushing the grass, use the push groom and agitate the mixture down to the soil level.
Avoid sweeping new seeds on the ground. Cover the area with a thin layer of topdressing. Light is required for grass seed to germinate.
Repeat this step, if necessary, but only when the grass starts to grow. It may take several top dressings to reach the desired level, depending on how severe the depression is.
Water the area with a sprinkler or a hose that has a spray attachment.

Can I level my backyard myself?
You can easily repair shallow depressions, holes or sunken spots. Contractors may be needed to repair large areas of lawns or large areas with extensive damage. They will need to provide labor, materials and equipment.

How much will it cost to level out a sloped yard?
The cost of labor, materials, and equipment ranges from $50 to 150 per hour. The contractor, your location and the severity of the work are all factors to consider. Small jobs can cost up to $800 while more complex ones can reach $5,500.1

What is the difference between grading and leveling a yard
Grading creates a gentle slope by diverting water, moisture and soil around structures. By filling in low areas and holes in the grass, leveling a yard can create a smooth surface.

What equipment will I need to level the backyard?
You can make small repairs with a push broom, a garden spade, a hard rake or edger and if necessary, rototiller. Larger jobs may require a rototiller.