How to Level Your Backyard in 8 Easy Steps

Bill Taylor
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Should I Try to Level My Yard Alone?

Yes you can! As long as you’re healthy, have good tools and some good advice from an expert or two, you should feel confident taking on this type of project. So get ready and take a deep breath. Let’s get to work!

Before you start, you’ll want to have a shovel, rake and some work gloves close at hand. This is must have equipment for your DIY project.

You also need to have adequate protection from the sun. Be sure to apply sun block and wear a hat and sunglasses.

Try your best to work on a day with little to no wind, especially if you’re planning on using power equipment such as a gas-powered lawn mower.

Important Tip: Whether you’re doing this alone or with a friend or two, always work with safety in mind. Following a set of rules, taking your time and taking frequent breaks will ensure that your yard is leveled properly and that you stay safe.

Step 1: Mark an Inside Corner

To start leveling your yard, you need to start with one inside corner. This is the first step, but not the most difficult. Place a stake in the ground and mark the corner with a pencil.

Step 2: Mark an Outside Corner

There are 2 ways to go about leveling your yard. One is called flagging. The other is known as chalk. You choose the method that’s most comfortable!

Flag Method

The flag method will work well for small jobs, such as leveling an area to build a children’s play yard. You start by placing a stake in the ground approximately 6 feet from the corner.

Next, measure the distance between the two stakes and mark this measurement halfway between the stakes on the ground with a stake. Use a garden hose or string to connect the two stakes. Walk around the string until you reach the same distance from the second stake and mark another stake. Continue measuring, marking and staking out the perimeter until you’ve completed the shape.

Chalk Method

Sometimes known as the continuous line method, the chalk method is best suited for larger projects, such as leveling your backyard to prepare for a pool.

What’s the Difference Between Grading and Leveling?

Leveling and grading are two terms that are often used synonymously but that actually have different meanings. In short, leveling is the process of bringing an entire surface or volume of earth to the same elevation over an area. Grading, on the other hand, is that process of bringing the elevation within an area to the desired elevation.

The first involves bringing an entire area to the same elevation. The second involves bringing an entire area, within an area, to the same elevation. The difference is important to note because it means that grading requires multiple operations and that the end result of grading often includes a difference in elevation.

In both cases, the process uses a screed, a leveling rod, a line level, and a transit level, each of which is utilized to find the elevation of a certain point. Using a series of stakes and strings, the area is divided into various levels, which are then used to mark the elevations of various points. The result is a series of referencing levels used by engineers and geoscientists to better understand how a particular area developed over time and to determine how to best utilize the area in the future.

How Leveling Works

The first step in leveling is understanding the scope of the leveling job. To begin, surveyors must go into the area and find the elevation of the highest and lowest points in the area as well as a wide range of levels. This involves using a transit level to identify the points to study, a line level to find the elevation of that point on a nearby string, and a screed rod, also known as a builder’s level or rodman’s level, to determine the height of the point. Finally, the surveyor will then use a planimeter to determine the area between the two strings.

Once all of these have been established, the surveyors then have the ability to use a series of stakes and strings to create multiple levels. This process has two primary aspects. The first is the creation of the levels. This process involves the surveyors measuring the elevation of a point, marking the elevation on a stake with a nail and using that stake to determine the elevation of the points around it. At this point, the surveyors can add additional levels using adjacent stakes and strings.

How to Level Your Backyard: 8 Easy Steps

If you've already gone through the ordeal of leveling your yard by hand, you know it's no fun at all. And lugging heavy equipment into your yard is going to be another pain.

Now there is technology available that makes the whole process so much easier. And you can probably already do it yourself.

It's called an automatic level line laser. Similar to these tools used by professionals, it can mark high and low spots with a visible line in the grass. Just lay it on the ground and press a button and it automatically lays down the laser in seconds. You just have to follow along with the line.

A level line laser can also be used to get a visual view of slopes on your property. You can mark a grassy slope at a certain angle and then see where the laser is on any other line in your yard. You can clearly see if you have a consistent slope and if you need to dig more or add more base.

One brand of level line laser is by RL Davis. They have both a professional line laser and homeowner line laser for purchase.

Details:

  • Water resistant
  • Rechargeable battery
  • 6 foot cord included
  • Pro laser marker allows you to turn on and off the laser for level walking. The homeowner line laser is always on.
  • Spot and line laser
  • Other features include horizontal or vertical line measurements and calibrating your line laser

Watch this instructional video and learn how to use your line laser correctly. If you are in the market for one of these, watch for a sale or special offer on Amazon. You can find it here.

How to Install a Lawn Aerator

Just like in the Spring, it's a good idea in the fall to aerate your lawn. Aerating will allow water and nutrients to be absorbed by the soil instead of running off. It will also make it easier for you to spread grass seed when winter rolls around.

There are two ways you can prepare your lawn for seeding. One is to aerate in the fall and then reseed in the spring. This allows you to take advantage of the fall rains to decompose the grass stems.

The other way is to aerate your lawn in the fall and then spray a pre-emergent weed killer to keep new weeds from growing. This allows you to have a good lawn growing in the spring.

Step 1: Collect Your Kit

So you know that you play a lot of tennis and you want to level out your backyard because it’s crooked. There are actually a few different ways to go about leveling your lawn, but we will discuss the way that is usually the quickest and easiest.

The first thing you will need to level out your lawn is a material called quickcrete. It comes in a variety of colors and is very sticky.

You can purchase it at most hardware stores.

One bag of quickcrete is enough to cover a roughly 20 foot by 20 foot space.

You will also need a shovel for each wheelbarrow full of quickcrete and a wheelbarrow to transport the quickcrete.

To make transporting quick concrete easier, try to find wheelbarrows with a long scoop on them.

They usually have handles so it’s easier to lift quickly and transport wheelbarrows with that style scoop.

Step 2: Preparing to Level Your Lawn

When getting started level you need to be sure that you are in a well-ventilated area so that the quick concrete doesn’t get on your skin or clothes.

You also need to be sure that your shovels are in an area where they won’t become contaminated by the quick concrete.

This is very important because if you scrape a shovel that was previously holding quick cement on it against dry concrete, that little line of quick concrete will damage the new concrete that you are trying to make.

Since you will be using fresh quick cement on this project, anything that touches the fresh quick cement needs to be kept very separate from anything that touched the old quick cement.

You are probably going to want to set up a wet tarp to cover yourself when working with the quick concrete so that it doesn’t get on your clothes. This is also a good way to stay in the shade and cool off.

Step 3: Leveling Your Lawn in 3 Simple Steps

You can see the video at the end of this post that goes more in depth on how to do this, but essentially, this is the process to follow when preparing to level your lawn.

First, you do a leveling survey. Take a tape measure and multiple measuring wheel and check all the high and low spots. Just where the ground appears to buckle.

Step 2: Decide How Much of Your Yard Needs Leveling

What Have You Been Doing?
If you’ve been using your backyard for things like putting your kid’s toys out there or maybe you have a pool out there or something like that. Then you might have a significant slope going towards back of the yard. If you have this kind of slope, then you’re probably going to be having a lot of problems with water draining out of the backyard or things like your slow draining because the water is just going to sit there because of the slope. The slope is going to be destructive to your yard.

Now what you want to do is you need to go around your yard and take a look at the slope that you are experiencing in different parts of your yard. Slopes that are very significant that you might want to consider leveling out are going to be like more than half an inch or more than one-quarter of an inch per foot. It is really going to vary per situation, but that is what you are looking for.

Step 3: Figure Out the Materials Needed to Level Your Yard

Rubble & Soil

If you are going to be doing this leveling project by yourself, then you are probably not going to be one of the lucky ones. If you have too much of an incline that you need to level, you are going to need to do it with at least two wheelbarrows full of rubble for every eight feet that you level. You can get more of the backfill dirt if you want to along with where you are doing the land leveling. It is just going to help your situation out a lot more.

If you have a lot of things that you want to level on your yard, it might be a lot easier for you to hire a professional land leveling company. It will take a lot of the work load off of you. Then you are just going to pay them for their work according to how much mud and dirt they put back in the area that you are going to be having leveled. It is like an include cost to you.

Step 3: Tear Up the Old Turf

In this next phase, we're going to start taking the old turf out. I still haven't found as much as a blade of grass that's worth saving, so I'm just ripping it out completely. I'll probably end up with more dirt than grass by the end of this project.

This is where my sub-contractor really shines. As soon as I told him to take out the old turf, he knew what to do just like that. I'm pretty sure his experience levels go up after he takes a look at the area he's about to take out turf on.

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to take out the old turf, but this is the method he prefers. He just lays down some old 2x4s and starts ripping it out by hand. I stayed out of his way and happily took pictures of him doing that. If I had tried to help, the whole process would have been slowed down significantly.

It's amazing how fast you can tear out turf when you have someone else do it. Remove as much old grass as you possibly can. We're going to be moving our dirt in these areas before the new grass goes in, so if we didn't get all of the old grass out, it'd just get buried under new dirt.

As you can see, the sub-contractor is very talented at pulling up the old turf. I imagine he can probably pop a golf ball in his bare hands at this point.

Anyway, once the turf is out, move everything over to your back yard in the wheelbarrow. If you can push it with a stick to get it into the wheelbarrow, you should. That's at least one less trip up the ladder.

Now we wait for our landscaper to bring the topsoil over from his vehicle. Luckily, he's just finishing up a few jobs before he comes over to work on our yard. Make sure you don't wait too long before bringing over your turf onto your land because turf can really start to get hot in the sun.

Step 4: Lay the Topsoil Down

Even though my neighbor and I had dumped several wheelbarrow loads of topsoil in for this project already, we still had to dump some more.

Step 4 : Redistribute Soil With Your Shovel

When you have removed the excess soil from one area of the yard, you will need to distribute it into the other areas of the yard. Use your shovel to move the soil from one side to another and to level the yard. Do not be afraid to get a little dirty.

Step 5 : Remove the Rocks and Stumps

After you have leveled your yard, you will find a few rocks and sticks that you need to pull out. Continue to level your yard until the sticks and rocks are level with the rest of the yard. Do not leave them sticking out as they can make it hard to mow your yard.

Step 6 : Level the Lawn Mower

When you have leveled the rest of your yard, you will want to use your lawn mower to get those last few little bumps out. Do not try to make your lawn perfectly flat with the mower, as it can completely ruin the lawn and can take a very long time.

Step 7 : Fill in the Holes

After removing the bumps in the yard, you will have a few holes. The easiest way to fill in these holes is to just add some more dirt.

Step 8 : Chisel Out the Hardened Grass

After you have finished leveling your yard, you may notice a few areas turn to dirt. To prevent these areas from turning in to mud pits, you will want to chisel out the hard spots. However do not get rid of every little bump as the yard will look unleveled and unnatural.

Step 9 : Level Your Yard With the Push

After you have leveled your yard and removed all of the hard spots, you will want to rake it flat with a push mower. Do not worry about making your lawn perfectly flat, just make it level enough so it does not look uneven.

Step 10: Aerate Your Yard for a Soft Lawn

Aerating your lawn is done by using a special tool called an aerator. You will want to make your yard flat, but if you aerate it too flat, the lawn will become hard. If you have aerated your lawn before, you might notice areas of rock and grass mixed together. To help prevent this from happening again, be sure to water your lawn well before aerating the ground.

Step 5: Till the Ground to Soften It Up

Tilling is the last step before you begin laying sod. You do it so that the grass will lay flat when you lay it out. To till your soil, you can either rent a tiller or till by hand with a shovel and hoe.

Spread compost over the soil and work it into the ground. When using a tiller, you can mix some peat moss with the compost for extra nutrition. Till the soil to a depth of 4…8 inches or deeper for grass that has a thick, sweet root system.

Spread fertilizer over the soil and work it in. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package, and if you’re using organic fertilizer, only use 1/4 the recommended rate.

Cover the soil with a 3…8 inch thick layer of straw to help keep the topsoil in place.

Step 6: Lay the Sod on the Ground

When laying sod, you want to start in one corner of the desired planting area so you have a place to end up. This will help you avoid ending up with any pieces of sod here and there.

Unroll the first row of sod from the top of your wheelbarrow so that it’s parallel to the edge of the yard.

Snap the sod in place with your foot so that it’s securely in position.

Lay down the sod, starting at one end.

To keep the ends of the rows straight, use a straight 2…4 and set it along the edge of the yard.

Shove the sod in place or use a flat bar to pound the end of the row straight with the end of the straight 2…4.

Remove the straight 2…4 and lay down the next piece of sod.

Step 8: Trim the Edges

If the sod has enough grass to cover the whole area, then you will have to square off the edges of the yard.

First, shave off the excess sod with a sharp shovel.

Use a string line to mark the edges and use a shovel to cut the edging to that width.

Hook the sod out by sliding a screwdriver between the edge of the yard and the edge of the sod.

Step 6: Stake Out the Area You Wish to Level

Now you want to outline your level. Stake out the area of the backyard that you intend to level. Depending on how large of an area you are planning to level, (this part also depends on the cost of the pavers you are interested in) you may only need to level a certain area of the backyard rather than the entire area. It is important you create edges that will line the area you wish to level.

Step 7: Dig the Basement and Place the Forms Therein

Dig a six or eight foot hole downwards. This will serve as your basement. Place timbers in the hole to serve as your forms. If you have access to gravel or dirt, this is the time to fill your hole with soil. This will bring ground level up to par with the finished level of the backyard. It will also insure that the finished level will be somewhat even.

You can place forms in the hole as I mentioned in step 6. This is the reason that you want to dig your hole deep enough to hold forms and still have several inches of dirt on top.

After you have covered the bottom of the hole with several inches of soil, then you can place your forms on top. This will visibly help your finished finish grade of the backyard.

Step 8: Pour the Concrete and Smooth Slightly

Now pour the concrete into your forms. Fill them until you have roughly one and a half inches to two inches of concrete on top of the soil. Now that the concrete is in your forms you can level them out and smooth out the area with a trowel.

Step 9: When Can I Start Playing In My Backyard?

The wait period before you can use your backyard is around three days. You can walk on the concrete once it has set up but take care to do so without shoes. You do not want to ruin your concrete.

Step 10: Install Your Concrete Edging

You will install wooden or plastic edging. The purpose of the edging will be to separate the concrete from your lawn.

In addition, you can install decorative fencing if you desire. This is similar to the wooden edging but is decorative in nature.

Step 11: Clean Up and Enjoy

Step 7: Flatten the Soil

Using the garden rake, gently push the soil toward the center and fill in any gaps around the dam. This will not only fill in holes and level areas around the dam itself, but it will also create a raised bed, which will break down faster over the coming months.

Having a raised bed will allow you to grow more plants with less maintenance. It will also be easier to plant taller herbs like lavender and it will save you time from having to constantly weed the plants.

If you’re planting a raised bed near your house or a busy area, you will want to take a few extra steps to ensure you’re not touching it too often. When you fix your soil, push it towards the center of the dam, but not all the way to the bottom. This will create a flat surface & will allow you to finish flattening the rest of the soil around the dam safely.

How to Ensure Your Deck Slabs Slope Downward

We just poured a series of concrete slabs for a deck, and while there is a slight slope coming from the house, there isn’t a massive slope from the deck. On the one end, the deck is 3 feet high, and the other is 2 feet high.

This just seems like an unsafe situation, as it would be easy to slip off the lower part of the deck. You could easily get hurt if you were walking down the stairs or even sitting on the steps.

To fix this situation, you should begin by plunging clips onto the lower portion of the steps. These basically dig downward to create a heavy slope from the house to the lower portion of the deck.

While you don’t have to dig as far for deck clips, these are smart to use since you want to create the quickest slope possible to avoid slipping. Quicker sloping means less snow and ice will stay on it since gravity is pulling it downwards.

How to Install Your Patio under Deck Step by Step

If you're considering a deck addition to your home, then be sure to see our free ebook, EEVblog #107: Building a Deck for all the tips and tricks on how to properly build your deck.

Step 6: Refill the Soil Pit

Step 8: Lay Sod or Start From Seed

Once the ground is leveled, you need to prepare it for seed or seedlings. If you need new lawn, the ground will need to be tilled and double raked to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. If you want to lay sod over the old lawn, go ahead and do it now. Assemble the sod pieces and lay them to help the soil to settle and drain. When seeding, the main goal is to work in lots of compost and fertilizer into the ground. Then, till and weed the entire lawn and rake it smooth. Thoroughly water the ground and let it sit for three days before starting to seed or lay sod.

Tips for Installing Laminate Flooring

You can either install laminate wood flooring yourself with the help of a friend or relative or you can have someone do it for you. Although installation is a technical process that needs to be done with utmost care, it is an easy DIY-project. You can either buy and install the laminate flooring yourself or you can hire a professional to do it.

What You Will Need

You will need to measure and cut the flooring yourself. If you are installing laminate flooring in a room of about 150 square feet, you will need about 2 boxes of flooring. The tiles should be about 15” X 15” in size. You will need laminate flooring nails, flooring adhesive and a latex sealant, a utility knife, a straightedge and a hammer.

How to Do the Work

Preparing the surface

The surface of the subfloor should be free from dirt, dust, and lumps. If the subfloor is cluttered, you will need to sand it until it is smooth. It is necessary that you clean the surface before you apply the adhesive. The fastest way to do this is by using a utility knife to scrape the surface. After this, you will need to vacuum the floor.

Applying the adhesive

The next step after cleaning the surface of your subfloor is to apply the adhesive. It is important that you apply the adhesive evenly and in a thin coat though. If you apply it in thick layers, it will not dry uniformly. It is important that you leave a minimum gap of 12” from the nearest wall whenever you install laminate flooring.

Conclusion

The backyard is an important part of every person’s life, and it deserves to be taken care of like the rest of the house. Sprucing up or landscaping the backyard is full of fun and it’s one of the best ways to spend time with your family.

Now that you’ve read through this post, you should be confident and excited to get to work on your next backyard improvement! Your family will love having a beautiful outdoor space to entertain and relax at, and you’ll love the improved appearance and resale value of your home.

This is a truly rewarding DIY project that you can be proud of, and it will definitely pay for itself as your home’s value increases.