How to Level Dirt in the Backyard


Whether it's steep or slight, a sloping yard can complicate your landscaping plans, create flooding problems and decrease water retention. Flattening or leveling out the soil can be accomplished with a variety of methods, but will usually require a lot of labor and a few basic tools. If you want to raise the soil level in general, importing additional topsoil may be necessary. Otherwise, you can accomplish the task with a shovel and existing soil. It's important to separate topsoil and subsoil layers when removing and redistributing soil in a lanscape. In yards with a steep slope, terracing is the only practical option and still allows you to build a beautiful landscape.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Remove topsoil from the entire area that is to be leveled, including ditches and/or hills. Place the topsoil aside in a pile. If you reach the subsoil in areas that need levelling, create a second pile for it. You can distinguish topsoil from subsoil by a noticeable change in color and texture. Topsoil is a lighter color and usually goes no deeper than 6 to 8 inches.

  • Redistribute the exposed subsoil until it is level, using a shovel and rake to even out the surface. If you are working with a very large area or extensive landscape, a bulldozer may be necessary, but for most home landscapes, a shovel, rake and some diligence is sufficient.

  • Pile the topsoil onto the redistributed subsoil to make the surface even. It is best to form a slight slope that descends away from your house, which will aid in storm-water drainage. For ideal drainage and water retention, the slope should move downward away from your house at a rate of 1 foot lower per 50 feet of distance.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is important to keep separate piles of topsoil and subsoil and to avoid mixing these layers.
  • If you have raised the soil by more than 1 foot, allow it to settle for up to a year before laying down turf.
  • Lawn rollers and similar tools are not meant for leveling out a lawn, but merely firms the soil surface. You cannot flatten large bumps or lumps with a lawn roller.
  • Ensure your drainage is adequate or establish a drainage system when redistributing soil. When raising the soil to level out a slope, make sure the layers are still below your house's foundation to avoid flooding issues.

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