Why You Need To Grade Your Yard, And How To Do It

When we take a step back and observe elegant landscape design, we rarely look past the surface. When you take a stroll past your favorite properties, you may gawk at beautiful rock gardens, massive patios, tasteful waterscapes, or incredible gardens. But underneath these impressive features is where the magic happens.

Every change that you make to your property affects the preservation of your yard. This is especially true for drainage. Changing certain landscape features will dramatically change where water runoff occurs. If this isn’t properly planned for or taken care of, you risk some serious problems with both your landscaping additions and your home.

Some common issues that can occur if you don’t grade your yard properly:

  • Excess water can cause foundational damage to your home
  • Pooling water can attract unwanted bugs
  • Flooding
  • Mulch and/or topsoil spillage

These issues make it even more important that drainage is done right from the start. You can certainly regrade your yard later, but if you want to minimize the headache, we recommend getting it done right the first time.

The real goal of grading your yard is to change the way water runoff occurs. Basically, if your water runoff is going to point A, grading will make it so that it goes to point B. If done correctly, you can properly grade your yard so that water runoff goes according to plan and you don’t risk any flooding, pooling, or potential damage to your home.

Getting Started With Grading

Just like with any landscaping project, the planning phase is an important one. Some things you should consider before you begin tearing up your yard are the current slope, pipes, vents, traps, windows, and the general spacing and layout of the property.

Starting with pipes, you need to make sure there is enough surface area for them to breath. You don’t want to end up burying them during the grading process. If you’re not sure about what a certain pipe does, get a hand from an expert. The same can be said for vents or traps — if you’re not sure about it, don’t take the risk.

When you’re filling in with dirt during the grading process, be extra mindful of any vents or traps that you may accidentally cover up. We’d recommend marking these during the planning or preparation phase so that you don’t forget.

Basement Windows

If you have basement windows, you’re going to need a bit of extra preparation. To avoid burying these windows, figure out what your plan is. A common solution is to use a window well.

getting started with grading

Found on Pinterest

The best way to plan for this is to place your well in a half moon or U shape around the window to prevent dirt from spilling over to the window. This will give plenty of room for sunlight to come in now that your window is at ground level.

Leaving Room To Regrade

If you plan ahead accordingly you probably won’t need to regrade your yard. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Leaving some wiggle room to regrade later on is always a good idea.

A good rule of thumb is to leave about 6”-8” of your foundation showing to prevent any damage to the structure of your home. Depending on how much grading you plan or need to do, leaving this wiggle room will allow you to regrade later on. While you’re grading, you may notice that the dirt is pretty close to your home, this may change after you pack it down.

There are variables that may affect whether or not this is even possible. Make sure you check with your local building codes because this could determine this step.

Grading 101

Well, you’ve done your planning and you’re ready to get started on your grading project. First things first, you should identify where slopes exist in your yard. If you’ve already done this during the preparation stage, you’re already one step ahead.

  1. Find your slopes

Determine your highs and lows. You’re going to want to have a good idea of both for the best possible result.

Your high points are essentially where things are going wrong. These are slopes that are causing drainage to occur in the wrong direction.

Your low points are where the water ends up (obviously not where you want, which is why you are here). These are often where water pools and begins causing problems.

It’s always a good idea to mark these high and low points. You can use spray paint or stakes. Make sure the markings are different so that you can remember which is which.