Grading your Yard

Yard Grading 101: How to grade a yard for proper drainage

Draining issues can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Yard grading is definitely something you can take on as a DIY project. With a little sweat equity and these helpful tips, you’ll have this yard grading project knocked out in a weekend. If you have concerns about the slope of your yard this is the newsletter for you. Learn yard grading techniques now to prevent major water problems later.

Why Grading Your Yard Is So Important

Inspect the full exterior of your home, around the back & front yards, downspouts, and under all decks. The gardens, grassy areas, and patios should all be sloping away from the foundation of your home. While you may not have had a water or flooding problem yet, it is always best to correct this problem before there is a bigger issue. Many homeowners underestimate the importance of proper grading and how easily it can be remedied.

Grading and Planning for Potential Problems

Yard grading, just like every other project, takes a bit of planning. The actual grading of the yard isn’t difficult at all– except for the manual labor. Despite its simplicity, there were some potential issues that need to be addressed before you start the project.

  1. Look for furnace and laundry vents that could be lower than the new grading line. These should be raised by a professional so they don’t become buried when you raise the grading around the home.
  2. Assess the height of all basement windows. New window wells may need to be constructed so that proper egress and light can still be maintained when the grading is increased around the home.
  3. Ensure there are no other holes or water valves that need to be moved before starting this project.

How to Grade a Yard

Yard grading sounds scary and complicated… but it’s really not. The first step is to take a walk around your house and see which way the yard is sloped. Since you’re reading this you probably already know where your problem areas are :).

Here’s what to do:

Order a truckload of dirt. You can even have it delivered

Find your high and your low points

Using a can of spray paint to mark the high and low points can be a helpful visual indicator.

  1. High Point: This is where the water starts draining in the WRONG direction towards your home.
  2. Low Point: This is where the water ends up (the yucky wet spot in your yard causing drainage issues or leaks is a good indicator. In many cases, the water pools next to the foundation… so that’s a low spot.

Find your slope

Run a tight string with a level on it from the high point to the low point. When level, measure from the ground at your low point all the way up to the string. This will tell you how much of a slope you have.

Dump the pile of dirt on your low point

Shovel the dirt into a wheelbarrow, and dump the pile of dirt at your low point. So, if the water is draining toward your house, you’ll want to dump a big old pile of dirt against your foundation so you can reverse the grade.

You’ll need to dump enough dirt so that this problem spot (low point) becomes your high point. Remember that measurement we just took? It should come in handy now! The pile of dirt needs to be taller than that number on your tape measure.

Use the back of your rake

Using the back of a hard rake, carefully and slowly pull the dirt from your new high point (aka problem area) to your new low point (what used to be the high spot). The goal here is to change the angle of the slope.

Pack down the dirt

As as you work on regrading the yard, you can use a sheet of plywood laid onto the dirt to pack everything in. Just jump and stomp on the plywood (or whatever you have handy), to make sure you are filling everything and it won’t settle too much. Don’t want to be ghetto like me? Use a tamper like this one. You will look much cooler.

Once you are packed and tamped and out of breath, you can get a drink of water, because you are done grading your yard.

Well, almost. It’s kind of ugly now isn’t it? Maybe some fresh sod and your good as new!

Wrapping Up

Changing the slope of your yard may seem like a daunting task, but it really isn’t!

To grade your yard, just find your high spot and low spot, and reverse them. Use the back of a rake to make a nice, slow, even grade in the right direction. Not only is this a cheap and easy DIY project, but it’s a proactive one, and that’s what I love. Being a proactive homeowner is the ONLY way to be. Stopping drainage problems before they start will stop leaks before they start and trust me $100 is topsoil is a lot cheaper than a new basement.

The best part? This yard grading project will only take a few hours. So, no excuses! Get to it this weekend!

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