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Lawn Grading 101

Updated: Apr 30

When rain and precipitation flow towards your home - rather than away from it - water damage and moisture issues are bound to occur. There are several ways to prevent water damage to your home: regular gutter cleaning, downspout maintenance, and leveling your yard (or yard grading).

Leveling (or grading) your yard is a big job that can be quite labor-intensive. If this job seems to daunting to DIY after reading these steps, contact a professional landscaping company to assist.

1. Mark utility lines

Before beginning the leveling/grading process, take the time to mark any utility lines in your yard with brightly colored flags or stakes. Utility lines include water, gas, telephone, and electric lines. Marking these lines will ensure that they won’t rupture during the digging process. If you live in Maryland like us, remember to call BGE or your local provider for help!

2. Obtain a digging permit

Some cities and counties require homeowners to obtain a digging permit before leveling their yard. Check with your city council to see if a permit is needed for your yard project. Better safe than sorry!

3. Identify the drainage area

After you’ve marked off the utility lines and obtained a digging permit (if necessary), the next step is to identify the nearest drainage area where you’d like the water to flow. If you’re unable to utilize a public drain, you’ll need to divert the runoff to the edge of your property.

4. Start digging!

Dig up approximately eight inches of topsoil from all areas around your foundation. Set the freshly dug soil to the side – you’ll need it later!

5. Level things out

To create a level surface, fill in uneven areas with the soil and remove (dig up) soil from other areas. When removing excess soil from bumpy or uneven areas, be sure to press the remaining dirt down to smooth out the surface. When leveling out areas of depression, dig around the perimeter (approximately five inches), then add in the excess soil - pressing it down to create a smooth and even surface.

6. Mark the area

First, you’ll need to paint (spray paint works great) two stakes to use as markers. Then, drive one stake 12 inches away from your home’s foundation and the other 12 inches away from the drainage area. Once the stakes are firmly driven into the ground, connect the two with a colored string to determine the level of your lawn.

7. Form a downward slope

This is where the leveling or grading begins, as you’ll be moving and arranging the remaining soil on your lawn to form a downward slope. As you’re moving and arranging, periodically check to make sure the slope is accurate. To do this, simply place a 2×4 board on the slope, away from your home. Keep in mind, to achieve effective drainage, you’ll need a 2% grade at minimum. Here’s how you’ll determine the percentage of your grade:

-Place a leveling bar atop the 2×4 board.

-Raise/lower the 2×4 board until the leveler indicates the board is level.

-If the ground measures two inches below the 2×4 board, you’ve got a 2% grade!

8. Rake & Till

Using a rake, smooth the grade so that the soil lies evenly, then use a tiller to mix the topsoil you set aside in step 4 with the subsoil.

9. Plant grass or lay sod

Before planting grass or laying sod, allow the soil to settle for a few days. Keep in mind - if you’ve achieved a 2% slope, water will be absorbed by the soil, but the excess will drain away as intended.

Water damage can be a very stressful situation to deal with, both personally and financially. Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to water damage when you can easily prevent it by following these steps proper landscaping techniques as well as this helpful guide on how to properly grade your yard.

If you experience water damage, give our experts a call at 443-846-0199 or email us at

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