How to Level Your Yard with a Step by Step Guide + FAQs

An uneven and bumpy lawn is not only unpleasant but also a safety concern. Bumps and depressions can affect the health of the lawn and incur high maintenance costs.

In this article, I delve deep into everything you need to know about leveling your yard. This includes how to level a yard, why it is important, what you need and the best time to do it.

Why Is It Important To Level Your Yard?

Backyard during sunset

An even, smooth lawn without high bumps and depressions provides a much more comfortable surface to walk and play on. Any outdoor activity on a leveled yard is much safer and enjoyable for you, kids and pets.

Leveling your yard also contributes to the health of the grass and other plants. Uneven spots and depressions usually have compact soil structure, which can affect the growth of the grass. Following a simple procedure on how to make your backyard level, the soil underneath will have enough moisture and air.

A leveled lawn is easier to maintain than one with depressions and bumps. Take, for instance, mowing the lawn. On a leveled yard, the mower moves swiftly and delivers an even cut throughout the yard. Ultimately, this takes less time and effort to complete the job.

Holes and depressions on a lawn can be water collection spots. These are unpleasant and can affect the drainage of the yard. Leveling these out can decrease the chances of lawn diseases caused by excess moisture.

What Are The Causes Of Uneven Lawns?

Seasonal Changes

I recently discovered that seasons could contribute to the condition of your lawn. For example, in spring, bumps can appear when frozen, dense soil thaws unevenly.

It looks like a bunched-up carpet as the soil loosens up.

Animals

Another cause of unleveled lawns is disruptions occurring within the soil structure. Burrowing animals like moles and hogs could cause bumps in the yard.

Wild animals, as well as domestic ones, sometimes dig holes in lawns. Ants and termites can cause mounds, which result in bumps on the surface of the yard.

Faults in the Drainage System Underneath

The drainage system underneath the soil could be causing bumps in the yard. For example, if a pipe underneath is leaking, the excess moisture in the soil structure causes it to bulk up.

This, in turn, results in the area getting fuller causing bumps on the surface of the lawn.

Repeated Pressure on the Surface

If you walk or play on a soft lawn, you are likely to cause depressions. Depressions on the garden are heightened in early spring or after long rains when the soil is soft.

Ground Settling

Ground settling occurs naturally and is unavoidable, especially for new lawns. If you have had large equipment on your lawn or disruptive yard work, depressions and bumps are more likely to appear afterward.

Thinning Lawns

A thinning lawn causes depressions and bumps over time. If your lawn recently suffered from a disease or insect infestation, it is likely the area around weakened.

In such a case, the affected areas tend to erode deeper with rainfall or wind.

Buried Objects

I did not think that a buried object in my lawn could cause depressions. Objects such as wood debris from construction could be the cause of low spots and depressions. As these decay, the soil above the objects takes up space, causing depressions on the surface.

These are the common causes of an unleveled lawn. Before you start leveling, it is essential to diagnose the problem to ensure the right corrective measures.

What Do You Need to Level Your Yard?

Before you can start leveling your yard, you need to put together a few gardening tools and accessories. These include:

  • Lawnmower
  • Wheelbarrow/large mixing container
  • Thatch rake or a dethatching machine
  • Landscaping gloves
  • Bow rake
  • Topdressing mix- topsoil, sand, and compost
  • Shovel
  • Garden fork or hoe

How to Level a Yard – Step by Step Procedure

Here is a simple procedure on how to level out an uneven yard.

Step 1: Mow the Lawn

The first step is to try and level the grass. This step will help you examine the level or bumps and depressions on the lawn. The idea is to cut the grass short but not too short to scalp it.

During this step, it is essential to note that cutting the grass to a level where the stems are visible could dry it out eventually.

I have heard people say that any mower can do the job. I recommend getting a high-quality lawnmower to maintain the health of the grass and complete the job effectively.

Step 2: Examine the Condition of The Lawn

This is the step where you determine the real cause of the bumps on your lawn. Additionally, you get to evaluate the amount of thatch to determine whether dethatching is needed.

Thatch accumulation can prevent the grass from getting adequate water and air. If the thatch is about ½ an inch thick, it is advisable to remove it before you start leveling your yard.

Step 3: Prepare the Soil Mix

Now that you have detected where the bumps and depressions are, you need to mix sand, topsoil, and compost. This top dressing mix does not compact easily and can help even out the lawn.

You will need a pair of good landscaping gloves when mixing.

Step 4: Dig Up Sunken Patches and Level Bumps

You will need to dig up some soil if you notice deep spots on your lawn. I recommend digging up the grass on these patches before filling the holes. After this, you need to add the soil mix and place the grass on top.

If the yard has high bumps, then you can use a hoe or garden fork to even out the bumps.

Step 5: Spread a Thin Layer of the Soil Mix to Level the Entire Yard

After filling patches and holes, you should rake to even out the entire yard. However, you should be careful not to add too much topsoil to prevent covering the grass.

Using a bow rake spread the thin layer to even out small patches on the yard.

Here is a video to explain this step:

Step 6: Water the Lawn

This step is crucial to help the top dressing settle into the surface of the lawn. It also helps to fill in any air pockets in the soil. On this note, watering can help you determine where you need to add more soil after settling.

Tip: After completing these steps, you should monitor the progress of the yard. It will help you determine any uneven spots that you need to level. You can correct depressions and low spots by sprinkling top dressing gradually.

When Should You Level Your Yard?

Like most other gardening practices, leveling your lawn will get you the best results when done at the right time.

Spring is the best season for leveling your yard and other correction practices.

During this season, the grass has adequate time to grow, and the soil has enough moisture to set the top dressing.

However, early spring can be the worst time because of snow-melt. The soil is usually soft and can lead to deeper depressions and low spots.

Therefore, you should wait till mid or late spring to level your yard. During this time, the grass is in its active stage, and the soil is somewhat dry enough to manipulate.

How Much Does It Cost To level Your Backyard?

From a pro’s perspective, leveling your backyard can cost you between $1000 and $6000. However, this is just a rough estimate as some leveling jobs can go over or under this amount.

The cost you incur will depend on the extent of damage and the size of the yard. For example, a small yard with few low spots will cost lesser than a large, severely unleveled yard.

It is important to understand that the cause of the uneven lawn determines how much you will spend. If drainage lines underneath the soil need repair, then that is an extra cost. If the yard has large uneven bumps then digging out the soil will cost extra.

The total cost of leveling also depends on the tools and other items you will need. According to an article published by Duluth News Tribune, a 50-pound bag of top dressing can cost about $100 for a 7,000 to 10,000 feet yard.

A point to carry home is the plan you choose will determine the amount of money you spend. On this note, I would advise you to ask questions and understand all the steps necessary. It will help you evaluate how much each step needs and where you can save some money.

FAQs

Red flowering trees besides water

What do I need to level my backyard?

You will need simple tools like a bow rake, shovel, garden fork, and thatch rake. Additionally, you will need a wheelbarrow to mix and carry the top dressing. A pair of landscaping gloves will come in handy when mixing the soil, sand, and compost.

Why is my yard bumpy and lumpy?

Bumps and lumps on your lawn could be as a result of disruptions underneath the grass cover. These include ants, termites, burrowing animals, and organic matter.

Leveling your yard can clear these bumps and enhance the soil structure underneath.

Can I use a lawnmower before leveling the yard?

Yes, you can use a lawnmower to cut grass and even out the surface of the lawn. However, you should set the lawnmower to a low or short setting. It will ensure a short cut to prevent damage to the stems as you mow.

Is it expensive to level a yard?

The amount of money you spend to level your yard depends on how uneven it is. Also, it depends on the root cause of the problem.

For large uneven yards, the cost is likely to go higher with more correction steps needed. Also, the cost would depend on how much topdressing you need and the size of the yard.

Can I put topsoil over grass?

Adding topsoil to an existing lawn is vital to improve the condition of the grass. However, adding a thick layer can choke the existing grass.

When leveling your lawn, a thin layer of topsoil on grass helps to even out the entire yard after correcting depressions and bumps.

Will grass die after leveling the yard?

Leveling, in some cases, can be a distractive practice to an existing lawn. Depending on the technique you apply, leveling can either damage or improve the condition of the garden.

For example, adding up to 6 inches of topsoil while leveling can choke and kill the grass. A thin layer less than an inch will not affect the health of the existing grass.

What is the best topdressing for leveling lawns?

The type of topdressing you use can affect the health of your lawn. The recommended topdressing should include sand, topsoil, and compost. This mixture ensures enough air in the soil, adds nutrients, and allows grass to grow through.

However, the ratios of these materials depend on the condition of the existing soil and the purpose of topdressing.

Why is it important to Level a Yard?

Leveling your yard helps improve the general appearance. It also ensures it is safe to walk or play on. Additionally, a well-leveled yard contributes to the health of the grass and other lawn plants.

On a similar note, you cannot overlook how easy it is to maintain a leveled yard.

How do I level my backyard alone?

You can follow a DIY procedure to level your backyard without professional help. The steps above are simple to implement alone and achieve an even yard.

Also, you can follow tutorials like the one below to level your yard easily:

Summary

Like other gardening practices, leveling a yard is a task; leave alone how much work it needs to maintain it in the best condition. If you are wondering how to level your backyard, the steps highlighted above can be helpful.

With an understanding of what causes uneven yards, you can quickly determine the solution route to follow. Leveling your yard is essential and ultimately contributes to the health of the lawn.