How to Grade Your Lawn

What you’ll need

  • survey stakes
  • string
  • string level
  • yardstick
  • rake
  • rototiller
  • shovel
  • coarse washed gravel
  • drain tile
  • landscape fabric

step 1: remove large objects and check utility lines

Contact your utility company to find out about underground utility lines. Then dig out and remove large rocks and debris in the lawn.

step 2: check the slope

In order to drain properly — away from your basement and toward storm drains — your lawn must have at least a 2-percent slope. That’s a 1-foot drop for every 50 feet of lawn. Measure slope by tying a string to a survey stake pounded into the soil in front of your house. Walk the string out 50 feet, then tie it to another stake. Use a string level for accuracy. Measure the distance between the string and the ground. If it’s a foot or more, you’re set. If not, you’ll have to excavate to create more slope.

step 3: smooth the soil

Dips and mounds in your soil now will create problems later. Use a rake to knock down high spots and fill in depressions. If you live in a wet area, you will need to install drain tile. To install drain tile, dig trenches 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep along the house’s foundation, fill the bottom 2 inches with coarse washed gravel, and lay 4-inch-diameter drain tile in the trench. Cover the trench with landscape fabric and pour gravel in and around the sides of the trench until it covers 2 inches above the tile. Cover with Hyponex Topsoil or topsoil that you had delivered.

step 4: add topsoil

Test your soil and add amendments if needed. Add topsoil in two steps. First spread 1 or 2 inches over the soil and rototill. Then add an additional 4 to 6 inches of topsoil and even out mounds and depressions. Give this layer a few weeks to settle. Rainfall and irrigation helps the settling process. Rototill again after several weeks to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

step 5: plant a new lawn

Now your soil is ready for a new lawn. You can learn more about seeding, or planting sod, sprigs or plugs in our lawn care basics section of this site