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Draining issues can be a home owners 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 post for you. Learn yard grading techniques now to prevent major water problems later.
Why I needed to Grade the Yard
When inspected, there was some concern about the slope of the yard slanting TOWARD the house. Definitely a concern, and something that needed to be remedied. While I haven’t had a water/flooding problem yet, we felt it was best to correct this problem before there was a big issue.
So, mom, dad and I set out to grade the land on the left side of the house.
The Goal of Yard Grading
The goal of this yard grading project was to get the lawn to slope AWAY from the house on the left side.
Planning & Potential Problems
This yard grading project, just like every other project, took a bit of planning. The actual grading of the yard wasn’t difficult at all– except for the mix of 90 degree heat and manual labor. Despite its simplicity, there were some issues that needed to be addressed:
- The pipes that lead to my oil furnace were only coming out of the ground by a little bit. So, when I had my furnace cleaned back a few months ago, I asked Mr. Wally the Furnace Guy to raise these pipes. All it took was a couple fittings to extend the height of the pipes so we wouldn’t bury them, and I could still get my oil.
- There is a basement window. Without planning, we would have buried the window! Not good! All we did was buy a window well, and wrap this around the window in a half-moon shape. Then we filled the dirt around the outside of the window well. The well acts as a retaining wall to hold the dirt away from the window, even though it’s now at ground level. And, because it’s shaped like a half moon, there’s still some room to let the sunlight in!
- Random vent. There was a random hole in the foundation that, I think, used to be a dryer vent. It’s not in use anymore, so before we graded the yard, we filled the hole up with cement to close it off.
- Pipes, traps, etc. There was a drain trap and another pipe coming out of the ground near the house. My dad went to the hardware store and picked up some fittings to extend these so that they would remain above ground… just as Wally extended the pipes for the oil.
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 low points.
Using a can of spray paint to mark the high and low points can be a helpful visual indicator.
- High Point: This is where the water starts draining in the WRONG direction. In my case, about 2-3 feet away from the sidewalk is where the slope of the yard started to dip down. This caused the water to flow toward the house.
- 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 my case, the water was pooling next to the foundation… so that’s my 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 at 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 a rake to smooth the dirt.
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.
Pank down the dirt.
As as you work on regrading the yard, you can use a sheet of plywood laid onto the dirt to pank everything in. Just jump and stomp on the plywood (or whatever you have handy), to make sure you are filling everything and it wont 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 panked 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 we should plant some grass so noone will ever know about our yard grading project!
Plant New Grass
Once you are happy with the new slope of the yard, the next step is to plant new grass seed.
- Toss some handfuls all over the freshly graded dirt
- Slowly churn and spread the seeds lightly with the rake. This will kind of set them into the dirt, and hide it from the birdies :). Some of your seeds will still be on the surface and that’s ok!
- Soak the dirt with the hose to give the seeds a nice drink.
- Then cover the seeds with some hay or yard clippings — this covers the rest of the seedlings. Hides them from the birds and helps the grass seeds to retain the moisture from your watering.
- Soak the whole area again. Grass seeds need a lot of water.
- Watering every day will produce little stubs popping through in about a week!
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 home owner is the ONLY way to be. Stopping drainage problems before they start will stop leaks before they start. This stops water damage before it starts. This stops you from having to open your wallet. Saves you huge headaches in the future.
The best part? This yard grading project only took me 3 hours. So, no excuses! Get to it this weekend!
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