How to Flatten an Uneven Backyard

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Things You'll Need

  • Excavating or earth-moving machinery or tools

  • Wooden stakes

  • Measuring tape

  • Strings

  • Line level

  • Tamp

  • Grading rake

  • Leveling bar

Flatten an uneven backyard by removing the topsoil and re-grading the subsoil.

An uneven, steeply sloped or hilly backyard presents maintenance challenges and limits landscaping possibilities. A yard without a proper slope or grade may also experience serious drainage issues and can lead to a flooded basement or standing water in the yard. For large, whole-yard projects, plan and establish a slightly positive rough trade using subsoil, then replace topsoil and revegetate the yard as desired. Piecemeal fixes or filling in low spots creates a nonuniform appearance. Drainage is a major concern, and the yard should slope gently away from any structures or contain drainage features such as French drains or swales.

Step 1

Remove topsoil from the yard and pile for easy replacement later, as most of the rough grading should be done with the subsoil.

Step 2

Drive stakes into the ground near the foundation. Pound a partner in the ground for each stake 50 feet away from the stake and house.

Step 3

Stretch strings out between the stakes. A line level determines the correct soil level. A level string is suitable if the planned area should be completely flat. However, the yard should slightly slope away from the house at a rate of one-half to 1 foot per every 50 feet. Attach the strings to the far stakes at about one-half to 1 foot below level.

Step 4

Add subsoil to low spots and remove soil from high spots so the soil touches the string evenly.

Step 5

Tamp the soil gently with a hand tamp but avoid compacting the soil. Tamping at this point helps reduce later settling. Add additional subsoil if tamping creates new low spots.

Step 6

Remove rocks and other debris using a grading rake. Pull the rake in straight lines starting at the foundation and working down the slope.

Step 7

Replace the topsoil and add additional topsoil and amendments as needed. Most lawns should have 6 to 8 inches of topsoil.

Step 8

Smooth the topsoil and check the level using the string and stake method, making any minor adjustments as needed. Use a leveling bar to smooth out the soil.

Step 9

Revegetate the area as desired.


Angela Ryczkowski

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.