How to Level a Lawn or Backyard

A leveled backyard is a great way to make your property more usable

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From making it easier to walk and play on, to improving the appearance of your lawn, there are many benefits to levelling a backyard.

In this guide, we’ll tell you all about how to level your backyard yourself so you can get your yard looking in top shape.

Why level a backyard?

There are many reasons why you might want to level your backyard.

  • Preventing water damage. When rainwater collects in the lowest spot of your yard, it can cause water to seep into the ground around your house and potentially damage your foundations. You may also notice that certain areas of your yard get overly soaked while other areas stay dry all the time. An uneven yard with standing water can attract unwanted pests like mosquitos.
  • Increasing usability. Your lawn is most likely one of the most-used spaces on your property and an uneven surface can prevent you from using it for entertaining, playing sports and games, or simply enjoying nice weather outside. When your yard is sloped toward one side or there are large dips in low-lying spots, those areas become unusable or dangerous.
  • Improving property appeal. An unlevel lawn can look unsightly since there are vast differences between low-lying and high-lying areas. An unleveled lawn detracts from landscaping efforts as well since plants often appear out of place when grown on a slope or in sunken areas.

Step 1: Assess what needs doing

To begin, you’ll need to assess the problem.

This means looking at your yard from different vantage points and looking for dips, holes, low spots and high spots.

Also look for drainage problems, uneven ground and the slope of the land.

Step 2: Decide on DIY vs professional help

If you’re a handy person, you probably don’t need anyone to tell you that levelling your own backyard is not rocket science.

If this is the case for you, head to your local Bunnings or garden centre and grab what you need.

If, on the other hand, you’re feeling nervous about tackling this task yourself, having an expert do the job for you may be a better option. In some cases, it might even be cheaper than DIY (e.g. if you need to hire a digger).

And there’s nothing wrong with hiring out—a professional can achieve results much more quickly than someone who isn’t familiar with landscaping.

A landscaper will also be able to advise on which type of level will suit your needs best (e.g., sloped vs flat), as well as how much soil or turf will be required to complete the project (and whether or not any special equipment is required).

At the end of the day though, it really boils down to personal preference: some people just prefer doing things themselves rather than paying someone else.

Step 3: Remove the turf

This is a fairly simple step. Using your shovel, cut into the grass deep enough to get under the roots.

If the ground is dry you can do this by breaking it up with a pitchfork. If the ground is wet, work in several small areas and remove chunks of turf with your shovel.

Once removed, lay the turf somewhere out of the way (such as on a compost pile or in another area of your yard).

Step 4: Redistribute or add new soil

It’s time to redistribute or add new soil to your backyard. If you have enough soil, this part is fairly simple and can be done by hand with a shovel.

However, if you need more soil, you will have to buy it and possibly get it delivered. You don’t want the soil to be too dry, so add water as needed.

Distribute the soil into the sections of the yard that look like they need it. you may need a small earth mover for this step if you have a large section.

Step 5: Mark out your new yard level

Use string and stakes to set the level of your yard.

Drive stakes into the ground in each corner of your yard. Connect the stakes using string then use a spirit level to ensure the string is flat (or is at your desired slope).

The string will serve as a guide for how you want the backyard levelled.

Step 6: Flatten out the soil

You can now use a rake or shovel to flatten out the ground.

Distribute the soil so that it lines up with the string. You may need to readjust the string if it is too high or too low.

Step 7: Till the soil

Tilling involves breaking up the soil in your yard with a tool such as a gardening fork or tiller. It helps you prepare the soil to receive new grass and makes it easy to level out your lawn.

The reason tilling is important is that it aerates the soil, allowing greater amounts of air and water to be absorbed into the ground.

This results in a healthy environment for growing plants. Tilling helps your grass grow thick and strong.

Step 8: Lay new turf or seeds

You should now be left with a level backyard.

If turf is what you’re going for, you can buy it by the roll (you’ll need to measure the area and convert that into square meters), and then lay the turf out however you want. You can even hire someone to do this for you.

Seed laying is arguably more straightforward, but keep in mind that seeds take longer to grow than turf.

Step 9: Water and take care of your new lawn

You’ve built a great new lawn for yourself, and it’s time to start taking care of it.

After putting down your new layer of grass and watering it every day for at least a week or two, be sure to check on your grass regularly and keep an eye out for weeds.

Lawns should be kept moist, but not damp or wet. If you’re just setting up your new lawn, water more frequently (every day or every other day).

As the roots grow into the ground, you’ll be able to water less and less often.

It’s important not to overwater your lawn as well—roots that are too wet will drown and die off.

Aerating is when you make holes in the soil of your lawn with a special tool or spikes attached to shoes, which allows water and nutrients to get down deeper into the ground where the roots are located (and makes room for those roots to spread out too).

Think about aerating like punching holes in a loaf of bread with a fork before putting it into the oven—the loaf will end up with an even texture on top after baking because there’s airflow inside of it.

It’s best to aerate during dry periods when there isn’t much rain predicted in the near future so that moisture doesn’t become trapped below ground level where bugs could breed in it.

Mowing is also important in maintaining the health of your lawn. In general, you can first mow new grass when it’s about 6cm in height.

Other options (if you don’t want to pull up your grass)

The first method we’ve talked about is pulling up your lawn and then creating a level base, but that’s not the only way to create a flat lawn.

For example, you could:

  • Build raised garden beds on top of where the grass is uneven. This way, you’ll still get to enjoy the unlevel parts of your yard as part of your landscaping design.
  • Use retaining walls to create flat areas in your yard. This will also help with erosion control and drainage issues; however, this may be more expensive than other options since you’ll need materials like blocks and mortar or flagstones.
  • Fill in holes and lumps with a topsoil mix before planting new grass seeds over them. You’ll have to do some minor landscaping work here (like levelling out high spots), but it will be less labor-intensive overall because you won’t have to dig up all of the existing grass or use large amounts of soil/fill materials from somewhere else on site (or off). The downside is that some low spots may need periodic additions over time if they continue settling after planting new sod over them (which can happen).

Grading vs levelling

Think of grading as the process of creating a slope, and levelling as the process of flattening an uneven surface.

The latter is what you do when your backyard is lopsided, or when it slopes in an inconvenient way.

When you grade your yard, all you’re doing is changing its surface from flat to sloped (or vice versa).

Yard Leveling FAQ

How much does it cost to level a backyard in Australia?

The average price in Australia for the service is between $700 and $1200. However, most companies will charge according to square meters or per hour.

How can I save money leveling my backyard myself?

If your yard isn’t too big then removing all weeds and dirt which has washed into one spot may help reduce costs because you won’t need to pay for the labour involved in clearing up the section.

How can I level my yard cheaply?

The cheapest way to level a yard is by using stakes, string, a spirit level, shovel, and wheelbarrow. You may also need some extra soil to fill in holes and a couple of friends to help you.

How can I level my backyard quickly?

The quickest way to level a yard is by using the services of a professional landscaper with heavy machinery.

Photo of author

Steve Kropp

Based in Melbourne, Steve's passion is vegetable gardening, and he’s been writing about it for almost 5 years. He also loves all things DIY, and is always up for a new project. When not working on his own garden projects or blogging, Steve enjoys spending time with his family, cooking delicious meals from fresh produce picked from his garden, and coaching his son’s footy team.