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We’ll make unwanted puddles a thing of the past.

Nothing is worse than watching the torrential summer rains turn your basement into a swimming pool or your yard into a lake.


If that happens to you, it means that somewhere along the line the slope (grade) of the land sent water toward your house rather than well away from it. Our grading services ensure that your land has proper water and erosion management so that your basement won’t flood and your yard won’t turn into a lake.


(Incidentally, if you do want a lake or a pond, we can dig you a real one!)
Proper grading will give you some serious peace of mind, and it’s best to get it right the first time around. Call in the Dirtwirx team for a level area to build upon and for graded land that will whisk water away from your construction.


Situations That Need Land Grading

There are two primary reasons for land grading. First and foremost is proper water drainage. Land grading allows you to use gravity to your advantage, directing all rainfall and stormwater runoff to a low-lying, out-of-the-way location, preferably one that connects to a pond or county drain. Grading for proper water drainage not only prevents floods from occurring in your home, garage or barn, but also promotes the health of any gardens, orchards or pastures. Land grading is also important on roadways and driveways in order to prevent water from collecting on them and causing vehicles to slide.


The second common reason to adjust the slope of the land is for erosion control. Erosion control means stabilizing the land to stop the topsoil—and all of the nutrients contained within—from slipping away. Specifically, land grading stabilizes the land by reducing the slope, thus reducing the runoff velocity. Slower-moving water is less powerful and less likely to strip the soil so easily.


Finally, the topography of the land can be changed to direct traffic around your property. People, and even cattle, are more likely to avoid steep inclines and undulating hills, instead seeking out gentle slopes or flat areas. Land grading can keep the more delicate areas of your property more or less free from foot traffic. This is a less common reason for land grading but is nonetheless useful.


Land grading is most commonly done when preparing a construction site. Before the major work begins, the land is cleared and the building site is leveled. In some cases, a raised building pad is also created. On all sides of the building site, the slope of the land is adjusted so that it decreases away from the construction. For buildings erected on hillsides, land grading might involve creating a berm that stops water before it reaches the building, then guides it around and away from the site.


Land grading is also useful when creating a pond. Ponds are constructed not only by digging down into the soil, but also by building up the area around the pond. Typically part of the pond receives rainwater runoff, so the surrounding land has to be shaped in such a way that the water flows to the pond.


In residential areas, a land grading crew can even out a bumpy lawn, making lawn mowing less difficult and eliminating trip hazards.


Rough Grading Versus Final Grading

There are two stages of land grading: rough grading and final grading. Rough grading is performed first and involves moving and shifting large amounts of dirt and making drastic changes as necessary. When rough grading is done, the land should basically look as it’s meant to.


Final grading is performed second and is more precise. Final grading ensures all the contours are smooth and at the proper slope.


Sometimes there is an intermediate step, particularly if the area is meant to be a landscaped garden. When land grading is done via heavy equipment, the land can become compacted, which is not ideal for planting gardens. Therefore, topsoil may need to be brought in to backfill the area. Then, this topsoil is carefully contoured as the final grading.


Land Grading Cost

The cost of do-it-yourself land grading depends on the kind of equipment you already have on hand and the equipment that you may need to rent. For example, renting a bulldozer for the weekend could cost several hundred dollars. Then you need to factor in the cost of renting additional equipment, like a scraper attachment for your tractor.


Taken in perspective, the cost of professional land grading services are quite reasonable, as you get to benefit from not only the efficiency of specialized equipment, but also the knowledge and experience of the crew. The cost of a land grading project will of course depend on the size of the area and the severity of the necessary alterations.


Land Grading How-To

It’s easiest to do your own land grading, especially if using hand tools, in quite small spaces such as a little garden. Attempting to grade anything larger by hand will be frustrating, laborious and time consuming. But with the right equipment and know-how, you can also flatten and grade larger areas. With that said, it’s worth hiring a professional for any tricky situations, where there are many existing buildings or installations that need to be avoided in the process. It’s also important to make sure you grade the land properly so that you don’t inadvertently make matters worse or accidentally create new drainage problems while fixing others. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact professional landscape engineers. If it takes a professional several hours to evaluate the land and come up with an appropriate action plan, you should expect to spend much more time on your own assessment and design work.


Some of the tools you’ll need to do your own land grading include:



Laser level


Rented machinery or tractor attachments


You’ll need to calculate the existing slope and the slope that you need to achieve, and regularly measure as you go to ensure that you have the correct slope. There are many ways to measure and calculate slope, so research the various methods to find one that works best for you. Start by removing the sod with a shovel and relocating it. (You might be able to reuse the sod on the same site for erosion control once it has been graded.) Short-handled, snub-nosed shovels work well for this, and sod roots are very shallow, so you shouldn’t have to send the shovel very deep to bring up the sod. Push the shovel in horizontally to get under the roots, and use the tip of the shovel to cut through the grass vertically from above if necessary. Use the pickax to break up larger clumps of dirt that appear the deeper you dig. Haul the dirt away from your workspace with a wheelbarrow, and regularly use a level to assess the slope of the land.


If you’d like to take on a challenging project, doing your own land grading will definitely prove to be a learning experience for you. However, if you’re short on time, tools, knowledge, experience and energy, give us a call. There’s nothing like getting it done right the first time around.

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