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How to Ensure Proper Grading Around Your Home

Updated: Jul 8


Backhoe filling in trench with dirt

No matter the time of year, there always seems to be some sort of precipitation in the forecast. Whether it’s rain, hurricanes, or melting snow in the spring, homeowners need to be aware of the damage water can cause in and around their homes.


An important step in ensuring that water doesn’t cause leaks in your home or damage your foundation is to ensure that your yard is properly graded.


Here is your guide to proper grading around your home.


Why is Proper Grading Around Your Home Important?


Proper grading, or correct grading, is when you landscape your yard so it slopes away from your house. It is vital in ensuring the proper draining of water away from the home’s foundation.


There are two types of grading: positive grading (good) and negative grading (bad). Positive grading slopes away from your home while negative grading allows water to pool against it.


Having your yard properly graded can prevent issues such as leaks, cracks in the foundation, the rot of wooden structural members, and other major/costly foundation problems. Therefore, negative grading needs to be corrected.


Properly grading your yard is a fairly easy process but it does take a lot of work. Keep reading to learn the steps to ensure proper grading around your home:


Considerations Before Grading Your Yard


Before you go through the process of grading your yard, it’s important to look at other factors that may be contributing to leaks and foundation issues.


First, check your downspouts. Downspouts leaders should be placed at least 3 feet away from the side of your house to direct water into the yard instead of against the foundation.


Also, property grading takes some planning so check out these areas of your yard before you begin dumping dirt:

  • Don’t bury anything important such as traps, vents, or furnace pipes. In many cases, you can simply buy extenders from your local hardware store to prevent this.

  • Take into consideration your basement windows. Window wells wrap around basement windows and act as a retaining wall to keep the dirt away from the window.

Most importantly, you need to make sure there is enough space to grade your lawn. You need to grade your slope away from your foundation without raising the soil higher than the highest point of your yard.


As a quick rule of thumb, you should leave at least 6-8 inches of your foundation showing to make sure you don’t damage your home’s structure.


How to Grade Your Yard for Proper Drainage


1. Find Your Low and High Points


The high point of your yard is where the water starts draining in the wrong direction. This can sometimes be found near the sidewalk or behind your home. Look for areas where the slope of your yard dips down toward your house.


The low point is where the water ends up. This is where drainage problems start, usually near the foundation.


Use a can of spray paint to mark these areas.


2. Determine a Level Grade Line


After establishing the high and low points, you’ll need to determine the “rise” and “run” of your yard. This will help you figure out a level grade line so you’ll know how much grading you need to do.


The “run” is the horizontal distance between your high and low points and needs to be a straight and level line.


To measure the run, put a stake in the ground at the highest point and at the lowest point then connect them with a tight string. Use a level to ensure the string is perfectly straight. The measurement you get along the string is your run.


The “rise” is the vertical distance between the ground and the string at the low point.


3. Place Dirt/Top Soil at the Low Point


Getting the above measurements will give you an idea of how much dirt or topsoil you will need. Shovel this dirt into the low point in order to reverse the grade.


You want to dump enough dirt so that your low point matches your high point.

Once this is finished, use the back of a hard rake to pull the dirt to your new high point. Also, use a sheet of plywood to pack everything in - this will help prevent loose dirt from settling down and failing to reach the high point you measured.


After you’ve completed this step, you’re almost done! Now you just need to help match this new dirt area to the rest of your beautiful yard.


4. Plant New Grass Seed


After the slope is corrected and the soil packed in, toss some grass seed over the freshly graded dirt. Slowly and lightly churn and spread the seeds with your rake.


Use your garden hose to give the seeds a nice soak before covering them with yard clippings or hay. Covering your seeds will help keep them safe from birds and other wildlife as well as retain moisture to promote growth.


Soak the area again and be sure to water the seeds every day.


If you don’t have the patience to grow new grass, you can always consider laying down sod.


When to Hire a Professional Landscaper


Now that you know how to properly grade your yard, you may not be comfortable taking on the task by yourself.


Grading your yard is a huge job that is labor-intensive. That’s not to say that your home’s condition is doomed! Professional landscapers can help you get the job done right.


Subscription-Based Exterior Maintenance


Residential Maintenance Services is dedicated to ensuring that your home is well-maintained, addressing grading issues at our subscribers’ homes before they lead to major problems.


Our exterior services ensure your yard is safe and looks good, from landscaping to the patio and outdoor lighting.


If you’re concerned about your property’s slopes and want to learn more about having your yard graded, don’t hesitate to get in touch today!