Land Grading: Definition and Costs To Level a Land

Land Grading
Land Grading

When most people think of landscaping projects, they think of curb appeal. Flower beds and bushes can make a property more appealing, but they aren’t required, and they don’t always increase the property value. On the other hand, some projects must be completed immediately. One of these projects is land grading or leveling. It may not only be a good investment, but it may also be necessary for the integrity of your property. Everything you need to know about land grading service costs and the cost of land leveling per acre is right here.

What Is Land Grading?

Land grading, also known as land leveling, is the process of reshaping earth and soil to make it more stable and level than it was previously. Grading begins with excavating the desired areas and moving the dirt from one location to another, such as moving dirt from a high section of land to a lower region. After the earth has been moved, the professionals will smooth out the ground before establishing permanent vegetation to stabilize the soil.

After the vegetation has grown to maturity, the newly leveled surface can be used in any outdoor project. Grading or leveling your land has numerous advantages, including the aforementioned ease of use in outdoor projects, as well as reduced erosion, surface runoff, and damage to your home.

How to Land Grade A Property

Depending on the type and scope of the job, the process of grading or leveling your land will vary. The larger the job, the more equipment you’ll need.

Let’s start with the fundamentals. What if you’re just leveling a small piece of land? In that case, a small skid steer or even a dirt rake will usually suffice. Begin by locating the highest point in the area to serve as a reference point.

You should now construct a slope that drops about 2 feet for every 10 feet of horizontal distance. If the total drop exceeds 12 feet, a retaining wall will be required to shore up the earth. Otherwise, it will deteriorate too quickly. If you plan to lay sod over the top, reduce the total soil depth by an inch to account for the thickness of the sod.

If you have pooling, you will need to raise the low spots on your property where the water is collecting. Locate and mark the areas with poor drainage. It helps to do this during a heavy downpour to determine the maximum extent of the pooling. Remove and set aside the topsoil and grass from the area.

Fill in the space with at least 4 inches of dirt. This could be dirt from a higher part of the property or cheap fill dirt. Cover the dirt with the topsoil and grass you removed to solve the problem.

Heavy equipment will be required for larger projects. Unless you’re a landscaping expert, just hire a professional. You may experience sticker shock at first, but they will complete the job correctly the first time. That’s a lot less expensive than doing it yourself and having to redo it.

Steps for Land Grading in New Construction

Most buildings require the level ground for a stable foundation, and if the design calls for a slope, the slope must be precise. As a result, land grading is an important part of new construction. Here are the steps to take when preparing for a new building.

  • Employ a professional
  • Before you begin, check your local regulations.
  • Start in the dry season
  • Create a buffer zone with vegetation.
  • Save money by recycling your fill dirt.
  • Don’t forget to backfill

Land Grading Types

Land grading is a catch-all term for several related tasks. Every property has a unique soil type, slope, and vegetation. Furthermore, you may have different requirements for your property. Before you begin, you should be familiar with the following terms.

#1. Drainage.

Any property must have adequate drainage. This is frequently accomplished solely through land grading. However, in some cases, drainage equipment, such as pipes, may be required to guide water to a creek or retention pond.

#2. Excavation.

Excavation is simply the act of digging a hole. Furthermore, excavation is a common practice when preparing a property for a new foundation. It may also be required before hardscaping, such as the installation of a driveway or a patio.

#3. Surface smoothing. 

Just because something is flat doesn’t mean it’s smooth. The lumpy ground is a tripping hazard and does not look good for your home or business. The process of leveling uneven ground is known as surface smoothing.

#4. Bobcat.

A skid steer, also known by the popular brand name Bobcat, is a versatile machine that can accept a variety of attachments. Its applications include digging, dumping, smoothing, and moving dirt.

#5. Topsoil.

Ordinary dirt lacks organic matter, making it an unsuitable substrate for grass and sod. After you’ve finished grading your land, you’ll need to lay down fresh topsoil before reseeding.

 Land Grading Costs

Land grading, except for very small projects, should be done by a professional. It necessitates heavy machinery, multiple laborers, and years of experience, all of which are not cheap. Residential land grading costs typically cost between $5 and $10 per square foot.

According to, the national average costs of land grading and leveling is $3,100. However, there are a lot of leeways here. According to Home Advisor, the average is $1,925, with a range of $973 to $2,955. The size of the lawn has the greatest impact on the costs of land grading and leveling. Grading a larger area will cost more. However, due to the scale of the work, larger commercial projects tend to cost a little less per square foot.

The slope, rockiness of the soil and other factors will all have an impact on your cost. Another factor to consider is whether you need to ship a large amount of fill dirt. If you need to fill in a large area, you should budget around $15 per cubic hard for the project.

Land Grading Cost Per Acre

The cost of land grading ranges from $17,400 to $43,600 per acre, depending on the site conditions, slope steepness, and amount of fill dirt or topsoil required. A quarter-acre home lot can cost between $4,400 and $10,900 to level. The majority of residential grading projects are 1/4 acre or less in size.

What Factors Influence the Cost of Land Grading?

Land grading contractors charge between $40 and $180 per hour for labor. In addition to hourly labor rates, contractors charge by the cubic yard of dirt required to level a yard, which can range from $50 to $200 per cubic yard. A Thumbtack pro with land grading experience in Olympia, Washington, for example, charges $1,750 to regrade and sod a 1,000-square-foot yard, including soil.

The cost of grading is determined by a variety of factors, including the type of project, the size and topography of your land, permits, and dirt removal.

#1. Site’s size and accessibility

The more land you have, the more expensive it will be to level your yard. An acre lot will require larger equipment and more labor to level than a quarter-acre lot.

If a fence must be moved to allow heavy equipment access to the site, or if existing landscaping or other buildings must be worked around, the cost will rise because the job will become more complex and labor-intensive.

#2. Terrain and soil

If the site is rocky, expect to pay an additional $200 to $1,200 for the project, or $40 to $100 per cubic yard. Expect to pay between $1,000 and $6,000 more per acre if trees must be removed, depending on the number and maturity of the trees.

When leveling or grading land with rocks and trees, labor costs rise because your contractor must remove full-grown trees and dig out boulders stuck in the soil. They’ll have to bring in more equipment, such as bulldozers, and work longer hours.

#3. Costs of dirt removal

On top of the land grading costs, the average cost for dirt removal is $8 to $25 per cubic yard of dirt. Contractors must typically haul away dirt when leveling a steep slope or removing dirt for a home addition foundation. Costs rise because you must pay for the use of a dump truck and a backhoe, as well as the additional labor required to dig and haul away the dirt.

#4. Fill dirt cost

If the contractor needs to bring in the dirt to raise your yard, the cost will be $8 to $15 per cubic yard. This does not include the cost of disseminating it.

#5. Permits

You may need a grading permit for the project, depending on where you live and what you’re doing to your land. Depending on where you live and the scope of the project, this can cost from $100 to $1,000.

#6. Slopes

Slope leveling costs between $1 and $15 per cubic yard of dirt. Most homeowners spend $1,900 on basic lawn re-sloping to prevent erosion and improve drainage.

The cost of leveling a slope, also known as cut and fill, increases because the job requires more labor. To level a yard, the pro will have to move dirt from the hill (cut it) and move it to another location (fill it).

#7. Drainage

If grading your land necessitates draining it, a full-service landscaping company can usually install a drainage system, which will raise the cost of your project.

Land Grading Service

Although some businesses provide both, land grading and lawn care are distinct services. While the following businesses do not provide land grading services, they can assist you in keeping the new grass on your freshly graded lawn green and healthy.

#1. TruGreen

TruGreen is perhaps the most well-known nationwide lawn and land grading service provider, with locations in 48 states. The company provides five annual lawn care packages, ranging from the basics to a comprehensive option that includes tree and shrub care.

Individual treatments such as aeration and fertilization can also be purchased to restore the health of your lawn.

#2. Lawnbright

Lawnbright is a modern subscription service that sends you all the products you need to care for your lawn if you prefer a more DIY approach to lawn care. During the growing season in your area, you’ll receive a custom blend of fertilizers and soil conditioners made mostly of natural ingredients every eight weeks.

#3. Burkholder 

Contact Burkholder Brothers if you want to reap the benefits of land grading for your home. They use high-quality materials to create the most beautiful landscapes for their clients. For decades, Burkholder has been designing and building high-quality, refined landscapes in the Main Line area. Their passionate and experienced landscape professionals will collaborate with you to design your ideal backyard.

Does Land Grading Increase Property Value?

Is land grading beneficial to property value? It absolutely can, depending on the property! The National Association of Realtors reports that 99% of real estate agents believe that curb appeal is critical for attracting new buyers. According to, homes with better landscaping can sell for 20% more.

This alone is a compelling reason to consider grading your land. However, in some cases, it can be a serious safety issue. Homebuyers in flood zones, for example, want their property to have the best drainage possible. Land grading can be an important part of preparing your home for sale in these parts of the country for sellers.

How Do you Find a Land Grading Expert?

While some companies specialize solely in land grading, septic service installation and landscaping companies also provide land grading services. Make sure to hire a licensed, qualified contractor with experience in land grading. Read Thumbtack reviews from previous clients to learn about their previous projects.

Before beginning the project, you should also obtain a detailed estimate. Inquire with the contractor about the cost of hauling in fill dirt, clearing land, and obtaining permits.


At first glance, land grading may appear to be a purely cosmetic operation to improve the curb appeal of your home. It can, however, be an important part of the landscaping process, whether for your own home or commercial property. With proper grading, you can ensure that you get the right amount of drainage and keep your soil from eroding. This means more peace of mind for both you and potential buyers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does slope matter?

One of the primary goals of grading is to create the proper slope for positive drainage. By angling the ground away from the house, you can avoid basement flooding and other types of water damage, such as foundational erosion.

When is the best time for grading?

During the dry season, most excavation companies perform grading. In the spring, for example, rain can cause soil to wash away, which slows down the grading process and requires more sessions.

Do I need to follow specific regulations?

Grading laws are in place in many local governments. Check with your local city and county zoning administrations to ensure that your new construction site meets all requirements and that you can obtain all necessary permits. Because they understand the rules for providing legal, adequate services, your grading contractor will most likely assist you with this process.

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