How To Level a Yard Like the Pros

Last Update:
June 27, 2024

A lumpy, bumpy yard with lots of grooves and depressions can leave you frustrated with how it looks — and what’s worse? It’s harder to maintain. Bumpy lawns happen naturally as a result of molehills, clumps of weeds, and the natural settling of the soil as time progresses, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with an uneven spread of grass in your yard.

Leveling your yard is something you can do yourself. You should plan on a full day’s work per 300-400 square feet of turf, and you can definitely save money by going it alone, even if you have to rent the tools you need to do it right.

If your front lawn is starting to look like a moonscape that’s full of craters, and small peaks and valleys, you don’t have to pay someone to level it for you. Take advantage of beautiful spring weather and handle it yourself!

Here’s how to restore your turf to a smooth, easy-to-mow surface that will be the talk of the neighborhood.

For Minor Bumps and Divots

If your lawn only has a few minor superficial issues, you can quickly and easily address the problem spots by topdressing and rolling the turf. What does that look like?

Topdressing Your Lawn

Topdressing is a great turf care technique that’s so effective, it should be more widely-used in even the most level of lawns to create lush, smooth, beautiful turf, and it can improve the soil biology by amending what’s already there.

To topdress your lawn, you apply a thin layer of soil, compost, or other material on top of the existing grass. Usually, this layer is around ¼-½ inch thick and is spread manually using a shovel over the yard as evenly as possible, and then raked in. You can build up an area over time by gradually applying these thin layers in between mowings.

It’s best to use a thoroughly decomposed compost for topdressing, although you can also use sand (or a mixture of soil and sand) if the soil in your yard is very clay-based. It’s best to do this after your lawn has been aerated, as it will help the sand mix with the clay soil and loosen up and improve the soil’s quality over time. You can rent a ride-on aerator or a push aerator to level your yard and loosen up tough, compact clay soil.

Rolling Your Lawn

You can also rent a light-to-medium weighted self-propelled roller to go over mole tunnels and molehills, going over all of the necessary spots in your yard. If moles are the problem though, it’s best to trap or get rid of the moles before you roll your lawn. Otherwise, using a roller is only a temporary fix for the problem– they’ll just come back and create another system of tunnels to deal with.

When The Problem Is More Than a Few Lumps and Bumps

If you have a larger project on your hands, you can tackle bigger problem areas or larger bumps and depressions in your turf in a few steps. This is how you’ll handle dips that are more than 1 inch deep, larger raised areas that need to be leveled, or if your yard slopes from one side to the other.

The first thing to do is to evaluate where your problem spots are, so you don’t have to dig up your entire yard. You can easily do this after freshly mowing your lawn, by walking your yard, looking for bumps and feeling for lumps and ridges with your feet. Mentally divide your yard into quarters or zones so you can determine which quadrants you need to dig up and level.

Remove the Turf

If you are digging up small patches or areas, you should be able to dig up the turf with a flathead shovel, digging squares that are 2-2.5 inches deep. For larger areas, you may need a sod cutter and a tiller to remove patches of grass and sod and loosen the soil.

Once you’ve removed the soil, you can add more topsoil into depressions or rake away soil from raised mounds. It may be helpful to have a wheelbarrow to transport soil throughout your yard. With a garden rake, rake everything flat so that the ground is level.

Soften the Ground

Before you go any farther, you will need to soften the ground to make the soil easier to work with and move around. This is a major timesaver and will make the rest of your process much, much easier. To do this, you will need to use a tiller to break apart the soil and cut into the top ¾ inch of the lawn.
There are any number of tillers you can use– from a small gas-powered garden tiller to a medium-duty front-tine tiller or a larger rear tine tiller. If you’re unsure of how to use the tiller to help you level your yard, you can check out our guide on tilling here.

This is also the perfect opportunity to build up lower areas of your yard, adding topsoil 1 to 2 inches at a time (working towards leveling things out) and passing over the area again with a tiller. This helps prevent future drainage issues between the two layers of soil.

Flatten the Soil & Lay Sod or Seed

Using the back of a garden rake, flatten the soil across the span of your yard, checking in occasionally to make sure the ground is level.

Once your yard is completely level, you can lay out sod, or begin the process of seeding your newly-leveled yard. When installing sod, focus on keeping seams tight and rolling the sod in rows. You can find out more about successfully sodding your yard here.

If you choose to seed your yard, make sure that you are doing so at the right time of year. Spring or early fall are the perfect times to seed your lawn– but if you seed in the spring, you’ll want to ensure that you are regularly watering your lawn through the heat of summer to keep your lawn from drying out and dying. For a complete guide on seeding your lawn and choosing the right seed, read more here.

You deserve a smooth, level yard that’s the envy of your neighborhood, and there’s no better time than the spring growing season. Why not spend this season taking care of those grooves and lumps you’ve been meaning to take care of, so you can enjoy a smooth lawn all summer long?

Here at Northside Tool Rental, we have all the tools you need to get the best-looking lawn on the block.

Call the location nearest you to reserve your tools today.

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