Time to level up
There are plenty of other reasons why you might want to level your yard. Perhaps you need to solve a drainage issue, like a depression that fills with water when it rains, creating a mosquito breeding ground.
If the slope around the house directs water toward the foundation instead of away from it (AKA a negative slope), re-grading can stop flooding and prevent the foundation from settling. Or maybe you just want to spot-fill depressions to make mowing easier.
To accomplish any of these tasks, you’ll need to move some dirt around. While renting earth-moving equipment is always an option, the less costly shovels-and-wheelbarrows method is more commonly used.
Those two methods are your only choices for moving dirt. But there are several more ways to measure slope and determine where the dirt should go.
The string method is most common
To level a large area, Gillett pounds stakes into the ground around the perimeter, stretches strings between them and levels the strings with a line level. It’s a great way to measure slope as well as identify high and low areas between the stakes.
On sloping ground, tie the string close to the ground on the high side and stretch it as tightly as you can before tying it the stake at the low side. Make sure there’s no sag in the middle. Hang the line level on the string and move the end on the low side up or down as needed to centre the bubble.
The difference in measurements from the string to the ground at both ends tells you how much dirt you need to bring the low end level.
You can also use a variation of this method to correct a negative slope around the house. Instead of levelling the ground, you want a slope in the opposite direction. So set the string to the slope you need. When you add dirt with a shovel or earth mover, keep the surface a uniform distance away from the string.
Go high-tech with a laser level
A laser level works like an invisible string. Here’s how to use it: Set the transmitting unit on the highest ground, then set a 2×4 on the lowest end. Both need to be vertical or it won’t work. The difference in heights between the two indicates the slope. Then add the amount of fill needed to correct it.