As we discussed in the last post, grading in landscape architectural construction is the work of ensuring a level base, or one with a specified slope. Grading your yard isn’t the most exciting landscaping task, but it is one of the most important steps in creating a beautiful yard. So, how much does landscape grading cost?
The answer is … it depends. Depends on what? First, your site conditions. The more earth you need to move, the more challenging it is to get grading equipment onto, all will factor into the cost.
Landscape Grading verses Leveling
Before we get into the costs of landscape grading, let’s make sure we are clear on what we are talking about. Although sometimes we use these two terms interchangeably, they do have slightly different meanings.
Grading is when you change the slope of your yard to channel water away from your house. Land may also be graded flat. If you want to build a stone walkway for example, you’ll likely want a nice flat surface on which to lay the stone.
When your landscape is graded, dirt is moved from the higher point of the land into the lower lying areas to create a nice level surface. Sometimes land grading may require you to move in additional dirt, called fill, from somewhere else to complete the job. This process creates a nice foundation for your project.
Leveling your yard is simply the process of creating a smooth even surface that doesn’t have unnecessary bumps or craters. If your land has the appropriate slope, you may only need someone to level out the bumps and ready the land to plant.
Both work together to protect the structural integrity of your home. Planning the grade of your landscape is the first step to ensure easy maintenance and a successful landscape project.
Quality of the Soil
What is on your land will play a major role in the cost of your project. Boulders, tree stumps and compacted soil and debris will cost more than fixing your yard that has already had topsoil and grass. Removing rocks and debris will require equipment to dig them out and dispose of them properly.
First, it will depend on the size of your yard. The bigger your yard, the more labor and materials you’ll need. This will increase the cost.
Secondly, some projects are more straight-forward than others. But, in any case, a good contractor will take time up front to develop a plan. Remember grading means that you’re restructuring existing earth. So, make sure the contractor tells you how they’re going to measure/determine the necessary steps for creating the best grade. The larger and more complex the project’s scope, the more expensive the cost will be.
Finally, the cost of the job depends on the reason for doing the job. You may need to change the direction water flows in your yard to push it away from your foundation. This type of job includes: scraping existing topsoil, leveling the area, and spreading the new topsoil. Or, maybe you just want a more level yard to increase curb appeal. In that case, the contractor will just need to bring in new topsoil to add to the lower areas in order to make the yard level. These scenarios will vary in cost.
To give you a ballpark estimate for your job, let’s take a look at some numbers below. Costs vary by state and will depend on many factors including size and accessibility of the site, soil, terrain, dirt removal, fill dirt and labor costs.
- The average national cost of a residential grading ranges from $500 to $3,100 – generally $5 to $10 per square foot.
- Expect to pay $500 to $1,000 per day (or $40 to $180 per hour) to hire an operator and a piece of heavy equipment (usually a skid steer loader or tractor with a scraper/planer attachment).
- Landscaping companies will charge anywhere from $35 to $70 per labor hour.
- If your grading project requires fill that can’t be obtained on-site, plan on paying $10 to $30 per cubic yard(plus delivery) for topsoil. Bags of topsoil, useful for small areas, cost $2.50 to $5.00 apiece.
Remember, these numbers are estimates. Actual costs depend on factors that include (but not limited to) yard size, project scope, and the reason you’re doing the grading job. But also keep in mind that not having this done can cost you in the long run. If your yard slopes into your foundation, damage can be done and that can cost your several thousand dollars to repair. As always, make sure to consult an expert to help you!