Essential Pre-Planting Step: The Importance of Landscape Grading

Author: Touré Foster

Posted in: Grading

Essential Pre-Planting Step: The Importance of Landscape Grading

Landscape grading adds a gentle slope to your land to encourage proper drainage and add beauty using the contours of your property. Although landscape grading for adequate drainage is not the most visible portion of your lawn and garden, they are essential to the overall health and ultimately the look of your landscaping.

What happens if you don’t grade first

While it may be tempting to just dive in with some new dirt and start gardening, beginning with grading can help ensure that your garden not only looks great, but is built to last. If you wait until after you have already planted, then you may soon realize that the area that you have chosen does not drain well, resulting in excess erosion or water collection.

If your landscaping is improperly graded, it can lead to standing water that can be dangerous to your property for a variety of reasons. One of the main complaints that homeowners have about standing water is the effect it has on your plants and lawns. Whenever water collects around your house, it can get a myriad of problems.

  • Plants become over watered and will rot and die
  • Yard and lawn will be damaged
  • Mosquitoes, insects and other undesirable pests have an ideal place to breed
  • If too close to your foundation or crawl space, standing water can cause structure damage that may or may not be readily apparent.

Rough Grading

Rough grading refers to the most basic grading of your lawn and landscaping. During the rough grading process, you sculpt your lawn to bring it to the desired level and slope. In most cases, your landscaper will try to work as much with your existing land structure to keep the level of work and expense down in this step of the grading process.

In many cases, rough grading involves removing the relatively thin layer of topsoil in order to better sculpt the land. This results in a well-sculpted property that drains as efficiently as possible. Most lawns, whether you realize it or not, are very gently graded in order to allow water to drain efficiently.


One of the main goals of landscape grading is to provide for the proper amount of drainage. Naturally, the amount of drainage that you desire depends largely on the area that you are grading.

For your lawn, this typically means a gentle slope that will take any excess water away from your home. For gardens or more complex landscape structures, this may mean something a bit more involved.

By allowing for an optimal level of drainage, you can very effectively make your entire landscaping design more self-sufficient and easy to take care of. When properly graded, landscapes ensure that plants get the water that they need without allowing excess water to accumulate.

Plan your landscape grading project

Grading your landscape provides the stable foundation. You will want the land to grade away from the foundation of your home. The grading should divert water towards any existing drainage channels or towards wooded areas to disperse snow melt and rainwater.

Talk to your town or city hall and be sure to ask:

  • Do you need a permit for the project,
  • Which codes, if any, may apply to the grading, and
  • Will we need an inspection by the town/city for the final project

Do your research

  • Check Angie’s List and/or Yelp for reviews of local contractors.
  • Request quotes for the project. Obtain two or three estimates to compare costs. As part of the estimate, the contractor needs to measure your yard and explain the process they use to grade or regrade it.
  • Be sure that the contractor provides details about the project such as if they include the permit costs and lawn seeding or if it is additional.
  • Contact your state’s licensing board to verify that the contractor’s license is current. Use a licensed contractor do the work, so that you can be assured of an optimal result.
  • Check contractor references. When you ask your contractor for references, get phone numbers and/email addresses of actual customers whom you can contact directly.

Sign a contract

Once you have decided on your contractor, sign a contract that includes:

  • A full description of the work,
  • Costs for materials and labor,
  • A timeline for the project and expected completion date, and
  • A schedule of payments.

Landscape Grading – Do It Right for Long Lasting Effect

Depending on the scope of your project, you may decide to tackle some of the grading yourself. If you are working with anything but a very small area, however, you should definitely consider hiring a professional.

Proper landscape grading cannot typically be done by sight alone. It requires a variety of tools, and a lot of experience to ensure that everything is properly graded and ready for planting. For the best results when beginning a new construction project, building a garden or making other changes to your landscaping, work with a professional to ensure that everything is properly graded. This simple step can help you avoid future issues. Contact New England Enterprises for a consultation and quote!