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How to Level Dirt in the Backyard

By Carly Fiske ; Updated September 21, 2017
Terracing may be your best option if you have a steeply sloping yard.

Whether it's steep or slight, a sloping yard can complicate your landscaping plans, create flooding problems and decrease water retention. Flattening or leveling out the soil can be accomplished with a variety of methods, but will usually require a lot of labor and a few basic tools. If you want to raise the soil level in general, importing additional topsoil may be necessary. Otherwise, you can accomplish the task with a shovel and existing soil. It's important to separate topsoil and subsoil layers when removing and redistributing soil in a lanscape. In yards with a steep slope, terracing is the only practical option and still allows you to build a beautiful landscape.

Step 1

Remove topsoil from the entire area that is to be leveled, including ditches and/or hills. Place the topsoil aside in a pile. If you reach the subsoil in areas that need levelling, create a second pile for it. You can distinguish topsoil from subsoil by a noticeable change in color and texture. Topsoil is a lighter color and usually goes no deeper than 6 to 8 inches.

Step 2

Redistribute the exposed subsoil until it is level, using a shovel and rake to even out the surface. If you are working with a very large area or extensive landscape, a bulldozer may be necessary, but for most home landscapes, a shovel, rake and some diligence is sufficient.

Step 3

Pile the topsoil onto the redistributed subsoil to make the surface even. It is best to form a slight slope that descends away from your house, which will aid in storm-water drainage. For ideal drainage and water retention, the slope should move downward away from your house at a rate of 1 foot lower per 50 feet of distance.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Rake


  • It is important to keep separate piles of topsoil and subsoil and to avoid mixing these layers.
  • If you have raised the soil by more than 1 foot, allow it to settle for up to a year before laying down turf.
  • Lawn rollers and similar tools are not meant for leveling out a lawn, but merely firms the soil surface. You cannot flatten large bumps or lumps with a lawn roller.


  • Ensure your drainage is adequate or establish a drainage system when redistributing soil. When raising the soil to level out a slope, make sure the layers are still below your house's foundation to avoid flooding issues.

About the Author


Carly Fiske has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes for websites including greenanswers.com, openoffer.com and thirdage.com. Fiske holds a Bachelor of Arts in cultural anthropology from the University of Redlands.