How to Level an Uneven Lawn

Digging to level an uneven lawn

An uneven lawn causes more than just a bumpy lawn mower ride. If you notice your lawn isn’t as flat and even as it used to be, you might need to level it. An uneven lawn can be a safety hazard, unsightly, and lead to further damage. 

Discover the causes of an uneven lawn, how to level a yard, and the benefits of lawn leveling.

How to level an uneven lawn

Yard leveling can improve the appearance and usability of your cool- or warm-season grass. Several lawn-leveling methods will give you the look of a brand-new lawn, depending on the severity of your situation. 

illustration showing the cool and warm season grasses on the US map, along with the transitional zone
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Before leveling your lawn

Start by removing debris, rocks, sticks, and other obstacles from your lawn’s surface, and consider dethatching if your thatch layer is more than one-half inch thick. A dethatching machine or thatch rake makes quick work of the layer of dead grass, roots, and organic material suffocating your soil.  

Trim your turfgrass to the recommended height for your grass type but avoid scalping it. Give your lawn a thorough watering a day or two before beginning the leveling process. Moist soil ensures accurate leveling and is easier to work with. Many homeowners use stakes, flags, or spray paint to mark their yard’s high and low spots to guide the process. 

Determine the severity of your lawn’s unevenness 

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Assessing the severity of your lawn’s unevenness is essential to determine the level of effort and intervention needed. Experts categorize lawn unevenness into three levels: mild, moderate, and severe, based on the following criteria: 

Mild unevenness

Experts characterize mild unevenness as small and shallow depressions or bumps scattered across your lawn. Low spots are typically less than 1 inch deep and high spots are similarly minor. Most homeowners can address mild uneven areas with simple leveling techniques, such as an application of lawn topdressing mix

Moderate unevenness

Moderate unevenness involves more noticeable variations in your lawn’s surface. Depressions or high spots may be between 1 to 3 inches deep or tall. Addressing moderate unevenness requires more effort, such as adding or removing soil and using leveling tools like a garden rake or leveling rake. 

Severe unevenness

Lawn care professionals characterize severe unevenness by substantial and pronounced variations in your lawn’s contour. Depressions or high spots exceed 3 inches in depth or height. Correcting severe unevenness involves significant excavation, regrading, and potentially major lawn renovation, including sod replacement or reseeding. 

How to level mild unevenness

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If your lawn is just a little uneven, with a few shallow, depressed areas, you can fix it yourself by topdressing. This is an affordable DIY solution that doesn’t take much effort.

Tools and materials you will need: 

  • Garden rake or leveling rake
  • Topsoil or sand
  • Wheelbarrow or garden cart
  • Lawn roller (optional)
  • Garden hose 

Step-by-step guide

Step 1: Prepare your topsoil mixture by combining equal parts topsoil and sand. Some homeowners add equal part compost, topsoil, and sand for additional lawn nutrition. 

Step 2: Spread the prepared soil over the depressions on your lawn. 

Step 3: Use the back of a push broom, garden rake, or leveling rake to smooth the soil mixture, matching the surrounding contours of your lawn. If desired, use a lawn roller filled with water to compact the soil lightly. 

Step 4: Consider overseeding or planting new sod in the areas if the leveling process removed existing grass. 

Step 5: Water the leveled areas to prevent air pockets and help the soil settle.

How to level moderate unevenness

If you have several divots and bumps in your lawn, it might take a little more effort to smooth them out. You can still try to fix the problem yourself, but if you have deep depressions or several ruts in your yard, don’t be afraid to consult a professional. 

Tools and materials you will need: 

  • Garden rake or leveling rake
  • Topsoil or sand
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow or garden cart
  • Lawn roller (optional)
  • Garden hose

Step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Prepare your topsoil mixture by combining equal parts of topsoil and sand. 

Step 2: Spread the prepared soil mix over the divots and sunken areas in your lawn. 

Step 3: Use a shovel to remove excess soil and create a level surface for high spots or bumps. 

Step 4: Use the back of a push broom, garden rake, or leveling rake to distribute the mixture and smooth the surface. Optionally, use a lawn roller to compact the soil and prevent future settling. 

Step 4: Sprinkle grass seed or lay new sod if the leveling process removes grass. 

Step 5: Water the leveled areas to help the soil settle and promote grass growth. 

How to level severe unevenness

Addressing severe unevenness in your lawn can be a complex and challenging task that may go beyond a typical DIY project. Depending on the damage, you may need to re-grade your entire yard, especially if you notice sunken areas with standing water. 

Hire a professional landscaper who brings valuable knowledge and experience to assess the severity of your unevenness. They will identify the underlying causes and develop a tailored solution to fit your landscape’s needs. Lawn care specialists have access to specialized equipment for tasks like excavation, grading, and soil compaction. 

Hiring a professional mitigates potential risks, guarantees quality results, and provides long-term benefits. 

What causes an uneven lawn?

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Before leveling your lawn, it is crucial to determine the underlying cause of bumps and low areas. Addressing the root cause will help prevent future issues. Your yard goes through significant changes over time, and bumps and depressions are a natural occurrence. However, if you are lucky, you might be able to point to a direct cause of your lawn’s unevenness.

Various factors cause an uneven lawn, including: 

  • Settling soil: Over time, soil can settle unevenly because of natural processes, erosion, or compaction. 
  • Thatch buildup: The accumulation of dead grass, roots, and organic matter creates lumpy areas on your lawn. 
  • Rodent activity: Burrowing animals like moles and gophers can disrupt the soil, leaving mounds and depressions in their wake. 
  • Lawn disease and pests: Certain lawn diseases or pest infestations like grubs can damage grass, leading to irregular growth patterns. 
  • Tree roots: Large tree roots near the surface can create bumps or depressions as they grow and expand. 
  • Heavy traffic: Frequent foot traffic or vehicle use can compact soil unevenly, causing low and high spots. 
  • Inadequate lawn care: Inconsistent watering, mowing, and fertilizing can lead to uneven grass growth and patchy areas. 
  • Weather: Extreme weather events, such as heavy rain or drought, can impact your soil’s consistency and create unevenness. 
  • Improper grading: Poor initial grading during landscaping or construction can cause an uneven lawn surface. 
  • Subsurface issues: Underground pipes, cables, or utility lines may cause disruptions and irregularities in the lawn, especially when they need repair or maintenance. 

Understanding the underlying cause of your lawn’s unevenness is essential to addressing and leveling your landscape effectively. 

Problems caused by an uneven lawn

An uneven lawn can lead to various problems, both aesthetic and practical, that affect the overall look and functionality of your outdoor space. Common problems include:  

  • Poor aesthetics: An uneven lawn can appear unsightly with noticeable lumps, bumps, and depressions, diminishing the visual appearance of your landscape.
  • Tripping hazards: Uneven surfaces create tripping hazards, posing a safety risk for people walking or playing on your lawn, especially children and older adults. 
  • Mower damage: Uneven terrain can damage your lawnmower by causing uneven cutting, including scalping in some areas and tall grass blades in others. 
  • Drainage issues: Low spots can lead to poor drainage, causing water to collect and creating muddy areas. This promotes the growth of moss and weeds. 
  • Ineffective irrigation: Uneven lawns do not receive consistent irrigation, resulting in dry patches and over-watered areas, which can damage your grass and encourage disease. 
  • Uneven growth: Grass in uneven areas grows at different rates, leading to a patchy and unattractive appearance. 
  • Reduced usability: Uneven areas limit the usability of your outdoor space for activities like sports and family gatherings. 
  • Weed and pest infestations: Pests thrive in uneven lawns. They find shelter and adequate breeding conditions in low spots and thatch-covered areas. Moist areas of standing water are also a breeding ground for pesky mosquitoes.  
  • Soil erosion: Low spots are susceptible to soil erosion, especially during heavy rainfall, leading to soil loss. 
  • Decreased property value: Negative curb appeal reduces the overall value of your home. 

Addressing your uneven yard is essential to maintain its health, safety, and aesthetic appeal. Whether through DIY leveling or professional help, resolving these issues enhances your outdoor space. 

FAQ about leveling an uneven lawn

When is the best time to level my lawn?

Spring and early fall are the best times to level your lawn.

How much does lawn leveling cost?

The cost of lawn leveling varies depending on the severity of the unevenness, season, location, and more. 

Can I walk on my lawn immediately after leveling? 

No. Avoid walking on the leveled areas until your grass has fully recovered, typically from one to two weeks.

Hire a professional to level your lawn 

Don’t let an uneven lawn spoil your outdoor fun. If you need help leveling a severely uneven lawn or don’t have the time or energy for a DIY project, let Lawn Love connect you with a local lawn care pro to assess your needs.

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Kimberly Magerl

Kimberly Magerl is a writer and data analyst specializing in landscaping, gardening, lawn care, and pest control. She enjoys growing orchids, tending to fruits and vegetables in her garden, and getting outdoors. A resident of Texas, when she isn't gardening, Kimberly enjoys trying new recipes and cooking with her home-grown herbs.