You may need to have your yard or property graded—that is, the land cleared and leveled—if you are preparing to do a major landscaping project or erect a building such as a barn, large shed or guest house on the site. Installing a patio, a deck or even an above-ground pool requires a level surface, too. Sloped ground may cause water runoff, soil erosion, uneven moisture retention, difficulty maintaining landscaping, or accumulation of excessive moisture around a building’s foundation. Hiring a professional to grade the land is a good idea because they will know what equipment and manpower are necessary to get the job done.
A professional landscaper like Irreco, based in St. Louis, Missouri, will be able to include any necessary land clearing and leveling work in the total project bid. The cost will vary depending on how much existing landscaping needs to be cleared and the severity of the slope that needs to be leveled.
Generally, the cost of land leveling starts at $500 for minor jobs and can go up to several thousand dollars for areas over an acre. Simply Snow and Lawn owner Alex Arnn says the cost of grading larger areas might run $2,000-$6,000, but of course there are many variables that might impact the total cost, pushing it lower or higher. Based in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, near Madison, Simply Snow and Lawn is a full-service landscaping and snow removal company. Arnn owns most of the heavy equipment needed to clear, excavate and level land for his customers, but he’s able to rent any needed equipment he does not own. Irreco owner Aaron Dippold says his company typically includes the cost to grade a yard in the project estimate for customers who are having a lawn and irrigation system installed.
If the land to be graded is severely overgrown, the cost to clear and grade it will be higher because the job may require special equipment, such as backhoes, as well as more labor. Irreco’s Dippold says his company recently cleared and leveled an area about 15 square feet into a 3,000-square-foot yard for a cost of $1,200.
Haul-away and dumping
Removing extensive debris, plant matter and dirt from the site may increase the cost of leveling it. Simply Snow and Lawn owner Arnn says he tries to find ways to avoid charging customers extra for removing dirt and organic matter from a site. These include delivering dirt to local homeowners who are willing to accept it, and delivering brush and larger organic matter to a site that accepts an unlimited number of loads for an annual fee. He does have to charge customers for the cost of having a dump truck on site, as well as for items like tree stumps that can only be taken to a landfill, which charges per load or by weight.
If your project requires other specialized equipment that your landscaper does not own, your cost may increase to cover both the rental fees and the cost of additional labor for running it.
If leveling and grading your land requires draining it as well, a full-service landscaping company like Irreco or Simply Snow and Lawn can usually install a drainage system, which will increase your project cost. Simply Snow and Lawn owner Arnn says he tries to offer customers a few options at different price points so they can make a decision that fits their budget.
Landscapers typically charge a minimum hourly rate for each crew member on any project. Depending on the job they’re performing, this rate could be anywhere from $20 to $60 per hour. Simply Snow and Lawn owner Arnn says his typical rate is $45 per hour, which may increase to $65 for crew members who are running specialized equipment.
For every hour a crew member or company owner spends at your site to complete work or discuss your project, it costs them another two to three hours in labor and overhead. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to try to give the service provider enough information about your project to help them complete the work as quickly and efficiently as possible. Arnn of Simply Snow and Lawn says his crews can usually complete land grading projects in two days: On the first day, his crew clears the field, and on the second day they bring in extra soil to level it out and complete any necessary re-landscaping.
In addition to the labor costs, your project fee will include the cost of any new materials such as soil, plants, rocks, drainage system components, etc., that need to be installed.