What’s going on in the ground under your feet has a huge impact on the longevity and success of all building projects above it. But how much do you really know about the all-important preparation step of grading? Why is grading so important? How can you get good grading no matter the obstacles? And what can you do if you have grading problems? Here are a few valuable answers to your questions.

What Is Land Grading?

Land grading is a relatively simple concept. It seeks to create a more even base for buildings, landscapes, roads, and other structures. In general, contractors accomplish this by cutting soil from higher elevations on the property and filling in areas with lower elevations. They may supplement with new soil. You can do this on a large scale with backhoes and excavators or on a small scale with wheelbarrows and shovels.

However, the goal of grading isn’t always to make things perfectly level. The right grade depends on the specific needs of a portion of land. Building a house? While the property may seem largely level, it actually has a slight grade that drains away from the house. Have an extended property? Flooding patterns show where water needs to be diverted and in which directions.

Why Is Land Grading Important? 

There are two primary reasons to pay attention to the grade of your land. The first is to provide a solid, flat surface before building. Failure to create the right base is likely to result in buildings, driveways, boardwalks, and fences shifting and settling. Once structures are constructed, fixing these problems will be expensive and complex.

The second main reason to prepare land by grading is to control water flow. Rainwater that drains toward your home or building causes serious damage to the foundation over time. It seeps into concrete and forms cracks, and the moisture rots and warps wood. It can cause flooding of the home’s lower levels. It erodes soil and damages landscaping. And it makes storm flooding worse than it has to be.

Grading that helps water flow away from a house or commercial building is considered positive grading. When the grade leads toward the foundation, it’s negative grading.

You may also do less extensive grading to achieve certain landscape effects. Smaller-scale grading creates berms, allows for artificial streams and ponds, or ensures that your pool isn’t damaged by rainwater flow. This type of grading can be aesthetic or it may be done proactively to prevent future problems that may arise if you decide to install a pool down the line, for example.

How Is Grading Done?

To begin, the contractor will take measurements throughout the property. This can be very detailed so that they can design a plan that minimizes work and expense while achieving the right slopes. The contractor will also determine what equipment is needed and how to safely access the area which needs grading. After planning, they will remove topsoil in higher elevations and excavate as needed.

Most grading happens in two stages. The first is rough grading, which achieves the desired slopes and elevations or shapes wanted. This level of grading allows for other groundwork to happen, including the installation of irrigation systems, additional drains, or landscape elements. Then, a final grade completes the process by bringing in topsoil that promotes landscape growth or adds finishing touches.

Owners of plots of land have the luxury of working with a mostly blank canvas. With few or no structures in place, the land is more easily graded by large equipment to give it exactly the desired slopes and directions.

However, when you must fix existing grade problems, contractors employ different techniques to work with the obstacles and reasons for your particular issues. They may even combine grading efforts with construction changes to make structures or parts of the property more water-resistant or improve drains.

For example, what if water flows toward the house? Moving the house to higher ground isn’t an option. Simply adding soil around it won’t fix the problem — and in fact, may cause even more trouble by hiding the moisture problem and trapping water. Instead, a contractor might recommend swales. Swales create artificial low spots, or valleys, as buffers around the house to divert rainwater in other directions.

Where Can You Learn More? 

The best time to fix or prevent grade problems is now. If you’re building new construction, proper drainage and slopes will keep all the structures solid and free of leaks and flooding for many years. And if your property already has flooding or drainage issues? Stop these now to prevent even more hidden damage.

Florida landowners can call on Abbotts’ Construction Services, Inc. For more than 35 years, we’ve assisted property owners at all stages of construction or development with all their grading needs. Call today to learn how we can help you.