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Pretend I have just a square house on a flat lawn, plenty of room on every side. Assume there's already grass planted on the yard all the way up to the house. I want to change the grade of the yard from flat to having that minimum 2% grade or whatever it was.

Can this be, basically, just a process of pouring clay soil around the house and packing it down, then planting grass over that?

Or is it necessarily, even in the simplest case, a more complex job than that?

I'm thinking about whether to try to DIY some basic yard grading, basically to get rid of any "dips" in the soil around my foundation. This is to help with some problems I have with some moisture appearing in my basement in heavy rains. I'd love it if I could do this by basically just pouring soil into and around the dippy areas and packing that down. There are a couple of places where an obstruction might change what I need to do (most annoying being a gas meter) but for now I just want to think about how the simplest case works and work from there.

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    Are you talking about putting clay on top of the existing turf, then planting more grass directly on that? Or did you plan to remove the turf and top soil, put down and compact clay to achieve the desired gradient, then return the top soil and either return the turf or plant fresh grass from seed?
    – csk
    Jun 17 at 16:27
  • I am asking about just putting clay on top of turf, trying to find out if it can be as simple as that. But if, instead, it's necessary to first dig up the existing grass, I want to know that. Jun 17 at 16:48
  • How much soil depth would you add at the house? If soil touches siding or brick it is not a good idea. Jun 17 at 23:37
  • How far do you plan to grade? If you start building up a 2% grade 50 feet from the house, for example, dirt will be piled up 1 foot high on the sides of your house, which is not ideal. Jun 18 at 18:24
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I am serious about drainage around my house, in part due to the fact the house insurance does not cover overland flooding (water entering the house from outside).

The methods to resolve drainage problems can be quite inexpensive if the house has some slope in at least one direction.

Some caveats:

  • as blacksmith37 noted soil should not touch brick, siding or even the parging so commonly seen on poured foundations as cosmetic touch

  • water has to go somewhere: if your house is lower than other features or houses it's coming your way no matter what

  • grass needs to be removed to get the grading right. For drainage purposes it absorbs water and slows down where it is flowing to

For your example house your steps would be:

  • determine where water naturally flows to due to existing grade
  • roll back the grass around the house with a sod cutter and water to keep it fresh
  • add soil at the foundation but not touching the parging or brick or siding or sill plate until next to house is a little bit higher than the rest of the area
  • compact soil if very loose
  • buy some 4" perforated drain pipe with sleeve
  • dig a trench in the soil about 6" wide and 6" deep which follows the grade that goes away from the house. You want the water as far away as possible from the house, 20' or more
  • put the drain pipe with sleeve in the trench and backfill with soil
  • roll the grass back and use pressure to make sure it contacts the soil
  • water it in and watch where the water goes
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  • This is great info, thanks. One thing I'm not sure about--yall are saying soil shouldn't touch brick but as far as I can tell, it's brick all the way down. As in, the walls of my basement are made of brick. Is this a problem for what I'm trying to do? (I'll have no problem avoiding touching siding. The siding starts a few feet above the ground right now.) Jun 19 at 8:49
  • @user3752935 now we are moving away from the theoretical, can you post a picture? Is this an old home? Does it have a basement? Home Improvement at diy.stackexchange.com might be a better fit for this question
    – kevinskio
    Jun 19 at 11:55

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