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I'm a first time homeowner, and when we moved in we were told we'd need to regrade our house. I am deciding whether doing it myself or hiring someone is a better decision, and the following list summarizes my considerations.

  • How often do I need to regrade the ground around my house?
  • If it's every year (yikes!) or even every few years, then I want to do it myself so I can save the money on contractors that I'll need to hire year after year.
  • If it's less frequently (every ~10 years) then I think it's in my budget to hire someone to do it.

Any guidance or considerations that you can give me would be very helpful.

EDIT: here are some requested pictures.

Front Right Front Right Right Side From Front Right Side From Back Back Side Left Side From Back Left Side From Front Front Side from Left

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Where approximately is the house located? What kind of climate? What kind of hills, foliage, trees, and drainage? – wallyk Mar 28 at 18:01
    
Let me know if pictures are appropriate for this site, I'd be happy to provide them. I live in Pittsburgh, and I live on top of a hill, a couple hundred feet above sea level. There are trees that surround my neighborhood, and there's two in my backyard, and two decorative trees in my front yard. Pittsburgh has hotter summers (80-90's Farenheit) and colder winters (single digits a few times and below freezing frequently). 36.1 inches of rainfall/year, and as far as I know there is good drainage. There is a nice slope from my yard into the street, and I haven't had problems with flooding. – John Carpenter Mar 28 at 18:13
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Thanks. Photos are welcome. – wallyk Mar 28 at 18:23
    
Great, I'll get those when I get home. – John Carpenter Mar 28 at 18:54
    
No one can answer this without seeing your house - we need pictures of front, back, and sides. This answer can be - yearly or almost never. – DMoore Mar 28 at 18:54
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Only re-grade if you're getting water intrusion or even a damp musty basement condition. If neither of those yet, then don't do anything. Otherwise, re-grading is a good deal of work, but quite simple in procedure with just a shovel.

Dig a shovel depth trench at least 6-feet away from the house that pitches down toward the street or into the back yard. What comes out of the trench goes against the house & then you widen the trench toward the house while digging more & more shallow to achieve pitching away from the house.

The Gas Meter (may be the picture angle), Front & Driveway sides all look good. The patio should be ripped out & redone with a properly pitched concrete slab, re-grading would be part of that job by default. But really, only the AC's side would need to be re-graded at any point or in your lifetime. But, put elbows on your gutter downspouts, they aren't helping matters at all.

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Regrading isn't typically a recurrent necessity. It may be needed shortly after a home is built, and maybe again a few years later. However, eventually the soil becomes compacted to the same degree that the undisturbed adjacent soil is, and that's more or less the end of the story. Then it's a matter of whether rainwater flows adequately away from the foundation.

Simply put, it varies by home, depending on home age, roof design, soil type, contractor technique, climate, ant proliferation, and other factors. There are no rules of thumb or other guidelines.

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Thanks for your answer. Do you think these answers could be answered by a contractor that I ask for a quote? Should I trust what a contractor would say? – John Carpenter Mar 28 at 17:40
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You can expect any contractor (even honest ones) to propose some amount of preventative regrading. I would look at what happens when it rains and use that as a basis for your quote requests. – isherwood Mar 28 at 18:10
    
Thanks again for your answer. Some people recommended that I post pictures, and that might provide more information. Based on the pictures, do you have any other advice or general wisdom? – John Carpenter Mar 30 at 22:32

Generally speaking you should be watching out for any areas next to the foundation where water is pooling due to compaction or erosion, and if this is the case, add some dirt in order to grade it away from you house.

But in terms of fully re-grading your lot or doing anything other than a few shovels full of dirt, in most jurisdictions you would require a permit and surveyor drawings in order to do so. Municipalities take grading very seriously as it is how they control water run off. It is something they have planned as part of the overall development. While doing something like adding a raised patio might seem benign to you, it can have serious consequences if it directs water into a neighbours yard as an example.

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Interesting. The person that inspected our home just mentioned that there wasn't enough grading away from the house. From what I've read you need at least 2-3 inches of grading per 10 feet. This is the sort of work that we need to do. This is quite a lot of dirt, but I'm not sure if this would be something I would need to do frequently. – John Carpenter Mar 28 at 17:39
    
If you are restoring the grade to what is spec'd you should be ok, but changing it can be a problem. If in doubt best to call your municipality to see if there are any restrictions. Speaking from experience, asking for forgiveness after-the-fact doesn't work well with governments. – Steven Mar 28 at 19:08

Hmm, judging by the pictures you posted, it doesn't actually look like you need to do a lot of regrading. The only place it appears the lawn slopes towards you house is along the side with the AC unit. Especially if you're near the top of the hill, you aren't getting a lot of runoff.

In terms of grading it yourself, it's completely doable, but it's going to be a few weekends of shovel-work, plus re-seeding the lawn.

From my experience (working for a landscape contractor a few years, and ownership of one house in the pacific northwest) you'd be better off installing a french/curtain drain along the one side that slopes towards your house, and keeping an eye on any standing water during the rainy season.

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