I am going to get a new shed but first I need the base. I have purchased a plastic grid base system, I have measured out the area and have cleared the turf on top.

Now, I am coming a bit stuck on the best way to ensure that the ground is level before I start constructing.

I have heard of laying gravel down and raking, but this is extra cost and I would like to attempt levelling the Earth base first.

At the moment I just have a pointed spade and a spirit level that is too short :-)

The issue I see is that the ground is a bit lumpy in places so will need to perhaps take from some the lumpy bits to place in the lower bits, but how can I know the places to take from to ensure a proper base?

  • 1
    See diy.stackexchange.com/a/52671/18078 and buy a (stone, or landscape, not leaf) rake. A solid steel non-flexible rake with short sturdy teeth. The "grade" you are looking for is "level" in this case, but you'll want to grade away from the shed around it to prevent water problems.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 12:47
  • Thanks for the pointers @Ecnerwal. I tried levelling with soil alone by displacing from one area to another and got 80% of the way there. I had already bought gravel in order to fill the grid and used some bags to get the extra 20% of the way... Well, it's not 100% but it's good enough for a 6x4 shed!
    – physicsboy
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 14:26
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    I used the iron rake as described @Ecnerwal for my sandy native soil. I doubt it is critical for a shed; Mine is 8 X 12 and no problem in 20 years. Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 16:14
  • 2
    It's not worth an answer - but if your spirit level isn't long enough, buy a length of wood which is. Gravel boards are long, cheap, and if you put them narrow side up then they don't bend.
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 21:45
  • 1
    You can buy a 2x4 or metal conduit that is close to the width of your shed and just set the level on that, and then level that thing. From there you can tell if the ground below it is level or not, depending on if the ground is in contact with the 2x4 or conduit pole across its entire length or if there are any high/low points.
    – TylerH
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


Set stakes around the proposed site for the shed, attach string lines/wires, and make sure they are level. Then measure the distance between the string line and the ground periodically, and make sure the distances measured remain the same. Done.

enter image description here

  • 3
    Just to add, anywhere you put down fresh soil (or that moved from elsewhere) will likely compress over time, no matter how much you try to pat it down. That's where gravel comes in handy, as you can throw it over the top, but it won't really compress. Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 21:54
  • 2
    Just a little addition - To make sure strings between stakes are level, one can use length of transparent hose filled with water. Put it in an wide U shape, with vertical parts next to stakes. Water level at both ends will be at the same height. Add or remove water as needed, and for best accuracy measure all stakes from central stake (even if you'll remove it later).
    – Mołot
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 22:19

When I did this a few years ago I used an old fence post (that wasn't warped) and a large spirit level. I would rest the fence post flat on the ground and use the spirit level to check it really was flat. When it wasn't flat, I tried to dig away soil to make it flat, rather than add back soil. If I did have to add back soil I ensured I tamped it down as well as I could.

Moving the fence post about, ensuring it was flat in both directions, worked fairly well. In my opinion, much easier than using stakes and string. I also used a plastic base (filled with gravel) and three years later the shed is still standing strong!


You can make a water level from a couple of yard/meter sticks and a length of clear vinyl tubing. The difference in height between any two points is the difference in the water level on the measuring sticks. These require two people to use, but they can be as long as you need.

Image from Permaculture News, attributed by that site to Lake of the Ozarks Permaculture, but that link is broken for me:

enter image description here

If you're moving earth around, be sure to thoroughly tamp the areas you fill in to ensure they won't settle further.

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