How to Level a Bumpy and Uneven Lawn

If you’ve ever looked out at your yard and thought, “Wow, this could use some work,” then chances are you’re not alone. A lot of homeowners have lawns that are bumpy, uneven, or just plain unsightly.

When it comes to keeping a lawn looking its best, one of the most important steps is leveling it. A level lawn not only looks nicer, but also helps to ensure proper drainage and growth. If your lawn is bumpy and uneven, it can also be a real pain to mow and tough on your lawnmower blades.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to level out a bumpy lawn, so before you call in the professionals, try these few things yourself and make your yard look good as new. So, whether your lawn is bumpy because of pesky tree roots, or it’s just plain uneven from being neglected for years, read on for tips on how to fix it up.

Causes For An Uneven Lawn

Before you even think about fixing your lawn, you need to know the reason why it is bumpy and uneven in the first place. Otherwise, you could be right back where you started in a few years time.

There can be many causes of an uneven lawn, and we’ve listed a few of those causes here, as well as how they affect your lawn over time.

Pets and Children

It’s wonderful to have your children and/or your pets running around your back yard. After all, that’s one of the main reasons you get a yard, isn’t it? However, both children and pets can be causes for an uneven lawn.

When the dirt is wet and children are playing in it, there’s a lot of weight and pressure being put on the grass. This isn’t just bad for the grass’ health; it will also have long-term consequences for the surface.

Animals can cause even worse damage due to their propensity for digging and scratching up the surface of the grass. These holes could then freeze or fill with water, and become permanent fixtures of your landscape, and can cause deeper impacts for the areas surrounding them.

Native Wildlife

There are more animals out there in your neighborhood than just your own pets. Some of them, like foxes, deer, or squirrels, can cause issues by digging holes or trampling through your lawn. Some are burrowing animals, like moles or ground hogs, that can do considerably more harm by digging throughout the entire underground structure of your soil.

Ants can cause considerable damage as well. If these critters are your main problem, we have some advice as to how to get rid of ants in your backyard, as well as a list of the best outdoor ant killers for your lawn and garden.


Giant earth worms, also known as night crawlers, can be a real pain when attempting to grow your grass. These small but efficient critters may move 20 to 25 tons of soil per acre each year up to the surface. The best way to prevent this from becoming an issue is to keep the soil’s pH level low.


Water sitting for long periods of time on your lawn is never a good thing.

Bumps and depressions might be the consequence of drainage concerns, or even damaged water or irrigation pipes causing erosion. If you have any concerns regarding low areas, check to see if anything is leaking around water or drainage pipes. If required, seek the help of a professional.

Erosion is also a common result of sprinkler systems, as are water lines that are prone to breakage and the entire system that requires routine maintenance. Check that the spray heads and rotors are functioning properly and popping up to their full height, that the nozzles aren’t clogged or damaged, and that the heads aren’t leaking.

Soil Settlement

Another typical reason for a bumpy lawn is the soil or ground settling. It is largely unavoidable that ground settling will occur over time, causing depressions or bumps in your lawn, and particularly if your lawn is new or if you’ve recently had heavy equipment on it. In cold-winter climates, cyclical freezing and defrosting can aggravate this, and cause heaves and sinks in the ground and therefore leaving it uneven. These bumps often can appear in the spring, owing to the uneven thawing of clay soil. It rises and makes waves in your grass, much like a wrinkled carpet.

Benefits of a Level Yard

It is definitely in your best interest to have an even, flat lawn, but why is that? What are the benefits that come with it? Well, it’s not exactly about benefits, but more about avoiding the disadvantages of having a bumpy lawn.

For example, safety. It’s difficult to enjoy a yard that is littered with lumps and bumps, and active children who might trip on clumps of grass or twist their ankles in soil depressions may be at risk.

Also, landscaping projects such as adding a walking path or pool installation might cause an uneven yard, and can wreak havoc on the ground. The soil in these areas should be leveled to ensure that all grasses and plants get enough water to avoid muddy depressions or water wastage.

If the ground is level, it makes regular lawn care more simple. The mower doesn’t get caught on lumps, and raking leaves is considerably easier. A level, beautiful lawn is easy to maintain and can also significantly enhance curb appeal for potential home purchasers.

When To Level A Lawn

Schedule your repairs ahead of time. For example, with minor repairs, you can aim to complete them in the spring. This will allow your grass to grow, as well as supply the moisture required for the soil to set.

However, there are disadvantages to leveling a lawn in the spring as well. Because of the snow-melt, the earth is generally quite soft, which might lead to new bumps if there’s too much traffic.

Do not attempt to level your lawn when the grass is dormant in the winter.

Preparing To Level Your Lawn

If your lawn is indeed uneven and you’ve determined the root cause of it, now it’s time to get to work. First you have to prepare your lawn for leveling, because you can’t just walk over it stamping out the bumps.

Check Low Spots And Drainage

Before you go on, seek expert help if there are any low areas are appearing around water pipes. If drainage concerns are discovered, it is suggested that the grass be re-graded as well as leveling and constructing a sloping surface away from the home to aid drainage and avoid flooding. An underground drainage system can also be constructed using gravel or flexible piping.

Pre-water your lawn for leveling

It’s critical to water the lawn several days before you intend to level it so that the soil isn’t too hard, dry, or fluffy when you make the adjustments. However, it’s also important not to overwater since soggy soil can be just as difficult to manage as overly dry soil.

What Is Topdressing?

Topdressing is the practice of spreading a thin layer of finely graded sand or dirt over the top of grass and working it down toward the roots. It can assist with thatch, weeds, and lawn diseases. Topdressing is a fantastic method to smooth out the surface of your lawn without having to lift or re-turf it. Just cover the topdressing material in your yard with a broom or rake before working it into the grass with a rake or shovel.

A top dressing for your lawn may be a sand or a sand-soil mix. Pure sand is the quickest and simplest option for leveling. Sand is a great support and leveling material, aids drainage, and can adhere to the clay in the soil. Although, if you add too much sand, your grass will become dry and thirsty because the water will slip through it.

Sand-soil mixes, on the other hand, are available in a number of formulations, or you may mix your own. The usual combination is 30% soil or organic compost and 70% sand. This compost/soil mix also provides nutrients and helpful microorganisms that your lawn requires, whereas sand alone does not provide any nutritional value or microbial benefit.

The greatest top dressing for your application should be determined by the condition of your existing soil – which a soil test may help you determine – as well as the amount of leveling you’ve done. If you need to over-seed parts of your lawn after leveling, use a soil mix to help the seeds germinate. Sand is the best choice for those who are just leveling and don’t care about nutrients.

How To Level An Uneven Lawn With Shallow Bumps

For the tiniest of bumps – like an inch or less – it’s feasible to flatten them with your foot during the spring months when the ground is moist. You can also use a water-filled roller by filling a third of the roller with water and go back and forth over the grass. If the surface hasn’t smoothed out after a few applications of water, add a bit more and repeat the procedure until the surface is level. However, be cautious not to overdo it; compaction caused by excess rolling may lead to additional issues.

If your lawn is uneven due to small – .5 inch to 1 inch – holes rather than bumps, then use topdressing. The top dressing can be applied directly to problem areas by shaking out a thin layer over the issue region and distributing it evenly with a garden rake until it is entirely filled out and level.

Stamp down and compact the dirt with your feet and the flat side of the rake. Water lightly to aid compaction and allow it to settle. Allow a few days for the grass seed to germinate before watering. If there are any low areas after it has settled, another application may be made, and simply repeat this procedure until they are evened out.

Leveling An Uneven Lawn With Deeper Bumps

If your yard is more than just an inch or so uneven or bumpy, then you’ll need to take more drastic measures. Here are the steps to follow.

First, determine which portions of the lawn need to be leveled. This will assist you in avoiding over-excavation. It is far less expensive to reseed areas that need additional seeding than it is to reseed your entire lawn.

#1 – Mow the lawn.

Use your lawn mower to trim your grass, and trim shorter than you normally would after mowing. Then walk around and find areas with grooves, bumps, or ridges after mowing. You can identify these locations with flags or rocks so they’re easier to see.

#2 – Examine Thatch Level

Take a closer look at your grass roots to see the amount of thatch on your lawn. Thatch is a layer of decaying grass and other organic matter that grows at the bottom of the topsoil. Acceptable levels of thatch are approximately ¼ to ½ of an inch, but any more will prevent the grass from getting enough air and water.

If you have more than half an inch of thatch, remove it by using a thatch rake to pull it up in one sweep, or loosen it significantly at the very least. If your lawn is big, you may use a de-thatcher to prepare it, and you can rent de-thatching machines from most local home improvement stores.

#3 – Use Topdressing To Fill In Sunken Parts

If you have any low areas or holes deeper than 2 or 3 inches, remove the grass covering them before filling the divots. Use a shovel’s blade to dig up sod by digging around a low place and sliding it down and under about 2 or 3 inches to get below the grass roots, and follow that by prying up the grass with the shovel to expose the dirt beneath.

Then turn over the soil using a garden fork, removing any large stones and breaking down any big clumps, and compact the soil quickly with your feet so that there’s less chance of it sinking again after.

Fill the hole with your top dressing mixtures to level with the surroundings, then rake over it to break down the soil before folding the turf flaps back down on top of it.

#4 – Even Out The Soil And Lawn

When the lowest-lying areas have been filled, use a shovel to distribute the top-dressing mixture over your entire lawn to a depth of about ¼ to ½ inch. Even if you think your grass needs more than that depth to even out, a thicker layer might suffocate your grass, so err on the side of caution and keep it thin. After the entire process, you may also need to add a second coat if required.

Then, using the back of a bow rake, distribute the top-dressing cover equally over the grass by pulling and pushing it about, working the mix into gradual low areas and pockets. The grass will suffocate from lack of light if the blades are completely covered, so follow up with another push broom to work the mix into the soil at the base of the grass and expose it to the sun.

A wooden 2×4 and a spirit level may be used to assess the grade and level of the lawn after you’ve completed all necessary tasks. Lawn seed may be sprinkled on any gaps in the lawn to hide and fill them.

#5 – Water

The next step is to thoroughly water the dressed lawn. Water your grass to assist the top-dressing mixture settle into the grass and fill any air pockets. Running your lawn sprinklers will also revitalize your lawn since it will jump-start the supply of nutrients from the compost in the mix.

However, we don’t recommend doing this project right after a big rain. The soil will be thick and wet, making it difficult to manage.

#6 – Reapply Topdressing If Necessary

Look for water drainage or standing water in puddles after a few waterings. To completely smooth out your grass, you may need more than one application of topdressing. Once you notice the grass beginning to actively grow, apply the second layer as described in steps 4 and 5.


If you’re tired of walking on an uneven lawn, but don’t want to spend money on leveling it out with a professional company, there are some key steps that anyone can take. When deciding how to level your yard at home, check for low spots and drainage issues first so they don’t get worse over time.

Additionally, when you’re working on your lawn, it’s also important not to rush through these steps; taking your time is crucial when trying to fix sunken parts in your yard.

We hope this article helped you make your lawn look more like a professional landscaper and less like an amateur made it! Happy landscaping!

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Written by Linda Chan
Linda Chan is a passionate gardener and writer with a background in horticulture and landscape design. She has over 10 years of experience working in the lawn care industry and has a deep understanding of the science and art of keeping a lawn healthy and beautiful.