Grading is an important part of construction that involves leveling your ground to a certain height. It is necessary for you to be able to make foundations for buildings, landscape, and install drainage and water systems – without it, you will end up with an unstable build or mismatching landscaping that can be a pain to try and fix later.
So how do you avoid this problem?
You make sure that your grading is efficient and done properly the first time around.
But grading can be tricky, especially with smaller construction equipment like a skid steer. However, once you get the hang of it, grading your desired area with a skid steer will become easy and feel natural to you.
If you are just starting out learning how to grade with a skid steer, then here are some instructions, hints and tips that will help you become proficient with operating a skid steer. This way, you will be grading your yards in no time at all.
Step One: Read Grade
Before you do anything, you need to find out what grade you want to set your area to.
To do this, you will need to run a laser or use a leveling rod to work out. Whichever method you choose, you will need to know exactly how much earth you have to remove or add to achieve your desired grade.
With your grade readings in hand, you will then know if you need to import extra soil to elevate your grade or hire a dump truck in advance to remove sod.
Reading grade can be tricky so some people may skip this step altogether if their grading job is relatively easy and they only have a few bumps to smooth out. Grading with a skid steer can be done by eye but it is not recommended, especially if you have a lot of grading to do.
Step Two: Prepare Your Area
Now you are itching to get into your skid steer, there is something else you need to do before grading an area. That is that you need to make sure that your area is ready to start grading.
This means making sure your worksite is sectioned off so no pedestrians, animals or other vehicles can come and disturb your grading and undo all of your hard work. Clear the area of any weeks, grass, trees, and rocks so all you will have to work with is plain dirt.
You will want to clear an area ready for your sod piles. These are the piles of earth and dirt you will be removing from your desired area so you will end up with a smooth even surface. All of the earth you remove will have to go somewhere, but for now – you will pile it away from your worksite in a sod pile.
Sod piles should be formed in a convenient location close to your area that is easy to access, otherwise you will only be wasting your time going back and forth with buckets full of dirt.
Some people may rent a dump trailer in advance if they have nowhere convenient to put their waste, so this may be something you will want to look into before you start grading.
Step Three: Start Cutting The Grade
Once all the debris and grass is gone, you should be able to walk around your area and see where there are bumps and dips. Some parts will be flatter than others, and this will probably be the grade you want to level your area to.
If you want to elevate your whole area above grade, then you will need to have imported some extra soil. However, if you only have a few dips to fill in, you can use the sod you will remove from the bumps to fill them in – so don’t get rid of those sod piles just yet. They may come in handy.
So with your grade readings in hand, you should start cutting the grade.
Get in your skid steer and start in an area that is close to the grade you desire. Lower the bucket attachment on your skid steer to shave off any bumps. Do a little at a time because if you go too below grade, you will only create a hole you will eventually need to fill in again.
Do a rough cut of the whole area, shaving away any excess dirt in an early attempt to flatten the area to one level surface.
Step Four: Shoot Grade Elevations
If you need to elevate your yard to your desired grade, then you will need to install benchmarks so you know what level you are raising your grade too.
This means using a leveling rod and a builders transit to get the right measurements, marking your benchmark on a stake and installing them so you can see where you need to fill and elevate your area. This will help guide you in elevating your grade to the correct level.
Also, make sure you install silt fencing in the areas you are elevating so rubble and debris won’t escape. Otherwise, you will just be going around in circles trying to elevate your area to your desired grade.
Once that’s done, you should be able to fill the dips in correctly to the right elevation.
Step Five: Final Checks and Grading
When you think you are done, get out of your skid street and check your whole area. Take measurements, compare them and see if your area is perfectly uniform in level.
If not, see what you’ve got to do and make some final adjustments with your skid steer. Use a 4 in 1 bucket attachment and adjust it so the front is a little higher than the back so you can scrape the grade using the back blade.
By working slowly and carefully, you will reduce your chances of making any mistakes. Have a second opinion check your work to be sure before you can carry on with your constructions. If given the thumbs up, keep your measurements – they may come in handy further down the line.
With that done, you should have a nice even piece of land that is perfectly flat to your desired grade!
And that is all you need to know about grading using a skid steer!
Go through each step carefully and slowly as rushing a grading job can lead to disastrous consequences.
It is up to you if you want to grade by eye but if you are working on a professional job, you will probably need to take readings so you can pass that information on to your customer.
But overall, grading a simple yard area is very easy to do once you know what you are doing. We hope this guide has given you a clear idea of what to do and in what order. Good luck!