How To Level A Yard With A Bobcat

A Bobcat Loader is another ‘jack of all trades’ machines in agriculture. It can do everything from land levelling to lifting, light excavation, ground preparation, and debris removal. They’re extremely powerful and versatile machines that can do far more than simply dig soil, especially when coupled with the right attachments.

If you are trying to level a small backyard then you may not need to use a bobcat, as it’s a large machine best suited to bigger jobs. But if you have a very large yard or need to level a huge expanse of land, a bobcat will make the job much easier. (That said, if you have a small backyard type project and you already own a Bobcat, well…)

How To Level Soil With A Bobcat

Site Preparation

The majority of municipalities will require you to build ‘silt fencing’ around the perimeter of your grading operation. A typical fence is a 3′-0″ high consisting of tiny timber posts or metal stakes.

A silt fence fabric, such as Geotex, is used on one side of the barrier. Leave some slack fabric at the bottom of the fence and draw it into the grading area, covering it with a small earth mound.


Your work area and condition will vary with the job. Your land could have little more than low grass and weeds, or massive rocks, heavy brush, and trees. Most of the clearing work can be done using handheld equipment if you’re only dealing with low vegetation.

Heavy machinery is required for the removal of boulders, shrubs, and trees. A small excavator, bulldozer, or backhoe can handle that work.

Get Trucks In To Remove Dirt

When the earth is moulded, a large mound of soil, also known as surplus dirt, is created, which must be removed from the site. A 10-yard dump truck might suffice if you’re clearing and grading a small area, such as a backyard for a single-family home.

Make sure that when you are removing dirt that you place the surplus pile near to the truck so it can be easily loaded and transported away.

back of a skid steer driving down a gravel road

Alternatively, your site may require the importing of many tonnes of dirt to enhance the slope and fill up low areas. Calculate your needs and make preparations for imported soil to be delivered. It will be necessary to ‘backfill’ and raise the grade with prepared material that can compact appropriately.

Don’t make the mistake of only ordering topsoil. Over-relying on the topsoil to the neglect of more appropriate base materials will result in an unstable grade. Only utilize topsoil for the top 2-8″ of your grade. 2″ of topsoil is necessary for grass, whereas 8″ is required for flower beds.

Mark Out Utility Lines

The last thing you want to do is dig into (and risk cutting) a water main as this will not only pause work but also annoy your neighbors. It’s best to call in the utility companies, who will visit the site and mark any areas where their lines are laid so you can avoid them.

Cutting The Grade

This is where the bobcat comes in. Initially, by eyeballing the grade as you work, you can shave out bumps and irregularities. Begin near the ideal gradient on a level surface area. Lower the bucket until it’s only a few inches from the ground, then adjust it so the bottom is parallel to the ground.

Slowly make your way forward and begin cutting into the high spots. When your machine hits a certain threshold, it will almost certainly bog down. Simply take a step back, raise the bucket, and keep going. Repeat until the high spot has been shaved adequately.

Check Grade Elevations

After you’ve cleared the site and rough cut the grade, the next step is too ‘shoot’ grade elevations and set some grade stakes in the ground to help you with the rest of the grading procedure. A ‘levelling rod’ and a ‘builder’s transit’ should be used.

Many builders employ ‘laser transits’, although they require a little more knowledge and skill. The only disadvantage of using a ‘builder’s transit’ is that someone will have to hold the levelling rod while you look through the scope.

Establish A Benchmark

Your benchmark could be for example; the home’s inner floor, the foundation’s top level, the patio’s top level, and so on. Your ultimate grade will be higher, lower, or equal to the benchmark measurement. You may then shoot grades all over your work area to observe where dirt needs to be added or removed after you’ve set it up.

Measure And Record Benchmark

Hold the levelling rod on top of the bench mark, look at it through the builder’s glasses, and have an assistant take the measurement. Then have an assistant walk the grading area with you, and hold the levelling rod, while you take more measurements.

The measurement will be higher than the benchmark if more earth needs to be added, and it will be lower if more soil has to be removed. Mark the difference in inches with a stake in the ground where the levelling rod was held.

For example, if your leveling rod’s benchmark measurement is 2′-6″ and your grade must be 6″ lower, your benchmark grade measurement will be 3′-0″. Any region of the grade higher than 3′-0″ will require soil addition, whereas any measurement less than 3′-0″ necessitates grade cutting.

Final Grade

Most bobcats come equipped with ‘four-in-one’ buckets. This simplifies the process of determining the final grade. To do this, open the bucket with the front slightly higher than the back. This will allow you to scrape the grade with the back blade.

This approach of using the bucket allows you to ‘plane’ the grade while keeping a good view of the situation. Slowly move forward, making little modifications to the bucket as necessary. You can also reverse the bucket in this position to spread soil and scrape.

Now you’re in business! It will take a bit of time, but if you use this method you can expect a completely level yard.


Bobcats are a very useful piece of machinery if you need to clear or level a large area of land. They can also be used to remove trees and other large things from the area, making landscaping much easier.  

Ryan Genkin
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