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Grading around house by hand: grading rake or something better?

etting | Posted in General Questions on

Without using power equipment, I want to grade basically flat ground so that it slopes down 6″ in 10′ all around the perimeter of my 48’x20′ house.   I would generally be using the 3″ of soil I remove from the outer half of the 10′ to build up 3″ on the half closer to the house.  The soil isn’t particularly hard or sticky, and there isn’t much vegetation or organic matter, as it’s basically desert soil.  I graded a small test area with a standard hoe, and it worked, but of course very slowly.   Would a “grading rake” be the best tool, is there a significant difference between it and a “landscape rake,” and roughly how many times faster than a hoe would one or the other be?  I’m determined not to use power equipment, including a tiller; I don’t mind the exercise–as long as I’m not out there for tens of hours.

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  1. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #1

    A thin layer of dirt from a large area is a lot of dirt.

    A 48x20 house has 136 feet of permiter. A 10' band has an area of 1360 square feet, plus a 10x10 box in each corner so 1760 square feet. In the outer half your taking off an average of 1.5 inches of dirt -- 3 inches at one end and 0 at the other -- so your taking off an average of .75 inches, or 1/16 of a foot. So you have to move 110 cubic feet of dirt. A cubic foot of dirt is about 90 pounds so about 10,000 pounds of dirt.

    Rather than raking, what I would recommend is digging it up into a wheelbarrow and moving it that way. I can comfortably move about 200 lbs in a wheelbarrow, which is the amount from about 3.5 feet of perimeter. If I wanted to do a really pro job, here's what I would do: I'd get three 2x4's, 10' long, and some stakes. I'd stake out two 2x4's perpendicular to the house and ten feet apart, following the grade line I was trying to establish. I would dig up three wheelbarrow loads of dirt at the bottom and dump them at the top. Then I would use a rake to get the area roughly level with the top of the 2x4's, and finally use the third 2x4 to screed the top and get the area perfect. Then move one of the guide 2x4's to the next section and repeat, about 14 times.

    To set the slope on the guide 2x4's I would use a 4' level and attach a piece of wood 2.4 inches thick to one end. When that is resting on the guide and the bubble shows it is level the grade is correct.

  2. etting | | #2

    Thank you for the detailed and interesting ideas, DCContrarian. Raking does avoid having to lift the dirt, though, and for me at least, it makes it easier to avoid overdigging.

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