Ask a question

The Bunnings Workshop community can help with your home improvement projects.

How to level my backyard and restore the lawn?

Just Starting Out

How to level my backyard and restore the lawn?

Hi team


I was hoping someone can help me with a project I've been putting off since I moved into my first home! The goal is to remove the old grass, level the ground, install new grass (Sir Walter Buffalo for its shade tolerance and low maintenance) and fix a sloping fence (Photo 1).


Our backyard is a rectangle 5m x 10m (Photos 1 & 2).


I have a small dog and would prefer methods that take less time and that aren't poisonous to him so he can enjoy being outside! But I also appreciate that this might not be practical for this project. I’m also fine with some manual labour!


Removing Old Grass

Our grass has always been really patchy and the ground very uneven (Photos 1-5). There's also an area which doesn't get any direct sunlight which makes it muddy after rain (Photos 4, 6 & 8).


I've looked at different ways to make the ground even from using machines to remove the grass and then hiring out big tools to compact the ground to doing it by hand - and it's overwhelming to be honest!


I was thinking of:

  • Testing the soil’s PH level
  • Checking with Before You Dig
  • Removing any weeds with Fiskars 4 Prongs Xact Weed Puller - Can’t use chemicals poisonous to pets 
  • Mowing the lawn on the lowest setting - though the uneven ground usually means the grass won't be evenly cut!
  • Maybe using a Sacrifier
  • Watering the grass to make digging it up easier (unless it was recently raining)
  • Using a flat shovel to turn the grass into strips that can be rolled up
  • Cutting the strips in small sections by pushing the shovel beneath the grass and lifting

Does this sound right? I've got some questions:

  • Is using a Scarifier necessary? I've read about other people using one for similar work and that it could help with the area that's usually damp
  • Once the grass is removed and there's just soil, what should I do to make sure there's no grass or weeds remaining before installing the new grass?
  • Should I wait before preparing to install the new grass? If so, why and how long?


Levelling Ground + Fixing Tilting Fence

Our backyard has divots, is slightly slopped and has areas that sink near the back neighbour's fence (Photo 1, area covered by tiles because the ground sinks underneath the sleeper, photo 8). The ground is also not level with the wooden sleepers used to separate the side of the house (Photos 3 & 5, small hole on the left courtesy of my cheeky pup) and those under the fence with our back neighbour.


Our biggest issue with this unevenness is that the fence with our back neighbour has started to tilt towards us in one area and we've needed to prop it up (Photo 1, thanks chairs!)! I think it's because their backyard is lower than ours by a bit, which is why there are wooden sleepers (which have gaps) beneath the fence.


An annoying part of our backyard is that one area just always stays muddy, even days after a rain. I think it's because this area gets no direct sunlight. I'm hoping that levelling the ground and adding topsoil might help with this problem, but I think a garden drain / French drain might be needed in the future (Photos 4, 6, 7 & 8). 


I was thinking of:

  • Using string and stakes to indicate the height of the soil. I was hoping for this to be the bottom of the back fence above the wooden sleepers, but that may be too high given the height of the side fence (Photos 1, 2 & 9)
  • Adding topsoil up to string height - though the gap above and beneath some sleepers on the back fence might cause some dirt to fall into the neighbour’s yard (which is lower than ours). My hope is that the extra soil will stop the fence from tilting
  • Using a spreader to even the ground
  • Sprinkling wetting agent then fertiliser then watering the ground

A  couple of questions:

  • Do you think the height (bottom part of back fence, above sleepers) is too high?
  • Is there something I can add to the fence sleepers to make sure the fresh topsoil doesn't spill into the neighbour's yard? I think the builders added some cement to the poles when installing the fence so I don’t think I can adjust the height of them. If possible, something not wooden
  • Is there something else I can do to stop the fence from tilting?
  • Would I need to rent a compacting machine or other tool to manually compact the ground or is using a spreader enough?


Laying the Grass

Once everything else is set, I would lay Sir Walter Buffalo grass following the Bunnings 'How to lay turf' DIY guide.


Thanks for reading!



Photo 1


Photo 2


Photo 3


Photo 4


Photo 5


Photo 6


Photo 7


Photo 8


Photo 9



Bunnings Team Member
Bunnings Team Member

Re: Levelling backyard and replacing grass

Welcome to the Bunnings Workshop community @mk101. It's fabulous to have you join us, and many thanks for your question about restoring a lawn.


That's a fair bit to unpack there, so I can see why you've been putting it off. There are essentially four tasks there that are relatively independent of each other: Fixing the fence, removing the current lawn, levelling the ground and re-turfing. I recommend you focus on fixing the fence first, as it shouldn't be leaning over and possibly indicates that insufficient concrete footers were used to install the posts.


You could start by propping the post/fence back upright or slightly towards the neighbour's side and doing an exploratory dig around the concrete footer. It would be best to speak with the neighbour and inform them that the fence is tilting to your side. Once you've exposed the top of the footer, you'll be able to check the size of it. If it's quite small, you could remove some soil around it, fill the new hole with water, pour in Quick-set Concrete, and mix. The idea is to increase the volume of concrete around the footer to prevent it from subsiding and allowing the fence to tilt over. Once the concrete is dry, you can remove the props and check if the fence is still able to tilt over. If it does, you might need to re-prop the fence and install some additional posts.


For removing the lawn and levelling the yard, I'd be inclined not to remove the lawn if you feel the yard needs to be compacted. First, your cheeky pup will need to be isolated from the area; if for no other reason, then the area will be a bit of a mess for the next couple of weeks. Start by spraying the whole lawn with Eco-Organic Garden 1L Slasher Organic Weedkiller Concentrate, as this will kill the weeds and, most likely, the lawn. This safe-to-use organic weedkiller is suitable for veggie patches, so there is no risk of poisoning you or the pooch. I'd just keep them off the area while your project progresses. After waiting a few days for it to take effect, you can compact the yard to even the soil. After this, get a bulk order of topsoil, spread it out over the surface, and level it across the yard. Do not compact this topsoil, and it's what your new grass will be growing in. You'll then be free to lay your turf.


You could remove all the existing weeds and lawn by hand, but this is going to be a considerable amount of work. It's arguable that removing the current lawn would benefit the new lawn; however, if the ground needs compacting, then the benefits are reduced.


In answer to a few of your questions:


  • If you are removing the lawn, I don't believe weeding it first would be a good use of time. The weeds will be removed when you remove the lawn.


  • I don't believe scarifying the existing lawn will help your project.


  • The extra soil on its own will most likely not solve your tilting fence issues; I'd fix that separately.


  • Your back fence being above soil level is fairly standard. I'd recommend using H4 plinths to fill any remaining gaps.


  • You might need to install drainage to resolve any water that is saturating the lawn and causing muddy sections.


Here are some helpful guides:





Please let me know if you have questions.




See something interesting? Give it the thumbs up!

Why join the Bunnings Workshop community?

Workshop is a friendly place to learn, get ideas and find inspiration for your home improvement projects