Civil Engineering Grading Plan


Grading is an important phase in construction since it influences the project’s success. Besides, construction results can vary widely if grading isn’t done properly. It can cause improper drainage or cause the groundwater to create structural problems. All these factors will have negative impacts on the environment.

Therefore, it’s important to create and implement a site grading plan for your project. Before you get there though, it’s good to understand the basics of site grading. This will help you avoid any potential setback, ensuring your project is completed successfully.

In this guide, we’ll take you all the basics of construction grading. So, let’s get right into it!

What’s grading?

Every construction site needs some preparation before the actual construction commences. Some of these preparation activities are grading and land leveling. In general, grading involves sculpting the construction site to meet the needs of a certain project. The main objective of this activity is to protect the machines being used on the site from damage. Also, grading ensures that the site has proper drainage while providing the desired property’s aesthetics.

Other objectives of grading in site improvement include;

  • Establish allowable depth and height of fills, swales, and cuts
  • Comply with regulatory requirements and zoning restrictions
  • Protect the environment from potential pollutants, erosion, and stormwater runoff.

Typically, grading consists of a blueprint that displays the desired aesthetics of the site. However, this plan must be compliant with the regulatory requirements and restrictions from the municipality.

Advantages of grading in construction

Grading acts both as a preventive and preparatory step in the construction process. Nonetheless, it has many benefits, which includes;

First, properly graded construction sites help to prevent erosion. Moreover, effective grading prevents water buildup by creating proper drainage channels.

Improper grading causes water runoff to move towards the building instead of being directed away. As a result, water will accumulate under or around the foundation. This causes hydrostatic pressure which can cause structural damage to the building. Therefore, effective grading will prevent structural damage to a neighboring property or new structures.

Approved grading plans are required by most zoning and planning jurisdictions before construction commences. This is intended to prevent problems that may occur due to non-compliance with site grading standards or poor grading.

Types of grading

Grading can be categorized into various groups. They include;

  • Architectural grading

This type of grading involves changing the shape of land for a new construction project. The project may be a new housing development, commercial property, or a home. In essence, architectural grading changes the contours or elevations of a landscape. Thus helping to get rid of undesirable landscapes, prepare foundation areas and ensure proper drainage.

  • Rough grading

In construction, rough grading is the process of shaping the site to resolve drainage or form a base for tough development. It involves leveling a land area and setting the slope. Both activities ensure that the site has effective water drainage. However, rough grading may also include relocating, adding, or removing the topsoil. This will help to shape the site to the desired elevations.

  • Finished grade

As the name suggests, finished grading involves putting the final touches on the construction site. It’s usually done after rough grading for specific purposes like earthwork and gravel road projects. At this stage, lumps of soil, rocks, and other debris that may make the surface uneven or inhibit plant growth are removed. This helps to create a smooth, uniform surface that a roller can go over to flatten or harden.

  • Landscape grading

This grading type prepares the site for a landscaping project. It involves removing the topsoil. Hence making the surface more aesthetically appealing and smoothing the land for planting. Also, landscape grades create or install an irrigation system.

Apart from changing the land’s appearance, modifying elevations or slopes improves the drainage. Consequently, this will preserve the plant life by preventing water from pooling on the land area.

  • Re-grading

Re-grading refers to the process of raising or lowering the land area. Thus allowing the building structure to sit on an even/ level surface. Besides, this will ensure that the structure rests on the secure ground with proper water drainage. Interestingly, re-grading can either be done for small or large development projects.

  • Final grade

This is the last step in the process of site grading in construction projects. Here, workers spread a layer of topsoil or sand over the ground to promote plant growth. After that, the final process of landscaping begins. At the same time, landscaping materials and plants are placed in their designated spots. Moreover, final grading may involve preparing the site for seeding. More notably, it improves water drainage of the land area to promote plant growth.

Importance of grading in construction projects

The main objectives of site grading in a construction project are;

  • Ensure proper drainage

A grading plan helps to control the flow of running water from rain and other sources. Running water on the site has to be directed in a manner that considers the building, environment, and other properties. More importantly, the plan must meet all ethical and zoning requirements.

  • Create the desired landscape aesthetics

Land grading and leveling are essential in creating the desired landscape images of the finished project. It considers leveling and elevations needed for driveways, parking areas, gardens, and walkways. In general, land grading has to consider every element of a site plan.

  • Prepare the site for structure foundation

Foundation preparation is a crucial step in every construction project. Foundations play a very important role in supporting the building structure, whether in a residential, industrial or commercial project. More notably, it prevents structural that may result from inadequate load-bearing.

On the bright side, experienced grading engineers understand how grading can help to prepare the ground for structure foundation. For instance, compacting helps to support structures with higher demands.

Grading techniques

In most cases, grading in construction is achieved by using heavy equipment like bulldozers and excavators. However, such equipment provides a rough finish. For that reason, if you want a smoother finished result, you have to use a grader for a finer finish.

Construction grading techniques tend to affect the final results in various ways. For that reason, civil engineering techniques have to ensure that the grading plan;

  • Considers the environmental concerns
  • Provides the essential drainage requirements
  • Meets the client’s needs & expectations
  • Complies with all the federal state and local requirements

The difference between excavation and grading

Although excavation and grading are occasionally used interchangeably, there are 2 different terms.

For starters, excavation usually takes place in the early stages of certain construction projects. For instance, it’s done when digging channels or trenches for utilities or removing soil for pools. Also, excavation is done when creating foundations for sidewalks and walkways.

Leveling or grading, on the other hand, basically takes place in the latter stages of a construction project. In essence, it involves creating an aesthetically pleasing landscape for the surface and smoothing the land area.

Getting Approvals for site grading projects

Most regions and municipalities require that construction firms create and submit a grading plan before the activity begins. In addition, the city departments have to inspect and provide approvals of those plans in advance. An approval shows that the resulting elevation will match the initial grading plan and ensure proper drainage.

Typically, a site grading plan should include certain components for assessment by planning officials. These factors include;

  • Earthwork estimates

A grading plan should include the estimated amount of earthwork utilized in the project. Generally speaking, earthwork refers to the material used to fill or remove from the land area. Therefore, earthwork estimates provide valuable information to the planning officials. These statistics help to determine the amount of material that will be brought in or removed to complete the project.

  • Property lines

This is another essential factor that a grading plan has to take into consideration. It involves showing utility lines, property lines, and other easements on the site.

  • Structure coverage and lot size

In most jurisdictions, there are requirements that define the maximum coverage a structure can take up on the lot. This coverage percentage helps the planning officials determine whether the grading plan complies with the building requirements.

Final Word

Before you undertake a grading project, make sure you have an accurate site grading plan. This will help you save money during the grading process by promoting the efficient use of existing materials. As an example, you can use earthwork being extracted from one location to fill in another area. This will result in less movement of materials, thus saving expenses and time.

How can InnoDez design & Engineering help?

At InnoDez, we specialize in Civil Engineering. Our experienced engineers will help you create an efficient grading plan for any project in California. Contact us today!

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