Lawn Leveling Sand Fills Low Spots In Uneven Lawns

A landscaper’s job is never done, especially when it comes to lawn care. Seeding, overseeding, aeration, and mowing are just a few of the things a healthy and vibrant lawn needs. Another aesthetic touchup that many property owners are also interested in is lawn leveling. But, is lawn sand the right choice to level a lawn?

Lawn leveling sand can be a good option to level slight undulations in a yard, but pure sand can cause problems of its own when applied by the inexperienced. Depending on the soil type you have, pure sand can cause more compaction and drying than using soil as a leveling material.

The following article is a discussion on the issue of leveling your lawn. We will pay particular attention to sand and its viability as a solution for this. We discuss the implications of using it before we take a look at the best type we can use.


Is Sand Good For Leveling Lawns?

For many property owners, uneven spots in the lawn are not fun to look at. Bumps in the turf also pose a challenge when mowing and can lead to an inconsistent cut.

These depressions can be caused by various natural and unnatural things including foot traffic, parking vehicles on the grass, as well as drainage complications. There can also be causes that happened in the past like unremoved tree stumps and undiffused gutter downspout water.

Whatever the cause in your case, you need a solution. So, how about sand?

Lawn leveling sand good and bad for lawns depending on how it is used. It can help clay soil become less compacted or cause it to be more compacted with improper use. For slight undulations, light applications on a regular schedule can work just fine.

A lot of people regard sand as a quick and cheap solution to uneven spots in your turf. After all, won’t the grass just grow through it?

Well, maybe…or maybe not.

Soil Compaction With Leveling Sand

The problem with using sand is that success and failure are wholly dependent on the particular context. 

The use of pure sand alone is almost always a bad idea, especially if your lawn is in heavy clay soil already. The sand will only add weight to the soil and watering will make things even worse. Wet sand will pack the clay down further and worsen drainage.

Water Loss Using Leveling Sand

In addition, sand tends to absorb a lot of heat very quickly, which is bad news for your lawn during blazing summer days. Grass does not favor overly high temperatures and may struggle as a result. 

Also, with more heat absorption comes a quicker rate of evaporation and water loss. Therefore, if you incorporate sand to level your lawn you must be prepared to water for longer and more frequently.

Lawn Leveling Sand Does Not Add Nutrients To The Soil

Another drawback with pure sand is its lack of nutrients when compared to regular topsoil. Grass requires healthy access to nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, as well as a whole host of micronutrients. As a result, you will have to make use of fertilizers or compost to keep the grass alive.

Ultimately, sand’s nutrient deficiencies, combined with its tendency to lose water quickly, make it less than ideal for nursing a healthy lawn.

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Apply Leveling Sand The Right Way

However, with a proper understanding of your environment as well as careful application, sand can be an effective lawn leveler if you cannot access topsoil. 

Our recommendation is light and frequent application of sand rather than heavy and infrequent application. Adding too much at once will increase soil heaviness and stress the grass. Light application is a better choice because it gives your lawn time to adapt while allowing you to monitor how it copes with the change.

Another thing is that applying light layers of sand will minimize the number of grass blades blocked out from the sun. Cool-season grasses, like your fescues and bluegrasses, need every last bit of sunlight. They simply cannot afford to be covered up for extended periods and will suffer great stress if they are.

Many lawn care experts have their preferences but the following guidelines are sure to work for you:

WeightAreaType Of Application
0.5 tons per 1000 sq. ft. light application
0.75 tonsper 1000 sq. ft. medium application
1 tonper 1000 sq. ft. heavy application

The frequency of application depends on several factors, including:

  • How low the grass is cut
  • The developmental stage the grass is in
  • Water availability
  • Weather and time of the year

Leveling Sand Best Practices

That said, we recommend not layering more than 3-4 tons per 1000 sq. ft. in one season. The sand must be given as much time as possible to sink to the soil level.

Ultimately, pure sand is effective for leveling your lawn if you know what you’re doing. But for those that are less experienced, pure sand may not be the best option.

Our recommendation for most beginners, though, is to use a mix of dried topsoil, sand, and compost (to make up for the lack of nutrients in sand). You should go for a 40-40-20 mix of each.  

Lawn Leveling Tools

Speaking of sinking down, you should also work the sand down below the grass. This can be done with various lawn leveling tools. Even a broom will suffice. The aim is to massage the sand past the grass layer and onto the ground surface. 

There are also lawn leveling rakes that are specifically designed for the task. These are fairly affordable and can be ordered and shipped to your door from Amazon. I would recommend the popular Stainless Steel Lawn Level Tool with Handle

Every time you apply sand it must be pushed down like this to ensure that no patches of grass are blocked from sunlight, which can result in discoloration.

If you opt for sand leveling, you will also have to be careful with applying organic matter to the lawn. This is because the matter can sit atop the sand and break down slowly. This isn’t a problem if the matter reaches the roots where its nutrients are absorbed.

However, if the matter stays on top of the sand (and ground surface) it won’t break down quickly enough to feed nutrients into the soil. The organic matter will then fester and turn into a breeding ground for all sorts of problematic pests that may attack your grass. 

We advise that you avoid applying aeration cores and compost to the lawn until the sand has had time to settle.

What Kind Of Sand Is Good For Leveling Lawns?

While most sand types share many of the same basic characteristics, some types are better for lawn leveling than others.

One of the best types of sand for leveling lawns is play sand. This is the same stuff you will find in children’s sandboxes at schools and playgrounds. The reason we recommend play sand is the refining process it goes through. If it is rated clean enough for children, it is great for your lawn.

It is free from impurities and there is an almost zero percent chance of you bringing disease to your lawn. Regular sand does not have to pass through any refineries and regulatory procedures and is, therefore, a bigger risk.

Also, if you have kids or pets, play sand is the safest choice because it was meant for play. The particles are fine and will not cut or burn skin. It is also fairly affordable and can be sourced easily from garden centers.

This way you will not only have a lawn that is level and smooth, but you will not have to worry when your kids roughhouse with the dog in the front yard. This is not true when some soils, fertilizers, or other chemicals are present.

To see the play sand that I recommend, here is a link to Amazon. Filtered, Screened, Washed and Dried Soft Play Sand

The Final Touches On Lawn Leveling Sand…

If you are experienced in caring for putting green style lawns, then sand is one of the tools you will regularly use on your lawn to achieve that pristine, flat look. Yet, for the majority of us, that look is not our main goal. This is where sand may be harder to justify in a lawn.

Sand/soil mixes are more friendly to work with for the average homeowner. The forgiving nature of them combined with the added nutrients they put back into your lawn make them a popular choice.

You could also forego sand altogether and simply use soil. Though many don’t like the clumping, more difficult nature that comes along with soil leveling material.

Whatever you choose, it is advisable to use lighter applications more frequently in order to give more time for the sand to settle down below the surface.

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Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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