Everything You Need to Know About Rough Grading

There are two types of grading that happen to the lot on which your home is built: rough grade and final grade. We’d like to talk to you about rough grading.

Rough grading is the process of shaping the ground on your lot to ensure your home is built on a solid foundation, and to handle proper water drainage away from your home and off the property. It’s the first step to preparing the ground for your home and may take multiple sessions at different times to complete. Final grading happens after your home is completed.

All types of grading are subject to approval by your municipality. Rough grade inspections are handled by your builder. When it comes time to handle your final grading, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to obtain approval from the municipality.

Everything You Need to Know About Rough Grading - Showhome Image

What’s the Difference Between Rough and Final Grading?

Rough grading works with the original soil on the lot to shape the land needed to properly construct your home. It may include changing the elevation of the lot, as well as slopes, berms, and preparing for retaining walls if applicable.

The rough grade is left 7-20 centimeters below the designated final grade to allow for the addition of topsoil during the final grade process.

Your home builder will call for the inspection of your rough grade once it’s complete. Depending on the municipality’s assessment, repairs or alterations may be required. Your builder handles these changes and any subsequent inspections required.

Final grade is the process of preparing your lot for landscaping by adding and compacting topsoil where applicable. At least four inches of topsoil must be applied to all areas. This process must be completed within 12 months of the date of your rough grade certificate and an inspection must be called by the homeowner. 

Once this final grade has been completed, it is up to the homeowner to obtain a Lot Grading Certificate (from the grading company who completed your final grade). This certificate is to be submitted to Development and Zoning Services in your municipality for final approval.

When you built your home, your lot would have likely had a landscaping deposit applied as a requirement of the land developer. This deposit is refundable once you’ve completed your landscaping to the requirements for your community, such as a certain number of trees and shrubs, and front yard sod. Once these items are complete, homeowners can submit their request to the land developer for final inspection, and upon approval, the deposit is returned.

Everything You Need to Know About Rough Grading - Landscaping Image

How Long Does Rough Grading Take?

Many factors affect when your rough grade can be completed. The ground must be dry and solid to ensure the grading doesn’t shift due to moisture or frost, and weather plays a major role in the ability to complete the work. After any rain, the ground must dry for at least three days to be ready for rough grading.

The rough grade can only be completed during warmer months, typically between June and October, weather depending. There must be no frost in the ground, which can delay the start of the workable season. 

With such a short window in which to work, contractors must do a year’s worth of grading in just a few short months, and priority is given to any existing properties that were not able to receive their grading during the previous season. It may take two seasons to complete your rough grade, and this is normal given the unpredictable climate.

In addition, rough grading cannot be completed until all concrete has been installed. If there’s a delay in concrete installation, rough grade scheduling will be affected.

At Sterling Homes, we use multiple grading contractors to complete the work in the interest of maximizing output during the short season.

Delays in Rough Grading

Weather plays a significant role in the potential delay of rough grading services, but there are other factors that can affect the timeline. Some of these factors are:

  • Adjacent construction
  • Labour shortages
  • Equipment failures
  • Delay in concrete installation
  • Homeowner construction of fencing, decks, and sheds

Final rough grade approval can also be delayed by several factors, including insufficient rainwater leaders, improper window well depth, backups in municipal administration and staffing, among others.

When Can I Landscape My Yard?

It’s important to complete the entire final grade approval process via your municipality before engaging in any type of landscaping, fencing, or building of additional structures on your lot. If your final grade does not receive an approval from your municipality, your inspection may fail and you may be required to remove or alter your deck, fence, or impeding structure.

For those homeowners who have purchased a townhome or other home where landscaping and fencing were included in the purchase and construction of the home, avoid making changes or adding to these features before receiving your final grade approval from the municipality.

Once you have received your Final Grade Approval Certificate from the municipality, you’re free to complete your landscaping, deck, fence, and other related items for your lot.

Patience is Key

As there are many factors that affect the proper completion and final approval of your rough grade, it’s important to maintain patience throughout the process. Rushing the rough grade of your lot creates the potential for failure and added costs down the road, so it’s imperative that it’s completed at the right time in the right conditions.

A rough grade done properly makes for a quality property, preventing serious water damage to your home and creating a solid footing for your home’s foundation.

Originally published Aug 6, 2019, updated Feb 17, 2022