Can I have a level lawn in my garden?

CEO & Garden Designer
Ruth Marshall

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As garden designers we are asked this question “can I have a level lawn in my garden” more than most, particularly in the rolling countryside of the Home Counties! The short answer is yes you usually can, the most important consideration being “at what cost”! We do have some separate guidance on the costs of levelling a lawn here with more of a discussion on what drives these costs. In this article, we are thinking more about the design principles that might help you decide how to do this and whether it is worth the cost!

Creating a level lawn in your garden can be a wonderful addition to your entertaining space, or provide play space for the kids and make the garden more accessible. Shifting from a sloping lawn that is not useful for anything to a gorgeous entertaining space, particularly if it allows level (or nearly level) access from your home is often a key part of planning an extension or new bifold doors as in the example above.

What might prevent me from levelling my lawn?

The most common thing preventing home-owners from creating a level lawn in their garden tends to be cost. Looking at our guidance on this, you can see that the steeper the garden, the tighter the access and the larger the space you wish to level, the more it will cost- this is never a cheap and easy piece of work!

The most common practical constraint is working around trees positioned within the area to be levelled, or with root zones inside that area. Imagine the diameter of the tree canopy- this is typically approximately the root zone, and you cannot change the ground level within this area if the tree is protected with a TPO (tree preservation order). Even if not protected, if you wish to keep the tree in good health you should avoid a build up or excavation in this area.

Other services need to be considered too- drainage runs, water or gas pipes, and ground source heat pump arrays may either prevent you from changing the levels significantly or could mean you need to do more extensive work to manage these.

How do I create a level lawn in my garden?

Since this will always be a significant cost, it is important to plan the work carefully. Our designers will review the space with you and talk you through the options. Where possible, you will want to avoid creating retaining walls more than 60cm high as this is a maximum height you can have without adding balustrade under building regulations. Even if you are not working to building regulations, this is a good design principle as it is about the level most people feel comfortable having without fall protection. Keeping any higher structures to boundaries or areas that people cannot access is a good plan, and making the steps attractive and comfortable in themselves makes a virtue out of a necessary structure.

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Working out where the retaining structures will need to be, what they are made of, and the steps between levels is a key part of the design – aiming to make the space as attractive and practical as possible, whilst minimising the costs.

Thinking hard about the purpose of the levelling will help make the design effective – is it a simple football space (in which case we probably don’t want lots of delicate planting around the edges) or is it to create an attractive entertaining space, views from the house and easy access to the garden, in which case the design is likely to be very different.

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So should I level my lawn?

In conclusion, whether you proceed with the levelling will depend on your aspirations and your budget. Planning it well including seeing some great 3D visuals will allow you to decide whether this is something that excites you, and to budget properly based on detailed measurements and plans. Our advice is always to plan what you want, cost that, and if needs be value-engineer the design. Whilst good design cannot magically make the costs disappear, it can show you in detail what the implications are of any proposed changes so that you can make good informed decisions.

If you are considering levelling your lawn do feel free to get in touch with the award-winning CGLA design team to explore how they can help you create that magical entertaining space or children’s play zone.

CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here

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Costs to level a lawn