How to Level Ground With a Skid Steer: A Comprehensive Guide

A skid steer is a versatile, extremely maneuverable machine that can navigate confined areas inaccessible to larger, bulkier equipment. They can perform various earthmoving tasks, including loading, unloading, digging and transporting materials. It’s no wonder that sales of skid steers have continued to rise over the past few years.

With the right techniques and attachments, your loader can handle grading projects quickly, efficiently and safely, whether you’re using a mini skid steer or a different model to level ground.

Understanding the Basics of Operating a Skid Steer for Ground Leveling

Successfully leveling ground with a skid steer without digging requires a fundamental understanding of a skid steer’s operating procedures and the appropriate attachments.

Do Skid Steers Work Well for Leveling Ground?

A skid steer is an excellent choice for ground-leveling projects for several reasons:

  • Maneuverability: The machine’s lightweight, compact design enables it to perform various leveling tasks in tight spaces in all types of small-to-medium job sites.
  • Versatility: These loaders come in various models to accommodate a wide assortment of terrain. You can also customize the results by selecting from multiple attachments.
  • Efficiency: Although skid steers are smaller equipment, they generate a high hydraulic flow rate to enable you to utilize attachments efficiently.
  • Visibility: Since they don’t have a bulky front loader like other machines, skid steers let the operator view the ground clearly and perform leveling tasks more accurately.
  • Adaptability: These loaders can adapt to various job sites, making them well-suited for multiple leveling projects.
Skid steers let the operator view the ground clearly and perform leveling tasks more accurately.

Some examples of skid steer applications include leveling gravel for driveways and parking lots or constructing a foundation for a home or a commercial building.

Safety Measures When Using a Skid Steer for Ground Leveling

Like any heavy equipment, it’s crucial to implement appropriate safety measures when operating skid steers to avoid the two most significant dangers — rollovers and crushing from moving parts.

Conducting a pre-operating safety inspection is paramount when using a skid steer for grading or ground leveling. Examples of the areas your checklist should cover include:

  • Tires: The loader’s tires should be in good condition and properly inflated.
  • Cab: Some loaders have side screens to protect against moving parts and feature a design to prevent rollover injuries. These should be intact and free of damage.
  • Grab handles: Check for worn-out grips that cause falls or a loss of control of the machine.
  • Steps: To minimize the risk of slip-and-fall incidents, clear the steps of ice, snow, mud and other debris.
  • Attachments: Make sure the bucket or other attachments are appropriate for the specific skid steer model and are mounted and connected correctly.

Skid steer operators should also wear appropriate safety gear and follow the operating guidelines pertaining to the machine’s make and model.

How Much Slope Can a Skid Steer Handle?

While a skid steer is a reliable choice for many grading activities, it does have limitations when creating slopes. In particular, going downhill can be challenging.

The slope should be no steeper than 30 degrees or slightly more than a 2:1 ratio. Tips for maneuvering a skid steer down a slope safely include keeping the heavy end pointed uphill, whether the attachments are affecting the machine’s maneuverability and center of gravity and maintaining a slow speed. 

Selecting the Right Skid Steer Attachment for Ground Leveling

Leveling with a skid steer requires choosing the right attachment for the job. These tools enable you to achieve high-precision results for your grading project.

Depending on the application, your skid steer grading attachment needs may include:

  • Buckets: A bucket enables you to scoop soil, sand or gravel. Choose from various options to achieve specific project results.
  • Leveler: A skid steer leveler provides aggressive grading capabilities when cultivating, cutting and leveling land.
  • Landscape rake: If you need landscaping tools and equipment, a rake can prepare a slope for planting and seeding by removing rocks and vegetation.
Your skid steer grading attachment needs may include buckets, levelers, or landscape rakes.

Efficient Techniques to Level Ground With a Skid Steer

Follow these steps to attain the best results when using a skid steer to level ground:

  • Evaluate the site: Assess the area to identify obstructions like large rocks, underground utility lines, cables, and wires.
  • Select the appropriate attachment: Choose the bucket, leveler, landscape rake, or another attachment best suited for the specific task.
  • Rough grading: This process shapes the ground for the appropriate contour, and elevation sets the slope to prevent water from pooling.
  • Flatten the grade: Use a bucket attachment to flatten the ground via back-dragging so you can use it as a grading blade.
  • Final adjustments: Spray the ground with water to determine areas of pooling and make corrections as needed.

Examples of mistakes that can negatively impact results when using a skid steer for ground leveling include:

  • Choosing a machine that is too large or small for the job.
  • Selecting incompatible attachments that can’t perform the desired functions.
  • Failing to even out the ground and attain the correct slope. 

Understanding Soil Types

When grading with a skid steer loader, you could be working with various soil types. Generally, screened topsoil works best with these machines and is the most common choice for residential construction and landscaping projects. Soil with a heavy sand or clay content can be more challenging for mini skid steers that can’t deliver sufficient power.

Renting vs. Buying a Skid Steer for Ground Leveling

If you have a project that requires ground leveling, you could purchase or rent a machine. While buying enables you to own the equipment, renting offers more flexibility. It also provides access to a broader range of machinery and reduces maintenance and repair costs. It’s important to evaluate all factors to determine whether renting or buying is better for your situation.

Rent a Skid Steer From Herc Rentals for Your Leveling Needs

Rent a skid steer from Herc Rentals for your leveling needs.

At Herc Rentals, we offer a wide selection of skid steer loaders and attachments that can deliver exceptional results for your company’s ground-leveling projects. Our expansive fleet includes products from leading manufacturers at competitive rates. We back every rental with excellent service and support to maximize your customer experience. Our team can visit your site to fix or swap gear if needed, enabling you to keep your projects on schedule. 

Browse our inventory of skid steer rentals and contact us to learn more today.

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