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How to Grade with a Bucket

Here are a few general guidelines.

Start by cleaning up the area to be graded. Remove large rocks and other debris. Make a debris pile in a location that can be easily cleaned up afterward. Depending on your job, you may also want to remove the top layer of soil or gravel and pile it up to be reused later.

Now you can begin the rough grading process. Rough grading should result in a nearly level surface with the built-in slopes set. There should no longer be any high and low spots in your work area.

High spots can be lowered with the cutting edge of the bucket. By lowering the bucket to ground level and driving straight forward of the high areas, the bucket will cut material and fill the bucket.

This extra material can be carried in the bucket to the lower spots on the job site and used to fill it in. Spread the material as evenly as possible over the low areas. 

Once the high spots have been taken down with the cutting edge of the bucket and the low spots have been filled in, it’s time to make finer adjustments, and this is where the back of the bucket comes in handy.

By lowering the bucket to the ground and putting the loader arms in the float position, you can drive your skid steer in reverse and use the back of the bucket as a grading blade.

Check out our selection of buckets that would be great for grading.

The bucket's weight combined with its flat edge will take down high spots and drag the extra material behind it, filling in low places as you go. This is the final grade. This technique is used to precisely even out your work area after the rough grade.

Here are the steps: 

  • Remove large rocks and dirt. Pile them up in an area next to a building or make a debris pile. 
  • Level the ground as much as possible prior to doing more precise final grading. There are still high and low points there. Shave down or fill these points.
grading with a bucket
  • Even out all areas with the bucket flat and the skid steer’s arms lowered. You need to change the angle and depth of the cut for grading some particular areas by using the loader arms, but it is more efficient if you can employ slight corrections on the bucket angle. So, be adept at using the bucket for angle correction to make fine adjustments. 
  • Be guided also by existing structures such as lawn, patios and walkways. The final grade should match these fixtures. When adding sod, flatten the sod area to about 2 inches lower than the base of the nearby structure. 
  • Finally, check for puddles. After watering the entire area, fill in the depressions that will be formed by filling them with soil from higher spots. Make smaller adjustments by using a hand rake.
bucket grading

Some Points To Remember

Visibility is essential when grading with a bucket. Seeing the cutting edge on the bucket is necessary to get the angle right during the rough grading. For this reason, low-profile buckets are the preferred tool.

Having a bucket that is wider than the skid steer wheel or track base is recommended. You don’t want the skid steer to track over the areas that you’ve already graded. One or two inches on either side of the wheels or tracks is enough.

Avoid spinning the wheel in soft spots while grading. Areas where the wheels have turned will need to be reworked, adding extra time and labor to your job.

After you’ve done the first few passes, working on a diagonal can sometimes help level and smooth the work area.

Written by Cohen Meyer
Cohen Meyer is a product researcher and content contributor for Skid Steers Direct.

 Cohen has spent over 12,000 hours operating skid steers, telehandlers, excavators and tractors. He is a former business owner, certified welder and a self proclaimed tech geek.

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