How to Level the Ground for a Shed

a gravel foundation

If you’re planning to install a storage shed on your property, you may be asking yourself, “How do I prepare uneven ground for my shed?” 

But no need to worry. We’ve broken down the process of leveling the ground for your shed into five medium-skill level steps. If you have basic carpentry skills and a strong back, this job shouldn’t be too difficult. Plus, you’ll be able to complete the project without ruining your budget. 

How do you level a large area of ground for your shed? 

You will be able to level the ground for your shed in 5 steps! Each individual step is further explained so to eliminate any confusion on your end. If you want to skip ahead to a specific step, just click the words below. 

  1. Choose location
  2. Square and stake corners
  3. Complete excavation
  4. Install a perimeter (optional)
  5. Install a gravel base

Let’s get started! 


Here are 9 points to consider when choosing an ideal portable building location.

  1. Check with your township
  2. Beware of zoning requirements
  3. Avoid swampy areas
  4. Avoid steep grades if possible
  5. Watch out for the stuff underground
  6. Beware of trees
  7. Make it easy to access
  8. Consider sun exposure
  9. Pay attention to aesthetics
work permit

1. Check with Your Township

Many townships will require you to apply for a permit before installing a storage shed. Avoid hassle and frustration down the road by making this one of your first steps.

Check your township’s website for information on obtaining a storage shed installation permit. If you have additional questions, you can give your township office a call and ask to speak with the building permit or zoning officer.

2. Beware of Zoning Requirements

Your township zoning code may prohibit you from placing a storage shed too close to property lines or other existing structures. If setback requirements interfere with the desired placement of your shed, you may be able to apply for an easement in order to gain exemption from setback requirements.

Your property may also be subject to zoning laws that control the percentage of your property that is allowed to be covered with an impervious surface (paved driveways, sidewalks, patios, swimming pools, buildings, or anything that prevents rain water from soaking into the ground). You may be required to present a rough sketch of your property when applying for a permit that shows existing impervious surfaces. Google maps in satellite view can be a useful tool in order to complete this step.

If your township requires you to to control water runoff from your new storage shed or garage, you may be interested in our drainage system installation service.

3. Avoid Swampy Areas

Swampy and low lying areas should be avoided for several reasons:

  1. The area may be difficult to drive in with lawn equipment.
  2. Your shed will be more susceptible to long-term damage from excessive moisture.
  3. It’s difficult to prepare a solid base for your shed in a swampy area.
  4. Moisture supports the growth of mold and mildew on your shed.
a swampy area

4. Avoid Steep Grades if Possible

The closer your site is to level, the less work you’ll need to do to prepare it for your shed. You should also be aware that a steep grade will most likely require the use of a retaining wall. 

5. Watch Out for the Stuff Underground

If you have a private sewer system, make sure you don’t place your shed above the seepage bed or underground sewage tank. Also avoid placing it on top of buried gas lines. Your utility company may be able to mark the location of your gas lines free of charge.

6. Beware of Trees

Avoid placing your shed under trees that are susceptible to losing branches and damaging your shed roof. Remove old trees before installing your shed if possible.


7. Make it Easy to Access

You may occasionally want to drive your vehicle up to your shed to make loading and unloading things easier. Make sure the location you choose is easily accessible. 

8. Consider Sun Exposure

Placing your shed in an entirely shaded area may support the growth of mildew on the walls and roof of your shed over time. Exposure to the sun discourages mildew growth. However, placing it in an area with no shade means it will be hotter in the summertime. You’ll need to decide which scenario is more advantageous to you.

9. Pay Attention to Aesthetics

Of course, you want to be thoroughly satisfied with the aesthetics of your shed. Where will your shed enhance curb appeal? Will it look better on an angle or parallel with the property line? These are just a few questions to ponder.  


Now that you’ve chosen a location for your shed, you’re ready for Step 2. Follow these 5 steps to make sure the finished shed pad is perfectly square:

  1. Gather tools
  2. Stake the first and second corner
  3. Stake the third corner
  4. Add the final stakes
  5. Stretch final lines
  6. Mark the ground

Note: Many people ask, “how do you prepare uneven ground for a shed?” If your site is more than 12” off level over an 8′ span, jump to our Step 3. You can check the level by using an 8’ 2×4 and a level. Place the one end of the 2×4 at the highest corner of the site and place the level on top. If the 2×4 is level and the one end of the 2×4 is more than 12” off the ground, then you should proceed to Step 3.

Note: Your shed pad should be 12″ wider than your shed on all sides. For example, a 10×12 shed should be installed on a 12×14 gravel pad. Add another 12” when installing the corner stakes. Using a 10×12 shed as an example, the four corner stakes should cover an area measuring 13’ x 15’. If you’re not planning to install a 4×6 perimeter, then the area covered by the corner stakes should measure exactly 12′ x14′.

1.Gather needed tools for leveling ground

We understand that you are anxious to get this whole process going. Believe us, we were too. But first, you must gather all the needed tools in order to make sure this process comes together as needed. Here is a list of tools for leveling the ground:

  • Tape measure
  • Marking paint
  • Level 
  • Sledgehammer
  • Circular saw
  • Rake
  • Tamper 
  • Shovel
  • Staple gun/hammer tacker
  • String
  • Mallet
  • Safety gear
  • Spray paint 
  • Sledgehammer (for very uneven ground)
  • Drill with ½” auger bit (if very uneven ground)

2. Stake the First and Second Corner

First, pound in your first stake, making sure it is perfectly straight. Next, pound in your second stake at a distance of 4’ from the first one.

3. Stake the Third Corner

This step is the most tricky. Install your third stake at a distance of 3’ from the first one (just eyeball it to get it as square as possible) and wrap your string around the third stake. Then measure from the second stake and move the third stake until it measures exactly 5’ from the second one. This creates a triangle shape that you can use to square your shed pad.

4. Add the Final Stakes

Finish installing the final corner stakes by using the triangle as a square. Stretch your string to the desired length (in this case 15’) from the first stake and let it just barely touch the second. Then pound in another stake at the 15’ mark.

Repeat that process on the other side. Stretch your string from the first stake to the desired length (in this case 13’) and let it just barely touch the third stake. Then pound in another stake at the 13’ mark.

Finally, simply measure 13’ from the one corner and 15’ from the other to get the location of the fourth stake.

5. Stretch Final Lines

Tightly stretch lines around the outside of your stakes (make sure the stakes are placed securely in the ground).

6. Mark the Ground

Mark the ground so that you can remove your string before beginning excavation. A can of spray paint is great, but you can also get creative and simply use your shovel to dig a small trench following the lines.

After marking the lines, remove your string. You are now ready to begin excavation.

Showing how to level the ground for a shed


(If your site is more than 12” off level over an 8’ span, you may need to complete this step before Step 2)

If completing this step before Step 2, use the following 7 steps to achieve preliminary leveling of your site. If you’ve already completed Step 2, you may skip this section

  1. Stake the corners
  2. Mark the area to be excavated
  3. Remove surface debris and topsoil
  4. Remove subsoil, rocks, and roots
  5. Clean the corners
  6. Check the level using a 2×4
  7. Proceed to Step 2

1. Stake the Corners

Give yourself a general idea of where your shed corners will be. Your stakes should extend past the footprint of the shed at least 2’ all the way around. This will give you room to install a retaining wall and a shed pad that’s at least 1’ wider all the way around your shed.

2. Mark the Area to be Excavated

Stretch strings between the stakes and mark the area to be excavated. Remove strings. 

3. Remove Surface Debris and Topsoil

Remove all surface debris and top soil, even in areas that don’t need to be excavated. This helps to prevent weed growth in the future.

A man who is leveling the ground for a shed

4. Remove Subsoil, Rocks, and Roots

Continue to dig down, removing sub soil, rocks, roots, and any other obstructions until your site appears level (and watch out for that chest of buried treasure).

5. Clean the Corners

Take some time to clean the corners and smooth out your excavation site. This will save you time later.

Demonstrating how to level the ground for a shed

6. Check the Level Using a 2×4

After your site is as level and clean as you can make it, check the level using a 2×4 and level. Cut the 2×4 if necessary to fit within the graded area. Place the level on top of the 2×4 and move it around from one part of the excavation to the other, checking the level along the way. Excavate any high areas or fill in low areas as needed.

7. Return to Step 2

If you want to make sure your site of excavation is square Return to Step 2

If you’ve already completed Step 2, follow these 3 steps to level your shed site:

1. Remove Surface Debris and Topsoil

Remove all surface debris and top soil, even in areas that don’t need to be excavated. This helps to prevent weed growth in the future.

2. Clean the Corners

Take some time to clean the corners and smooth out your excavation site, saving you future time. 

3. Check the Level and Excavate as Needed

After your site is as level and clean as possible, check the how level the ground is using a 2×4 and level. Cut the 2×4 if necessary to fit within the graded area. Place the level on top of the 2×4 and move it around from one part of the excavation to the other, checking the level along the way. Excavate any high areas or fill in low areas as needed.


Follow these 8 steps to install a 4×6 perimeter around your shed base. This step is optional but recommended for a neat and clean end result.

  1. Cut 4×6’s to length for first course
  2. Lay in place
  3. Join corners with screws
  4. Measure across corners and square
  5. Drill holes for pins
  6. Verify level and install pins
  7. Install additional courses as needed
  8. Replace soil around outside edge

1. Cut 4×6 to Length for First Course

In the case of a 12×14 shed base, you’ll need two 4×6’s cut at 14’ and two cut at 11’ 5”.

How to level the ground for a shed

2. Lay in Place

As you lay the 4×6’s in place, make sure they are resting firmly on the ground. You may need to smooth out the soil by filling in low spots or removing high spots.

Ensuring that you level the ground for your shed by using screws at the correct corners.

3. Join Corners with Screws

Use screws to join all 4 corners of the 4×6 perimeter frame.

4. Measure Across Corners and Square the Frame

In order to ensure you have level ground, use a measuring tape to measure the distance across the corners of the frame. If the two measurements are the same, your frame is square. Adjust the frame by pushing or pulling on the corners until both measurements are the same. 

How to level a shed
Drilling holes so that you can level the ground for a shed

5. Drill Holes for Pins

Use a ⅝’ drill bit (or whatever size is required for the rebar to fit snugly) to drill holes through the 4×6’s and pin them to the ground. Use 2 pins at each corner and place them approximately 4’ apart from there.

6. Verify Level and Install Pins

Verify that your 4×6 frame is level and make adjustments as needed. Cut the rebar into 2’ lengths using your sawzall or grinder and pound it into the freshly drilled holes in the 4×6 until the top of the rebar is flush with the top of the 4×6.

7. Install Additional Courses as Needed

If you’re planning to use your 4×6 perimeter as a retaining wall, then you’ll want to add additional courses until the wall reaches the desired height. Use landscape timber spikes to fasten each new 4×6 to the one underneath. 

install shed pad retaining wall

8. Replace Soil around Outside Edge

Fill in the outside edges around the 4×6 frame with soil. You are now ready to install a layer of gravel on your flat and level surface. 

Step 5: Install a 5” Gravel Base

Use the following four steps to install the gravel and complete the final step for leveling the ground for your shed.

  1. Install the landscape fabric (optional)
  2. Spread the gravel
  3. Level and smooth with a 2×4
  4. Admire your level shed base

Confused about whether or not you should install a gravel or concrete shed foundation. Learn more about that issue in our blog post: Gravel vs. Concrete: Which Shed Base is Best for You?

1. Install the Landscape Fabric (optional)

Some shed base installers, including Site Prep, prefer to put down landscape fabric before spreading the gravel. The intent of this is to prevent weeds and to give the overall foundation more stability by separating the gravel from the dirt below. While it’s recommended, fabric is not required for DIY projects, so it’s listed as optional.

How to level ground for a shed
Spreading gravel in order to level the ground for a shed

2. Spread the Gravel

Spread the gravel at a thickness of 4-6 inches. 3/4″ inch crushed stone is a common gravel size used for a shed base.

3. Level and Smooth with a 2×4

Take the 2×4 used to level the excavated area and slide it across the surface of the gravel. This helps to smooth out uneven spots and create a pad that’s perfectly flat. If the job was done correctly up to this point, it should be very easy to level the gravel.

4. Admire Your New Shed Base

Step back and admire your work. Your shed now has a solid foundation that will help to ensure it functions properly and lasts for a long time. Note that this method can also be used to level ground for other gravel pad uses, such as gravel hot tub bases, gravel fire pit areas, or even gravel under a deck.

If you are interested in reading more, feel free to read our article on how to build a shed base on uneven ground


Does a shed base need to be perfectly level? 

Yes, your shed base should be perfectly level.

Can you put a shed directly on the ground?

No, you can not. If you put your shed directly on the ground, you will run into problems such as erosion of the floor, extra mildew, and possible structural damage. 

Gravel shed foundation

We Can Help

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our article on leveling ground for playsets! We also have a full step-by-step guide for how to build a gravel shed foundation, start to finish, plus an overview of the various shed foundations that are available.

Not sure if you want to tackle this project on your own? Our skilled teams can install your new gravel pad with such efficiency that it might seem like it materialized in no time at all. Request a free shed pad quote and let us do all the work for you!

20 thoughts on “How to Level the Ground for a Shed

  1. Charles Eckenrode says:

    What if I have a shed that has a bottom and like to support the 2 main beams

    10×20 2 main beams 6 feet apart. The shed backside is one foot lower I like to put it up on one’ blocks

  2. Clay Soil says:

    Thanks for publishing this guide on the internet. I’m planning a 40×60 metal building with concrete floor and I think some of this guide is applicable this project. Is it better to remove soil or add gravel to level the surface for this type of foundation? You’ve shown pictures of both in this guide. I’m thinking about water flow and soil compaction but what else should I consider?

  3. Site Preparations LLC says:

    We usually remove the first few inches of topsoil for every foundation we install, even if it’s a build-up. That prevents unnecessary settling when the gravel is added. For a building with a concrete floor, you’ll also want to check what type of footers (if any) are required by your local municipality. We don’t have a guide for concrete foundations yet; if it’s helpful, we do have this video that shows the steps we use when pouring garage foundations:

  4. Wade reed says:

    I have a pre-built shed coming 12×16. It is on 4 skids or runners. I have concrete blocks for leveling. Should I remove sod or kill with grass killer then weed barrier on top with grovel over that?

  5. Patti F. says:

    Great article with pertinent advice. Wishing you were in our area. Do you have any recommendations for someone in Arizona (suburbs of Phoenix)? Thanks for so many helpful tips and tutorials.

  6. Site Prep says:

    Hi Patti, unfortunately, we do not provide services in Arizona, but thank you for your comment.

  7. Juan Buendia says:

    Hi I am building a 8 ft wide by 12 ft long shes. The only thing I didn’t understand was that it said to build at least 12” along the border. When building it said to go 10 ft by 14 ft plus another foot on each side for the perimeter so it would be 11 ft by 15 ft. When I say the photo in the installing perimeter. The dimensions were 14 ft by 11.5 which totals to 14 by 12.1. Shouldn’t the 4 by 6’s measure out to 11 by 15?

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