What Causes Lawn Depressions?

When you think of a beautiful, lush, vibrant lawn, you probably don’t envision lumps and bumps. Lawn depressions can throw a wrench in your plans to maintain a gorgeous property, causing divots and low points here and there. 

So, what causes these unsightly dips and crevices in your lawn? Unfortunately, the answer varies from one scenario to the next. However, we’re here to help, so continue reading for a few potential culprits (and how to fix them).

Why Are There Depressions In My Lawn?

Lawn depressions can occur for a variety of reasons, some easier to fix than others. In some cases, the problem is as simple as heavy rains wreaking havoc on the soil. In other scenarios, it’s not quite as simple. 

Here are a few potential reasons:

Heavy Rain

Excessive rain is the most common culprit of depressions in a lawn. When your area experiences torrential rains, the ground may become oversaturated, which leads to standing water in your yard since the water has nowhere to go. 

Heavy Rain

When the water sits in your yard, it can cause depressions in your lawns. On top of that, standing water can slowly deteriorate your home’s foundation, weakening it over time. If that isn’t bad enough, water can rot support joists, damage or ruin electrical and plumbing work, and even cause walls to crumble. 

Of course, these are extreme results that occur over continual exposure to water. However, if water is able to penetrate the foundation, it can get into your home every time it rains, slowly damaging your home. 

These are serious structural issues that can compromise the safety and value of your home, so it’s essential to address the problem as soon as it arises. While you can’t prevent the rain from falling from the sky, you can do your part to help escort the water away from your home. 

Poor Lawn Preparation

Preparing your yard before planting grass or laying sod is essential to achieving a stunning lawn. Without the correct preparation, the grass may not flourish. For example, the ground might be too compacted, preventing the grass from taking root. 

Or, maybe the soil is lacking in essential nutrients, preventing the grass from growing as well as it could. However, one area folks might not consider is the leveling aspect. From a broad view, your lawn might look reasonably level, so you might decide to start planting. 

However, depressions are almost guaranteed if you don’t properly level and prepare the soil. Some areas may be more compact than others, causing inconsistencies in the level of the ground. Or, maybe there are gradual rises and dips that are hard to see from certain angles. These can also cause larger dips and depressions in your lawn. 

Buried Materials

Some folks have mentioned depressions in their lawn due to buried equipment. While this isn’t a common culprit, it’s a worthwhile mention. Several folks said their builders buried excess building materials in their yards after building the home. 

Many years later, they started noticing depressions in their lawn. Upon further inspection, they noticed the depressions were due to the buried materials. The dirt settles around the area as the materials deteriorate, causing little dips in the soil. 

Poorly Compacted Soil

Another potential cause of lawn depressions is poorly compacted soil. When this is the reason behind the depressions, homeowners usually notice dips around the foundation or outdoor stairs. 

Generally, this is due to poorly compacted soil. Over the years, the ground begins to settle, causing depressions or holes around the foundation or underneath staircases. This can become a major issue without a good drainage system, as the low spot will allow water to pool when it rains heavily. 

How Do I Fix Depressions In My Lawn?

Fixing a depression in your lawn depends on what is causing it, as the repair varies based on the problem. For example, if you have poorly compacted soil around your foundation, there aren’t any significant changes you need to make before addressing the issue. 

On the other hand, if you have a drainage issue, you’ll need to address the bigger problem. If you ignore the primary culprit (poor water drainage) and fill the low areas, you’ll run into the same problems the next time it rains heavily. 

On the off chance there are buried materials hiding under your lawn, you can either fill the low spots or dig up the equipment. If there’s a considerable amount of sinkage, you probably should dig up the problem underneath, as it could cause the same issues later on. 

If it’s a minor low spot, fixing the depression is manageable. Here’s what you’ll need:

Start by cutting your lawn to prepare for the filling and patching process. Generally, it’s best to fill and patch the lawn in the growing season, but not during extreme heat when your turf might be experiencing heat stress. Early summer and late fall are good times to do this, as the temperatures are lower. 


After cutting the grass, mark the low areas you want to fill. You can set something there if you don’t think you’ll remember every low spot. It’s better to mark it and fix all the low areas at once than finish the job and realize it later. 

Use a shovel to remove 10” by 10” squares of grass over the low spots. Save the grass squares for later – set them in a shaded area and keep them out of direct sunlight. If you have large areas to repair, you can rent a sod cutter from a local hardware store (if they have a rental department). 

If you are cutting large pieces of turf, set out a tarp and lay the large piece upside down in the same arrangement you cut it from the yard. This will save you time and confusion later on. 

Once the grass squares are out of the way, fill in the low areas of the lawn with a 50/50 mixture of topsoil and fine sand. Remember, the mixture may settle over time, especially if you’re filling a larger hole. 

After you fill the low area with a sand/topsoil mixture, reassemble the grass squares. Place them carefully into their spot, then use your leftover sand and topsoil mixture to fill the seams between the turf pieces. 

Water your lawn thoroughly to moisten the topsoil mixture, then use a sod roller to work the seams between the grass you just cut and laid. You might need to use the sod roller a few times over the following days to work through all of the low spots. 

In the following days and weeks, water your grass frequently until the grass re-establishes and fills the seams between the turf pieces. You might have to reseed those areas with grass seed to help the process along. 

Correcting Holes Around The Foundation Or Stairs

The process of repairing low points around your foundation or stairs looks different than repairing depressions in the middle of your lawn. Instead of using a topsoil mixture, you need to use a fill soil with a high amount of clay and a low amount of sand. 

Avoid using gravel or rock as a filler material, as this will allow water to trickle through the gaps and exacerbate the problem, creating a deeper cavity. Shovel a few inches of fill soil into the bottom of the depression, then compact it thoroughly using a soil tamper. 

Continue filling and tamping the fill soil until it is flush with the ground. Overfilling the hole might be a good idea, as the soil is prone to settling over time. Make sure to slope the dirt away from the foundation wall. It doesn’t need to be a major slope, maybe about 5% grade over a length of 10 feet. This ensures water doesn’t pool next to the foundation, which can cause all sorts of issues.