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A Guide to Smooth, Safe and Efficient Land Leveling with Planer Attachments

Posted on 30th May 2014 @ 1:35 PM

Contractors, homeowners, landscapers and farmers understand the concept of shaping the ground. Similar to the “ruts” of life, ruts in the ground are unwanted, disliked and should be expelled immediately. Whether it’s repairing ruts in life or in the terrain, the rebuild often requires flexibility, willingness to change and the desire to fine-tune. When performing site preparation, installing irrigation systems, building a deck or patio, closing trenches or preparing for planting, repairing ruts and leveling the land is a crucial step. Land planes can re-level the ruts or other blemishes in the topography caused by large machinery. They also re-introduce oxygen into the soil and “un-compact” heavy traffic areas by lightly scuffing the grade — which becomes hugely important when looking to successfully grow a standard lawn.

Land leveling is pivotal in the progression of most construction or rebuilding projects. Thankfully, whatever the situation or ground conditions, grading can be simple, especially with equipment that allows for flexibility. There are a few key features to look for in a land grader, as well as tricks of the trade to keep in mind, such as safety, jobsite terrain, proper operation and the best tools for the job.

Safety First
As with any job, safety is the top priority. No one should run a skid steer with a plane attachment without proper training, both on operation and safety. Further, utilities are everywhere and unfortunately are commonly buried too shallow on construction sites — sometimes as little as 2 in. below the grade.

Properly trained operators should make sure the attachment mechanism is locked firmly into any skid steer or track loader. It’s also of utmost importance to constantly be aware of buildings, cars or other people on the site. Operators also need to be conscious of hazards on the jobsite that come between the plane and finished grade. Visibility is crucial in ensuring accuracy and care across concrete paths, curbs and even the grass that ties into the finished grade. An open-view land grader that maximizes visibility of the forward cutting edge can provide the best sight lines and control.

Make a Plan
Once those issues have been addressed, it’s time to devise a plan for leveling the site. Whether it’s a reconstruction or new construction jobsite, soil types and contours all need to be considered. Any large debris, including rocks or weeds, should be removed prior to grading. Deep ruts on jobsites should be carefully evaluated, as well as whether the project requires the addition or subtraction of material. Soil types vary considerably based on the jobsite, weather and region. Land planes are known to work with an array of materials — ranging from black dirt to recycled asphalt. While sandy soils are very workable, wet clay commonly gums up and forms clumps on contact, making it a difficult material to plane. In this type of soil, it’s often best to let the clay dry and harden. Once the material is 90 percent dry, clumping should be minimized. At that time, operators can use a grader with a crossbeam, which is designed to break up clods of dirt and clay, to create a smooth, finished surface.

On other jobsites, some moisture can help control dust. Particularly when working with dry, hard-packed grounds, operators should consider spraying water over the area before grading, if possible. In some situations — commonly in farm settings — operators wait for a heavy rain before performing necessary land leveling tasks. By waiting for a heavy rain, the natural irrigation and drainage process of the land is easier to evaluate. This way, the operator is aware of whether ditches need be dug, or whether the land really needs to be graded in certain areas.

A Pivotal Point
After the pre-work considerations have been addressed, there’s one more thing to think about, and it can be the most important in terms of time and efficiency — selecting the right blade for the terrain. Blending areas and leveling between high and low spots can be done easily on flat ground with a skid steer and a rigid plane attachment. However, by definition rigid planes are unyielding and do not adjust, making them difficult to operate on slopes or hills. Operators often struggle with corners digging in when the skid steer hits a rock and causes the opposite corner of the plane to scoop. This becomes especially frustrating when blending newly graded areas.

Many land levelers don’t accommodate necessary height adjustments, as they’re set at the height of the skid steer’s boom arm. This one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allot for the type of skid steer or the weight of the operator. A vertical height adjustment is crucial to optimizing the performance of the cutter and ensuring proper operation and pressure.

Smooth Operator

Since the pivoting plane operates differently than rigid planes, it’s important to consider how to work with the attachment before jumping into a skid steer and learning on the fly. Instructional videos and owner’s manuals give tips on proper operation, maintenance and dos and don’ts. With just a little practice, operators can transition from a rigid plane to a pivoting unit, smoothly bringing them from ruts to level ground.