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6 Easy Sloped Backyard Ideas on a Budget

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Inside: You’ll love these sloped backyard ideas on a budget! I share how we transformed our yard and saved lots of money along the way.

My main goal the first summer we lived in our house was to get our sloped backyard fully landscaped so we could enjoy it for at least a few weeks.

Having never had a backyard before (let alone a sloped yard), I had NO IDEA how much landscaping would cost.

The first bid we got came in at $16,000! There was no way we could drop 16 grand on our yard, so I knew we needed to look at a few other options.

The second bid we got came in around $6000 and that was just for the lower level of our backyard and didn’t include sod! (Because our backyard is sloped so we actually ended up with a tiered yard! More on that below).

$6000 for only half of our yard didn’t sit well with me either, so we had to get even MORE creative than I thought. Here’s how we landscaped our yard for way less than those bids just by doing some of it ourselves.

A mom sits with her two children on a large rock wall in their backyard.

How do you build a good backyard on a budget?

Our situation is a little unique because our builder was required to landscape our front yard as part of our contract so we actually saved a lot of money there.

We were originally told that we would have to landscape our side yard as well, so we were looking at an even bigger cost than we originally had planned on.

There were lots of little blessings for us along the way, and it turned out that we didn’t have to landscape our side yard and the builder paid to do it!

Our lot size is about a quarter of an acre and we have the biggest yard in our neighborhood, so saving anywhere we could was my main objective. 

When the landscapers were working on our front yard, I just went out one day and asked if they could give me a quote for the backyard.

They did our grass, mulch, and sprinkler system for $2100! That was a fraction of the cost of the first two bids.

Here are several ways to build out a backyard on a budget, no matter what shape or grading it is:

1. Talk to as many people as you can until you get the right price.

I definitely didn’t want to have our backyard done poorly, but I also knew that $6000 not including sod was pretty outrageous.

I had already researched the cost of sod, so I had a guess of what it would cost to do it ourselves. Plus, the builder had already commissioned this landscaper to do several houses, so I knew that they could be trusted.

2. If your builder is installing your front yard, talk with the actual workers doing the landscaping to see what their estimates come in at.

Some of those workers have businesses on the side and will charge you way less than going through an actual company, but will still do the same great work.

3. See if the company will give you a discount for paying cash.

We paid cash for all of the work that we hired out for and one of the landscapers gave us a discount because of it!

4. Consider talking with your builder (if you have a new home) to see who they can put you in contact with and what they can do for you.

We did this to finish our rock wall and saved big $$$ by just asking our builder to provide us with the stones. It never hurts to ask!

5. Know what to hire out and what to do yourself.

I knew that we would be doing the bulk of our landscaping while I was pregnant, so I wasn’t as ambitious as I probably would have been not pregnant. That being said, I knew what was important to me to have done right.

I didn’t want to touch the sprinkler system, rock wall, or grading so we hired that out!

We had neighbors who are building a sloped backyard retaining wall themselves and after watching the landscapers who built ours…I think they’re pretty crazy! I just don’t know anything about that type of landscaping so I wanted to leave it to someone who did.

However, I was totally willing to lay sod, build garden boxes, and plant roses because I knew that was something I could handle. Thankfully I didn’t have to lay any sod, but if we needed to save money, we would have.

In the long run, I knew that paying someone to do the more difficult landscaping would actually SAVE us money because we wouldn’t have to deal with shoddy work down the road.  So just keep that in mind when you’re looking at costs.

Sloped Backyard Ideas on a Budget

Now let’s jump into WHAT we actually did in our sloped yard and HOW we did it!

I mentioned this above, but our lot is sloped. Our backyard was a big flipping mess when we moved in. Just look at all of that mud, rock, and tumbleweed. SMH.

We definitely lucked out because our builder installed part of our rock wall for us before we moved in. And they did the most difficult section that required an engineer to construct.

The rock that they put in was just a type of retaining wall, but it actually ended up working perfectly for a full rock wall.

I agonized and researched how to landscape our sloped yard for weeks before we moved in because I honestly had no idea what to do.

Everyone I know has a flat, square/rectangle lot, and here we were stuck with a rhombus-looking, sloped yard. I really needed backyard ideas to fit our specific needs and insight into what landscaping a sloped backyard really entails.

1. Rock wall with steps

It wasn’t until one of the landscapers we got a quote from suggested carrying the rock all along the yard and adding steps in the middle that I knew that’s how I wanted our yard to look.

It was an awesome backyard layout idea and I never would have thought of it without talking to him. Terracing a sloped backyard is such an attractive option that’s great for now and for re-sale (if we move again).

Rock wall in sloped backyard surrounded by dirt.

We also talked with our builder and we were able to get all of the rest of the stone for our rock wall for FREE! Just because they were digging up the stones from other homesites and had to pay to haul them away. We were actually saving the builder money by using the stones.

They even connected us with the landscapers who had built other rock walls in the community and we just paid for labor.

Rock wall with steps in sloped backyard surrounded by green grass, flower patch, and playhouse.
Rock steps in sloped backyard surrounded by brown mulch.

I love how our wall turned out and think it was the perfect solution for our sloped backyard. If you need easy backyard ideas for a sloped yard, consider adding a rock wall with steps to break up the two levels, but still give easy access to both levels.

As far as the rest of the backyard went, we had to get a little creative.

I knew I didn’t want any grass on our upper level at all. I didn’t want to deal with sprinklers up there (mostly to keep water from flowing down the hill into our foundation). Also because I wanted to save my husband from having to haul the lawnmower up there and mowing an uneven space.

2. No grass on the upper level

We looked at a few different material options but ended up using mulch on the majority of our upper level. We saved a lot of money upfront because sod and sprinklers definitely would have cost more. Plus we’re saving money every month on what we would have spent watering the grass up there.

Sloped backyard with mulch on upper level and rock wall in the middle.

Skip the grass and use mulch instead! I honestly have never seen a yard with as much mulch as we have but I really like the contrast between the dark-colored mulch and our light rocks!

Plus, the mulch is a great natural weed barrier so it will hopefully lead to less weeding for us. When the weeds do pop through, it’s easy to see them against the mulch.

3. Break up the space with gravel pads

Another issue we had to work around was a huge pile of gravel left on our lot when we moved in. At first, we were going to let our builder haul it away, but then we decided it may help break up some of the mulch so we wanted to put it to good use.

Large section of dirt and gravel in sloped backyard.

We ended up using the gravel as a base for our DIY fire pit area and for our DIY paver patio. Gravel works great for cheap backyard patio ideas. It saved us so much money in materials!

However, moving the gravel was another story. That was the most difficult part of our whole yard.

Gravel and paver patio surrounded by brown mulch and stone fence.

We also had lots of gravel leftover that we gave to our neighbor because he was willing to haul it away. So check with your neighbors, friends, and family to see if they have any leftover landscaping materials that they may give you for free or cheap if you’re willing to transport it yourself.

DIY Backyard Ideas

Overall, we saved a ton of money on our sloped yard because we did about half of the work ourselves.

This included building our own garden boxes, installing all of the landscape material on our upper level, and planting all of the trees and roses ourselves.

We followed the same building plans for our garden boxes, fire pit area, and sandbox. These plans worked great for our backyard transformations on a budget.

Gravel fire pit area with black fire pit, wood benches, and wood light posts.
Three raised empty garden beds in backyard surrounded by dark brown mulch.
Small sandbox with brown playhouse surrounded by dark brown mulch.

We also saved a lot of money by installing all of the materials in our upper level ourselves.

Our landscapers delivered the mulch, topsoil, and sand for us at their discounted price and we told them we would take care of the installation. Check with your landscaper to see if they’ll do the same!

We saved about $400 doing it this way. Sure it took us about a week to rake out all of the mulch and transport the sand and topsoil, but we had family help us and we were able to use the savings to purchase our trees and flowers!

Three men moving dirt around in a sloped backyard.

I checked several different nurseries for the trees and roses I wanted, and I ended up finding the best price at our local Home Depot.

Just the roses at our local nursery would have been $300, but we spent a little over $200 at Home Depot on all of our plants.

Two young fruit trees in a backyard surrounded by mulch, rocks, and dirt.
Two rose bushes in flower bed surrounded by brown mulch and stone pavers.

Honestly, they looked a lot better than the ones in the nurseries and they have a 1-year guarantee, so I felt pretty good investing our money in trees and flowers from Home Depot.

Planting them was a breeze because our landscaper pre-dug the holes for us when they were installing our drip line.

See if your landscaper will include pre-dug holes as part of your quote to save yourself from having to dig through rocky, hard soil. It would have taken us days to do that ourselves! 

How Much We Spent

In total, we spent about $6500 on our backyard!

My original goal was $5000, but I realize now that wasn’t enough to cover the space we have. But $6500 is by far less than the first two bids we got, so I’m pretty happy about that!

Also note, that number does not include a fence…which we plan to get in the next year or so. Fencing our yard will probably be another $2000-$3000 so just keep that in mind if you’re in a new neighborhood like us.

We landscaped our sloped for such a great price because we worked with our builder and their landscaper, we didn’t do grass in our whole yard, we stuck with simple backyard landscaping and we DIY’d several aspects.

Of course, our backyard doesn’t look as amazing as it would if we had $16,000 to spend on it or if we were landscape architects, but I’ve gotten several compliments on it and it feels functional for our family; which makes me happy!

Considering our budget, our backyard makeover before and after is pretty impressive if I do say so myself!

We’ve loved being able to spend family time outside and are so glad we saved all that money. Make a list of your must-haves for your yard and be willing to get creative for the rest!

Large rock wall in sloped backyard surrounded by grass with brown mulch, play house, and lights in background.

Want More?

Looking for more great homeowner tips? Check out these 9 easy tasks that should be on every new homeowner checklist.

Your Turn

If you have any questions about our sloped backyard makeover or more great sloped backyard ideas on a budget, feel free to ask in the comments below. 

Pinterest graphic with text and before and after of sloped backyard.