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I make a living by studying and analyzing landscaping plans. Over the years, I have noticed over and over again that while looking great on paper, the majority of designs are unrealistic and off-track in view of project objectives and financial goals. Shapes on a map do not hold much meaning by themselves until they have been anchored to reality through numbers. While a design is made up of many components, earthworks are one of the pillars of the design framework  and arguably one of the biggest costs and risk factors. It is therefore of utmost importance to know exactly what those costs and risks are before recommending or committing to a concept. For this purpose I have created this illustrated step-by-step manual. It is meant to serve as an introductory text on the topic of carrying out grading analysis for embankment type farm dams. The book takes the reader by the hand and in painstaking detail leads them through the process of evaluating a proposed  farm dam concept. The goal is to present a digested workflow that teaches the essential tools and techniques that will enable designers to take a concept sketch and come out with a detailed grading plan, volumetric data and various surface analysis exports. This book is meant to empower dedicated analysts and designers that seek to improve their service through new workflows and a greater output of valuable analytical data.


Why learn grading?

  • Dam grading analysis takes you one step closer to knowing with certainty whether or not commit to a design idea as impactful as a dam.
  • Analysis can help save you or your Client thousands (even hundreds of thousands) in cash by clearly highlighting how well the concept plan fares against the project’s context and objectives. This is what preliminary grading is all about, – embedding with real world meaning what is otherwise just a pretty picture.
  • Grading is a fundamental skill required in almost all high end projects.
  • Knowledge in grading can certainly put a landscaping business ahead of the curve and drastically improve the value you bring to the table.
  • Having the ability to come up before Clients with concrete data and a final return on investment (ROI) value is very powerful. In the case of earthworks this is impossible without volumetric data.
  • While volumetrics can be calculated manually, when you are being paid by the hour and the projects you are working on involve extensive earthworks or tight deadlines, then you need to find a workflow for arriving at such data efficiently. And workflow is what this book is all about.


The book contains over 230 pages of content and is fully illustrated with more than 235 images. It also features a simple, clean and clear layout for ease of reading. For those who prefer to read on paper, the format has been conveniently designed for printing in A4.
The content is divided between five main chapters:

  • I. Introduction
  • II. Mapping
  • III. Grading
  • IV. Analysis
  • V. Output

Each chapter is broken down to the major and minor steps that guide the reader from the initial project brief and concept design towards the culmination of the output of all the various grading plans, reports and data exports.

For a full contents list see below.

Chapter I – Introduction

  • 1.1. Introduction
  • 1.2 Project Overview
    • Project Objectives
    • Project Data
  • 1.3. Standards
    • CAD Standards
    • Grading Standards
  • 1.4. Hardware and Software

Chapter II – Mapping

  • 2.1 Geoprocessing
    • 2.1.1. Import
    • 2.1.2 Defining Projection
    • 2.1.3. Raster Clipping
  • 2.2. Extraction
  • 2.3. Optimisation
    • 2.3.1. Manual Noise Reduction
    • 2.3.2. Automated Noise Reduction
  • 2.4. Smoothing
  • 2.5. Simplification
  • 2.6. Symbology
  • 2.7 Output

Chapter III – Grading

  • 3.1 Data Input
  • 3.2. Surface Creation
    • 3.2.1. Preparation
    • 3.2.2. Surface Definition
  • 3.3. Grading the Embankment
    • 3.3.1. Blocking
    • 3.3.2. Grading
    • 3.3.3. Adjusting the Embankment
  • 3.4. Grading the Spillway
    • 3.4.1. Blocking
    • 3.4.2. Grading
  • 3.5. Grading the Borrow Pit
    • 3.5.1. Blocking
    • 3.5.2. Grading
  • 3.6. Grading the Diversion Drain
    • 3.6.1. Blocking
    • 3.6.2. Grading
  • 3.7. Water Volume Surface

Chapter IV – Analysis

  • 4.1. Pasting Surfaces
  • 4.2. Volumetric Analysis
    • 4.2.1. Preparation
    • 4.2.2. Composite Volumes
    • 4.2.3. Volume Surfaces
  • 4.3. Surface Analysis
    • 4.3.1. Cut and Fill Surface Analysis
    • 4.3.2. Drainage Surface Analysis
    • 4.3.3. Slope Surface Analysis
    • 4.3.4. Contour Surface Analysis
  • 4.4. Labels and Tables
    • 4.4.1. Cut & Fill Exhibit
    • 4.4.2. Slope Exhibit
    • 4.4.3 Surface Labels
    • 4.4.4. Annotation Labels
    • 4.4.5. Dimensions
  • 4.5. Sections and Profiles
    • 4.5.1. Quick Cross Section and Quick Profile
    • 4.5.2. Samples Lines and Sections
    • 4.5.2. Profile and Profile Views

Chapter V – Output

  • 5.1. Plan and Profile Sheet Plotting
    • 5.1.1. Layout Setup
    • 5.1.2. Sheet #01 – Plan Detail – Final Ground
    • 5.1.3. Sheet #02 – Plan Detail – Final Ground & Volumetrics
    • 5.1.4. Sheet #03 – Plan Detail – Final Ground & Cut and Fill
    • 5.1.5. Sheet #04 – Plan Detail – Final Ground & Drainage
    • 5.1.6. Sheet #05 – Plan Overview – Final Ground
    • 5.1.7. Sheet #06 – Profile – Existing Ground & Final Ground
    • 5.1.8. Sheet #07 – Plan Detail & Final Ground Profile
  • 5.3. Volume Report
  • 5.4. Surface Output
    • 5.4.1. Grading Surfaces
    • 5.4.2. Surface Analysis
    • 5.4.3. Folder Organisation
    • 5.4.5. Digital Elevation Model
  • 5.5. Drawing Output
    • 5.5.1. Drawing Export
    • 5.5.2. Layout Export

Sample Pages

Working Files

You can purchase independently all of the project files required to follow the entire process outlined in the book. Purchasing the project files together with the eBook comes with a 20% discount.

The files include:

  • The raw data files required to complete the steps of the process;
  • All of the drawing (.dwg) files for each step of the grading;
  • The final output files;

In total you will receive well over 150 files with more than 35 drawings!

Even by themselves, the project files are an invaluable resource and the principal way by which I myself studied the grading methods of my tutors. By studying the files you will be able to clearly understand exactly how each step was achieved. You can also use them for future reference.

What You Get

  • Over 230 pages of fully illustrated, step-by-step grading manual in .pdf format, designed for printing and ease of reading.
  • Over 150 project files with more than 30 drawings (.dwg) that can be purchased independently from the book.
  • Purchasing the bundle (eBook + Project files) will grant you a 20%  discount.
  • Know-how on topics such as:
    • Working with and setting up digital elevation models for analysis;
    • Optimizing contour data for grading;
    • Importing data into civil engineering software;
    • Setting up your grading documents for effective working;
    • Working non-destructively with procedural techniques for a management-free workflow;
    • Creating triangulated surfaces and managing surface properties;
    • Grading embankments, spillways, borrow pits, diversion channels;
    • Preparing surfaces for analysis;
    • Carrying out surface analysis such as slope and drainage based on predefined criteria;
    • Creating and managing volume surfaces;
    • Carrying out composite and volume surface volumetric analysis;
    • Creating labels, tables, annotations and dimensions;
    • Creating sections, samples and profiles;
    • Preparing plan and profile layout sheets for printing;
    • Plotting grading sheets;
    • Preparing volume reports;
    • Exporting grading surfaces, labels, tables, surface analysis and volumetric data to Google Earth;
    • Exporting surface digital elevation models;
    • Organizing surface data in Google Earth;

Along the way you will also learn various tips, tricks and important but often overlooked details pertaining to CAD and grading operations.



  • You have to be able to read contour maps and have a good understanding of levels, as everything in grading has to do with managing surface elevations.
  • Working knowledge of Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D. If you consider yourself a beginner, I recommend you first attend an introductory course that will familiarize you with the interface and the way the software operates in general.
  • If you want to follow along with the workflow shown in the book, you will need the working files that contain all of the data used throughout the book.


  • Minimum system requirements:
    • 2 GHz 64 Bit Processor
    • 8GB RAM
    • Graphics Card – 1 GB VRAM
  • Stable Internet connection



The eBook costs 50$ (USD), 96$ as a bundle with the project files, or 120$ if each is bought independently. It’s a hefty price for an eBook, I know, but consider this for a moment:

  • Thousands of dollars went into acquiring the knowledge laid out in this book by paying for the software subscriptions, workshops and consultations with professionals out of my own pocket so you won’t have to.
  • Hundreds of invaluable hours away from my family and other passions were spent in order to read, study, practice and comprehend on my own because resources like this did not exist to guide me.
  • This is the only resource of its kind in the world. In all honesty, the price of this book is not even close to what I personally would have paid when I started out to just have a resource like this to learn from so that I can spend more time working effectively and less time dealing with troubleshooting.
  • Hundreds of hours went into writing the book to lay out for you a digested workflow that simply works and spares you from countless mistakes and confusion.
  • Taking the time to write this book meant taking time away from other well paid projects, risking the loss of thousands of dollars.
  • This is an in-depth manual, not a book on general information. It is highly specialized and meant for a small number of people.
  • If you are a contractor and wish to expand your portfolio, the returns you can get by offering grading services using this workflow can pay you back dozens of times the price of the book just from a single project.
  • If you are a landowner that intents on implementing dams and wish to experiment with grading scenarios on your own prior to committing to a decision, then by running the workflow outlined in this book you can both learn an invaluable skill and save yourself a good amount of money that would otherwise go to contractors.


I am no longer able to provide refunds for digital products. It is the customer’s responsibility to read through the description and make sure that the product is suitable for them and that they have what is required to make full use of it prior to purchasing.

Orders made prior to October 5 2017 are still subject to a full refund within 15 days of the date of purchase.

Additional information


eBook, Project Files, Bundle – eBook + Project Files