Garden Steps

Step by step instructions installing garden steps.

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Installing Garden Steps

 

If you have a steep slope in a traffic area of your yard, adding garden steps makes the slop safer and more manageable. Or if your yard has a long continuous hill, you can add several sets of steps to get the same results. In addition to making your landscape more accessible, garden steps make your yard more attractive by creating visual interest.

Garden steps are build into an excavated portion of a slope or hill, flush with the surrounding ground.  You can build garden steps from almost any landscape materials, stone, brick, concrete, wood, or even interlocking block. In this landscape project I am using two materials wood and concrete. The design is simple steps are formed by a series of wood frames made from  5+6 landscape timbers. The frames are stacked on top of one another, following the run of the slope. After the frames are set in place, they’re filled with concrete and given a finish texture.

The exact dimensions of the frames you build will depend on the height of your slope, the size of the timbers you’re using and how wide and deep the steps must be. Gradual slopes are best suited to a small number of broad steps. Steeper slopes require a larger number of narrower steps. To keep the stairs easy to use the risers should be no more than 6 inches high and the depth of the frame, also called the tread depth should be at least 11 inches.

 

 

 

 

How to plan your garden steps.

 

Drive a tall stake into the ground at the bottom of the slope and adjust it until it’s plumb. Then drive a shorter stake at the top of the slope. Position a straight 2+4 against the stakes, with one end touching the ground next to the top stake. Adjust the 2+4 so it’s lever, then attach it to the stakes with screws. Measure from the ground to the bottom 0f the 2+4 to find the total vertical rise of the stairway. Divide the total rise by the actual thickness of the timbers to find the number of garden steps required. Round off fractions to the nearest full number.

Measure along the 2+4 between the stakes to find the total horizontal span. Divide the span by the number of garden steps to find the tread depth. If the tread depth comes out to less than 11 inches revise the step layout to extend it.

 

 

 

 

How to build garden steps

 

Use a reciprocating saw to cut timbers, then assemble the step frames with 12 inch spikes. In our design, the front timber runs the full width of the step, while the back timber fits between the side timbers.

1. Mark the sides of the site with stakes and string. Position the stakes at the front edge of the bottom step and the back edge of the top step.

 

2. Outline the excavation for the first garden step at the base of the slope, using stakes and string. Remember that the excavation will be larger than the overall tread depth since the back timber in the frame will be cover by the front timber of the next garden step.

 

3. Excavate the area for the first frame, creating a flat bed with a very slight forward slope, dropping about 1/8 from back to front. The front of the excavation should be no more than 2 inches deep. Tamp the soil down firmly, using a hand tamp.

 

4. Set the timber frame into the excavation. Use a level to make sure that the front and back timbers are level and that the frame slopes slightly forward.

 

5. Using a spade bit drill two 1 inch guide holes in the front timber and the back timber, 1 ft. from the ends. Anchor the garden steps to the ground by driving a 2 ½ ft. length of ¾ inch pipe through each guide hole until the pipe is flush with the timber.

 

 

 

 

Add the second frame for your garden steps

 

1. Excavate for the next step, making sure the bottom of the excavation is even with the top edge of the frame you installed for the first step.

 

2. Position the second garden step frame in the excavation lining up the front of the frame directly over the rear timber of the first frame.

 

3. Nail the first frame to the second with three 12 inch spikes. Drill guide holes and drive two pipes through the back timber to anchor the second frame on place.

 

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