For the first time this season, we installed landscape steps for a client.


Building large steps into a slope looks easy, but it’s an art in itself and there are many fine details that cannot be overlooked.

Step 1:  Before digging, map out water runoff and determine location of steps accordingly.

Step 2:  Measure the area to determine exactly how many steps are needed, and also to determine the length and width of each step.

Step 3:  Dig into the slope, but not too deeply.

Step 4:  Start at the base of the slope and work up.  That’s exactly what we did.

Step 5:  Once the borders have been placed (we used pressure treated wood), grade the center down until the surface is flat and flush with the borders.  Though, since our steps were long, they ended up being built at a very gently sloping grade.

Step 6:  Determine the height of each step.  Since my client wanted the steps only two inches high, we measured and graded accordingly.

Step 7:  For steps built with wooden borders: Fill the center of each step with 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch clear crush.  It makes for a nice finish.

This is the type of job that is best completed with two people, regardless of experience.  That is because it takes two pair of eyes to catch any flaws that may exist.

Other things to consider:  pressure treated lumber is much better than regular wooden landscape ties because it is more durable and it lasts longer, especially if the client plans to mount a railing on the steps (which my client did).  It also looks nicer.

Always make sure to have more than enough lumber (or any other type of material).   Prior to this job, I had measured the slope and calculated the number landscape lumber posts I would need for each step.  I ended up ordering one more than the exact number I needed to get the job done.  That was a good call, because, while building the steps, one of the pieces of lumber cracked open while being staked into the ground.  Thankfully, we had that extra lumber post which spared us the time to drive into town to purchase another one and saved the client extra money they would have had to pay for the incidental.


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