Natural Stone Steps Construction Materials & Plans
First, think about the depth of each step. Do as you wish depending on the length of the run, but keep your step depth somewhere between 12″ and 18″ or they will be completely awkward.
You typically want your stones to be somewhere around 6″ and 7″ in thickness. This will lend itself to helping you create the perfect 7″ rise, which we’ve all come to expect from walking on stairs. If you stray outside these ranges, you’ll have far more accidents.
Usually, we go for a 7″ riser and 14″ run, at the very least. You can go above it, for example, 8″ riser and 15″ run but don’t go below it or too much above it. If the run is too long, then it may become awkward or uncomfortable.
It’s always cool if you have to space to make the bottom step the widest and let them become a bit more narrow as you move towards the top. You don’t have to do this, but it always feels welcoming and friendly.
You’ll also need quite a bit of A-gravel and bedding sand. These are used to create flat surfaces for the stone steps to rest upon that will allow for water drainage and evaporation beneath them.
Measure The Stone Staircase Run Length
First of all, we will find out the distance of your overall run for the staircase. You should take the measurements horizontally as taking it on an angle is not going to give you proper measurements.
It’d be like measuring the hypotenuse of a triangle when you want to measure the base. Your measurement will come out too long.
You’re going to measure from the future face of the top step and future face of the bottom step, but up in the air to a perpendicular point above the bottom step. You can push a big stick into the ground, a shovel, a ruler, or anything else long enough to stick up to the full height.
Mental Preparation For Installing Natural Stone Steps
First of all, you need to decide on the stone you want to use for your project. There’s a wide variety of flagstones to choose from. They come in almost all possible sizes, finish, and color.
This makes it easier for you to decide which one to choose. Analyze your home’s style and then search for the appropriate stone. Of course, you can find these in the wild but it’s honestly much easier and better to pony up the cash and buy them, in my opinion.
If you want your stone steps to appear natural and rough, then a split finish or rock face finish is right up your alley. If you’re going for a more exquisite and refined look, then you can choose your flagstones accordingly based on shape and color.
There are options in terms of sizes as well. You can get small stone pieces and then put them together or use them to fill in gaps between bigger but irregularly shaped stones. It’s all up to you, but be aware that the small ones can be dislodged over time.
Don’t go for tiny stones as they can be difficult to put together. You can either put small stones together to form one step or use one large stone for one individual step. But the tiny ones are going to make the whole step come apart over time.
To use a big stone for one step, you’ll need to measure your desired size, keeping in mind the dimensions you’re going for. The size and width of your step play a significant role in this.
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Concrete And Block Method For Patio Steps
Profile of garden steps built using concrete and pavers
As you can see from the before photograph below, our original step was intact. So we were able to use a breaker to break out the second and third steps, and then dig down behind the first to put in a concrete base for step number two. This continued all the way up to the top.
Making garden steps from scratch and cutting in to earth
If you are starting from scratch you will need to and building your steps into virgin earth, you will need to dig a 125mm deep footing under the bottom riser to support it. Ensure that this footing is level and hard before your continue.
The footing under the first step or riser Image courtesy of diy.com
Two concrete blocks are laid flat to form the shuttering or formwork for the concrete behind. The concrete is mixed as a 6-ballast 1-cement fairly dry mix.
As its fairly dry the blocks can be laid on it almost immediately and the steps can continue in one. It would take a week if you had to wait for each step to dry before moving on to the next.
In this example the blocks and concrete are laid wider than the opening that is needed. This allows the use of the extra width as a stepped foundation for the walls up either side.
Laying blocks to form walls either side on extra width of step
The treads were cut to size and laid from the same paving as the patio. Each tread overhangs the step below and slopes downwards towards the front about 6mm.
How To Build A Concrete Patio
Create a prominent outdoor space with a strong and stylish concrete patio. The base of rigid patios can be constructed with mortared brick, mortared flagstone, tile, or concrete pad. Concrete provides a solid base beneath these materials. It also prevents them from cracking as the ground shifts from temperatures changes.
In most areas, a concrete patio begins with 4 inches of compacted stone. The difference is the depth you dig before you pour.
If you install a concrete patio, dig out a space 8 inches deep 4 inches for the some, another 4 inches for the concrete, and another 2 inches to allow for mortar and brick.
Step 1Step 1Lay Out and Excavate the Patio
Lay out the patio with batterboards and masons line. Remove the sod, dig out 8 inches of soil, and compact the exposed surface. Spread gravel on the surface in 2-inch layers, compacting each layer and adding gravel for a bed 4 inches deep.
Install a second set of layout lines on stakes. Position the stakes outside the first set of lines, offset from the first set by the width of the forms youll use. Level the lines with a line level or water level.
Step 10Step 10Let the Concrete Cure
Lay plastic sheeting over the finished surface. The moisture trapped inside eliminates the need for watering during the curing stage.
Let the concrete cure at least 48 hours, then remove the form boards.
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Find The Number Of Treads
- Simply subtract one from the number of risers.
- There’s always one fewer tread than risers, as you can see in Fig. B.
Building Steps On A Slope
Are you ready to learn how to build steps on a slope? Youve come to the right place. Today Im sharing how I built these steps into a slope in our backyard.
We installed a patio and needed a way to get to it from our deck, queue the walkway on a slope!
We took it upon ourselves to build stairs into the hill in our back yard.
We thought it would be a nice compliment and really polish off our backyard makeover, not to mention a great way to get to our new DIY patio from the deck.
Since the slope wasnt too bad, we thought we might be able to get away with just a gravel pathway, but we wanted a more grand look.
We used ground contact pressure treated lumber for all the wood since its sitting in the ground.
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- Stones buy from the quarry
Building The Porch Steps
Lay Down Each Stone Step Bottom To Top
In this final step in our how to build natural stone steps guide, we’re going to lay down the rest of your steps, working our way up from the 2nd step from the bottom and on to the top.
For your 2nd step, be careful that the step’s face is a half-inch lower than the back of the same step. The point is to make sure that the water isn’t standing on each step and is able to run down and then drain out.
You’re making each natural stone step tilt forward very slightly, so that the water runs down them all towards the bottom step and the base ground, where it can either drain naturally or run into your corrugated drainage pipe.
Standing water is going to be bad for your stair case. Make sure you are either leaving a bit of space behind each individual step so the water can drain forward and off to the sides, or make sure the front of the next higher step overlaps the one below it slightly.
What you have to do is repeat the process of digging out the spot where the next stone will lie, adding in A-gravel and bedding sand and pounding it flat. Keep adding in material till you acquire the wanted height. Now place the stone step slab, making sure the slight forward tilt is there.
You should make the front of each higher step overlap the one below it by at least 1″. To achieve the slight forward tilt you can use stone chips that have fallen off in your purchase as shims to raise the back ends upwards.
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Building The Rise On The Paver Slab Method
Alternatively, behind the brick or block work, scalping or hardcore can be laid and compacted. This should rise to the point the second step will be built which will ensure that the water runs off the front of the step, much in the way described above. A 6mm difference is sufficient to give you an effective slope.
Laying the paver tread when making garden steps Image courtesy of diy.com
The lay a bed of mortar to place the pavers onto and lay them with an overhang of about 25mm on the front and sides of the steps. You should use a pointing mortar between slabs if required.
In this method you build the next riser on top of the paver or tread of the step below. The disadvantage of this method is that you either have to wait for the mortar under the pavers to go off before you start the next step, or be very careful.
Unlike the image above, we always prefer to fill the void behind each riser. If this cavity is left open as shown in the diy.com image above, it can fill with water which may wash out further infill and even seep through the brickwork joints.
This in turn will stain your steps. See our project page on efflorescence.
How To Complete The Base For Your Patio
Remove the guides and fill in the remaining space with sand.
Finish the Base
With the gravel base compacted, install galvanized steel edging around the perimeter of the base . This edging marks the outside of the 11-foot square to be filled by the pavers. Edging is also available in plastic or aluminum.
The final base material is a one-inch layer of sand.
Spread the sand over the gravel base to a depth of one inch. Screed the sand with a 2×4 using a pair of 1-inch PVC pipe and a depth guide . You can create similar guides by sawing wood into long, 1-inch thick strips. Then remove the guides and fill in the remaining sand.
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Calculating The Stair Measurements
Common Building Codes for Deck Stairs
Stair treads: 36 inches wide and 10 inches deepStair risers: 7.75 inches or less in heightStringers: No notches deeper than half the width of the board, or the stringer will be too weak
S That Are Not On A Slope
This sounds like a contradiction in terms, however sometimes it is necessary to build steps up to a patio where there is no slope, such as where the steps meet a wall. In this case it is important to anchor the steps into the wall by toothing it in to the adjoining wall.
For more information about how to do this see our project on tying into existing brickwork.
The easiest way to build steps like this is to build low walls with bricks or blocks where the risers and sides of the flight will be. You will end up with a series of boxes which you fill with scalping or ballast before adding your treads.
For up to 5 steps you can build these steps of strip footings, but over 5 steps you should create a concrete pad.
The nice thing about building steps in the garden is that you have a great deal more freedom that you do in the home, however you do need to ensure that they are safe and sound. If you use either of these two methods you will achieve just that safe patio or garden step made with pavers.
All project content written and produced by Mike Edwards, founder of DIY Doctor and industry expert in building technology.
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Tips For Decorating Your New Patio
Once youve finished building your DIY patio, youll want to start enjoying it right away! The right patio accessories will go a long way towards creating the ultimate outdoor experience.
If youve opted not to cover your patio, youll need to create some shade. A simple cloth sunshade or decorative patio umbrella will offer some protection from the heat of the mid-day sun. Or for something more premanent, you may want to consider a gazebo or a pergola for your new patio space. Youll also want plenty of comfortable seating. Depending on how you plan to use your new patio, you may decide to add a table and chairs, outdoor loveseats, or individual lounge chairs.
To give your new patio the finishing touch, consider adding a portable fire pit, an outdoor bar, and some fun décor. You may also want to add a stylish and practical deck box. This creative solution provides additional seating while also giving you a safe place to store items when theyre not in use.
Remember that your patio area should be fun, so dont be afraid to get creative when it comes to choosing your patio accessories and décor.