• In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook explains how to build wooden landscapes steps.


    1 Drive 1x2 stake into ground, then use straightedge and level to find height of top step; mark height on stake.
    2 Use level to find height of grade at bottom; mark height on stake.
    3 Measure between the two pencil marks to determine total height of all steps.
    4 Dig two trenches at bottom for installing 6x6 sleepers flush with grade.
    5 Use a circular saw and handsaw to cut 3-foot-long sleepers from a 6x6 timber.
    6 Treat cut ends of sleepers with wood preservative.
    7 Drill two 9/16-inch-diameter holes through the sleepers; position the holes 6 in. from each end.
    8 Set sleepers in trenches, making sure they're level with the surrounding grade.

    9 Use sledgehammer to drive 48-inch-long rebar through the holes in the sleepers and into the ground.
    10 Set two 6x6 treads on top of the sleepers, forming the first step.
    11 Place sleepers on top of first sleepers to support the second step.
    12 Fasten the timbers to the sleepers with 10-inch-long landscaping screws.
    13 Backfill around sleepers with pea gravel.
    14 Continue adding 6x6 sleepers and 6x6 treads for each of the remaining steps.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      The timbers are heavy, but work progresses quickly, especially after the first step is installed
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      Video Directory

      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • four-foot level
        4-ft. Level
      • 100-foot tape measure
        Measuring tape
      • flat blade shovel
      • spade bit
        9/16-inch spade bit with extension
        used to bore rebar holes in timbers
      • speed square
        Speed square
      • circular saw
        Circular saw
      • hand saw
      • hammer
      • drill
      • sledge hammer
        used to pound in rebar

      Shopping List

      1. 6x6 pressure-treated timbers, used for the steps

      2. Long straightedge, used to determine overall height of steps

      3. 1x2 wooden stake, for marking height of steps

      4. ½-inch-dia. x 48-in.-long metal reinforcing bar, used to stake sleepers to the ground

      5. Wood preservative, used to seal cut ends of timbers

      6. Paintbrush, for applying the wood preservative

      7. 10-inch-long landscaping screws and hex-head socket bit, used to fasten together timbers

      8. Pea gravel, for backfilling around sleepers