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Durable steps in sandy soil?

In order to get privacy in our backyard we’ve build a large berm(mound) about 8 feet high. I did put in steps out of natural stones to allow easy access to the top. However, here in Southwest Florida due to the sandy soil and the summer rainy-season the stones don’t stay fixed. It needs a constant rework. (see picture)
I’m looking for an idea to get a durable staircase solution. The angle to the berm’s top is about 15 degrees.


Re: Durable steps in sandy soil?


I was unable to access a larger photo of your steps, they look like one-piece stone, which must be quite heavy to move around.

In order to prevent them from moving, they have to be placed in a concrete base; unfortunately, this would entail moving them & starting at the bottom.

I did this project in January, doing one step at a time & mixed my quickrete in a wheelbarrow, poured it in a prepared hole lined with some pea stone & placed the stone on the wet concrete, leveled it with a spirit level, & let it set overnight.

A few sacks of 60 lb or 80 lb quickrete can be bought at a time from the big box stores & placed in your car trunk (use an old blanket to line the trunk to prevent getting concrete dust in the car).

If the steps will be used at night, install UF gray underground class romex electrical wire (preferably in a plastic conduit/pipe), so outside lighting can be installed later.

Google "stone step installation" with & without the quotes to get more info on this topic.

Re: Durable steps in sandy soil?

Thanks for the advice. Unfortunatly TOH allows only pictures up to 15kBytes. That's why they are so small.
The steps consist out of single step-stones place in the sand.
To fix them in concrete would mean a looot of concrete deep enough, otherwise the whole concrete will move in the sand....

I am thinking of making a kind of scaffolding with treated wood and place the step-stone in kind of pockets filled with sand.


Re: Durable steps in sandy soil?


I think you can still do this.

The natural stones you have in the photos look great; the look of natural stone can't be equaled.

Agreed, the stone steps I did January were set in more stable soil; they have so far survived the bad frost heaves we have here in the winter.

What I have often done when the soil is unstable is to use short pieces of rebar to invisibly tie the steps together in conjunction with a minimum of wet-poured concrete.

For example a 1/2" diameter approx 4' piece of rebar can be bent into a "stretched-out letter "Z"; one leg of the "Z" can be set in concrete under the 1st stone step & the top half extended to the next step moving upwards; all of this is hidden as each step is subsequently set in the concrete.

This is done on both sides of the steps, so that when finished, both legs sit in concrete & the rebar is invisible.; the entire steps from bottom to top is thus tied together in one piece.

This same method is used when pouring concrete walls in sections; at least one foot of rebar is left sticking out beyond the forms so the next section can be tied into the previous pour.

In my case, I was able to do each step with only two 60 lb sacks of quikrete.

I have not had good luck with pressure treated wood as a base; any contact with the moist soil quickly rots out the wood, even though they advertise it to "last for years".

Another method is to take a post hole digger & go down ~1' under each tread before the pour; when the concrete is poured it fills the hole & creates a "concrete leg" to vertically & laterally stabilize the finished steps.

If you feel the soil warrants it, you can further stabilize things by using a sledge hammer to vertically pound down 5' pieces of the rebar into the sand every 4' or so, directly under the tread path & again bend the top over so it dips into the wet concrete of the subsequent step.

If you check the home improvement books or web sites on pouring concrete stairs, they always use at least 2 pieces of rebar to tie the pour into the foundation so the steps don't wander as the years go by; I think this is the same thing at work here.

Rebar can be very quickly cut using a circular saw fitted with a metal-cutting blade (these are brown,emory-colored blades & sell for ~$4 ea.); if you use this cutting method, wear safety glasses to protect your eyes; the cut leaves a very sharp surface of the rebar, which has to be dressed with a file, or along the side of the circular saw blade.

You should have a very attractive project when finished.

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