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Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

I have two distinct parts to my backyard. The lower area is 42inches below the upper area, the run is 17feet long. I want to install stairs since my mom and wife each have slipped down the grass hill, no injuries. There are not a lof of ideas other then the large and expnsive landscape stones which each weigh over 300lbs and cost about $200 - $300 a piece.

Has anyone installed stairs other then explained above? PLease let me know I am open to wood, paver stones, other as long as it is not too expensive and serves a purpose.

A. Spruce
Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

You've actually got a lot of different options.

Cut steps into the slop and use a landscape timber as a riser to hold the step/dirt in place. You could just as easily use stone, cement, pavers, or retaining wall blocks for the riser.

The surface of each step can be whatever you want it to be. Leave it grass, use stone, decomposed ag, pavers, cement, stepping stones, etc.

As far as the dimensions of the step, they can pretty much be whatever you want as well. No step should be more than 5 to 6 inches in height, ALL steps should be the same exact height, within 1/8", but the run, or surface of the step can be 12" or 36" or whatever works for the space the best. As an example, your 42" height would equal 7 steps, each step would have a surface run of 2.42 feet.
(42" divided by 6" step rise = 7, 17' run divided by 7 = 2.42 feet for each step.)

Another option would be to form, prep and pour cement steps.

Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

Used railroad ties would be another option. They make great steps.

Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

Ok thanks for the comments what do you recommend starting at the bottom or top? Also what about the sides, does this dirt need to be held back or just leave it as is?

Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

...Survey says: from the bottom...

It makes more sense. The last time I installed slope steps Reagan was the president and I started at the bottom, just like he did.

A. Spruce
Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

I'm not a fan of RR ties because of all the toxic chemicals in them, that's why I recommended the landscape timbers.

I would start from the bottom as well. Whether or not you needed retainers along the sides depends on how deeply the steps get carved into the ground. I'd be inclined to try to grade the sides back into the lawn so that you didn't need retainers, either that or run the retainer pieces flush to the tip of each riser. Even then I'd still grade the yard so that mowing and maintenance was as easy as possible.

Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

Depending on "how steep the hill" is you could cut a standard stringer then dig the bottom edge of the stringer into the dirt. You may need to remove some dirt under the tread area. Drive some stakes into the dirt to attach the stringers to.

Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope


Spruce nailed it! He gave important info in both his posts; listen to him, he has a lot of experience in this area; the other posters also gave good info & suggestions.

As noted, outdoor stairs can be made of stone, concrete, landscape timbers, small concrete pavers that you can get at HD/Lowe's, or even better, you may have stuff like small field stones or bricks lying around the yard that are free for the collecting.

Also consult the site below for more ideas, techniques & different materials---You Tube videos; after viewing the 1st video, scroll to the top of the You Tube page & enter various phrases, such as "Landscape Steps", or "Making Steps", or "Building Outdoor Stairs", etc.---the more videos you watch, the quicker you will get a feel for what materials and plan of action is best for you; there are innumerable other videos on the internet if you Google such phrases as "building garden steps video", or "building outdoor stairs video", or "making landscape steps video", etc.

Do you have any stone, brick or other material around the yard you can use???

Have you done concrete work before with Quickrete ready mix 64lb or 80lb bags from HD/Lowe's???

Does the idea of using mix-your-own concrete appeal to you as a solution to this project???

If you don't mind mixing bags of concrete, one option is to prepare a small batch of ready mix in a wheelbarrow & pour it into a made-up wood form, doing one step at a time, according to the dimensions that Spruce spelled out in his post---this way, you can quit when you're tired & do a little more the following day.

This type of work can be quite strenuous if you haven't done it before---you can hurt yourself hauling & mixing concrete bags, or lifting heavy rocks----be careful & get help when lifting heavy objects, or roll them along the ground into place instead of trying to lift them.


Re: Outdoor Stairs on a Slope

You have a 42" drop and 17' run meaning long levels between steps, but what I saw was "serves a purpose". Not knowing your yard, perhaps a deck or gazebo with stairs for the elevation change would work. (Think about this before you mention "gazebo" to your wife.)

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