It is a good decision to build stone block steps on a hillside. When a property needs ground level to hilltop access or if you want to make your landscaping more attractive, this solution is quite effective. In addition, stone block steps are easier to walk on than grass, pebble or dirt paths since they are less slippery and less messy. They also prevent erosion and can be decorative, utilitarian or both.
Choosing the Right Stone
Usually, landscaping steps are not attached to buildings, so you probably won't need to worry about building codes. However, it is best to double-check with your local building department just in case. The hill's slope will determine how many and what size stones you will need.
Stone is not inexpensive, so start with a working budget, keeping in mind that local stone will cost less since it does not need to be shipped. For the ideal rise, pick ones that are 6 to 7 inches thick and keep the depth between 12 inches and 18 inches. It is best to make the first step wider than the others for a nicer appearance.
To see how many steps you will need, measure the total distance they need to cover. Divide this total by an average 14 inches of depth and round up to the nearest whole number. This will be your step estimate, or (r¹). Then, calculate the average riser height by dividing the total rise (r²) by r¹. If r² exceeds 7 inches, add one extra step.
Preparing to Build
To stay safe and prevent accidents, wear a face mask to keep out the dust and safety goggles to protect your eyes. You may also want to don work gloves to protect your hands and fingers from injury and a pair of heavy work shoes to keep your feet and toes from being injured.
Prepping the Area
Start digging out your first step with your shovel at the bottom of the hillside. You need to dig at a 90-degree angle to make a level surface. The depth from the front to back should correspond to the stone blocks' lengths. They should also be about 4 feet to 6 feet wide in order to accommodate two people.
Lay a 4-inch base of gravel or sand and level it with 1/2 inch to 1 inch of bedding sand. Place the first stone on top with a tiny forward pitch. This will allow any water to run down instead of collecting at the seams.
Continuing With the Work
As you continue working, try to have the steps overlap by at least 1 inch and make sure that each one has 10 to 12 inches of tread space. After you place each step, backfill it with additional gravel or sand and use the power plate compactor to ensure stability.
Use a level to check your work after each step is set. If it is not level, you can dig out the base a bit more, chisel off some of the rocks' surface or add more sand or gravel. Clean up with the rake and wheelbarrow and you're done.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing, and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity.