Whether you are deciding on steps as part of new construction or to replace existing wood steps, these are 3 aspects to consider:
- Upkeep & maintenance
Longevity. I often mention the wearing affects of exposure and the outdoor elements on everything in the landscape. From a practical sense this should be on your mind constantly.
This first picture shows the existing wood steps in a renovation project of this older home. Over the years the wood has fought a noble battle against the elements, but it’s taken its toll. Whereas the masonry fieldstone foundation and wing-walls are in great shape.
Upkeep and Maintenance. There are certainly well-made wooden steps constructed of the best wood-types for outdoor use, but they still require regular care. Some are painted while others have a wood sealer applied.
How often this maintenance has to be done varies (depending on exposure and the elements), but some homeowners will do it as frequently as once a year.
Safety. All steps no matter what they’re made of have to be looked at from a safety standpoint. Building codes have specific guidelines in that regard.
Here, however, I’m referring to the slipperiness of the step treads. In fact, the homeowner of this house was saying how dangerous the wood steps were when wet.
Replacing the old wood steps with masonry stone steps was a “no-brainer”. The homeowner loved the look and the fact that these steps will outlast us all. Equally convincing was the ease of maintenance (what maintenance?) and safety. No slippery surface on these treads!
The decorative railing is aluminum with a powder-coat painted finish. This too was chosen to last a long time with minimal care.
So, is it good-bye wood steps in the landscape?
Of course not. Beyond the point of just personal preference, objectively speaking there are situations where wood steps “just work”. For example, in many wood deck designs the steps are an integral part of the look (see below).
Good design should weigh all possibilities along with their pros and cons. After that you can make the decision that works best for you.P.S. I just wanted to mention Lester Szajna (stone mason and contributor here on LandscapeAdvisor) built the stone steps pictured above. He searched and found fieldstone to match the existing stonework, and tinted the mortar to help the match as well.