In good landscape design, how stone steps look is as important as how they function. Frankly, that should be the case of every element in a well-designed landscape.
When we speak of the function for steps, it’s important to realize if these steps are the only option to get from one level to another. Or, are there alternative ways in the design.
And if there are alternative ways, what role of importance will these particular steps provide?
If the area to access is important and only one set of steps is used, then they have to conform to the features of any safe and frequently used stairway. In fact, depending on the situation, you may be subject to building code parameters. As always, it’s smart to be up to speed on these regulations.
In the project pictured above there is a pool and patio level on top and a cobble-like paver walkway below. There are 3 alternative ways to get from this lower level to the pool.
1. Near the driveway and where guests would enter the backyard there is a “primary” set of masonry steps with stone veneer risers and bluestone step treads. I call them primary because this is the main set of steps to the area.
These masonry steps meet every requirement for safety including a handrail. They did require a construction permit and were inspected.
2. At the other end of the pool/patio, the lower grade was sloped up to meet the patio. This alternate access is grass and allows for an “easy-go” if you’re wheeling something or would just rather not navigate steps.
3. In between the masonry steps and the sloped lawn access we planned to have boulders and plantings to retain the earth. While setting the boulders it came to us to offer a 3rd alternate access to the homeowner. They have children who we thought would love a “rock-climbing-like” step/path down to the cobble walkway. (See the first picture).
The Type Of Stone Step You Build Should Relate To Its Use
Here’s why these “rough” fieldstone steps work:
- they are not the only access
- they provide a novel experience for the young & adventuresome. (Not to say the older folks can’t give them a go too.)
- they add interest to the garden
If you wanted to have an informal and natural set of steps, but with a bit more consistency, stone slab-steps are available. As seen in the picture to the right, these steps are more angular and come from the quarry in slabs.
Although they’re not dimensionally the same, you can request certain size ranges and that helps with building stone steps to fit your plan and vision.
To make the rise-height of each step the same, you can adjust the “setting bed” (usually gravel) to make the stone sit higher or lower.
There are other techniques which involve cutting the stone with a diamond blade to make it fit the situation. I’m sure in future posts I’ll be able to show you some of these persuasive techniques.
Stone step design is only limited by your imagination. How have you utilized rocks into stairways? Let us know in the comments below.