Building Steps on dirt slope/ questions

I plan to build some steps into a sloped hill, using timbers. I had some
built about ten years ago, and used PT lumber rated for ground contact,
which was .8 penetration level.
I know that the chemicals used, and applicable ratings, have now changed for
PT lumber. What would the equivalent now be for what was .8 "ground
contact" ??
I also previously used 12 inch galvanized sprial nails to connect the
timbers to make the steps. Will these nails be ok for the new type treated
lumber ? I buy them at Home Depot, and they are not labeled hot dipped or
anything like that. They just say, galvanized nails.
I "think" that I will use 6 x 6 PT beams, like I did before. But, some
articles refer to "landscape timbers." Exactly what are they referring to ?
I don't want to use railroad ties... I want a more updated look, which the
6 X 6 beams provide. But, there may be a more suitable and long lasting
type timber that I should use, and I would like to know more about my
Thanks for any advice on these many questions !!
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If there are any small, local mills around, see if you can get them to cut you some black locust...
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I would use pressure treated fir. The type now used is somewhat safe.......copper ammonia base I believe. I would use 1/2" x 12" or so rebar pins. Cheap way to go and last a lifetime. Railroad ties are nice and do have the "heavy duty" oils in them for protection although it is hard to find "nice" ones. I almost did an extensive path like this just the last month or so. Got hung up with inspectors etc. so through in the towel. The path was an existing use path for 100 years, (and then some)and had been worked on off and on by residents, owners etc. and they wanted a contractor to come in and do it right. Well going to the official Building Dept. put a wrench in the gears immediately. Of course we needed an enviornmental study.......and review with the coastal commission. Also a endangered plant and animal study.....and name it. I should have just put it people slip and slide down a gravel dirt, mess still using the path....I tell you, the official business bs really hampers progress.......john
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If you can find 6x6 that is already at the length you want. The biggest problem with pt wood is penetration. It almost never fully penetrates in 6x6's. Then you cut it and expose untreated wood in the center to ground contact. If you have ever torn down and old 6x6 retaining wall you see that they have rotted out the worst from the insides at the cut ends. If you must cut then treat the exposed ends with some tar.
Railroad ties are the best solution. Landscape timbers are those smaller round pt timbers that have flat spots opposite each other. They are very cheap so if rebuilidng periodically is going to happen they would be the least costly.
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How about that fake plastic wood from recycled plastic, or concrete steps paving stones etc.
At least they wouldnt rot and can be reset if needed
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Thanks to all who have replied !!
John, you would use the rebar pins for what ?? To join the beams together, or to pin them to the ground ??
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Pin to the ground and pin the beams together..... We do that on dock work at the river....too I have used rebar pins on all kinds of construction. If you drill a 1/2" hole the diameter of a 1/2" rebar is somewhat larger and varigated and fits real tight. You can also drive them in the ground for anchoring.....they may rust out not in your lifetime though. I agree with the other fellow concerning the commercial grade sold at box is not very well penetrated with the solution. They do rot......... I have actually "special ordered" better quality treated timbers that are soaked and baked better than the garden variety sold. Railroad ties and ones that are "select" are acutaully the best....regardless of how they look. They can be done quite nicely but the smell is somewhat disagreeable in the heat.......anyway.....many choices. I would consider making the beams out of concrete and rebar inside....form and pour them in place...finish off the tops and backfill behind. you could form a nice 6x6 and put a rod or 2 of steel inside, pour the beam.....finish the top and wrot and strong. if you wanted you could impress a wood grain on top. I have done that too. john
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Have you thought about using those stackable, mortarless, retaining wall blocks instead of the landscaping timbers? They'll last a lifetime and are just as easy to install as landscape timbers/railroad ties. I find myself having to re-do all of my timber projects after about 10 - 15 years because of failure of some type rot, insects, etc.
The blocks are made in a variety of sizes. You'll find them in the same 6 inch size as the timbers you're looking at. You can build a wall as high as 3 feet without having to use a poured foundation.
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thanks John and JB for the additional comments. Will have to take a look at those retaining wall blocks as well, and try to visualize how they would look....
thanks again !!
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Here's an alternative that may be easier, look better and be longer-lasting --
Make steps out of a frame made of PT 2x4 or 4x4, with large precast stepping stones as the inserts.
I used 16"x16" paving stones which are4 $3.74 at the BORG. The top and bottom steps held 4 of them, the intermediate steps were two stones wide. Build the frame just large enough to hold the number of paving stones you want, then position the frame and make it level. Drill holes through the frame into the ground and put 2' sections of rebar through the holes to anchor the frame. Then fill the frame with leveling sandso that when the stones are added they are level with the top of the frame.Once the sand is the right height and leveled, just place the stones on top of the sand, level with the sides of the frame. I've had some in place now for 10 years with no maintenance needed. Since you step on the stones, not the frame, the frame never has any heavy forces on it and stays level. The sand supports the stones so everything stays in place. I chose a patterned stone so that the pattern runs from one stone to the next. For one set of steps I used 4x6 PT timbers and small paving blocks, which also worked out well, as an extension of a paving block walkway I had made.
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