I have some very basic questions about building outside steps, using stone
materials, either river rock or some type of slab stone.
These steps would be about 18 feet long, with a rise of approx 10 feet.
These are very approx figures, and are included just to give a perspective
of what I am planning.
I live in a mountain area where the frost-freeze level, in the worst of
times, can go down nearly three feet.
How does one go about building steps like this ? Does each and every step
point have to have a three foot footer ?? This would seem to be such work
and expense that I can't see anyone building a set of steps like this.
For most steps made out of stone, do people normally building concrete forms
first, and then lay the stone on that ??
I know these are green questions, but I would appreciate some basic
information on these points please .
Thanks for any input and direction !!
In places where the ground moves I see folks using big hunks of rubble
stone so it can jostle around and still stay put. The problem with
that is you either need some fairly regularly shaped stone or you need
stone mason skills.
It depends on how much work and money you want to spend
now, how much effort you want to put into maintenance
later, and how regular you want the steps to be. Also
how much of a hurry you're in, and how steep a slope
you're looking at. And whether you have to meet code.
If all you want is an easy way to get up and down the
slope without tearing it up and turning it into a
rapidly eroding gully, then
one technique would be to dump a couple truckloads of
mixed rubble rock on the slope, and let it settle for
a year or two, and then go back and shift just enough
rock to make steps. If you don't have a lot of water
running down the slope, you can skip this part, and
set your steps in regular dirt.
Anchor the bottom with a big chunk of rock that won't
move on you as a landing, and build up the rest
of the steps with about 1/3rd of each step resting
on the back of the one below, with rubble shoved
underneath to level them. Use rocks that are at least
2' long, 3" thick, and have at least 1 flat face that's
twice as big as your foot. MOST of each step should
be anchored in the slope, not on the step below.
Run the stairway diagonally to get the slope you want.
I recommend as shallow as you can manage, around,
30% grade, even if that means digging in a switchback.
What you're really doing isn't so much making stairs
as making a path, and paving it. It only looks
like stairs because you're setting each paving stone
level, overlapping the one below, instead of trying
for a continuous slope.
There will usually be steps that rock a little bit,
and you'll end up going back every few years
and re-setting some of the steps. After a while the
thing will stabilize and you'll get better at it,
and there will be less maintenance.
If you're after something that's more like formal
stairs, with a railing, 7" risers, and 10" treads,
then yeah, I think you'll need to excavate out to
below the frostline, and either pour concrete or build
a masonry foundation. It would be easier at that
point to put in concrete pillars, and build wooden
steps down those.
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