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Old 08-08-2006, 09:45 PM
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wink Boulder steps

I have a customer that wants me to install boulder steps going down the slope of her property leading to her back fence. I installed these before when I worked with another company. I am on my own now, and wanted to know if there is any technique that I can down myself to figure out my run and rise of my steps. A one man technique, is ther one???

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Old 08-08-2006, 09:58 PM
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In my opinion: hrrmph, I really don't like to see any outside steps over 6" high and treads 16".

There is the old formula about: tread=2x the riser.

But I am way old school on this and prefer steps that are more elegant. that means lower risers and deeper treads. Just my opinion as a long time designer.
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:06 PM
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I think he might be after figuring out what the elevation change is on the property. Could be wrong, but that's how I'm reading it.

If this is the case, there are a couple things you can try -

First, see if you can get a topo map from the municipality.

Absent that, if the rise isn't too large, you can estimate it within a few inches by using a tape measure and a handheld sight level. Place the tape measure at the lowest point where the steps will be and extend the tape vertically (this is hard if it's more than a few feet). Use the sight level to identify where the top of the slope is and where that falls on the tape.

Here's a link to a pic of the one I use: Question

Now this is no substitute for laser levels and direct-read rods, but it's a quick-n-dirty way to get pretty close.
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:07 PM
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There are several books at Home Depot on masonry that have chapters on building steps. I recall reading a method to calculate rise/run excavation into a slope...with nice pictures. Just go read it...I don't think you'll need to buy the book either The other poster is correct. It is far more attractive to have a shallow height with a deep run. This is a basic principle of good design often seen in deck building as well.
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Old 08-13-2006, 07:20 AM
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check to see if you can rent a level and transit. home depot used to rent them. once you know the beginning and ending elevation you can draw things out on graph paper or otherwise figure out tread and riser.

also you might use a string line and line level and stakes

Last edited by waterfall larry; 08-13-2006 at 07:27 AM..
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Old 08-13-2006, 08:35 PM
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Its more comlicated than a standard rise over run. The rise and run have to match the slope, or more likely have to either be built partly above grade or partly retained into the slope. The latter is more likely because if you just take the length of slope and divide it by the total vertical change it will be unlikely that it will fall within the range of a normal way people walk on steps (2xriser+tread=24-27").

You have to account for how the grade to the sides of the stairway relate to the elevation of each step or you will have soil falling in on your treads or having to add fill to make your steps work.

Natural steps usually look nicer if they are cut into the slope rather than built up on top of the slope. When they are cut in, you usually have to add some more stone to keep the soil to the side from eroding onto the treads (similar to a cheek wall. So you need to account for this both in terms of how it will look and what it is going to take to properly finish the job.
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Old 08-14-2006, 04:56 PM
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Agla was dead on about the steps being down in the ground. using a natural stone material is the first step. Making it blend into the site visually is a very important consideration. it is important from both a visually beauty and a not exceeding the budget stand point.

steps look best if they use a natural material, have the correct tread to riser ratio, and blend into the visual enviornment and are buffered by plant material immediately ajacent to them as long as the ajacent plant material doesn't block the view of the steps.

the grade of the ground around the steps is important. If the sidewall is too steep, dirt and debri will wash down on the steps. Not good deal. so consideration needs to be given to this and money built into the bid to take care of grading around the steps.

Also i think steps look best if buffered by low growing plant material close to them is done. Plants like ivy or liriopy or liropy spicata, or mazus or pachysandra and etc should be sold to the customer and the cost included in the bid.

this assumes a natural style of step is made. Formal steps are ok too. even they can be buffered with plant material.

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Old 08-24-2006, 08:13 PM
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a landing or two every 5 or so steps helps you get the steps back into the hillside if need be and also a good resting spot.
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