Stairways are great solutions for areas with gradual or sudden grade changes. They are functionally essential when you need to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring. This article shares some designer tips to help give your outdoor space a stunning stairway that’s easy on the eyes as well as on the feet!
Steps can be installed at the edge of a patio, in gravel or mulch paths, or in paved walkways and entryways. If a stairway exceeds four to five steps consider installing railing on at least one side for safety (plus your local zoning codes may require railing above a certain height).
There are several ways to install steps and stairways and with a plethora of materials to choose from. When installing steps it’s important to know the needs of the site such as how many risers you’ll need, what the general aesthetic or style of the space is, and what other existing hardscape it should try to compliment. After you’ve become familiar with the space, take advantage of your local contractor’s knowledge and get their opinion on it. They may bring up concerns about the space you hadn’t considered before and can offer creative solutions.
Stone or Curbstone Step
Pros: Natural, rustic look. Many different styles available from more textured and a bit irregular to very flat on top and on the sides.
Cons: Stone steps can weigh a lot and may require small tractors to install. Once installed, stones with a more textured surface can be somewhat of a tripping hazard, especially if one is wearing stilettos or is elderly.
Pros: Natural look, lots of available color and texture choices. Creates a smooth transition if installing at the edge of a flagstone patio of the same type.
Cons: One of the more expensive step options. Requires each flagstone to fit next to each other like a puzzle and to have an even surface on top, which takes time. Note: Step must be mortared to a concrete base when used in a step application.
Concrete Block Step
Pros: Blends well next to paver patios. Lots of styles available from clean and modern to textured and rustic. Can use concrete block units for the riser and concrete cap for the tread, or use a regular brick or paver unit for the tread to match a nearby patio or walkway. Often used to create stairways within concrete block retaining walls. If installed properly can be one of the safest step material options.
Cons: Too much of it can sometimes make a space look a bit utilitarian. When installed poorly or without a cap it will look cheap.
Poured Concrete Step
Pros: Works with a lot of different styles from traditional to ultra-modern. Different textures available at different price points from broomed to exposed aggregate to sand finished. Very smooth surface and very safe to use.
Cons: May crack over time. Overused in some neighborhoods. Usually relatively expensive.
Pros: Useful for stairways leading to decks or directly outside of a doorway. Sometimes used as single step units in slopes by installing 4”x4” or 2”x4” boards (typically set in a gravel walkway).
Cons: Will rot over time. Can become slippery when wet.
Do you have a project coming up that involves adding steps? Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our landscape professionals.