Enhancing Your Stairways and Steps

Planting flowers in unexpected places such as along a stairway or down the side of steps can create a stunning effect to your landscape. Succulents and creeping thyme are excellent choices and grow well along sloped areas. You can also add a finishing touch or use low ground cover plants to fill in gaps and crevices of your rocks.

Choose specimens that are hardy and ones that will hug onto the rocks in your steps. You will want them to be low growing, so they don't cover up the stepping area and possibly cause someone to trip. Check with a local landscape expert about using Creeping Jenny, Wooly Thyme, or possibly Prostrate Veronica.

When you begin to look at enhancing the beauty of your stairways and steps, you should look at the spaces between your treads and risers. This area will work great for adding color and break up the monotony of stones or rocks.

If you choose to plant in this space, make sure you fill in around them with well-draining compost or a soil mix. The plants are going to receive protection from your steps, so you won't have to worry about winds damaging them or getting too much sunlight, but they will still be exposed to the California heat that is absorbed in the rocks during the day.

Landscape experts provide advice on which plants will do best in your California soil and sun exposure. Speaking with a professional will give you an idea on which plants do best in a stone surrounding. One suggestion may be planting sedum. Sedum offers a lot of texture and color to any landscape theme. This plant also grows low to the ground and will not become a safety issue near your walkways.

Another choice you have for enhancing your stairways and steps is to plant herbs such as marjoram or flowers such as the Coral Bells. Common Thrift works great when mixed with smaller grasses like the Blue Sedge or Big Blue Lilyturf. Plant these in areas that will not receive foot traffic as they grow and look best as borders that are not stepped on all day.

If you want to keep your landscape looks more clean and straightforward without a lot of color or variety, you can soften the look by planting turf. The turf will echo the look of the lawn area and create a contemporary flair in sections that receive a lot of traffic. You can also keep the area looking more uninformed by choosing only one type of plant for the entire area. Korean Grass is a slow growing ground cover that will form mounds and give you a soft, plush looking landscape.

Container gardens are another beautiful addition to stairways and steps. This option gives you the choice of colored pots, beautifully flowering plants, or even small shrub-type trees.

Container gardens give you a lot of flexibility along with the choice of changing plants if you decide on new colors or textures for your landscape theme. Choose plants like the Pansies, Petunias, or Impatiens that will not grow to high yet provide you with both greenery and color

There are endless possibilities when you start thinking about building a stairway or steps in your yard or garden. There are also many choices available for enhancing the looks of existing steps and stairways. Check with your local landscape expert to find the solution that will work for your area.

Options for Gardening and Landscaping Stairways and Steps

If you like the idea of having stone steps, you have not only options in materials, but design as well. You can build a rugged looking stairway that will give you an uneven or bumpy look, or go with the flat-topped stones for a smoother effect. Check with your landscape company as they have access to stones of any size or shape that can be shipped if not readily available.

The main concern for building stairways out of natural stones is to keep the steps safe and comfortable to go up and down on for a person of any age. You don't want to create steps that are too long and end up being a step and half to cross. Steps that are too long can become uncomfortable and awkward to use.

When it comes to designing your stairway, you can check with your local landscape company for a list of options, or you may use one of these:

  • Flat slabs of pre-fab stones surrounded with coordinating bricks to give it a bordered look

  • Using flat-topped rocks in a pile formation to climb from your bottom step to the top. The rocks will have to be piled in a manner so they do not slip or slide off one another when a person steps onto them

  • Round circular log cuts also make an excellent stairway with a natural appeal. The logs 'slices' should be somewhat similar in size and shape and can be dug into the soil of your incline

  • Pre-treated lumber can be used to make a box-like formation for your stairway and then in the center of the boxed area place small stones, grit, or mulch

  • Staggering steps from side to side is a nice touch to outside steps. Creating the stepping surface to go from the left to right without being uniformed to one another is a great visual effect

  • Bricks are another material that can be used for step surfaces. By placing them in different directions on the surface, you can give a pattern look to your stepping area

  • Large slabs or smoother stones can be placed on top of smaller plates of similar looking rocks. It provides your stairway the look of a rock bed designed just for walking on and can be complemented with an adjoining brick wall

  • A large slab of stone placed on top of boulders is another direction to go with your natural stairway. You can also line the sides of the steps with rocks of varying sizes to complete the design

  • Large stone slabs set into the soil of your incline also make great natural stairways

Incorporating Stairs & Steps Into Your Landscape

Creating levels in your landscape makes a wonderful design for your yard and gardens. Stairs and steps in varying heights can either be functional or just to add exciting effects. Gardens have a character all of their own. By adding steps and stairs, you can add to that look by using different materials in varying dimensions and positions.

Landscape companies have access to a large selection of materials for you to choose from when thinking about adding stairs and steps to your gardens and lawns. We can also help with design options and help to install these structures to create a natural and remarkable look to your area. These are tips on how to incorporate stairs and steps into your landscape.

Deciding on How High to Build Wooden Stairs

If you are adding stairs you expect to be functional such as those leading to a deck platform; you will want to use wood materials. Wood material is most common when building steps that will lead to other constructed pieces of your area such as a deck or patio platform. These stairways can then be stained or painted to match or coordinate other structures on your property.

The first consideration to make when thinking about adding stairs and steps into your landscape is to know how high the top step will reach. Decide where the top stair will land and then how many steps it will take to get there.

Stair Anatomy

The three main parts of a stairway are the stringers (sloped boards that support the other parts), treads (the top surface of each step), and risers (protection of the exposed end-grain of your stringers).

Calculate the Rise and Run

Measure down from where you want the stairs to end to where they will begin. Take the number of inches you measure and divide by seven (typical number of inches per step). Round the number you get to the nearest whole number to find how many steps you will need. Once you know the number of steps, you will take that number and divide by the distance between the top and bottom to find the inches per step.

When you've found the number of steps you will need to build your stairway; you can check with your local landscape company to locate the material necessary to create the structure. We can help you find a durable and weather resistant material that will last for years in different weather elements.

How to Build Garden Steps

Your local landscape company can help you locate the materials to create natural looking steps in your gardens. Some of the options include crushed rock, stones, cinder blocks, brick, precast concrete, or natural stones. These choices can provide you with a comfortable and safe walkway.

If the area where you want to add steps has a steep grade, your risers will have to near the maximum height. Outdoor steps in a garden rarely go over seven inches. If your area has a gentler slope, your risers will be lower, and the treads should be deeper.

It is not suggested to have a step narrower than thirty inches as it will give you an unsteady feeling in your steps as you walk up and down. You will also want to pitch your treads slightly forward to allow water to drain off during rains or when you water your garden plants.

Steps in your garden are usually used to reach different parts of the area. People use these to view some of the more spectacular plants growing, or perhaps to pick fruit if you've planted trees that bare fruits. Sometimes steps are built in just for a visual effect and never intended for use.

You can transform slopes on your property into charming staircases. Using natural stones, you can give your garden or rough areas an access area that is not only functional but attractive. Choose single slabs for each step or find smaller ones to fit together for stepping points. If you are unsure where to find these materials, check with your local landscaping expert.

A natural stone pathway or stairway has a more natural look to it so having precise sizing in steps is not necessary. In fact, having the steps a bit off-centered from one another will add to its charm. The stones you choose must have one flat side that a person can safely walk on without fear of losing their balance.

How to Build the Stairs

Decide how wide you will want your staircase and if you'll like the looks of solid slabs, or will be fitting smaller ones together. Another idea you may choose is to have the stairs wider at the bottom than at the top. This widening of the stairs gives you a nice visual effect.

Stake out the width at the top of the stairway you're building and again at the bottom where the steps will end. Use a piece of string or twine to connect the top left stake with the bottom left stake and repeat for the right side.

Begin by digging out an area for the bottom step using the width of your strings you've just attached. Flat shovels work best along with sod cutters if you are cutting into an area that has grass growing. Your hole will have to be deep enough to accommodate the height of your bottom step rock slab (or stones if you're putting smaller ones together).

Your stair tread should measure eight inches high and twelve inches deep so you will have to use rocks or slabs that meet these measurements. Place your first stone into the hole and press down lightly to make an imprint. Continue to do this until you know where all your stones will sit and how they will fit with each other. You may have to make adjustments to hole depths as you go to ensure all rocks are level on top with one another.

If you need to remove small amounts of soil as go along, a garden trowel works best. Once you have the rocks in place for your first step, you can set them by hitting the tops with a rubber mallet, so they remain firmly in place. Recheck your heights along the way, so you end up with a level stepping surface when complete.

Continue up your stairway following these tips for building each step. When you are done, you should walk up and down the completed project several times to test its stability and levelness. Make any adjustments necessary before allowing others to use the steps.

Your local landscape company has the experience and equipment to complete stairway projects. If you want a professional look without the worry about having the right tools, you can contact them for guidance and options for having this built for you.

The steps become an important piece of your garden landscape and should not be considered any less essential than a staircase in your home. The steps become a transition area to other portions of your garden much like your walkway leads to and from the street, or the stairway in your house leads from the main floor to the bedrooms on the second level. You, therefore, want to give proper consideration to your stairs and steps and ensure they receive appropriate treatments.

Another consideration to make is deciding what you will plant or place along your stairs. You can find a lot of ideas by speaking with a professional at your local landscape company. If you are building this garden area along the side of a street, you can fit the theme into any landscaped areas on the boulevards. This incorporating makes your area fit right into its surroundings.

On streets that have not been maintained by the city with landscaped boulevards, you can improve the look of your property by building a beautifully maintained garden space in your front yard. This garden will add beauty to your block and might just encourage others to spend some time and money on neighborhood improvements.

Alongside your stones, you can plant grass or groundcover plants inside of the exposed soil areas. Complete the planting as soon as you have finished building the stairway as grass or groundcover will prevent your soil from eroding. It will also help you to keep your stairway cleaner once they've covered up the exposed dirt. The plants or grass will keep the soil from draining or running onto the step surfaces.