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|Steps present as
ideal an opportunity for beautifying the outdoors as any other
item on your landscaping agenda. Materials which can be used
vary from round-cut logs to concrete, brick or stone.
Standard step dimensions for outdoors should be the same as for indoor
steps, particularly in areas frequently used. The tread should
be 10 inches deep and the risers about 7 1/2 inches.
Treads should be 1/4 inch lower in the front than they are in the back to
permit drainage. For any steps other than those made of rounds
of logs, a good foundation is essential. The foundation should
extend 6 inches below the frost line.
Concrete is an often-used material for steps, although it is not always the
most attractive. A simple form can be constructed of a series of
boxes, of lx 6- or lx 8-inch scrap lumber, each box the same
width but 10 inches shorter than the box for the lower step.
The boxes are placed one on top of the other, and held together by outside
lathing cleats. Corners should be well braced. Use 1 part
Portland cement to 3 parts sand and 6 parts gravel. The cement
is poured and the step tops are levelled by using the flat edge
of a board.
If you use pre-cast concrete blocks, the need for forms for step
construction is eliminated. The cost is about the same as
building steps of poured concrete, although the job—especially
for a one-man operation—is easier.
It is important to bond the blocks together well and you can obtain good
appearance by applying a thin overall coating of concrete.
Brick steps are built in the same manner as concrete blocks, although more
masonry skill is required. A layer of gravel is first laid over
the subsoil as a foundation. The weakness of brick steps is the
many joints that are required.
In constructing stone steps, the principle difficulty is finding the stone.
While this presents no problem at all in some areas, in other
areas stone must be purchased, and when this is true, stone
steps are by far the most expensive type to build. They are also
among the most attractive.
Stone steps can be built without masonry bonding, if large enough stones can
be found. The principles of dry-wall construction will apply. If
steps are freestanding, mortar must be used. The foundation must
be prepared as for brick steps.
The concrete used to make beds for the stones must be placed carefully to
keep a good pattern. Levelling must be done precisely (the
string level is recommended).
It is best to remove spilled mortar from stones while it is still wet,
because when it is dry it presents a problem. Dry mortar,
however, may be removed by using muriatic acid.
Wooden rounds cut from large logs make a beautiful and easily constructed
set of steps. The bottom round is set in the earth, and the next
one placed to partially cover it, leaving a riser. The ground is
filled in under the upper round and firmly tamped, and this
procedure is followed to the desired height.
Informal wooden steps can be used for long slopes where there is no need for
real steps but it is too steep for just a path. Ramp steps can
be made with risers of large stone flags, logs or squared
The paths that lead to the steps should have the same width as the steps.
The ramps should not rise too rapidly, the largest rise being
3/4 inch per foot.
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