Building garden steps

Tiers in your garden will create depth and interest, but you’ll need to build some garden steps to get about easily.

Note: The steps themselves will need to be at least 300 mm (12 in) by 600 mm (2ft) in width. If you want the steps to be wide enough for two people walking side by side, then they’ll have to be 1.5m (5ft) in width The height of the rise will need to be at most 200 mm (8 in). Frost-resistant bricks are mostly used to build garden steps.

Level of difficulty

Level 3: Advanced

Things you’ll need

Tape measure
String lines
Pegs
Shovel
Bricks
Slab
Mortar
Gravel
Concrete
Spirit level

The steps to follow

Building steps into a bank or slope

  1. Measure the vertical height of the slope and mark it with two parallel string lines
  2. At the top of the slope, attach a string line and hold it horizontally; measure the height and length of the flight
  3. Divide the height measurement by 200 mm (8 in) to work out how many steps you’ll need, then divide the number of steps by the height to determine each step’s depth
  4. Set the lines across to mark the step
  5. Start digging the step shapes from the top of the flight, working downwards step by step
  6. When you’ve reached the bottom, dig a shallow trench and lay a concrete foundation. This strip of foundation will have to measure about 100 mm (4 in) thick and 300 mm (12 in) wide
  7. Let the foundation harden for 48 hours
  8. Lay two courses of bricks onto the concrete strip, and backfill with gravel
  9. Trowel some mortar on top of the brickwork, and position the first slab on the mortar bed
  10. Tamp down
  11. Check with a spirit level that the steps are level
  12. Build the second riser on the back edge of the first tread, backfill and lay the slab to form the second tread as in previous step
  13. Continue until you’ve reached the top of the flight

Building free-standing steps

  1. To determine the number of risers, measure the height of the flight and divide it by 200 mm (8 in). The tread should measure 300 mm (12 in) in depth
  2. To give you a better view of how the flight will look, you can lay out some bricks on the lower level
  3. The flight will need a firm foundation to support the step and its risers
  4. Lay a concrete slab of 100 mm (4 in)
  5. Set up string lines across the slab and lay the first two courses of bricks
  6. Build the brickwork off the foundation slab within the perimeter wall to support the other risers in the flight. Fill the first riser with gravel and top it with a layer of fine concrete
  7. Build the other risers and the perimeter wall until the outline of the flight is complete and backfill behind the risers
  8. Bed the slabs forming the steps and tamp them down
  9. Use a spirit level to check if it’s level

Please note that all our DIY guides and ‘Expert answers’ advice have been written strictly for reference only. Rated People do not accept any liability for any damage caused to an individual, property or anything else as a result of following our DIY guides and using our ‘Expert answers’ advice.

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