To make steeply sloping properties accessible for outdoor use, it’s sometimes necessary to grade terraced areas. These terraces can be reached by properly designed steps.
Outdoor steps come in many types, sizes and materials, and are used for varying situations, from wooden steps leading from deck to lawn areas, to stone or masonry steps serving outdoor living areas, and more.
It’s critical to size steps correctly, and be consistent in their placement, not only for aesthetic purposes but for safety, too.
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Outdoor stairs consist of risers, treads and stringers. When designing and constructing a span of stairs to transition from a low area to a higher elevation in an outdoor room, the goal is to make sure that, within a flight of steps, the tread widths and riser heights remain constant. There should be no deviations that could surprise a user and cause an accident.
Outdoor Stairs Formula for Design
With outdoor landscape steps, risers should be around 6″ or 7″ for longer runs of seven or more steps. For short runs or with gentle slopes, a 4″ to 5″ riser height is acceptable (for comparison, indoor steps usually run from 7″ to 10″). Measure the vertical difference from lower level to higher level. Divide that height by the desired riser height to get the number of steps necessary to span the distance.
Next, determine the tread width. Riser and tread measurements are related, and the tread width can be found using a formula: (riser height x 2) + tread width = a number from 24 to 28.
So, with a 4″ riser: (4″ x 2) + 18 (tread width) = 26″. An 18″ tread width would work. But remember the deeper the tread, the more space will be needed for the length of the stair run.
Railings and Landings for Landscape Steps
Be sure to check and adhere to all state and local building codes when constructing steps. Generally, outdoor stairs can be broader, and applied to more gentle slopes, than indoor steps.
A landing should be constructed if flights exceed 6 steps. Landings allow the user to pause, survey the surroundings, and catch her breath. Also, railings will need to be installed in situations where ice may be a problem.
Never use a single step. There’s a good chance of someone tripping and getting hurt. An exception might be a one-step up from a walk to a front door landing, if the step is accented by a change in architectural elements, plantings, or a flared walkway designating the change in elevation.
Landscape Stair Width
The width of a flight of garden steps is an important consideration. Widths less than 5′ are too narrow for garden steps. It’s best if widths are designed so that two people walking side by side can utilize the steps together.
Perception is important, too, and wide steps seem to be more welcoming. Wide stairs with deeper treads also lend themselves to sitting, for kids and adults, or as a setting for decorative items like containers for plants.
Always follow local and statewide building codes. Then keep the above rules and formula for designing stairs in mind as a general guide, but don’t feel they’re set in stone. Proportion and aesthetics may dictate a different approach.
With a little forethought, stairs for grade changes in the landscape can be beautiful as well as functional additions to the garden.
These are the types of garden stairs popular for the home, simple, natural. They’re perceived as the reflection of its owner’s aesthetic sense.
Ambelside | Botanica Design
Flagstone Garden Steps
Floating Stairs Garden
Hillside Sidewalk and Stairs
Outside Staircase Made Of Bamboo And Logs
Concrete Blocks Garden Stair
Outdoor Stone Slab Stair
Mosaic Garden Stair
Garden Stair Made Of Wood And Gravel
Natural Stone Steps
Wooden Garden Stair
Flower-Shaped Stepping Stones
Landscaping Timber Stair
Stairs From Old Concrete Blocks
Garden Stair Made Of Wood And Mulch
Floating Garden Stair
Stone Garden Staircase
Cedar-framed stairs with decorative gravel fill
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