How to Build an Outdoor Staircase on a Slope

Make a hillside in your yard more manageable by constructing gradual stairs from wood and gravel.

Tame a slope in your yard or add interest to a garden pathway with this wood and gravel staircase. It is not complicated to build but does take a little elbow grease. We recommend using pressure-treated wood for this project; we left ours natural, but you could easily paint or stain the timbers before assembly.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

Tools and Materials

  • shovel
  • sledgehammer
  • tamper
  • utility knife
  • chop saw or circular saw
  • drill and 1/2" and 3/8" bits
  • hammer
  • measuring tape
  • level
  • safety glasses and ear protection
  • 4x4 x 8' pressure-treated wood posts (one per step)
  • (2) 24" pieces of rebar per step
  • (2) #3/8 x 8" galvanized steel spike nails per step
  • (2) #3/8 x 6" galvanized steel spike nails per step
  • pea gravel
  • landscape fabric

1. Excavate the Area

Remove any large rocks or the current steps using a shovel and sledgehammer as needed. Make sure to wear eye protection.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

2. Grade + Level the Surface

Flatten out the area where each step will be located using a shovel, and tamp down with a hand tamper to level it out. As you do this, keep in mind each step will be around 4" high or the width of your post at a minimum.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

3. Cut the Posts

Measure, mark and cut each post into three pieces: one at 30" for the front of the step and two at 19" for the sides.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

4. Assemble Posts

Use a 3/8" drill bit to drill pilot holes to insert the spikes that will connect the sides to the front. You do not need to drill all the way into the side pieces, just through the front piece. Use a hammer to insert the 6" spikes into the pilot holes to attach three post pieces together, creating the step's frame. Repeat the process as needed to build more steps.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

5. Position Bottom Step

Starting with the bottom step, place it in the desired position and level it with dirt or stones. Use a level to check that it is even.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

6. Secure Frame Placement

Pre-drill 1/2" holes centered on each side of the step, then hammer in a 24" rebar into those holes. The rebar will hold the steps in place and prevent them from moving.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

7. Secure Steps Together

Place and level the next step frame on the one below it. To secure the two steps together, use a 3/8" bit to pre-drill a pilot hole through both steps where they meet. Hammer in 8" spikes through the top of the step and into the one below it. Repeat this process until each step is installed and securely fastened to the step below it.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

8. Lay Weed Block

Cut landscape fabric or weed block material using scissors or a utility knife to fit within each frame and then lay it in place.

Photo by: Tomas Espinoza

Tomas Espinoza

9. Fill With Gravel

Add pea gravel on top of the weed block material and level out the gravel by hand.

How to Build a Retaining Wall

Retaining walls are a great way to bring definition to your property and turn unusable space into useful space in the landscape. Find out how to build a retaining wall with this step-by-step.

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