How to Build Natural Steps Up a Hill
Modern landscaping often incorporates the use of natural features to give gardens character. Some are not only aesthetic, but functional, such as natural steps that lead to another level in the garden. If stairs are not proportioned right, they can be difficult to use. Stick to a time-tested formula for natural stairs -- the same formula of width and height to make stairs comfortable to climb or descend. To keep them natural looking, you don't need to make them look perfect. Just cut them into the ground with a shovel and place some 2-by-6 redwood down.
Measure from one end of the stick and make a mark at 7 inches.
Place one of the 2-by-6 redwood pieces on the ground where you wish to start the first step.
Hold the stick vertically at the end of your foot where you wish to place the first step. Mark the location visually on the ground using the 7-inch mark on the stick for reference. Begin digging the first step horizontally into the ground at the mark. Use the redwood piece at your feet to gauge the width.
Place one of the 2-by-6 redwood pieces in the cutout when it is big enough to fit. Check to see if if the cutout is visually level. Remove the redwood and continue digging until two pieces of redwood will fit into the cutout side-by-side.
Place the stick vertically on the first redwood step. Use the 7-inch mark to visually align the height and start digging another step just as you did before. Repeat digging, measuring and placing 2-by-6 redwood until you reach the top of the hill.
Hold the shovel vertically and use it to cut and chop off any protrusions such as roots and grass from the back and sides of the stairs. Tap the back and sides of the stairs with the back of the shovel to firm the soil.
Don't make stairs too perfect. Natural landscaping should fit the environment. The 24-inch measurement is an example. You can cut the redwood and make steps longer or shorter.
Don't place steps in an obvious area of watershed. Try to locate them on a rise in the ground. It's okay to vary slightly from the measurements, but not too much. Stairs tend to be more comfortable when they are 7-inches tall and 12-inches deep.
Specializing in hardwood furniture, trim carpentry, cabinets, home improvement and architectural millwork, Wade Shaddy has worked in homebuilding since 1972. Shaddy has also worked as a newspaper reporter and writer, and as a contributing writer for Bicycling Magazine. Shaddy began publishing in various magazines in 1992, and published a novel, “Dark Canyon,” in 2008.