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How to Build Split Log Steps on a Hillside

There are several ways to make a walkway up a hillside. One that gives a rugged, rustic look is a set of split log steps, complete with a grapevine handrail. If the logs are heat-treated and then given two coats of clear acrylic sealant before setting them in the ground and leveling them, they will last for many years.

Find an area on your hillside that is "rolling," rather going straight up the hill. These natural landings will make your walkway fit into the landscape and will make it much easier for you to build an eye-catching stairway with stable footing.

Start at the bottom of your hillside. Dig out a two to three feet wide area, leveling it by adding fill where it is too low and removing material that is sticking out too high. Use a spirit level to be sure you have a level base.

Paint all your kiln-dried split logs with a clear acrylic sealant. This will ensure longer life for your stairway by preventing insects and weather from destroying your logs. Allow to dry overnight or up to 48 hours. Give logs a second coat of sealant and dry for another 24 to 48 hours.

Pour sand onto base, then lay logs in, flat side up in the sand with the shorter, narrower ends of the logs facing the kick plate, or back of the step and wider ends facing the person using the stairway. Tamp logs close together with a rubber mallet. Brush additional sand over logs once they are set in place and sweep away the excess.

Repeat each step until your stairway is as long as you need it to be. Be sure to overlap the next step up by at least half the length of the previous step. This ensures a stable staircase that will not wiggle or rock out of place easily.

Weave three strands of grapevine together to make a "rope" the length of the slope of the stairway. Plant each broom handle two feet deep, one at the bottom of the stairway, one at the top and two evenly spaced between the top and bottom. Attach the grapevine from top to bottom of the staircase.

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