There’s gotta be an upside to wet days and being laid off commercial construction sites (and still paying out wages), right? Well yes, I can now concur having Luke and his apprentice home in the yard for 7.6 hours on a week day to whip up this outdoor rock staircase is proof good things can eventuate. After popping the below DIY pics on our Facebook (here) and Instagram (here) we were asked kindly by a lovely follower, About the Garden Magazine, to create this post further explaining the process to assist their audience of avid gardeners. So here goes.
Choose your location and tools.
It helps we already had quite a hefty existing slope which the boys took to with shovels, a mattock, metal rake and ride on mower with detachable trailer (for moving the 2 tonnes of creek rocks we later used).
Mark up your tracks
It’s difficult to see, but I did recommend they used spray paint to gently guide the path they were planning for the staircase. We opted for a slight curve for character, and to direct your line of sight more towards the house than the ugly water tanks. You could also use a garden hose or piece of string line if you wanted to play with a few options.
Play with your tread spacing
At this point it’s a good idea to roughly calculated how many treads you intend to build based on the thickness of each stair (ours are around 85cm) and the length of your slope. Luke calculated around 6 evenly spaced treads – which is what we ended up with.
Lay the first rocks
Simply dig in slightly with a shovel (say 10cm or so) and place your first row of rocks at an appropriate width in the small trench you’ve dug in the ground. This width (left-to-right) will later guide each stair tread so ensure now it has the right feel and balance. I actually asked Luke to widen ours at this point (which we did do, as seen below).
Then simply back fill row one with a heap of compacted soil whilst digging a position for the next row of rocks. Here’s when the elbow grease kicks in. Make such your soil is truly compacted in behind the rocks, setting them into position. You don’t want a down pour of rain to wash away all your efforts in a few weeks.
Super idea to also keep the treads as flat (and sturdy) as you can. We didn’t go as far as to get out a level, rather just guessed based on the feel under foot and by sight. Slight blemishes add character, right?
What's next for this staircase?
We are currently planning what type of material or foliage will sit on top of the stair treads and beside the stairs. We want to steer clear of grass as it just means we’d need to maintain it later and are thinking more of a coloured stone or crusher dust.
This is an important decision for our design as it will determine the look and feel of the footpath we make into the pizza shack. I’m thinking some type of lavender or low-ish plant with a scent down each side of the stairs, finished off with a timber arch we intend to build at the very top to welcome you in. Watch this space!
So tell us, do you have any tread suggestions for us?