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Garden steps can be so much more than just a way to get between different levels. There are all kinds of ideas to try that will make them a stylish feature in their own right.
There are endless options in terms of materials. From industrial Corten steel and smooth limestone paving to patterned tiles and wooden sleepers, they will all add character. Combined with a gorgeous garden path and set alongside plants, furniture, and accessories, they can help create the beautiful look you're after for your backyard.
Of course, safety is important as well as the practicalities and aesthetics. Stairs need to be comfortable and secure to use. And in some instances, they need to comply with building regulations. Always seek professional input for complex projects, as the design specifications will need to be carefully calculated. Don't worry about having to tone down your ideas to meet these stipulations, though, as handrails, balustrades, and glass panels can all add a chic note to the final look.
23 gorgeous garden steps ideas to connect the levels in your plot
We've rounded up our favorite garden steps ideas below to get you inspired for your own backyard update.
1. Try streamlined deck steps
Deck steps make an attractive alternative to paved ones. You could use them to link two outdoor living zones in a tiered plot or a stretch of decking to a lawn, or, as seen here, to connect a raised walkway to a lower level.
Whether using timber or wood-effect composite, they're a smart and structured landscaping idea that's perfect for modern plots. In this garden, they provide a sense of definition against the beautiful, wild planting and trickling stream.
2. Opt for a natural look with rocks and boulders
Take a cue from the great outdoors and try landscaping with boulders in your garden. Sculptural and striking, they almost always look impressive, and look even better when surrounded by plants, such as the ferns and sedum seen here.
Build your steps out of flat-topped rocks to extend the theme. To really create that organic look, avoid using straight lines, and encourage moss to grow in the nooks and crannies between each. It's a lovely solution for steps set away from the main pathways of your garden – perhaps leading to a hidden summer house or hammock.
3. Accent steps with a contrasting material
The pale stone material of these steps blends beautifully with the raised garden bed and pathway. And the raw natural edge of each slab adds an element of texture and gives the overall look a more natural vibe.
Combined with the surrounding predominant planting palette of soothing blues and greens, it's nothing short of elegant. The use of stacked, red clay tiles on each step's riser adds an element of contrast, making the feature more of a focal point and tying in with the russet-toned blooms behind.
4. Pair pale, paved steps with Corten steel planters
The smooth, sleek paving used in this garden is contemporary as well as practical, merging the steps with the levels above and below seamlessly.
If you're going for a similar look, consider using porcelain pavers. As the team at Bradstone (opens in new tab) says, it's 'a dense and solid material that will maintain its color over time without fading and is resistant to scratches, giving you stunning paving that lasts.’ And nowadays, there are styles available that look just like real stone.
Here, the paved flooring looks wonderful alongside an integrated planter made of Corten steel – an on-trend material that offers durability as well as an industrial-chic aesthetic. The coppery tones contrast attractively against the off-white steps and silvery-green planting, while harmonizing with the deeper, plum-hued foliage also dotted throughout the scheme.
5. Accompany your garden steps with a bright wall and vivid planting
Brighten steps set alongside a tall garden wall with a splash of color. This orange hue is full of vibrancy and flair. Terracotta, ochre, azure blue, or perhaps an olive green would make eye-catching alternatives depending on your garden's color scheme.
Soften the two hardscaping features with a row of the best edging plants – the indigo blooms here pop against their backdrop for a modern result.
If you're looking to update your garden steps without having to install new ones, then this is a budget-friendly solution that will make your setup feel refreshed and full of style.
6. Try an interlocking design
A straight flight of steps is not the only option when your garden needs a change in level. Several larger platforms, offset from each other, make a more subtle arrangement that also adds interest and helps widen the overall space too.
This works particularly well with gently sloping gardens so that the riser between each level is minimal and each platform or step is generous. That way, you can use each for displaying a planter or carriage lantern.
7. Go for a coordinated finish
Opting for the best composite decking is a fantastic choice for a landscaping material as it's so versatile and needs relatively little upkeep. Perfect for constructing steps, seating, retaining beds, and decks, it'll allow you to create a smooth, contemporary outside space where each area flows seamlessly into another.
Excellent installation and attention to detail are key to getting a beautiful result. Choose from flat and molded finishes in a wide selection of shades.
8. Make steps part of the overall design
Steps, outdoor seating, and walls can all work together effortlessly if well planned. Clad them in the same material and paint the surrounding boundaries the same tone to create a look that is super chic and spacious, too.
In this modern courtyard, we love how the wooden bench has been extended to blend into the set of steps. Subtle, recessed spotlights set above each will safely guide the way when night falls.
9. Merge your steps with a rock garden
Steps don't have to be a bold, stand-out feature – they can look just as beautiful integrated as part of the planting.
Rock and woodland gardens are perfect opportunities to casually mix low-growing, creeping plant varieties with informal steps. Choose a natural, slab-shaped material such as timber sleepers or large, split boulders as well-sized treads and encourage a mix of plants for rockeries to grow within the surrounding gaps and crevices.
Nature will give you a helping hand with many species arriving by accident, so wait to see how they grow and the effect they create before weeding them out.
10. Add drama with lighting
A well-designed set of steps can make a stunning feature when combined with garden lighting, as well as being a key safety measure.
Installing simple LED strip lighting under each overhanging tread (i.e. the flat surface that you tread on) will highlight the riser below and create a striking, striped effect.
Go for lighting with a low lumen output in a warm white shade for a soft and gentle look. It's also an effective way to highlight the shapes of each step's profile and any natural marbling.
11. Consider the step profile
The front edge or profile of paved steps can make a big difference to the finished look of the feature.
Rounded or bullnose shaping works well on thicker stone or concrete products and oozes quality and a more traditional feel.
For a contemporary finish try a straight, flat profile or a chamfered design on the top or both top and bottom edges. Porcelain paving slabs tend to have a similar range of shapes but feature a downstand: essentially a right-angled overhang along the front edge of each step to create a neat, crisp, contemporary look.
12. Make steps work extra hard
In a small garden, 'everything must work extra hard as there is often nowhere to hide,' says garden designer Kate Gould (opens in new tab). She advises thinking about the mood that you're trying to achieve, whether it be contemporary, contemplative, or traditional.
'Perhaps you are happy with a mixture of all, but stick to the discipline of your ideas, rather than throwing all and sundry at it,' she says.
This plot demonstrates Kate's advice perfectly. It really makes the most of the steps by stretching them across the width of the space and incorporating planting, seating, and storage. The overall look feels clean, modern, and fuss-free.
To recreate the scene, opt for shade-loving plants that can cope with low-light levels – ferns, ivy, and hardy geraniums all work well. Encourage foliage to overhang each level to soften the look.In terms of how many plant varieties to choose, 'less can very much be more,' says Kate. 'Less maintenance; more impact and drama.'
13. Impress with a cantilevered design
Definitely a job for the professionals – an outdoor cantilevered staircase makes a big style statement.
Bold and undeniably modern, it consists of a series of chunky, slab-style treads jutting out from a side wall. With barely-there railings providing support on the opposite side, the effect can be breathtaking.
Besides any lack of obvious support, the charm and impact also lie in the mix of materials used and the surfaces that surround the steps. Crisply rendered walls, panels of jagged stone, and rough brick cladding all work well with this style. Add in recessed lighting, lush planting, and perhaps a soothing water feature nearby as chic finishing touches to the scene.
14. Accentuate clean lines
Low, wide steps instantly add a relaxed vibe to a garden. In fact, the lower the height of each step, the deeper the tread should be, as this will create a practical set of stairs that is super easy to use.
A riser of around 6in (150mm) between each step is comfortable for most but avoid anything less than 4in (100mm) as it could be considered a trip hazard. The sheet glass balustrades used in this modern garden are elegant and striking while the striated paving adds a touch of lightness.
15. Wow with patterned tiles
Make your garden steps part of your patio ideas by covering them all in the same flooring. Not only will it help merge the spaces and create a seamless look, but also, if you go for a bold color or pattern, it will increase the impact too.
These patterned tiles look chic teamed with simple black iron railings and handrails.
16. Opt for curvy steps
There's something rather refined and elegant about curving steps. Yes, they take up more space than your average straight flight, but they instantly add interest and movement to a garden, especially when accompanied by a lush, well-kept lawn and smooth stone paving.
A rounded edge to each overhanging step – or tread – emphasizes the beautiful shape and tiered effect.
17. Lift paved steps with clipped evergreen shrubs
Striking a balance between plants and hard landscaping can be a tricky business, but get it right and the effect is enchanting.
Shrubs, ornamental grasses, and small trees are obvious choices and look great in built-in planters or large-scale pots. But for something truly eye-catching, take a look at this project by Harrington Porter (opens in new tab). Box plants clipped to step height add a touch of texture and elegance to this formal patio: an inspiring example of landscaping with evergreens.
18. Mix up mellow materials
Looking for garden steps ideas with character? Try experimenting with different materials. The secret to success is to stick to finishes that have – or will weather to – a similar tone.
Sandstone flags, chunky sawn oak, and reclaimed London Stock bricks all have the same warm, golden glow and work beautifully to create a relaxed and informal feel that's perfect for cottage garden paths and steps. Be bold in scale to let the materials create impact and minimize any fussy details or unnecessary joins.
19. Create a stepped display
Besides providing access, steps make a brilliant spot for displaying container garden ideas. Depending on the size of your backyard and the area taken up by steps, the effect you can create is endless.
From a ribbon of brightly colored pots and blooms snaking up one side of the stairs to a vast potted 'flower bed' that stretches up away from your view, it is a great trick for breaking up a sea of hard landscaping.
What's more, you can move and change your display whenever you fancy. Experiment with different height plants on different levels or strike a dramatic note by repeating identical black metal planters planted with ferns, as in this design.
20. Highlight risers with pattern
Show off wrap-around steps or unusual interlocking designs by choosing a contrasting finish between each step. A great way to add an element of surprise, you can have fun introducing a strong, bold color or a distinctive pattern without compromising the rest of a low-maintenance paved design.
These tiles look amazing stretching along the shallow steps, flanked by the smooth, large format gray paving.
21. Soften steps with planting
No garden approach can be more romantic than threading your way through swaying meadow grasses and flowers up the garden steps. Few of us are lucky enough to have this very situation at home though, so we need to be a little creative.
Reclaimed flagstones make the perfect steps for cottage gardens. Already worn and marked by years of use, they can be set into an existing slope, supported by salvaged bricks, to create a pathway full of personality.
Cover the neighboring banks of soil with easy-to-lay matting pre-sown with native flowering meadow grasses. If you are more impatient, go for plug plants interspersed with more mature perennials right next to the steps.
22. Mix steps with water
A change in height in a garden is a great excuse to incorporate water feature ideas.
Rills and pools spilling from one level to the next is a great way to bring movement, light, and sound to an outside space and it's hugely restful too.
Look at ways of using water creatively – it could emerge from a wall spout and travel down through rills to a lower collecting pool. Or, try a series of shallow channels that run alongside a central set of steps flowing gently over protruding water blades or down narrowing chutes.
23. Consider decorative handrails
Safety is essential when designing steps, and if there is a drop of 24in (600mm) or more to the side you will need to install a side wall or handrail.
Yes, this will add to the overall cost but, besides ensuring everyone's well-being, it provides the chance to indulge in a gorgeous design.
Rails and panels come in a huge range of materials, each with their own distinct characteristics. Smart tensioned cables, glass panels, and laser-cut Corten steel panels all make strong statements in contemporary, urban, and coastal gardens. Curvy cast-stone balustrades, timber posts and rails, and ornate ironwork tend to suit period and rural homes.
How do I calculate how many garden steps I need? ›
To work out how many risers you need, divide the vertical height of the flight by the height of your riser. Then divide the horizontal length of the flight into a suitable number of treads. The combinations of tread and riser measurements in the table will make attractive, safe steps.What size should garden steps be? ›
As a general rule, the riser should be no more than 15 centimetres high (5.9 inches), with the tread at least 30 centimetres (11.81 inches) deep. Landscape architect Thomas D. Church laid out a widely-used measure: twice the height of the riser plus the tread should equal 26 inches (66.04 centimetres).How do I add levels to my garden? ›
- 1) Make sure you have permission.
- 2) Measure the rise and run of the slope.
- 3) Water the ground you'll be digging.
- 4) Build the retaining wall.
- 5) Pile up soil behind the retaining wall.
- 6) Ensure the new lawn is level.
- 7) Compact the soil.
- 8) Plant a new lawn.
Balustrades and handrails are not a legal obligation for garden steps, but may well help anyone unsure of their footing.What is a comfortable step height? ›
Researchers found that the ideal step height is 7.2 inches and the ideal tread width should be anywhere between 11 and 12 inches.Is an 8 inch step too high? ›
In the United States, the step height standard should be between 7 or 7 ¾ inches at the most, and no less than 4 inches. You should follow other measurements if given by local building codes. In Canada, the maximum step riser height is 8 ¼ inches.Should outdoor steps be level? ›
For outdoor stairways, treads must be slightly sloped so water will not accumulate on the stairs. Install a 1% slope (1/8 inch per foot) to ensure water runoff but do not exceed the maximum allowable slope of 2% (1/4 inch per foot) in any direction.Should outdoor steps have an overhang? ›
You are not required to have a nosing/overhang on your stair treads. But if your stairs don't have a nosing you are required to have a tread that is at least 11 inches long.
Stairs must have an overhang between 3/4″ to 1-1/4” to increase the depth of the step, making it better for descent while maintaining a clear 10-inch going for the ascent. Treads that are 11-inches deep or greater do not require an overhang.How do you level uneven ground by hand? ›
- Outline your plot with stakes and string to create a boundary for the cultivation. Hammer stakes into the ground at each corner of the area to be cultivated. ...
- Dig up the soil. Start at one corner of your plot and insert the shovel about halfway into the soil. ...
- Hoe the area. ...
- Rake the area to further level the ground.
How deep should outdoor steps be? ›
You can choose what's comfortable for you but generally outdoor steps have a rise of 5 ½ to 7 inches and a tread of 12 to 18 inches.How deep should steps be? ›
Staircase Tread (Run) Depth: 10 to 11 Inches, Minimum
This distance must be at least 10 inches. However, the ICC notes that if the steps do not have nosings, and the steps have solid risers, not open risers, the minimum tread depth is 11 inches.
Plan for the individual "run" of each step to be 9–10 inches (23–25 cm). The run, or tread, refers to how long each step is. Generally, a stair's run should be at least 9–10 inches (23–25 cm) so people have enough room to step, but you can make them longer if desired.How do you build outdoor steps? ›
How To Build Outdoor Steps - D.I.Y. At Bunnings - YouTubeHow high is 3 steps? ›
Here are some factors that should be considered: Stairs typically run about 7.5 inches high each so for three stairs a standard rise or height would be about 22 inches.What is the standard rise for steps? ›
The OSHA standard for rise and run of stairs is maximum 9.5" rise and minimum 9.5" run (tread depth).How do you fix a step that is too high? ›
How To Fix Stair Riser Variations When First Step Is To High - YouTubeHow do you layout a set of steps? ›
How to Build Stairs | A simple way to mark and cut stringers - YouTubeHow tall is a 3 step Stringer? ›
|current product||Top Rated|
|Number of Steps 3||3||3|
|Product Height (in.) 35.64||35.64 in||35.5 in|
|Product Depth (in.) 11.25||11.25 in||1.5 in|
How To Fix Forward Sloping Treads with Shims - Stair Repairs - YouTube
How do I make sure my stair stringers are level? ›
For stairs with a stringer against a wall, raise the outer stringer with shims or lower it by trimming the underside with a handsaw, as necessary, until the tread is level. For outdoor stairs, remove nails or bolts from connectors that secure the bottom of a tread to the deck or sidewalk before leveling.What is the code height for outdoor steps? ›
Outdoor stair riser code
Outdoor stair risers must comply with IRC section R311. 7.5 stair treads and risers. The riser height shall not be more than 7 3/4 inches.
Stairs that have a lip to help make the stairs easier to use by increasing the tread area of the stair's steps. This also allows for more options when choosing the design for your railings since you have more space to work with. When nosing is present, our tendency as users typically presses our weight a bit past that.What goes first tread or riser? ›
Do work at least one riser ahead before installing treads. Installing two risers is one way to ensure proper strength and performance. The important thing is to remember to install riser, tread, riser, tread or install the risers first. Do use both adhesives and fasteners when possible.What is the minimum rise and run of stairs? ›
(1) The rise of every step in a stairway shall be not less than 4 inches nor greater than 7 1/2 inches. (2) The run shall not be less than 10 inches as measured horizontally between the vertical planes of the furthermost projection of adjacent treads.What is the purpose of a nosing? ›
The main purpose of a nosing is to improve the safety of the staircase. As it protrudes a little over the edge of the tread, it provides some extra space for users to place their feet.Why are stair risers angled? ›
They may be angled because the treads are on the short side, so you might not want to shorten the tread by straightening the risers.What kind of nails do you use for stair treads? ›
What Kind Of Nails Do You Use For Stair Treads? In terms of size, you'll want to use either a 16 or 18 gauge nail. The nails should be a finishing nail brand, not your typical wall nail. Using these in an air pressured nail gun will give you the best hold and accuracy.How do you level uneven ground in backyard? ›
- STEP 1: Mow Your Lawn. ...
- STEP 2: Dethatch Your Lawn [As Needed] ...
- STEP 3: Dig up the grass in the sunken area of the lawn. ...
- STEP 4: Make Soil Mix: Topsoil, Sand and Compost. ...
- STEP 5: Fill Sunken Areas and Holes with Soil Mixture. ...
- STEP 6: Even Out the Entire Lawn. ...
- STEP 7: Water the Lawn.
The best sand to use is play sand, which you can buy at any home center. A typical mixture is 40 percent sand, 40 percent topsoil, and 20 percent compost. The sand provides good drainage, while the compost adds nutrients to the soil to promote grass growth.
How do I level a large area of dirt? ›
Lawn roller, rake, and shovel: Use the shovel to dig into low spots and expose the dirt beneath the grass. Fill the divots with topdressing mix, then use the rake or lawn roller to level the lawn. If the uneven areas are large enough, use a tiller to dig them up.How do you fill in low spots in your yard? ›
Filling Low Spots in the Lawn
You can easily make your own lawn patching soil by mixing sand and dry topsoil in equal parts of half-and-half, spreading the leveling mix into low-lying areas of the lawn. Some people also use compost, which is great for enriching the soil.
Add purchased subsoil to the bottom of the slope to build it up. Spread the soil over the ground to create a slight slope away from any nearby buildings. Distribute the soil to create a slope of 12 inches for every 50 square feet of ground. Rake the ground's surface until it is smooth.How do you fix a sloping yard? ›
Create flat spaces with retaining walls
Carving out part of the slope and adding a retaining wall to hold back the soil will allow you to create a flat area in your backyard. These can create planting areas, seating areas, or recreational areas for the family.
Find a length of string and two wooden stakes. Tie one end of string to a wooden stake and hammer it into the ground at the highest elevation in the area. Hammer in the second stake across the area you want leveled.Can bottom step be different height? ›
Reply: no stair step riser height variation greater than 0.375 inches is allowed. Dan, There is no exception for individual stair steps, first, bottom, top, or other. A difference in riser height can be a serious trip hazard at any location on a stairway.How many stairs can you have before a landing? ›
For general access stairs a maximum allowance of 12 steps before a landing is required. With utility stairs, a maximum of 16 steps is allowed before a landing.How tall is a 4 step Stringer? ›
This product is a stringer that will install 8 stairs, with a total height of approximately 54-3/4" high to the top step. Helpful?What is the average width of a step? ›
What Is The Standard Stair Width In America? The average stair width in America is about 36″ wide which is actually the minimum according to most building codes. Though the entire 36″ isn't used, it is enough to account for handrails which can take up a few inches.How many steps is 10 feet? ›
As per thumb rule and various building code or IRC, assume standard design, for 12 feet height of staircase, you will need approximately 21 stairs and for 10 feet height you need 19 stairs to go up.
What angle are most stairs? ›
The standard angle of a staircase depends on the use case and application for the stair. For most standard stairs, the stair angle varies between 30 degrees and 45 degrees. Egress stairs have a shallower angle around 30-35 degrees while industrial stairs have steeper angles ranging from 40 to 70 degrees.What's the best angle for stairs? ›
Stair codes and guidelines prefer an angle of around 37° for normal stairways (the green area in our illustration) and around 7° for ramps (the yellow area in our illustration). Steeper slopes or angles are permitted for stepladders in certain applications as you can see in the illustration.How do you calculate area of your garden? ›
Multiply the length by the width to determine the square footage—or area—of a square or rectangle. Find the square footage by multiplying the length and width of the area in question. Make sure to keep your units the same (feet or inches).How do you calculate the number of plants per area? ›
Multiply the square footage of the planting bed by the plants needed per square foot to determine the number of plants needed. When using plants with different spacing requirements in the same area, estimate the square footage you will need for each plant.How do I work out the m2 of my garden? ›
If you have measured the garden in metres, simply multiply the two values together to get the area in square metres. For example, if your garden in 7 metres long by 5 metres wide, the area would be 7 times 5, so 35 square metres.
For a non-vegetarian individual, however, we'd estimate that you need about 200 square feet of garden space to allow for a harvest that feeds everyone year-round. So, for an average family of four, plan for an 800 square-foot garden—a plot that is 20 feet by 40 feet in size.What is a mathematical garden? ›
The Mathematical Garden is the Museum of Science and Technology's new playground, where the world of maths can be explored through play – it is full of fun, free to use and is open around the clock.How many raised beds for a family of four? ›
By one estimate, a gardener can produce enough food for one growing season by intensive cultivation of two raised beds, each of which is 4 feet square. Using that formula, it would take eight raised beds to produce enough food for a family of four for the growing season.What is the formula for area? ›
|Area of Square||Area = a2||a = sides of the square|
|Area of a Triangle||Area = 1/2 b×h||b = base h = height|
|Area of a Circle||Area = πr2||r = radius of the circle|
|Area of a Trapezoid||Area = 1/2 (a + b)h||a =base 1 b = base 2 h = vertical height|
Although it is difficult to say exactly how many plants are needed to purify indoor air, Wolverton recommends at least two good sized plants for every 100 square feet (approximately 9.3 square meters) of indoor space. The bigger the plant and leafier the plant, the better.
What is the distance between plants per row? ›
Row spacing should be 12-20 feet. Distance between plants in the shrub row should be 3-5 feet for deciduous species; if juniper is used for a shrub row, space plants 5-7 feet apart. For interior rows, space evergreens 8-12 feet apart and deciduous trees 10-14 feet apart.How much space should be between plants? ›
|Vegetable||Spacing Between Plants||Spacing Between Rows|
|Alfalfa||6″-12″ (15-30 cm.)||35″-40″ (90-100 cm.)|
|Amaranth||1″-2″ (2.5-5 cm.)||1″-2″ (2.5-5 cm.)|
|Artichokes||18″ (45 cm.)||24″-36″ (60-90 cm.)|
|Asparagus||12″ – 18″ (30-45 cm.)||60″ (150 cm.)|
Length in feet x Width in feet x Depth in feet (inches divided by 12). Take the total and divide by 27 (the amount of cubic feet in a yard). The final figure will be the estimated amount of cubic yards required.What size is a small garden? ›
Average Size of Small Garden
Generally, anything that's less than 100 square meters can be said as a “small garden”, and most of us have gardens under this size. 50 to 100 square meters can be considered a good size for household gardens.
- Clear away any plants, weeds and debris.
- Dig or rotovate soil to at least 15cm deep.
- Improve soil texture or quality if necessary.
- Level the area.
- Firm the soil.
- Add pre-turfing fertiliser.
- Rake and level again.
- Lay your turf.
You can save big money by growing your own vegetables and fruits. In fact, depending on the type and amount you grow, you can save a significant amount of money. By spending a few dollars on seeds, plants, and supplies in spring, you'll produce vegetables that will yield pounds of produce in summer.How do you create a self sufficient garden? ›
Go organic – Compost leaves, grass and kitchen scraps to reduce your reliance on chemical fertilizer. Collect rainwater to use for irrigation. Preserve food – Increase gardening self-sufficiency by storing that peak of harvest abundance of produce for the off-season.What are the best survival foods to grow? ›
- Beans. Beans, such as these adzuki beans, are a great staple crop. ...
- Corn. This is harder to grow in an apartment but is a yard staple. ...
- Squash. Both winter and summer squash are great in your end-of-the-world garden. ...
- Cabbage. ...
- Potatoes. ...
- Kale. ...
- Sweet Potatoes. ...