Need advice on building garden stairs out of landscaping blocks.

by Lwm11604857
Our backyard sits about 3 stair heights below the level of our house and we want to build some stairs at the back of our house. We have a lot of landscaping blocks we can use, but they are not very wide from front to back, so we were thinking of adding a plain 4X8" concrete block to the back of the blocks to make them wider and safer to walk on. We are not planning to do any concrete foundations, etc. just tamping the heavy clay earth underneath the blocks. Do you have any comments or ideas for this project"?
  9 answers
  • William William on Sep 15, 2016
    Make sure you base is tamped down and solid. Lay down some landscape fabric to prevent weed growth. Glue down each layer with outdoor construction adhesive. Make sure your steps are at proper height and depth. The run length should be 10 inches (25.4 cm) or longer for enough foot space. The riser height should be 7.75 inches (19.685cm) or lower. The nosing protrusion length should be 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) or lower to prevent tripping on the nosing. The headroom is recommended to be 6 feet and 8 inches (203 cm) or higher. The stair width is recommended to be 35 inches (89cm) or longer. The height of the handrail, measured from the nose of the tread, is recommended to be between 34 and 38 inches (86 to 97 cm). The comfortable size of handrail diameter is between 1.25 and 2.68 inches (3.2 to 6.8 cm). Doors are normally not allowed to swing over steps. The arc of doors should be on the landing or floor completely.
  • Valerie Valerie on Sep 16, 2016
    You might find something useful here:
  • Amy11310053 Amy11310053 on Sep 16, 2016
    Can you turn the blocks the other way..Sideways?
    • Lwm11604857 Lwm11604857 on Sep 22, 2016
      We might be able to turn the back plain block sideways, but not the landscaping block.
  • Johnchip Johnchip on Sep 16, 2016
    Just be careful you are not adding an insurance liability issue to your home if it is not meeting code. Steps and stairs can become a big issue especially if they have weather conditions that may effect them. Even a trespasser can sue if they are injured on your property.
    • Lwm11604857 Lwm11604857 on Sep 22, 2016
      Thank You Johnchip. We hadn't considered that. Right now, it just a jumble of rocks and uneven dirt. VERY unsafe. Trying to improve it, because we are getting older and need something more stable.
  • Linda Ann Graham Linda Ann Graham on Sep 17, 2016
    If you're only 3 stair treads up from your yard, you can do with cinderblocks without even having to cement them if you so choose. Be sure the ground is level before you begin. I suggest you lay 3 rows of cinderblocks for the bottom stair tread, one behind the other, to the width you prefer. For the next stair, lay the cinderblocks so the narrow sides are at front and back; this will leave you an adequate step area on the row of cinderblocks below. Then for the top tread, turn the cinderblocks to the same direction as the bottom layer of blocks. I recommend that you do all this with the open sides of the blocks facing up and down and then fill them with soil and then cover each "step" with a 1" thick patio block - the "flat cinderblocks." I did something like this to gain access to an area of my yard that I leveled off by adding dirt behind a 3-block high row of cinderblocks before making such a little stairway from the yard proper to the raised level. It's been in place for years. If you want even more stability, get some short rebar from a home supply store and hammer them down within the cinderblocks, being sure they don't quite reach the height of the span in which you place them; so, you'd have rebar in the front "step" part of the base, then through the front part of the middle step, but with a longer bar so it goes through both blocks, and finally the longest bars through the top blocks - all bars extending at least 3' deeper than your lawn surface and covered by the 1" patio blocks.
    • Lwm11604857 Lwm11604857 on Oct 03, 2016
      Thank you for your detailed answer. This does help me see what is possible. Would love to see your "little" stairway.
  • ObiaMan ObiaMan on Sep 17, 2016
    I've used cinder blocks for building everything, steps included. They're a very good choice. But if you want to use some bricks you already have, I see no problem there either, depending on the type of bricks. If they're flat, top and bottom, and don't have a lip on one edge, there shouldn't be any problem. If you have enough bricks, lay down a batch as wide and as far out as you want it to be. Depending on the thickness, add layers on top of the first till you have the thickness you want for the first step. Repeat this for the second step but go out about a foot less. Then do the same for the third step. Alternate how the bricks are stacked, sideways, longways, where they overlap the seams if possible. For a little added stability/insurance, use something like Liquid Nail construction adhesive and put a dab or two or three on each brick where one will be on top of it and even on the sides where they're pressed together. It'll hold for years. Make sure your initial foundation is flat and solid. A bag of sand can help. I did a huge patio using cinder blocks to form the perimeter, all glued together and leveled using sand. Then I filled the interior with sand and soaked it till it was well packed, using a screed board to make it perfectly level. Then I put 1' square stepping stones on top on the whole thing, gluing the sides together and here it is a dozen years later and it's still in perfect shape and I live in deep south Louisiana where it's quite swampy.
  • Amy11310053 Amy11310053 on Sep 23, 2016
    How about a picture of "Job "? You could rent a "cut off" saw .Square off the blocks. I worry about them falling or sliding off as well.What happen usually is footings would be dug out down to frost lineCrushed Stone is then put in /tamped down . Concrete poured . Blocks then layed..That's the proper and safe way to do it .As far as right on dirt / clay ? Your still looking at a possible hazard situation .That said if someone falls that's a liability ..Home owners insurance.? Again good luck..
  • Lwm11604857 Lwm11604857 on Nov 14, 2016
    Gonna try to show our completed project. Thanks to everyone for all of your helpful comments. I am very happy with the outcome and feel it will last for a long time. Here are some photos.
    • See 1 previous
    • Lwm11604857 Lwm11604857 on Nov 27, 2016

      That is a great idea, which we never thought about. We already finished the project using the 4" high flat concrete blocks. It turned out great! Thanks for your input. I'm sure we will have more projects in the future. Pat