Ask a Designer: Step Options in Landscaping

When it comes to landscaping, the choices for steps are as varied as the gardens they lead to.

From the rustic charm of natural stone steps to the modern allure of concrete, each option offers its own unique blend of functionality and style. Whether you’re looking for a seamless transition from your porch to your garden or a practical solution for a sloping backyard, the step options available cater to every need and decorative preference.

The deciding factors can be the location of the steps, the width and height required and, of course, aesthetics.

Natural Stone Steps

Natural Stone Steps

Natural stone steps are exactly as they sound. Rectangular stone steps ‘carved’ out of natural rock. This gives them a very natural colouring depending on the type. It also means there is some variation between steps, especially if you require several: they will not necessarily be identical. Natural stone steps are available in a range of widths.

They come with risers (height) of 6” or 7”, which is the natural riser of a safe step. Natural stone steps are very heavy and, in most cases, require machine access to install. They provide a warm natural design detail to any landscape. Because of their weight, and with proper installation, they should not move.

Irregular Natural Stone Steps

There is an option to use more natural stone steps that are irregular and have varying sides for a certain design look. It is a bit more work to find ones that have a consistent riser when you require several pieces. They definitely have a more cottage, naturalist look to them.

Flagstone Veneer Steps

Many homes come with existing concrete steps, often leading to a concrete porch. When undergoing a landscape project, many homeowners want to cover up the concrete look and have the steps tie into their landscape a bit better.

You can put a veneer of natural flagstone over concrete steps and porches. This product is a natural stone that is available approximately one-inch thick and again, has the varying aspect in coloration between pieces that I mentioned with the natural stone steps. It certainly gives off a finished design detail to your home for years to come.

Concrete Steps

Concrete Steps

Even though many existing homes come with poured concrete steps, there are still homes that may have other types of steps that have moved, are not the correct heights, or need to add steps somewhere in their landscaping.

A landscape contractor can pour concrete steps for your landscape requirements. These can be left with a smooth or brushed finish. We are seeing more and more of this in some of the more modern homes being built; the steps have a very clean line appearance.

I consider working with concrete a special skill as there are a lot of factors to consider when forming and pouring concrete. If this is the look you are going for, I recommend you work with a concrete specialist.

Interlocking Steps

Interlocking Steps

As the name suggests, these are built steps that refer to a design where separate pieces are interlocked together to build a stable base and a coping piece is incorporated for the tread.

For an updated look and a higher price, the tread can also be natural stone coping. The price of installation often makes interlocking steps the preferred option and many times, the only option due to site access .

Man-Made Steps

Man-Made Steps

For smaller spaces or secondary entrances like side doors or side garage entrances, manufactured concrete steps are available that match the interlocking brick. They can be a budget option for side yards where multiple steps are required down a slope into the backyard. They are usually available only in 4 ft wide steps and available in some different finishes, like smooth or textured.

Whatever option you decide for your landscaping needs, I would like to emphasize the importance of a proper and skilled installation. Installing steps properly, as the song goes, is all about the base. It is the base that gives the steps its structure and longevity. As always, I recommend using a qualified contractor and asking for references or visiting past jobs.

Related posts:

The Advantages of Designing Hardscaping and Softscaping Together
Ask a Designer: Retaining Wall Options

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SIGN UP for your FREE Seasonal Tips Guide