Landscaping

How to Build Natural Stone Steps

We recently laid solid stone steps connecting our new pool area to our existing sidewalk. At first glance, a project like this looks pretty simple. At least, that’s what we thought! That is until we tried to move one of the stones. These things weigh 450 lbs each, which made this project one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. But it is doable! In this article, I’m going to show you how we did it and what you need to know going into a project like this.

Materials & Tools

  • solid stone steps (number and size will be determined by your space)
  • shovel
  • tape measure
  • level
  • small gravel
  • dolly

Step 1: Measure Your Space

Before you purchase your stone steps, you need to do some measuring to determine the size and quantity of stones you need. Our measurements were as follows:

  • 5′ 7″ from the sidewalk to the pool decking
  • 4′ 7″ from the house to the edge of the pool decking
  • 20″ in elevation from the pool decking to the sidewalk

Typically these types of solid stone steps come in 2 lengths: 3ft and 4ft. We quickly ruled out the 4′ stones because we knew that we would be placing these by hand and the 3′ ones would be much more manageable. They would also fit better in the space and allow room against the house for some small plants.

Because the stone steps are only 1′ 6″ in length, we needed 4 of them. And the height of each step is 7″, but we only needed all of the steps to equal 20″. This required a little figuring. But in the end we were able to find one stone that was only 5 1/2″ thick. This meant that the first step would need to be in the ground and flush with the pool decking and the last step would hit just below the top of the sidewalk, which we could live with. We definitely didn’t want it to come up above the sidewalk.

Keep in mind, for solid stone steps to work out perfectly, you would need to do a lot planning before anything is built, or have custom steps cut, which will mean a very long wait time.

Step 2: Dig Area for Stone

Before you place your first stone step, you’ll want to make sure the ground is level. I used a shovel to dig out the area where I would be placing the stone. I dug it a little deeper than the height of the stone and got it as close to level as I could.

Once I had it pretty close, I used a tape measure to make sure the stone would fit. It’s a good idea to make the space several inches bigger than the stone to ensure that you have some wiggle room.

Then I shoveled some gravel onto the area and spread it out evenly, and checked it with a level.

Step 3: Place the Stone Step

Now here’s the hard part! I did this by myself with a little help from Brooke. I don’t recommend this. Instead, call up 2 or 3 of your strongest friends to help you. I used a dolly to move the stones from the trailer to the area where I was placing them.

I positioned the dolly so that the stone was lined up with the area. Then I flipped it over into place.

It landed pretty close. But to get it into the exact position I wanted, I used a large pry bar to lift and scoot it.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 & 3

For the rest of the stone steps, repeat steps 2 and 3. Dig out the dirt so that it is slightly below the previous stone. This will allow some room for the gravel. When placing each of the remaining stones, let them overlap the previous stone by one or two inches. Or you may need to adjust the amount of overlap to allow the steps to end where they need to.

We couldn’t be happier with the end results of the stone steps. We finished the area off with some English dwarf boxwoods and a limelight hydrangea tree.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Emily Butler

    These look really classy and so substantial next to the house. I love how chunky and natural they are. Where did you find the stone steps? Were they particularly pricy?

    June 21, 2021 at 11:58 am
    • Reply Henry

      Thanks! We got them from a local landscape supply store. They were around $80 each.

      June 29, 2021 at 12:08 am

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