The concern I have that is probably the most common mistake that people make when building garden steps is that they think because it is out in the garden, the formal structure of the steps doesn’t matter, well, nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason that I feel so strongly about conforming your steps to a specification, is because a lot of the time you are working outside and carrying tools, buckets, debris etc. and are not always looking when walking up or down these steps.  What we don’t realize is that from the very first step taken whether up or down our brain has recorded the measurement of how high the tread is and immediately prepares the body for the next step, if that step has a different riser measurement then it becomes confusing.

Steps are made from what is referred to as a tread and a riser, with the side pieces, if built from timber are called stringers, when the one piece of timber runs down the length of the steps and each tread is fixed to it. When individual pieces are used they are just referred to as returns, these usually govern the size of the tread, which you want a minimum of 370mm approx.. (12½”).  Risers you really want to stay at a height of about 150mm – 165mm (6” – 6½”) This will conform with the standard building code that will be safe for everyone to walk up and down.


brick steps

Using brick for a step

Styles of steps for the garden can vary as much as anything else but it’s important to fit them into your theme when building them. Brick steps are quite common because of their durability but will stick out like a saw thumb if the rest of the theme is cottage style for example. So choose a style that will blend in and that you are able to build with not too much hassle.

The most common type of garden steps are these.


Garden Timber steps

A set of stacked timber steps

Bush steps which tends to use the stacked method are probable the easiest to build if using timber, it’s really a simple process of building the bottom set first and then stacking the next one on top and so on, if the first and bottom set is level and straight then the rest will really just fall into place.

See this Picture and note that the riser and the two return for the tread that disappear into the ground is made up from sleepers or timber cut to 150mm (6”) x 100mm (4”). These timbers are set up on their edge and the front riser is just fixed to them. The tread has to be then filled with a base type material that will firm up enough to step on safely.


Steps curving down the bank

Curve your steps for more style.

These steps I laid the timber on its side giving it a very shallow rise and I put a curve on them just by making the next step side fixed on a shorter measurement than the opposite side. Just keep the same two measurements for the other steps and you will produce an even curve. You are well able to play with this even producing an “S” shape or any shape you like just by adjusting the side return measurements.

Now pop on over and see what I have to say about Ted… Just  CLICK  the picture below,



These steps are just free style coloured concrete, the client didn’t want any formality to them at all.


Concrete steps un-conformed.

Free style concrete steps.



These steps of course are more formal, I did the planter boxes and the steps to suite with sawn sandstone treads.


Brick Risers with Sandstone Treads.

A more Formal set of Steps


These steps are just the common concrete treads where I bricked up both sides with a two brick course riser giving you the 150mm (6”)


Steps on the side of a house.

Steps on the side of a house


These use pavers as a tread to suite the paved area that I did so it all matches.


Steps with Brick Paver Treads

Here’s a set of steps to match the brick paving



The main thing to remember what ever type of steps you are thinking about, make sure they blend in with the landscape theme that you want to achieve.