Stair that Slope


Slopes or banks can be tricky to negotiate, so here’s an easy way to cut stairs into them, using concrete sleepers from Smartstone as the building blocks. Not only do stairs like this make the area below the bank more accessible, but they also lend structure to the landscape.

We chose to build curved stairs, which adds flair to the design, but you can choose any shape you fancy. To finish off the makeover, we paved the area below the stairs with compatible charcoal-coloured pavers, also from Smartstone.

This has added a whole new dimension to the garden, transforming what was once a bit of a wasteland into an attractive terrace that invites you to use and enjoy it.

What you Need
(Determine the quantities you need to suit the site in your garden)
CCA-treated poles, 75-100 mm, cut into 1 m lengths
1 m x 240 mm x 50 mm concrete railway sleepers from Smartstone (charcoal coloured)
1 m x 500 mm x 40 mm pavers from Smartstone (we used Ibanzi pavers)

Spade, builder’s line, pegs, spirit level, rubber mallet and a bricklayer’s trowel.

Building the Stairs

1. Start by clearing the area you will cut the stairs into, by removing lawn, plants and any other detritus.

2. Dig 500 mm trenches, down the slope, on either side of where the ‘staircase’ will be (1 m apart to accommodate the sleepers).


3. Insert the CCA-treated poles upright into the trenches, butted up against each other to form a line, leaving them 500 mm proud of the surface. This will form a buffer for the stairs and will help secure them. Back-fill the trench with soil to secure the poles in a neat, upright position.


4. Starting from the bottom, cut steps into the bank, to the depth that you prefer (240 mm deep if you are using one sleeper per step, or 480 mm deep if you are using two sleepers per step). Allow a rise of at least 150 mm per step.

5. Make sure the cut step is level, using a spirit level, and then lay the sleepers down, butted up against each other (if you are using two per step).


Laying the Pavers

1. Clear the area you want to pave at the base of the stairs and then mark it out with pegs and builder’s line, which will act as a guide for when you lay the pavers.

2. Use a spirit level to ensure it is perfectly level. The ground should be compacted with a stamp before you lay the pavers. You can elect whether you want to lay the pavers butted up against each other, or whether you want to leave gaps between them which you can fill with small stones, or soil for planting in later.


3. Add a layer of river sand and use a spirit level to ensure it is level.


4. Lay the pavers, using the builder’s line as a guide to ensure they are evenly spaced. Check with a spirit level that each one is level, adjusting it with few taps of a rubber mallet if necessary.

5. For the coping that will surround the outer edge of the paved area, keeping the pavers secure, mix one part cement with four parts building sand to make a mortar mix. Using the builder’s trowel, make a 100 mm coping, tapering down from the top edges of the outer pavers.

The Gardener