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Garden stairs: ideas and tips for stair design


In slope gardens, stairs not only compensate for differences in height. With the right design, they can also be a real eye-catcher in your garden.

© Tatjana Balzer /

Your own garden is not always largely at ground level. In some cases, larger inclinations have to be overcome or the terrain is considered to be downhill. In order to be able to use your own garden as well as possible, the use of garden stairs is a good idea. Starting with the choice of materials and construction to the final design, there are a variety of options.

When is a garden staircase necessary?

A few years ago, garden stairs were a rarity. If you take a look at gardens today, you will find that they are becoming increasingly common. There are two main reasons why garden stairs are built:

1. They serve as a design element.
2. They are used to bridge height differences.

The construction of a garden staircase is recommended, especially on steep terrain slopes, which often suggest the creation of gardens on different levels. In the hillside garden, you can make a practical division of the garden into recreational and useful areas. The type of stairs and the design itself depend on the size of the slope. Individual steps, which are laid at regular intervals, are sufficient if walking on the garden is only to be made easier on a slight slope.

Tip: Especially if only individual steps are to be laid, it is important that they are wide enough so that they can be reached without problems despite the different stride lengths.

In the case of larger differences in height, a correct staircase should always be built. The stairs are built parallel to the actual slope. In order not to endanger the garden design, it is advisable to work with serpentines, which ensure a slight change of direction and make the garden look more elegant overall.

Integrate garden stairs into the garden

For individual garden design, there are various ways in which the stairs can be integrated:

➙ Without border
One of the most elegant solutions remains to integrate the staircase into the garden without a clear structural border. In order to separate them from the rest of the garden and mark them as a path, they can be embedded in a herbaceous border that extends on both sides.

➙ With edging
The second variant is the integration of the stairs as a clear structure. This can be done for example by flanking walls. If you can't make friends with so much concrete, you can use an evergreen hedge instead. that can be easily trimmed. Boxwood is ideal. There are two ways in which such a hedge can be designed:

    • The hedge has a uniform height throughout, which is aligned with the height of the top step.
    • The course of the hedge is adapted to the stairs. The cheeks run ascending or descending with the steps.

"Reading tip: Cutting the hedge: what is allowed and when?

Special feature of free-standing stairs

© Elenathewise /

In addition to enclosed, free-standing stairs are an alternative. They can also be provided with different height differences. Compared to edged models, however, they offer strict safety precautions. For example, a railing must always be installed from a height difference of one meter. A handrail can then be used for longer stairs. From a design perspective, high stairs are a challenge. To loosen them up, platforms and a curved course are ideal. Stairs with steps of different widths, which are planned offset, look very appealing.

Estimate the dimensions of the garden stairs correctly

In order for the garden stairs to offer maximum benefit, it is important that the dimensions are correctly assessed. The step width and the step height are particularly relevant.

➙ step width
Steps in the garden must not be too narrow, because they must be safe and stable to walk on in all weather and weather conditions. Incidentally, this applies to children as well as to adults.

➙ step height
Choosing the step height is not that easy. Basically, it is better to work with more levels so that children and people with restricted mobility can use them without any problems. A height of 10 to 15 centimeters is ideal.

If the slopes are shallow, the decision can be made on treads instead of classic steps. The treads can be installed, for example, with a slight offset, which creates a particularly beautiful overall look.

Tip: Before the stairs are built, the course should be planned as precisely as possible. This works best with a sketch. When planning, it is also important to take into account that the first stage is always embedded in concrete so that it sits optimally and stably. The first stage is always the most stressed. At the same time, care must be taken that it is non-slip.

Material for garden stairs

In addition to the dimensions of the steps, the overall appearance of a garden staircase is primarily shaped by the choice of materials. Other materials can be used outdoors than inside. In principle, it is not advisable to use tiles, but also polished natural stones and smoothly ground planks. The risk of slipping is simply greatest here in autumn and winter. If it is wood as the basic material, make sure that the planks have transverse grooves. They significantly reduce the risk of slipping.

Basically, all materials that have a rough surface can be used. So this also includes concrete and natural stone. Paving stones are also a good choice.

Different types of steps

Various types of steps can be used to build a garden staircase:

Parking levels

© etfoto /

The processing of control stages is not very easy, but offers the advantage that it is very stable. At first glance, adjustment steps are reminiscent of the stick steps, but differ in their composition and construction. Edge stones are needed for such a staircase. These are made from either natural stone or concrete. To fix the edge stones, they are embedded in lean concrete. This makes them particularly stable later.

So that concrete and steps do not slip and sink after years of stress, it is important to lay a ballast bed under the concrete, which should have a depth of at least 80 cm, whereby the lower 30 cm can also be replaced by cheaper filler sand. However, this must be compressed for optimal hold.

The steps can be provided with an entry surface of your choice. Granite and greywacke have proven themselves in the setting stages. If the steps are sufficiently wide, paving stones can of course also be used. If paving stones are processed, crushing sand must first be filled in. A layer of three to five centimeters is sufficient here.

The biggest disadvantage of the control stages is the high accuracy required. Once the setting steps are embedded in the concrete and hardened there, they can no longer be optimized.

Block steps

© U. J. Alexander /

If you want a solid staircase that is extremely robust, block steps are very good advice. Block steps are significantly more robust than stick and adjustment steps. They are either made of concrete or natural stone, which fits very well into the garden environment.

The right underground must also be created for a garden staircase made of block steps. A layer of sand that is at least two centimeters and a maximum of three centimeters thick is ideal. The sand alone does not yet provide the necessary stability. In addition, a layer of gravel is needed. A thickness of between 20 and 30 centimeters is ideal here. With a small staircase with a maximum of four steps, no foundation has to be set. Otherwise, the creation of a bonding layer and a concrete foundation is recommended. This foundation is only used for the lowest level. The steps are staggered so that they cannot slip away.

Stick stages

© hcast /

Concrete stairs don't really fit well in a natural garden. In this case, the so-called stick levels are a great alternative. The construction of the stick steps is very similar to that of the adjusting steps, but these stairs are not nearly as stable and stable. That is why stick levels are not recommended if stairs are used for frequent use. However, if the steps are only used occasionally, this is sufficient; wood is an essential part of the stick steps. Wood is not weatherproof and rots over time, so the lifespan of these stairs is very limited. In principle, no stone slabs are used here, but wooden planks.

There are various types of wood that are particularly recommended for use in the garden: oak, larch and Douglas fir

In principle, a natural material is also used for the treads. Either compacted gravel or grit is an option here. It is important that wood is not used, but always a water-permeable material. This allows the moisture to seep away, which in turn benefits the life of the billet stages.


© Elenathewise /

The fourth option, how the stairs can be designed in the garden, includes the laying steps. Layers always consist of flat plates. Here you can either switch to sidewalk slabs or stone slabs. Care must be taken with the sidewalk slabs that they are made of concrete or natural stone in the best possible way so that they are as robust as possible.

Leg steps are now very popular. They are significantly thinner than the block steps. So the strength ranges between three and eight centimeters. This brings two advantages: Firstly, processing is significantly cheaper and secondly, the panels have a low weight, which makes them easy to install.

A foundation must be processed so that the laying levels really hold. This should either be made of concrete or crushed stone. A thickness of 30 cm is required. The cement mortar, which holds both the tread plates and the underlays, also ensures optimum hold.

In the first and last stage, there is a little something that needs to be considered. A small strip foundation should always be processed here. Concrete is used for the creation. This counteracts the higher load somewhat. Finally, foundation slabs made of reinforced concrete ensure further safety.