How to Build Stone Retaining Wall Steps

A stone retaining wall is made to transform the inclines and uneven areas around your house to useful, flat areas. Creating the retaining wall will add to the grace of the landscape and make it easy to access the area. For a successful stone retaining wall the steps must be easy to climb and they must be of uniform height. The steps should be built into the wall as you put it up, rather than setting the steps later. It is preferable to use a single piece of stone in each step.

Material and Tools

  • Stones
  • Shovel
  • Trowel
  • Spade
  • Level
  • String
  • Sand and gravel
  • Compactor

Step 1: Plan and Design the Steps

Plan the type of stairs. They can have flowing, curved or straight side walls, if they are made entering into the stone retaining wall. You can also make the stairs projecting outward or sweeping by the side of the wall. The stairs should have a rhythm with the walls. Decide the number of steps based on the height of the top area and height of the stones. Normally, a height of 7 inches with a foot depth over 10 inches is appropriate. The length of the slope can be adjusted by providing a landing, if there are more steps. Work out the number of steps. The height of the gradient divided by the height of each step gives the number of steps.

Step 2: Decide the Location and Excavate

Cut the steps into the ground according to their size and excavate the soil. Make a base trench about 6 inches deep and 18 inches wide for the steps. Remove any fine-textured soil and fill it with coarse gravel and sand. Level the gravel and pack it. Place the stones for the first step on the base. It is preferred to have a single piece of stone to cover the complete step. Align and level it. Simultaneously lay the stones for the wall at this level. Fill the soil along the base of the stone and both sides of wall and compress it. Fill the joints of stones with mud or mortar, depending on the type of construction you are doing. It is better to use the mortar for stair steps if you are not putting a single stone for each step.

Step 3: Installing the Next Stone

Fill the space for the base of the next step stone behind the first one with coarse gravel and compact it. Level the gravel with the first stone using a level. Place the second stone on the base prepared for it. The second stone should overlap the first one about 2 to 3 inches after adjusting the depth of first step. Align and level it as well. Install the stones for the adjoining walls. Fill the gaps in joints. Fill the base for the next stone. Continue as in Step 2 until you lay the last stone, which will be level with the ground above.

Step 4: Finishing the Steps

Joint the soil at level with the top stone of the steps and compact it. All joints in stones for steps preferably should be filled with mortar and leveled. The step should merge properly with the retainer wall.