Building stone stairs in the North Valley

I was sorry to see that Ms Town Mouse had a wildlife mishap that broke her fountain! I, by way of contrast, have been having too much fun with stone - though my back is telling me another story.

We have a loooong path along the contour of the north valley behind our house. It swoops up in one corner, leading to the corner of the pool garden.

After nearly an inch of rain, I roughed out the steps.

Here is the entrance to the pool garden at the top of the steps. Kind of a big hill there. The slope is undercut and will have to be resloped to a gentler angle.

Slight detour to other steps:
This is another set of steps I did one afternoon just for fun. I was experimenting with the wooden riser type of stairs.  This was before I got my load of stone. I was impatient to get started. I'll probably put bits of stone in the treads, otherwise they'll be pretty soggy in the wet.
I bought three big baskets of sonoma field stone boulders for risers, and half a ton of arizona sandstone for the treads - they had a nice cinnamon color. Both are fairly cheap and about as local as I can get for this type of work.

The sandstone is in great hunking slabs. They said I would be able to mark it and break it pretty easily. Note to self: next time remove the garbage can before taking a photo (the boulders are occupying the garbage can slot).

So here's how to split sandstone. After chiseling a line along both sides - just a scratch really, I dropped it over a piece of wood that was placed strategically...

I was so amazed!

It worked!!

Here I'm getting ready to lay the first step.

Each day I do one or two steps - though some steps I had to do and redo. The sides are just roughed in. I'll put more boulders up the side and make sure the slope is not too acute. I'm hoping to transplant some ferns I've got growing elsewhere. I'll also plant grasses etc. After the first storms. That'll be lots of fun!

Here is how much farther there is to go. Mr Wood Rat will build a set of stairs leading from the platform to the first stone step.
The steps are stable, so far, but not equally angled -- I aim for a decent slope towards the front and outer, downslope side so the water will run off. But with my method, putting rough rocks overlapping the step below a little - it's kinda hit and miss as to the exact angle.

I probably will have to put erosion control netting stuff upslope of these stairs. I recently heard at a CNPS talk that the way to do it is to put mulch under and on top of the netting stuff, so the netting is like the filling of a mulch sandwich. Then you plant in holes you poke through. I'll think about that tomorrow. Meanwhile -- I'm having fun!


Terra said…
The steps you are building are very handsome, I like the round stones and the color of the sandstone.
Anonymous said…
these are fantastic! a great feeling to do the work yourself too.
Country Mouse said…
Thanks! Yes it is great to do this work - I"m lucky to have the strength to still do it. I think one mistake was to hack out the rough steps - turned out the risers and treads I hacked out did not match the stairs as they unfolded (as it were). So I think I further destabilized the soil. On the other hand - it may not make much difference - we'll see what winter storms do to it - and adjust.