How to build timber landscape steps with a slope

Timber steps can turn a dangerous slope into a usable, scenic part of your landscape. Landscape timbers are durable treated wood that won't rot. They offer the natural look of wood, and they come in 2.4 m (8 foot) lengths that are easily cut to size with a circular saw. With basic carpentry skills, you can build timber steps yourself in a weekend.

Measure the slope to figure how many steps you will need to build. Landscape timbers measure 15 by 15 cm (6 by 6 inches) so each step will be 15 cm (6 inches) high.

Cut 2.4 m (8 foot) timbers into 1.2 m (4 foot) pieces for the front side of each step. You can make them narrower if you prefer, but a 1.2 m (4 foot) width allows plenty of room for two people to safely pass.

Cut two stair treads for each step that you plan to build. The treads are the side pieces of the stair that go into the ground to hold them in place. Cut these at least 60 cm (2 feet) so that your steps are not too shallow.

Dig out the bottom of the slope to set the foundation for the first step. Set the first stair tread into the ground and pack dirt firmly around the edges.

Arrange the frame for each step on a flat surface. The steps will form a "U". Lay the 1.2 m (4 foot) piece as the front of the step and the two treads on the ends of the front piece. Drill a hole through the four corners of the base step, making it large enough to hammer a rebar through.

Place the base step so the top is ground level or slightly above, depending on your measurements. Use a carpenter's level to check that it is even. Use a sledgehammer to drive a rebar through the four corners of the step.

Set the second timber step on top of the base step. Screw landscape timber screws into the sides of the steps to attach them securely to the base.

Place the next timber step so that the front of the next step overlaps the step below it. Anchor the steps together using timber screws. You may need to excavate some of the slope as you set each step, depending on the angle of the slope.

Continue setting each stair until you reach the top of the slope. Anchor the front of each step frame to the back of the frame beneath it.

Pack soil in the sides of the steps and fill in the timber steps with sand and bricks or pea gravel.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Landscape timbers
  • Circular saw
  • Shovel
  • Drill
  • Angle brace
  • Screws
  • Level
  • Sledgehammer
  • Rebar
  • Timber screws
  • Gravel or bricks
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About the Author

Aurora LaJambre is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, N.Y. For over five years she's covered topics in culture, lifestyle, travel, DIY design and green living for print and online media. Her publication credits include "WOW Women on Writing," "Six States" and She graduated from New York University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing.