Garden Steps, Stairs, Bridges

Steps and Stairs concrete paver path

Inside the house, we usually move efficiently and quickly between floors. Outside, people move up and down the landscape at a slower pace. Inclement weather brings safety concerns in the out of doors, so steps and staircases need to be built differently than their counterparts indoors.

The rule for landscape steps is to create longer treads (14 in. as opposed to the 11 in. to 12 in. indoors) and lower risers (5 in. to 6 in., as opposed to 7½ in. indoors) to accommodate these concerns. Professionals use the following formula: Riser plus tread equals 19 in.



garden steps

top right • Brightly colored tile directs the eye to a riser along this concrete paver steps

bottom right• A short stairway between driveway and lawn is made of long narrow treads set on stacked-stone risers.

steps picture




baby tears stairs

                    ‘Baby Tears’(Soleirolia soleirolii ) grows in the grouted spaces between slates on this long garden staircase.


thick granite steps


Landings give us a place to pause as we move up and down the different areas of our property. They are particularly important to break up a long run of stairs so that we may catch our breath and look ahead to the next landing. Make them deeper, wider, or another shape to set them apart from the path.




top right • These thick granite steps form both tread and riser, while retaining the gravel landings that occur periodically along this long outdoor staircase.

bottom right • This sandstone landing doubles as a terrace sized just for two.

below • A handrail and a landing provide security to anyone using these front steps, whatever the weather.

landings inspirations

sandstone landing



Landings at each slight turn in the path break up a long staircase on this steep terraced slope. Each bluestone step  split along the top with a rougher rock face as the riser.


Bridges  bridges

A bridge is a structure that allows passage across a barrier or a gap. Often built of wood or steel, many times it crosses a valley, ravine, or stream, linking one shore to the other. Like a tunnel, which burrows through an obstacle rather than over it, a bridge is a continuation of a path where it otherwise might not be able to go.


right • Stepping stones raised high above a “sea” of gravel act like a bridge across water. Japanese maple leaves remind us of the passing of the seasons.

bridge inspirations

above • These wide planks of wood are set in a staggered pattern, allowing passage across a sunken garden of birch trees underplanted with ferns.

bridges ideas

above • A wooden bridge spans a babbling brook. The arcing handrails echo the pleasing curve underfoot.















right • A bridge extends over an elegant dry streambed, which also serves as a drain for runoff in this yard.

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