Outdoor Rustic Stairs

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About: I'm a retired teacher who enjoys building and creating.

These stairs fit into a natural landscape well and are easy to make.

Step 1: Start at the Bottom

You will need 8 x 8 pressure treated posts, end cut, and 10 inch galvanized spikes. Remember to paint any cut ends with end cut preservative. To begin with, you should lay a board or run a string all the way up the slope where your stairs are going to go so the stairs will be straight.

Start by cutting two pieces of 8 x 8 post two feet long and another piece as wide as you want the stairs to be. I have done stairs three feet wide to eight feet wide. Make a "U" by nailing the two foot long "stems' of the U onto the width piece using the 10 inch spikes.

Level the ground at the bottom of the stairs and place the U on the level part with the stems pointing towards the rise.

Step 2: Continuing the Steps

Make another U the same size. Dig out a place for the stems of this U that is level with the top of the last U. Slide the second U on top of the first U so that it is 16 inches in from the front of the first U. This distance of 16 inches will become the "run" of your steps. You can make the run as little as eight inches but larger runs give a more open feel.

Hammer a 10 inch spike through the stems of the top U into the bottom one, one on each side. Continue making U's and adding them on top of each other until you reach the top of the slope. Remember to keep it straight by lining up each step with the board or string running up the slope.

Step 3: Fill in the Steps

Fill in the steps with the dirt that you dug away as you were leveling each step. As this is pressure treated wood, you don't need to paint or preserve them but you can if you'd like.

Grass and weeds will grow in the filled in portion of the steps. If the stairs see a lot of traffic, it will keep the growth down. Alternately, you can put wood chips or gravel instead of dirt or just cut the growth every once in a while.

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    18 Discussions

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    jessyratfink

    7 weeks ago

    What a great transformation! My grandparents built this style of stairs at their lake resort and I always loved them. Saving this one for when I start to work on landscaping my front yard. :D

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    charlessenf-gm

    7 weeks ago

    "Hammer a 10 inch spike through the stems of the top U into the bottom one"
    I do believe one would do well to employ a longer spike drilling a hole in the first all but equal to the diameter of the spike so that four inches of spike are driven into the lower section of 8 x 8" post material.

    The concerns expressed elsewhere relative to the ratio as between Rise and Run are significant. If you first determine the position of the top of the first step and that of the surface of the ground immediately after the bottom step, you can determine the total Rise. Then, the distance between the edge of the first step and that of the last gives the total Run.

    If you search for 'Building a staircase" you will likely find detailed instructions and calculations for building one 'in space' as when constructing one designed to carry folks from one level to the next in a house, etc.

    While calculating the Rise and Run are done differently, the calculations offer the same results. When there is No Handrail to support one, errors in calculating the ratio is of greater significance and increases (as does the hazard) with steeper terrain.

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    WesH31charlessenf-gm

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    I wasn't sure about the 10 inch spike either but there has been no movement and I built these eight years ago and we get a lot of frost heave.
    I do recognize that the run is excessive but I don't consider these proper stairs. They are just one step up (pardon the pun) from a trail in the bush. They are also a huge improvement over the trail as we carry all our supplies up from the dock as this place is accessible only by water. I have thanked God many times for these steps.

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    CHIEFGR8TWOLF

    7 weeks ago

    Job well done, as with any post everyone including myself will see something you didn't cover or overlooked, that being said I liked it! Just looking at your pictures I can tell there was more to it than what you wrote. Things that your personal knowledge and experience allowed you to take into account without noting. Looking at your pics they seem to show 3 very different areas and sizes ( lot of work ). With the slopes shown I don't believe you have any drainage problems there but for me I would add compacted gravel as a base to make leveling it easier and maintenance free longer. Though you state it as rustic you could add pavers at any point as an elegant upgrade. I am looking forward to reading your other thoughts and Instructables on such useful areas and ideas in the future. These are the ones that remind why I read these in the first place, and second just how many people share a similar background in making our environment fit our own needs as we go. Thanks for the startup this morning.

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    WesH31CHIEFGR8TWOLF

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    Thanks. The pictures are of two different stairs that I did. I like the idea of gravel for leveling but our cottage is water access only so any material we need has to be hauled to the boat slip, loaded on the boat, transported to the cottage and then unloaded so it makes me think twice every time I want to do something.
    You're right that there was more to it but I'm afraid that if I write in too much detail, it will get boring.

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    doc320

    8 weeks ago on Introduction

    I have built lots of staircases, interior steps and deck and garden stairs. There is a time- honoured formula for planning and steps. Using this formula ensures that the stairs will be comfortable to tread and safe to use.

    The formula goes like this: double the rise, add the run and the result, in inches, should be between 24" and 26". Any other result will make the steps awkward or a trip hazard.

    In this article the mathematical result is 31". These stairs are too deep for the average-sized person to climb going from step to step. Most people will have to take a small, sort of stagger step at each level. That will be especially dangerous walking down. Carrying something when you can't see your feet is an almost guarantee to stumble.

    9 replies
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    lorenkinzeldoc320

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Better to stick with acceptable rise & run instead of "time honored formulas".
    With a 11" rise & 4" run, I'm right in there at 26. Perfect stairs yes-no?

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    doc320lorenkinzel

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    I think you've got it reversed. It would be almost impossible to climb a staircase with 11" high steps and treads only 4" deep. If you want a 4" rise you need a 16-18" run. If you've ever climbed the Mayan pyramid at Chichen-Itza in Mexico you would have seen and felt the problem of high rises with shallow runs. Those steps are about 11" high and about 5-6" deep. They are scary to climb. Apparently the Mayans designed them that way to prevent sudden attacks on those at the top.

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    lorenkinzeldoc320

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    I realize it would be a dangerous rise/run. I was pointing out the fallacy of "golden number formulas" for stairs.
    The brutally steep & dangerously shallow run nevertheless fit in to the formula as a good stairway.
    Perhaps this formula is not as useful as it could be?
    And no, I do not have it reversed. I was making a point.
    Better to stick with acceptable rise & run.

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    doc320lorenkinzel

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Sorry. I missed the point you were making in trying to discredit the stair-making formula. However, along with this formula goes the other rule about never having the rise higher than 8". I didn't mention that in my original post as it didn't seem applicable to the article.

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    Chris_Knightdoc320

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Perhaps I am missing something but I think the lumber is 4x4 (not 8x8). That would make these come to 24 which is in the range you note (which I agree with by the way).

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    doc320Chris_Knight

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Pressure treated lumber is available in nominal sizes of 4x4, 6x6, and 8x8. The creator of the Rustic Stairs says he used 8x8, which is actually around 7.5" high when used horizontally. With steps you don't ever want to go more than 8" of rise. It's too exhausting to climb more than that. He built the steps with a run of 16" so you would be almost correct using 4x4s (3.5+3.5+16=23). The problem with that in the author's case is that it would have made for twice as many steps. It is recommended that after about 10 steps you build in a landing. To have that his run would have been too long.

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    Chris_Knightdoc320

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Apologies, just to be clear. I am not disagreeing with any of what you have said. The lumber looks like 4x4. If you look at the 2 pictures that have solar lights in them (1 is an end on of the stairs-step 2, the other is a side on - step 1), unless the solar light has a 200mm (8") diameter and is 400-500mm (16") tall. They are very big solar lights.

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    doc320Chris_Knight

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    Yeah. I'm just going by the materials the author listed in his narrative of how he built the stairs.

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    WesH31doc320

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    You're absolutely right but these work somehow. Maybe we take bigger steps when we're in the fresh air of the Boreal forest. It feels right, one step per stairs and it is especially nice to have the long run in winter when they are covered with snow.

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    winneremerald12

    8 weeks ago

    This reminds me of my trip to the Grand Canyon. There were these towers you would go up and use telescope-like instruments to view the rivers and canyons. There was a family and one of the kids was saying, "Historic, steep steps." Which was true because you had to lift your leg very high to reach the next step. Thanks for the reminder.

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    WesH31Kink Jarfold

    Reply 8 weeks ago

    The hardest part was the digging. There were a lot of roots and rocks.