11 tips for building a path in your garden

June 30, 2015

Select a surface that harmonizes with your garden while providing the durability you need. Here are some tips to ensure that your path is as durable as it is attractive.

11 tips for building a path in your garden

Paving materials

A simple walkway of paving stones is a garden staple. Other paving materials include brick, flagstone, cobblestone, concrete or clay pavers, and more costly, cut granite.

1. Do the wet test

Spray a paving stone with water before buying. You can test its slipperiness and see how it looks when wet.

2. Level your stones

Uneven surfaces, like those formed with cobblestones, are attractively rustic but hard on the feet.

  • For high-traffic areas, choose a smooth, level surface, such as brick, pavers or flagstone.

3. Consider drainage

Rainwater sheets off a mortared walkway, and it needs somewhere to go.

  • Open paving, in which the crevices between pavers are filled with sand, is usually self-draining.

4. Plan your garden steps

Steps connect the levels of your garden and yard and can be beautiful design elements of their own — yet safety should always be a primary concern.

  • From choosing materials that feel safe underfoot to using the proper dimensions, good steps deserve careful planning.

5. Rock solid

  • Stone steps with naturally rough surfaces offer maximum traction.

If your garden receives full sunlight all winter, make your steps of dark stone, which will absorb heat to melt ice or snow. Keep in mind, though, that these stones will be hot in summer.

6. When buying brick

  • Bricks come in different sizes and shapes and offer a wide choice of step designs.
  • Arrange bricks on firm ground on a bed of coarse sand.

7. Choose easy risers

Railroad ties or landscape timbers made from rot-resistant or treated wood make excellent risers for steps.

  • They can be sawed into two or three pieces as needed.

8. Economize on steps

Economical steps can be cut directly into the soil.

  • Pack the earth thoroughly and face the risers with stone or sawn log disks to stabilize the soil.
  • Cover the treads with crushed gravel.

9. Avoid certain materials for steps

Logs, smooth stones and slates are poor choices for steps because they can become slick in rain or snow.

10. Make the grade

On steep slopes, lay out steps so they zigzag up the hill; steps can be tiring and even dangerous if they're too steep.

11. Know the right height

The proper proportion of tread (flat surface) to riser (the vertical) is simply stated: twice the height of the riser plus the width of the tread should equal 66 centimetres. Using this formula:

  • A 10-centimetre riser calls for a 46-centimetre tread
  • A 13-centimetre riser needs a 40 centimetre tread
  • A 15-centimetre riser needs a 36-centimetre tread
  • The steepest practical step is a 20-centimetre riser with a 26-centimetre tread.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu