Brick treads framed with landscape timbers make attractive steps between different levels in your yard.
Timbers come in a variety of sizes, and the size of the timbers you use will affect both the dimensions of the steps and the possibilities for brick patterns within the frame. Find out what's available and use the actual measurements to draw a dimensioned plan. Most timbers come in 8-foot lengths, perfect for steps 4 feet wide.
When you design your steps (and before you start digging), decide on a brick pattern. Use a pattern composed of whole bricks so you can avoid cutting them. Choose the brick, purchase the correct quantity, and dry-lay it on a flat surface in the pattern of your choice. Use the dimensions of this mocked-up section to cut the timbers to fit.
The plan shown here uses rebar to anchor the timbers into the soil. If your soil is sandy, use a 2-foot length of 3/4-inch pipe or steel conduit instead.
1 to 1-1/2 days to lay out and set a 4-step project
Round-nose shovel, stakes, mason's line, circular saw, handsaw, level, drill bits and extension, small sledgehammer, 2x4 for tamping, rubber mallet, straightedge, screed, broom
Designing layout, excavating, cutting, laying brick
Pressure-treated timbers, 1/2-inch rebar, 12-inch spikes, gravel, landscape fabric, sand, pavers
To assemble the timbers, drill pilot holes for 12-inch spikes completely through the front face of the outside timbers and about 2 inches into the side timbers. Drive the spikes with a small sledgehammer. At the corners of the rear timbers, center a mark on the top face, about 4 inches from the ends. Mark the middle of the timber also. Drill a 1/2-inch hole through the timber. (You'll drive rebar anchors through these holes when you set the frames.)
Set the frame for the bottom step in the lowest recess in the ground. Lay a 4-foot level across the sides of the frame and level it. Slope the frame from back to front at the rate of 1/4 inch per foot. To get the slope right, lay a 2-foot level on the side timber with a 1/2-inch spacer under one end. The slope is correct when the bubble is centered.
Lay the second frame on the first. The front timber of the top frame lies on the rear timber of the lower one with their faces flush. Drill three pilot holes all the way through the top timber and partway into the bottom one. Then drive 12-inch spikes into the holes. Slope the second frame and anchor the rear timber with rebar driven into the holes you drilled in Step 3.
Excavate the recess further until it's deep enough for a 3-inch layer of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and the thickness of your pavers. Tamp down the soil in each recess with the end of a 2x4, then lay landscape fabric on the soil. Shovel in the gravel, level it, and tamp it. Add the sand and tamp it as well.
Build and anchor timber forms with the proper rise and run and with interior dimensions that will accommodate your brick pattern. Excavate the recess if necessary to hold 4 to 6 inches of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and the paver thickness. Install the gravel and sand, then screed the sand in the recess.
Starting with the bottom step, lay the pavers, bed them with a rubber mallet, and level them. Spread fine sand on the surface and sweep it into the joints. Mist the sand with water, add more sand, and repeat the process until the joints are filled.