Steps with Timbers and Brick

Brick treads framed with landscape timbers make attractive steps between different levels in your yard.

Intro

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.

Checklist

Time
1 to 1-1/2 days to lay out and set a 4-step project

Tools
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

Skills
Designing layout, excavating, cutting, laying brick

Materials
Pressure-treated timbers, 1/2-inch rebar, 12-inch spikes, gravel, landscape fabric, sand, pavers

Step 1

Make the steps with a riser height equal to the timber height and a comfortable tread length. Lay out the site with stakes and mason's line. Then dig rough recesses in the hill, with the first recess 6 inches longer (front to back) than the actual tread.

Step 2

Lay out the brick tread on a flat surface, and measure the dimensions of the layout. Cut timbers to these measurements and test-fit them around the brick. Square the corners with a framing square.

Step 3

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.)

Step 4

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.

Step 5

When the first frame is correctly leveled and sloped, cut 24-inch lengths of 1/2-inch rebar and drive them through the holes in the rear timbers and into the soil.

Step 6

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.

Step 7

Install the remaining frames, fastening and sloping them and anchoring the rear timbers with rebar. Make sure each frame is level from side to side before installing the next one.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

Make a recessed screed by nailing a 1x4 to a 2x4. The bottom edge of the 1x4 extends below the frame by the thickness of a paver. Screed the sand level and smooth.

Step 10

Set the pavers in the frame in the pattern you used to determine the frame dimensions. Bed them in the sand with a rubber mallet, and level them as you would the surface of a brick-in-sand patio.

Step 11

Shovel a thin layer of builder's sand onto the brick and use a brush to sweep the sand into the joints. Mist the joints and brush on more sand, repeating the process until the joints are filled.

Building Timber-and-Brick Entry Steps: Step 1

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.

Building Timber-and-Brick Entry Steps: Step 2

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.


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