What to Consider Before Installing Natural Stone Steps

Natural stone landscaping in home garden with stairs

Natural stone steps could be an excellent addition to your landscape. First, they can make your landscape more inviting and accessible. They can also create different moods, depending on the type of stone you use. Plus, they’re available in many colors, textures, and shapes, allowing you to customize them to fit into your existing landscape easily. 

Although natural stone steps can easily enhance your landscape, it’s important that you plan out this type of project well in advance because making one wrong choice can impact the final results.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the factors you need to consider during the planning phase of your project.

Is Natural Stone the Right Material for Your Project?

First, should you even install natural stone? You could also use concrete, metal, brick, and wood. And there are also several types of natural stone, including granite, limestone, and bluestone. 

When determining the type of material needed for your project, ask the following questions:

How Much Traffic Do You Expect?

How many people will be using these steps? Will small children or seniors frequently use the steps? Are they just decorations or a real way of moving between areas? 

Concrete, brick, and natural stone are all durable, slip-resistant materials that can withstand high traffic and inclement weather. These options are better if you’re installing steps that a) need to be functional and b) will be heavily used. 

How Are You Designing Your Stairs?

The actual design of your steps will influence the type of material you need to use. 

  • Concrete: Concrete is durable and can be molded into many shapes, including curved or angled steps. You can also stain and/or stamp them to mimic other textures, including brick and concrete. However, if you don’t seal them, they can become slippery when wet. 
  • Brick: Although you can’t change the color of bricks as much as other materials, you can lay them out in different patterns to create a unique look. However, when the mortar weakens over time, it could loosen the bricks and cause structural issues and safety hazards.
  • Wood: You don’t have much control over the design when using wooden steps. Wood is also not ideal for high-traffic areas and can be a safety risk during inclement weather. Over time, the color of the wood can fade too. 
  • Natural Stone: If you want traditional steps, natural stone may not be entirely suitable because stone blocks can become loose and improper compaction of gravel fills can lead to settlement. Natural stone, though, can also be cut into different shapes and sizes, making it a more versatile option.

Do You Know Your Local Building Codes?

Michigan, and every municipality within Michigan, have their own building codes. Before you start any project, be sure you’re aware of any height and width restrictions, railing requirements, slip resistance specifications, material restrictions, and accessibility requirements. In most cases, you must also obtain a permit, as Michigan requires a permit for any new construction or exterior modification project. The steps you need to take to obtain a permit will vary based on where you live in Michigan. 

Have You Thoroughly Planned Your Design?

Once you’ve chosen a material or have an idea of which materials you’d want to use, you want to have a general design plan before installation. This is where a professional landscape designer can help. 

There are so many step design possibilities that you may feel there’s no end to what you can do. You can add angles, use different colors, add various lighting, and even install plants.

Your final design will also influence how many stones (or materials) you’ll need to purchase for your project. 

Does It Fit Into Your Budget?

Your budget is important—overspending on the materials is not recommended because no home or commercial improvement is smooth—unexpected situations can always pop up. If you don’t have a professional landscaper handling it, it could result in extra expenses. 

Natural stone can be a large initial investment, depending on the size of your outdoor steps, so make sure you can afford it. Different stone types will vary in cost, so research your options

It is worth nothing that natural stone is extremely durable, so while the overhead costs may be initially high, they can help enhance your property value over time. 

Get Help From Design One

There are some risks associated with DIY hardscaping projects. If you’ve never designed or installed stone steps, we highly recommend consulting our fully licensed and insured team at Design One. Over the past 30 years, we’ve helped homeowners and business owners in Michigan design and install all types of hardscaping elements

If you have questions about the costs associated with this type of project or need help planning and designing your project, please contact us today to schedule a free project consultation. 

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