Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Building Steps

Our house is built on a hillside which makes some areas of the yard difficult to traverse. I've wanted to build some kind of steps in one particular area up in back for a long time. The slope has been getting more and more eroded and slippery from the dogs running up and down.

I made the first step by hauling a log up from the lower yard. It had been down there since before we moved in nine years ago. I moved it while clearing weeds and realized that it was now hollow and light enough (80 lbs.?) that I could move it myself by tipping it end over end to get it up the hill.

In the picture above you can see it in place. I was pleased enough that I decided to keep going looking for other logs and pieces of wood that might be used for other steps. You can get a sense of how slippery this particular area was from the area above the log (sorry no before pics - btw the pipe sticking out of the ground was from a long gone wooden terrace wall). The next thing I did was add the cross section of trunk we kept from a removed eucalyptus tree you can see in the first picture.

The top step was made from a wedge of the same tree. It fit perfectly but wouldn't have stayed put without pinning it in. The same was true of the logs I used at the bottom of the short stairway.

To hold those pieces in place I used a two foot long piece of half inch rebar. I have a long drill bit that I bought just for this purpose. The picture above shows the rebar hammered in so that it is just poking out the bottom of the log. It gives you a sense of how much gets hammered in below the surface - about a foot and a half.

Hammering the rebar is a workout. There is quite a bit of friction as it moves through the wood and into the ground. The sledge hammer will begin to mushroom the top of the rebar as it goes in creating kind of a nail-head that grabs and holds the wood in place as it goes in flush.

The dappled light made pictures difficult but this is the best view I could get of the finished steps. The bottom log and the the top wedge-like piece were both pinned with rebar (5 pieces total) but other than that everything was as local as it gets - grown in our own yard.


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