Retaining wall steps are a way to give the practical look of the retaining wall greater function and definition. Retaining wall steps are also a helpful way to reduce the lateral pressure of the soil against the retaining walls themselves.
Retaining wall stair styles range from simple and rustic to sleek and sophisticated. They elevate the look of an unobtrusive retaining wall to something that creates better outdoor traffic flow.
These steps do not just connect your outdoors spaces in a practical way; they create a visual connection for a more holistic design. They can even work as overflow seating if you position them near gathering areas.
Retaining Wall Steps: Tips Before You Begin
Before you begin construction for your retaining wall and complementing stairs, consider these steps. Once you walk yourself through these ideas, you will have the needed information to proceed with your retaining wall stairs.
- Code Requirements – Check your local building requirements. Some cities require safety railings for stairs over a certain height.
- Safety Considerations – Consider the people using the retaining wall stairs. You may need to adjust the height of the overall stairs to create a shorter drop. You should also think about the rise and run of each stair to make the stairs easier to use for small children or those with walking difficulties.
- Aesthetic Style – There are various retaining wall step styles to consider. Some blend into the surroundings, and some create a more dramatic statement. Consider which style and materials you prefer the most.
- Stairway Use – Think about how your stairway will be used and by whom. You may want the stairs to function as extra seating. In this case, they need to be located near a gathering space.
- Stairway Shape – Retaining wall steps vary in shape. For example, you can have a long vertical stairway with switchback curves or stairs with turns connected by landings. Consider which shape connects your outdoor spaces in the most cohesive way. Also, consider which shape makes the most sense with the shape of your landscape.
- Number and Size of Risers – You can buy risers in different shapes and heights. These will determine the number of stairs you have.
- Drainpipe or Electrical Considerations – Make sure you think about the drains and electricity in the area. You will need to embed drainpipes or electricity according to city code requirements.
Designs for Retaining Wall Steps
We have gathered some distinct retaining wall step designs for you to consider which type would work for your space and needs.
Steel Retaining Wall with Steps
One of the most cost-effective types of retaining walls with stairs is metal sheeting. D-Crain Design and Construction built this particular retaining wall with a weathering steel known as Cor-Ten steel.
These specific steel alloys have the ability to weather by forming a rust-like appearance that does not destroy the integrity of the steel. They used it to create the walls and stairs in this backyard.This retaining wall design achieves an upscale look with metal through an effective mix of materials and the juxtaposition of angles.
Retaining Wall with Slab Stairs
Raw and unpolished limestone is a beautiful choice for retaining walls and stairs. In this design, Topeka Landscape used 6-14’ blocks for the walls and 6’ blocks for the stairs. Using the same material gives the design a cohesive look. The wide limestone blocks provide a stairway with generous proportions. The treads have a low rise and a wide run, ideal for small children or those who need assistance walking.
Railroad Tie Stairs in a Retaining Wall
Railroad ties are wooden beams that are treated with a substance like creosote to preserve them from deterioration in the weather. These wooden beams can last up to 30 years or more depending on their exposure to different types of weather.
Wood beams like railroad ties are one of the most cost-effective options for retaining wall stairs. Another advantage is that railroad ties stairs can be used with any type of retaining wall. Since they are a natural substance, they blend well with the environment, and their look softens over time.
Natural Stone Steps in a Retaining Wall
Natural stone steps have the advantages of being beautiful but also natural looking. They give the impression that they have always been there. Common natural stones for retaining walls and steps are granite, limestone, bluestone, and even unpolished marble.
The disadvantage of using natural stone is one of the most expensive types of materials for outdoors walls and steps. This material is also problematic if you have excess water in the soil. The cracks and divots in the stones will not keep water from seeping through.
Retaining Wall with Block Stairs
These curved retaining wall stairs are an effective way to connect the terrace levels of this patio. These block stairs are wide and will allow multiple people to pass each other at the same time to create optimization in traffic flow.
This design uses Allan Block. This block is made from a particular high strength concrete that will not rot or deteriorate over time. You can buy this block in various sizes, textures, and colors in order to customize your wall and stairs for your specific landscape design.
Rustic Meets Contemporary in a Retaining Wall with Stairs
In certain retaining walls with stairs, you can employ a mix of styles to create an effective design. In the landscape design, the architect used rustic natural stones to create the wall and the rise of the stairs. Rather than use the natural stone for the stair treads, the designer used a flat stair tread. This decision creates continuity between the style of the wall and the modern square yard pavers.
Building Retaining Wall Stairs for Seating
The terrace style of retaining wall stairs are an ideal way to add natural seating to your outdoor spaces. In this backyard, the step is curved around a firepit area. The back wall is tall enough to provide support for comfortable seating. It is also low enough that you can use it to climb up to the upper yard level if you desire.
Faux Limestone Retaining Wall Stairs
Faux limestone steps mimic the look and feel of limestone but at a lower price point. These stair treads are crafted from a poured and stamped concrete. This is a durable material that will stand the test of time. It also allows you to regulate the size and shape of your stairs in a way that natural stone boulders do not allow.
Decorative Terraces in Retaining Wall Steps
These natural stone steps are extensive and curve to an upper gathering area. One way to create interest along the stairs is to scatter gardens along the side. This brings several advantages. You can break up the level of the retaining wall to create more stable short walls. This is safer and more interesting than one tall wall. It also is a way to blend the stairs with the wall design to provide a more cohesive look overall.
Light Up Your Retaining Wall Stairs
Adding lights to your retaining wall and stairs will provide multiple advantages. One of these advantages is that it sets off the wall to its best advantage as lights create a beautiful ambience for the design. Another advantage is safety. Lights are practical as well as lovely. Lights can provide direction along the wall and prevent stumbles and falls.
Can I Build Steps into an Existing Retaining Wall?
Yes, you can build steps into an existing retaining wall. You can do this by removing a portion of the wall and adding steps. This is a good approach for low retaining walls. For high retaining walls, it is better to build steps that are against or above the new wall rather than removing part of the wall and building the steps into it.