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Construction : Steps and Platforms

Garden steps should be low and wide in the tread. Start by measuring the fall of the bank with a spirit level and length of timber. Divide the ‘drop’ into a whole number of steps. For example, a fall of fifty centimetres will make five 10 centimetre steps, or four 12.5 centimetre steps.

Remember to allow for mortar between courses of bricks or paving in the ‘risers’. The same thickness of mortar should be used in each joint, otherwise the steps will be of slightly different heights and the flight of steps will look uneven. A very slight ‘fall’ forward on the step treads will throw off water.

A grass, or gravel, platform can be made with a course of bricks or one 10 cm ‘step’ of paving slabs. Even one course of brick or paving will need a small foundation strip of about five centimetres deep. Otherwise, the line of brick will eventually sag and spoil the level of the platform.

A wooden platform or deck lasts better if it is set up on blocks of concrete formed in position using wooden shuttering, or built like a gate pier with concrete blocks. Small wooden decking platforms are within most people’s capabilities to build, but a large platform, or one raised higher than one metre, carries a lot of weight, may need steel supports, and should be designed by a specialist contractor or engineer.

A sunken garden needs retaining walls to hold back the soil and may need drainage pipes as well, especially if it is at the foot of a slope. It will need one or more flights of steps for access.

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