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cutntrim
05-22-2002, 11:16 PM
My accountant has asked me about "fixing" the severe slope alongside his house. His kids have wiped out trying to go down into the backyard 'cause it's so steep, and he would like some steps installed to make it safer.

I went by earlier in the week to have a look, and he's got a small detached home in an area where the houses are crammed right on top of one another (normal around here), so the neighbour's house is maybe 8' away from his. The lot does slope rather severely from front-to-back, probably 45deg. or so. With the slope, and the shade between the two houses, his sod is in poor shape and is down to dirt in some spots. I can see why he wants a safer way to access the backyard.

Anyhow, I've done a few searches on this and other forums, had a look at some paver manufacturer websites, and checked a couple landscape books I've got. I'd like to suggest paver steps/stairs as an answer, and am excited at the prospect of taking on the project. However, I'm an experienced maintenance gardener, and an inexperienced (i.e. rookie) hardscape installer.

I would imagine that there are easier jobs to cut one's teeth on, but I'd like to give it a shot. Guess I'm looking for some info on what type paver would work best for this, what's the best way to excavate and prepare a base on such a slope, what time-frame would an inexperienced newby be looking at to complete the job, etc...

Looking forward to some constructive advice...

Russo
05-23-2002, 04:22 PM
Just a thought.....pavers might result in some skinned knees and cracked heads if kids are playing and the idea is to make things more safe. You may consider using rounded logs or landscape ties as a framework and fill steps with wood chips?

Good luck on your project.

cutntrim
05-23-2002, 06:23 PM
I appreciate the suggestion. Hadn't thought of that since his kids are older (around age 9 or 10), but I'll mention that to him. Of more concern to me/him might be how does he get his mower down the back to cut his lawn. Steps or slope, neither is ideal. Oh well, he knew about the layout of the property when he bought it. Can't solve everything.

Hope to get some more input, lotta guys are probably too busy to be online.

Ssouth
05-23-2002, 07:28 PM
A water-slide would be safe and fun for the kids. (LOL) If the slope is not very long, pavers or cross ties should work nicely. If it's a long way down a zig-zag pattern would make it less steep. Hope you understand what I'm saying. A zig-zag pattern doesn't even have to have steps, although it would be nice to have a border or retaining wall stones, metal edging, cross ties, or whatever to make it visually pleasing. This does sound like a tough job to "cut your teeth on" but you never know until you try. Occasionally, if I'm trying something new I will give a cut in the price with the understanding of the customer that it's my first time to try a new technique.

Good Luck,
Ssouth

cutntrim
05-23-2002, 11:21 PM
Ssouth:

I like the water slide idea :) but I can't picture my accountant going down it with his lawnmower when he wants to cut his back lawn. Also, could be a problem in getting back up the slope after sliding down ;) .

The area is too narrow for a "zig-zag" pattern but it's not too long so a set of steps should be fine. It's really the excavation that I'm loathing. Seeing as it's pretty steep and narrow I may have to hand-dig it, roughing in steps into the soil and then adding aggregate on top for a base. Unless someone with experience knows an easier/better way?

My normal labor rate is $40/hr but I may cut that back to $30 for him since a project like this is all new to me.

SCL
05-24-2002, 09:36 AM
He could use the water slide idea, just tell him to shut the mower off first.:) Steps are difficult sometimes even for experienced guys. One idea is make your borders out of cedar 6x6's and infill with pavers. Zig zags are called cut backs but if you don't have the room it doesn't matter. Might see if you can rent a small mini ex to dig.

kris
05-24-2002, 10:37 PM
I would not use timber of any kind.

Use the same product that you would use to build a retaining wall.(not sure of all the product's you have there)

How long is your "run" ... I would probably just use "caps/coping" for your threads.
You will need lots of corner stones.(lefts and rights) This is not a difficult job..

good luck with it

diginahole
05-24-2002, 11:55 PM
I'd go with Unilock Sienna steps if you can get a skidsteer in there, quick easy durable and inexpensive. Use some decorative boulders and riverstone to dress up the edges.

cutntrim
05-25-2002, 08:29 PM
Prior to posting this thread I'd only eyeballed his property briefly, but I went back last night after work and met with he and his wife. This time I had a better look at it. It was really just an initial brainstorming meeting so I only took some rough measurements.

It's about a 45' run. The slope drops about 7-8' over the first 30', with the last 15' being fairly level. The area is between his home and his neighbour's. Each of them has about a 4' width strip of grass with a fence splitting the property line beginning about halfway down the slope. So it's pretty narrow. The other problem is that he says his neighbour is a real prick and therefor will probably be very adamant about any equipment/supplies on "his side" of the divide.

I was thinking about framing 6"x6" cedar timber steps and using poured cement for the treads. Saw it in a landscape book and it looks quite nice. Plus I could get call in a cement guy to pour the steps without (I think) too much difficulty. Could then use some pebbles for an exposed aggregate-type finish.

Or I could go with the pavers. Not sure whether or not to have the steps run right up against the house or leave a narrow space alongside for planting. Also not sure whether to step it down, or go with a series of deeper "landings" rather than regular steps.

They're also talking about enlarging the interlock entryway at their front door and having it swoop around to link up to the steps being proposed for the slope. Then his wife is also keen on a water feature of some kind at the bottom of the slope. Waterfall/pond type of thing. Lots of possibilities...

I think a mini-x should be able to get in there to excavate so that should solve a major headache. In fact the slope isn't anywhere as severe as I remembered it. It is very steep beyond the 15' level run, but that's where she's hoping for the water feature, so no steps to go there.