DIY Building Steps on a Slope

Are you ready to learn how to build steps on a slope? You’ve come to the right place. Today I’m sharing how I built these wooden steps into a slope in our backyard.

We installed a patio and needed a way to get to it from our deck, queue the walkway on a slope!

Building stairs on a hillside

We took it upon ourselves to build stairs into the hill in our back yard.

We thought it would be a nice compliment and really polish off our backyard makeover, not to mention a great way to get to our new DIY patio from the deck.

Since the slope wasn’t too bad, we thought we might be able to get away with just a gravel pathway, but we wanted a more grand look.

We used ground contact pressure treated lumber for all the wood since it’s sitting in the ground.

How to Build Steps on a Slope



Once you do all your measuring (do it before you buy the materials), and get your materials, you’re all set to begin! 

Start by staining the wood where it will meet the ground.

We stained the wood and allowed it to dry.

Measuring The Slope

The formula for measuring how many steps you need is really simple.

It’s the height of the hill from top to bottom in inches divided by anywhere between 6 and 8 for this type of stair.

Because ours was 28 inches from the top of the slope to the bottom when you divide by 7, you get.. 4!

To get the height of your slope, put a stake in the ground at the top, wrap a mason string around the bottom of the stake, run the string to the bottom of the slope where you’ll have another (maybe longer) stake that you will level and tie it to.

Use a line level and pull the string tight, level it (making sure it stays tight) and measure from the line to the ground at the bottom of the hill.

Take the measurement in inches and divide to get the number of steps you will need.

How to measure steps for a slope

Prep The Ground

Prepare the ground by loosening the dirt and digging out extra deep along the sides like this…

You’ll probably have to do more digging once you get the structures in place, moving them around and refitting them.

Take your time, there’s no rush.

Building a stairway into a hillside

Create The Stair Structure

Create U shaped structures like those below using the 2×8’s as side rails and 6×6 posts, cut in half for our 4ft wide stairway.

Use the 8 screw pattern. 6 screws to look like a 6 on a dice and 2 screws evenly spaced in the center.

Fit the first U structure up against the (stairs in our case)/building or where ever your first step will be.

Fit the second U shaped structure under the first one and move dirt around until you get the top step level both front to back and side to side.

Remember you’ve already measured for your project, so you should know how long your step should be.

How to make stairs on a hill

Assemble Stair Structure

Use reinforcement bar and/or wood cleats to connect the lower board to the upper board on the inside.

Looking at the photo above, the cleat would go between the new top step and the deck stairs, just inside the step. This connects the two 2×8 boards together.

Do this on both sides, making sure everything is even, square and level before attaching — you may have to dig out or shift some gravel around to get everything level at this step.

You can see the cleats on the inside, just behind each step, in the picture below (look closely!). Make sure your cleats don’t stick up too high or they’ll show after your get your stones in.

Continue these steps, adjusting them so everything stays level and square until you’ve reached the bottom of the hill or slope.

How to build stairs on a slope

At this point, we took the planned week break and resumed the following weekend.

Hardpack or Topsoil

When we came back, we stained the insides and top of the rails and backside of the posts before filling with dirt.

Most people will tell you to use a hardpack material as you’d use for the patio installation.

However, if we ever want to convert back to grass, we didn’t want all the hardpack. Instead, we wanted soil that had the ability to grow grass.

So, we chose to fill with topsoil. Pack that topsoil every couple of inches until you’ve filled your voids – leave room for stone!

Building stairs on a slope

We left a 2-inch void to be filled with 3/4 inch decorative pathway stone.

Loose Stone Walkway Stairs

Because no one likes weeds, the first order of business is laying down landscape fabric.

Once the landscape fabric is in place, you can dump in your stones in.

Rake down and pack your stones to a nice level area. They will move around, they’re loose stones.

Steps On A Slope

Stain, landscape fabric, stones…

How to build gravel stairs on a hill

Because I had another small project in mind, I ordered a wee bit too much stone.

So, with the leftover stone, we made a walkway from the new steps to the back door of the garage.

To get a nice curve, used a bender board. First, we dug a shallow ditch, put the board in it and made sure it was even and level all the way around.

We used a scrap piece of 2×4 to measure a 2-inch rim above the ground all the way around. Backfilling and using the provided stakes secured the bender board to the ground well.

Making a stone walkway

After covering the walkway with landscape fabric, we added and packed the extra stone into the walkway.

Stone Walkway Construction

We also used some larger stones to border the inside of the walkway.

Keep going to see the finished product!

If I can do it, you can too! It’s easy to learn how to build steps on a slope, just take your time and go one step at a time. (pun intended!)

How to make a stone walkway

Here is the finished project. Some solar lights and some flowers finish off the new gravel stone stairs on a hill and a gravel stone walkway!

Because it takes weeks for the grass to grow, I didn’t get a great photo for you.

Building Steps on a Slope

So this is what you get for now. That’s how to build steps into a slope!

If you liked this, you’ll love our Backyard Makeover!

Because we did such a great job, we even had visitors!

Mama and baby deer in the backyard

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Join the Conversation

  1. Yes, they’re about 48″ each and you can take 3 steps comfortably. The riser height is about 7 inches. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi
    Could you give the dimensions of your steps? How long are each of the steps/treads? They look about 48 inches each? Can you take 3 full steps on each Platform? How high is each rise?

  3. Hi Ali! I’d be very cautious doing this with a spring in your yard that makes the ground wet all the time. Chances are the stone would sink into the ground. I’d suggest consulting a contractor to see what they think!

  4. Could u do this if u have a natural spring in ur yard?We have one and it makes the ground stay wet all the time.

  5. Hi Mick, I would suggest shortening the run of each step for the steeper area, making more steps over the steeper, but shorter distance. Hope that helps!

  6. Hi there – this info is great. I need to build a stair walkway with varying degrees of slope. Close to the house it’s fairly gentle for about 50 feet, but further down it steepens for about 30 feet, then gentle again for about 20. How would you suggest designing these awesome steps for slopes that go from gentle to steep and back again? Thanks!

  7. Hi Tina! A recommended step height is typically 7″, so that’s where that number came into play. If you’re step height is 4 inches, you’ll need to divide 66 by 4 = 16.5, so either 16 or 17 steps. If your run is 336, you’ll need to divide 336 by 16 or 17 to get the distance for each step run for installation. Hope that helps!

  8. If the rise is 66″ and the run is 336″ and the wood when together is 4″ x 4′ shape of U so the step rise is 4″. How many steps will I need? I am not sure where you got that 7 number from unless it is the middle from your 6″ or 8″ wood height. Thank you!!!

  9. That turned out great! Good job with the stairs. I also love the view of your back yard.

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