How to Install Timber and Brick Paver Steps

Brick treads framed with landscape timbers make attractive steps between different levels in your yard, and with our DIY guide, you can install them yourself.

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $200+

If your yard has a steep incline, you know how difficult it can be to get around outside. In addition, unstable ground can be a hazard, especially for families with young kids and older adults. Fix this problem yourself by building in-ground paver steps. Timber and brick paver steps look great in every landscape and are easy for any homeowner to install. Follow our directions below to learn how to build timber and brick steps.

Getting Started

Timbers come in various sizes, and the size of the timbers you use will affect both the dimensions of the steps and the possibilities for brick patterns within the frame. Find out what's available and use the actual measurements to draw a dimensioned plan. Most timbers come in 8-foot lengths, perfect for steps 4 feet wide.

When you design your paver steps (and before you start digging), decide on a brick pattern. Use a pattern composed of whole bricks so you can avoid cutting them. Choose the brick, purchase the correct quantity, and dry-lay it on a flat surface in the pattern of your choice. Then, use the dimensions of this mocked-up section to cut the timbers to fit.

The plan shown here uses rebar to anchor the timbers into the soil. If your soil is sandy, use a 2-foot length of 3/4-inch pipe or steel conduit instead.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Round-nose shovel
  • Circular saw
  • Handsaw
  • Level
  • Drill bits and extension
  • Small sledgehammer
  • 2x4 for tamping
  • Rubber mallet
  • Straightedge
  • Broom

Materials

  • Stakes
  • Mason's line
  • Screed
  • Pressure-treated timbers
  • 1/2-inch rebar
  • 12-inch spikes
  • Gravel
  • Landscape fabric
  • Sand
  • Pavers

Instructions

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    Carve Risers

    Make the steps with a riser height equal to the timber height and a comfortable tread length. Lay out the site with stakes and mason's line. Then dig rough recesses in the hill, with the first recess 6 inches longer (front to back) than the actual tread.

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    Lay Out Brick Formation

    Lay out the brick tread on a flat surface, and measure the dimensions of the layout. Cut timbers to these measurements and test-fit them around the brick. Square the corners with a framing square.

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    Assemble Timbers

    To assemble the timbers, drill pilot holes for 12-inch spikes completely through the front face of the outside timbers and about 2 inches into the side timbers. Drive the spikes with a small sledgehammer. At the corners of the rear timbers, center a mark on the top face, about 4 inches from the ends. Mark the middle of the timber also. Drill a 1/2-inch hole through the timber. (You'll drive rebar anchors through these holes when you set the frames.)

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    Set First Frame

    Set the frame for the bottom step in the lowest recess in the ground. Lay a 4-foot level across the sides of the frame and level it. Slope the frame from back to front at the rate of 1/4 inch per foot. To get the slope right, lay a 2-foot level on the side timber with a 1/2-inch spacer under one end. The slope is correct when the bubble is centered.

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    Set in Place

    When the first frame is correctly leveled and sloped, cut 24-inch lengths of 1/2-inch rebar and drive them through the holes in the rear timbers and into the soil.

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    Lay Second Frame

    Lay the second frame on the first. The front timber of the top frame lies on the rear timber of the lower one, with their faces flush. Drill three pilot holes through the top timber and partway into the bottom one. Then drive 12-inch spikes into the holes. Slope the second frame and anchor the rear timber with rebar driven into the holes you drilled in Step 3.

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    Continue Installation

    Install the remaining frames, fastening and sloping them and anchoring the rear timbers with rebar. Make sure each frame is level from side to side before installing the next one.

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    Fill Gravel and Sand

    Excavate the recess further until it's deep enough for a 3-inch layer of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and your pavers' thickness. Tamp down the soil in each recess with the end of a 2x4, then lay landscape fabric on the soil. Shovel in the gravel, level it and tamp it. Add the sand and tamp it as well.

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    Level Sand

    Make a recessed screed by nailing a 1x4 to a 2x4. The bottom edge of the 1x4 extends below the frame by the thickness of a paver. Screed the sand level and smooth.

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    Set Pavers

    Set the pavers in the frame in the pattern you used to determine the frame dimensions. Bed them in the sand with a rubber mallet, and level them as you would the surface of a brick-in-sand patio.

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    Fill Joints

    Shovel a thin layer of builder's sand onto the brick and use a brush to sweep the sand into the joints. Mist the joints and brush on more sand, repeating the process until the joints are filled.

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How to Build Timber-and-Brick Entry Steps

Timber-and-brick paver steps are easier to install than poured concrete and give an informal look. The 5-1/2-inch riser height may not be suitable in all instances, however. Lay out the steps, install the timbers, and set the brick as you would for steps in the landscape.

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    Build Timber and Install Gravel

    Build and anchor timber forms with the proper rise and run and interior dimensions to accommodate your brick pattern. Excavate the recess if necessary to hold 4 to 6 inches of gravel, 2 inches of sand, and the paver thickness. Install the gravel and sand, then screed the sand in the recess.

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    Lay Pavers

    Starting with the bottom step, lay the pavers, bed them with a rubber mallet and level them. Spread fine sand on the surface and sweep it into the joints. Mist the sand with water, add more sand, and repeat the process until the joints are filled.

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