creating wooden sleeper steps

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We have made a start of constructing the sleeper steps hoorah! Our sleeper step vision will run all the way down from our boundary to to front door. When we brought this little do a upper we inherited paving steps that had gravel in between and a (shall we say) rustic loose brick boarder. All this was coming apart. With the paving slabs not properly cemented in place, the whole path way was a trip hazard.

The driveway constantly had weeds pearling through so to tart everything up we thought we would replace the weed preventer as that wasn’t working and fix the entrance path in the process.

I love the look of sleeper steps so we decided to use this idea instead of a pavement step. We’ve been on YouTube but the isn’t a lot of diy projects on line so we thought we would just try and combine raised bed sleepers and step tutorials together and that method seems to have turned out not half bad!

So how did we do it?

We started off by removing everything that was there. To keep cost down we used the bones of the structure as much as possible, i know excavation can be costly! Luckily we had space in our back garden to remove any earth that we did remove for the foundations of the steps. We even managed to rehome turf that we had to remove, when we widen the path. If you can do this you can save 100s. However, if you cant instead of taken it straight to your recycling centre try selling it or advertising your hardcore or earth on line like facebook market place. It’s surprising who would take it off your hands.

We’ve removed the existing steps and measured up the area where the new sleeper steps will be placed. We used 4 post pegs running parallel that we knocked in the ground with a rubber mallet. Tying builders string around them we created a guide for where needed to dig any unwanted earth. I’m sure there is some fancy laser gadget that can do this. However, we don’t so the old fashion steak and string worked wonders.. just be sure to keep measuring the distance from bottom middle and end to ensure you have a straight line. Then using a edging iron we was able to neaten up the edges of our new foundations. The edging iron enabled us to cut through the turf and dig it up easily.

With our path line all dug out, we proceeded on to digging the foundations for the wooden sleepers that would sit horizontally in the path. Using a post digging spade to remove the earth was easier than a spade to get through the ground. The whole of are gardens are made up with slate and soil. To break up any hardcore pieces we also used a digging bar. This tool is so heavy and you use it with a spearing motion into the ground. Hard work but weirdly satisfying.

Measuring the sleepers

Time to measure and cut the sleepers. Our path is 350 cm long and 115 cm wide. Using 10cm wide sleepers that have a 20cm depth. We ordered 2 big sleepers and cut them to size making them into 4 sleeper steps in total.

Now that the sleepers were cut to size we focused our efforts to place them into the new foundation. Each step foundation was different, as we had to adjust for the gradient of our specific space.

To keep the sleepers in place we used a sand and cement mixture. One bag of 25kg blue circle multi – purpose cement and 4 bags of 25kg bags of sand. And a splash of water. I couldn’t tell you how much water we used. We kinda just kept adding until we got the right consistency. – A little like baking.

As we didn’t have a cement mixer and wanted to keep cost down from hiring one we used a rubber builders mixing basket and a spade to do the job. I’m not going to lie, it was rather a strenuous workout. However, it did the job. It’s quiet surprising how much easier it got with each mix.

Each mixture we mixed together filled approximately one and a half of the foundations dug.

With each step we did (pun not intended) we kept checking our levels using a large spirit level and a small we place the spirit level horizontally to the sleep and parallel. This made sure that each step when placed in was completely level and straight. If it wasn’t we gave it a gentle persuasion with a rubber mallet.

Once all the steps were in place we double checked they were well covered. The steps was 20cm deep and the cement covered them at the bottom a good inch.

When we were happy they were in and secure. It was all about waiting for the concrete to set. So we tidied everything away and waited until the morning. Fingers crossed of course.

The next day we anxiously woke hoping the steps had – one not moved out of place and two set.

To our surprise they had set perfectly! I don’t know why we ever doubted our ability! It’s definitely a real sense of achievement. A complete proud moment. This was the first time we had ever built anything like this before. Our only skill set has been painting or sanding.

Next step is to create a frame/boarder down the side of the path. This is purely to keep the gravel contained when we fill the steps. Having had gravel previous one annoying trait we found was the stones leaking onto the grass so this time we wanted to prevent this from happening. I’m sure it would of looked perfectly fine with out a frame but this was our preference.

We used planks of wood from a local B&Q store cut them to size and using a drill and wood screw we attached the frame to the sides of the sleeper. This took no time at all and before we knew it the steps was coming together.

As our home is a mock Tudor home we wanted to keep the steps in keeping with the black mock Tudor wooden panelling on the front of our house. So we stained the frame and steps black to keep the ascetics the same. You could leave your sleeper steps natural I know that would look as beautiful.

What tools did we use?

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Makita cordless drill –

Makita chop saw – Hand saw –

Builder sand –

Cement –

Builders Flexible mixing tub –

Rubber mallet –

Footings Spade –

Edging Iron –

Post digging Spade –

Square Spade –

Post pegs –

Builders string –

Sleepers –

Spirit level –

All that was left to do was some what easy. We needed to lay weed repellent sheets down and then the gravel on top.

The whole of our front garden is starting to look beautiful. All though the broken pavement slabs and weed filled gravel gave the house shall we say run down character. This new lease of life to the front path has transformed it entirely. There’s still a little bit to with landscaping. But we are over the moon we gave this project a go. In total the job took us 3 days too do. We could of completed this a lot sooner. However, waiting on deliveries of materials that arrived on different days set us back a little. Our front garden curb appeal is definitely on its way into fruition.

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