One of the more interesting and elegant projects you can add to your yard, landscape, and hardscape are steps. If you have an area of your yard that is at higher grade, or a path that travels up or down a rather steep slope, you might consider adding steps to the area. And one of the best materials you can use for these new steps is natural stone.
Note that natural stone is actually a broader category that encompasses many kinds of natural stone. They all share the fact that they are quarried from the earth and cut into the shape you need. Thus, how the natural stone will look, how easy it is to work with, and the price you’ll pay for it will all depend on the specific type of stone you get, from cobblestone to flagstone and everything in between.
The Benefits of Natural Stone Steps
Natural stone offers you many benefits that other materials options, like concrete and brick pavers and regular concrete, can’t offer you. Like the other hardscaping options, natural stone is durable and strong. It will resist the weathering effects of wind, sun, and rain, and you won’t be able to crack the stone or chip it. Think about it – it’s a material that’s stood the test of time for eons, just waiting to get to your yard. You can thus be sure that your natural stone steps will have a long life, so you shouldn’t expect to have to reinstall a new set of steps again unless you want to change up your yard.
Another advantage of natural stone over its competitors is its beauty. Sure, concrete pavers can compete with natural stone in terms of the ‘ordered’ and ‘manufactured’ look, but if you want a material that captures the beauty and disorder of nature, you’ll want to go with stone.
Finally, stone can be cut and shaped into whatever forms you need it. Thus, you’ll be able to build your steps according to your own specifications. If you do like regularity, of course, you can by stone pavers that work much like their brick and concrete brethren. However, if you want a more free form and ‘natural’ looking staircase, as if it were already there in the natural world, you can also go with irregular block and slabs of stone.
Designing With Natural Stone
The main variable when it comes to designing a natural stone step, besides the dimensions (i.e. length, width, curves, size of step, thickness, etc.) is the ‘regularity’ of the project. This largely depends on the kind of stone you buy. If you buy stone that is regularly cut, almost slab or paver-like, you’ll get a ‘regular’ looking set of stoops. However, if you buy irregularly shaped stone, stone that seems to have been ripped straight from the ground with little ‘manufacturing,’ you’ll have an irregularly laid step project. There is of course a continuum as well between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular,’ and where your project sits along this continuum depends on your tastes and needs for the project.
While we can’t give you every single stone type that’s out there, we can at least point you in the direction of some popular choices. What may be available to you will depend on what’s available in your local area. Some popular stone types include: sandstone, slate, granite, limestone, chilton, bluestone, cobblestone, flagstone, and much, much more. Certain natural stone suppliers may also have ‘branded’ types of stone that are particular to that company.
Also realize, besides the different kinds of stone out there, that you can also get different kinds of stone colors and textures, even within the same ‘family’ of stones. This is why it’s important to shop around and see sample products in person. Pictures can lie sometimes, despite best efforts, so it’s always good to preview the stone in person to get a better idea of its properties.
Note that you can also get natural stone veneer and tiles that you can use to face old concrete steps and stoops. This is a great way to capture the beauty of natural stone without dealing with the heavy expense that’s usually associated with it.
Natural Stone Steps Cost
The main disadvantage of natural stone, and one that prevents most interested homeowners from pursuing the material, is its cost. Natural stone prices do vary depending on the kind of stone, but you will pay more than other options, regardless of whether you get finely cut natural stone pavers or ‘irregularly shaped’ stone. Even if you get the stone for sale, expect to pay $100 to $200 per step, or more, for materials and installation. The exact number you’ll pay will depend on the contractor you hire as well as other factors in your local environment.
Building Natural Stone Steps
While you can work with natural stone as a DIY paving project if you have the skills, most homeowners will not want to attempt to build natural stone steps themselves. Instead, they should find a contractor who can do this kind of work.
A word of caution. All hardscape projects – patios, driveways, walkways, and the like – have a certain element of ‘artistry’ involved. In other words, a good contractor is not only skilled at doing the work; he also has an eye for the artistic and aesthetic aspects of the project. This is very true when it comes to natural stone steps, as there’s an art to making your steps look ‘natural.’ So when you’re evaluating a contractor for this work, make sure you see samples of previous job’s he’s done to make sure that he will craft something beautiful and according to your expectations. While natural stone can never be boring, it can certainly be laid suboptimally.
If you want to learn more about patio steps, including how to build them yourself, follow this link.