Before & Afters

THE Do It Yourself Project

3 June, 2013
Retainer block steps

Isn’t the name of this post mystifying?  It’s not any ‘ol DIY project…it’s THE Do It Yourself Project.  What could it be?  Well…to DEmystify the title…let’s go with this title instead, DIY Super Simple and Super Hard But Super Cheap and Probably Not Very Safe Outdoor Steps.  Not so exciting anymore huh?

I decided that I needed some steps in between the raised garden beds that I built into our big slope of a back yard.  Okay…maybe I didn’t need them, but I think that steps make it a little easier to get up and down the hill…unless you’re on skates…that would be hard…but…hello…who gardens in skates these days?

This is what I am working with:

This is what I wanted:


Willow Landscape Design

I love the organic feel of those huge natural stones.  They are gorgeous, but come on, who’s going to be carrying around those mammoth rocks?  So, I had to search for other ideas.  Something that I could handle by myself.  Like this:


Northwest Construction and Landscape, LLC

It isn’t AS aesthetically pleasing, but it isn’t too hard on the eyes either.  Plus, it serves it’s purpose.

I started off by measuring the area from top to bottom and then from the high point of the hill to the low point.  These measurements gave me an idea of how many steps I would need.

measuringCollage I went to buy the supplies:  Retainer blocks, Sand, River Rocks, and Pea Gravel

Insanely cheap supplies!

I tried to find a retainer brick that matched the color of grout on our house.

Turns out I was way off on the color…

Starting with the bottom step, I got to digging. (hardest part)

I had planned on using one row of blocks per step (like in my inspiration pic above), but quickly found that the hill was too steep and so I doubled the middle rows.  Does that make sense?  Maybe the next picture will explain…

Used sand to help make steps even and the fabric to block weeds.

After digging out 2 wheel barrows of dirt all of the bricks were put into place.  Then, I just added the rocks and pebbles:

It kind of looks like the bricks are just stuck in there, but each step is actually level with the rocks.  Promise.

Before with no steps:

After with steps:

It’s actually pretty stable…maybe not for a 90 year old.  It will be interesting to see what happens after it settles a little.

Total cost of project:  Retainer blocks x 13 $1.35 each (on sale right now at Lowe’s), Sand $3.11, River Rock x 2 $3.98,  Pea Gravel $3.65 = $35!  Not too shabby!  (Tools and fabric and my muscles were already on hand.)

So…what do you think of the new steps?  I know exactly what you are thinking…gheeettttto FABULOUS!!

Thank you so much for visiting!


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  • Reply Kevin Turner 3 June, 2013 at 2:37 am

    You crack me up!!! Love reading your posts. The project, as most outdoor projects, almost never meets our expectations since everything looks so “raw” and new. Give it some time and nature will take its course. I think you did a great job!

    BTW- Was Craig any part of this? Can’t imagine him getting his hands dirty! 😉


    • Reply Luisa 3 June, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement Kevin! Nope. Craig was no part of this…ha! You know him so well…

  • Reply Ann 3 June, 2013 at 2:42 am

    This is amazing!!! It turned out so great and what a price. Well done girl!

    • Reply Luisa 3 June, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Thank you for your sweet comment Ann!

  • Reply Crystelle Boutique 3 June, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I can’t believe how gorgeous your steps are! You are so amazing to DIY those. I bet you grew some muscles doing it too… LOL! :)
    Enjoy that yard-paradise of yours!!!!
    hugs x
    Make sure to join our HCG drops giveaway right here

    • Reply Luisa 3 June, 2013 at 11:32 pm


  • Reply the cape on the corner 5 June, 2013 at 2:47 am

    wow! what a great idea, and good for you doing it yourself. looks like you’ve got a lot of great things growing, too.

    • Reply Luisa 9 June, 2013 at 1:57 am

      Thank you!

  • Reply Kathy 5 June, 2013 at 11:24 am

    If you find the stone start to slip do they make some sort of adhesive that you could attach the top steps to the bottom?

    • Reply Luisa 9 June, 2013 at 1:57 am

      I’m not sure Kathy, but the stones do have little grooves that kind of keep them from slipping!

  • Reply Jamie 9 June, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Wow, you are a brave woman to tackle that project! It turned out great. Love it! Thanks for sharing at Give Me The Goods Monday!
    Jamie @Better With Age

    • Reply Luisa 29 July, 2013 at 3:32 am

      Thanks Jamie!

  • Reply Audra @ Renewed Projects 11 June, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Nice stairs. I have the same rocks in my garden but never thought of using them as stair steps like this.

    • Reply Luisa 29 July, 2013 at 3:33 am

      Thank you for stopping by Audra!

  • Reply Mary@Back to the Basics! 16 June, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Great idea! My garden is flat but I was thinking about steps in between rows of tomatoes and peppers.

    Thanks so much for sharing at The Creative HomeAcre Hop! Looking forward to seeing what you share this week!

    • Reply Luisa 29 July, 2013 at 3:34 am

      Thank you Mary :-)

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