Another very attractive feature that we haven’t written about before is bullnose steps. Too often, step design is overlooked, with functionality taking a clear priority over design and aesthetics for many homeowners. If you’ve never thought about it before, then why not consider incorporating some style into a simple set of steps, and giving the finish a welcome boost?
In today’s article, we’ll talk you through the steps (no pun intended) involved in laying bullnose steps on an earth slope. It’s a relatively simple procedure, and one small change that could make a big difference to your garden. But if the space is already prepared and you don’t need to prepare the earth slope itself, then your task is even easier.
For all of your landscaping and paving needs, our RF Paving team are always here to help.
What Are Bullnose Steps?
A fair question! And one that we should probably begin with. What are bullnose steps, and what makes them unique?
Bullnose steps are sawn three sides, and have a ‘bull nosed’, rounded edge across the end of the step. Does it look exactly like a bull’s nose? Not quite. Is it close enough for comparison? We don’t see why not.
At RF Landscape Products, our bullnose steps are available in both Kandla Grey Sandstone and Raj Green. This rounded finish is safer than the traditional edging on paving steps and is less likely to cause damage during a fall. But on top of that, they provide a more luxurious finish that can set your garden apart from others.
How to Lay Bullnose Steps
Now that you know what bullnose steps are and why you should consider using them in your garden, it’s time to look at how to lay them. It follows a pretty similar procedure for laying regular steps, with a few slight nuances.
Set Up Your Markers
Like many landscaping projects, this one begins with marking the area you intend to use for bullnose steps. Bullnose steps are sold individually, so you’ll need to identify the total area for your stepping feature, and determine how much of it will be used by the steps themselves. But this measurement isn’t always easy – especially when it’s on a serious incline.
Still, you’ll need to measure the vertical height of the slope to determine how many steps you’ll need (if it’s more than one). To do that, fix down two markers (at the same horizontal distance that your bullnose steps will be).
Then, fix down two parallel lines along the length of the slope (to mark the outer edges). You should now have four pegs that identify each corner of the stairway. You know your horizontal measurement – now it’s time for the vertical measurement.
Measure How Many Steps You’ll Need
Knock in a peg that marks the back of the highest step. Hold a long measuring device out from that peg until it’s in line with the markers at the bottom of the slope. Use a spirit level to make sure that your measurement is straight, then measure the vertical distance from the ground. This is your vertical measurement.
Most bullnose steps come in standard sizes. With this vertical measurement, you can figure out your riser height (the height of the steps without the step thickness). Use the thread-riser combination chart to measure your total tread length as well (the length of the step itself). You should now know how many steps you’ll need.
We always recommend using materials that have been specifically designed as steps for any stepping project. First of all, cutting pavement slaps will be an unnecessary hassle that is unlikely to leave you with a finish that you’re proud of. Secondly, when you choose materials that have been specifically manufactured for steps, they’re likely to have been manufactured at the optimum size and depth.
Roughly Shape Your Steps
Rip up the turf in the area you’ve measured, and use pegs to mark the back of each tread (leaving plenty of space to actually work). Create the rough shape of the steps in the earth.
Concrete the Footings
Dig whatever trench is necessary for your first footing (it may have to meet concrete paving), and drive in pegs that align with the height of each step. Concrete the footings of the first step, making sure that the surface is level with your first two pegs.
Build the First Riser
Once that concrete is dry (usually around 24 hours later), you can lay the first riser. Mix your mortar (four parts sand, one part cement) and build the first riser with two skins of your chosen brick. It will take around two hours for the mortar to dry.
Fill the area behind that riser with hardcore, ensuring that it extends beyond the length of your bullnose step. Make sure the hardcore is nice and compact, and double-check with a spirit level that everything is flat.
Lay Your First Bullnose Steps
Bed a layer of mortar on top of the riser and hardcore, and lay the first bullnose step. There should be a very slight overhang on top of the riser. Fill all the joints with mortar. Bear in mind that if you’re laying two bullnose steps side by side, you should make a pointing mortar along the edge of the first slab.
The next riser goes on the back end of your first bullnose tread. Repeat the process until you reach the top step. It’s a good idea to continuously measure the riser height and hardcore lay so that no errors are introduced – they’ll be pretty painful to fix!
At the end, you’ll have a perfect set of stairs with bullnose steps that are safe, modern, and long-lasting.
If, however, you’re lucky enough that the stepping arrangement is already in place (and you only need to lay the bullnose step), then your job is significantly easier. There are several different ways to use bullnose steps, all the way from combining paving with a garden feature, to providing steps between your home and garden.
Bullnose Steps with RF Paving
There aren’t many paving and landscaping projects we haven’t seen before. Our experienced team will be able to help with all the advice you need, and supply you with top-quality equipment that’s bound to make your project a success.
Contact us today to find out more.