What finish fill for the timber steps I just built??

collins designJune 9, 2011

Whew! I just finished building a flight of 17 timber-framed steps up a hillside. Ten freakin' tons of crushed gravel moved by hand uphill... I am soooo worn out!

I filled each step (cedar riser and cheeks) with the crushed gravel, well tamped down, to about 1" from the top. I'd assumed I would use "stone dust" as my finish material, since the pictures of it I'd seen were fairly nice-looking, and my neighbor had offered me the pile of it in his yard for free.

(FWIW, our "crushed gravel" is the road base material, fines to 3/4" gravel.)

However, I just went to get a wheelbarrow full, and the stuff he has is very light and, I don't know how to describe it: loose?? I put some in a step and tamped it down, but it remails loose, easy to move when it's walked on. I was assuming it would be more like the crushed gravel, which makes a nice HARD, packed surface.

My thought was that a hard, packed surface would be easier to shovel snow off in winter without shoveling away a loose fill. (If snow shoveling wasn't an issue, I'd have used something pretty and nice-sounding like pea gravel.)

This project is already over budget, and it's totally DIY, so something really spiffy like flagstones/slate isn't in the cards, at least this year. (I also just finished laying in a slate flag side walkway, which came out beautifully!)

So what should I use? Is my neighbor's stone dust atypical? If I go somewhere else can I find some that'll pack hard and flat?

Or do you have any other suggestions?

Thank you!!!

(as soon as I get the steps filled, I get to proceed to the fun part of planting around it ...)

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If it is stone dust, that is stone crushed to a sand like consistency then try wetting it as you compact. What are you using to "tamp" as you call it? Stone dust will never be as hard as say, concrete and you will need to replenish if you are doing much snow shoveling but it shouldn't pick up on your feet unless it has other 'stuff' mixed in with it.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 5:56PM
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I agree with Ink. Just get it slightly damp, don't turn it to blue mud.

Are you in MA?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 8:43PM
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collins design

Thanks guys! I will try wetting it... I'd forgotten about that aspect.

I'm in Maine, actually!

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 9:08AM
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Staceyneil. Could you post a pic of your steps. I was thinking of doing exactly what you have done and needed a pic to show my DH. We were more concerned with the feel upon barefeet using the dust. Please let us all know what happens to see if this works for you.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 8:54AM
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