Formal Stone Staircase

sandstone steps detail

Sandstone steps detail from above

In spring 2013 Hammerhead Stoneworks built a stone staircase to provide entrance into a lovely home in Arden, North Carolina. We were replacing a set of wooden steps that were rotting. A poorly planned drainage plan had left the wooden steps sitting in a puddle. As we did our demolition, we discovered that water had wicked to the very top of the steps and the wood was overrun with ants. The wooden steps had been coated in stucco, which likely worsened the problem, as it didn’t allow the wood to ever dry out. As part of our work, we remedied the drainage problem, installing a french drain immediately next to the steps. We cut a path through the concrete walkway, to lay a pipe to convey the water out into the yard. We filled the path with cut stones that echo the step treads, instead of a concrete patch, giving the fix and design cohesion.

The steps are mortared. Hammerhead’s stock-in-trade is drystone work, but we use mortar when the project calls for it. I felt like the formality of the entrance, the details like the caps and overhangs and the size of material in use all signaled that mortar was the better choice. We used sandstone from Tennessee, which has such a wonderful range of colors and is the flattest stone around.

After we finished in the spring, we had an amazingly soggy summer. I checked in with the clients and was happy to hear that the area was draining great and that everything was doing fine!

Steps before: note the moisture and rot at the bottom

Steps before: note the moisture and rot at the bottom

Steps demo: the wood was wet throughout and filled with ants

Steps demo: the wood was wet throughout and filled with ants

stone steps in process

Building the side walls

Stone steps in process

Working on the top two steps

sandstone steps

The finished product, mortared sandstone steps

sandstone steps from above

Sandstone steps from above