Building steps is one of the most difficult parts of footpath construction, and often fails due to wrong choice of line, insecure construction, or lack of drainage. Only build steps if there is no other way around the problem. The following are guidelines for considering whether or not to build steps.
- On existing routes, is the slope so badly gullied or eroded that steps are required to prevent further damage?
- Is there danger to path users because of an eroded or slippery slope? Danger may be acceptable in some locations, such as on mountain-sides, whereas a path in a country park should cater for the less agile walker.
- Consider whether there is any provision for maintenance. Well-built stone steps should be maintenance-free, but steps with wooden risers require frequent attention and it may be better not to build if such provision for maintenance cannot be made.
- On slopes below about 20 degrees, would a more durable solution be to stone pitch the entire path, rather than putting in steps?
- Are there alternative ways which visitors can use to get up and down the slope? What are the chances of walkers keeping to the steps ?
- Try to anticipate where steps will be needed on new paths, instead of waiting to see where erosion occurs. It is easier to get steps into use if they are part of the original design. Putting them in when the need arises will involve the extra work of repairing damage and changing patterns of use.