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Steep Hill On A Lake

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Steep Hill On A Lake

Postby Bensson » Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:25 pm

Hi Marc,

We live on a lake in central Minnesota. Our lot is about 50' wide and in the backyard, to get down to the lake, there is a steep hill. Right now it has steps made of old railroad ties. There are about 35 steps, each with about a 9" rise(this might be irrelevant but once you get down to the bottom of the steps, there's about 15' of flat grass yard you walk across to get to the dock). On either side of the steps, there are just native plants growing somewhat wild. The buckthorn and sumac are chopped down so the hill doesn't get too overgrown. There are also two mature trees, one in each part of the hill that's to the left and to the right of the steps. Anyway, we want to replace the steps(they are rotting). We've had 3 landscaping companies come out to give us options, be it wood or stone steps in a new design criss crossing the hill somehow, or just using the straight-down approach that the railroad tie steps take. We're up for putting in stone, wood, or whatever type of steps. My question is about the "engineering" of what we decide. How do we know what is proposed won't roll down the hill and into the lake? What tests should we be watching for the landscape designers to suggest in making sure their design works with the steep grade of the hill, making sure the design is factoring in erosion, etc.? The designs all sound great but I am just wondering how we tell if they are structurally sound.
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Steep Hill On A Lake

Postby Leander » Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:22 pm

If there are no existing drainage ditches being crossed, I think that it come down to materials and methods used by the contractor...In our area it also requires a construction permit and inspection by the building department once built.

There are lots of ways to build stairs(stone, concrete or wood), and depending on which one you use, the methods for securing them to the earth are different. The number-one best way to increase your odds of getting a sound job, is to hire only a licensed contractor(because the contractor's board can "go to bat" for you if the quality of work ends up being lousy or even dangerous).

Anybody can put a sign on a truck and call themselves a "landcaper", so state licensing, previous references, and professional affiliations are your best insurance.

If you are still conserned, the few extra dollars spent hiring a local civil or structural engineer to review the plans will be well spent.(my guess is $250 - $350)

Check your phone listings under Civil Engineer or Structural Engineer or ask the contractor for a name, as he should be happy to share in any potential liability, should anything occur after he has installed them per plan.

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