Guidelines for Walkway Design

This article was written by Len Hordyk, DynaScape Product Manager – Design Solutions. Len has over 20 years of experience in the landscape industry.

When designing residential walkways (and pathways) it is important to think about the basic guidelines of width and slope for them to be functional.

Width Guidelines:
The width of a residential walkway depends on what type we are talking about: Primary or Auxiliary. A primary walkway example would be a main walkway connecting a driveway to a front entrance. An auxiliary walkway could connect a driveway to a side door entrance.

Primary Walkways
Primary walkways should be a minimum of 48” (1.25m) wide. This width is to accommodate two walking side by side. This width would accommodate wheelchairs as well. This does not mean all front walkways need to be this wide on every design. This is the minimum width – actual width should be proportional to the space and the size of the residence.

Auxiliary Walkways
Auxiliary walkways generally only need to accommodate one person at a time and therefore 24” (.60m) is essentially all you really need. This seems a bit narrow for some scenarios so I generally bump them up to 36” (1m). In some cases stepping stones could suffice instead of a solid walk.

Slope Guidelines:
Primary residential walkways generally should not slope more than 2% unless it is designed for wheelchair access. Any slope greater than 2% can be dangerous when covered in ice. Auxiliary walkways can have slopes up to 5%, but if it is well-used consider adding steps if ice can be a problem.

All walkways should have some slope to ensure proper drainage. So, how do you know if your walkway is exceeding 2% slope? A 2% drop over a distance of 10 feet (120 inches) is 2.4 inches. If your walkway drops more than 2.4 inches over 10 feet, you know you are over 2% (drop ÷ distance x 100 = % slope).

Whenever your slope exceeds 2%, use steps in your design. The key to the proper use of steps is to keep them all at a consistent height. 6 – 7 inches is the preferred height, while anything less than 4 inches is considered a trip hazard.