How to build concrete stairs

How to build concrete stairs

Introduction

Building a set of stairs from wood can be challenging for the beginner. Creating a set of concrete steps can be an even more challenging task.

If you want to avoid buying precast concrete steps, the only options are to purchase help or make them yourself.

Reading this, you are probably after the second option. For that, this article will help you through the steps of building the DIY concrete forms to the finished concrete surface.

Planning concrete stairs details

The first step in forming concrete stairs should be planning the stepped layout. Start by drawing a simple blueprint or sketch of your step design. It’s good to take your time and measure well so that everything will fit nicely.

The usual step riser is around 7 ½ inches, but it can be slightly lower or higher depending on the project. A 7 ½ inch riser can be done with a 2×8 piece of lumber as a form board, and it’s easy to cut if you own or can rent a table saw.

A step tread should be at least 12 inches long. Anything less can be challenging for adults to walk on, and accidents can happen.

It could even be doubled so that everyone can easily step on it. It can look good and sturdy if it’s house front stairs. The enormous step is also more straightforward for coating and decorating if you want to stamp it with a wood pattern, for example.

Let’s say we will go with the 7 ½ inch riser; it’s time to count the stairs. We need to measure how high the stairs will go.

Let’s say, to make it easy, that the height is 30 inches so that we end up with four steps, the highest on the level of our door. For any other height, we divide it with the height of our riser, and we’ll get the answer.

Forming concrete stairs

Now, it’s time to build the concrete stair forms. Something like 2×8 yellow pine can be suitable for your form boards, but it’s up to you.

Using spruce or yellow pine species is only sometimes necessary. Still, it’s a good idea, especially if you’re building a comprehensive step.

Also, 1x8s can be used in place of 2x8s as long as they can handle the weight of the concrete. The higher the stairs are, the more there will be pressure forming.

I like to be safe than sorry; a failed form can ruin a good day.

Building the forms is a simple task. Start with the bottom step first, and remember that you’re pouring concrete steps against the house.

This means the sides and front need to be solid and able to hold against weight.

Cut your form boards to the proper length and screw them together for easy removal. The form can be nailed together as well.

Still, I’m not too fond of it, as removing the forms might damage the fresh concrete if done too heavy-handedly. Also, place the screws from the outside so that they can be removed later.

Once the first form is built, we must square it up using a framing square and drive the stakes outside the form using a sledgehammer or large maul. The stakes must be firmly on the ground so the form doesn’t move.

It depends a lot on the soil, but it is better to be a little too deep than too little here. After that, we screw the stakes to the form so it will stay put.

Now, we have the first step formed and are ready to go higher. We build each form more minor than the last by how many inches we want the tread to be and set it on top of the previous form.

Now we just use screws to attach every form with extra stakes or something else. Depending on the form of the stairs, we could have done the sides from one board.

Fill the form with rough stones or dirt.

Now, we’re ready to fill the form with something. We don’t want all the stairs made out of concrete as it can be expensive, and other materials, such as rough stones, can also be used.

Some stairs are made with the leftover concrete pour, but I assume everything is made by hand.

We must ensure a minimum of 4 inches of solid concrete on the sides and the steps. We don’t fill it all with stones or dirt, so we can have concrete all around so the water and other things won’t eat the base of our steps.

Also, we must compact everything with a tamper before starting for the best results.

Also, this is where we consider if we want rebar added. Steel helps with the pulling forces that concrete is weak against. For extra strength with significant steps, I’d add some in to be safe.

How to pour concrete step

How to pour concrete step

We’re finally getting some action; it’s time to pour those steps. Depending on the type of ready-mix concrete, we can make one or more at the wheelbarrow at a time. Concrete has a long working time, from 30 minutes to 1 hour, so it’s really up to skills how much we dare to make.

Even with a wheelbarrow, it’s good to do the mixing as close to the forms as possible to avoid unnecessary moving. Concrete is heavy, I tell you, and lifting kills backs.

Concrete can be shoveled straight from the barrow or bucket at the start if we want to avoid lifting heavy weights.

If we don’t close the steps with the board, we need to wait for it to harden before moving from step to step. If we do it all at once, the pressure will let it escape from the lower steps, and we don’t want that. If we’re impatient, we could also consider concrete that hardens fast.

Finishing concrete steps

Now, the final part is finishing concrete steps. This step can be the hardest for beginners as it requires you to have a few tools and a little skill. The kind of tools depends on the last surface we want. Rubber, hard, or sponge float (some like to brush) is also needed for the finishing.

The finishing float is used to smooth the hardening concrete as it dries. It can’t be too wet and also not too hard.

The kind that you can finish by doing small circles with the float without applying too much pressure. It will level the surface and make some texture on it.

Sponge float might be most manageable for beginners, but some find intricate plastic floats easy to work with. Floats don’t cost that much, and it’s easy to make a little test piece of concrete slab to practice on.

That way, you know what you’re doing when the time comes to take the steps.

Once the finishing is done, it’s time for you to use the small broom if you like. Drag the broom from one side of the step to the other in one uniform stroke without lifting it from the concrete. This leaves small lines that give the tread some grip to prevent slipping.

We’re finished, and it’s time to let the concrete harden. After some hours, the forms can be removed, and extra concrete on the sides can be removed carefully with a trowel.

Concrete doesn’t dry; water makes a paste with cement, and some go off as vapor. We should water our stairs and steps a little to make them as hard as possible. Not too much, because it will affect negatively, but a slight shower just so the surface gets little moisture.

Conclusion

Are you looking for a quick and budget-friendly way to build concrete stairs alongside your home? Well, you’re in luck!

The great news is that the land or dirt needed for this project is not only easily obtainable, but it may also already be on your property. So, no need to worry about any additional expenses there.

The cost of the project will mainly depend on the size of the stairs, but it is expected to be quite affordable.

The most crucial aspect of this process is constructing the forms correctly so you don’t have to worry about them giving in to the pressure of the concrete. Once the form is in place, you can focus on achieving a smooth surface finish.

With these steps, you’ll have a sturdy and aesthetically pleasing set of stairs right next to your home in no time!