One of the best parts of finding a small project to complete is the great feeling you get when you’re finished. Suddenly your whole house looks better and you have gained a new skill. This is why summer projects, or a project in any season, is so rewarding.
However, even small projects require several steps to complete correctly. Concrete construction or installing anything takes a bit of time and some patience. It is important that you know what you are doing before you begin in order to save yourself both time and money.
Concrete stairs are one of those projects that can change your entire home for the better very quickly. They are a relatively quick project that can add convenience and a whole new look to your yard and home. Here are the steps you need to follow to build a great set of concrete steps.
1. Look Up The Codes
Every city and state has individual building codes that you need to follow when constructing anything on your property. If you do not follow these codes an inspector can come and tell you that you need to tear down all of your hard work. Avoiding this is easy as long as you follow the codes in your area.
Building codes are usually for your safety and the structural integrity of your home so it is best to follow the codes for those reasons as well. Your local codes might say where the re-bar in your steps need to go, what concrete to use, or even where your first step needs to be in relation to the door. Knowing these rules before you start building will help you figure out what to buy and exactly how your stairs will need to be constructed.
The first thing you should do before starting any project is to make sure you know the building codes and rules for building. Concrete stairs do not usually have a lot of rules but the ones in place are there to keep you safe and make the steps easier to build and maintain. The first thing step to constructing concrete stairs is looking up the codes.
2. Get A Measuring Tape
To build your steps correctly you are going to need to measure the space you intend to put the stairs. This will ensure that you know how much materials you need and how steep the stairs will be. You do not want to end up with concrete steps that are too small to walk up or too wide and ruin the whole area.
Luckily, it is not difficult to measure to construct stairs. The first step is measuring the rise and run for your steps. This will let you know how high the steps should be and how deep they should be so they are not too steep. This step is also how you measure how much concrete you will need to buy so it is very important you do this step before you go buy materials.
This is also the time you should measure your pitch line. This is the line that runs up your steps and gives you the angle that your steps should be. All of this measuring is the best way to know what you want your steps to look like, what to prepare for, and how much materials you need to buy to complete your project.
3. Prep For Build
Once you have your measurements and materials as well as a list of regulations to stick to, you can start getting everything ready. This mostly consists of getting your footings in place and outline the steps themselves. Both of these things give you a firm foundation to build on and around.
Lay your footings so they are about three inches wider than the steps are going to be. This is where the building code comes in as your area will likely have a specific depth the footings need to be. Once you have that depth you can fill it with concrete and put in rebar that will end about two inches lower than your top stair to give your stairs structure.
Finish your footings with a patch of gravel dug about four inches deep between the footings. It will take a while for the fresh concrete to cure so you can use that time to work on the next step of outlining your steps.
4. Get An Outline
One of the materials for building steps is ¾ inch plywood. Use this to trace your stairs using the measurements you got earlier. You will want the line for the landing to slope about ¼ inch for each foot.
Clamp the second piece of plywood to the one with your sketch so the edges are flush then cut the two pieces together using a jigsaw. This should give you two identical pieces of plywood to set up on each side of the stairs. Now you have an outline of what the stairs will look like and you can decide if any changes need to be made.
If you feel changes need to be made for the finished product, measure those changes you want to make and cut new pieces of plywood out to match those specifications. This is also the time to make sure the outline is level and fits your home correctly. Any changes to the final product should be made around this time so you know exactly what your steps will look like when they are completed.
5. Build The Steps
You cannot just start pouring concrete on top of runners and hope the stairs form. Your next step is building the riser forms and prepare for the concrete. This is actually the step that is probably going to take the longest so prepare for a bit of work to go into this.
For each step use, 2x lumber cut into the width and height of your steps to build the foundation. It is important to bevel the bottom of each step except for the one of the bottom so it is easier to float the tread when you pour the concrete. Screw the top riser form to the outside of the side forms you cut out before you install the rest of the riser forms.
Next, you will need to attach the braces so the stairs do not move and shift when you pour in the concrete. Do this by attaching bracing wood to the sides of the stairs and making sure the foundation is sturdy. This will give you a firm foundation to pour into.
6. Fill The Steps
If you want to save some money on concrete then you can fill in the stairs with a bit of rubble to take up space and build a foundation. This will use up less concrete and give you the same clean results on top as the rubble will stay at the bottom. It also gives you something to put your rebar on.
Bend lengths of ½ inch rebar so that it roughly matches the shape of the rubble and stretches across your step. Place them about 12 inches apart to strengthen your steps. Once you know where they all should go, raise them off the rubble and secure them by wiring through the rebar.
This will give you the foundation you need to pour your concrete so once you have your rubble and your rebar, feel free to mix some concrete. Before your concrete dries into place smooth out the top for a clean finish. Then all that is left to do is wait for your stairs to dry and take off the forms you used to hold the concrete.