On their own, concrete steps look cold and uninviting. A little texture, however, can do wonders. Concrete step liners are textured, rubber strips that are nailed to the inside front edges of concrete step forms. After the concrete is poured and the form boards are removed, the front edges of the steps are left with the attractive, textured imprint created by the rubber strip. Purchase liner designs or, if you want to create your own texture, make your own liner form.
Cut a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick sheet of rubber or piece of foam board into strips that match the width and height of the front edges of the steps. Use a straightedge to ensure that the size and cuts are perfect. Cut rubber or foam board using a utility knife.
Carve one side of the strips with the desired texture, using a craft knife, rubber carving tools and sharp chisels. Carving the liners is much like carving a stamp, just on a larger scale. Scrape away material gradually, like an artist carving a relief out of wood. Common textures for step liners include brick patterns, natural stones, or repeating ridges. More unique approaches include using geometric patterns, text, hieroglyphs or plant and animal forms. If you include text, carve it in reverse.
Brush off all bits of rubber or foam left on the liners, using a paintbrush.
Nail the liners to the insides of the step form boards, with the texture facing inward. Place nails down the center of the liners every 14 to 18 inches.
Paint the liners with concrete release agent, before pouring the concrete, to ensure that they separate easily from the cured concrete.
Scrub all the old loose paint from the surface of the concrete steps with a metal wire brush. Sweep the paint off the stairs as needed with the broom. If you have any cracks in the concrete, scrub the paint away from the cracked areas with the wire brush.
Patch any cracks in the concrete with mortar and wait at least 24 hours for the patching to dry. Once dry, go over the patching with an orbital sander to smooth the mortar so it blends in with the concrete.
Clean the surface of the stone with a stone cleaning solution such as muriatic acid mixed with water. Use a scrubbing sponge to remove any dirt and debris. Allow at least 24 hours' drying time before moving on.
Apply two coats of epoxy masonry sealing paint. Use a paintbrush for harder to reach areas such as where the steps meet with unpainted walls. Use a paint roller for large flat areas. Allow 24 hours between coats.
Put on the leather gloves, and clear the steps of any items or obstacles that would get in the way of the hammer. Put on the safety glasses before beginning any demolition work.
Start at the top of the bottom stair and work your way up, using the 8 pound sledgehammer. Begin breaking up the concrete as you strike the hammer onto the concrete steps. Repeat this step until the concrete steps are broken up into fist-sized pieces.
Trim or break away any small pieces using the smaller 3 pound hammer and chisel. If the stairs abut next to a home, you may need to chip away any concrete from the stairs that remain stuck to the home's foundation or structure. Chipping this away will give it a clean look.
Carry off the pieces of the concrete using the wheelbarrow to a discard area out of the way.
Use a wire brush to clear any concrete dust from the gaps you’re repairing.
Secure a piece of lumber flush with the top of your concrete steps if there is a gap on the edge. Drill a pilot hole using a 1/4-inch masonry bit. Then attach the board with 16d nails.
Fill the gap between the step and the board with patching concrete. Smooth over with a trowel. After the concrete cures, you can remove the board and the gap will be gone.
Fill gaps in the stair surface with concrete repair caulk. Use a putty knife to smooth over the caulk, and let it cure.
Dig in the location of the yard where you wish to build cement steps with the shovel. Form the earth into steps.
Level out each step using the rake and level. Water each step and compact the wet soil with a compactor.
Cover each step with an inch or two of gravel. Using the level and rake, level the gravel on each step.
Hammer stakes at each back corner of the steps leaving the top edge of the stakes an inch higher than the height of the step. Check if the height of the stakes are even using the level. Hammer four stakes in the shape of a half polygon in the front corners of each step.
Measure and saw the plywood to fit the front and sides of each step making a step form. Measure and saw plywood to the half polygon made by the stakes in the front corner of each step.
Stick the foam step liners to the inside of the plywood forms leaving enough foam above the form to make a curve. Screw the plywood forms to the stakes using the drill. Bend the step liners and stick the foam outside the plywood form over the stakes to make a curve in the front corner of each step.
Mix the concrete cement and pour into the forms. Using the edging tool and trowel cover the steps and the curve made by the stakes and step liner foam with wet cement.
Wash all the tools before the cement hardens on the tools.
Obtain accurate measurements of the stairs including their width, depth (or length), and height direct from the manufacturer. Usually this information is provided for you but it may be found on the manufacturer's website or by contacting them by phone.
Mark the area where the steps are to be installed with 2-inch-by-2-foot wood stakes and string. Clear the ground inside the area of debris and rocks.
Excavate the area inside the stakes by digging down to the frost line (about 4 inches in most climates) with your flat edge shovel.
Level the dirt once all the grass is cleared using a grading rake, or the flat edge of your shovel, if you do not have a grader.
Tamp down the dirt using a tamping tool. Start at one corner and tamp down a section at a time, moving up and down the square of dirt, until the entire area is completely flat, and all potential air pockets are removed from the dirt.
Check the ground to ensure it is level with a 3-foot long carpenter's level. Ensure the entire section of dirt is level and flat. If not, repeat step 5 until the entire area is level.
Excavate the area for the steps by digging and leveling the dirt. Tamp down the dirt to make the surface flat. Lay a bed of crushed gravel on top of the dirt and tamp it down.
Apply a layer of sand to the bottom of the stairs. Place pavers in a row that will be part of the first step.
Lay the tapered units in a row behind the pavers. Apply two to three beads of a concrete adhesive to the top of the tapered units. Place the coping units on the adhesive and press down. This will finish the first step.
Apply a layer of sand behind the first step and lay a second row of pavers. Lay the tapered units behind the pavers and then attach the coping units. Repeat this process until you have finished the stairs.
Level the spot where you intend to put your steps. Dig out excess dirt to level the area and compact firmly with the back of the shovel. Lay the stringers out in their intended location. Slide shims into the ground on either side of the stringers to support them and secure in an upright position.
Measure the distance across each step. Cut 2-by-8 lumber to fit across the stringer to form the front of each step. Attach the 2-by-8 piece of wood to the stringer tightly using deck screws. Spread cooking oil across the inside of the stair mold. Greasing will make it easier to remove the boards once the stairs have cured.
Purchase premixed concrete from your local home improvement or hardware store. Premixed concrete is a blend of cement, sand and gravel and is a good choice for small home improvement projects like stairs.
Shovel the concrete into the mold overfilling slightly. Tamp down the concrete and eliminate bubbles and air pockets with a shovel. Smooth the top of each stair with a trowel. Allow the concrete to cure for 24 to 48 hours. Remove the forms.
Coat the steps with a sealer to protect the concrete from moisture. You can find concrete sealer in the paint section of your hardware store. Roll the sealer on the steps with a quarter-inch nap roller.