Some homes have a back door that is several feet higher than ground level, requiring a staircase at the foot of the door. You can build a staircase out of wood, but the constant exposure to the elements can cause the wood to splinter, crack or rot. Another option is to build the steps with concrete. A well-built concrete staircase will last for decades, providing a safe, durable way for your family to enter and exit through your back door.
Dig a 6-inch-deep hole in the ground where you are building the staircase. Dig the hole 6 inches wider than the staircase.
Dig a footing on each side of the hole that goes beneath the frost line to prevent the steps from shifting during freeze-thaw cycles. Your local zoning board can tell you how deep the frost line is in your area.
Drill holes into the side of the foundation with a masonry drill bit where you are installing the steps, if you are connecting them to the house. Position the holes where the top step will be, and keep them evenly spaced. Insert rebar at least 3 inches deep inside the holes. If you're not attaching the steps to the foundation, skip this step.
Construct a form for the steps out of 1/2-inch plywood. When completed, the form will look like a wooden staircase without the treads, which is the part of the staircase that you step on. Follow local building codes regarding the height of the steps. If you are attaching the steps to the house, keep the back of the form open.
Place the form into position inside the hole, and drive wooden stakes into the ground every few inches around the outside of the form to help provide additional support when the concrete is poured.
Fill the bottom of the form with 4 inches of gravel, then smooth the gravel with a rake and tamp it down.
Spread a thin layer of motor oil on the inner surfaces of the form to help prevent concrete from sticking to it.
Prepare a batch of concrete, following the instructions on the packaging.
Fill the form with concrete, beginning at the bottom step and working toward the top step. Remove air pockets from the concrete by working a shovel around inside the concrete as you pour it, and tapping the shovel on the sides of the form.
Screed the surface of the concrete by dragging a 2-by-4 board across the top of the form. Allow the concrete to set until it can maintain its shape without the form, following the manufacturer's instructions.
Pry the risers off of the form, with the exception of the bottom step. The risers are the front edges of the steps. Slide a finishing trowel over the surface of the concrete, using circular motions. Using the finishing trowel helps draw moisture out of the concrete and smooths the surface.
Smooth the front edges of the steps by running a step trowel over them, then slide a wood float on top of the treads to help provide texture and make them less slippery.
Continue to add water to the steps to keep the concrete damp for 5 to 7 days as it cures.
Remove the concrete form from around the steps, then fill the gap between the steps and the surrounding ground with dirt.
Things You Will Need
- Masonry drill bit
- 1/2-inch plywood sheets
- Circular saw
- Safety goggles
- Wooden stakes
- Motor oil
- 2-by-4 board
- Finishing trowel
- Step trowel
- Wood float
- Contact your local zoning board before beginning so you can learn the building codes you must follow.
- Wear safety goggles when cutting the wood for the form.
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