Building Concrete Steps for Your Yard or Patio

Building concrete steps up to a shed or deck can be easier than building them from pavers or timbers. It can be easily accomplished with a little time and hard work. This article outlines the plans for building concrete steps with a 6 inch riser and a 30 inch tread. This is the typical size for most steps. You can adjust the height and size according to your specifications for your own concrete steps.

Dig rough steps 4 to 6 inches deep into a slope. You will also need to dig 6 inches past the outside layout lines and 6 inches past the tread depth for each riser. At the fronts and backs of all your treads you will also need to dig a footing for the base of each tread. Build a set of 3 sided forms and use stakes to hold in place with each form overlapping the other by 6 inches. Work from the bottom to the top step.

Start by laying out the step where you want them, then dig and place in your forms. Rip 2×8’s to 6 inches wide and cut to length at 36 inches. Attach each form to 2×4 or 1×4 stakes with duplex nails. Level the steps from one side to the other. Make the two sides slope downward ½ inches. You can accomplish this by placing a ½ piece of wood under the level. Make adjustments as necessary and attach to the stakes.

Install the next form so that it overlaps the next by 6 inches. This will give you a 30 inch step. Use a string line to help align the steps. Make sure you remove the line and stakes before you pour any concrete. Attach each form to the other using duplex nails. Continue with each step until you have reached your desired height.

Mix and fill the forms with concrete. Fill from the bottom step first and mix enough for one step at a time. This is so you don’t over exert yourself and the concrete hardens in the bottom step before you have a chance to finish it. Screed each step using a 2×4 board. Slip a pointing trowel in between the form and the concrete to help in removing the forms later on.

Finish the top of the concrete using a Darby. Make it smooth and free from lines. Once it hardens some, use a float or trowel to make the top smoother. Using an edger around the sides of the forms gives it a nice finish, and provides a smooth edge on each step. Continue with this step until you have filled and finished each step.

Smooth the concrete one more time with a trowel. Using a broom, finish the top of each step. Pull the broom across slowly. If the broom pulls any slurry or loose concrete, then it is not dry enough. Refinish with the trowel and wait until the concrete hardens more. You will probably need to go over it with the edger again to remove any broom marks from the edge.

Wait a few hours for the concrete to harden, and then gently remove the riser form board. You can test the concrete to see if it’s hard enough to remove the forms by poking a wire into the concrete. If its stiff and the wire doesn’t penetrate well then it’s probably ready to remove the riser form. If the riser form is removed and the step begins to slump, replace the riser form immediately. If not and the concrete is hard enough, and then finish the face of the riser with a trowel. If any honeycombs appear in the surface, fill it in now with extra concrete and smooth.

You can take off the rest off the forms now and smooth the sides with a trowel. Discard and loose concrete or overspill now, because when it gets hard it is much more difficult to remove. Don’t forget to wash off all your tools before the concrete hardens. Cover with plastic if it’s damp outside. Wait 24 hours before walking on the steps.

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