Outdoor steps can add both function and aesthetic appeal to your property. Exterior steps are typically built from treated softwoods, durable hardwoods, concrete, or stone. Here’s a more detailed look at how to use these materials to make your own outdoor steps.
Wood is one of the most affordable and economical options for outdoor steps. In addition to chemical-treated woods, there are many naturally rot-resistant woods that stand up well against insects, weather, and normal wear and tear. Naturally resistant woods include teak, black locust, ipe, bald cypress, and California redwood.
- Take measurements. Before you can begin building, you must determine the number of steps needed, the rise (the space between one step and the next), and the total length (multiply the number of steps by the depth of the steps).
- Prepare the landing. Stabilize the bottom of the steps by digging and pouring footings to accept posts. Be sure that the footings extend past the frost line.
- Mark and cut the stringers (the sloped side boards that support the risers and treads). Measure, mark, and cut the stringers according to your unique step design layout. Use a circular saw to cut along the marked lines and a jigsaw to finish the cuts.
- Attach the stringers. Use galvanized deck nails or screws to attach the stringers to the landing and the opposing structure (the porch).
- Fasten the treads. Using treated lumber or pre-made treads, fasten the treads using galvanized deck screws. The treads should overlap the stringers by at least one inch on the front and sides. Minimize the risk of cracking by using two treads on each step.
- Cut and nail the risers. Measure and cut the risers to the proper length. The risers should be flush with the outside of the stringers. Nail the risers to the stringers using galvanized deck nails.
Concrete is a cost-effective material often used in exterior building projects, including steps, driveways, and walkways. Not only is it durable, waterproof, and long-lasting, but it can also be shaped into nearly any form. Modern concrete is highly versatile and can be found in a full range of colors.
- Take measurements. Determine the height from the ground to the opposing structure. You will also need to figure out the rise height and the total run and width of the stairs.
- Build the form. Formwork is typically constructed using plywood. The form should be cut according to the tread and riser measurements. Secure this form to the building’s foundation so that the concrete stairs will bond to the foundation wall.
- Mix the concrete. Opt for a pre-mixed, ready-to-use product that requires just water. As a general rule of thumb, add six gallons of water to every bag of cement.
- Pour the concrete. Starting at the bottom step, pour the concrete into the form. Use a spade to spread the concrete evenly and to remove any trapped air. Pour one step at a time.
- Wait for it to cure. Keep the concrete damp during the curing process. Each day, dampen the concrete with a hose, and continue to do so for two to five days. Once the concrete has reached its desired set, the form boards can be removed.
Stone is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful options for exterior steps. Exterior stone steps are also low-maintenance, durable, and a smart investment if you’re interested in boosting the resale value of your home. Not only can stone steps be used in entrances, but they can also create pathways in gardens and other outdoor living spaces.
- Take measurements. Measure the horizontal and vertical distance of the steps to determine the number of steps needed as well as the height (rise) and depth (run) of each step.
- Create a form. Use 2-by-4 boards to create a form in which to hold the concrete. The form should be designed using the measurements of the steps. Next, pour the concrete into the form and let it cure. Once cured, the form can be removed.
- Select and cut the stones. Choose the stones you will use for the risers and treads. Cut the stones by scoring the surface with a chisel and hammer, then striking the stone firmly with a sledgehammer.
- Spread mortar. Spread a one-inch layer of mortar over the concrete steps. The mortar is what will hold the stones in place.
- Lay the stones. Lay down each stone, one riser and tread at a time. Use a rubber mallet to gently tap the stones into place. Pack the joints with mortar and allow it to dry for several days. Prevent foot traffic on the steps for at least one week.