I have never been able to understand why a cloudy weather makes me feel nostalgic. One such cloudy day when I was all alone at home, walking up the staircase leading to my room, I started remembering the days when my world revolved around that newly built concrete staircase.
I used to swing on her railing, jump down her steps in excitement, spend time counting her balusters, run up her steps to go to my room, and standing on her landing, when I could view my house from above, I used to feel on 'top of the world'!
They were built years ago; they look old now. But even today while walking those steps, I remember the planning, the arrangements and the fun we had had while building them. Let me tell you what we did. So, here's something on how to build concrete stairs.
Before you begin with the actual stair construction, decide where they would be located and the type of stairs you wish to have. If you plan to build the concrete stairs in the exteriors of your house, you need to maintain the step dimensions as prescribed by your local building code.
Otherwise, you have complete freedom of choosing the measurements and layout of your staircase. Generally,
- For a step height of 4-5 inches, a tread depth of 16-18 inches is recommended.
- For a step height of 6-7 inches, it should be between 10 and 14 inches.
The flat walking surface of a step is the step tread and the vertical boards joining the treads are the step risers. As you can see, their prescribed measurements vary inversely. It is advisable to make a simple sketch of your step design before you begin building the stairs.
Number of Steps
Now, you need to calculate the number of steps you would be constructing. You will have to calculate this number by dividing the planned height of the staircase by the height of each step. Along with the rise of the steps, consider the footing, which is mostly a gravel and concrete foundation used to give support and stability to the steps.
Building Concrete Forms for the Stairs
Once done counting, you need to work on the concrete forms of the stairs. The molds into which concrete is poured are referred to as concrete forms.
- Cut out the forms from good plywood sheets. You can use yellow pine or spruce form boards.
- While doing so, see that you maintain a downward slope of one-quarter inch so that each step has an upward rise and you do not end up building a solid concrete mass.
- Make sure that the forms support the weight of concrete.
- Start with the bottom step first. Once the first step is formed, continue with the rest of the steps such that each stair form is smaller than the prior one, with a difference equal to the size of the tread.
Building Forms for the Risers
The next step is to build forms for the risers. Their length should be such that they overlap the side forms and their height should be same as that of the riser. Place the stair run forms on both sides of the porch/platform that the staircase would be leading to.
Each form should be placed perpendicular to the porch. Support the forms with strong wooden or metal posts known as stakes, with screws or nails.
The next very important step is that of pouring concrete in the forms. Mix the concrete as per the manufacturer's instructions and ladle the mixed concrete into the forms with the help of a shovel. Remove excess concrete, if any, and tap each form lightly to release the air trapped inside.
Do not pour concrete directly into the forms or you might end up spilling it all over the place. Start with the bottom step and work your way up. Work on one layer at a time and each time, ensure that the previous step is set before moving to the next one.
Finishing the Steps
The last and somewhat difficult step in concrete stair construction is that of finishing the steps. Here, you will require a finishing trowel to smooth out the semi-hard concrete. After the finishing is done, you will need to use a small broom and drag it from one end of the step to the other in one stroke.
This process will leave small lines on the treads, giving them grip. Now, let the concrete cure and harden after which the side forms can be removed. You can smoothen the sides with a trowel or use water to help the hard concrete to smooth out. Let the concrete harden for a day and your steps will be ready to be stepped on.
Now that you know how to build concrete stairs, take a step forward in building them. You will feel proud of having paved the path to where you had planned to go 'step by step'!