F I N K B U I L T

Today’s Ebay Item

missle tracker

Scale model cockpit FPV

fpv
cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Quadcopter FPV

Quadcopter FPV
Amazing remote first person view piloting.

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

Helmets

retro vintage motorcycle helmets Pictures of boxes full of sweet vintage motorcycle helmets

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.

Liberty

liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

null
Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box

Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!




How to Make Concrete Steps

concrete steps

Got a spot that needs a set of concrete steps? Readymade wood stair stringers make great, easy forms for small concrete stair jobs. Intended for use as a structural part of wooden staicases, they also save you the brainwork of figuring out the proper rise and run when bulding forms for concrete steps.

concrete steps

I’m sure the pros could give you better advice, but here’s how I did mine:

Excavate

Dig out the dirt where you will be building the steps. If you have loose or sandy soil, remove all of the dirt from the spot where the stairs will go. If you have hard, or clay type soil, you may be leave some of it in place as a “core” to your steps. I had to remove all of mine.

Build The Form

Position the stringers where you want the sides of your steps to be. Make sure that they are level. Cut some face boards from 2×8 studs for the upper steps, and one out of 2×6 material for the bottom step. Use screws to attach the boards to the stringers – this things needs to be really strong. Stake the form into the ground so that it doesn’t move when you pour the heavy concrete into it. (I used big rocks to keep my form from moving).

concrete steps

Fill With Rubble (not shown)

Stack rocks or concrete rubble inside the form to take up most of the space so that you don’t have to mix up a million bags of concrete. Weave in a little re-bar just for good measure. I used 7 80lb bags of premix for this job.

Pour

Mix up the concrete and pour or shovel it into the form, making sure to work it down in-between your rubble filler. I mixed mine in a wheelbarrow, but if you have half a brain, you will rent one of those power mixers. Bang of the frame a bit with a sledge hammer to vibrate out as many air pockets as you can. You may still have some voids showing on the outside, but you can patch them later.

I plan to add flagstone treads to mine later.

concrete steps

Find a Kid

Go find a kid and let them leave a handprint in the wet concrete, Leave it to Beaver style.

Warning, here is what one disgusted commenter had to say:

“Well as someone who does concrete work I need to tell you a few reasons why I would have to rent a jack hammer and redo these stairs if I had done this for any paying customer. And, you should do the same! These stairs are a hazard and everything but the hand print looks like crap!!! As someone pointed out already: the bottom riser being so much shorter then the others is a trip hazard going down. You need to measure how far the stairs have to drop and calculate the risers to ensure they are even. Example” if the difference in height from his gate to the patio is say 28″ then he should have made four 7″x ? risers.
Its looks like the only finishing you did was hand floated it flat and put a hand print in it. Good job on the hand print but bad job on the rest. It doesn’t look like you edged it to put a smooth round finish on the edge of each step. So, the sharp edges you left are like concrete knives! I would hate to trip and fall on them because you will most certainly lose some skin! And speaking of falling. It also doesn’t look like you broomed the stairs either. This leaves a rough texture on the concrete to minimize slipping. The surface of smooth poorly finished concrete is like ice when its wet! These are the reasons why no one should ever pour a stairs anything like this one.
The base work was also done wrong too. You need to use properly compacted material for your stair base and I doubt any rebar went into this project so you may not need to worry about them for long anyway. The concrete is poorly supported and will likely crack and heave. Mother nature will jack hammer them out for you over the next few seasons. Especially if you get winter. And, what kind of concrete did you use? There are different types of concrete too!
Some projects are do it yourself and some aren’t. Concrete isn’t.”

30 Responses to “How to Make Concrete Steps”


  1. Will Merydith Says:

    Nice job! I’m getting ready to make some steps at my house.

    Looking very “old world” in your back yard.

  2. mike williams Says:

    wow great help thanks made my job much easier

  3. travis Says:

    thank you

  4. frogspit Says:

    Note that your bottom riser is 1 1/2 ” shorter than the others. That’s because you always cut the tread thickness off the bottom of the stair jacks-which makes all the risers equal. (In your case, since there is no tread thickness, you needed to add the missing 1 1/2″ to the bottom of your pre-cut jacks. These pre-cut units are designed to have 2x dimensional lumber as treads).

    Not being critical, just pointing it out for future reference. Current building codes require all risers on a set of stairs to be within 1/4″ of being the same height.

  5. Steve Says:

    Good point, Frog.

    thanks.

  6. DL Says:

    Nice Job, inspired me to do my own. No code, lower first step is a nice starter step especially for older folk. Four of my own for handprints.
    Thanks

  7. Yammy Says:

    @DL:

    Having a shorter bottom step can cause someone to trip on the
    way down, as they expect the last step to be as large as the previous two, and accidently faceplant.

    One should never “plan” to have a mis-matched step for safety’s sake. If you want shorter steps for oldsters, et al, make them all shorter, it will be safer for everyone.

  8. jj Says:

    Hi Fink,

    What is going on in the back of the stairs, did you pack and cement in stones to hold it all up?

    I’m going to try to do this by myself (woman homesteader in the Middle East). I don’t even know if you get those stringers here – maybe will have to have them made by a carpenter. Thoughts appreciated :)

  9. jj Says:

    Hi Fink,

    What is going on in the back of the stairs, did you pack and cement in stones to hold it all up?

    I’m going to try to do this by myself (woman homesteader in the Middle East). I don’t even know if you get those stringers here – maybe will have to have them made by a carpenter. Thoughts appreciated :)

  10. jj Says:

    Hi Fink,

    What is going on in the back of the stairs, did you pack and cement in stones to hold it all up?

    I’m going to try to do this by myself (woman homesteader in the Middle East). I don’t even know if you get those stringers here – maybe will have to have them made by a carpenter. Thoughts appreciated :)

  11. Steve Says:

    JJ

    I stacked up blocks of broken up concrete rubble to form the “core” of the steps. You want to to do this *before* you build the form, rather than trying to build the form around the filler material.

    good luck!

    steve

  12. Pam Says:

    Well, not sure if i am doin this right but my old steps were cracked and fallin apart so i just went to town with the sledge hammer…..tryin to get all the loose stuff off .. let me tell ya tomorrow my brother in law is dropin off a electric jack hammer for me to use. Thank God someone is watchin out for me…..lol anyways my steps were old and you can tell someone top coated them once already so once i get all the loose stuff off i can leave all the rest as long as it is solid for the core right… and then do you have to patch it or do you have to set a form up for it……..I just knew once i got things tore apart and if i fail at fixin it the husband will have to get someone to do it….But i really think that i can do this i remember watchin dad when i was a kid doin it on the farm….Wish me luck ill submit anohter comment to let ya all know how it turns out….

  13. pat Says:

    Thanks for the info. I was wondering, how do i tie the steps into the bank in the back of the steps.

  14. 12 year-old's dad Says:

    Nice project – just the right size for a low-skill guy like me.

    I have extra cement and this is a good way to use it.

    I plan to “find” my son well before the handprint stage. He will ride with me to the gravel pit, get on the business end of his shovel, and we will load up the pickup.

    When we get home, he will help fill wheelbarrow and truck the fill up our driveway (only about a 10% grade).

    Then we will bust up the old wooden steps and shovel out the soil beneath,

    There’s more, but you get the idea. Plus this kind of project is so mcuh better with a go-fer, don’t you think?

  15. Choppy Says:

    Well as someone who does concrete work I need to tell you a few reasons why I would have to rent a jack hammer and redo these stairs if I had done this for any paying customer. And, you should do the same! These stairs are a hazard and everything but the hand print looks like crap!!! As someone pointed out already: the bottom riser being so much shorter then the others is a trip hazard going down. You need to measure how far the stairs have to drop and calculate the risers to ensure they are even. Example” if the difference in height from his gate to the patio is say 28″ then he should have made four 7″x ? risers.
    Its looks like the only finishing you did was hand floated it flat and put a hand print in it. Good job on the hand print but bad job on the rest. It doesn’t look like you edged it to put a smooth round finish on the edge of each step. So, the sharp edges you left are like concrete knives! I would hate to trip and fall on them because you will most certainly lose some skin! And speaking of falling. It also doesn’t look like you broomed the stairs either. This leaves a rough texture on the concrete to minimize slipping. The surface of smooth poorly finished concrete is like ice when its wet! These are the reasons why no one should ever pour a stairs anything like this one.
    The base work was also done wrong too. You need to use properly compacted material for your stair base and I doubt any rebar went into this project so you may not need to worry about them for long anyway. The concrete is poorly supported and will likely crack and heave. Mother nature will jack hammer them out for you over the next few seasons. Especially if you get winter. And, what kind of concrete did you use? There are different types of concrete too!
    Some projects are do it yourself and some aren’t. Concrete isn’t.

  16. builderscott Says:

    Choppy, put down your soap box and slowly back away. The fact that he is going to clad the concrete with flagstone negates all of your delicately scribed oppositions – the first step height, the edges, and the texture. Sheesh.

  17. cement mason Says:

    Whoa!!! what the hell is that??

  18. Jim W. - Cincinnati, Ohio Says:

    Because I’m construction-challenged, I took the “Pro’s” caveats seriously — exclusive of the anti-DIY stuff. So after twice viewing the $9.99 DIY video I bought at a local building supply retailer, I took my notes & measurements back to the store where I found the most helpful store-associate behind the Contractor’s service counter. Handing over my notes & measurements including some wish-list stuff (like a creamy die for permanently coloring the cement), the associate entered my data into his PC’s bill-of-materials software (and gave me a free CD for my PC). One weekend later: my new cement, garden steps were absolutely perfect. Not bad for a DIY klutz! Now if I can only figure out how to make those combination miter cuts for the inside corners in the kitchen….

  19. licensed contractor Says:

    Those look like they were built by a 12 year old. I suggest you stop watching so much HGTV and hire someone who knows what they are doing next time.

  20. biff Says:

    Covering it in flagstone?

    You can smear chocolate icing on dog crap all you want but it will never be a cake!

    Don’t waste the flagstone, it will crack, heave and fall apart.

    This shoddy work is why building codes exist.

  21. rwGRG Says:

    DEATH TRAP

  22. DIY Pro Says:

    Oh my!!! WoW. Really??? I mean really????
    Such a waste of time and perfectly good cement. DIY means to do it yourself instead of hiring a contractor. It does not mean you have the luxury to make it up as you go along. Listen to the Pro below. Building Codes are in place for a reason. It is to protect people from grossly executed projects like this. I don’t want to be mean, but you need to think about dealing with possible lawsuits if someone should fall using those steps. I am a DIY doer because I find it hard to find competent so called pros. I always exceed code standards, not just bearly meet them – or miss them completely. i.e. if you want to do it right, do it yourself. But for that to work, you must know what your doing.

  23. Cindy Says:

    I wish the critical people out there would post a better set of plans for DIY. I tried for a couple of years to get a contractor to come out and give me a bid on a sidewalk and they never would show up for the appointments we set. I guess they were too busy with bigger contracts. We finally did the front sidewalk ourselves. It was a lot of work but it turned out well. Now I’m thinking maybe we could handle a set of stairs. It would go a lot better with some competent instructions (if these are really as bad as you say.)

  24. Civil Engineer Says:

    Don’t let these fellows quoting codes and advising jack hammer solutions keep you from trying things out. You should try to find out the relevant codes and follow them they are generally there for good reason.

    Sure there are plenty of things that could have been done better with these steps. Sure they may not be the prettiest or the longest lasting. But it was a good effort. The lower step could be taken out by simply ramping down to paver level, if this really becomes a problem. The edges can be fixed with a grinder if necessary. If its to be clad in flagstones scoring the surface with that grinder to help the mortar stick to the steps might help as well.

    For future reference to keep concrete form cracking due frost, drop a tablespoon or two of dish soap into the mix. This creates microscopic bubbles in the concrete allowing moisture room for expansion when it freezes.

    light steel mesh 40-60mm from the surface of the concrete will also help avoid surface cracking it doesn’t have to be very heavy.

    Pros use a special vibrator (poker) to get all the big bubbles out of the concrete for a diy job try “rodding” just poke a rod in out of the wet concrete repeatedly throughout the mix, and hammer the sides of the wood forms. This can be overdone but you’ll probably get fed up before you do.

    Also consider cost, there are times when its actually cheaper to bring in a pro but there are also times when you can afford to get it all wrong 3 or 4 times before you spend as much as a pro will take (trust me you should see my fees…)

  25. DIY_for_ever Says:

    As a DIY guy (slowly turned anti-pro) I’ll say good job! Oh someone will trip because the last step is smaller.. not after putting the stone… duh.. and what happened to people having to watch their steps???
    I am getting ready to do a bigger job on my own after seeing how contractors try to rip you off (no shame asking in the $50/h range for basically unskilled work – this isn’t calculating the stress resistance of an aircraft…).
    I have re-done my entire house from tiles to carpentry, plumbing to electric and I’ll never hire a “pro” again… well except for pumping out my septic tank :)

  26. Randy-dyi Says:

    nice job

  27. Dalton Says:

    Good job. I don’t know why people are downing the project so much. You said you put stone on the bottom and re bar in. If it is properly seated then these stairs will outlast all these people commenting poorly. Why would you hire a contractor. Pretty simple job. All you got to remember is that, it is concrete. Throw some rebar in and you are good to go. I am currently renovating a 1920 house. I raised the house to make a 6 foot basement into a 8 foot basement. We poured on top of the existing foundation. Drilled into the old foundation top, put some rebar in, and poured. My old foundation had no rebar in it and still withstood the test of time. It had some minor cracks and holes but for 90 years old, that is bad@ss. For now I am currently trying to build concrete stairs and a concrete stub wall around my basement. This is how I got to this site. I have built concrete sound barrier walls for the sides of highways. I have built some panels for a Idaho bridge. All I am trying to say that concrete will last whether you know what you are doing or not. I am not saying it wont have cracks if you do it poorly but the concrete steps on this post will still be there when we are all dead. Cement is bad@ss. And like a previous post put about the uneven stairs. Who doesn’t watch their step anyway. If you got brains to do your own work then do it. I would be bankrupt if I hired contractors to do all my work. So far I almost renovated a whole house by myself. The only project I hired a contractor to do is lift the house. Would of took me too much time. So it was worth getting bent over once. Educate yourself. This is the information age. If you want to do something you can easily find information on how to do it properly.

  28. Dalton Says:

    Information age. To easy! Here is a good site. http://www.everything-about-concrete.com/building-concrete-steps.html

  29. Beauty Says:

    I really can’t believe so many ” cement proffessionals” are “so busy” online critiquing these three whole steps. Business must be slow or something…especially with people DIY-ing. IMO these steps are just fine for what they are being used for and where they are located. I was searching for a small set of steps to build for my personal use in my own backyard and i think i’ve found them. I won’t be ripped off by a so called *professional* ever again!! DIY for life.

  30. Mastercarp Says:

    For a first set of steps… Not bad! Should have tapped forms but it is what it is. Next time if your going to clad the steps, you should “tooth” the treads and risers which creates an area to bond stone to concrete. Toothing is done by scratching surface or roughing it up so to speak with a stiff bristle brush or something to that effect. It would probably be a good idea to note somewhere “Watch your step” for liability issues maybe a handrail would be in order. As a pro I commend your effort and I’m sure you’ve learned some do’s and dont’s ! Good job!