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Concrete Steps: Construction and Repair
Concrete steps are everywhere. They are a common feature of American architecture. They are hardy no-fuss structures that get stepped on all the time and you never hear them complain. The construction of concrete steps is an endeavour that can be undertaken by DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike. There are some finer points that you should keep in mind, though.
One Step at a Time
Building concrete steps requires some more advanced techniques. Specifically, ground preparation, and the design and assembly of forms.
When the ground loses water it tends to shrink, which can cause steps to crack or sink. An uneven surface will give irregular support to the sidewalk and there is a good chance of problems down the line. However, it is common to see cracked and “chipped” steps as a result of substandard preparation.
The subgrade is the original ground where the steps will be constructed. The subgrade should be compacted and graded to give it a regular surface. The sub-base is a layer, usually of sand or gravel, that allows good drainage, does not shrink, and can be easily compacted.
Forms are wooden structures that hold the concrete in place while it sets. Forms will also give shape to the steps, so they should be carefully measured. You should keep the following in mind while assembling forms:
- The rise of each step should lie between 6 and 8 inches.
- The flooring of each step should be at least 12 inches.
- The landing step should be large enough to stand (keep in mind that some doors open to the outside).
- The complete stairway should be at least 6 inches wider on each side than the width of the doorway.
After pouring the concrete, use a float to level the steps and work with any “cream” that might form. Remember that concrete setting is a chemical reaction and heat and bubbles are produced. You should also use a sponge or a broom to give some texture to the steps: you don’t want them to be slippery! Also, larger steps might require steel reinforcements. Contact your contractor if you have any questions.
A Quick Word about Repairs
When it comes to concrete steps, the damage can come in many shapes and forms. Sometimes the edge of the tread gets chipped. This can be fixed easily with some mortar and a trowel, since this type of damage is mainly cosmetic. If the damage is more extensive, replacing the step might be the option. Especially if the sub-base has degraded or if it was not built in in the first place. If you have any questions and would like professional assistance, call your trusty contractor in the Portland area.