Building Concrete Steps

concrete steps

Here are the common dimensions used for building concrete steps safely: (check with the building codes of your city to be certain)

  • Individual riser height - also called "the rise" (the height of each individual step) = 7 inches
  • Individual width height - also called "the run" or "treads" (the width of each individual step) = 10-12 inches
  • Width of entire stairwell - 3 1/2 feet wide (preferably wider)
  • Steps with a height of more than 5 feet should have a landing with at least a 3 ft. run.
  • Footings - When your concrete steps will attach to a building, you will need concrete footings. In newer houses, the footings for concrete steps are normally installed by the foundation contractor. If there is not a foundation for the steps (such as in older homes), you need to install sono tubes at the base of the stairway, and they should extend 4 ft below the frost level (if that applies to your location - check your local building codes). Install 8-12 inch diameter sono tubes for steps.
  • Plan your dimensions

    A. Figure the total rise - measure the height from the top of the stairs to the bottom of the stairs

    B. Figure the number of stairs you will have - divide the total rise (answer from step A) by the individual rise you plan to use (typically 7 inches). Round this number off. This is the number of steps you will have.

    C. Figure exact dimension of each individual rise - To do this you will divide total rise (answer from step A) by the number of steps (answer from step B.

    D. Decide how deep you want each tread to be (the individual run - typically 10-12 inches.

    E. Figure the total run (where the stairway will end) - To do this, multiply the individual run (step D) by the number of steps you have (step B).

    - When building concrete steps, construct forms so that there is an expansion joint between the stairway and walk. - Slope 1/4 inch per running foot for the landing and 1/8 inch per foot for each tread to prevent rain and ice from gathering.

    F. Purchase 3/4 inch plywood that is at least as long and wide as your stairs will be (Step A and Step E)

    Make and install the step's side forms

    A. Draw lines on a 3/4 inch plywood showing total rise and total run. Allow 1 1/2 inches for the riser forms at the end of the landing. Mark the end of the landing and draw lines here to establish the location of the finished treads and risers.

building concrete steps

B. Set the side forms in place at your entryway. Use a framing square to make sure that they are perpendicular to the building foundation.

building concrete steps

C. Check the forms for proper slope and make sure that the forms are level with each other.

building concrete steps

D. Support the forms with 2 X 4 stakes that you pound into the ground with a sledgehammer.

concrete step forms

E. Nail or screw the forms to the stakes.

Make and install the step's riser forms

A. Cut 2X lumber (will either be 2X6 or 2X8) to the correct width and length for your risers.

B. Using a circular saw bevel (cut at a 45 degree angle) the outside bottom of each riser (except for the lowest riser), but leave 1/8 inch of each bottom un-beveled for strength. This bevel makes it easier to use trowels to finish the tread after the concrete is poured.

C. When building concrete steps, install the top riser first and work down. Use at least three double-headed nails or screws to fasten them to the side forms.

building concrete steps

Reinforce the forms - The weight of wet concrete exerts great pressure on your forms. When building concrete steps, support the form at all points where it may bulge.

  • Add more support stakes
  • Make sure none of the support braces will get in the way when it is time to trowel the treads or landing
  • If your stairs are wider than 4 feet, add a riser support (a kicker) near the center of the bottom form. Attach a 2X6 or 2X8 to a 2X4 stake driven deep into the ground at the center point.
  • Add more kickers to the side forms and push the side forms in slightly, as the pressure from the concrete will bow them back out to the right position.
building concrete steps

Pouring concrete steps

  • Water the forms down, or buy form release so that the concrete doesn't stick to the forms.
  • When you order the concrete, make sure the slump is at least a 4. It should be stiffer than when pouring flat work.
  • Pour the concrete from lowest riser to top riser.
  • Tap the side forms with a hammer or use a concrete vibrator to keep the rocks from sticking out the sides of your steps.

Finishing concrete steps

Pull the forms when the concrete is firm enough so that the corners don't fall. But make sure you pull the forms as soon as possible so that there is time to magnesium float the sides and fill-in voids.

Concrete steps are one of the hardest concrete projects to finish. Make sure that you have someone with finishing experience help you with this part.

building concrete steps

If you live in the Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs area, and are building concrete steps, request a bid.


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