Steps are not merely ornamental. They’re functional and safety-critical. Installing concrete steps is best done by a professional.
Get them done right to provide that safe in/egress to your home by calling Rochester Hills Concrete.
Concrete makes sturdy steps— no doubt about that. They’re one of those features of any house or building that need to be trustworthy or else that part of the property might become inaccessible or dangerous.
While simple, smaller projects can be done correctly by homeowners themselves, most jobs— like pouring concrete steps— just need a professional’s touch.
DIY and Rookie Mistakes in Pouring Concrete Steps
We’ve been working concrete for many years and a big portion of the jobs we do are reworks. What we’ve seen is that steps are always tricky for DIYers and there are many mistakes that they usually make in pouring concrete steps. Some of these are:
- Forgetting the rebar
Admittedly, not all concrete projects require rebars. But when your steps reach a certain size, height, or length, reinforcement is necessary to prevent cracking.
Rochester Hills Concrete will always go the extra mile to reinforce your concrete projects with rebar or a steel mesh. It may be necessary in most cases to anchor the stairs to the patio or outside wall of the house. It’s safer to overdo than to be careless.
- Uneven forms
Visible excess concrete and off-looking steps are caused by having unstable or uneven forms. These forms will dictate the final appearance of the steps so they should be sturdy, of the right height, and properly stabilized by stakes.
They should also rest on even ground. Therefore, digging, leveling, and compacting the ground is as part of the job as pouring the concrete itself. And this is another thing that DIYers forget. If the steps don’t have a good base, they are bound to sink, crack, topple over, or fail completely.
Forms should be made of the right kind of wood that’s not just straight, but strong enough to support the volume of concrete that will be poured. These forms need to be staked at a maximum of 18 inches apart to avoid bending or breaking.
While some DIYers won’t bother, professionals always use a string line and a bubble level to make sure the ground and the forms are even. Anyone can see the difference in the finished steps.
For round or radius steps, steel forms work best. A most-requested feature, the oversized tread, can be done using special forms.
- Improper slump
Low slump concrete is necessary for pouring concrete steps because more water translates to a weaker product. It may be harder to tap or remove pockets of air with a low slump mix but a handheld pencil vibrator can take care of that.
You see, different kinds of projects need different concrete consistency. The premixed bag of concrete you buy at the local hardware store may suffice, but it is not specific for installing concrete steps. Plus, dryer concrete will necessitate the use of tools that most people don’t have lying around at home.
- Excess concrete sticking out of the ground
Visible excesses in pouring concrete steps are unsightly. They’re an easy indicator of a job done by a rookie.
When forms are made, they should be dug into the ground so that there wouldn’t be any excess concrete seeping out. Even if there are some (and nothing is ever really perfect), they can easily be covered by dirt if forms are built correctly, and the right depth is dug.
- The wrong finish
Stairs should be safe, and making a too smooth finish on them will cause people to slip and hurt themselves. Concrete pros know how to make steps look smooth from afar but are actually textured and safer when you use them.
The mistakes listed above in pouring concrete steps are not at all common to experienced concrete workers who do this kind of work day in and day out. How about we share with you some of our (not-so-secret) secrets?
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Pouring concrete steps have become second nature to us professionals, and we do beyond the ordinary to get the best result based on the unique factors of the project.
- For one, we consider the weather especially in curing concrete to get the strongest product possible. We also consider the users of the steps. If there are kids and elderly people, a tall rise wouldn’t be practical.
- State codes also indicate the installation of railings for steps over 30 inches in height.
- If settlement is an issue due to rain, we dig deep to remove the soil and replace it with crushed gravel for drainage. The concrete footing will be added on top of the gravel. This method is almost always done whether pouring concrete steps or installing pre-cast stairs.
- Rochester Hills Concrete not only has the experience and knowledge in pouring concrete steps properly. We also know the right concrete mix that will create the strongest steps to withstand the Northeast’s harshest winters and freeze-thaw cycles. The last thing you’d like to see is a crack on those steps. This brings us to our next tip.
- Lining the bottom with polyethylene or foam prevents frost from getting under the concrete and heaving it in the winter. The idea is to keep the concrete dry as much as possible to preserve it.
- When installing concrete steps attached to a patio, it’s important to do the steps first.
- Rochester Hills Concrete knows many different techniques to build safe and textured steps while looking elegant. Some of these include stamping, exposing aggregate, or overlaying them with concrete paver steps or other finishing materials. But the important thing is to make the steps complement the rest of the structure it is attached to be it the patio, the deck, the pathway, or the house itself.
Stamping can give you designs that make it look like you have wood, tile, or slate overlay. Most clients request darker colored noses or borders especially for taller sets of steps.
We also install concrete paver steps. This classic design complements most landscaped gardens. For safety and visibility, we usually install concrete paver steps in two colors. Veneers such as bluestone or tile are attractive additions, too.
We don’t recommend painting your steps as they fade over time especially with the amount of foot traffic the steps will be getting. As concrete professionals, we know that staining your steps instead will make the color seep deep into the concrete and keep it permanent. Sealing with a non-slip material will keep the color vibrant and keep the steps from getting slippery even in wet conditions.
The final look and strength of the steps prove the skill of the mason. A professional concrete worker will always be thorough, meticulous, and worth hiring.
When you think about it, hiring a professional actually costs less in the long run. There’s no rework, no damage to property, and your steps last longer. And of course, you can get the look, design, and finish that you want.
Installing concrete steps that are pre-cast or ready-made in a factory can be done by us. The work involves building drainage and a base for the steps and then placing the pre-cast steps on top. We have done these kinds of projects before and it is indeed easier than pouring concrete steps.
However, pre-cast steps are hollow and don’t have the same volume as a solid pour. It also doesn’t provide adjustments or allowances for your specific conditions so pre-measurements will have to be exact.
Comparing them side-by-side, both use recycled aggregate so both are eco-friendly. Both can carry your preferred design, although pre-cast stairs have more limited design options. Both are not prone to cracks because pre-cast steps are built in a controlled environment.
Yes, it takes longer to pour, form, and dry steps than to just buy a pre-cast set. But pouring concrete steps results in a more durable and solid product. However, if you prefer not to deal with dust and construction or you’re simply in a hurry, pre-cast steps are an option.
Rochester Hills Concrete is a trusted name in concrete work in and around Rochester Hills. We have done hundreds of residential and commercial concrete jobs over the years.
For homes that have a perfectly usable set of stairs that may have settled over time, we can provide concrete leveling and raising services to align them. We can also repair chipped or cracked concrete, overlay them with a new design, or acid stain them with your desired color. With our expertise in concrete, they always come out looking brand new.
Aside from pouring concrete steps, we also do quality decks, patios, retaining walls, countertops, flooring, fire pits, roads, pavements, ramps, and lots more.
Give us a call today so we can schedule a no-obligation estimate soonest.
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