Curved concrete steps photographed from an upper deck.
Overall these steps turned out quite well, the only thing that would have improved the results wood be to have cut the forms with a flexible Acrylic sheeting or thin plywood. The fiberboard is extremely strong and light, however as it got wet it would expand causing some shape loss and bulges. These steps are getting stucco texturing, concrete paint and sealer in the spring so it was not a big deal.
Things You’ll Need:
- Quickrete regular mix bags(the project shown used approximately 90 of the 80 pound bags.)
- Quickrete Sand Topping mix (this project used approximately 13 of the 60 pound bags)
- Acrylic sheeting or fiberboard(fiberboard was used in this project it is approximately $20 per sheet and 1 and a half sheets were used.)The only problem with the fiber board is that it can expand.
- Hose and nozzle
- bolts and nuts
- Circular saw
- concrete blocks
- Electric drill
- mixer attachment for the drill($20 or less on average)
- regular bits
- step Edge tool(Usually $7 or less)
- 14 gauge or less wire mesh
- wire cutters
- Flat hoe
- paint brush
- Vinylcrete or hydraulic cement.
- 2×4 lumber or whatever is need for your apron depth.
- Step 1 Dig out the step area in the approximate shape that your steps will be.
Plan how you want your steps to look and where you want them to be. Then begin digging out the general area for your steps. In this case we are making 16 inch wide steps. The steps were made over a 4 day period and supported in a cake layer style. The first 3 layers had been dugout to a 24 inch width so that each step was resting on a 10 inch width of the previous step, the rest of the step rests on the existing clay or dirt.
- Step 2 Measure and cut the form board to the height you are going to use for your steps .
Measure the width on the form board that you want your step height to be. A 6 or 8 inch step height is pretty normal for outdoor steps. In this project an 8 inch step height was used. The concrete blocks are 8 inches high and are being used to hold the forms in place, because you can’t use stakes to hold the forms on the second step on up.
- Step 3 Stake in your forms and add enough concrete powder inside the form to keep it from pushing inward.
Set up and stake your form in place or use concrete blocks. You can only use stakes on the first layer if there is exposed ground. Empty some bags of Quickrete inside the form area. Rake the Quickrete level until it is an even Half inch high throughout the form.
- Step 4 Add water and then cut and lay your wire mesh.
Spray the 1/2 inch thick layer of Quickrete until saturated. Allow the Quickrete to set for about 15 minutes. While your Quickrete is setting, begin cutting your mesh to fit and lay inside your form.
- Step 5 Keep building and spraying your layers of Quickrete until you have about a half inch from the top of the form.
Add Quickrete and rake the powder level. With every inch of concrete, Saturate with water and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes. This prevents the possibility of stressing or breaking your forms. Keep repeating these steps until you are a half inch from the top. Now let everything sit for about 14 hours or more in temperatures above 65 degrees.
- Step 6 Dig back 24 inches from the top of your first step. Do not dig below the level of the first step.
Dig out the next step area so that there is about 24 inches from the top of your first step. Do not dig below the level of the first step.
- Step 7 Make a plate and bolt 2 pieces together if you need forms longer than 8 feet.
Cut your next form boards Add an extra 1/2 inch to your desired height to compensate for being 1/2 inch low. Use an 8 inch piece to join your 2 larger pieces together. Then drill and bolt them together this will allow you to make forms longer than 8 feet if needed. Make sure the flat screw head is on the inside of the form and the nuts are on the outside of the form.
- Step 8 Set your form in place using your concrete blocks.
Now set up your form and lay the concrete blocks lengthwise to hold your form in place , this will also give you the 16 inch wide step depth. Repeat the earlier steps for filling the form and leave your half inch from the top of the form. When you have made all of your steps except the top step then, move on to step 9.
- Step 9 Dig your top step out and dig a desired apron shape.
You are now ready to make the very top step, you can do the front form in the same fashion as the other steps. Remember to make the height an extra 1/2 inch. It is not a bad idea to have your top step end with some sort of apron. In the project pictured, a small apron is added which will then have a large paver patio extend from it. You can dig the whole top step back to 8 inches, but it will also work just fine if you dig your apron depth to 4 inches and still use mesh. Use 2×4 lumber or 2×8 lumber depending on your apron depth. Use wood stakes to secure your apron forms.
- Step 10 Mix your sand topping mixture to make a relatively self leveling finish coat.
Add your concrete just as you did on the other steps. You can now begin mixing your top coat. Fill a 5 gallon bucket 1/3 full of water. Now add an entire 60 pound bag of Quickrete sand topping mix. Use the drill mixer to thoroughly blend the topping mix. This mixture will give you a good somewhat self leveling mix. Now pour the mixture into the top form, and repeat this procedure until the form is entirely full. Some areas may need a thicker mixture, such as where the form ends. Fill the 5 gallon bucket 1/4 full of water and use a 60 pound bag of sand topping for a thicker mixture.
- Step 11 Use your step tool to make a nice rounded edge, this will help prevent the edges from chipping off of your steps.
Use your step tool to put a nice edge around your step and apron. The edge tool helps prevent chipping on the steps. Use a trowel to smooth and level your step and apron, If needed use a 2×4 board to slide across the the top of the form to level and smooth out the finish. It is a good idea to use a broom or a brush and make a light texture on concrete work that is outside, this helps add some slip protection.
- Step 12 Brush a texture in the finish work and let sit.
Once you get to a leave well enough alone point, let your work sit for 14 hours or more. Once the top step is solid, remove the form and begin the same process for the next step. Repeat these procedures for all of your steps.
- Step 13 Use hydrolic cement or Vinyl-crete to touch up imperfections with a brush on the step faces where the forms previously were.
Use a brush to touch up any imperfections that were underneath where the forms were. Just remember that hydraulic cement sets up very quickly so don’t waste any time once it is mixed.
Tips & Warnings
- Only haul the weight of Quickrete that your vehicle can handle.
- Some stores have free or low charge delivery of the Quickrete so check around Only buy what you think you are going to use quickly
- .Take your time. Find a “leave well enough alone point”.
- There are other methods for light touch up work if needed that I will cover in another article.
- If you are making a slab or steps in an indoor area such as a barn, garage or basement then use a 6 or 4 mil plastic sheet and lay it down first then do your leveling lay your mesh build your forms on top of the plastic.
- The plastic will act as a moisture barrier.
- Give your concrete work as much time to cure as possible.
- Take your time. Your speed will improve with a little practice.
- Try not to bite off more than you can chew when first learning.