How to Build Brick Steps: Learn From the Masonry Chicago Pros
How to Build Brick Steps Yourself – A Foolproof Guide
Whether you’re looking for some attractive garden steps or a new set of stairs up to your front door, bricks are the ideal material for creating a footpath with visual appeal. If they are well built, a brick stairway can last for many years, requiring very little maintenance. Building a set of brick steps is not a job for the amateur handyman, as they need to be carefully and solidly constructed, to withstand daily use. However, with a bit of expertise and patience, the more experienced home DIY fan can build a long-lasting brick stairway. If you’re looking for professional advice for any brickwork projects from steps and patios to garages and brick houses, speak to the experts at Masonry Chicago: 773-231-5371 or email [email protected]
Before you start building brick steps
Building brick steps is not for the newbie DIY enthusiast as they require quite a lot of skill and patience to get right. And getting them right is something you most certainly want to do. Build a flight of uneven or loose steps and you create a trip hazard, with the risk of injuring yourself or a guest.
So before you even start to build your brick front steps there are several things you need to consider.
Types of brick outdoor steps
There are two main types of brick steps and you need to work out which is best for you.
Brick and concrete steps
For this type of step, we are talking about a set of poured concrete steps, with bricks attached to the exterior. Ideally, the concrete steps will have been poured with this in mind, so there is sufficient space to apply your bricks, especially if you want brick porch steps that lead up to your front door. You always need to ensure your doors can open and your stairs don’t become a trip hazard.
If you already have concrete steps this is a more simple project than building a full set of brick steps, but it is important to make sure the concrete is solid and in good condition. Depending on the size of the concrete steps you can choose to cover them with thin brick or full-size brick.
Brick and block steps
Another method of laying out brick stairs is to pour a concrete foundation and then build up the brick structure using either concrete blocks or other cheaper bricks and then cover the exterior of the stairs with face bricks.
This is a good method to use if you are starting from scratch.
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Choosing your bricks
It’s very important to choose the right bricks for your environment. Firstly, you need to ensure that they are weather-proof and designed for outside use. If you are in an area where the temperature drops down very low, check they can withstand the freezing and thawing they will be subject to. Paving bricks are often the best choice as they are designed to be very strong, durable, and weather-resistant.
The size of your bricks will also influence the size of your steps so it’s best to experiment with a few standard brick sizes then calculate your steps based on the one that works best for your space.
Brick stairs calculations
Before you go shopping, measure the space available and calculate exactly how many bricks you’ll need. First, you need to determine the total rise of the stairs from the ground to the doorway. The normal rise of a single step is between 6 – 7.5 inches so you can use this to determine how many steps you will be making.
If space is limited you should also calculate the maximum possible depth so you can see how deep each stair tread should be. Anything from about 9 or 10 inches upwards is good.
You might need to do some creative calculations, arranging the bricks in different patterns, to work out how they will fit into your width and height limitations. Remember riser bricks can be laid either horizontally or vertically. You can also cut them down to size using a bolster and a hammer.
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Step-by-step: how to build brick steps
Here’s our guide to how to build block and brick steps.
- First, dig and pour your foundation, making sure it goes below the frost line. You may want to lay some gravel below the cement, before pouring, to allow better drainage. You can also lay the cement with a very slight pitch to assist with water runoff.
- Allow the cement to completely cure before laying out your first course using the cheaper, non-face bricks where they won’t be seen.
- Mix your mortar mix to the desired consistency, following the instruction on the packet. Alternatively, you can make mortar from a mix of 1 part portland cement and 3 parts fine sand. Then dampen the bricks so they don’t cause the mortar to dry out too quickly.
- Using a trowel put down approximately 0.5 inches of mortar on the foundation, leveling it with a screed.
- Place the bricks in your chosen tread pattern and tap them into place with a mallet. Remember to leave 0.5 inches between each brick. Fill these gaps with mortar, using your trowel.
- Build up your steps, layer by layer.
- At the front of the tread, the top of the tread, and for the riser, remember to use a face brick. As you go ensure you check that your bricks are level.
- Use your concave jointer tool on all the exterior joints to create neat joints.
- Brush away any excess mortar before it fully dries out.
- Make sure the mortar has fully dried before you use the steps.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to build brick steps?
If you take professional advice and get your brick steps installed for you, you can expect to pay from $19 – $24 per square foot. If you believe you are able to safely build them yourself materials will cost approximately $4.30 per square foot.
This means that for a typical 300 square foot project, you will pay between $5,700 – $7,200. If you decide to build them yourself, and already have the appropriate tools, materials will come to about $1,290.
How deep should brick steps be?
Unlike building concrete steps, the size of your steps will be very much dependent on the dimensions of the bricks you choose. The location of the steps will also come into play, and how much room you have available.
In general 6 – 7.5 inches is a good rise (height) for each step and regarding the depth of steps, between 11 – 21 inches gives a comfortable and safe tread. If you are building garden steps, having wider treads will make for a more straightforward project and safe stairs.
Can you make steps out of bricks?
Bricks are a great material for outdoor steps, as long as you choose weatherproofed ones. As bricks are porous they are good for preventing water from pooling on the stairs. However they are prone to moss growth which can make them slippery, so keeping them clean is essential.
Are brick steps expensive?
Brick steps are definitely more expensive than concrete steps but they are also much more attractive and aesthetically appealing. On average a set of brick steps costs around $5,000 to have built, while a set of concrete steps is closer to $2,000.
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