Installing Outdoor Concrete Stairs: DIY or Not?

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Jan 01, 2011 | Mark Stevens
concrete stairs

Concrete is an extremely durable, resilient material that can support heavy loads and last a lifetime. For these reasons, concrete is a good choice to use for building outdoor steps. It can be textured, colored and stamped, so it will be a visually appealing addition to your home as well. And if the concrete is sealed and weatherproofed, it will have no problem withstanding the elements. Whether you live in a city like Bridgeport, Connecticut and face freezing winters or somewhere like Irving, Texas and have to survive sweltering heat, your concrete should hold up just fine.

To DIY or Not to DIY?

Installing concrete stairs is a complicated, involved procedure. As a result, a professional concrete contractor can charge upwards of $150 per step, depending on the size, shape and style. While you may be able to save money on labor costs by installing the steps yourself, the complex nature of the project makes it unlikely that you’ll be able to do as good a job as an experienced professional. Concrete installations can be difficult to perform on your own, so read the following to understand what’s involved before you make a decision.

Installation of Concrete Stairs

Before getting involved with the concrete itself, you’ll first have to prepare the surface. The area where you wish to install the stairs must be completely clear, and dug out to a depth of six inches. Next, gravel must be placed to fill the area. After that, plywood frames have to be built to the exact dimensions you want the steps to be. You must also check the frames with a level to ensure they stand at exact 90 degree angles and are completely flat.

The next stage is preparing the concrete. You’ll first need to calculate the amount of concrete needed for your stairs, and then you’ll have to mix it. After you’ve mixed the desired amount, you’ll have to pour it into your frame. You’ll then need to smooth out the top of the concrete and fix up all the edges. Finally, after it dries, you need to seal and weatherproof the stairs.

The Advantage of Using a Professional

While many people have successful DIY experience with cutting wood to size and even installing tile floors on their own, concrete is more difficult than that. Mixing the correct amount, getting the right consistency and curing it are all tasks best left to experienced concrete contractors. The weather can also be a major factor in the strength of the finished product, and a concrete professional knows the best time and technique for producing lasting results.

Concrete installation is no simple project. Installing concrete stairs can be a time-consuming, laborious venture that, if not done correctly, will look unsightly and fall apart over time. Even if you’re an avid do-it-yourselfer, concrete is one area where you need to find a professional with know-how and experience.

Updated April 30, 2018.

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