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How to Make Cement Steps in a Hill

Updated March 23, 2017

Installing steps in a hilled yard or landscaped area can be an attractive way to grant access to sloped terrain. Constructing wood forms and filling them with poured concrete is the traditional way to create cement steps; using precast, cement step-forms bypasses this complex and labour-intensive process. Lay step forms side-by-side to create a wider staircase, and fill them with paver bricks for an attractive, durable finish.

Outline the dimensions of your planned steps with wooden stakes and mason's string. Include a 4-inch clearance on either side of your steps, as well as at the front and back.

Excavate a hole 6 inches deeper than the surface height of the step. Fill the excavated hole with compactible gravel. Rake the gravel to form a 1/8-inch, downward slope -- back to front -- for every foot of step length; this small slope enables water to run off in the direction of the slope instead of pooling on the surface. Flatten the gravel with a hand tamper -- a thick square metal plate with a tall wooden handle -- ensuring that the slope remains intact.

Place the precast step-forms for the first step on the gravel. Lay a level across the forms. Ensure they are level side-to-side, and maintain the correct downward slope from back to front.

Pour a layer of gravel inside the form and flatten it with a hand tamper. Confirm that the distance from the gravel surface to the top of the form equals the thickness of a paver brick, plus one inch. Verify this distance with a 2 x 4-inch wood board lain across the top of the forms. Measure down to the gravel surface.

Pour a 1-inch-thick layer of sand inside the form. Place the paver bricks in the forms in the pattern you desire. Add or remove sand beneath the bricks as needed to create a level surface. Gently pound the bricks with a rubber mallet to make slight height adjustments. Sweep sand over the pavers to fill in the brick joints.

Excavate for the next step, factoring in the overlap on the first and leaving a 4-inch clearance on both sides and back. Fill in this excavated hole with gravel. Tamp it down so that its surface is level with the top of the first step, and also has a 1/8-inch per foot downward slope back to front.

Repeat the process until all the cement steps are installed. Fill the 4-inch clearance along the sides, front and back of the staircase with dirt or gravel to achieve a clean, finished look.

Tip

Precast cement step forms may be filled with cement instead of paver bricks.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden stakes
  • Mason's string
  • Measuring tape
  • Shovel
  • Compactible gravel
  • Rake
  • Hand tamper
  • Precast cement step forms
  • Level
  • 2- by-4-inch wood board
  • Sand
  • Paver bricks
  • Rubber mallet
  • Broom
  • Fill dirt
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About the Author

Mara Kuljer has been writing since 1998 on local politics and environmental issues. She has been published in the "North County Times" and "San Diego Union Tribune." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of California, Los Angeles.