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DIY outdoor steps

Updated February 21, 2017

If you add a porch or deck to your house, you will probably have to build steps to get up to and down from your new platform. While it might be tempting to call in a professional to help you build the steps, it is actually rather easy to build steps yourself. Depending on the type of steps you want, building your own outdoor steps can take little cost and time.

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The biggest question you will face when building stairs for the outdoors is what material to use. Usually, stairs for outdoor use are made of concrete, brick or wood. Each of these has its own pros and cons. Brick can be beautiful, but building brick stairs can be time-consuming and challenging. If your stair dimensions are not evenly divisible by the brick dimensions, you will need to cut some bricks down with a brick saw. Concrete is easier to use than brick and very sturdy, but it can give your stairs an undesirable industrial look. Wood stairs are classic but are prone to weather damage. Make sure you take into account your local climate, the complexity of the stair-building project and the amount of wear you expect your stairs to take as you determine the best material.


Once you have decided what materials to use, make the necessary measurements to plan how many stairs you need to build. Each stair should have a rise of 187 to 200 mm (7 1/2 to 8 inches), so measure the height of your platform in inches and divide that number by 7 or 8. The answer will be the number of stairs you need to build. Take that number and multiply it by 255 mm (10 inches) to determine the distance from the back wall your bottom step must extend. Each step should be about 255 mm (10 inches) deep and 200 mm (8 inches) high.

Constructing Stairs

The process for building brick, concrete and wood stairs varies depending on the material, but all follow the same basic concept. You have to build some support frames with wood. For concrete stairs, these are usually pieces of 18 mm (3/4 inch) plywood which are cut into the stair pattern and faced with pieces of 50 by 200 mm (2 by 8 inch) board screwed into the risers. Once you have built the support frames and faced the stairs, you can then pour the concrete.

For wood, the stair support pieces are called stringers and are often built out of 50 by 305 mm (2 by 12 inch) boards. The stringers are what the steps (built out of 50 by 255 mm (2 by 10 inch) boards) are placed on and have 90 degree angles cut out of them that form the sides of each step. Once you have the supports cut and mounted to the wall, screw in your 50 by 255 mm (2 by 10 inch) boards to the stair supports to form the stair runs.

If you are building stairs from brick, you may want to build a smaller version of the concrete stairway and then lay the brick on top of it. Make sure that the bricks are the right size and cut them down if need be. If you choose to make the stairs of brick alone, check that your bricks are the correct size and are laid out correctly to form even stairs with the same rise and run. Place a layer of brick across the entire footing of your staircase, 200 mm (8 inches) high. Then measure 255 mm (10 inches) from the first step, place a layer of mortar and begin to lay bricks for your second step, which will run from this point all the way to the back of the footing. Continue this process until all the stairs have been laid.

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About the Author

R.L. Cultrona is a San Diego native and a graduate of San Diego State University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater, television and film with a minor in communications and political science. She began writing online instructional articles in June 2009.

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