How to Pour Concrete Steps

When describing how to pour concrete steps, there's not a whole bunch to tell. This is one of projects that's tough to explain and you just have to go and do it to learn. There are some tips that will help along the way. But the most important tip is to not take on more than you can handle. If you have no experience with concrete, then you shouldn't attempt more than two or three small steps at once.

Concrete Mix

Use the right mix for the project. If you buy concrete in bags, read the label and make sure it's 4000 psi strength with gravel or stone. If you want it delivered on a truck, just tell the ready mix supplier that you're pouring concrete steps and they will recommend the best mix.

Whether you use bags or have the concrete delivered depends on how much work you want to do and how much you want to spend. Using bags means more labor because you have to load it, unload it, and then mix it yourself. Buying from ready mix companies eliminates those three steps, but cost is significantly higher.

Pour Concrete Steps

Don't make the concrete too wet. Follow label instructions on the bag. Ready mixed concrete should be ordered with a slump of 5 or less.

In cool temperatures, use warm water in the mix for faster setting. In hot weather, use cold water so it doesn't set too fast.

Tip:Spray the inside of the forms with a non-stick cooking spray, like PAM. This will keep the forms from sticking to the concrete when it's time to remove them.

When you pour concrete steps, start at the bottom step and work your way up. As you pour, spade the concrete next to the forms with a hand float or a shovel. This helps prevent voids and air pockets against the forms. Strike off the excess concrete. Once the bottom step is filled, use a hammer and tap lightly but repeatedly on the sides of the forms. This brings the cream (cement paste) to outer edges of the concrete, which furthur eliminates air pockets. It also makes it much easier to finish the faces and sides of the step.

Continue upward until the top step is poured. If the concrete isn't too wet, then you should be able to continue pouring without interruption. It it's wet, then stop for several minutes between steps, allowing time for it to stiffen a bit.

pour concrete steps

pour concrete steps

When the steps are completely poured, smooth out the surfaces with a hand float. Run a concrete edging tool along the front and sides to round the edges.

Finishing the Steps

When the concrete has set enough to hold its shape, rub and smooth the tops of the steps first. This loosens the surface making it creamy. Run the edging tool again. Next remove the face forms, starting at the top step. Smooth the faces with a hand float and around the junction where the riser joins the tread. If there are still small voids and air pockets, you can scrape some cream off the top of the step and fill them in. Repeat this for the remaining faces.

Drag a broom across the surface to make a slip resistant texture. I don't recommend putting a ribboned edge with the edging tool. This will create a slick spot at the edge of each step. Let the concrete cure for a couple days before removing the side forms.

Hopefully voids on the sides were all filled in when tapping the forms. If not, you can mix some patching cement and fill them in.

Knowing how to pour concrete steps isn't difficult. Finishing the concrete is where most mistakes will be made. Fortunately, these cosmetic defects can be easily fixed anytime down the road.

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