Advice for building a step - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 07-17-2019, 10:14 AM Thread Starter
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Advice for building a step

Hello

I'm finishing paving a walkway at the side of my house, and one of the next steps is to make sure there is a step in front of the two doors.

Originally I was thinking to make a frame out of presure-treated 4x4s (stacked two high) and put two of the smaller paving stones inside. The resulting height of the step would be about right. And that way I wouldn't need to see the ugly sides of the pavers, but:
  • I would see the end-grain on the 4x4s, which definitely isn't pretty, and
  • Even if I run them through the jointer and plainer, I don't think I can hope that the wood will stay flat enough to prevent ugly holes over the years.
I can't come up with any better ideas. Does someone here have any suggestions? I've put a lot of effort into making this side of the house look realy nice, and I'd rather not have something half-assed sitting on top :)

Thanks in advance.
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Last edited by AndrewSmith; 07-17-2019 at 10:16 AM.
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post #2 of 24 Old 07-17-2019, 10:33 AM
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If it were me I would make the step out of concrete and cover it with the pave stones. Wood expands and contracts which would reek havoc with the pave stones.
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post #3 of 24 Old 07-17-2019, 10:50 AM Thread Starter
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Just regular concrete? That's kind of ugly.


In the back yard I had a small area with exactly these stones, framed in a similar way. It lasted about 3 years and would have lasted many more but I disassembled it because I needed to lower the grade.


The difference is in the back it's sitting on the ground, beside grass and plants and a sandbox, so it looks like it fits well. I'm not so sure it would look as good sitting on top of the pavers.
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post #4 of 24 Old 07-17-2019, 06:52 PM
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I built one step out of 2x4a because very few people come to the front door and those that do don't care. Curious to see what you do with the project.
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post #5 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 06:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Neul View Post
If it were me I would make the step out of concrete and cover it with the pave stones. Wood expands and contracts which would reek havoc with the pave stones.

Completely agree.


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post #6 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 08:00 AM
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Use solid concrete blocks or ...

If you can only have a 4" high step, then use solid concrete, 1/2 blocks and put the pavers on top. Have them overhang about 1" or so and the concrete will be barely visible. The total hieght of the step would be about 5 1/2" or so. Make it at least 16" or 20" wide so when you step out you have plenty of "platform" to stand on, not balancing on an 8" wide step. Don't use wood, no need to mix materials, stick with stone/concrete.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #7 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 04:06 PM
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Use concrete bricks or blocks to make a base, depending on height you need, glue pavers on top of them.
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post #8 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 04:58 PM
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What I said ^

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankC View Post
Use concrete bricks or blocks to make a base, depending on height you need, glue pavers on top of them.

Must be an echo on the web ....... or an 8 hr time delay?

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #9 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 05:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
Must be an echo on the web ....... or an 8 hr time delay?
Nope, I just didn't read your post.
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post #10 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 06:10 PM
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Ok ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankC View Post
Nope, I just didn't read your post.

I knew you didn't like me.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #11 of 24 Old 07-18-2019, 10:02 PM
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I knew you didn't like me.
Wasn't intentional.

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post #12 of 24 Old 07-19-2019, 01:59 PM
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I'd be more inclined to cast the step as one piece of concrete and then apply the pavers over it. Much less chance of cracking than with masonry (blocks or bricks.) Make sure to leave a little clearance so the pavers don't touch anything other than the cast step. The tread pavers should overhang the riser pavers, not the other way around. I would grind an eased edge on the leading edge of pavers to reduce the sharpness. Put a back bevel on the riser for heel clearance. Provide clearance between the step and the house to allow for ground movement, especially if there is freezing or big changes in soil moisture. You don't want the step to "snag" on the house.
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post #13 of 24 Old 07-19-2019, 05:17 PM
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Not me ^

It's a whole lot of work to cast concrete. You need a form, a mixing tub or bucket, a screed and a strong back to carry the redimix at 80 lbs a bag.



Precast blocks come in 4" X 8" X 16" sizes. your step would need to be a module of 8" or 16" so that's 32" or 40" long X 16" or 24" wide. You may have to trim the pavers which may be 18" square....?

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #14 of 24 Old 07-19-2019, 06:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Schweitzer View Post
I'd be more inclined to cast the step as one piece of concrete and then apply the pavers over it. Much less chance of cracking than with masonry (blocks or bricks.) Make sure to leave a little clearance so the pavers don't touch anything other than the cast step. The tread pavers should overhang the riser pavers, not the other way around. I would grind an eased edge on the leading edge of pavers to reduce the sharpness. Put a back bevel on the riser for heel clearance. Provide clearance between the step and the house to allow for ground movement, especially if there is freezing or big changes in soil moisture. You don't want the step to "snag" on the house.

I agree. Yes, it is some physical work, but a job this small would be relatively easy. You would not have to use mortar on the bottom to hold blocks and on top to hold pavers. Just set the pavers into the concrete.



Any straight board will to for a screed. You do not need a float to smooth the top as you are putting pavers on there. Redi mix also comes in 40# bags in this area. A form would be 3 boards of the correct width. A space between step and house depends upon ground type and climate. I have always lived in the South or California when pouring concrete and have had no problem with ground movement.


This comes from a person who has mixed (mostly in a wheel barrow) many yards of concrete. Of course this was in my younger days. I have also rented a mixer when the size and speed of the project required it. Also have had pre-mix delivered.


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post #15 of 24 Old 07-19-2019, 08:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
It's a whole lot of work to cast concrete. You need a form, a mixing tub or bucket, a screed and a strong back to carry the redimix at 80 lbs a bag.



Precast blocks come in 4" X 8" X 16" sizes. your step would need to be a module of 8" or 16" so that's 32" or 40" long X 16" or 24" wide. You may have to trim the pavers which may be 18" square....?
Agree, go to any landscaping outlet and they will have all sizes of blocks you can use, they will also sell you a tube of adhesive to stick the pavers on the blocks, much simpler than pouring concrete and no waiting for it to set.

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post #16 of 24 Old 07-20-2019, 10:53 AM
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We have had paving stone steps for six years. They were simple to make with paving stones (pavers) and an adhesive tube in a caulking gun. The steps have held up without issues or separation or anything since we made them. We have four paving stone steps like the one in the photo.

We used Techniseal HP2 polymeric sand between the paving stones (MI21-037, Mojave Tan). We use a cheap Harbor Freight angle grinder and a diamond blade to "cut" and shape paving stones to size. Wear a dust mask, eye protection, and hearing protection!!
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post #17 of 24 Old 07-25-2019, 09:57 PM
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And don't forget the rebar.
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post #18 of 24 Old 07-26-2019, 10:03 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tool Agnostic View Post
We have had paving stone steps for six years. They were simple to make with paving stones (pavers) and an adhesive tube in a caulking gun. The steps have held up without issues or separation or anything since we made them. We have four paving stone steps like the one in the photo.

We used Techniseal HP2 polymeric sand between the paving stones (MI21-037, Mojave Tan). We use a cheap Harbor Freight angle grinder and a diamond blade to "cut" and shape paving stones to size. Wear a dust mask, eye protection, and hearing protection!!
That looks really nice. But the edges of your pavers look much better than mine. I have unilock bristol valley pavers, and it looks like they actually put a centimeter of a separate (coloured and with no large particles) aggregate on top of the regular concrete. It looks and works great on the top, but not on the sides (which are intended to be hidden).

I think I'll give the wood frame a shot and if it doesn't work - I'll rethink it.

I put a lot of time and energy getting rid of the ugly concrete on that side of the house, and I'd rather not put it back in if I have other options :)
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post #19 of 24 Old 07-26-2019, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AndrewSmith View Post
That looks really nice. But the edges of your pavers look much better than mine. I have unilock bristol valley pavers, and it looks like they actually put a centimeter of a separate (coloured and with no large particles) aggregate on top of the regular concrete. It looks and works great on the top, but not on the sides (which are intended to be hidden).

I think I'll give the wood frame a shot and if it doesn't work - I'll rethink it.

I put a lot of time and energy getting rid of the ugly concrete on that side of the house, and I'd rather not put it back in if I have other options :)
In case it matters, our paving stones are Antique Kobble and Mega Antique Kobble from Acker-stone (Ackerstone) in assorted colors:
http://www.ackerstone.com/commercial...kobble-sq-rec/
http://www.ackerstone.com/commercial...ue-kobble-2pc/
http://www.ackerstone.com/commercial...ntique-kobble/
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post #20 of 24 Old 08-06-2019, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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I finished it. Doesn't look as good as stones would have on their own, but I didn't want to go searching for something to match and being dissapointed anyway cause it didn't.

Also I never cut joints this big before, that was fun.

Here's the result:

Advice for building a step-img_20190806_084447.jpg

And how I made the step:

Advice for building a step-img_20190729_182754.jpg

Advice for building a step-img_20190729_184707.jpg

Advice for building a step-img_20190729_185706.jpg

Advice for building a step-img_20190729_193629.jpg

Advice for building a step-img_20190729_195954.jpg

Advice for building a step-img_20190730_133039.jpg

Advice for building a step-img_20190730_135825.jpg

There's no glue but I left it out on purpose, figuring it better to allow the wood to move if it wants. Also the fit was just right, and I'm not sure I would have been able to deal with the glue in there.

What's not in the photos is the first joint I made which was pretty ugly. Problem was the 4x4s, though plained, were not straight so the saw's fence wasn't serving as a good reference.

So I jointed and planed them just enough to get them to be straight, and then it was a piece of cake.

Lucky I remembered I had that coping saw. Cutting out the inside of the mortise with a chisel was a very annoying process :)
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