How To Build Outdoor Steps

Building a set of patio steps is within the capabilities of most homeowners. If the grade is fairly flat and not more than about two feet, there’s no need for a concrete footing. The stairs can be supported by 4×4 posts sunk into the ground and secured with concrete. This project will show you how to build outdoor steps using basic materials and common tools.

Determine the height of your steps.

The height of outdoor steps should be 1.5 times the height of the person using them.

The step should be high enough to allow people to step onto it without having to bend down, and low enough that they can still maintain a level head as they step up.

When you’re designing your outdoor stairs, keep in mind that the top edge needs to be lower than the bottom edge by about 6 inches (15 cm) for safety reasons.

Decide on the width and length of your steps.

The next step is to decide on the width and length of your steps. The width and length of the steps should be proportionate to the width and length of your deck. The width of the steps should be at least as wide as that of the deck, while their length should be at least as long as that of the deck.

The height of your outdoor stairs will depend on how high up they’ll lead. If they’re leading up to a second-story patio or a balcony, then their height must meet code requirements for staircases (usually around 36 inches).

If you have an existing outdoor seating area with raised platforms from which people often stand when using them, adding additional risers will make it easier for everyone in this situation by providing more space between platforms so that feet don’t get tangled up when moving around during meal time or other activities requiring standing positions.

Frame the steps.

Framing the steps means cutting and nailing 2x4s or similar, to create a sturdy base. If your stairs are going to be at all steep, you should use 2x6s or larger lumber for the steps themselves.Using a framing square and a tape measure, mark the exact dimensions of each stair onto one side of a single piece of wood (you’ll have to do this four times). Cut them out using a circular saw with an appropriate blade size (a standard thickness is 1-1/2 inches), then nail them together into two pieces: one for each side. You can also use plywood instead of solid lumber if you prefer

Pour concrete footers.

Your footers are the foundation of your steps. They are what’s holding up everything above them, so they need to be more solid than just dirt. The best way to do this is by pouring concrete into the soil.

The size of your footer will depend on how large your steps are and how much weight they’ll have to support. If you have small stairs, you can use short blocks or bricks for each one; if you have larger ones (like I did), then it will probably be helpful to build a single long concrete block that runs the entire length of each step so that its surface area will be enough for stability but not so long as to become unwieldy when building out from it later on during construction—just remember: whichever method works best for your project needs

Place a footing on each footer.

Footings are the foundation of your steps. A footing can be made of concrete, stone or even sandbags, but for this project we’ll use concrete.

  • Measure out a length along each footer where you want to place your steps. If you’re making 45 degree stairs, measure from the side of one step straight up to the side of another step and repeat until you reach the top of your hill.
  • Use a mason’s line tool to draw lines across each footer at right angles to each other as well as parallel with it so that they’re spaced evenly apart (about 12 inches).
  • To help with leveling later on in construction, mark off points on both sides of each line using a chalkline.

Lay out concrete blocks for the first riser.

  • Lay out the first riser with a level and a tape measure. Measure from the ground to where you want the top of your steps to be, and then use that measurement to determine how long you’ll need for each block. Make sure each one is straight by using a square or other straightedge (like a chalk line) as a guide.
  • If you’re using concrete pavers or bricks instead of blocks, follow these same steps but do not cut them down to size yet; leave them full length until they’ve been set into place on both sides of your foundation.

Fill each riser with gravel, level with a rake, then add soil and tamp down to make a firm foundation for your next tier of blocks.

Fill each riser with gravel, level with a rake, then add soil and tamp down to make a firm foundation for your next tier of blocks. Gravel is easier to install than pavers because it’s less expensive and requires less labor. You can also use it as the final surface for outdoor steps if you want an easy-to-maintain option that will last for years without showing wear or tear.

Secure the cement bricks with mortar and allow to dry for several hours before beginning the next step.

  • Mix the mortar with water in a wheelbarrow.
  • Use a trowel to mix the mortar and water together until it is thick and creamy.
  • When you are satisfied with the consistency of your mortar, apply it by using the notched side of your trowel and pressing lightly into place on top of each brick.

If laying brick steps is too big of a project, you can use all gravel or pavers.

If laying brick steps is too big of a project, you can use all gravel or pavers. This may be more cost-effective and less labor-intensive as well. Gravel is easier to maintain, replace and clean than brick so it won’t take as much time in maintenance if it gets dirty or needs to be replaced down the road.


If you are looking for a way to make your landscape more accessible and enhance the aesthetic appeal of your property, building outdoor steps is a great option. Outdoor steps have a long life span when properly built and can be an integral part of your home’s curb appeal

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