For this project, the experts update existing prefab concrete steps. Prefab means that the concrete was poured to a form, and then delivered onsite. All prefab steps have a lip that goes around the front and the sides. In this case, the lip is badly worn and chipped. Because you'll want your surface to be as even as possible before covering it with the new stone, that lip will have to go. Use a chipping hammer to knock the lip off each step.
Check your local building codes before any significant renovation or addition. When covering over your existing prefab steps, it's very important to make sure that your new steps follow code. Most building codes have proper step height between six and eight inches.
Before building anything, you'll need to mix mortar. For a project like this, use type-S mortar, which is a mixture of mortar and cement, and will give you a stronger bond. You'll want to use two buckets of mason sand for each bucket of type-S mortar. That will give you a richer and stickier mix.
In a wheelbarrow, dry mix the type-S mortar and sand with a hoe, then add water. Your mixed mortar should have the consistency of peanut butter. Always be sure to wear a face mask when mixing mortar or concrete in order to avoid breathing concrete dust.
With the mortar mixed, you can now add your bricks to create the new first step. You're going to be setting the brick around the front and sides to create the outline of the new step. Bear in mind that these bricks will eventually be covered with stone veneer, so you can even recycle old bricks for this step.
First make sure that your new step will be level to the ground. Run a string line across the steps at the new height, to mark where you'll be building up to. The original prefab concrete steps may not be level. To solve that problem, set two rows of brick laying flat on one end of the steps, and one row of brick standing up on its side on the other end. That evens out the height of the bricks to make the new step level (Image 1).
With the bricks set, fill in the empty space behind them with broken up concrete. Then cover the concrete with mortar, and smooth it out to get a solid base for setting the stone risers (Image 2).
A trip to the quarry may be necessary to pick out the perfect stones for your project. First, calculate how much stone you'll need. Remember that you can always bring your measurements to the quarry, and they'll tell you how much you'll need. If you have a truck, you can load the stones into your own truck at the quarry. Otherwise, you'll need to have them delivered to your home.
You can use a few different types of stone for their new step system. In this project, real stone veneer covers the brick risers. Stone veneer is a thin stone used to cover surfaces. Oakmont Brownstone is used for the treads. Finally, some additional pieces of brownstone are used for the platform at the top of the steps. These brownstone multiples come in different sizes, so you can create your own pattern to cover the platform.
If you purchase a tread that is too long for the steps, it will need to be cut. To cut a tread, you first mark off where you want to cut it. Allow for a one-inch overhang on either side when cutting his tread. Then use a 4-1/2 inch masonry grinder to score a break line that's about 1-inch deep.
Use a stone hammer to pop the end off. Be certain to wear eye protection any time you are chipping or cutting stone. Use a chisel and stone hammer to create a rock faced edge where you made your cut, so that the edge of the stone will look natural.
Before setting any stone, it's important that you first plan out your step design. You'll be setting down treads, risers and pieces of brownstone multiples. It will be important that everything be properly measured and symmetrical, otherwise you'll have a lot more work on your hands correcting things.
You'll want to start with the treads first, since they need to be set before adding any risers. For this project, first set down the tread for the lower step. To do this, lay down a thick bed of mortar to rest the tread on, and then put down the stone tread. Make sure it is centered and level over the step system. You'll also want to make sure that the stone is pitched forward just slightly (about a quarter bubble on your level,) so that any water will flow down the stairs.
Before you place any stones against the front of your house, you'll want to put in some copper flashing. Copper flashing is a thin strip of copper that will protect any wood on the front of your house from moisture. Simply nail down the copper flashing to the front of your house, and then you're ready to set the stone treads and brownstone multiples.
For the side treads, use the same method as with your front tread: lay down some mortar and place the two side pieces along the edges of your platform. These treads should now run along the edges of your platform, and will frame the brownstone multiples that you'll eventually install.
Now that the stone treads have been set, you can finish your platform. One design option is to use five different pieces of multiple brownstone, cut to different sizes for a distinctive look. Of course, you can use whatever design you'd like.
When you're laying down multiple brownstone, be sure to lay down the front pieces (farthest from the front door) first. Then work back towards the door. That way, if you end up having to cut any of your pieces of stone (which is very likely,) then they'll be hidden in the back.
Lay down your mortar base, then put down the stone pieces. Use a rubber mallet to tap the pieces flat. If you do end up having to cut, you can use your 4-1/2 inch masonry grinder, the same as with the stone treads.
After you've put down the pieces of stone multiples for your platform, then the final step is to joint the pieces. Use a jointer to fill in the joints, then smooth them out with a paintbrush.
Now you're ready to set the stone veneer on the risers and sides of the stair unit. For each row, start with the corner pieces first. Also, bear in mind that the cement at the top of your platform may be a little uneven since you knocked the lip off at the beginning of this project. Be sure to put down a lot of mortar to get enough grip for the veneer.
You can mix up thin veneer stones for color and size variety. Center the top riser with a chunky square-shaped stone, and then put down two longer stones to either side. For the lower riser, put a longer stone in the middle, and two shorter stones on either side. The result is a more pleasing design for your steps.
Use a jointer and some stiffer mortar to fill in the all of the joints between the stones. You want to make sure that there are no places where water can get into. Be sure to get all of the joints going across and down, and then smooth them out with a paintbrush.
Your final task for the steps is to lay down the last stone tread. Lay down a thick layer of mortar, same as with the previous treads, then place the stone tread down. Give it some good whacks with the rubber mallet to get it in place, then check to make sure that it's pitching forward, and level from right to left. Once the stone is set, then your steps are complete, and it's time to move on to the walkway.
First, figure out how wide you want your walkway to be. One factor determining the width of your walkway may be how long it extends. You want to make sure that your walkway is not out of proportion to the yard or front of the house. Center your walkway off the middle of the steps, and then use marking paint to mark the edges.
Starting from the outside in, use a shovel to dig down six inches for the entire length and width of the walkway. Next, lay down three inches of 3/4-inch crushed gravel to make sure that your pavers will have an adequate grade. Use an iron rake to spread the gravel out.
Set up a string line to use as a guide for the height of your walkway. Nail down an iron spike at one end of your walkway, to mark the top of your pavers. At the other end, tie down the string line so that it is flat against any pavement that the walkway will be lining up to. This will mark out the final height for your walkway. Use a compactor to compact the gravel until it is uniformly three inches down from your string.
The final step in prepping the base is to put down a 1-inch layer of concrete sand. Lay down some metal 1-inch pipes along the edges of your walkway to use as guidelines while you fill in the sand. As you fill in the sand, work backwards from the front stoop to the street, and remember to check the level as you work. Then run a screed board over it, to smooth and level the sand.
Now it's time to lay down the pavers. Keep in mind that you can save time by setting your pavers down along the walkway to save time. Figure out what sort of pattern you might want for your walkway pavers. A good pattern will avoid any cross joints in your pavers. You may want to also be sure that the pavers add up evenly at the end of each row, so you won't have to make any cuts.
Before laying down pavers, measure out the center point on your steps, and measure halfway over, to where you want one of your walkway's borders to end. Then square a string so that it runs all the way down the walkway to the street. You'll use this as a guide for laying out your pavers.
Starting at the steps, lay down your first paver adjacent to the string line, and lay down your first row. Keep adding rows of pavers until you've reached the end of the walkway. Work from the sides to avoid disturbing the screeded sand, and remember to keep the joints tight.
After the pavers have been laid in, you can put down snap edging. Snap edging are strips of plastic that you place along the walkway borders, and will hold the pavers in place and keep them from moving. The snap edging is generally set below grade, and secured with landscape spikes.
Run a compactor over the pavers to push them into the sand base. This process helps secure the pavers. Remember to wear ear plugs while using the compactor. Use a broom to spread concrete sand into the pavers' joints, to give the walkway a finished look. Then spread loam to fill in the edges along the walkway. Hose down the steps and walkway, and you're finished.