Porch Steps: Wood, Concrete, or Stone?

A porch with steps.

Porch steps are needed to reach the doorways of most houses, due to the height of the house's foundation. They can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, concrete or stone. Choose the material of your steps based on the answers to the questions below.

What Is the Main Exterior Finish of Your House?

If your house has a wood plank exterior or aluminum siding, or is more than 75 years old, wooden steps will complement its appearance best. Match the paint on the wooden steps to the trim on shutters, eavestroughs, garage door, and other exterior details.

If you live in a modern brick house, choose concrete steps. Slim concrete steps are most suitable for tall, slender townhouses and duplexes. Houses with a decorative stone front, or with a stucco finish will be enhanced by stone steps that match the finish in texture and color.

Broad, semicircular stone steps, set on shallow risers, will add elegance to a house with a stone patio front. Stone or brick steps should match a driveway paved in brick or stone. Build stone steps to match stone planter boxes and other landscape treatments around the house.

How Much Traffic Will the Steps Need to Support?

For steps up to a front or side doorway that is used several times a day, wooden or concrete stairs with concrete stringer supports will be the sturdiest. If you have one or two steps down to a garden from a patio door which is used occasionally, wooden steps or stone steps will be suitable.

How Wide Must the Steps Be?

If your steps must be more than 48 inches wide, concrete or stone are the preferred materials. Pour the concrete into a stairway form, or place stone treads on concrete stringers and risers. Wooden steps will need to be supported on three or more stringers if they are more than 48 inches wide to prevent cracking in the center.

How Tall Will the Stairway Be?

Exterior stairs between three and eight steps high should be made completely of concrete, as it resists weather better than wood or stone. Frame in these steps with solid sides that reach above the treads, and put a wrought-iron handrail down the right-hand side (as you look down the steps from the top). If your stairway is six or more steps in height, put handrails down both sides. Check the building codes for your municipality before building porch steps to ensure yours will meet the minimum requirements for safety.

Cost of Porch Steps in Various Materials

In terms of cost, wooden stairs are the most economical and easiest to build. Concrete steps are not much more expensive, particularly if you can find pre-poured steps in standard dimensions, while stone steps are the most costly due to the need to cut materials to fit and then stabilize them.

Let the exterior of your house, the foot traffic your steps will bear, and the width and height needed, along with your budget, serve as your guides to designing the best porch steps for your home.