Tips for Building Brick Steps
Sturdy, perfectly aligned brick steps provide a warm welcome to your home. When constructed with care and attention to detail, brick steps will endure daily wear and tear and will last for decades.
Set Your Stairs into the Turf
It is much easier to build brick steps that are recessed into the ground for stability than to build freestanding steps. Frame the entire set of steps with a brick retaining wall. Cap off the wall with a row of horizontal bricks. This will enhance their appearance and help them resist frost heaving in the spring.
Make a Solid Foundation for Your Brick Steps
Use the brick as cladding for your steps, not as the primary structural material. Build a solid base under them, out of poured concrete reinforced with steel bars placed 12 inches apart in a horizontal and vertical grid. Make this base at least 6 inches deep. Lay the concrete blocks atop the base, tilting them forward 1/8 inch per foot of depth on each stair tread to allow water drainage off the steps. Mortar them into place at the height you want each step. Place the bricks on top so they fit as snugly as a coat of paint.
Choose the Highest Quality Bricks
Select pure clay brick pavers, kiln-fired at a high temperature for durability. They will resist chipping and cracking, and can tolerate salt and other melting compounds for many winters. They should be between 1 and 2 inches deep for making brick steps. Mortar the bricks with a blend of Portland cement and sand, which is made to resist snow and ice. If you wish, you can use interlocking brick pavers without mortar. Spend the money to get the best-quality bricks you can buy, so your steps will be safe and sturdy for several years. Choose a simple brick shape that will create a straight and even edge at the front of each stair tread for safe ascent and descent of the stairs.
Design Your Steps for Easy Walking
Shallow steps, just 6 inches high, are easiest to build with brick. Make the stair treads very wide, at least 15 inches from front to back. The size of the step will allow easy, rapid walking up and down the stairs.
Ensure each step is level from side to side and that all the step risers are the same height. This is one of the most common failings in building brick steps: one of the steps, usually the bottom or top, ends up being much higher than the others to ensure that the steps fill the allotted space. This presents an ongoing walking hazard for everyone who uses the steps. Measure all your dimensions carefully to allow you to use as many full-sized bricks as possible when putting on the final cladding. You should only need to cut a few bricks per tread where they are closest to the edge of your brick stairs.