What are the Best Methods for Building Brick Steps?

Dee S.
Dee S.

Brick steps are among the most traditional and beautiful types of steps and will make any landscaping area appear well-maintained and professional. Laying out brick steps does not require as much effort and time as someone might expect. Unlike the intricacies that are involved with planning formal steps, brick steps located outside simply require knowledge of the proper proportions and a little manpower.

A brick trowel and bricks.
A brick trowel and bricks.

There are two parts to any step: the flat part or the tread and the vertical part or the riser. In an ideal situation, the tread’s depth — when added to the height of the riser — should equal 25 to 27 inches (63.5 to 68.6 cm). This equation can be flexible; however, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the risers and treads for a single flight of brick steps should be the same size. If the each step has a different depth and height, it can throw a person off balance when proceeding up or down the stairs and cause injury.

A bed of gravel should be laid before placing the bricks.
A bed of gravel should be laid before placing the bricks.

To fit brick steps evenly into a garden landscape, the degree of slope must be calculated. First, calculate the rise or the change in level of the slope. It can be calculated as the distance from the bottom of the slope to the top of the slope. Next, calculate the run or the horizontal distance of the slope. To determine how many steps will be needed, divide the desired riser height into the total rise of the slope.

The calculations almost never work out so that the steps fit exactly into the slope. In most cases, a landscaper will need to cut and fill the slope to accommodate the proper number of brick steps. In any case, after the calculations are complete, it is time to build the brick steps.

First, create rough steps in the ground. Be sure and allow space for about a six inch (15.2 cm) gravel bed and a four inch (10.2 cm) thick slab of concrete for the risers and the tread. It is important to allow for six to eight inches (15.2 to 20.3 cm) of concrete and a footing that goes below the frost line in areas where the climate is colder.

Next, build forms with lumber and then lay the gravel bed. Keep the gravel bed about 4 inches (10.2 cm) from the front of the brick steps because concrete will be poured there. The concrete will reinforce the front of the steps to prevent them from breaking off. Some landscapers even use welded wire mesh for additional support.

Lastly, lay the bricks in a basket-weave pattern. The pattern is easy because it does not require a landscaper to cut the bricks. Add the mortar and throw some fine sand over the finished product. After everything dries, brush the sand away and then spray the area lightly with water to promote settling.

Dee S.
Dee S.

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

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