I started working on my front porch steps this weekend, and I got most of the basic framework finished. The steps I’m building are probably different than most steps that you’ve seen. The standard way to build steps is to cut stringers out of 2″ x 10″ or 2″ x 12″ lumber, and to secure those to the deck or porch. This is a very informative video that describes that standard method. I chose not to use that method. Instead, I chose to build a series of modified boxes that stack one on top of the other.
The reason I chose not to use the standard stringer method is because (1) drilling into concrete is just such a pain, so the idea of drilling enough holes to attach seven stringers to the concrete porch wasn’t something I wanted to do, and (2) because when I saw this large area of concrete with the huge aggregate exposed and loosely packed, I didn’t feel comfortable at all with the idea of stringers for my steps being attached to that concrete for support.
So I opted instead for the box method. This method is very secure for building steps, but you’ll see that it’s not the standard method for one very obvious reason — it uses more lumber and is therefore more costly. (The cost difference probably isn’t that big on three short steps like mine, but the difference increases with each additional step.) But in my situation, I’d rather spend more money and be confident that my steps will hold up (and will be resting securely on the concrete sidewalk) than try to secure stringers to concrete that may not hold.
But before I started building the framework for my steps, I wanted to put the posts in place for the handrail. To do that, I used these 5/8″ concrete anchors that come with washers and nuts…
And I used those along with these 4″ x 4″ post anchors…
I actually hired someone to drill those holes for me and install the concrete anchors. It’s a good thing I did, too, because he hit a piece of rebar, and it took forever to get the hole drilled for that left anchor.
But once the anchors were in place, I could then insert the posts and screw them into place, using a level to make sure they were plumb as I screwed them to the post anchors.
Next, I build the framework for the bottom step. For this, I used 2″ x 4″ treated lumber rated for ground contact, and I ripped them to the correct height using my table saw. The height of my steps is going to be 4.25 inches, so these pieces were ripped to 3.25 inches, which is the height of the step minus the thickness of the actual tread. Lumber for porches and decks is one inch thick.
I created an outer frame using one long piece the width of the steps, and then seven pieces cut to the full depth of the steps. I screwed them together using deck screws, and placed the short pieces 14 inches apart. I screwed the short pieces into place through the back side of the long back piece. (Obviously, I pulled it away from the porch in order to accomplish this.)
With the basic framework for the first step finished, I did the same process for the next step. These pieces were ripped on my table saw to the full height of the step, which is 4.25 inches. And of course, the side pieces were cut shorter to create the stair step. With the main three outer pieces of the second step framework attached to each other, I placed them on top of the framework for the bottom step.
Then I used metal corner braces to secure the two layers and to keep the corners at a 90-degree angle.
Then I pulled the whole thing away from the concrete and attached the inside frame work pieces for the second step. Again, I screwed these into place using deck screws screwed through the back frame piece and into the ends of the short pieces.
And finally, I did the framework for the top step in the same way.
Then I added a lot of support pieces to keep everything lined up and secure. I attached four pieces (just using scrap pieces of 2″ x 4″ and 2″ x 6″ treated lumber) along the back, screwed into all three layers, and then I added supports along each step support stack, with each support piece screwed into all three layers.
That’s as far as I got this weekend. You can see from the photo above that I’m going to have to cut down the skirting piece on the porch in order to get the framework for the steps secured against the concrete. I will be attaching the framework to the concrete using concrete anchors or screws to hold it into place. I do trust concrete anchors to do that much. But I feel much more confident about the concrete not having to actually hold up the structure of the steps.
Hopefully I’ll have much more to share tomorrow — possibly some actual usable steps! 🙂