We had this gem of an entrance and decided to tackle the stairs:
The stairs are concrete faced with flagstone, go up steeply at different heights, and there’s a top landing about 6ft long. There’s an old wrought iron handrail with chipped paint, and plants to the side of the stairs.
To take out the concrete stairs, we broke off the flagstone, and rented a jackhammer to bust through the concrete.
You can also break off the concrete with manual tools, but it’ll probaby take hours to do that, you’ll destroy your hands and your will to finish the job. With the trusty jackhammer, we were done in an hour for $75 😀
Because we wanted to expand our stairs into the adjacent hilly planter area, we also had to dig out a lot soil. We dug enough to have a min of 4 in. concrete depth but wound up having to backfill quite a bit since parts were 6in. deep. Note that any backfilling will need to be compacted…
We didn’t do below-freezing-point footers but we did add quite a bit of rebar just in case to avoid cracks or splits. The concrete had a min. depth of 4in, and 2 rebars going horizontally for each step as well as 3 rebars going top to bottom.
Once everything was dug up, we hammered stakes into the ground and leaned (cut) 10x6x2s on them to contain the concrete that needed to be poured. It’s very important to level the wood and make sure it is perfectly placed (equal measurements between the 10×6). Our stairs also needed wood on the side to prevent the concrete from falling off the side when it got poured.
For our stairs which are roughly 9’x9′ with a rise of 3ft, we needed 160 bags of concrete (80lbs bags). To mix all this we rented a small cement mixer, which handled a whole bag at a time. This setup took us perhaps 10 hours to mix and pour.
While the concrete dried up, I prepared the tile by painting some impregnator on it to seal it. Once the concrete dried up, it was time to lay some tile. We choose an Green Indian Mica (quartzite) with a shimmery black quartzite tile for contrast. Since this was an exterior job, we got frost-proof tile, exterior thinset for stone tiles, and we decided to use an impregnator to seal the tiles.
Since we were using the black tiles to make a straight line going up each step on both sides of the front door, we needed to make sure the black tiles would line up perfectly.
To do that, we extended a string from the first tile of the top row all the way to the landing on the bottom. This string would tell us where exactly to put the first tiles on the left on each step and would guarantee the lining up of the black tiles.
We used the little spacers to do the separation between the tiles, but since these tiles are sometimes not perfectly square, sometimes you have to move a tile around to make it look squarer. Here’s a pic of the progress:
For the placing of the grout I took a different approach. Usually you’re supposed to spread the grout all over the tiles and let it go into the space between the tile. This makes the tile really dirty though.. and trying to clean a tile that has a rough porous surface takes a lot of time. So I cut a small hole in the bag that the grout came in, poured the grout into the bag, and used the bag as if I was decorating a cake to squeeze the grout between the tiles. Then you push the grout down with your finger. Worked great and made the job a hell of a lot cleaner!
And here’s the finished product. Btw, we also added a retaining wall to complete the look 🙂