Mission: Goodbye Astro-steps
April 16, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

The tacky old indoor/outdoor carpet glued to my back steps is ragged and coming off. Can you help me brainstorm an improvement?

The back steps to our house are made of poured concrete and have black iron hand railings. At least ten years ago someone applied cheap plastic indoor/outdoor carpet using adhesive. Said carpet is now ragged and wearing through, especially on the step risers. The steps themselves are in good shape, no cracks.

I hate this look, even when new. I'm trying to figure out an upgrade. At the very least I can remove the carpet and clean up the adhesive residue, but I'm thinking the results won't be great looking.

So, I'm trying to brainstorm improvements:

- etch or grind to clean up the concrete surface after removing the carpet?

-stain the concrete?

-some kind of outdoor-appropriate tile?

-other sheet goods besides carpet I could apply (kinda dubious about durability on this one)?

-some kind of applied coating like epoxy paint (again, durability...?)

I'm a fairly hardcore do-it-yourselfer so consider the sky's the limit as far as techniques, skills and tools. If you've ever seen a striking surface treatment on concrete steps or a patio, commercial or residential, I'd love to hear about it.

posted by werkzeuger to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would remove the carpet, clean up the stairs, and paint them. You don't need epoxy paint (I work in the architectural field, if that's reassuring at all), you just need a heavy-duty exterior paint appropriate for concrete.
posted by Specklet at 11:33 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would mix in the appropriate gritty material (think sand, but the 'special' sand that's designed for the application) with the paint, to give yourself a non-slip surface.
posted by defcom1 at 11:49 AM on April 16, 2012

What about some 1" wood boards, cut to size and adhered only to the top of each step with adhesive (so that the concrete isn't altered -- alternately, you could drill into the concrete)? Wood would contrast nicely with the concrete, and then you could either use the wood as non-slipping material since you'd be stepping against the grain, or paint a clear non-slip coating on the wood.
posted by suedehead at 12:06 PM on April 16, 2012

We've got vinyl sheet decking, duradeck or similiar, on our suspended slab deck and it's been basically trouble free. However it is possible to stain it; ours has a fairly large blotchy discolouration that was there when we moved in. It is grippy without being abrasive (IE: feels fine on bare feet but more traction when wet than stained or sealed wood decking).
posted by Mitheral at 12:52 PM on April 16, 2012

I agree with Specklet, except that cleaning up the steps to a standard ready for painting after having had (contact?) glue applied could be a very tedious job. If you are up to the higher cost, I would clad them in decking timber. Tiles may be an alternative, but you would have to check the effect of any remaining glue on the tile adhesive.

If you really are hard-core on DIY, think about polishing the concrete, assuming you can hire or buy the right tools. Very striking, lasts forever and no maintenance.
posted by dg at 4:46 PM on April 16, 2012

Don't glue wood directly to concrete; it will rot before you can blink an eye. I've never seen a decking timber applied over concrete stairs, but talk to a decking installer and see how this might best be accomplished.

One other thing: keep in mind that not all concrete can be polished, and your stairs are almost certainly a type of concrete that would not stain well.
posted by Specklet at 4:58 PM on April 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the thoughtful replies so far. I think I favor approaches that enhance the concrete itself, rather than applying something new over it. Wood, I'm afraid, is right out - just too many issues with decay, plus I'm not inclined to build up the height of the stairs. I am intrigued by the possibilities of polishing/grinding and staining.

...keep in mind that not all concrete can be polished, and your stairs are almost certainly a type of concrete that would not stain well.

It's run of the mill cast-in-place of the kind that would have been typical in the late forties, midwest United States. I have lots of experience with forming and pouring, but none with staining. Can you explain the suitability for staining issue?
posted by werkzeuger at 5:57 PM on April 16, 2012

Mexican saltillo tile over the 'crete?
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:03 PM on April 16, 2012

Specklet has a point and there's something I hadn't considered - stairs are often cast fairly roughly and then 'plastered' over to make them nice and smooth with a different mix, which may not be able to be polished.
posted by dg at 6:25 PM on April 16, 2012

Can you explain the suitability for staining issue?

If the concrete is as old as you say, it's either going to be crumbling a bit, or it's very, very hard. Either way you're going to probably want to etch it first, which will allow the metallic salts to penetrate more easily.

The stairs are going to have a wear pattern, whether or not you can see it clearly. This combined with the crumbliness/hardness means that a stain is going to be wildly unpredictable; it could turn out blotchy or not true to color at all.

I've never seen anything but a brand new concrete floor be stained in a predictable way, and even then it can be iffy.

But hey, if you want to take the time and effort, it's not going to be *that* expensive, and if for some reason you're not pleased with the results you can just paint over it.

And dg is right: you're probably not going to be able to polish them due to that skim coat that most likely has been applied...
posted by Specklet at 11:29 AM on April 17, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks Specklet for the staining info, that makes perfect sense.

The skim coat thing is new to me - the steps I've been involved in have just been floated to raise the cream like any other flatwork. I see dg is in Australia; perhaps this more common there (or Europe)? I should have mentioned that we have extreme temperature swings where I live (-32 to 35 deg C)

Thanks to everyone who kindly took time to answer. I'll mark this resolved but if anyone happens on this with a brainstorm, please share.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:15 PM on April 17, 2012

Please let us know what you end up doing! I am about to buy this same problem and need ideas.
posted by TrixieRamble at 7:11 AM on April 26, 2012

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