How Can I Make Steps from Recycled Material?
October 28, 2007 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I need some ideas to build 5 outdoor steps leading up to a door. Must be steps that can be built in the most quickest, cheapest and easiest of ways. I'm open to any unconventional plans - and of course would appreciate photos of the ideas. Right now I have at my disposal cement mix and tons of building rubble made from concrete. Wondering if the rubble can be recycled to build with. Any ideas - much appreciated!
posted by watercarrier to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
You could certainly use the rubble as a base for the steps. Depending on how high you need the steps to be, build the sides up with timber, then put some timbers across to "make" the steps. Fill the gaps in with rubble, but make sure it's compacted down well.

Pour cement over the top, and there you go.

It's probably best to speak to a friend who is handy about doing the project, if you haven't done anything like this before.
posted by Rabulah at 9:36 AM on October 28, 2007

Anytime I've had concrete steps I've had constant maintenance issues with them cracking and seperating. Also, unless you compact the soil really well, settling will be an issue, especially if you live in a cold weather climate where the ground freezes. I'd do it with wood. When I needed to build stairs I went to Home Depot and bought 2 pre cut risers, 4 planks, and a couple of L brackets to attach them to the house. I think my total cost was about $20.
posted by COD at 9:50 AM on October 28, 2007

Do you have access to any old cinder blocks? A few of them thrown together make a brilliant staircase. Not ultra permanent, and hardly on the cutting edge of design, but still workable.
posted by twirlypen at 4:19 PM on October 28, 2007

Quickest and cheapest is probably wooden steps. You can buy precut staircase stringers made of treated lumber at most home centers or lumberyards. The tricky part is attaching it to the house.

It's easy enough to throw together some concrete stairs, in principle, but if you don't lay a proper foundation and ensure drainage, it will not last long.
posted by dhartung at 5:26 PM on October 28, 2007

Idea 1: Adapt Rabula's suggestion, except you build it "pre-fab" - so in other words, you build some stair shaped slabs and some thicker stringers (the zig-zaggy support that the treads rest on) on the ground. Build shallow molds with the cheapest plywood or oreinted strand board you have. That way you re-use the tread molds.)

Idea 2: Build a ramp instead. Much simpler.
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:56 PM on October 28, 2007

Cement rubble like urbanite? You can use it like masonry, but you might want to do a bit of research about stonework, as well as run/rise calculations for steps.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:01 PM on October 28, 2007

Wood's the way to go. Even if you know what you're doing, pouring concrete steps is a pain in the ass.

Now, if you have the means to transport them, you can by pre-fab concrete steps. You can usually find them in three, four, five riser units- whatever you might need. Try a mobile home dealer- if they don't have them, they will have a lead to who does.
posted by Shohn at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2007

you can by pre-fab steps, but only if you buy them first.
posted by Shohn at 7:47 PM on October 28, 2007

quickest, cheapest and easiest of ways

Like they say, pick any two.

Even with the concrete, you will have to buy lumber to make the molds. I've found concrete steps last much longer than wooden steps -- had a solid, 3 step staircase poured about 7 years ago and it hasn't needed any maintenance at all or sustained any damage. It was professionally poured and the weather and soil conditions here might be different from those of the posters above who don't like concrete.

So, back to your question. The quickest, easiest way would be to buy a prefab staircase, but presumably cheapness outweighs this concern. It's going to be quicker to get a wood staircase up and running than to build a form, mix and pour the concrete, and wait for it to cure. Check freecycle or craigslist for free wood, or find some old pallets. This won't be as easy as using standard sizes of wood you could buy, but you get the wood for free.
posted by yohko at 4:41 AM on October 29, 2007

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