After we made our first outdoor stairs in October 2019, we dared to start with our ‘main stairs’ as well. This staircase is quite straightforward, 20 steps with the same specifications as the first ‘learning stairs‘: each step is 17.8 cm high with a landing of 25 cm. This gives the previously calculated slope of 35,1˚.

The stairs go up along part of the house, on that side we only had to build a small wall. On the other side we built a long side wall/rail with Portuguese blocos.

Step by step

With the experience we had gained from building our first outdoor stairs, it was a repetition of steps:

  • drawing the stair contours
  • filling the slope with rubble and sand
  • plastic and armament placement
  • formwork
  • concrete pouring

Useful tips

You’ll probably only learn the intricacies of building stairs after you’ve built a lot of them.
But anyway, after the experience with our second staircase we can share a few.

Tip one: how to simply transfer the contours of the stairs:
You’ll be able to draw one side of the stair contour on the wall.
But how do you transfer this contour to the opposite wall?
We were thinking that somehow it could be done with a lath and a spirit level.
Eventually we thought of the cross-laser… No idea how that used to be done before these were invented, but anyway, for us it worked fine with the laser!

Tip two: how to easily fix the steps of the formwork:

Draw a diagonal line about 5 cm above the stair contour.
Attach a long batten along this diagonal and do the same for the plotted contour on the other side. The underside of the batten is placed on the diagonal line.
Fix the battens firmly to the walls, using plugs if necessary.

Make a made-to-measure plank for each stair section, with the desired step height as the width (17.8 cm for us). Don’t make the length too tight, so that the plank can easily get in and out again later. Number the planks and number the steps on the wall as well!

Then start fixing the boards (start at the bottom of the stairs):

Hold the plank where it should be and mark on both sides the place where the plank meets the side batten.

Drill the short battens with 2 holes for fastening to the side batten and 2 holes for fastening to the shelf. Secure the battens with the top screw only to the marked board, so that you still have some slack when attaching the batten to the side rail.

Place the board with the battens attached in the correct position and fasten each batten to the side rail with 2 screws.
Finally, fasten the batten to the board with the last screw.
Use the contour on the wall to determine the exact position and check with the spirit level both horizontally and vertically.

The board should now be so firmly stuck between the side slats that you can easily stand on it.

Finally, attach a central strip over the installed planks. To this you can attach the laths that make sure that the plank will not move under the pressure of the concrete.

the formwork before and after concrete pouring


Finally, there is the check whether the stairs ‘run’ properly.
Dona’s father told the story* that this is how the formwork used to be checked:
Take a slat and let it slide down with a little push.
If the slat gets stuck somewhere, you can check the formwork there again.

* we didn’t hear about this trick until after we’d already poured the concrete, fortunately the slat went down all the way 😊

Missed our first post on DIY concrete stairs? Check it out here.

Portuguese words for building a concrete stair

to pour concretedespejar concreto
crosslinelaser laser de linha cruzada
a stairwayuma escada
to checkcontrolar

April 8th, 2020


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