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Are Concrete Steps Hollow?

Concrete steps are extremely strong and durable. Concrete is naturally weather resistant so they can last for decades without needing repair. Once built, the steps can be finished with brick and stone or left bare concrete. There are a few different ways to build concrete steps, precast, poured in place or cinder block. Precast concrete steps are built at a factory and merely installed on site. These are also called prefabricated steps. Poured-on-site concrete steps are first formed out of wood and then built out of solid poured concrete. The last option is cinder block. Steps can be built out of block and then filled solid with concrete. The porch top and the top of each steps is solid poured concrete. Cinder block steps can then be finished with a thin cement coat or left bare. With all three options concrete steps are generally hollow inside.

Concrete steps are typically built atop a solid concrete footing. When using precast steps the footing is built first and then the steps are placed on top. With poured on site or cinder block the steps are built on top of the footings.

With all three options, the inside area of concrete steps is hollow. The top of the step and porch top are usually 4-6 inches of concrete while the sides are 6-8 inches. This can be either 6-8 inches of solid concrete or cinder block.

Rebar is typically used inside the steps and porch top to add strength.

Whichever way you build your concrete steps the result will be strong and sturdy. But they vary in price quite a bit. Ahead we’ll discuss more about cement steps, how they’re built and what they cost.

are concrete steps hollow 1 cement back door steps white brick house

Poured-In-Place Concrete Stairs

Poured-in-place concrete steps are the most expensive option. The require building strong forms on site and then filling them with solid concrete.

Poured-in-place concrete steps are the most expensive options because of how much labor is involved. First the footings are built. Then forms are built on top of the footings out of wood. Rebar is cut and tied together to form a cage that strengthens the stairs. Earth is shoveled and compacted in place as needed. Finally concrete is poured.

Earth is an important part of poured-in-place concrete steps. Concrete is poured inside forms and atop compacted dirt. If the dirt isn’t properly compacted the stairs could eventually crack or settle.

Like all concrete steps, poured-in-place concrete steps are hollow inside. When you look inside a set of poured-in-place concrete steps what you’ll find is compacted dirt and not solid concrete.

The work required to build a set of poured concrete stairs is a poured concrete footing, form work to pour the concrete into, rebar reinforcements, the cost of the concrete, time and labor.

Once concrete starts to harden the forms are removed. Masons then smooth and trowel finish the surface. Special attention is spent around the edges.

Unless the steps are very small, a concrete truck is usually used. Large stairs can easily use several yards of concrete to build the steps and footings. For a set of small steps bagged concrete like Quikrete can be a better option. Most concrete companies charge a small delivery fee which can make small steps expensive to build.

are concrete steps hollow 1 cement front porch steps

Precast Concrete Stairs

Precast concrete stairs are built in a factory and delivered to the site. A machine is used to lift them off the delivery truck and place them down onto the footings. Like poured-on-site and cinder bock stairs, precast concrete stairs are hollow inside.

Because the stairs are precast and not poured-in-place, compacted dirt isn’t an issue. Inside a set of precast concrete steps is just air.

Precast concrete steps are hollow inside. Since they’re made in a factory as a uni-body one piece set of steps, they’re hollow inside and don’t even require compacted earth the install.

A footing is still required for precast stairs to rest on, but the stairs are simply placed on top. In many cases they’re bolted or cemented down. But it’s a lot less work. There’s no need to remove forms, pour concrete or trowel finish the surface. And you don;t have to deal with rebar. All that’s been done for you at the factory.

Another word for precast is prefabricated. The building of the stairs is entirely done at the factory.

Precast stairs are the cheapest option because most of the work is done at the factory. All you do on site is place them atop the footings. In many cases, the company that builds the stairs will also place them onto the footings. However, you usually have to build the footings yourself.

are concrete steps hollow 1 stone wall with cement steps

Cinder Block Concrete Stairs

The last way to build concrete steps is with cinder block. Just like the other methods, solid concrete footings are required.

Cinder blocks are stacked atop the footings and held together with cement or mortar. Rebar is placed inside the block’s hollow cells both vertically and horizontally. This adds a tremendous amount of strength to the stairs.

Cinder blocks are used to build the walls of the stairs. This includes the sides and front areas. But the top of the stairs and porch are built by pouring solid concrete. Usually 4-6 inches of concrete are what’s used.

Like poured-in-place concrete steps, compacted dirt is very important. The steps and porch top are poured concrete so you need to properly compact the dirt. If there are voids it could eventually lead to cracks.

Once the porch top and stairs are poured, the blocks are usually finished with a thin cement coat often called a parge coat. This give the cinder blocks a better appearance. However it’s not necessary. You can leave the block exposed if you prefer the look.

Just like poured-in-place and precast concrete steps, stairs built out of cinder block are hollow inside.

How Thick Is A Concrete Step?

Concrete steps vary in thickness. In most locals, a stair tread must be a minimum of 8 inches deep with a riser a maximum of 8 inches in height. How much of that thickness is solid concrete depends on how you build the steps.

  • Precast: Most precast concrete stairs have some hollow areas around the steps. The sides and front of the stairs are usually 6-8 inches thick with a 4-6 inch top. That leaves a few inches of hollow space inside each step.
  • Poured-In-Place: Poured-in-place concrete steps follow the same basic requirements of precast. The sides and front of each step is usually 6-8 inches thick with a 4-6 inch top. This leaves a small amount of hollow space inside the step. However, unlike precast, this hollow area is filled with compacted dirt inside of air.
  • Cinder Block: Cinder block stairs are built a little different. Individual blocks are stacked next to one another to form the steps. They’re secured together using cement or mortar. Because you can buy cinder blocks of varying heights and thicknesses, steps can be built out of large block without any hollow space. However, steps can also be built out of smaller blocks with does leave some hollow space. If the small blocks are used, the space is filled with compacted dirt and not air.

How Do You Tear Down Concrete Steps?

Concrete is a very strong and durable material so they’re not easy to demolish. You need to be strategic in how you go about tearing them down. Luckily, almost all concrete stairs are hollow so once they start to crack it’s easier to pull them apart.

The best way to demo concrete steps is with a jack-hammer. A sledgehammer works too but it’s a lot more work.

Inspect the steps and look for cracks. If there are existing cracks it’ll be easier to demo the steps because some of the work is already done for you.

Place the tip of the jack-hammer into the crack and start hammering. As you hammer down, pull the jack-hammer back and forth. This will help pull chunks of concrete away from the main structure.

Jack-hammers have multiple tips designed to break concrete. Use the pointed tip first to open up cracks. Then switch to the flat tip to hammer deeper and pry open the crack.

As the steps start to break up, use a long breaking bar to pull chunks apart.

Use a grinding wheel to cut through rebar or wire mesh inside the steps.

For large flat areas like the porch top, crack it with a heavy sledge hammer. A few hard whacks is usually enough to break a 4 inch thick slab.

Use the sledge hammer and jack-hammer together to break the side walls of the stairs and risers. Try to break the concrete up into small enough pieces that you can carry to a dumpster.

Another option is to rent a small excavator with a jack-hammer attachment. The demolition method is the same but the machine makes work a lot easier.

are concrete steps hollow 1 cement porch steps with red brick

Finishing Concrete Stairs

Precast, poured-in-place and cinder block concrete stairs can all be finished after they’re built.

The most popular way to finish concrete steps is with brick or stone. Both materials can be applied directly to concrete steps with cement or mortar. Place some type S cement on the back of the stone or brick veneer and stick it to the concrete. This method is great for the sides and front of the steps.

Brick and stone can also be used to finish the porch top. Outdoor tile is another great option. I recommend using mortar rather than cement for floor sections. Mortar has more compressive strength and wont crack when walked on.

Limestone is a good material to finish the step treads and around the porch top. Use mortar to anchor it to the concrete.

Cultured stone is another great material for finishing a set of concrete steps. Cultured stone is a type of man-made stone that’s designed to look real. It’s installed with either cement or mortar just like real stone or brick.

When the veneer work is done, grout the joints with cement or mortar.

Finishing cinder block steps is a little different. You can use brick or stone on cinder blocks or you could apply a parge coat. A parge coat is a thin layer of cement that’s applied to the cinder blocks. It makes them smooth with an appearance like solid concrete.

Another way to finish concrete steps is with masonry paint. Make sure you use a paint that’s designed for concrete or it will peel. Concrete absorbs water and needs to breath. Paint that doesn’t allow water to permeate through will eventually bubble and peel off.

Check out the pic above. These concrete stairs have been finished with red brick, limestone and stone tile.

Summary: Are Concrete Steps Hollow?

Concrete steps are extremely strong and durable. Concrete is naturally weather resistant so they can last for decades without needing repair. Once built, the steps can be finished with brick and stone or left bare concrete. There are a few different ways to build concrete steps, precast, poured in place or cinder block. Precast concrete steps are built at a factory and merely installed on site. These are also called prefabricated steps. Poured-on-site concrete steps are first formed out of wood and then built out of solid poured concrete. The last option is cinder block. Steps can be built out of block and then filled solid with concrete. The porch top and the top of each steps is also solid concrete. Cinder block steps can then be finished with a thin cement coat or left bare. With all three options concrete steps are generally hollow inside.

Concrete steps are typically built atop a solid concrete footing. When using precast steps the footing is built first and then the steps are placed on top. With poured on site or cinder block the steps are built on top of the footings.

With all three options, the inside area of concrete steps is hollow. The top of the step and porch top are usually 4-6 inches of concrete while the sides are 6-8 inches. This can be either 6-8 inches of solid concrete or cinder block.

Rebar is typically used inside the steps and porch top to add strength.

Whichever way you build your concrete steps the result will be strong and sturdy. But they vary in price quite a bit. Ahead we’ll discuss more about cement steps, how they’re built and what they cost.

If you have any questions about concrete steps, email any time.

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