Installing Granite Steps

Granite Steps add Unmatched Curb Appeal to a Home

By Mark J. Donovan

The strength, beauty and low maintenance of natural granite make it an ideal building material for entranceway steps into your home. If you are designing a new home, and are willing to spend a few extra dollars on the entrance way steps, consider investing in the installation of granite steps. If you already have a home with pre-cast concrete staircase and are thinking of ways to dress up your home’s curb appeal one way to start would be by replacing the concrete staircase with granite steps.

Installing granite steps in theory is a relatively easy project to do. 

However, due to the sheer weight of granite a DIY homeowner cannot install their own granite steps, unless they have some serious earth moving equipment, e.g. front end bucket loader.

This said, a DIY homeowner can do much of the preparatory work leading up to the actual placement and installation of the granite steps.

Several years ago I replaced my pre-fab’d concrete staircase with granite steps. Though I did not actually install the granite steps, I did do all of the preparatory work leading up to the actual placement of the granite. Summarized below is a description of the process I followed for installing granite steps on my home’s front entrance-way.

Visiting the Granite Stone Supplier

First, I visited a local granite stone supplier, which was relatively easy to do since I live in New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s nickname is the “Granite State”. I explained to them what I was looking for in terms of steps and we set up an appointment for them to come out to my house to take look at the jobsite.

When they came out to my home they took several measurements and assessed how many steps I would actually need. They also confirmed that they could bring their truck onto my property to actually place the stone.

Lastly, they gave me the option of removing the pre-fab’d concrete steps and installing a footing/foundation slap for the granite steps myself, or them doing it. I chose the former as I wanted to save some money. The concrete footing/foundation slab was necessary for ensuring the granite steps would rest on a solid flat surface.

Getting rid of the Pre-fab’d Concrete Staircase

Once the granite stone supplier and I had agreed upon a plan of action and price, the next weekend I went about the task of removing the pre-fab’d concrete staircase. After donning safety goggles, work gloves and jeans I took my sledgehammer and went to work beating the old concrete staircase into a million small pieces. Suffice it to say it was not an easy task. It took a couple of hours of work and a lot of strength, but I eventually got it done. By the time I was complete I had the concrete staircase reduced to a pile of stone rubble. Each piece was no larger than my fist. Most of the stone rubble I carted off, however I kept some of it for the next stage in the granite step installation process, building the concrete footing/foundation slab.

Installing Concrete Footing/Foundation Slab

Next, I dug a large rectangular hole where the old pre-fab’d concrete steps sat. I dug the hole about 2 feet deep using a shovel and pickax. Again, it was not an easy task. The goal here was to remove much of the sandy and clay soil and to replace it with a more stable base.

To create a more stable base for the concrete footing/foundation slab I dumped some of the concrete staircase rubble into the hole. I also added back some of the sandy soil I had removed from the hole and mixed it in with the concrete rubble and compacted it down.

Installing Granite Steps

When the compacting was complete the hole had a depth of only eight inches.

To ensure the concrete foundation slab and granite steps would never have the possibility of sagging, I drilled several two inch deep holes into the home’s concrete foundation walls and installed lengths of rebar into them. The rebar extended out over the hole I had dug and rested on the concrete rubble and sand that I had compacted in it.

Next I added more rebar in the hole. I placed the additional rebar perpendicular to the lengths of rebar coming out of the foundation wall. I tied the pieces of rebar together at their intersection points using stainless steel wire.

I then built a wooden form using 2x8s that sat on top of the compacted fill and concrete rubble. The form would hold in the concrete that I would eventually pour to create the foundation slab. I left the wooden frame open along the house foundation wall since it would act as a backstop for the poured concrete.

I ensured the wooden frame would stay in place by hammering in wooden stakes into the ground on the outside perimeter of the concrete form. I also screwed the wooden stakes to the form for extra security. Prior to fastening the wooden stakes to the concrete form I used a level to make sure the form was level. I used a four foot long level, and checked the form from side to side, corner to corner, and back to front.

Next, I backfilled around the wooden form with fill material and placed more of the pre-fab’d concrete rubble into the wooden form to act as large aggregate with the concrete that I was about to pour into it.

Pouring Concrete Footing/Foundation Slab

Instead of renting a concrete mixer and buying 80 bags of Portland cement and a yard of sand, I chose to order from a local concrete mixing company a yard of pre-mixed cement. Mixing that much cement and sand by hand would have taken me an entire day.

Immediately after the concrete mixing company had poured the concrete into my footing/foundation hole I used a long 2×4 to screed the concrete level and to create a smooth surface. Screeding basically involves using a long straight edge and sliding it back and forth over the two sides of the concrete form. As you slide it side to side you move the straight edge forward slowly. This process floats the concrete and ensures that it is level and smooth on the top surface.

After screeding the concrete I let it cure for a couple of days before I removed the wooden concrete form. I then let it set for another week before I called the granite stone supplier to let them know I was ready for the granite step installation.

Installing Granite Steps

Installing the granite steps was a piece of cake from my perspective. The granite supplier showed up with a truck with an integrated crane, and installed the granite steps in about a two hour period. All I did was watch them install the steps. They used the crane, along with heavy duty straps, to lift the stone steps off of the back of the truck and to maneuver them in place.

Installing Step Railings

In my case I did not need to install step railings. If railings are required for your project due to the height of the steps, they you will need to drill holes into the granite steps to support the anchor bolts that will hold the railings in place.

To conclude, nothing beats the look of granite when it comes to natural beauty and durability. Installing granite steps is relatively easy to do and is actually quite affordable. It only cost about $1,400 for the installation of the granite steps, and about another $100 for the yard of concrete. Admittedly the price would have been a bit higher if I had not done all of the preparatory work myself. So if you want to dress up the front of your house, consider installing granite steps.

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