If your home has a set of boring concrete steps leading up to your front door, you have probably wished that you could just get rid of them and replace them with something more stylish and befitting of the architecture of your home. Concrete steps leading up to a front or back door were very popular in the New England area when many of the homes here in Providence were built. However, you don’t have to be stuck with bland, boring and common concrete steps any longer. Thanks to manufactured stone product, such as the popular Nantucket pavers, and natural stone products, such as bluestone stair treads, it can be easy to create a fresh new look for your home’s architectural landscaping in a weekend.
The Materials That You Will Need
If you are ready to make the move to update your concrete steps for your home in Providence or anywhere else here in the New England area, you will need to visit J&J Materials in Southeastern Massachusetts to gather all of the materials required to get the project done. J&J Materials has a wide variety of quality manufactured stone product and natural stone materials that will help you to create a great-looking, long-lasting and durable finished project that you will enjoy for many years. Our selection of Nantucket pavers and thin stone veneer will provide you with all of the options, colors, styles and textures that you could ever want for your concrete step remodeling project.
- Thin Stone Veneer – Natural or Manufactured – for Facing and Sides
- Bluestone Stair Treads for the Steps
- Nantucket Pavers for the Landing
- Mortar – Ask a Representative to Ensure You Get the Right Product for the Job
Getting Started: A Step-by-Step Guide
Before you begin your architectural landscaping project to upgrade or remodel your concrete steps, it is important to prepare the area. If any siding or other materials from your home will be affected by the new pavers, make sure to trim and/or remove those as well, reserving them to be re-installed once the pavers are set.
Step One – Add a “Scratch Coat” to the Concrete
In order to get the mortar to grab onto the existing concrete, you must add what is known as a “scratch coat” in the industry. The way to do this is to lay lath over top the landing and the steps. J&J Materials carries a product called SpiderLath, which is a top quality fiberglass lath system that can be used with stucco, plaster, tile, manufactured stone and natural stone veneers, brick, concrete stairs, concrete overlays and other types of masonry projects.
Install this by cutting sections for the sides of the stairs that overlap on the steps by two inches. Make sure that the lath is set correctly with the “scales” facing up so it is rough on your hand moving away from the door and down along the side. The lath should be nailed down every 6-8 inches using a powder-actuated nailer and a hammer. Check manufacturers’ instructions for specific information relating to the SpiderLath product.
Once the Lath has been set you can now add the actual “scratch coat” to the surface. Mix mortar to the consistency of creamy peanut butter and apply it to the lath using a finishing trowel. The mortar should be pulled downward to fill all the spaces in the SpiderLath and then be worked in a “fanning” motion to create a layer that is a half-inch thick. Create grooves in the mortar using the notched side of the trowel for added texture. This should be allowed to set and dry at least overnight.
Step Two – Fitting the Stones
The next step is to do a dry run – literally – to see where all of the stones will fit on your steps. Measure the profile of your steps and draw an outline on a piece of canvas drop cloth or mark out the measurements using painters’ tape. Arrange the stones beginning at the L-shaped corner block and then move your way out, leaving about an inch between stones for grout work, staggering the joints.
Make any score marks so you can cut or break the stones to make them fit where necessary. To break the stones you can use a mason’s chisel along the score line, angle it slightly toward the side you are cutting off and then strike the chisel to make a clean break. Any excess pieces can be chipped off using a brick hammer.
Step Three – Apply Mortar and Stones
Start by using a chip brush to apply a thin coat of an acrylic bonding agent to provide extra adhesiveness for the mortar. Mix the mortar to the consistency of creamy peanut butter and apply a half-inch to three-quarters-inch layer to the back of a corner stone for the first riser. Create a horizontal furrow on the buttered side to lock the stone into place. Wiggle the stone in tight, creating a vacuum. Make sure that each of your manufactured stone product or natural stone veneer is placed flush with the top of the stair.
Do the same procedure to apply architectural landscaping to the sides of the stairs, making sure that the stones are in line with the riser on the side of the landing. Allow some setting time between each level. Fill in the grout lines when all the stones are set and clear out any loose chunks of mortar. Use a grout bag to fill as if you are piping on icing, putting the tip in between the joints and working from bottom to top. Let the grout cure and use a striking tool to shape it before it is completely dry.
Step Four – Setting the Treads and Landing
Mix your mortar until it’s just thick enough to hold its shape if rolled into a ball. Put a three-quarter-inch layer on each riser with a trowel and use a level to check it before laying the bluestone stair treads. Center each tread and set it in place with the textured edge outward. Make sure that there is equal overhang on each side and that the piece is level before you set it into place. You can add a very slight slope forward for water runoff, but you should do no more than a sixteenth of an inch per foot. Use a rubber mallet to set the stone and set the remaining bluestone stair treads, continuing to check for uniform height and overhang from the previous tread.
Set a mortar bed on the landing and begin placing the perimeter bluestone stair treads with the textured edges exposed and overhanging easily around the space. Again, use a level and a straightedge to make sure that everything matches the treads and that the landing is level. You can create a pitch for water runoff, again maintaining the sixteenth of an inch per foot pitch maximum. All your work to set overnight before beginning to work on the interior pavers.
Build up the mortar beds in the space for the interior pavers the same as you did for the bluestone stair treads and begin placing your matching or contrasting Nantucket pavers in the space. Keep the lines flush with the surrounding treads and continue the same pitch for water runoff to prevent pooling, leaving uniform space for grout lines. Carefully fill the grout lines with mortar according to the manufacturers directions.