How to Build Brick Steps with Tile Treads Part 2 How to Build Brick Steps with Tile Treads Part 2

In the previous section of our how-to guide on how to build brick steps, you learned how to measure for the 'Rise and Run' of your steps to determine how many steps you will need, how high each one needs to be, and how deep each step should be. In this part of the tutorial, you will learn how to mark off the area for the steps, excavate soil, and prepare the soil for the footing or foundation.

(This is Part 2 of a 4 part series. To return to Part 1, click here, or to move ahead to Part 3, click here.)

Step 1 - Create a Foundation Boundary

Measure the area where the steps will be installed based on the figures from your 'Rise and Run' calculations in the previous segment of this guide. In our example, we determined that we needed 6 steps that are 11 inches deep. In order to make things easier, add an additional inch so that the depth of each step will be 12 inches (perfect for 12 inch stone tiles).

For example, we have also chosen a width of 3 feet (36 inches), and we will add an additional 1/2 inch to width. This will make things easier as it will allow you to set three 12" x 12" tiles side by side on each tread and leave a small allowance for tile spacing.

Therefore, you will need to stake off an area 3 feet wide by 6 feet deep (6 steps x 12 inch depth for each). Then place pegs or stakes 12 inches apart (the depth of each step or tread). Place stakes on both sides of the boundary, so you will know where each riser begins and ends. The marked off boundary should resemble a ladder made of string when you are finished.

Modify the dimensions and measurements accordingly for your particular application.

Step 2 - Dig the Foundation

Dig out a level area of dirt within the boundaries of your marked off foundation borders. Make sure to dig deep enough so that the foundation will be located beneath the frost line. Use a level to ensure that all areas inside the footer area are level. Make sure the foundation is dug at a depth that will not change your calculations for 'Rise and Run'. Attempt to dig the foundation to a depth that allows you to use a 5 1/2" high footer (the width of a 2 x 6" piece of lumber). If you will be using 2 x 4" pieces of lumber to build your foundation frame, then make sure the soil is level and compacted to a depth of 3 1/2 inches below the point of your measurements.

Step 3 - Compact Soil in Foundation

If you don't have a soil compactor, you can rent one from your local tool rental store. Alternatively, you could use a manual dirt tamper. As a last resort, you or large fried could spend some time stomping around the foundation are with a heavy pair of boots. The important thing is to try to pack the soil as much as possible. The harder the surface of the soil, the better your foundation will turn out.

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