How to Build Stone Covered Steps
The building of a set of masonry steps as a rough base for stone treads and risers can become quite involved for the do-it-yourselfer. However, existing concrete or block steps can be covered with stone as well as newly constructed ones.
After the rough steps are in, start by choosing the stone for the risers and treads as well as border pieces and cheeks (side walls of steps), if these are desired, and have these cut to size by your stone dealer. Borders are important as they give a finished look to your steps. Remember, they are seen from both the top and edge. Flagstone for the “field” (top platform) can be selected and cut to match the rest of the stone or to contrast with it. While measuring, don’t forget to allow for overhangs and keep in mind the thickness of the stone.
If you are using stone risers as well as treads, the risers should be set first using a cement mix of 1 part cement to 3 parts sand mixed to a workable consistency with water. The risers should be flush with the top of the existing steps so that when the tread is set, it will fit evenly over the existing steps and new risers.
In setting the treads spread the entire tread surface with the same cement mix used for the risers. Place the stone tread over this mix, tamping and leveling until firm. If a stone is too high, pick it up and scrape out some cement; if too low, add cement. When stone is properly set, pick it up and pour “butter” (a mixture of cement and water of the consistency of pea soup) over the bed and the back of the stone and reset the stone (this adheres the dry stone to the bed). The proper order for setting stones on steps is: risers, treads, borders and finally field.
If you plan to use railings, you do not have to allow for post holes as the man who will set the railing will drill these holes.
Keep in mind that the bottom riser must be set on a firm foundation. It cannot be set on the sidewalk or dirt in front of the steps. The same thing applies to cheeks if these are also being covered with stone. It is therefore necessary to dig down along the front of the steps and/or sides and pour concrete as a base (see center fold for proportions and instructions for making this concrete base.) After the concrete has set for 24 hours, you can proceed with setting the stone.