December 5, 2023

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How to Design Exterior Concrete Stairs | Home Guides

How to Design Exterior Concrete Stairs | Home Guides

Design concrete stairs carefully so everyone can use them safely.

Design concrete stairs carefully so everyone can use them safely.

Steve Baccon/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Besides sturdiness and easy maintenance, new concrete steps can make a home look clean and fresh. Always design concrete stairs before building them, especially to meet safety guidelines, which suggest minimum and maximum landing depth, riser height and tread depth. Knowing the right way to design your concrete stairs will ensure that they will be safe to use for years to come.


Drive a wooden stake into the ground where the base of the bottom step will fall. Attach a string to the foundation of the house, approximately 1 inch below the bottom of the threshold of the door. Tie the string to the stake, then level the string with a line level.


Measure the length of the string with a tape measure. Write down the distance, which will be the overall depth of the stairs. Measure from the bottom of the stake to the string. Write down the measurement, which will be the overall rise of the stairs.


Measure the width of the door, then add at least 12 inches to the measurement. Write down the measurement, which will be the minimum depth for the landing area of the stairs. The landing should be no more than 7 1/2 inches below the threshold of the door.


Divide the overall rise by the number of steps that you want. The maximum riser height should be between 4 and 7 inches. For example, if the overall rise is 42 inches and you plan to build six steps, the rise of each step would be 7 inches.


Subtract the final measurements of landing depth from the overall depth of the stairs. Divide this number by the number of steps, adjusting the number of steps until the treads will have a minimum depth of 11 inches and minimum rise of 4 inches.


Sketch a detailed plan for the stairs. Note the landing should be 12 inches deeper than the swing radius, or width, of the door. The tread of the steps should be over 11 inches, with a riser height above 4 inches. Plan to build the steps with a pitch forward at a slope of 1/4 inch per foot, which will allow proper drainage. Stay within these measurements and adjust the number of steps as needed.

Things You Will Need

  • Wooden stake
  • String
  • Line level
  • Tape measure


  • Increase the overall run by moving the stake at the planned base a few steps back.
  • Combining a deeper tread with a shorter rise will allow for a natural stride.
  • If you have questions about safety, ask a building inspector about requirements.


  • Never plan to build steps with a maximum riser height over 7 inches.
  • A handrail must be installed for stairs with more than two risers.

About the Author

Beth Porter

Beth Porter has been a writer since 2008, with strong experience in early childhood education, gardening, home living and crafts. Porter is presently attending college, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education at the University of Cincinnati.

Photo Credits

  • Steve Baccon/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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