Cantilever Concrete Steps (Floating Steps)

Concrete cantilevered steppers floating steps Modern Contemporary

Cantilever Concrete Steps (Floating Steps)

Concrete Cantilever steps, also known as Concrete Floating Steps, are blocks of concrete in your yard that appear as if they are floating and not touching the ground. They give an illusion of concrete floating. They give a rugged feeling of concrete floating to justify technical advancement in the field of construction.  One might be pondering if concrete blocks can float? Well, simply speaking, yes. But the answer isn’t that simple.

Concrete floating steps
Concrete floating steps

We shall be discussing how to build cantilevered concrete steps in this article.

To start with, the concrete slab/ block can be supported in different ways.

  1. The simplest being supported by ground as in usual cases where a reinforced cement concrete block can easily be put on stable soil and that’s it.
  2. Following the first one, is the case where we use beams to support the concrete slab.
  3. Then comes the portion which overhangs and is technically called ‘cantilever’.

We are interested in the slabs/ blocks which have certain overhanging length. This look can be created using multiple techniques.

The first yet most difficult method would be to create an actual cantilever slab having a fixed support. This means the step/ slab shall be supported from one side only.

cantilever concrete slab
A section of a cantilever concrete slab.

 

This is usually difficult to achieve in case of steps for commercial landscaping since this requires a beam like support which should be strong enough to resist torsion and bending moment generated due to the loads of the overhanging slab. Not only would it be difficult to achieve from a technical point of view but it would also cost more since it requires more steel.

Concrete cantilever beam stress analysis shows the importance of steel reinforcement.
Concrete cantilever beam stress analysis shows the importance of steel reinforcement.

When designing this kind of cantilever, the steps should be properly designed to take the loads which would end up thicker and might ruin the look of the steps.

Although this would be an actual cantilever, a similar look can be created with an easy technique where the step would technically be supported by a strong soil. Most of the slab/ step shall be supported by the ground with a part of slab overhanging.

The concrete used in this scenario shall be of good strength and the step shall be reinforced as per the design to support the bending moments created by the load.

 

cantilever or floating step formwork
The floating effect of cantilever steps is created with clever use of the concrete formwork.

 

Figure 2 Formwork for floating concrete steps [2]

The floating effect can be achieved using the formwork where an extra flat is laid – 50mm x 100 – in this specific case. The flat shall actually be over the other step which creates the floating effect after removing the formwork.

The concrete steps in this specific case are 4 ft. x 4 ft. – which is a nominal size. However, bigger steps can be created using the same technique. If the overhanging part is to be more than 4 inches, more steel should be provided on the top of the overhanging portion to resist the negative bending moment – causes hogging curve.

beam hogging bending
Hogging bending of a beam. The top surface of the convex face is in maximum tension and bottom face in maximum compression.

 

beam sagging bending
A sagging moment in a beam. When a beam is bending due to applied forces applied along its top flange. This results in compression in its top fibres and tension in its bottom fibres.

 

 

Cantilever Concrete floating steps
Concrete floating steps under construction near a swimming pool. Floating effect created using the overhanging section

 

Another simple method is to build foundation using concrete and putting pre-cast concrete slabs on top of them. The pre-cast concrete slabs should of good strength to ensure longevity.

Garden idea. Pond with concrete stepping stones.
Garden idea. Pond with concrete stepping stones. LG Eco-City Garden Chelsea Flower show 2018.

 

It is better to surround the steps with gravel after the construction ensure stability. Additionally, concrete of around 25 to 30 MPa shall be used to achieve a strong concrete step that shall be strong and long-lasting. Steel reinforcement can be skipped if the overhang is not much; however, steel reinforcement works against shrinkage cracks and therefore it is recommended.

If the steps are surrounded by garden where the soil might be susceptible to sulphates, SRC – Sulphate Resisting Cement – should be used in concrete to avoid Sulphate attack which might create spalling and cracking in concrete in later stages.

The floating steps can be designed in multiple ways to create picturesque entrance to your house.

cantilever concrete pathway steps house entrance
Concrete pathway steps for a house entrance.

The floating concrete steps can be combined with other techniques to create a perfect landscape around your home. Concrete Floating steps can be combined with Exposed aggregate concrete – i.e. floating steps with exposed concrete – to give a rugged yet state of the art look to your house. Concrete floating steps – either with exposed aggregate concrete or not – can ditch the traditional concrete pathway landscape.

Related landscaping information from Red’s landscaping Melbourne

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© 2022 Reds Landscaping and Civil Melbourne

Landscaping References and Further Reading on Concrete Cantilever Steps

[1]      “Beam under torsion|www.BuildingHow.com.” https://debug.pi.gr/default.aspx?ch=58 (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

[2]      “How to Make Floating Concrete Steps — Mid Century Modern Interior Designer – Portfolio.” https://www.destinationeichler.com/blog/how-to-make-floating-concrete-steps (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

[3]      “What are sagging and hogging Bending Moments? Give its sign convention.” https://www.ques10.com/p/8873/what-are-sagging-and-hogging-bending-moments-give-/ (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

[4]      “Floating Concrete Steps – How to DIY, Design & Build.” https://diy-garden.co.uk/floating-concrete-steps-how-to-diy-design-build/ (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

 

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Hello, I’m Callum. A little bit about me? My passion ever since I was young is for the environment and the outdoor world we live in. Something we neglect in our concrete jungles and glass palaces. It’s this passion that’s been infused into every fibre of my company’s processes.

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