Concrete steps are a vital part of hard landscaping or hardscaping on sloping or uneven commercial landscapes.
Concrete being one of the most used construction materials has taken over the construction industry not only as a structural material but also as a commercial landscaping material for the versatility it provides. It is easy to pour into any shape, size or aesthetic.
Commercial Concrete Steps
Commercial concrete steps are no different for they can be made – in-situ concrete steps or pre-cast – in any form. Concrete has proved itself commonplace in the area of commercial public spaces for not only because of the afore-mentioned reasons but also because how cheap it can be as compared to other materials.
Standards and Specifications for Concrete Steps
Now that we have already talked about how marvellous concrete is, let’s dive into the technicalities that come along with it. Concrete, unlike any other construction material that can be easily bought and installed, has to be designed for its strength. If it is poured insitu concrete, it can be designed using different standards and procedures that differ slightly from country to country – BS method and ACI method being the most famous ones around the globe. However, if you are planning to order pre-mixed concrete from a concrete batching plant, mentioning the strength and workability you require would be enough – the experts there would do the rest. The strength shall again be prescribed by the designer but to have a rough idea 30 MPa would suffice for concrete steps. The 30 MPa concrete would perform better if reinforced with steel or CFRP.
One can make the strongest concrete yet fail to make a meagrely standing concrete step flight if it isn’t resting on a proper foundation. The ultimate load goes to the soil underneath and therefore a proper foundation which transmits the load to the soil is always needed – it is best if it’s left to the engineers for they would calculate the weight of the concrete steps and see which footing would work the best.
Construction of Concrete Steps
Once you have sorted out the footing and the strength of concrete, it is now time to start the construction.
- The site shall be dug out and the footings shall then be poured – this would require steel as reinforcement.
- After the footings are hard and cured, the form work for concrete steps shall be placed – formwork for landings shall be placed accordingly for they are supposed to be placed after a fight of steps.
- Form work for access ramps of wheel chairs shall also be placed as per the architectural design requirements which usually takes care of the legal considerations as well of that area.
- Steel bars as reinforcement – if designed in steps – shall then be placed and held via concrete biscuits/ spacers.
- The concrete shall then be poured
- How to pour? Well, the answer to this isn’t simple for there are multiple techniques. The easiest one would be using a chute or a pipe for care is to be taken. Concrete can segregate if it is dropped from taller heights.
- When pouring, the concrete shall be compacted using a vibrator. This compacts the concrete resulting in lesser voids and higher strength. Also ensures lower permeability which makes concrete durable and avoids ingress of different chemicals.
- Additionally, one should make sure that enough quantity of concrete is present on site for the pouring is done better in one go. Pouring concrete in batches can result in cold joints which would not only affect the aesthetics but would also affect the quality of concrete for it allows water to seep in that takes other chemicals that usually are detrimental for the concrete – this includes multiples salts and acids.
- After pouring, the surfaced is finished off either plain or exposed aggregate style.
- It is then left to harden for 24 hours – sometimes covered with plastics for it can cure.
- Curing is then done for 7 to 28 days to allow concrete to gain strength.
For safety – unless avoided in architectural design for aesthetic – hand rails should also be installed. This can be done by installing Baluster when pouring concrete. Metal plates or other nosing covers can be used in order to highlight steps and in order to improve friction between the shoes and concrete steps.
Apart from this method, there are other construction techniques too which are usually chosen based on the complexity of the construction site – its soil conditions, access etc. A civil engineer/ commercial landscaping company should be hired in order to suggest, design and execute complex concrete steps.
Concrete steps landscaping can further be improved by using aesthetic tactics such as lighting which shall be installed after the pouring. The electrical connections can be made in advance in order to hide wiring under concrete. Furthermore, exposed aggregate concrete can also be used – made using different techniques – to glorify the look even further. Exposed aggregate concrete improves friction and ultimately safety in rainy seasons apart from adding to the aesthetics. Similarly, moulds can be used to give concrete a natural stone-like aesthetic. Pigmented cements are another option to create your desired concrete steps look.
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