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Cantilever Floating Concrete 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 the illusion of floating concrete. They give a rugged feeling of concrete floating to justify technical advancement in the field of construction. They are now a favourite design feature amongst modern landscape designers. One might be wondering if concrete blocks can float. Well, simply speaking, 'yes'. But the answer isn’t that simple.


Concrete floating steps - Reds Landscaping & Design
Concrete Floating Steps Cantilever.


How to make floating concrete steps

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

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

  1. The simplest is being supported by the 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 slabs or blocks that have a certain overhanging length. This look can be created using multiple techniques.

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

Cantilever Concrete Slab Schematic - Reds Landscaping & Design

Cantilever Concrete Slab Schematic.

This is usually difficult to achieve in the case of steps for commercial landscaping since this requires a beam like support which should be strong enough to resist torsion and bending moments 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.

Cantilever Beam 2D Design - Reds Landscaping & Design
Cantilever Beam 2D Design.


When designing this kind of cantilever, the steps should be properly designed to take the loads, which would end up being 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.

Concrete floating steps formwork


Cantilever Floating Step Formwork - Reds Landscaping & Design
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 of cantilever steps can be achieved using the formwork where an extra flat is laid – 50mm x 100mm 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 1 metre x 1 metre, which is a nominal size. However, bigger steps can be created using the same technique. If the overhanging part is to be more than 100 mm, more steel should be provided on the top of the overhanging portion to resist the negative bending moment; this results in a hogging curve.

Beam Hogging Bending - Reds Landscaping & Design
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 - Reds Landscaping & Design
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 Design - Reds Landscaping & Design
Concrete floating steps under construction near a swimming pool. Floating effect created using the overhanging section.


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

Garden idea for Pond with concrete stepping stones - Reds Landscaping & Design
Garden idea for Pond with concrete stepping stones. LG Eco-City Garden Chelsea Flower show 2018.

What concrete should be used?

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

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

Floating Concrete Step Design

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


Cantilever Concrete Pathway Steps House Entrance - Reds Landscaping & Design
Cantilever Concrete Pathway Steps House Entrance.

The floating concrete steps, or cantilevered concrete steps, can be combined with other landscape design features 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.


Floating Concrete Steps - Reds Landscaping & Design
Floating Concrete Steps in Suburban Melbourne. One of the cantilever steps has been designed to reach the driveway.


Floating Concrete Steps Melbourne - Reds Landscaping & Design
Floating Concrete Steps in Melbourne. See how well they are integrated into the landscaping.

Our 3D design package will allow you to visualise your concrete floating step design when you work with one of our senior landscape designers. Using some advanced software and hardware, we can create immediate 3D renders. This allows visual assessment of the design from every viewpoint.

The 3D design package will let you see and understand how all the elements, including features like floating concrete steps, are integrated into the landscape design.

Our software can create an artificial sun and project light and heat on any given day or time. This ability to replicate the exact angle and temperature of the sun rays projecting on the building prior to construction is why this package is the people's favourite. With this amount of influence and control over your future outdoor space, it's easy to see how this package will drive confidence, clarity, and transparency into the build and assure all trades and parties are moving towards the same goal.


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Landscaping References and Further Reading on Concrete Cantilever Steps

[1]      “Beam under torsion|” (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

[2]      “How to Make Floating Concrete Steps — Mid Century Modern Interior Designer - Portfolio.” How the steps are made (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

[3]      “What are sagging and hogging Bending Moments? Give its sign convention.” (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).

[4]      “Floating Concrete Steps – How to DIY, Design & Build.” (accessed Nov. 05, 2021).