Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
Is your front stoop looking a little stooped? Have your front steps lost some of their spring? Do your treads look a little too tread upon?
The Step Guys in Alfred made these steps of precast concrete to look like real granite slabs. Concrete, stone and brick steps are usually found to be more durable than wood steps.
Courtesy of The Step Guys
Composite materials that look like wood make durable steps too, but can be pricey. Concrete steps are usually less expensive than cut stone steps, such as those made of granite.
Courtesy of The Step Guys
The front steps of your home are both incredibly important (how else would people get in?) and a huge part of your curb appeal.
Attractive front steps make your home more inviting. Sagging, leaning or worn-out steps will draw people's attention and can take away from your home's overall look.
So if you've been thinking about new steps, there are lots of options out there. Of course there's basic wood, either something you make from lumber bought at Home Depot or something a skilled finish carpenter builds for you.
Other options include some of the new composite deck materials (very durable, a little pricey), granite (durable and not cheap), brick, paving stones and pre-cast concrete (cheaper).
Here is a quick guide to some of the step options out there, based on the criteria of price, durability, attractiveness and ease of construction.
Building your own steps with pressure-treated wood is usually the cheapest option. But then there's the staining and re-staining, and the repairs you might have to make if the wood warps in the weather. Composite materials that look like wood are among the more expensive options, along with granite or cut stone. But all of those are extremely durable, so they might save you money in the long run on repairs and painting.
"Composite wood products are more expensive short-term, but the durability is outstanding and the maintenance low," said Abby Buford, a public relations specialist with the Lowe's home improvement store chain.
This might be a subjective one. Wood steps can be attractive if built by a skilled carpenter. Granite and natural stone can be majestic and beautiful to some, a little cold-looking to others.
Pre-cast concrete steps, as made by a company called The Step Guys in Alfred (www.stepguys.com), combine the look of granite slabs with the price and durability of concrete. Brian Brown, one of The Step Guys, says his product should last 35 to 40 years.
"(Attractiveness) is certainly in the eye of the beholder, but most of our customers buy our products based on the curb appeal it adds to their home," said Brown.
Stone, concrete and composites are generally agreed upon by trades people as the most durable. Bricks or paver stones can be added to concrete, for different looks.
"Brick is always a great choice because of the durability, longevity and versatility of style," said Lowe's Buford.
It sort of depends on your skill level. But most people could build basic wood steps or steps with concrete blocks. Working with granite slabs might not be too difficult if you get them cut to size.
But working with stone, or the pre-cast steps of The Step Guys, can be tricky because of the weight involved.
"We install the majority of what we manufacture because of the substantial weight that requires specialized equipment for handling," said Brown.
Something to think about when building or re-building steps are the extra features that make them safer. Hand rails and balustrades (the small posts used to support a tall rail) make it easier for people to get their balance. Thin hand rails with no balustrades make it more likely small children can fall off your steps.
Making each step deeper and lower means a more gradual incline, and will make it easier for people to climb your steps, according to Lowe's. Plus, using tile or smooth concrete can make steps slippery when wet. Using materials with texture helps people get a better grip.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: