A porch without steps is like a house without a door. Create an attractive, durable and welcoming entryway to a porch by erecting stairs with stacked, tiered and mortared landscaping blocks. Typically installed to build retaining walls, landscaping blocks are ideal for creating stairs, as they are designed for vertical arrangements.
For the novice, landscaping blocks also allow the home builder to bypass the many steps involved with pouring concrete steps, such as building forms and pouring cement. Another easy alternative is to use concrete blocks or stone pavers to create your steps, but landscaping blocks will provide a more attractive entrance.
Step 1: Measure Your Steps
Measure the height of the porch and divide that measurement by the height of the landscape blocks to find how many steps are necessary. Multiply the total number of steps by the depth of the landscape blocks to find out how far out from the porch the steps will extend. Plan the width of the stairs to be at least 2 blocks wide for comfortable treading.
Step 2: Mark the Layout
Use spray paint to mark the location of the steps. Use a level string line to determine the high and low points in the location, and position the steps nearer to the low point.
Step 3: Dig a Hole
Dig a hole in the ground where the steps will go. Dig the hole slightly larger than the determined overall depth and width of the steps. Make the hole 6 inches deep. Level and compact the bottom of the hole with a hand tamper.
Step 4: Fill Hole With Gravel
Fill the bottom of the hole with 3 inches of gravel and tamp the gravel. Place a board with a level on top of the gravel to ensure an even bed.
Step 5: Mix the Mortar
Make the mortar. Combine 3 parts sand, 1 1/2 parts cement and 1 part lime in a wheelbarrow or a bucket. Lime will add plasticity and strength to the mortar. You can also purchase ready-made mortar mix. Gradually add water until a thick, paste-like consistency is created.
Step 6: Apply Mortar to Gravel
Cover the gravel layer with a 3-inch layer of mortar, spreading the mortar with a trowel.
Step 7: Set First Course of Blocks
Set the first course for blocks into the mortar. Spread 3/8-inch layers of mortar between the blocks. Tamp blocks gently with a rubber mallet to help them settle and lay a level over the top to check evenness.
Step 8: Add More Mortar and Blocks
Spread a 3/8-inch layer of mortar on top of the first course, stopping just before the front row of blocks. Lay the second course of blocks, subtracting one row of blocks from the front to create the first step. Add 3/8-inch layers of mortar between blocks. Continue upward until the last course is achieved.
Step 9: Smooth Exposed Mortar Joints
Smooth down all exposed mortar joints by running the end of a wood dowel or a jointer tool down their lengths.
Step 10: Cover Steps in Plastic Sheeting
Cover the steps in plastic sheeting, and mist the stairs occasionally with water for at least three days to ensure that the mortar dries gradually and without cracking.
Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.