Building a step with concrete and retaining wall stones?

loribee2(CA 9)April 18, 2010

I have some of those concrete retaining wall stones you can get at Home Depot. They're shaped like fat pie wedges, are about a foot wide, 4" high and are curved at the front. I've placed them in a half circle at the door to my garden shed and think they'd make a beautiful step. The lift to my shed is about a foot, so the step would be handy for my (aging) knees.

I'm trying to figure out how to do this. Obviously, this leaves a "hole" in the center of the half-circle that needs to be filled. I was thinking about creating a footing of concrete and setting the stones on top while the cement was still wet, then filling in the hole with concrete. Do you think this would work?

My first shot was to fill the center with gravel, but it only took several walks on the rock and the stones started spreading out. I definitely need something to hold them in place. My concrete experience is limited to post holes, but I'm willing to give it a try. Thought I'd check here to see if my idea has any merit before I create a giant concrete mess!

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Not can it be done, it looks beautiful. My DH did this - not only a DIY job, he had never worked with concrete before so it was all a "maybe this will work, let's try it" project!

He says he set the outside stones carefully level (you will need to buy or borrow a 6' level, for something like this) on a packed sand foundation. Wet the sand; the slower concrete dries the stronger it is. He filled in the center with some rip-rap (we had some broken up concrete from past jobs), then poured over that, the usual quick-set concrete dry mix bought from HDepot, wet it down, and leveled it. Then let it dry for about a week, misting it down gently every day.

Then he set the second course, filled in the center with concrete mix only, did the whole level/daily wetting.

We live on a hill with slippery clay soil and a lot of continual settlement, and the stairs have been rock-solid perfect since 2003. HTH!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:59PM
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loribee2(CA 9)

Wow that looks really pretty! It's exactly how mine looked, and I really liked the effect (until I started walking on it and it all started separating!). I am thinking my main problem was that my rocks weren't level, so I will go out with shovel this weekend and start digging.

Thanks so much for the pictures and the advice. I'll keep my fingers crossed that Try #2 hits the mark!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 3:09PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Like in painting, prep is everything. Get your foundation good and level. Also, that first level of blocks is set in not only sand, but a layer of concrete mix was watered in. Good luck for your second try!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 3:49PM
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