Advice for backyard staircase - concrete VS. gravel?

Discussion in 'Bricks, Masonry and Concrete' started by bellbound, Jan 26, 2019.

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  1. Jan 26, 2019 #1

    bellbound

    bellbound

    bellbound

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    I have a staircase going down a small hill in my backyard that was built using rebar and railroad tie. The whole staircase was burned in a recent fire and now needs to be replaced, and I'm trying to find a way to replace it without costing a fortune.

    1. One contractor suggested using concrete, though I am concerned with concrete cracking due to the ground shifting. I also live in possible earthquake country in S. California. Thoughts on using concrete if I put something else on top of it, like pavers? Would there be possible issues with concrete cracking underneath the pavers?

    2. Another contractor suggested using Roadbase gravel and decomposed gravel and putting pavers on top glued down. The idea behind this was not to use concrete because it will crack. Thoughts on this approach?

    3. Any other suggestions for handling this based on the two previous recommendations?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Jan 26, 2019 #2

    nealtw

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    Make the concrete a full 6" below the steps with a rebar grid in it, it will move as one.
     
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  3. Jan 26, 2019 #3

    Snoonyb

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    Railroad ties will be far less expensive than any concrete solution, and are common all along the foothill communities, because they are easily replaced.

    A concrete stairway, with just treads will not crack from tectonics, instead they will float. Where you will see damage is when they are monolithic treads and risers.
     
  4. Jan 26, 2019 #4

    bellbound

    bellbound

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    Is there an advantage to using the concrete below the steps with a rebar grid in it vs. the roadbase gravel approach?

    We do not want to replace the staircase with railroad ties because of the potential toxicity of the treated wood.

    Thanks.
     
  5. Jan 26, 2019 #5

    Snoonyb

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    I would opt for railroad ties before either of those more costly options.

    If you are so concerned about the toxicity, don't chew them.
     
  6. Jan 27, 2019 #6

    bellbound

    bellbound

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    Well, I do have a dog and two young kids.

    Besides this, the fire burned the railroad ties and blew debris from it all over the back of my house. I do not know how toxic the railroad ties really are, though since I have kids I want to avoid the possibility of any exposure to anything dangerous for my kids.
     
  7. Jan 27, 2019 #7

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    What I meant was concrete stairs that are thicker than normal. Like the ones on this page.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Jan 27, 2019 #8

    Snoonyb

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    At the age of the ties when repurposed as landscape fixtures, and then burned, there is little chance of any exposure other than charcoal.
     
  9. Jan 27, 2019 #9

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    Are you talking about green treated ties or real used railway ties?
     
  10. Jan 27, 2019 #10

    bellbound

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    I'm not sure if the ties were real used railroad ties or treated ties. They were in the backyard when I bought the house about 8 yrs ago and I do not know when they were installed. Here is a photo of what they look like, and the stairs that I am trying to figure out the best way to rebuild.

    Thanks.
     

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  11. Jan 27, 2019 #11

    nealtw

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    Those are real railway ties, we used to be able to get them for free and I have built lots of stairs out of them. but the chemicals are really not good for people and I would think smoke a fire of that stuff would not be good for you.

    We can see the 4 holes where the rail plate was nailed to them.
    upload_2019-1-26_22-16-3.jpeg
     
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  12. Jan 27, 2019 #12

    Snoonyb

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    Those ties were originally treated with creosote, which was banned for sale and use in "the truly left coast", but can still be found and used in other states.

    Those ties were deemed safe for the use because the chemicals used had been so diminished as to be safe for that purpose, and no longer environmentally harmful.

    The ties used in your staircase were pulled and replaced by the railroad, as a normal function of maintenance, and not as the result of one of the environmentalist whaco laws passed by the dismalcrates in Sacramento.
     
  13. Jan 27, 2019 #13

    bud16415

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    I would dig out all the old stuff and make a smooth slope covered with a couple inches of crushed gravel. Then I would build a conventional set of stairs with pressure treated 2x material that would follow the grade. Posts on each end to anchor it and extend up for railings.

    A DIY project.
     
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  14. Jan 27, 2019 #14

    mabloodhound

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    I also would do as Bud suggested using PT 2x lumber to build conventional stairs with concrete landings at the top and bottom
     
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  15. Jan 27, 2019 #15

    bud16415

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    Looking at your photo again. If that is rebar sticking up from the old RR tie get that removed or pounded in or bent over before someone impales themselves on it.
     
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  16. Jan 27, 2019 #16

    nealtw

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    Treated lumber stairs would have to be ground contact treated and the OP wanted to stay away from treatment. And ground contact has all that wonderful stuff in it.
     
  17. Jan 28, 2019 #17

    bud16415

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    The only thing that would touch the ground would be the posts that the stairs are anchored to.
     
  18. Jan 28, 2019 #18

    Snoonyb

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    There is a metal handrail there already, so what posts are needed?

    Chemicals used to preserve the treads would leach into the soil, from rain, whenever it decides to rain in the LA Basin.
     
  19. Jan 28, 2019 #19

    mabloodhound

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    That's why I suggested concrete pads at the top and bottom. The stair stringers would NOT be touching the ground nor would the steps.
     
  20. Jan 29, 2019 #20

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    I was assuming the railing was super heated by the fire and due to it being built in the day before we understood pollution of our land it could have had a rust proofing plating applied that had burned and melted off. That could have dripped down on the earth and most likely that whole hillside should be removed and trucked to Montana along with the railings.


    It’s hard being green. As Kermit says.
     

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