Refacing Concrete Steps With Brick
A level may be a mason's best friend, but to cover up an unsightly set of concrete steps, an experienced eye takes over.
Synopsis: The author and his partner are asked to cover a set of concrete steps and a pair of wood posts with brick. This article explains the process, including how they overcame problems such as finding risers of uneven height. Two short companion articles detail the brick herringbone pattern they used and the process of turning wood posts into brick columns.
Some masons guard their levels more closely than their wallets. No one, not even their apprentices, is allowed to touch them. Because so much depends on a level, it must be kept pristine and true. A mason’s level should be used only to check alignment of materials and never used to force those materials into place.
However, there are times when this tool must be set aside, even when setting brick. Because of their uniform shape, you’d think that bricks should always be set level and plumb. But unless you want a helter-skelter appearance, the rule is that bricks should look level and plumb, even if they aren’t.
So many questions, so many bricks
Trying to maintain a level look gets even trickier and more challenging when several intersecting, irregular, sloping surfaces come into play. On this project, my partner and I were asked to set a brick veneer over an existing concrete entryway with a bottom landing and three steps up to a large top landing. At first glance, it seemed simple. After all, a good, solid foundation for the brick was already in place.
But a closer look revealed many complications. First, the risers for the stairs varied from 6 in. to 6 1/2 in. We could compensate for the uneven concrete surfaces with the mortar layer, but the overall size of the slab had been set without considering the finished dimensions of any veneering material. So we needed to make the brick fit the existing dimensions of the concrete. A cut brick inserted into an odd gap could look like a mistake or an afterthought.
To complicate matters further, our clients also asked us to surround 4×4 wooden posts so that the hefty roof over the entry would appear to be supported by substantial brick columns. The idea was good in theory, but the concrete ledge outside the posts was too narrow to support even the width of a brick.
Last, we had to anticipate how the brick would meet the house at both the siding and at the door threshold. All these questions had to be answered before we set the first brick.
Sides are veneered first
All surfaces exposed to the weather should be sloped at least 1/4 in. per ft. for drainage. Luckily, the surfaces of the concrete landings on this job were sloped slightly more than that, so the bricks placed on top of the landings could maintain that slope.
For more photos, drawings, and details, click the View PDF button below: