6 May 2021 | Updated: 16 June 2021

Ask the Expert

Outside steps: A guide to the best and most creative ideas

Discover how to choose the right outdoor steps with this complete guide, including building regulation and design ideas.

Whether your home is located in an urban, suburban or rural setting going up and down steps to get to the front door or access the garden on a daily basis is probably second nature. Their design can make a great contribution to the landscaping around the home. We’ve put together a guide to making sure your steps are safe and add to the overall appearance of your home.

The architecture of steps

Indoors, our homes are connected by stairs for houses of two or more storeys, or over split levels. Outdoors, changes of level are negotiated by either a ramp or steps.

Classical and public buildings are almost always raised off the ground and accessed via steps that lend a heightened sense of gravity to their architecture. When it comes to residential buildings steps are inevitably involved because finished floor levels cannot be on the same level as the surrounding ground.

A terraced area around the house accessed by steps helps make outdoor maintenance easier and allows the house to occupy its site more emphatically. Steps in the garden lend the landscaping a more architectural quality and make the outdoors more user-friendly.

Housing for life & steps

Now more so than ever with the UK’s ageing population ‘housing for life’ considers the design of potentially hazardous elements that should be mitigated as we get older. This includes steps to access the front door.

Safety includes good design principles such as visibility, anti-slip finishes, lighting, etc. But as with any regulations they should be seen as an opportunity rather than an onus, with the right approach steps can improve the external appearance of the home.


Project: Dune House

Builder: Niedeker Houses

Architect: Ruben Muedra

PhotographerAdrián Mora Maroto

How we are able to go up & down steps without thinking

The action of descending or ascending stairs or steps is one of the ways that we unconsciously adjust our bodies and movements to our surroundings. Something that we are hard-wired to do without a second thought.

Being evenly spaced with the same height (riser) and depth (going) allows our brains to adjust and without thinking, we can run up or down. The building regulations that govern steps are therefore important to ensure health and safety.

The most important considerations that are codified include:

  • The angle of the stair, calculated as the height divided by the length: a comfortable angle is between 32 and 34 degrees, anything over 42 degrees is not permitted.
  • The number of steps in a run: a single step should be avoided, more than 16 steps will require a landing.
  • Nosing, the detail of the very edge of the step: this will require a non-slip and visible nosing detail.
  • Handrail protection & balustrade, for more than three steps in a run a handrail is required on one side.
  • The width of the steps: steps should have a clear unobstructed width of at least 90 cm.

Once the Building Regulations criteria have been established then you can think about the different treatments or finishes.


The best materials for cladding steps

This very much depends on the construction of the house and the landscaping of the garden. However, in general terms, the use of outdoor tiles is a practical option because there are many design options to choose from and tiles represent good value for money. Because of their range of dimensions using tiles is also practical because the overall number of joints is reduced. It’s highly recommended to avoid joints outdoors because of weathering that can damage the cladding over time.



Project: Detached house in Finestrat

Architects: Manolo Cortés and Trinidad Batet from the Arquibacor studio

Builder: Infinobras


Important: The nosing detail for outdoor steps

Because of the frequent rain and other inclement weather conditions in the UK, particular attention must be paid to the nosing detail. Having a bull-nose edge detail that projects over the riser made from the same material as the going ensures longevity and is harder wearing. The greater the half diameter the better in terms of visibility and the more resistant to weathering.

Specific attention should be paid to the adhesive of the tiles and overall construction of the steps because any deterioration can become a health and safety issue. In this sense, PORCELANOSA’s technical department recommends using the Super-Flex S2 Rapid for outdoor steps. This tile adhesive is available in both grey and white, in 20 kg bags.


Cement-based tile adhesive

Super-Flex S2 Rapid

Ideal for fixing glass, porcelain, mosaic quarry, marble, terrazzo, terracotta, brick slips and ceramic tiles.


Adding an anti-slip metal profile to the edge of each step is another way of ensuring extra safety and preventing falls. The two profile options are a built-in edge profile or an insert that adds the bull-nose detail to the edge of the tile. Specifically, PORCELANOSA’s technical department recommends the use of Pro-Step M2 Stainless steel and Pro-Step M1 Aluminium anti-slip metal profiles for outdoor steps.


Tiling outdoor steps

One of the most appropriate materials for cladding a run of steps is tile. Depending on the façade or the garden landscape design where the steps are located stone effect tiles, cement effect tiles or timber effect tiles might be best suited. There should be ideally a dialogue between the steps and the architecture of their setting. Much also depends on the space available, steps with a very gentle angle will benefit greatly from the larger dimensions offered by tiles.



Project: Dune House

Builder: Niedeker Houses

Architect: Ruben Muedra

PhotographerAdrián Mora Maroto


Outside steps tiles

Tiles for outside steps must be thicker than the ones used for indoors, a minimum thickness of 20mm is recommended because exterior conditions are harsher. Tiles must also be anti-slip which means that underfoot they provide a grip and do not become a trip hazard in wet conditions. This is normally achieved by providing the tile with a patina or a grain. Note: It’s important when laying tiles to make sure that the steps have a gradient, just a few degrees, which ensure rain run-off.


The 20mm


Porcelain stoneware

Inspired by stone, cement and wood, the 20mm collection is ideal for all types of outdoor environments.



Bottega Caliza Ant 59.6X59.6 (Available in-store)
Rox Grey Nature Ant. 59.6X59.6 (Available in-store)



Outside step ideas to integrate house, garden & terrace

  • Space permitting an arrangement of steps and a parallel ramp is a way of combining the classic gravitas of steps yet providing equal access for mobility impaired. The ramp will occupy more space than the steps and needs a level landing area but this can be designed into the layout.
  • For gardens laid out over slopes a great and practical way to make maintenance and gardening much easier is to create terraces with runs of steps provided at each change of level. Clad the terraced walls with the same tiles as the steps for an integrated look.
  • Steps in the garden and leading to an entrance are a great opportunity for external lighting. For safety reasons integrating the lighting with the risers is practical while the low-level light helps create a focal point in the garden and can extend the house beyond its built footprint.
  • For steps that require a handrail using the same cladding material is a great idea for creating a feature with the rising walls on either both or just one of the sides.
  • If the space is available a stepped ramp can be a great way to negotiate a change of level. The going can be any length required but must be the same (together with the riser) over the entire run.
  • Instead of the more typical linear geometry, lay the steps out in a semi-circular arrangement. More space is needed but the steps become an architectural and a landscape feature, adding to the property.

Outdoor steps FAQs

Brick paviours, stone slabs and timber decking are all popular options. However for low maintenance, guaranteed anti-slip properties, and longevity it’s hard to compete with tiles. The large range of options means that include stone effect, timber effect and cement effect tiles makes it possible to choose a tile for any style house.

The depth of the step is known as the going, the going must be wider in the outdoors than indoors. A minimum going of 30 cm is recommended but you’ll find that anything deeper becomes much more comfortable in use. A riser (height of an individual step) should not be more than 15 cm for ease of use.

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