6 May 2021 | Updated: 16 June 2021
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.
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.
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.
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:
Once the Building Regulations criteria have been established then you can think about the different treatments or finishes.
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
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.
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.
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.
Inspired by stone, cement and wood, the 20mm collection is ideal for all types of outdoor environments.
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.