How to Lay Mortared Brick on Front Steps

Add classic design style and instant curb appeal to your home by laying bricks on your exterior steps.

home exterior
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 day
  • Total Time: 1 week
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Like an interview or a welcome party, first impressions are everything. Give your home curb appeal with beautifully laid, mortared brick steps. Your neighbors will be impressed with the classic design and even more surprised when you tell them you installed the steps yourself. Check out our step-by-step instructions for finishing mortared brick steps below.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Hammer
  • 1 Mixing tub
  • 1 Mason's trowel
  • 1 Screed
  • 1 Level
  • 1 Rubber mallet
  • 1 Small sledgehammer
  • 1 Brick set
  • 1 Mortar bag
  • 1 Paintbrush
  • 1 Jointer
  • 1 Burlap rag
  • 1 Carpenter's pencil

Materials

  • 1 1-1/4-inch screws
  • 1 2x4-inch plywood
  • 1 1x4-inch plywood
  • 1 3/4-inch plywood
  • 1 Type M mortar
  • 1 Bricks
  • 1 Stones
  • 1 Portland cement

Instructions

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  1. Pick a Method

    The method you use to finish concrete steps with mortared brick depends on whether you're pouring new steps, or finishing existing steps. In both cases, the surface of the top step must be lower than the doorsill. If the surface ends too high, you'll have to change the doorway or redesign the steps.

    If you're pouring new steps, allow for the thickness of the brick and the mortar bed when you compute the unit rise. A computed unit rise of 6-1/2 inches, for example, finished with 2-1/4-inch-thick brick, would leave room for a 3-7/8-inch-thick concrete base. This thickness is probably strong enough for mortared steps but may not satisfy local building codes. You may have to change the number of steps to provide a thick enough base. If you're adding brick to existing steps, and they won't interfere with the door opening, use the technique illustrated here. The forms provide edges that will keep the brick in line.

    Mortaring bricks to steps requires a poured concrete foundation that is solid and has a surface in good repair. Bricks set in a rowlock (shown) make a strong and durable surface, but you can experiment with other patterns. Bricks set on the treads can overlap risers by 1 to 2 inches, as long as the overlap is equal on each step.

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  2. Cut and Place Forms

    To reface existing poured concrete steps, cut forms for the mortar bed from 3/4-inch plywood and drive 2x4 stakes next to them. Level the forms with the top edges a 1/2 inch above the top of the steps. To mortar brick to newly poured steps, leave the forms in place and add a 1/2-inch extension to them. Cut 1/2-inch strips of plywood to the same length as the tread of each step. Fasten each strip to two 6-inch lengths of 1x4 with the top edges flush. Lay the strips on the top edge of the forms and fasten the 1x4s to the forms. These strips serve as a screed surface for the mortar bed and don't have to contain the side stresses exerted by concrete.

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  3. Apply Mortar

    Mix a small amount of premix in a mortar box, following the instructions on the bag. Using a mason's trowel, spread about a 1/2 inch of mortar along the bottom and on the face of the first riser.

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  4. Lay First Step

    Set the first riser brick in place. The joints on both the landing and the riser are 3/8-inch thick. Make sure the top of the brick is flush with the top of the step. Butter the end of the second and subsequent bricks and set them in place. When you have laid the riser bricks, set a level across them to make sure they are level and flush.

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  5. Layer Mortar

    Apply a layer of mortar about a 1/2 inch deep to the surface of the first tread. Spread mortar on the top edges of the riser bricks you have already laid. Cut a 1x or 2x screed to the outside width of the forms and pull the screed across the mortar, working it from side to side as you go.

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  6. Lay Bricks

    Set the bricks on the tread, starting at the rear of the step tread. Keep the bottom joint about 3/8-inch thick, and space the bricks on the surface with 1/2- or 3/8-inch plywood spacers. Bed the brick in the mortar by tapping it with the end of the trowel handle. Remove the spacers as you go, and level the brick with a straightedge.

    Editor's tip: Mortared brick lends itself to various patterns. Using whole brick will save you cutting time. First lay out the bricks in a dry run to make sure they line up properly and fit the steps.

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  7. Fill Joints

    Using the same techniques, continue laying riser brick and tread brick, spacing and leveling each step. Let the mortar set thoroughly. Then mix mortar for the joints. Squeeze it into the joints with a mortar bag. Fill the joints completely.

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  8. Smooth Joints

    When the mortar in the joints begins to firm up, tool them with a jointing tool. Smooth the horizontal joints first, then the vertical joints. That way rainwater will have a free path to flow off the front face of the steps. Let the mortar set, then scrub off the excess with a piece of wet burlap. Allow the mortar to cure for five to seven days before you use the steps.

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