Why Consider Masonry Steps Over Wood?

Whether you are deciding on steps as part of new construction or to replace existing wood steps, these are 3 aspects to consider:

  1. Longevity
  2. Upkeep & maintenance
  3. Safety

Longevity.  I often mention the wearing affects of exposure and the outdoor elements on everything in the landscape. 

The top picture shows the existing wood steps in a renovation project of this older home.

Over the years the wood has fought a noble battle against the elements, but it’s taken its toll.  Whereas the masonry fieldstone foundation and wing-walls are in great shape.

Upkeep and Maintenance.  There are certainly well-made wooden steps constructed of the best wood-types for outdoor use, but they still require regular care.  Some are painted while others have a wood sealer applied.

How often this maintenance has to be done varies (depending on exposure and the elements), but some homeowners will do it as frequently as once a year.

Today there’s steps and decking made from composite materials like TREX.  These materials last forever and just need to be powerwashed occasionally. 

Safety.  All steps no matter what they’re made of have to be looked at from a safety standpoint.  Building codes have specific guidelines in that regard.

Here, however, I’m referring to the slipperiness of the step treads.  In fact, the homeowner of this house was saying how dangerous the wood steps were when wet.

Masonry Stone Steps Solve These Concerns

Replacing the old wood steps with masonry stone steps was a “no-brainer”.  The homeowner loved the look and the fact that these steps will outlast us all.

Equally convincing was the ease of maintenance (what maintenance?) and safety.  No slippery surface on these treads!

The decorative railing is aluminum with a powder-coat painted finish.  This too was chosen to last a long time with minimal care.

So, is it “good-bye” wood steps in the landscape?

Of course not.

Beyond the point of just personal preference, there are situations where wood steps “just work”.

For example, in many wood deck designs the steps are an integral part of the look (see below).

Good design should weigh all possibilities along with their pros and cons.  After that you can make the decision that works best for you.

P.S. The mason that built the stone steps for the porch searched and found fieldstone to match the existing stonework.  He then tinted the mortar to also match.

  • Janet
    1:10 PM, 30 September 2010

    Yes the steps are beautiful, but I like the whole look.

    • Roger
      10:56 AM, 1 October 2010

      Thanks, Janet. The homeowners really appreciated the whole design process from having renovated the house itself.

  • Wanda
    2:53 PM, 3 September 2022

    I’ve been carrying this picture around for a good two years unable to find the railing that you used on the stairs I’ll find it simply beautiful can you please tell me who was the company that made the railing. I am from Delaware, Thank you so much.

    • Roger
      2:38 PM, 4 September 2022

      That project was done quite some time ago. And I remember the homeowner contracted a railing contractor to fabricate these railings. In other words, this was a railing company that came to the house, reviewed all sorts of options and possibilities with the homeowner, and came up with this combination/composition of elements. When you have specific preferences as to “the look & style,” you really have to work with a metal/railing fabricator to create that look.
      I would contact a railing company in your area and show them the picture.

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