We have a contractor building a set of concrete steps outside of our house (will be leading to a new French door whenever we get the door). They are using a bunch of left over bricks as filler they told us, and will rebar between them. They said they are doing this to save us money on filling it up.

Is this just a dumb idea (my gut tells me yes) or is it pretty stable?

I just don't want to get hoodwinked.

the work in progress

  • We do want to have this covered in the future, would that count as structural?
    – Th3sandm4n
    Nov 14 at 13:15
  • 1
    Only if there will be a load bearing wall built on the steps. Also, I'm sure that someone else will be along shortly with more/better informed information. I'm far from an expert in concrete work, so don't take my word for it - that's why this is a comment not an answer.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 14 at 13:23
  • @FreeMan a stable base is still needed though—are the bricks just piled there on the soil?
    – Huesmann
    Nov 14 at 13:39
  • they are piled on gravel/sand/gravel (just went to go look). Previous patio had the pavers all around
    – Th3sandm4n
    Nov 14 at 14:02
  • 2
    If you insist, the builder will haul out the bricks and pour a solid staircase for you, but that will cost a good deal more in labor and material. I've only ever seen dirt used, and I've never seen a solid pour, but that's pretty limited experience.
    – user177013
    Nov 15 at 0:53

9 Answers 9


The bricks are very dense and make a good fill.

Not having the steps covered does not make them structural. Structural is something that supports something else.

If you don't want the bricks to be used for fill ( I don't understand why not), tell the contractor and ask how much more the job will cost. (You may change your mind when you hear the extra cost.)

To offset the extra cost tell the contractor to leave the bricks and you can sell them. Bricks can bring a good price in some areas.

  • So sounds like basically what he told me was the truth! Thanks. I just wasn't sure if it was "I don't want to haul this stuff away, it's here lets just throw it in there". He did tell me that he would take them out if I wanted to a few days ago when I first asked him about it, but I was up all night thinking about this (also have a kitchen reno going on with the siding, so I am STRESSED). But it sounds like this is all right. It is just straight up dirt they leveled and compacted underneath.
    – Th3sandm4n
    Nov 14 at 13:31
  • 11
    Relax, it is ok to use the bricks. Some other contractors my use unsuitable fill. Your guy is treating you right.
    – RMDman
    Nov 14 at 13:38
  • @Th3sandm4n I have broken up concrete with brick fill and it was REALLY tough Nov 14 at 21:59
  • 3
    "Bricks can bring a good price in some areas." Mine is such, especially old crusty ones. People here like the rustic kitch. I was surprised to see the pile of bricks for filler.
    – user177013
    Nov 15 at 0:56
  • 6
    I would think think that if the bricks were worth enough for OP to profit from selling them and paying for the concrete, the builder would not suggest using them as fill. I'd expect the builder would in that case use concrete and either sell or reuse the bricks -- don't need to buy more to use elsewhere. Nov 15 at 5:05

You can fill the whole void with the concrete but that will be expensive. So hard fill is usually used for this purpose. But it is compacted in layers. If it is not compacted then the floor needs to be a self supporting or floating. This requires extra steel and Engineer's design, which does not save you money.

While bricks are okay, the ground under them should have been compacted first. Reinforcing between them will help. But the danger is that the weight of the concrete may cause the soil to compact/subside, possibly leading to cracks.

It may work out well, if they fill in the gaps with metal (crushed rock or similar) and then compact the whole area on top of the bricks.

  • The ground was compacted from what I saw (gravel and sand). It was previously pretty level and compacted from the brick pavers on them but I did see them leveling and compacting it more. They also said they would use rebar through the bricks to the ground and attach to foundation as well
    – Th3sandm4n
    Nov 16 at 12:53

Laid flat and level they won't cause an issue , if they're just thrown in then over time materials will find there way into any voids causing things to move

  • You don't think the concrete will flow in and around them as it's poured? Especially if it's vibrated?
    – FreeMan
    Nov 16 at 19:20
  • This was my primary concern as well. Soil from below can push up into the gaps, which causes settling. I've done this before, but only when sand was used in the process to fill all voids.
    – isherwood
    Nov 16 at 19:25

Bricks are a good filler for concrete, but they should be put into the concrete, not piled up then having concrete poured over them.

Right now you will have pile of unstable bricks with concrete cap over them - unless concrete will be very runny, it is not going to fill spaces between.

I don't see any scaffolding outlining the final staircase - are they going to put it up later or just shape concrete by hand?

It would be good to have the ground compacted and levelled first.

  • It is rhethorical question. Scaffolding is missing.
    – Thomas
    2 days ago
  • It doesn't come across as rhetorical at all.
    – isherwood
    2 days ago

Whole bricks should not be used like that, they should be broken up so that they lock together as a rigid base.


Get rid of bricks. Reinforcement in brickwork will achieve nothing. How is the concrete going to flow and to what purpose?? Insist your contractor does the job properly. It shouldn't cost you an additional penny/cent. Your contractor is trying to save money by doing substandard work and leaving you with a long term liability. From a retired civil engineer 😉


Is this just a dumb idea (my gut tells me yes) or is it pretty stable?

Stable? Definitely not. (There are random uneven gaps between the bricks, both vertically and horizontally. They will move if there is any stress.) Does it matter? Not if the steps and landing are well made and self-supporting.

Multi-storey buildings usually have stairwells where flights of concrete stairs have no supports except at the landings (top and bottom).

From the picture it appears that you're talking about a considerably shorter span, even including the landing outside the door, so as long as the landing and steps themselves are well made, and they're supported on at least two sides, what's under most of them is irrelevant.

I feel obliged to point out that "well made" would mean properly strengthened with a consistent thickness.

  1. It should be reinforced (with rebar, mesh, fibre, or some combination; and in an approved pattern)
  2. Check your building code authority for the required minimum thickness (which may depend on the span and maximum load and other factors) and add a good margin.
  3. The top surface of the landing should be below bottom of the door by a sufficient margin that it doesn't act as a catchment to drain water into the house. (If necessary remove bricks so that there's enough space to allow this AND the minimum thickness.)
  4. Putting rebar in amongst the bricks sounds wrong; you want the reinforcing in the concrete itself, not under it.
  5. The outside edge all around should either
    1. be formed into a reinforced "beam", supported on "posts" on the corners; or
    2. go all the way down to the footing (which itself should go into the ground).

Consult with a real builder for the exact requirements.

I suspect a better use of the bricks would be to form the sides, as long as they're the type of brick you can put rebar through to keep them aligned, and partially filled with concrete.

Or of course, just sell them.

  • 4
    True, but those flights of stairs that "have no supports" are actually supported internally. Not sure, though, how this actually addresses the OPs question.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 15 at 12:59

This is the worst job I have ever witnessed in my life. Your contractor has no idea how much damage is doing to you. The concrete that he will put on top will crack to pieces, as he will not reinforce it with it with steel mesh and will not be even and with unstable base that will collapse and or move from the rain. When it cracks you will have water penetrating below the surface.

You need to engage a professional concreter. You need to build proper compacted foundations, concrete steel boundaries, use 100 mm thick concrete slab 25 mpa, It's the power of concrete measured and with 10mm thick steel steel mesh.

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    – isherwood
    2 days ago

Take the bricks away and dismiss your builder, if that’s his/her standard of workmanship you don’t want them anywhere near your property, save a penny spend a pound.

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