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
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:23
  • @FreeMan a stable base is still needed though—are the bricks just piled there on the soil?
    – Huesmann
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:39
  • they are piled on gravel/sand/gravel (just went to go look). Previous patio had the pavers all around
    – Th3sandm4n
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 0:53

8 Answers 8


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
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:38
  • @Th3sandm4n I have broken up concrete with brick fill and it was REALLY tough Commented Nov 14, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 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. Commented Nov 15, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 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
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 15:23
  • It doesn't come across as rhetorical at all.
    – isherwood
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 15:28

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 😉


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
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 15:21

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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