Marble Stairs Detail; The Shadow Line

Select the suitable stairs finish is a hard mission, especially for homeowners. There are a variety of finishing materials, details and style. Marble is the common use material that is strong and has a nice appearance despite it classic style. Personally as much as I love marble but i struggle to find a modern details. The shadow line detail is a method to get a modern appearance, that is suitable for the most type of marble. The shadow line has flush clean look with no overhang nosing to have a modern appearance. With a thin black granite underneath the riser, it shows each step by itself individually.

Marble stairs, with shadow line detail
Marble stairs at Labib 2 building, Gaza Palestine By architect Zahi Alrayyes and marble from Zomord Marble.

when to use the shadow line detail

As mentioned before the shadow line detail is suitable with many kinds of marble. It’s the best choice with marble that have different tones like Flower Beige marble as shown in the below photo. The shadow line detail will separate each step by its own, then people will not easily notice the difference in marble tones. Also it’s suitable with marble that has many veins, it displays the beauty of each step. On the other hand, it’s not nice with clear marble that look similar tone and doesn’t have veins. It’s not a bad choice but it won’t add much to the marble and stairs. 

Shadow line steps
Marble stairs at Labib 2 building, Gaza Palestine By architect Zahi Alrayyes and marble from Zomord Marble. The marble is Flower Beige a Turkish product that has a variety of veins and difference in background tones.

Installing shadow line marble stairs

The shadow line detail is simple and cheap detail comparing to another marble details. Because its regular straight steps with a 2cm black granite underneath the riser. Granite is prefer to used and not marble, because it’s thin we need a plain black color. Also granite is more rigid material to avoid the break the 2cm piece through cutting process. Personally I prefer black shadow line to be thinner than 2cm but then it will become weaker. There are three types of black granite, beside artificial stone read How to Select Black Granite article for more information. Artificial stone is not suitable because it will efflorescence and appear with with grey and white spots. The craftsmen need to cut the granite using saw cutting machine at marble factory, and then to glue it with the riser according to floor and riser height.

shadow line stairs marble installation
how to install shadow line marble stairs, Gaza 2019 by Architect Zahi Alrayyes. Marble from Zomord Marble and installed by A. Muhassien

In conclusion, It’s not the only modern marble stairs detail, but it’s suitable for marble that has variety of tones or density veins. The shadow line detail is cheap compared to another modern marble stairs details. Also it’s well-designed, the design is avoiding water collecting and has no fine details that could break in the future.

Stairs Tiles Design

before and after stairs tiles project, Gaza 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes

This project is stairs tiles as application for Using Tiles for stairs, the project is outdoor stairs for ORIGIN DESIGN office entrance. The old situation as shown in the before and after photo is black tiles and four steps of Rosa Beta granite. We have redesigned the stairs and garden to have four steps each in size of 120*150 cm. Beside the steps, will add grass in sloped level to enhancing stairs beauty, this beside rearrange and developing the landscape. Through this topic we will discuss stairs building stages from drawings, selecting tiles, building blocks, tiling and finishing.

Prepare Drawings and Selecting tiles

Stairs drawings designed according to available tiles at the market, usually designers have knowledge about tiles sizes at the market. The process after choosing the tiles size, is to select the proper tiles texture and color. In this project, I have selected parquet in size of 15*120 cm to fill area of 90*120 cm. Unfortunately, choices were limited in this size, and I haven’t like tiles texture and color for this size. As an alternative I have found 120*20 cm parquet tiles in color I like, but this size doesn’t fit the drawings. 4 tiles pieces will cover area of 120*80 cm, in addition to cut a piece to 120*10 cm, but it won’t look professional.

Drawings for stairs tiles, 2019 Gaza ORIGIN DESIGN

Another alternative in the market was a Spanish parquet tiles from UNDEFASA in size of 15*90 cm. This mean we can rearrange tiles where 8 tiles will cover area of 90*120 cm perfectly. For border tiles and risers, we selected light gray 120*60 cm Italian tiles from ABK in thickness of 7 mm. Both tiles color and texture match, and they add to stairs design beauty. 120×60 tiles need to be cut in size of 15*120 cm and few in size of 30*120 cm. In order to have a clear edge cut, we sent the tiles to marble factor to cut tiles using saw machine. Now tiles are ready for the next stage.

Building the Stairs

After ordering building materials from cement blocks, cement, lime and sand. And demolishing the old steps, in order to prepare the site for building as shown in the drawings. The block walls top-level built to be lower than tiles level by 5 to 10 cm. This due to block dimensions and to allow craftsman adapting the steps levels. Then to fill sand between steps walls, and top 10 cm was mix between sand and cement. The mixture between sand and cement will enhance the ground strength, If there is a water leakage it will become a concrete surface. After finishing these works, now we are ready for tiling stage.

Building stairs for outdoor using blocks and fill with sand and cement

Stair’s Tiles

Usually craftsmen begin to install stairs from first step at the bottom then going upward. in this case, it’s more convenient to use downward method by installing step tread then the riser. Another advantage of building upper level going downward because there is a certain upper level and flexible lower level. 

tilling stairs tread, professional  works. Gaza 2019

First of all craftsman arrange tiles at straight level, matching parquet colors together making area of 120*90 cm. Then add gray tiles around them, we face a problem where the gray tiles are 119.5 cm instead of 120 cm. Also parquet make area of 121×90 cm, we planned to install parquet without grout, but still there is a millimeter between each. The solution was to cut a 1.5 cm from a parquet tile to have area of 120*90 cm. Together with the light gray tiles it made an area of 150*120 cm. 

installing  tiles from up level to downward, Gaza 2019

After installing the step tread, for the riser we use regular connection, where tread will lay over the riser gives straight angle. Also risers between each other will gather using 45 degrees method, to appear as one mass. 

Tiles Finishing

Finishing showing the beauty, especially for tile edges details. Grout is important, we used Vitra Cement grout CG1 white color for the stairs. Using liquid colors to give it a color similar to tiles, The parquet color is mixed using black, brown and mustard color. For the gray color we mixed to the black and a little brown color to the white cement grout. Notice that to have a well bond cement grout to the tile, you need to clean cement and sand between tiles. Then to fill the grout probably and leave to setting well. Then using metal sponge, clean the rest of the grout, you need to clean tiles well because they are rough.  

Stairs tiles finishing, ORIGIN DESIGN 2019 Gaza Palestine.

Why tile size is 119.5 cm instead of 120 cm ?

This is related to shipping and size of shipping container. Tiles pack by cardboard to reach 120 cm, then it could fit the wooden plate. These few millimeters will save a lot of money. And sometimes this happens during cutting tiles at factory, Saw cutting will have the blade thickness around 3 mm. Therefore i prefer laser cutting tiles where it’s more accurate and thinner during cutting. 

Why not using a tile adhesive for the grout?

Tile adhesive will crack when sun rays reach it, so it doesn’t fit outdoor applications. Another reason not to use tile adhesive, that tile adhesive has fast setting, and it couldn’t clean the rest of the grout by metal sponge. It need to grind the material, this fit marble but tiles can’t be grinding.

Stairs Hidden Lighting

Stairs with hidden Light, Alrayyes 2019
Stairs with hidden Light, Alrayyes 2019

The staircase is the focal point inside any space, designers like to make staircase the aesthetic element of the space. Staircase is expensive because it large scale especially when cladding with marble or granite. Also designers like to enhance the beauty of the staircase by adding some elements and design techniques. Stairs Lighting is one of the most important techniques. Lighting could be target on the steps or hidden inside the steps, other designs depend on handrail lighting. This topic will discuss stairs hidden lighting type and its construction details.

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