30 April 2015

Replacing the front steps

It was sickening to my soul, but we had to make the very tough decision to remove and replace the solid stone slabs that made up our front stairs. The stone was spalling and crumbled a little more with every footstep and raindrop that fell on it. The top step had broken in half and wobbled precariously under any weight. They needed to be replaced before someone got seriously injured.

So we needed to decide what we would put in their place. Replacing with comparable stone would have been prohibitively expensive. Concrete would have been cheaper but still pricey and probably not DIYable. Wood won out. Although not accurate to this particular home, wood steps are true to the time period and can be made to look as if they always belonged to the house. Hopefully the local historical society will not raise a stink about it.

We removed the bottom tread, which was actually 3 blocks of stone. Layers of stone came off in sheets. I was amazed and a little frightened by how easily the stone crumbled in my hands. Once the bottom treads were out, I pulled out an incredible amount of stone debris that had fallen off the bottoms of the other treads. I dug a trench along the sidewalk, then filled it with several inches of gravel and then sand. This will help water drain away from the bottom of the stairs and hopefully prevent rot. Solid concrete block was put on top and stabilized and leveled all the way across.

Tom grabbed a demolition bar and wrestled out one of the pieces of the top tread.

We carefully rolled it down step by step to a furniture dolly and rolled it to its new home, just a few feet away.

The stone seems randomly placed at the moment (my landscape architect sister is probably cringing right now), but it will eventually become flowerbed edging.  There is still a lot of use left in these stone slabs, just not as structural elements. I'm glad I'll be able to use them as part of the house and not just have them hauled to the dump. We're waiting for the weekend before we tear apart any more of the stairs to maximize our work time and minimize the time we have to climb up and down the porch foundation to access the house.

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