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Old 02-21-2011, 02:43 AM   #1
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brick steps collapsing


To put it simply, my sister bought this house about 2 years ago, I moved in during this past summer because the previous owners have mis maintained everything they possibly could, and it's all falling apart. I was raised as an auto mechanic, am in my last semester of college for business, but have a huge amount of experience with home repairs, and what i don't know, I love learning and pick up quickly.. but enough about me.

the front steps on this house collapsed last winter, I'm convinced it's a victim of freeze thaw cycles, that a leaky gutter (which i fixed btw) helped cause. We got some pretty ridiculous estimates from local masons to fix these, and it's just not in the cards to pay a huge amount of money. I'm pretty handy, and I know a couple people that'd be more than willing to help me on a project like this, i'm just not sure what direction to go in as far as fixing these. I've heard everything from ripping the whole thing out 100%, to just repointing the collapsed steps. It's only the bottom two steps that collapsed in, the rest seem pretty sound, other than some cracks running through the mortar.

I pulled some of the bricks, and it looks like there is a base foundation of cinder blocks and what appears to be QP, but might just be ground up concrete and cinderblock.

What i need to know, is what I have to do to fix these, i'd rather not rip everything out, if i need to, i'd like to keep the top landing because i know i'll have difficulting getting the pitch on it right. depending on cost, capping with blue stone or similar can be an option as well.

here's a couple pics:








I was considering pulling out all the damaged bricks, chiseling the old morar off of them, shoveling out all the ground up concrete, etc, and seeing if I can slide some blocks up in the back to support the landing and other steps before they have any problems

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Old 02-21-2011, 05:53 AM   #2
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brick steps collapsing


In my opinion, that is not freeze thaw, that is poor compaction of the subsurface. Dig it out, at least the bottom two steps, and start again

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Old 02-21-2011, 09:03 AM   #3
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brick steps collapsing


Your bottom two steps have completely collapsed, and mrgins is correct, the subbase is clearly not adequate to support the brick. Pointing of the brick is out due to the foundation failure. Half the entrance has already fallen down, removal of the pieces should take little extra time. What will take time and effort is the excavation of the poor supporting soil under the steps. You need to excavate down to intact, suitable soil such as sand or gravel, no silt, no organics. Then you need to backfill to the appropriate grade with compacted structural fill like sand, gravel or a mix of sand and gravel. Then you can build the steps on top of the structural fill.

I suggest you purchase a book from one of the big box stores on masonry, they will explain in detail what type of soil to use for the foundation, how to place it, and how to install the brickwork. And the book will have lots of pictures and tricks of the trade. In this case, it looks to me like total demolition followed by proper reconstruction will take less time than an attempt at repairing in place.
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Old 02-21-2011, 11:44 AM   #4
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brick steps collapsing


Thanks guys, i'll look into getting a masonry book. Would I be able to remove the other steps, but leave the landing in place, dig out the foundation, frame and pour a concrete pad, then use gravel/QP as a fill and re-lay all the steps?

my sister wants to be as "economical" as possible with this, she's looking for more of a temporary thing until she gets money to pay someone to replace them all. My time is cheap, so I don't mind grinding/chiseling old mortar off of bricks, as long as it means the stairs will last another couple years. And I can't imagine the gravel, concrete, and mortar i'd need being too expensive
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Old 02-21-2011, 12:24 PM   #5
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brick steps collapsing


It might be worthwhile looking at precast steps. You can do the demo and they'll plonk them in place and its done
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Old 02-21-2011, 12:29 PM   #6
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brick steps collapsing


In my opinion steps like that need a concrete base to support them. The bricks and mortar alone are not sufficient even with a compacted base.
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Old 02-21-2011, 12:49 PM   #7
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brick steps collapsing


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In my opinion steps like that need a concrete base to support them. The bricks and mortar alone are not sufficient even with a compacted base.
yea, another option someone told me was pull all the collapsed bricks out, compact it down, then fill it with concrete and replace the bricks on top of that, and if the other steps collapse in at some point, do the same thing, fill it in with concrete and replace the bricks...

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