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Old 05-12-2011, 07:09 AM   #1
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


The winter months really did a number on the steps in front of the house my wife and I live in. The constant applications of salt, and the incessant scraping of snow shovels, gradually wore away the gray "hard stuff" sealing the spaces between the bricks and concrete. I've included pictures of the damage below.

In the course of a recent visit my father-in-law told me that this is relatively easy to fix, and doesn't require a professional mason. All I need to do is clean out the salt and degraded sealant in the joints and reseal. If this is the case, I want to fix it myself in return for half a month's rent (or some other 'trade' with my landlady, who is really bad at picking contractors to do work on her house). I don't want to mess with it if I'm only going to make the problem worse, however.

I appreciate any words of wisdom anyone has to offer, as this would be my first 'home improvement' task - ever.





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Old 05-12-2011, 07:36 AM   #2
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


It looks like the whole stoop is pulling away from the house due to inadequate base support. Someone has already filled in where it hit the house.
I would think the whole staircase would need to be removed and rebuilt.
Whether you need a professional would depend on your skill set.
Ron

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Old 05-12-2011, 07:42 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ron6519 View Post
Someone has already filled in where it hit the house.
I would think the whole staircase would need to be removed and rebuilt.
Whether you need a professional would depend on your skill set.
Ron
Thanks so much for the advice, Ron. I'm not quite sure what you meant about 'someone has already filled in where it hit the house', though. Do you mean that all of the stuff that fell apart this winter was "sealant" that someone applied to hide the fact that the base of the stoop is uneven, hence resulting in dislocations of brick/concrete steps etc.?

Is there a chance that these dislocations and cracks are being caused by water that got under the stoop and then froze and thawed repeatedly?
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:34 AM   #4
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


I was speaking about the top step in the third picture. The brick pictures are too close to see where they are on the wall. The mortar popping shows signs of water getting behind and into the mortar joints and freezing.
The stoop base was constructed improperly which is causing the stoop to "fall" away from the house. I don't know how the bricks relate to the stoop. Maybe a few shots further back.
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Old 05-12-2011, 08:50 AM   #5
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


I agree with Ron that you are probably going to have to rebuild the stoop. That is just too much of a gap to try to fill with anything. I guess you could try to left the front/low edge up and then shore it up but it looks to wide to use anything but a fairly heavy piece of machinery.

I would bite the bullet, take what is there out and start over as patching that gap will be a continuing nightmare. You can certainly break the old stoop apart yourself but don't plan on it being fun. You will need a dumpster to get rid of it. The rest depends on your concrete forming and finishing skills (assuming you pour concrete again). I would get estimates and think about having someone do it.

Looks from the photos you posted the basic mortar joints for the brick and masonry are alright. Water must be getting in through the cracks and causing the damage you see.

I love the products from this company for masonry and concrete restoration but there are other equal competitors out there. I would never think of using them to fill a gap that large though. If using epoxy just make sure the components are within the expiration date or the stuff may never cure.

www.abatron.com
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Old 05-12-2011, 09:28 AM   #6
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Thanks so much for the replies. I'm going to take a couple pictures from further back and post them. I don't think I'm up to the task of demolishing/rebuilding the stoop as I have no experience with masonry/brick laying etc. Unless I had step by step instructions and someone to help me who knows the ropes I'd probably screw this up worse than it was screwed up already.
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Old 05-12-2011, 09:45 AM   #7
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


Taking the old one out involves no rocket science. You just have to break up the concrete somehow and toss it in a dumpster. Obviously you don't want to be swinging heavy hammers near or jack hammering the house.

If you pour a new stoop? It shouldn't be outrageously expensive to have a concrete finisher form and surface it for you. Obviously you want to fix the existing slope/grade problem or you will just replicate your existing problem in the new stoop.
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Old 05-12-2011, 10:04 AM   #8
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Here are views from somewhat further back. Thanks again for the help, I really appreciate it.







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Old 05-12-2011, 10:17 AM   #9
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


Whoever put this up was not a pro. The tread heights are different to start with. The treads have an exaggerated slope as does the landing.
Suprisingly, the stoops brickwork against the house doesn't show a pulling away unless it's been filled.
Water has definitely gotten in behind the treads.
The concrete guys should get here some time and give you their opinion
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Old 05-12-2011, 10:27 AM   #10
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Suprisingly, the stoops brickwork against the house doesn't show a pulling away unless it's been filled.
There's a white, caulk-like substance filling in the areas between the foundation and the stoop. It appears to be holding up.

Unless someone says otherwise I'm inclined to tell my landlady she's going to need professional help. It wouldn't be right to tell her that I could 'fix' this and then get some sort of sealant to patch up the holes, only to have the whole thing fall apart next winter (or sooner).

She won't like hearing that she's probably going to have to have her stoop replaced, but this is what she gets for hiring inferior work. I've lived in the house for four years throughout grad school, and whenever she has work done she finds the cheapest she can find and then complains when they do poor work. If someone comes and gives her an estimate she doesn't believe is fair she will accuse contractors of trying to cheat her. The good ones walk away because they have more than enough work to do by having a good reputation throughout the area. The ones who are left over do the kind of work you're looking at.
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Old 05-12-2011, 05:45 PM   #11
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Do I Need a Professional to Fix This?


The treads & top border is actually what looks to be 2 1/4" Indiana Bedford stone. It's a fairly common stone, at least around here, and comes out of the ground in huge, seamless pieces, making it a good option for many accessory uses in masonry construction. The problem is it's fairly soft & doesn't hold up well to foot traffic. It will also be more prone to freeze/thaw issues due to it's porousity, not to mention the fact that mortar doesn't usually bond well to it when the "mason" doesn't know what they're doing.

Not the easiest DYI project, seeing as all the Bedford needs to be taken up, cleaned, you need to find a new piece to match the one or more broken treads, at least one riser needs to be built up with something other than the current 1.5" of mortar , the slabs aren't very easy to handle and can be broken fairly easy, and the list goes on & on.

If she decides to do it the right way & hire someone who's truly a professional, I'd say that's no more than a one day job, and could last decades with only minimal maintenance. OR, of course she could just continue to pay a reduced rate that's too cheap for anyone to do the job correctly, and have it rebuilt with new material every few years........

Personally, if you don't have a background in masonry, I'd steer clear of this project. Unless of course you plan on moving soon.............

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