5.07.2013

Concrete Door Stoops

Because I'm on my 7th and hopefully last day of bed rest following my foot surgery, I had to pull these photos from the never-before-seen DIY Archives.  We did this project in 2008, right after we moved in and long before I was keeping this blog. So let's get to it. Here's the project:
Concrete stoops for all the doors onto the garden.
So here's the deal.  San Francisco building code requires that the threshold of an egress be 6 inches above grade. What's all that fancy talk mean? Outside doors need to be well above the ground to keep them from rotting. We wanted to add a step there as a way to make less awkward the 6" height difference but there are also some rules about step heights, length, etc. with doors that open outward like ours do. We got some quotes for some  stone curbs that were outrageously expensive, besides that they had to be carried up a flight of stairs and through the house by a bunch of he-men (i.e not us). By the time we were making these decisions we were completely tapped out financially and otherwise, and figured the stoops were something we could do ourselves...later.
We came to the conclusion that concrete slabs were something that would look good and we could do ourselves.
We built some forms out of two by fours and stapled on a cardboard bottom. Originally we weren't sure if we would get our finished top surface from the troweled top or flipped from the cardboard bottom (because we were total newbies and didn't know how professional or not our trowel job would look).  We lubed up everything with wax so everything would release easily after it had cured. 

Some important tidbits here.  1) After hauling all the bags up to the yard, we realized that the finished forms were going to be very heavy so we thought it be best to pour them right where they'd be (and just flip them if necessary). 2) We poured the forms on a two inch layer of sand to ensure that everything was flat, level and evenly supported, and (3) we really protected the fireplace and windows and worked on a tarp because we guessed (right) that this was going to be messy.
We used uncolored quikrete because we wanted that unadulterated concrete look plus we were mixing several batches and were worried about color variation from stoop to stoop.
This was definitely a two man job.
Oliver did most of the measuring and mixing. We didn't have a mixing attachment for a drill so he just hand mixed, which was really hard work.
Initially the powder flew around everywhere when mixing so a mask was good to have.
Extra buckets of water for storing tools and the diluting mixture were also key.
The thing about quikrete is that once you start mixing you are under the gun. Once it starts to kick it sets up quickly so working fast but carefully was critical. Also I think when you mix large batches that it gains momentum in its kick time.  
At times, we were both frantically mixing!

Oliver mixed, I troweled.  This project would not have been doable without the troweling tool.
The consistency was like pudding and then you could feel the heat when it started to kick.
 I really worked the mixture around to get rid of air bubbles.
And then leveled off the top.
We did all five in one day and the trowel side ended up looking pretty good so we didn't need to flip them. 
 I hobbled downstairs today and snapped these quick shots.
In the end, this was one of those super satisfying DIY projects in which we took the bull by the horns and everything went off pretty much without a hitch! Don't you love that when that happens?

5 comments:

Marie Roxanne said...

So only two was necessary? It took a lot to prep work and some hard stirring for you to do. Was it cheaper than buying the two concrete slabs or the fact that you did it yourself satisfy you?
I like the fact that DIY is a lot better than storebought even when it's a little more expensive, because you can say "I made it myself!" with pride!

C a i t l i n said...

This is a great question! The fact that we did it ourselves was the most satisfying part (we had fun, things went smoothly). We actually poured 5 that day -2 in front of each set of french doors and 1 for the garden shed. Also this DIY was way, way, way less expensive because each rock slab that we originally hoped to use was about $1000 EACH, because they had to be quite large to meet code (as wide as the outward swing of the door). Plus there was the additional labor costs of getting them into the house.
In general, I usually do a project myself rather than hire it out for the simple joy of it. I'm just wired that way.
Caitlin

Sandra said...

$1000 each?!? That makes me need to lay down. Great DIY job. I hope you enjoy spending your savings! And good luck with your foot / ankle. I hope you are up and moving around soon!

C a i t l i n said...

I know, I was kind shocked by the price as well. Ankle's getting a little better every day, although it still looks like I have a cankle. Not pretty :)

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