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!
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.
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?