My Crumbling Porch

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Hi all,
I have a crumbing porch. First, a couple of pictures:
http://param.us/porch/porch1.jpg
http://param.us/porch/porch2.jpg
Now, I have zero experience with concrete, hence the question marks. I'm assuming that I need to chisel/remove the damaged cinder blocks ( pretty much all of them ), one at a time, fit a new one in, and slap mortar in between the top slab and the porch cap. Or, instead of mortaring the gap, find a suitable replacement cinder block. Is this correct? If so, is there a preferred method? ie do I start from foundation base and work my way around counter/clockwise?
And should what about stability? The mortar is pretty deteriorated around the entire porch. Is there a way to support the porch(stakes etc) while I complete repairs?
Any advice is much appreciated.
- Elam
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I'd call that a front step, not a porch. It's impossible to evaluate the whole thing from the couple of pics. But from what I see, it looks so deteriorated that from a practical standpoint you are probably going to be better off demolishing what is there and starting over. You need to find out if there are adequate footers to support it. If so, you can get rid of eveything above that and rebuild. If not, start with proper footers
You may want to consider putting in slate, stone, or maybe stamped concrete for the top surface to give it a nicer look.
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On Mar 16, 11:56 am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Hi. Thanks for replying.
The front step is actually pulled away, revealing the decay.
The base foundation looks good(from what I can see), no crumbling and the slab cap is in fine condition. It's really only the individual cinder blocks. T. I've had a couple of contractors out to look at it and they've both said its simply a matter of replacing the cinderblocks. I can't really afford to demolish the whole thing right now, anyway.
I am planning on putting a slate veneer on it when it's done, although with Michigan winters, it may not last too long.
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The question is, how many blocks? If it's most of them all the way around, it would seem to me it's less work to demo the whole thing and start over. The top slab is of no great value or complexity, it's just a simple small concrete pour. Plus, if you do it right it will last a very long time. If you fix/replace say 1/3 of the blocks, which isn't trivial, you still have what's left and that may not be in that great shape or last much longer either.

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On Mar 16, 1:12 pm, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

One reason i don't want to do the whole thing from scratch is the city ordinance process, which is a pain. But on further inspection today at lunch, your probably right.
One thing i don't understand is how the porch cap is poured on top of the cinder blocks? Is that something I can do, or should I use a professional?
Thanks, - Elam
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"This one worries me but couldnt tell for sure. It looks like damp damage to under the house there? "
Do you mean that crack that's showing underneath the door?
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"Elam" wrote

No, what looks like grill work below? Definition of the picture isnt enough to tell what it is really. 3 post looking things at the bottom back.
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Oh, those are cinder blocks. in fact, the whole base where the porch meets the ground is cinder blocks, it just looks continuous in one place and spaced out on the left and right(posts) because of decay and what looks increasingly likely to be a bad job.
I called the city inspector, and in Dearborn, the porch foundation extends to 42 inches below the ground, I'm assuming it's 42 inches of cinder blocks, in varying condition. Also, I could demo the porch and find out the concrete foundation at the bottom is in poor condition too and have to rebuild that. But the porch is in such bad shape that all this is going to have to be done anyway(well, maybe not the foundation, we'll see)
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"Elam" wrote

Ok, hard to to tell from the picture.

I understand. The depth is due to the frost level depth of the ground where you are.
I can envision several solutions, some better looking than others. Some longer lasting. Here's my best shot.
I take it having it professionally done really 'pretty' is not a financial option so you need something you can reasonably do yourself at least for now, with not too much time to spend on it? Later you can have it spiffied up?
1) Best, take out the whole thing to the ground level then build a box of wood and cement fill it even and smooth about 6 inches up. Put the current top slab on this after it's dry. Get either cement steps to place on top of this, or a metal step to reach the rest of the way.
2) Take it down as above and pour a slab, then build a wood deck above it. This takes a bit more time but will look nicer. You can solid base most of it from the looks of the height you need, with PT 'road ties' then put flat wood panels on top.
3) Least likely to work, but may. Use several bits of wood and such as well as some car jacks to hold the slab in place, and replace the existing cinderblocks. This will not be easy and very likely you will crack the top block. If it can lift off like it looks it might, get some buddies (a 6 pack will do for this in my area for a bribe) to move it to the side. Take down what has to come down and rebuild. Pay close attention to the center core area as that's apt to be what was empty to start with (or not properly filled) that made it go bad over time.
#3 is cheapest but least likely to work. It's advantage is if it doesnt, you can skip to #2 or #1.
#2 is next cheapest and wont take long if you have the right tools to cut the wood or can borrow them from a buddy.
#1 will work but may cost more due to purchase of steps, but it's also the fastest one if you have time constraints.
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Well, I was able to peer back into the hole between the slab and the cinder block:
http://param.us/porch/porch3.jpg . It turns out the porch is two cinder blocks deep. One below ground level, one at ground level, about 4 inches of Quick Crete, and then the slab. The interior of the porch is simply filled with dirt. It's quite ghetto. This house was built in 1951 and the porch was probably rebuilt at least once, but this is the kicker: If I demo it and rebuild, I have to build it to 2009 code, which means I have to dig 42 x 87 x 48 cubic inches of dirt, pour foundation slabs for the cinder blocks, build the wall, fill the interior, then pour the slab. That's way beyond my expertise and my budget.
#1 isn't really an option as the risk it entails with the city and their friggin ordinances. If they caught me, I'd have to rebuild it to 2009 code, and that would cost thousands of dollars. Not sure about #2. I don't know if I have to lay a slab if I build a wooden porch. I should call and find out.
Do you really think #3 will damage the slab? Let's say I remove 2 to 3 blocks at a time, repair those, and repeat? When you say it's not easy, do you mean the effort of placing/removing the cinder blocks? Or making it look decent? I tend to underestimate, but this doesn't seem like it would be difficult. Tedious, maybe.
Another picture, just cuz:
http://param.us/porch/porch4.jpg
Thanks for your feedback.
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wrote:

Park some vehicles blocking view from the street. Do the work. Move the vehicles.
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You don't have to dig anywhere near that much. You just need 48" footers around the perimeter. There is no need to remove the earth in the middle.

I'd get some estimates. There is nothing here that is all that expensive. It's mostly labor, some blocks and and a small amount of concrete.

I've never seen a reqt for a slab to build a wooden landing or deck. Generally, they are supported on footers and bolted to the house. You'd use those cyliderical cardboard tubes 48" deep to pour the footers where you need them. But, I don;t see this as being less expensive than rebuilding with concrete. This kind of project may be about the same either way.

It looks like it's solid. So, you probably can support it or with enough guys, move it out of there which would be better. That's assuming it wasn't poured into anything connected to the house on the far side or underneath.

To do that all the way around with the landing slab removed isn't that hard. With the slab in place it's harder because you don't have free access. The only problem is code doesn't call for footers just for the hell of it. They are there so it doesn't heave when it freezes, go lopsided, crack apart again, etc.
So, you have to evaluate how much work you want to put into doing something half-assed again. I also don't know what the whole thing looks like, ie front step? how does that get integrated? , how it fits in with the rest of the house, etc. If it fits in with the rest of the condition of the house, the neighborhood has similar front landings, etc, then it's different then if nearby homes have nice landings, etc. You also should consider when you plan to sell the house and what will happen. For example, if you want to sell it next year and do a half-ass repair, then an inspector for the buyer may quickly spot it and flag it. Meaning you'll have to address it again.

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"Elam" wrote "cshenk" wrote:

Sad smile, I see later this is the specs, not what you actually have. Bummer.
1) Best, take out the whole thing to the ground level then build a box of

Thats what I was afraid of. Basically no real center core. That's likely why it fell apart too.

Check again? There is often a difference in a 'repair of existing grandfathered code' and a new build. A *contractor* probably would have no choice but the new code. DIY may allow for you to build to the old code.

That would be a worthwhile call. Local code may not even require any slab under a wood porch. Might be able to just even up the base, set the existing top slab down on the ground, then build wood above. I *think* in that case you leave the new porch 'free floating' from the house so as it shifts a bit with freeze/thaw of ground in your area (reason for that 42 inch depth there) it wont damage your siding.

It will be very hard to do without some decently hefty help. That top slab looks to weigh several hundred pounds right? It looks like the easiest way will be to lift it off to the side, fill the core properly with gravel and sand, replace whatever cinderblocks need to be (cement fill the center holes), then level it and put the top back on.
Got anyone to help you? If not, it will be hard to do alone. Car jacks will be very handy even if you have help.
I once had to work on a porch a bit like that one (I do lots of charity work on weekends and habitat for humanity etc). I think the upper slab piece was a bit smaller and it took 4 guys to lift it away and put it to the side.
We also had to dig a deeper base and repour the bottom slab which was cracked beyond use. (in fact we pulverized it and used most for the center core later). The guys used a jackhammer to soften the dirt and I shoveled it out til we hit about 12 inches (all code required in this area) then wood framed and poured the base with quikcrete. Came back next weekend to finish and the rest was easy. Just new blocks, mortor, fill core, once settled, put cap stone back on.

Thanks! That one really clarified the situation.
My best take now with better understanding, is *try* what you are thinking of and see if you can get 3 buddies willing to help you. It will be *much* easier if you can lift the top slab off. If not, jack it with car jacks so you can raise it *carefully* just enough to get the bad blocks out and slide new ones in. While it is in place and jacked, the stress points on the top slab will be high and this is where it may crack. Using 4 or more jacks in tandem will provide better support and lessen the chance of that.
Oh, I am sure you can find a few neighbors willing to loan their jar jacks so you have enough (grin).
Now, lets take worst case. You do not have any one to help and it cracks. All is not lost. Pull the upper slab out in pieces and if you can break it up, do so and use as core filling. Replace cinders as needed then in the center, fill with the broken slab. Get it all nice and even. Fill in with quickcrete then when it dries, use some nice outdoor decking wood to make a top laid right on there. Keep the boards together by front to back runners at the sides. You will then have an easy base to even nail some side enclosure railing wich in ice and snow will be rather good to have. Use the existing pulled away solid cement step, just where it used to be. When you have time, paint it all in something that will look nicely contrasting to your house. (Dark brown seems right from what I can see).
Possible?
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Well, I'm going to try replacing the individual blocks. Removing the slab isn't really an option for me at this point.
Total space is from the ground level cinder block to the slab is 12 inches, so that's plenty of room to pull out/repair a standard 8x8x16 cinder block. I'm going to put cinder bricks in the remaing 4 inch gap, although I'll have to squeeze the mortar on the top of the brick and the slab somehow. When/if it's done, I'm going to cover it with stucco or something decorative.
My stepfather has done quite a bit of this kind of work and he wasn't too worried about the slab cracking as long as I don't remove too many blocks at one time. We'll see. I'll post some pics of my progress.
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Ok! I'll be hoping all is well and interested in the progress!
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I yanked my bushes up today, and you can see the full extent of the decay.
The right front corner isn't even resting on anything. I'm surprised it hasn't cracked already. I think I can do the whole job tomorrow. We'll see.
http://param.us/porch/porch_no_bushes_one.jpg
http://param.us/porch/porch_no_bushes_two.jpg
http://param.us/porch/porch_no_bushes_three.jpg
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"Elam" wrote "cshenk" wrote:

http://param.us/porch/porch_no_bushes_one.jpg
http://param.us/porch/porch_no_bushes_two.jpg
http://param.us/porch/porch_no_bushes_three.jpg
LOL! Looks like the hardest part was getting the bushes out! I hadnt realized you had that much around it.
Ideas for later after you do the base structure. It looks like a simple bricked siding applied around it would be a good addition come next year if you feel like it.
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cshenk wrote:

Are the houses up and down the street twins to yours, under the various flavors of siding? Like maybe an early 1950s subdivision? Judging from how the front walk dives under that precast step, I think this whole thing is probably an old DIY covering the original front steps. Walk up and down the street, and I'll bet you see at least one house with just steps. I'd almost bet they just set the block perimeter in dirt (or on an original grade-level slab), filled up the middle with more dirt, and then formed and poured the slab on top. Water got under all this and froze, hence the blocks popping apart.
I wouldn't invest a lot of time or money in it. At some point, the slab is going to get wobbly, or frost-heave to the point that it ponds against house creating ice and basement leaks. (Have you looked in basement directly under front door for signs of leaks? That J-channel siding is resting on doesn't look real water-resistant.) At that point, you will have to demo and start over anyway. Shim it as best you can, skim coat with cement, and hope for the best. Or you could demo now, and replace with a wood front porch built with stuff from the deck aisle at the borg- several like that in this neighborhood. I don't think they even require a permit, since they are sitting on blocks on the ground, thereby being 'temporary structures'.
Me, I'd tear it out completely and do it over- some things I don't wanna mess with twice.
-- aem sends...
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"LOL! Looks like the hardest part was getting the bushes out! I hadnt realized you had that much around it. Ideas for later after you do the base structure. It looks like a simple bricked siding applied around it would be a good addition come next year if you feel like it. "
Yeah, the bushes were a hassle. I did two of em manually and it took me two hours. Then my buddy came over with a chain and his Trailblazer and yanked the rest of them out in half an hour, although one caused his 4x4 to spin on my grass for a bit, so I have a semi-hillbilly front yard at the moment. I want to put a veneer of some kind on it when its done. Either stone or slate, although slate would probably bee too slippery in the winter. I'm also planning on a retaining wall that's inline with the porch, so I'll have a bit more lawn.
"Aemeijers" wrote,
Heh, you got it. House was built in 1951. Although it's the odd one out on the block, a one level ranch. All these houses have basements, mine does not, just a crawl space. The last two months, I've checked out every porch in the negihhborhood. Most are built like mine,quite a few are built like mine, but a lot are not. But again, my experience and eye are pretty limited.
I'm not real worried about having to do the porch twice. When I can afford it and have more experience, I'll do it right
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"Most are built like mine,quite a few are built like mine, but a lot are not. "
Eh, should have been "quite a few are built like mine, but a lot are not. "
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