# Reasonable price for building a few steps?

• posted on September 13, 2008, 6:49 pm

I know every place and situation is different, just trying to figure if this is reasonable. (And someone's not pulling something over on a naive home owner).
New to me house has a "sun room" built across the back of the house. There are two separate sets of cement steps from the house to the room. The steps are very awkward for me. I'm 5' tall, and the distance from the door to the first step is like 9-1/2", and different on the other. And since I have to step over a threshold just inside the door, it makes the first step *really* big for me. I'm interested in having new "user friendly" steps put in over the existing ones.
I had a contractor that I've used before look at them, just to build plain wood steps over the existing steps, using Trex. He originally quoted me \$450 for the two, or \$420 if I did it with plain wood. Then the other day he came by and looked at them again and sent me an email that he'd realized he couldn't do them as he'd originally planned with stringers and needed to use a "box method" and that "there is more material required with this method so the new price would be \$750.00."
So questions - shouldn't he have realized what type of design he'd need when he first measured the steps and quoted on it? And should the difference really be \$300 for additional material? And most importantly, what would a reasonable price (range) be for two sets of steps (3 steps each) in the Baltimore area? I was happy with the \$450 although a male relative told me he thought it was too much since it would "only need \$50 worth of material". I wouldn't be asking here about the original price, but I'm confused by the \$300 increase. (It's not the cost of Trex, because the orig price specified a \$30 reduction if he used unfinished lumber).
Current steps -
http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v704/lurkerlee/problem%20areas/?action=view&current=Sunroom-awkwardsteps.jpg

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 13, 2008, 7:56 pm

Maybe, but did you ever make a mistake or not plan something perfectly? This is where the old saying "shit happens" comes from.

Material and labor.
And most importantly,

Give the male relative \$50 for material and buy him a six-pack. Your guy may not want the job and he is telling you that softly.

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 13, 2008, 7:58 pm

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v704/lurkerlee/problem%20areas/?action=view&current=Sunroom-awkwardsteps.jpg
Frankly I am a little surprised that the initial quote was so high. Please realize that it all depends on your locality but that does not look like a \$450 job to me. For a licensed insured contractor is some areas it might be a fair price. For sure I would not pay the \$750.
I suggest you get a few more quotes from someone who needs the work. Even in the high cost NE there has to be some one who wants to work.
Colbyt

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 13, 2008, 8:09 pm
"Lee" wrote

Hi Lee!

No doubt. I looked at the picture. In my area, thats a code violation. The problem is they didnt make them far enough out to add that missing top step (probably wanted to preserve room-space) and created a true safety issue. Possibly they were the origional ones from the back door of the house to the yard?
First in dreaming of this, I would literally have the cement taken out then make proper wood steps with a rail. 3 steps for us short folks (I'm a whole inch taller than you so neener neener!). Maybe nice black filligree wrought iron ones?
Measure your foot. Have the steps about 1.5 to 2 inches longer than your foot. You wont lose much room space and it will work. If you accomodate for bigger feet, you'll need about a 3 ft out stretch.

It's not just the material, it's the labor. My guess is he wanted to build up both steps to make it a more even shift. Essentially the new design would be one that pretty much ignores the cement totally and makes a new structure over it.
What might be more functional and look better from the little I can see of the room, is to have a brick mason put a layer on each step, raising them both, then some fax thinner brick on the sides and perhaps the riser between the steps if you wont loose too much depth. If you just raise the top step without the bottom one, you just shift the problem to a different level.

In honesty, the fellow called back to show it wouldnt work and he'd need to do more. You can get a second opinion (and should) but this is one of thse pesky 'small projects' that can cost a fair amount.

Labor, not material I bet.

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v704/lurkerlee/problem%20areas/?action=view&current=Sunroom-awkwardsteps.jpg

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 13, 2008, 10:07 pm

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v704/lurkerlee/problem%20areas/?action=view&current=Sunroom-awkwardsteps.jpg
It looks to me as though those steps were there before the sunroom. That may have been an outside doorway at one time. It would be best to get several quotes and opinions as to what can be done.

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 3:24 am

As has been said, the present steps are a code violation and as you have said, not comfortable or safe. Is there a drawing or written description of what the contractor is to build? As I see it,the contractor wants to build a code compliant landing at the door, then the steps. He originally had in mind a set of steps without landing. T

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 4:42 pm

Yes. Looks like original outdoor ones. Would not be code compliant now for exterior either but would have been grandfathered. Once the room was built around them, then local code compliancy comes to question. They may no longer be grandfathered? Area dependant.
Example, when I had my sunroom redone, we were required to upgrade a door lintel and electrical to current standards. Both were grandfathered before but not on a rebuilt room.

I'd add to make sure the fellow knows his codes. This can be a costly mistake if it has to be redone.
I agree with Alta47 as well, unless the existing steps are so covered you cant tell thery are there, it's gonna look tacky. Encasing with brickwork over them (leading to 2 taller steps) is the only untacky way besides encasing completely in wood, that I can think of. All other methods I can think of involve removal of the cement steps.

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 8:08 pm
cshenk wrote:

Thank you all for the comments. Yes, I'm pretty sure these were the original cement steps to the outside, and at some point, someone added on the sunroom with the cement floor (which I assume is why the last step is so shallow). All of the houses in this neighborhood seem to have two sets of back steps.
What I'm envisioning, although now that you mention it, I need to be sure that's explicit, is that the cement steps would be completely covered by the wooden ones.
Interestingly, I actually did have a mason cover the front steps in brick (same problem). He added a "landing" or at least a very small drop to the top step. He did a beautiful job, but to me, brick steps are sort of "outdoorsy", and thought wood would make it more of a room...but heck they would be nicer than cement! He did give me a quote on doing both sets of steps in the sunroom, but that was 2400! I'm not sure the steps are quite that annoying yet. (I'm still trying to sell my old house, so every dollar counts right now).
I'm assuming that having the current cement steps removed would be a big deal? I may have to rethink the brick approach.
(Oh, and BTW, the male relative is my younger brother. I'm not asking him to do the steps because he never finished projects he started in my old house 20 years ago, LOL).

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 8:35 pm
"Lee" wrote

Did your inspection when you got the house mention these? I gather the sunroom was there then. If added sunroom afterwards, you have no grandfather for the steps when you sell this house.

Yes, would have been construction of the times and grandfathered code. Quite a bit of my house has that still so we are familiar with it. If I renovate my bathrooms for example, I am reqiuired to add electrical outlets (there are none there now).

That was my first assumption.

From the apparent dimensions, it looked do-able for me in brick.
I've never had one house on sale same time as living in a new one but I can understand that.

No, not really. They should have been chopped out before the new slab was laid that low but it's much less expensive to remove them now than to reslab the rest higher especially if it will make the ceiling too low.

LOL! Gotcha! Yeah, not a best pick there!

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 4:15 am

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v704/lurkerlee/problem%20areas/?action=view&current=Sunroom-awkwardsteps.jpg
Crap, man. Where are you? I'd be happy to do it for \$700.
Steve

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 2:20 pm
What is the height from the floor of the sun room to the floor inside the house?
Go to Lowes or Home Depot and take a careful look at what they have in the treated lumber section for 3-step stringers and treads. You may find that you can buy two 3-step stringers and 3 treads for each set of steps and nail or screw them together to make new steps. Or, a handyman can do the same thing for you.
http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productIdF43-152-4643&detail=&lpage=none
Depending on the width of the current steps, the new steps may even be able to be built right around and over the existing steps without taking the old ones out -- although that would be, and would look, tacky.

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v704/lurkerlee/problem%20areas/?action=view&current=Sunroom-awkwardsteps.jpg

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 7:14 pm

Given your situation, I'd probably spend a bit more money and remove both offending piles of ugly concrete and install at least one set of steps that would be at the side of an appropriate small landing and railing assembly. Or maybe a landing with steps on either side would look nicer. Two such additions to the room might be more than you need, so space could be gained by eliminating the seldom used entry. Make some sketches and work with your contractor on pricing. Railings and proper steps will be very nice to live with, especially if the steps follow the commonly preferred 7" rise and 11" run. HTH
Joe

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<%-name%>
• posted on September 14, 2008, 7:58 pm
"Joe" wrote

Caution if I understand you to eliminate the door steps. It may be a code issue in the case of 2 egresses per room. Codes arent always logical.
Where I am, the only thing that makes my egress 'legal' from the 3rd bedroom which has no window, is the origional exterior door that now leads to a sunroom. This may be the same as what she has (not mentioned is the room the sunroom leads to inside the house).
The sun room is 'legal' because of the patio door and windows. Happens to also have another door which we refit to proper lintels and exterior coded door. (Inspectors quibble on that one here, and some say exterior coded door is overkill while others mandate it due to the screened porch on that side).