Evolution of the Front Porch

The front porch of our house has been a puzzle from the time we moved in.  As you can see below, it was barely visible when we first bought the house due to the overgrown juniper bushes that flanked the sidewalk.  We didn’t pay much attention to it until we ripped out all the bushes a few weeks after moving in.

After removing the bushes, we found that the slab was sitting on air.   There was a 5 inch gap under the porch that we didn’t see until the bushes were gone.  We tried to hide it with some extra rocks and plants but obviously not the best long-term solution.  We did have a couple nicer wall lanterns put in and tried to pretty it up with some flowers but fact remained that it was still ugly & made a nice home for the local chipmunks & bunnies.

I found more issues (rot) with the front when I painted the front door & hardware (which we are still ignoring).  The size of the steps has also been an issue from day one.  The first step is too tall & the second step is too short & together they create a tripping hazard.

We brainstormed many different solutions for the porch & talked to several different contractors for quotes and finally decided that we would try to tackle it ourselves.  Our plan was to extend the small step to the edge of the landing w/ concrete, knock out the too tall step & add 2 new steps down to the sidewalk and then tile the whole porch.  We bought the tile (which is still sitting in the garage) and Kevin started the first step by mortaring cement blocks under the gaps on each edge so that the tile would have something to stick to.  Then we did a little more Googling and found that you can’t just put new concrete on old concrete.  It will not stick and is likely to crack.  So back to the drawing board.

This is where the deck/patio project went awry.   While the concrete guys were working on the back patio, we asked them (through the contractor) to give us a quote on fixing the front porch.   They came back with a solution to build up the middle to be even with the front door and have a couple steps down to the existing sidewalk.  The quote was pretty reasonable at $1300 so we told them to go ahead.  They did a little bit of demo & removed the small stair & the tall stair before we left for the cabin for July 4th weekend.  I talked to the concrete guy before we left & he said he was concerned that the solution proposed was not a good idea because of the void underneath the porch (which we had described in detail prior to the demo).  He had already contacted the deck PM – who was on vacation – and was waiting to hear back from him before proceeding.  We left for the cabin with the understanding that nothing else would be done until we heard from the PM.

We got a text from the PM around 5 o’clock on July 3rd that the better solution was going to involve cutting out the entire middle of the concrete slap & pouring support piers & then pouring the middle in the configuration that was originally discussed & the price would now be $2800.  Umm.  We told him to stop all work and we would discuss on Monday.  We worked on alternative solutions over the weekend that we could do ourselves because we weren’t ready to spend almost 3K on a mediocre solution especially after the deck bill & the new AC units.

We got home after the 4th and found that they had done more demo after we left on Thursday & that there was now a 2 foot chasm between our sidewalk and the porch.  Not happy.  We sent a couple urgent & less than friendly text messages to the PM & didn’t receive a response back until Monday morning.

We discussed the issues with the deck PM on Monday morning & asked him to come back to us with a quote to do the whole project right.  This entailed demoing the entire existing slab, prepping the area & pouring a new LEVEL slab higher than the old one with a couple steps down to the sidewalk.  The quote for this came back at a staggering $5600 – more than quadrupling the initial cost of what we had initially agreed to.  Not good.  And due to the additional demo we were at a point of no return on the front porch project.

We called another concrete contractor that had lots of very good reviews on Angie’s List and had him over ASAP for a quote on the project.  He came in a little over $3600 for the same work that the deck contractor quoted $5600.  We went with him on the spot.  I wouldn’t say communication is this guy’s strong suit either.  The first timeline was he would fit us in the next week and when I called at the end of that week – the new timeframe was later the next week.  The 2nd timeline worked out and work started (& finished) on a Friday.

A couple hours in the crew had broken up most of the slab.  This looks pretty scary.  You can’t really see it in the picture but it appears that the slab was not actually tied into the foundation of the house but just sitting on top of it.   We are glad that we didn’t add more weight to the middle because it would have likely broken & we would be stuck spending even more money to get it fixed again.

The plan was to leave all of this as a base for the new porch.  I was skeptical about this but once the porch was framed and rebar was drilled into the foundation the new porch is not going anywhere.  It was a long day of work that I’m glad I had no part of but our curb appeal was much improved by 6pm.

Liam is a fan 🙂

We had caution tape blocking the front for a full day to let it dry so hopefully none of our neighbors thought it was a crime scene.  There is still a little work to do patching stucco under the door, touching up paint around the edges & fixing the door frame.

and no longer plan to tile it.  We can get a little money back by returning the tiles we bought back in March (yes – it is now July – this one has been a long time in the making).   We found a couple pretty red planters at Target that will add a little more color in front but the concrete still needs to cure for a few more days before putting anything heavy on it.

We are very happy with the way this turned out and the ease of dealing with the (2nd) contractor.  I’m also glad I no longer have to think about how to put lipstick on the pig that was our old front porch!

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