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Old 06-16-2018, 09:37 PM   #61
retiler
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The idea of an overlay is highly appealing.

This has to be the easiest workout.

Remove the railings.
Put one piece of concrete over the porch, stairs and pavers.
Replace the railings.

Done.

Amazing.

The piece of concrete does not need to be overly sensitive to measurements.
As long as there were two good points of attachment possible the bottom and top stairs, everything between could be whatever we liked. The big constraint would be getting the porch piece aligned properly; perhaps this would be the focal part for the entire job. The porch area needs about 6' by 10' in an irregular pattern. The entire piece could be slid in from one side.

With the railings taken off the entire piece of concrete could be placed in one motion. I will need some technical help to make sure that this is actually possible. The one thing that I am not sure about is whether such a slab could bear its own weight when it is being lifted into position. They might need a specialized type of lifter.

It seems remarkably easy.
If it could have some finish that somewhat resembled slate tile it would be even better.

If this could be done somewhere near a $1000 price point this would be extraordinary. The $1000 models that I saw would have the same amount of concrete as I would need. It would be a question if they could easily do the customization that I want. Basically do a mostly standard stair precast but add in an irregular porch with a footer. If the footer became a problem, then perhaps this could simply be done later with a fastener to the bottom of the precast stairs.

Remarkable we could maintain the investment in the slate tile and perhaps at some time in the future think more carefully what should be done with it. Such as retiling it. $1000 would be bargain price if this were possible.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:12 PM   #62
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I was out trying to work through the measurements and the overall feel of this idea. This almost could be done with a standard form. I did not realize the right stair railing goes straight back. This makes things quite easy. If we wanted to, then we could simply take the standard pattern; and ask them when they pour the concrete to hold back on the concrete for the sides. Perhaps even funnier we could simply buy a standard form with no porch and just throw it directly on top of our existing stairs. Everything would then be in step and then add one piece for the porch and one for the footer.

The ground level and bottom stair are out of alignment by 6 inches on the left and 3 inches on the right. With a grade of about 5 inches over 5 feet going from the stairs to the street. If we put a notch in the precast stairs 9 inches below the bottom stairs, then we could simply have another piece of concrete that could rest on the ground level 7-9 inches below the bottom step and then this could lean over all the uneveness. This is one aspect that I am unsure about. The idea of the overlay is now becoming more clear to me.
I think that this could certainly work out.

Yet for the footer, I would need a very good sense of the topography of all these gradients. This part of the job might be left for later on.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:34 AM   #63
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Why in the name of all that is right and good do you continue to discuss this project with your neighbors? The neighbors have clearly demonstrated that they have essentially no useful or accurate information to offer and are merely adding to your aggravation at this point.

They're YOUR steps. YOU get to decide what will be done with them.

Continue your research, narrow your potential solutions down to a few, consult with us on johnbridge, present the options to your family (not your neighbors!), and move on with the project. If you must get approval from a homeowners association, simply use your research and present that in the proper forum (association meeting, letter to the architectural committee, etc.). Do not "run it past the neighbors", they don't know what they're talking about. The moment someone states that you need an engineer to lift a paver they've lost all credibility.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:50 AM   #64
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Jad, there are a few points that you made that I would like to revisit.

You mentioned that you are on the board at your condominium unit and that you have done stair replacements with precast. What I now find surprising is that you said that you do a full tear out and then a replacement costing about 4k. I assume that you mean that the existing stairs are not pre-cast and considerable effort needs to be applied to remove the existing stone. If it were simply replacing one precast with another precast, then there would be almost no tear out exertion. In some of the videos I saw online, for smaller precast stairs, an installation with only two people without mechanized equipment can be done in less than 5 minutes. A deinstall would be even easier.

Why not overlay a concrete precast on top of the existing stairs? There would not be a tear out needed and it would be a very easy install. As long as the existing stairs had even moderate structural stability, the new precast could then firmly secured.


Something else that I am now not sure about is the concrete screw idea. Earlier you noted that concrete screws could cause expansion problems and water issues etc. . That certainly makes sense, though I am not entirely sure whether that is a complete deal breaker.

I got out my drill and I cleanly drilled through one of the tiles. I forgot to use my masonry bit so it was more difficult than it had to be. I have also drilled into our steps and installed concrete screws. In fact the existing, railings were attached with metal screw fasteners and they are still firmly attached for the many years we have lived in our house.

This has me thinking, would not attaching the tiles with thin set and then drilling and fastening with screws be a viable option? Screws on each corner of the tile would make the tile undetachable. The thin set would be the main glue holding the tiles on, and the screws would then simply be added protection. I would also be worried about expansion and contraction of the screws, though the railings screws have made it through -30 winters without any problem. The great part of this is that if at some time the screws did start to protrude we could simply tighten or loosen them.

We were thinking of going with a metal fastened roof, though finally decided against it because of the expansion and contraction issues and resulting leakage that can occur. Yet, the stairs are so much more accessible. If the screws started to have issues, then we could simply fix the problems.

My guess is that with this plan the tiles could last for many decades. If a tile did actually have serious problems with one or all of the screws, then we could simply redrill it somewhere else. This seems like a highly plausible idea to me.

Not getting the level right with the screws could cause safety issues, so we could make sure the screws was drilled below the surface level and then possibly covered with thinset.
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Old 06-17-2018, 08:20 AM   #65
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Jersey, thank you.

I greatly appreciate your comments. I am sorry to be a nuisance to you and all the others on this thread. There is clearly more to life than exterior tiles and hopefully my life can return to other concerns than these tiles quickly. This is one of the biggest life crisis I have experienced to date.

I completely agree with you about simplifying this. This has become so extremely complicated it is hard to believe. When a committee is assigned to do any task, no matter how simple, things spiral towards infinite complexity. This is now way beyond exterior tiles this is about psychology, the meaning of meaning, ... the very essence of the meaning of existence.

You are totally correct. I now know how to get this done for a reasonable cost and I am comfortable with the basic design. I'll let the pros guide me in for the last mile.

What has made this very difficult is that other family members have been persuaded by the neighbors that their solution should be our solution. When they were over yesterday I said: "Precast concrete looks like a very good option for us." They rebutted with how beautiful their stairs looked in stone and how we could have the same. Why does this matter? Because other family members then said: "Yes, we want what they got".

This is devolving from a tile project into the deep realms of psychology.
One of the main points of our conversation yesterday veered totally off topic.
The neighbors wanted me to make an explicit statement that I understood and was capable of theory of mind reasoning. They wanted me to clearly state that I understood that they liked their stone steps and it was the right choice for them. That was completely unrelated to our steps.

Um, how does this relate to precast stairs or even solving OUR problem? Not sure. Somehow our stair problem related in their minds to how they thought we thought about their stairs. Now that we have a reasonable solution, we simply need to block out other opinions and get this done. Advice could only be helpful when we were in the exploring options stage. Now that we have viable solutions, it is now about designing and signing.

My best guess now is that our neighbors are deliberately trying to disturb our family dynamics. They are clearly not being helpful and they know it. Initially they claimed that our regional environment would not allow for precast steps. I noted that there is in fact a large precast stair industry here, they then retorted with for some unspecified reason there could be no certainty that a precast product would be the right product for our particular lot. When I think of it now, such argumentation is so devoid of any logic that anyone who would propose such a rationality is simply not speaking with good intentions. Such incoherent non-thinking is not being given to help us move to a good solution.

For all the years that I have interacted on online forums or email, I have had almost no verbal brawls over anything. It truly is startling. When dealing with people, you are probably going to have disputes. We have now had a few encounters with our neighbors and it has been very distressing for me. I finally realized that the way around such stress and frustration is to simply email them. As soon as you have a hard copy record of a conversation, those who start writing nonsense will lose credibility. I would certainly like not to even have to email them, though my family members are now treating their opinion as expert advice.

Everyone I am sorry for all this trouble.
This should now be a very simple problem to fix up.
I am just not sure how to finesse it over the line.

It certainly has occurred to me that I could have this all planned so that when our family steps out to go shopping or a movie, I could call the precast crew over and have the install done in about half an hour and this would all be taken care of. At this point I do not think that would be acceptable to the family.
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Old 06-17-2018, 09:12 AM   #66
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Looks like our problem has just become dramatically easier to solve:
the neighbors appear to be moving out.

Yes! Yes! Yes!
It is a miracle!

I simply did not know how to cope with my exterior tile problem.
Everyone has problems.
I realize it is sad and somewhat pathetic but for me, exterior tile
is pretty much the biggest mountain I have ever climbed.

This is amazing!
This enormous weight of stone has been taken from my shoulders!
Yeah!

Solving the actual problem: no sweat.
Discussing the meaning of meaning: hopeless.

Everyone, I really appreciate your thoughtful and informed comments and your words of wisdom.
I am not sure I could have made it through without them.
However, it looks like this thread might be heading for retirement! Yeah!


Over the last year or so the neighbors have been aggressively helpful in working through a range landscaping and other issues. They have also given us increasingly intrusive advice about how we should live our lives. The latest is that they object to our leaving our garbage buggies outside. Where else are you supposed to leave your garbage buggies? Exactly how wussy have we become that we need to justify to anyone else where we leave our garbage bins?

The stairs was the last main problem that we had on the books.
The neighbors told us that they have been actively removing the tiles on our steps for our protection. We were very grateful to them for all their help, though now I wonder whether it is more their direct actions that has caused our tiles to fall off.

It had occurred to me that their main motivation in all of their efforts was not so much to help us but to increase their resale value. I have been wondering on what day I would see the for sale sign. It is now clear to me that this was their intended sell date. They had escalated their actions and words in order that everything would be done by the day of intended sale. Selling your home in Southern Ontario in June/July has to be the peak of the real estate season. They have been shrewdly manipulating us to hit the right selling time. I would typically feel terrible about such an incident because I would tend to feel that I caused them to move out because we were bad neighbors. However, when I think about this carefully, they have been manipulating us for quite some time.

In my email yesterday, I showed them what precast concrete is all about. My guess is that they now realize how good a deal precast is and that arguing the point is no longer in their self-interest. They know that we can fix our problem in less than an hour with a precast overlay so they might as well stop the argument and sell now. Family members should now clearly realize that the entire argument by the neighbors was in bad faith. They might buy into the line that we are such bad neighbors that our neighbors had to move out because of us. Yet, that does not fit the timeline over the last few years.

The neighbors have become increasingly insistent lately that the stairs need to be repaired immediately. The only reason why we have been driven to a state of near panic about this is because they are now constantly bothering family members about the steps.

They have continued to escalate their rhetoric and have hinted that they will soon sue us or press criminal charges against us if the stairs are not replaced immediately. Our recent conversations with them have not even met minimal standards of rational thinking. They have engaged in the current fad of making whatever extreme statement that they like and knowing that the logic of moderation is no longer an effective counterargument. When the community drifts apart there is no longer a long term to stabilize the present.

We have largely taken their sincerity at face value. We have not questioned that their stance might in any way be motivated by any other considerations than the common good. It is now hard not to have this impression. Everything will all be good when their resale value is increased by all their manipulations?
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Old 06-17-2018, 12:31 PM   #67
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Our existing steps in the condo were cast in place...not prefab. So, tearing them apart requires a jack hammer and a lot of work.

Outside, when freeze/thaw cycles are likely, a concrete screw like a TapCon may not be the best choice since over time, moisture will be able to accumulate in the hole, the fastener may corrode and break down. Now, something like a lead anchor tends to work longer more reliably since the lead can deform some being softer.

While a broken surface may be a safety hazard, unless it's a communal common set, unless your neighbors were hurt coming to your door, I can't see that being a legal issue. NOw, if you have a homeowner's association, they may have bylaws that require some level of maintenance to occur, but in most places that's a civil verses criminal situation.

If you bond the tile with a suitable material to a solid substrate, screws or other mechanical anchors are unnecessary and risk breaking the bond all by themselves. Especially on something like a slate or other natural stone, there are natural imperfections, and drilling them and adding a fastener and pressure is just as likely to crack something as it is to help hold it in place. Metal and stone just do not move at the same rates with temperature changes...there must be some movement accommodation for it to work.

Your simplest solution is replace or cover the existing steps with a concrete precast. With precast, it is not at all uncommon for there to be some rebar or other metal reinforcement inside it. That's not normally a problem unless the whole thing develops cracks or is subject to salt/snowmelt that can seep in and start to corrode things. In the interim, it does mean that they can use less concrete and achieve more strength.

If you want to make your steps a statement, stacking granite slabs would do it...should last millennia if done properly. Highly unlikely you'd have to worry about freeze/thaw if they were placed properly.

If your tile aren't spalling and falling apart, they should be able to last a lot longer if put on with suitable materials and excellent workmanship. It's all in the details.
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Old 06-17-2018, 01:14 PM   #68
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Jad, I am feeling great about this overlay idea.
I looked things over yesterday and it should do the trick.
The only question now is about getting the family on side.

It really does seem easy.
All we need to do is slide a new surface over the existing surface.
I am not sure why this would not be the standard practice.
Do you think that this overlay approach is reasonable?

I am still not clear about your steps. You said that the existing steps were cast in place and required a jack hammer and a lot of work to tear them apart. I am not sure of your exact circumstance but my inclination would have been not to bother with the jack hammer and a lot of work and simply overlay another set of precast (or otherwise) steps on top. That is my plan. I can leave in what is already there and simply put a new set of steps on top. This approach avoids the effort to tear out what is already there. This idea might not always be applicable; I am wondering whether an overlay might have been sensible in your situation.
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Old 06-17-2018, 01:19 PM   #69
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I looked up the coefficient of thermal expansion of concrete and metal.
I was surprised how small these numbers were.


7.2 x 10-6, which is the expansion coefficient for steel
coefficient of thermal expansion of concrete is about 10 millionths per degree Celsius

A 2 inch tapcon undergoing a 50 C change in temperature (i.e. Canadian winter)
would have a minimal thermal contraction. Simply having a loose fit might even be enough.
I am not entirely sure about this, though the current concrete fasteners are still 100% solid after all these years.

There would only be one point of contact for the screw and tile.
With a super small coefficient one might only need to make sure that the screw was not overtightened and you'd be set.
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Old 06-17-2018, 03:26 PM   #70
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Just like you cannot butt tile up against immovable objects, you don't want items that can expand and contract at different rates butted up against each other. On a thinset point of view, it is the crystalline spikes that grow and interlock that make the bond. Those crystals have some minor flexibility, but not a huge amount, so that is why you need things like expansion joints and gaps to prevent fracturing them, then losing your bond. The bond between tile and thinset is more like Velcro than glue, with the crystals poking into microscopic imperfections in the surfaces. IT doesn't take a lot of actual movement to break them. A modified thinset can help because it coats the crystals if it is mixed properly, adding a little bit of cushion, but still, it's not huge.

As I said, a good tile, bonded well with a suitable thinset to a stable surface, should not come loose if you follow industry guidelines and have good workmanship.

Whether an overlay verses total replacement works is somewhat dependent on the space you have, both vertically and horizontally. Anything you put on top will raise the existing levels, and that doesn't always work out. In our case, we needed to remove the existing before we could install new. The old railings were cast into the concrete, but they were (mostly) reused. A couple of L-brackets were welded on, and then they were bolted to the new stairs which was cheaper than buying new. No idea what the warranty is/was. Some have been in for as much as a decade, and are in good shape. The concrete steps at the house I grew up in are over 60-years old, and are still serviceable.
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Old 06-18-2018, 06:07 AM   #71
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Jad, thank you.

I am only reading the numbers online. There is a large gap between the numbers and the actual experience. You have this hands on knowledge that I lack.

When I was reading your comment one thing that occurred to me that having a precast slate tile product from a factory environment could be extraordinary!
As Dave noted, even in Wisconsin, slate tile can be a viable product but certain conditions need to be met. What if they made the concrete precast and then put either a look-alike slate concrete tile or actual slate tile on top. With controlled factory conditions a uniform and highly specified product could be made.
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Old 06-18-2018, 07:01 AM   #72
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Whoa!

Just thought of the ultimate slate tile product.

Tile with roots!!!

The big problem with attachment is there is a minimal surface area that on the slate tile side is highly polished.
How to get around this?

Just like a tree: add roots!

The bottom side of the tile could have a complex pattern of root like structures with crystalline out growths
projecting down and firmly connected to the tile. The surface area of such a root structure could be massive. Instead of 1 square foot of attachable surface, there might be thousands of square feet. When applying the thin set with the root structure, there would be a very solid permanent bond made.

This could/should become the standard for the attachment of all tile, other surfaces for a very broad range of applications.
It would remove any safety issues and concerns with tile detachment.
My guess would be that a high quality product such as that which could have guaranteed long-term performance, might greatly
increase the applied surface market size.
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Old 06-18-2018, 06:41 PM   #73
jadnashua
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On a microscopic scale, the tile and the slab are both full of craters even when the tile is polished. The cement literally grows microscopic crystals into them, holding the tile with MUCH larger surface area than you'd think.
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Old 06-19-2018, 11:20 AM   #74
retiler
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I am finally comfortable enough with my basic game plan to start asking for quotes. I would prefer to stay with slate tile and simply repair, though the family does not appear to be open to this idea even slightly.

If I could find a quote that was closer to $1K than $10K I do not see how the others could reasonably continue arguing.

Some of the precast stamped concrete stair products that I have seen are simply stunning. From what I see online, a precast solution could fulfill all of my wishes: cost, appearance, ease and speed of install, and engineering specifications.

I have received one reply so far, though they simply refused to give any indication of pricing without my personal identification. I just wanted to start off with a rough ballpark so that I would feel comfortable with moving ahead without obligation, they would not budge. I did feel that it was highly encouraging, though that after I provided all the dimensions and specifications, the only remaining question for them appeared to be price. They made no mention that my basic idea was unworkable This is very encouraging.

My current thinking is that all that needs to happen is the new stairs simply have to be left a few inches farther from the house than the old stairs. This way everything is in alignment starting at the top and there is no concern about the new steps concrete not correctly matching up with the old steps underneath. I had been worried that somehow the entire design would be wrecked if things were not exactly specified. Perhaps if they tried to create a perfect counter-mold and it was off by even a quarter inch then the precast might then be entirely unusable. However, now I understand all that needs to be done is to hang the stairs flush with the porch and then any adjustment would be automatically accommodated at the bottom. The exiting stairs could be used instead of a concrete foundation for the structural support. The stairs could be suspended like a curtain from the existing structure.

I had thought deep contemplation and substantial expense might be required to custom design around the alignment problem; I no longer believe this should be an issue. It seems quite possible that I could simply buy an off-the shelf solution and then just fit everything together.
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Old 06-20-2018, 04:17 PM   #75
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I have now sent out a large number of requests for quotes for this project, though strangely I have not yet heard back from many of them. Would they be on summer hours at this time of year?

I had a great insight today!
I went down to the garage and located where the front stairs above would be. There is something very interesting that I noticed.
Underneath the stairs there is nothing!
We use this area for storage space.

I only now realized how this could be very helpful.
I had thought there would be a big pile of heavy rocks underneath the stairs.
My calculation was a 1000 cubic foot piece of solid concrete would weigh
150,000 pounds. I thought it was going to be an enormous and expensive job to tear it out and haul it away; it might have cost $1K to $2K.

What I am now seeing is that the stairs were simply placed on top of a poured on site concrete which is what I see when looking up in the garage to the stairs.

This could make things much easier for the stair job.
Tear out the steps and then all the worrying about getting the calculations correct to the nearest 1/4 inch disappear. The stairs under the slate tiles are an inch or two thick. There would then no longer be any problem with the fitting.

One remaining issue though is that the stairs are still somewhat too wide.
The steps measure about 6'4" wide. There is about 1 1/2" of concrete that could be chipped away. So we might then be down to about 6'1". The standard precast stair width is 6' !!!

Perhaps the easiest workaround would be to simply not have the precast concrete along the left side of the steps. This might be one customization that could be needed.

Moving to a standard install could make the job easier and cheaper.
It would have been so great if I could simply grabed a 7 step with porch 6 foot wide precast concrete stair off the lot and do a straight and easy install.

I am happy though that this is now starting to look much more like a standard job at a standard rate.
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