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Old 06-16-2018, 08:48 AM   #46
JerseyDIYguy
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A few things:

1. You're very unlikely to find an installer that will give you a 20 year (or even 5 year) warranty when installing a natural stone product in a harsh environment. The exception would be Davy, above, who has offered you his generous terms... There are simply too many variables and too much risk.

2. Are the slate tiles that have fallen off your steps completely intact? Or are they broken/fractured before they fall off? It's not entirely clear from your pictures, but it looks like a failure of the mortar rather than a failure of the slate itself right?

3. As others have mentioned, it appears to be a failure of the mortar rather than of the slate, so you should be able to clean the substrate and the backs of the slates and re-attach the slates with an appropriate mortar.

4. You have a lot of ideas about concrete overlays, but bear in mind that concrete is not truly waterproof. Water will penetrate concrete, but it generally doesn't damage concrete unless you get a lot of freeze/thaw cycles (which, of course, you do).

5. For your concrete overlay idea, won't that change the way the top and bottom step relate to the adjacent walking surfaces? It's not clear how you would account for the height changes that would occur at the top and bottom step.

6. Stop listening to your neighbor. They made their choice, they're happy with it. Their solution is not the only one out there.

7. The people that sell tile and stone can't really be held responsible if their products are installed improperly, or with inadequate mortar. That's between the builder and the person that installed your slate.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:07 AM   #47
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Thank you, for the suggestion cx!
Done!
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:16 AM   #48
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Jad, thank you for your technical suggestions.
If it were me I would certainly at least give the tile another try.
A simple patch with the latest techniques has to be more sensible than a complete tear out and stone replacement. That is the idea currently on the table and there is family feud about it. The family simply refuses anything
other than a replacement. It is pretty much done to yelling and screaming and fingers in the ears time. This has to be the most stressful life event that I can remember aside from when our shingles rotted.

Other family members have not taken the time to consider the stepping patterns issue that arises. I had not even thought about it either until I realized that it would also throw out the bottom step.

I have emailed an exterior slate tile retailer for their help. My question stands: Would they sell a product that would not withstand the conditions in which it would be installed? My guess is that slate tiles can be installed, though there might be a few tricks involved.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:25 AM   #49
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Thank you for your reply, Dave!

Wisconsin has cold cred.
You know when I say -30, I'm not joking.
If it worked in Wisconsin, it would have to work here.

Your examples of extreme weather long term exterior tile installs are exactly what I wanted to hear! I thought that possibly everyone with these tiles had to do replacements. Our neighbor turned the talk so negative that we had largely given up. We were then facing a massive bill that has caused us to delay and delay. This has put us into large liability issues.

What are the tricks?
How could this have been done properly in the 19th Century and not the 21st?

I knew these tiles had to be installable. The way things are nowadays, people sue if there are problems.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:41 AM   #50
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Good one, Jersey!

Yes, that is a very good point!

Almost all of the tiles have fallen off as whole tiles.
Even when I have went out there with a chisel and hammer the tiles still hardly ever failed themselves; mostly even with a chisel only large pieces of the tile came of. This is 1 quarter inch 12 by 12 slate tile; it is a fairly solid piece of stone.

I had not thought of it like that.
I thought it was tile that was the problem, though logically that is completely false. What has failed, as you said, is the mortar, thin set, whatever else might be attaching the tile. That completely changes the conversation.

Hmmmmm. Online I think I have seen metal retaining braces for tile. That would be a ridiculous fantastic fix!
Concrete screwing them down was ruled out. How about simply a retaining brace.
OHHH, that sounds like a very good one. A nice single piece of metal could be attached from the sides of each step.
The metal bracing could house the tiles so that they simply could not budge. That is a massively great plan.

So now the question is more about mortar etc. that could secure this.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:52 AM   #51
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Jersey, I really want to stop listening and I largely have, though other family members are so captivated by their front steps and want to go with what they got without giving this even 5 seconds of actual thought. I really like carefully thinking things through and I take this as a challenge to innovate a high quality reasonably costed solution.

The neighbors seem to be well versed in neurolinguistic programming and completely bogus argumentation. The problem is that family members have bought into this bogusness. When I proposed what I think is simply a massively good idea here ( the stage 1 precast install), everyone gave me this complete look of utter absence of what I was talking about. Their minds had never conceived that such technology might be possible (admittedly neither had I until I read up on it). What was very surprising was without a single neuron firing, the neighbors immediately dismissed the $740 installed precast solution and went straight back to their $10,000 stone replacement idea. Amazingly they have managed to successfully instill the idea that I am so unreasonable for looking for a modern technology to solve our problem.

I simply no longer feel there is any point in talking to people in a non-virtual environment who completely lack any technical knowledge. I have a rare hypertensive genotype, so this is certainly amping up my bp. The problem is that amping up bp also typically leads to a crashing IQ. So, I really wasn't able to win the battle of rhetoric. Total serene insanity seems so much more convincing than hysterical brilliance.
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Old 06-16-2018, 10:55 AM   #52
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Jersey, point 7 good one!

If this is now all down to mortar and installation, then this is really starting to tilt things in my direction. I do not know if I could mentally reach other family and probably not the neighbors either, though this is just such a great point that entirely alluded me.

If it's not the tile, then .... it's the mortar. Very good point.
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Old 06-16-2018, 11:14 AM   #53
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Jersey, point 5.

The retile now seems the best option, though I need a fall-back because the family is simply not responding.

The precast overlay seems like a very good counter proposal.
I can hardly believe how enormously great an idea this is!
I am glad that you took me up on it, so that I could go through the details.

The sketch that I uploaded really is not all that clear. So I will just run through it in words.

My first idea was to do a simple tear out of the existing stairs and put in precast. Online quotes that I came across talk of $740 installed. I could hardly imagine such a price. The big question is about the tear out. I am not sure how expensive the tear out would be: perhaps $500(?). Very unsure about that. If they could get a lifter under it might all come out in one go.
This is a fairly good option versus the restoning. From what I now understand about retiling I would say it would be inferior to simply retiling.


In the second option I thought of an overlay. Online they showed similar overlays that are used on very large scale projects. My idea is that I could simply have something formed that would overlay the existing stairs. No tear out would be needed at all. The overlay would not need really to bear much of a structural load-- the underlying steps could bear most of it. In fact, it would not even need to be a precisely fitted product at all I could push off the concrete inches off the existing vertical parts of the steps and the new stepping configuration could almost be whatever I chose. This is important because the big concern would be if I went for something that was to follow the existing stairs as a counter mold then if I were off here by a half inch the entire overlay might become a write off. The idea of deliberating not doing a counter mold is very appealing.

So, I could just put on a nice big overlay on top of the whole mess. I am not sure yet, though that would be the best option. I could tear out the railings and then joist in one continuous piece of concrete: the porch, the steps and a concrete foot that might extend out 3-4 feet. The foot would be very helpful because we also have settling issues that also needs to worked out.

With the overlay idea all our problems disappear in one go!
It seems amazing. We were quoted almost $500 just to raise up our pavers.

With an overlay that would not be necessary.
Not only would it not be necessary it would also prevent any further settling.

I see your question about lining up the top and bottom steps. With a complete overlay, this should no longer matter.
The overlay would be the exterior surface from four feet in front of the bottom of the steps right up to our door.
The actual topography of the this surface could be anything I chose.
I could even put in a slide for winter tobogganing or downhill skiing!

What is especial enticing is that there is no tear out.
There would then not need to be any regrading.
The steps could have any finish that I wanted ideally we might even be able to have slate tile impregnated into the concrete.
The cost should be highly reasonable.
It is only a piece of precast concrete the need for independent structural strength; the existing stairs would provide this.
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Old 06-16-2018, 12:49 PM   #54
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Hi John. Like I mentioned before, regardless of what you go back with, the old tile needs to come up. With a chipping hammer in hand, it wouldn't take long to remove it. Removing the old tile will enable the installer to get a better bond with the new material. He could use the strongest epoxy in the world over the old tile and if the old tile and thinset comes loose, the epoxy doesn't do any good. Removing the old tile also gives you more thickness to work with. That is usually handy when trying to get all the risers the same.

No matter what you use, the installer and the materials he uses has everything to do with a lasting installation.
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Old 06-16-2018, 01:33 PM   #55
retiler
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Thank you Davy!

Do you mean all the tiles need to be removed or only the tiles that might not be well bonded? Many of these tiles seemed to be "cemented" to the stairs. I tried to chisel some of them off, and some of them simply did not want to budge. They were welded to the stairs.

My thinking was that we would only want to replace the few that have detached along with a few others that could be somehow power drilled off.

Big development. I had no idea where our builder moved to. The builder just moved away and we had no means of contact.

Yeah, the internet! If you want business in the 21st Century, you need to be on the internet. I suppose you could always wear a mustache if necessary. I put in the name and details and zamo our builder was right there. Amazing.
Don't suppose there is really any point in writing bad checks anymore.


This is awesome! Now I do not need to pretend to be an expert. I can just sit back and say: "Well we'll just let building experts do their job. Yes siree, people who have engineering degrees can take over now". This has to be a reasonably strong argument.

My family and the neighbors kept saying to me that: "I am no expert why should we listen to you. And people on the internet huhh, who are these people, you never can be too careful with the internet it might be a scam or something. Maybe they want to take your money."
Davy at least you were transparently obvious that the $(USD? ooch)20k for a 25 year warranty might be somewhat unreasonable.

And the truly classic all time best piece of bogus argumentation "Who are you? What do you know about raising pavers? You will need a structural engineer to lift up a paving stone."

{Right there I simply should have stopped talking to them. The thing is that with email you can't play those games. As soon as facts can be introduced into a conversation people who do not have any, quickly are revealed as being completely uninformed. I was able to email our neighbors and showed them a very very high quality precast concrete stairs product and there was no yelling and screaming at all. My blood pressure did not even break the sphygmomanometer. The quality of life will greatly improve when I can fully migrate all substantive communication online. If the only verbal communications I have in the physical world is "Hello", "Nice day isn't it?", "Yes, it's a cold day, but just think it will warm up in about 8 months" etc., then I will be so much happier and calmer a person.}

With precast concrete stairs, the neighbors came back with:
"Well that's America. Could these stairs handle a CANADIAN winter?"

I am not very good at one liners. It had simply not occurred to me that anyone would question precast concrete. All you need to do is look around probably anywhere in the world what do you see? You got it precast concrete. The funny thing was that recently our water lines have all been dug up and in fact they even dug up our drive way and front yard. I forgot about all that. What were they doing. Yes, it is pretty funny when I think about it now. They spent about 5 months with our whole street lined with and even right on our front yard .... 8 foot wide precast concrete sewers!

It only occurred to me about 5 minutes later that hey Canada has precast concrete stairs. There is an entire precast concrete stairs industry in Southern Ontario. I was preparing to contact one of these with my interest in an overlay or just their standard product. The neighbors did not take that piece of news as being conclusive. OK, there is a precast industry here, but how do we know that the stairs could withstand the particular environment that exists precisely on my property? That one really stumped me. How could I respond to this line of argument?

It did occur to me that moving the discussion online would immediately stop empty talk. There is always a certain undervaluing of one's personal knowledge level but if those on thread were to put their experience in full view than empty side swipes that these are not experts would no longer be worthwhile. Basically it could be an online tribunal to help people work out these types of problems.
This would be such a great help! This could become an entire online industry. I am surprised that this does not seem to have already emerged. All the grief that everyone has been through probably is already worth at least $1000. If there could be an expert panel that engaged in informed dialogue and could help guide people to a wise choice, then a consulting fee of $100 would be such a super bargain.
The online panel would need serious cold cred. The only risk I can see is that people might simply continue to make ignorant comments even if they were on the record. Perhaps to avoid this, every ignorant unretracted statement would actually cost money. "Well there's my 2 cents" "Yes, indeed. This completely ignorant, misinformed statement just cost you $50 and you lost 100 credibility points. Would you like to retract your statement?" Wow this is a super great idea! Virtual tribunals of experts. Life can be better! My quality of life would certainly greatly improve.


It was so difficult to argue with people when they throw out empty rhetoric. Our family is now against the precast stairs because the forms are hollow. They do not want hollow concrete stairs. They want a manly full solid piece of concrete. How can you argue with this? Even with the current obesity epidemic I simply cannot believe that 2-3 inches of concrete could reasonably lose structural integrity with normal usage over even a 50 year time horizon. When I talked about the technical specs it did not help either.

I have never over the many many years on the internet had a brawl with anyone. The virtual environment is so great! No one can just say any ole thing they want to without looking foolish.

I greatly appreciate and value the advice that everyone on thread has been giving me. When you demonstrate tiling knowledge that is good enough to me to call this expert knowledge. With the neighbors and the family they can get away with having a complete lack of knowledge about precast or tiling technology or really anything other than we'll just write a check for $10,000 and all this will just go away. I am not sure if we have readers from the heartland of America, though I am pretty sure they have a choice phrase to describe my big crisis. I do not want to even imagine how cheaply and easily this could be solved by people with even a small amount of common sense.

Basically if I had a backhoe; I could do a tear out without sweating it in about 3 hours. I could even pour my own concrete into a form (possibly
even do this in place. This job probably could be done in less than 4 hours
and on a DIY basis it would likely be very inexpensive.

Staying with the tiling would be even better if others would agree.
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Old 06-16-2018, 02:22 PM   #56
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Whoa!

I really did not have even the foggiest idea of what 1 cubic foot of concrete would weigh. I thought order of magnitude oh I don't know 10-20 pounds. I barely hit it to within 1 order of magnitude. Sometimes I can answer these types of questions to within a factor less than 2. But for this one I was way way off. A precast cube would have 5 * 10' by 10' by 1/4' = 125 cubic feet.
18750 pounds? I was thinking more like 1000 pounds.


150!!! 150!!! 150!!! 150!!! 150!!!

Are they joking? One hundred and fifty pounds? For 1 cubic foot of concrete?
When we bought a bag of thin set it was about 40 pounds and it looked about 2-4 cubic feet.

How do we get to 150 pounds per cubic foot?

So a 1000 cubic foot solid piece of concrete for the stairs would weigh 150,000 pounds? That is astonishing! I would not even want to guess how much our stairs must weigh. There would appear to be solid stone for the steps and the porch. It must weigh tens of thousands of pounds. Probably no great mystery about why we have settling problems.
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Old 06-16-2018, 02:41 PM   #57
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It finally occurred to me: What are the guarantees?

When we had our discussion/argument earlier, no attempt was made to quantify the warranties or other conditions that would apply. We have here about perhaps a one year legal standard for a tile install. And probably 5-10 year warranty might even be out of the question.

How about a stone job?
How much of a warranty would typically apply?
Admittedly I do not see exactly how a stone job could go wrong, though those who actually have knowledge on this question could know otherwise.

For a precast stairs install?
My guess would be that they could give at least a 20 year warranty.

Introducing facts would help change the conversation.
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Old 06-16-2018, 04:16 PM   #58
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Check your local suppliers of precast...their warranty is probably on their website and should easily be available if you call them. But, one thing to also look at is how long have they been around. A warranty is useless if they're a fly by night organization, or as they say in the car industry, a tail-light warranty...it's good until they can see your tail lights.

The specs on ANSI standards are available...the basic criteria is spelled out fairly straight forward. The best available freeze/thaw thinset specification today is A118.15. THrow in maybe an epoxy grout, or a high quality, modified grout, installed on a properly prepared, stable surface, and the thinset bond should work. l listed some other considerations earlier. Exterior surfaces do want to have some slope to them so water doesn't pool. The existing steps need to be intact without cracks, of if they exist, they can only be separation cracks that would also require a crack isolation material (thus, the reason you need to clear the existing stuff off to evaluate what you've got).

Thinset hasn't been around more than about 70-years, but tiling, and setting slate has for centuries...I saw some in Jordan that was over 2,000 years old and essentially intact...worn, but intact. The concept is the same...a stable surface, a complete bond.

You do NOT want to encase your tile in metal...the expansion/contraction with temperature is not at the same rate, and you will experience problems. When used, you need to engineer for that variation. WIthout it, almost certain failure. Maybe not immediate, but eventual.
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Old 06-16-2018, 05:35 PM   #59
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Jad, thank you for your very helpful comments!

It looks like the family has now firmly refused: No retiling under any circumstances. Given what I know now I would not agree with that stance.

I have been looking around at the precast warranties and I was somewhat surprised that the warranties were somewhat limited. They noted that concrete will take on water through time and eventually concrete will certainly crack, though that could be in the far distant future. I thought a 20 year warranty would be reasonable. I saw warranties closer to 5 years or less.

One of the US precast companies noted that some of their products are still going strong after 65 years. That is remarkable. For me the bottom line is these stairs are going to last. I was quite shocked when one of the companies talked about reinforced precast concrete! Are they kidding? I am not totally sure but reinforced concrete would be massively strong. Concrete is strong; reinforced? How could reinforced possibly fail?

I tend to agree with your thinking about 118.15 and the thin set. For quite some time I bought into the idea that it was the tiles that failed. Our neighbors were really big on this idea and I never even thought to question it. Though when you actually look at the tiles it is pretty obvious that no the tiles did not fail; the mortar failed. Almost every tile that came off came off whole. I was not even really sure whether we actually needed to buy any more tiles, we could just reattach what we had.

I think I'll go with Dave's 120 years in Wisconsin over 2,000 years in Jordan.
In ideal dry warm environments, I would think that tiling could last forever.
I would think that in places like that the tilers might even offer a 25 year tiling warranty.

I was not sure about the metal idea. It was hard to say but one of the tile
photos I saw on line seemed to have this. Perhaps it was somewhere without extreme weather.

Jad, you mentioned your condo buying a precast. Do you remember the warranty on that one?

Wow! I am certainly wondering about this one. I think these solar panels actually were quite expensive. I think it worked out to over $100,000 for a roof. I am wondering about tiling my stairs with them. These tiles look to be unbreakable. Startling, our front steps could generate power, as long as it wasn't winter and always dark and under snow.

https://www.tesla.com/en_CA/solarroof
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Old 06-16-2018, 07:51 PM   #60
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One concern the neighbors raised today was about the railings.
They said they spent thousands of dollars buying new railings.
I would greatly hope that this could be avoided if possible.
With the option for a tear out and precast concrete install I wold think that it would be totally unnecessary to have to buy new railings. With an exact duplicate of our current stairs which are of standard size there should be no reason for new railings.
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