Watch Your Step – #1LinerWeds

We are at the point in our stairs/steps/landings project where I’ve begun working on the stairs coming down from our porch. There are two sets, one that exits to the driveway and one that exits to the yard. These aren’t tall staircases. In fact, they only rise between 21-30 inches (53-76cm), but they are challenging. The steps into the yard are larger, but the ones to the driveway were complicated. Since the door to the yard will be out of commission while I replace those steps, we wanted to have the new steps in place on the side – since that’s how we will have to take Maddie outside.

The complicating factor on the side door is that it meets the driveway at a steep angle. The shape of the support bases is a trapezoid. The bases were hard enough to build but cutting and installing the Trex was even harder. The previous stairs had composite decking that was cut and shaped to match the angle of the structure. That made the boards hard to fasten at the narrow end. Also, the previous material was a consistent color throughout, which is not the case with Trex. Trex has a hard surface layer molded onto a composite substrate. The edges are not attractive once cut.

With the door out of commission for 2-3 days, I decided to lock the door and wrap the entrance in Caution Tape. Initially, I though this was overkill. But the next time I walked onto the porch, I returned to tell my wife:

“I tried to go out that door and ran into the caution tape!”

During the course of the 2 ½ days the door was sealed, we both tried to go out that door. Even Maddie, who normally comes in that door with me after our walk, tried to use the unfinished stairs.

The previous stairs had been in place for 25 years. Not only did we want to go out the door, we weren’t ready to adjust to the fact that the initial step down is much steeper. The new stairs have a higher (more traditional) rise, so we could have two large steps instead of three narrow ones. As a precaution, we added the following signs on both sides of the door, at least until we can reset the muscle memory that seems to be controlling our legs.


This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. If you have a one-liner, I’d encourage you to join in on the fun. You can follow this link to participate and to see the one-liners from the other participants.

76 thoughts on “Watch Your Step – #1LinerWeds

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  1. I hate to inflate your ego, but your carpentry skills are impressive. Those new steps look great in function, stability, precision, and looks. I can imagine you safely enjoying them for years to come. Yes, I’m a DIY nerd. I love your DIY posts because you’re like following Tommy Silva through a project, and that’s the best compliment I can think of. :-)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow! Thank you so much, Judy. Tommy is a hero. I actually met him at the New England Woodworking show a few years ago. I like his approach of building “Code Plus” or over-building a little bit. Although, it made it harder to remove the old steps.I am really hoping that this is the last time I have to replace these steps.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Maddie will inspect these on Saturday morning, GP. I hope she’s OK with the step at the top. We had to add a sign outside, too. We are so used to walking straight into the porch from the top step, that the step up is confusing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. They truly do look good but um, I have a question. Why didn’t you continue the top step to the edge of the building, a mini deck, a place to put packages down and such. Bear in mind I am a non-handy person. (but I do love decks!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good question. The room at the right of the stairs was built on piers (no foundation – it used to be a breezeway). There’s a little crawlspace, and the access to it is at the bottom of that wall. Extending the deck any farther would make it impossible to access the crawlspace.

      If you like decks, you will like what we’re doing with the next (last) set of “stairs”.

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  3. Horsefeathers! That sounds really complicated to put together, but you did a great job, Dan. The stairs look so cool! Good idea with the tape. All of us get on auto-pilot with the things we do day-in and day-out. Another great photo gallery too. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. We don’t realize how much of our daily routine is remembered and performed on auto-pilot. This is taking a while to change. Forcing us to look at the steps seems to help us remember to step down, and not simply fall on our behinds.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! When I bought the caution tape, the options were a 25′ mini-roll and a 5.000′ professional roll. I don’t need to say which I bought – I love that stuff. I do have to point out that this is my second attempt at this set of stairs. The first one worked, but was dangerous. Both my wife and I fell (dog mishap related) due to the fact that there was no way to avoid the door.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan–I laughed so hard at your caution-taped door. I work in Risk Management so this is SOP to me, but still…… excellent job! And I don’t want to get too chuffed, but WP is back to working as it should. And it started acting right last night. Tuesday. Same day last week it went all squirrely on me. I think I am sticking with Joey about Tuesday being the worst day of the week.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those steps look really neat, and I hope will do the trick brilliantly of opening the door from the top step and going up and down safely.

    Isn’t muscle memory amazing? I can’t tell you how many times since moving I’ve found myself on my way to my bedroom or bathroom heading in the direction of my old house’s bedroom and bathroom is!

    Then last week while staying at Baby Girl’s overnight I got up at 4 a.m. and headed to the bathroom, but my brain or muscle memory had me going in the direction of my current master bathroom which is completely in the opposite direction of the bathroom I was going to use at Baby Girl’s house. It’s really weird and amazing.

    I’m glad you had caution tape on that door!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Deborah. It is amazing. I do that sometimes in hotel rooms if I get up during the night. Talk about things that go bump in the night. I think we’ll be leaving the signs up for a while.Maddie was really confused.

      The next set of doors will be worse. They are the ones we use the most, and we almost never take Maddie out that side door, but we will have to take her out there and then through the gate into the backyard. I’m worried that she is going to think we are going for a walk when she lands on the driveway.

      Our brains are funny things sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. When I’m working in the yard, I usually have to take a break and take her out. If we are both in the yard with her, she expects we’re going to play. The scary part will be when my wife takes he out early in the morning. It’s still dark, and Maddie has only rarely been outside the fence at that time.

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  6. Hooray! for caution tape!! You sure put it to good use.

    Saying these steps were a bit complicated is a ginormous understatement! Yet you got to the finish line with steps that not only are pleasing to the eye, but safe and functional as well. You are one very gifted carpenter. But more than your craftsmanship, you maintain the patience to figure out how to accomplish your goal and see it through to the end. Kudos to you.

    Looks like in addition to Maddie, even the squirrel approves!
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ginger. I mentioned to someone that I had the benefit of a previous attempt that was less than perfect. Cutting those boards at angles on both ends was a pain, but it turned out well.

      The squirrels are liking the deck in the back, but we’re worried about having a problem if Maddie decides to move off her cot, onto the step. She seems to like to do that, but it puts her dangerously close to the little beggars.

      I’m still working off a 5,000 ft roll of Caution Tape I bought over 10 years ago. I do like having it, though.

      Like

    1. Thanks. I think this will take us a while, especially when we’re in a hurry.

      Having the ability to step up and open the door without getting back down is helpful. I’m tall enough that I was able to open the door from the ground, but my wife couldn’t. I am going to add some railings this weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha Ha ! bought a 5,000′ foot roll over 10 years ago during a major project. We have used it so many times since then. You get so used to doing things certain ways, sometimes you need a visual cue to break the pattern.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks CM. We were so used to those steps after 25 years, but they really were dangerous. At least that experience gave us the incentive to build these better. It’s a difficult place, because there isn’t much room between the door and the driveway.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan, Dan the project man! 🤣🤣Tried to walk through the tape. But hey I feel your pain. Try packing and think you’ve finished a room until you actually LOOK at the walls. Oh. I guess we want to take those pictures too. Nice steps. Maddie looks very satisfied.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John. I did rip a piece for the leading edge. The “end grain” of Trex is not attractive. This way requires me to leave a gap but I still think it looks better. On the other places, we’re painting the visible ends.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janis. I’ll be adding the handrails this weekend. I’m actually using firewood racks. I cut the connections off, and I’m left with a power-coated black U-shaped tube that is about 11″ wide at the top. That way, we have a rail that is parallel to the wide step surface. We tested the concept on one of the steps in the back, and it works well and looks nice.

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  8. I’ve never seen that type of step outside before. Inside, I saw them a lot when I was in Greece, although a lot more of them going from the first floor to the second floor.

    You know, you’re an extraordinary carpenter, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Glynis. The idea to use mini-decks or small platforms as stairs started in the back yard (the last set to be replaced) and mainly due to wanting to find an easy way to deal with the dogs in winter. Although these hold more snow, they are easier to clear because of the surface being large enough to stand on. We’re making these larger, so we can be in a good stable place when we open the door.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Yeah – I would have thought the caution tape was overkill too … but apparently it wasn’t!! It’s amazing how we tend to do things on auto-pilot without really thinking about what we’re doing – like reaching for the light switch even when you know the power is off.

    The design of the new steps looks much more practical. Opening and maneuvering around the door would have been a huge irritant for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I built the original steps when we were in our early 40s. Not thinking about effort and danger.

      It is amazing how we just do certain things. We had to add a small version of the sign on the outside because we weren’t used to stepping up into the porch.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. All valid. I validate all of this. It’s like when the power’s out, we still walk into the room and flip the switch! Also, I like the curve you’ve used. It’s really nice. Our back step is steep. It’s for people with good knees and hips, meaning basically only half our visitors can use it. I always fancy we’ll make our two steps into three, and much wider. And with something traction friendly as WOW they ice badly, so badly. Very danger. And it, too, is where we take the dog out. And the garbage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, validation is key – We built the originals when we were young with good knees and weren’t worried about falling. Both of us have fallen on these steps. Wider is better. Railings necessary. We even put a grab bar on the inside.

      Liked by 1 person

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