No Nostalgia, Only Danger & Lost Value In Rotting Outdoor House Steps

There are some household items with extreme sentimental value that we cling and hold on to, despite whether their best, most useful days are behind them.

Your beautiful oak grandfather’s clock that hasn’t chimed since 2003. Your grandmother’s fine china. Your dad’s old Steinway grand piano with the 11 flat keys.

Unfortunately, crumbling, unsightly, dangerous wood front and back porch steps have no powerful sentimental value or compelling reason to keep around. There’s nothing nostalgic about pitted or chipped wood steps leading to your front door or back deck. They exist only as major dent in your home’s curb appeal and an accident waiting to happen.

Like all of us, stairs are human. These undervalued warriors see us home through all types of weather.

“There are few features in old houses more unappreciated  than the stairs,” This Old House’s Steve Jordan writes. “… We’re likely to abuse them without so much as a second thought – tromping up and down them like stampeding elephants. It’s no wonder that after 50 or 100 years of daily wear, stairs often creak and groan, and can even come apart at the seam.”

Don’t Gamble On Failing Stairs

If your front or back porch or deck wood or concrete steps fit this profile, it’s time to replace or repour them, STAT. Here’s the three most pressing reasons to replace failing steps:

  1. The second you or someone your family is injured falling off or down the steps, you’ll curse yourself for not replacing them sooner.
  2. Decrepit steps leave a worse curbside impression than housing old furniture and rusty cars in your front yard. They can also put a big hurt in your home’s resale value.
  3. Failing stairs also weaken the stability and effectiveness of the stairs’ hand rails as it loosens from chipped stone. 


Repairing Stairs, Step By Step

The process to rebuilding failing steps begins with diagnosing the problem. Stairs can squeak or loosen between threads, and stairwells attached to only one side – known as open stairs – can begin to separate from the wall, porch or deck. To diagnose the problem, begin with a visual inspection for gaps and conduct a walking test to feel out any movement (or give) to identify the locations of squeaks.

A smart, experienced carpenter is familiar with all of these issues and get your steps back on healthy footing quickly. 

If you prefer to DIY this project, here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove old wooden outdoor stairs (we suggest going with a professional to replace failing concrete steps). Here’s what you’ll need: power miter saw, drill, carpenter’s square, work gloves, dust mask, nail puller, hammer, pry bars, tape measure, workbench, pencil, gauge, pressure-treated lumber, L-brackets, wood screws and self-taping desk screws.

Here’s HGTV’s Guide On How To Replace Wooden Porch Steps:

  1. Remove the nails holding treads in place.
  2. Remove the treads and set them aside.
  3. Secure the stringers to the header using 90-degree hardened steel L-brackets. Use a power drill to attach brackets with screws.
  4. Lock down the header by installing self-tapping screws about every 12 inches.
  5. Wearing a dust mask and eye protection, remove the top riser and use it as a template to cut out replacements. Cut replacement risers out of pressure-treated lumber using the miter saw.
  6. Cut replacement treads to the desired length. 
  7. Install the top riser then work your way down installing risers and treads. Use galvanized deck screws to secure the boards. Pre-drill holes to avoid splitting the wood and use a template so the screws are spaced evenly.
  8. Allow the new stairs to age a bit and turn gray, then come back and prime and paint to match the house.

Regaining Solid Footing

According to the 2017 American Housing Survey, the average American home is 42 years old. If your math says the front or back deck stairs for your home are this old or older, or looking and feeling it, it’s time to invest in new steps and your home’s Welcome Home sign.

“Replacing an old, worn out staircase with add beauty and a focal point to the entry of any home,” SFGate Home Guides stresses.

For there’s no better feeling than ensuring your family is on strong, solid footing when coming home.

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