Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What's Under There?

The concrete guy has been found. This is good.

He can't do the work until the end of May. This is bad.

The reason this whole replacing-the-front-step project moved to the top of my priority list (besides the fact that the wooden platform & mailbox there now is an eyesore) is that mice have been getting into the walls of my house via the gap left by the missing step. I discovered this in mid November. It was too late to do any work on the concrete, so I closed up the area as best I could and went into denial. Thankfully, I had spent a huge amount of time weatherproofing my house and this paid off in the fact that the mice lived in the walls and couldn't enter the house, with the exception of the one visit in the kitchen which I promptly stopped.

I'm a pretty calm person and not a lot stresses me out. Mice stress me out. Mice really stress me out. When I get stressed out I can't sleep. I also tend to over research the problem to learn more about it. In this case, big mistake. On some website I read that mice can multiply from a few to a few hundred in a month or so. Correct or not, my imagination took over.

So with a month left before any work can be done replacing the step, last Thursday I conned my dad into coming over and helping me remove some the existing wood step to see if we could do some patch work on the foundation holes. The original plan was to take off the top layer and the sides and see if we could patch foundation holes with a cement patching mix. Then we were going to lay the top back on the whole thing and let it sit until the new concrete step was poured.

We weren't exactly sure what was under the wood platform. I was going by memory of what I had seen last winter when I put up some hardware cloth on the side lattice work. I remembered large gaps in the concrete and some spots of missing foundation, but it was really cold back then and my memory is not great. My assumption had been that they had started to take out the old step and found it was too much work and just left the rest and built the platform over it.

Once we got the top and the sides off, we figured out it really was a slab of concrete over a pile of concrete pieces. The top slab was actually in one piece and not in terrible condition. Originally there was a concrete handrail that would have covered the sides. We also realized that while there were chunks of the face of the foundation missing, the holes into my house were actually where the board under the threshhold had been removed. We decided to just remove the whole thing and be done with it.

Once the wood platform was gone, I used copper mesh (similar to the brand Stuff-it)(purchased from Lee Valley Tools) to jam into the holes in the wood and concrete. The copper is nice to work with because it is very flexible, animals can't chew through it, and it doesn't rust. For larger holes, we filled the mesh tube with a small amount if fiberglass insulation for bulk.

The old, uncovered step really doesn't look half bad. You can see where at one time tile had been placed on it. You can also see evidence of the small, enclosed entryway that my neighbor told me had been added then removed from the house years ago. It looks like the riser of the step had a stucco finish layer on it at one time. Little snippets of history.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a speedy end to this whole saga.


Trissa said...

Sounds like it should help. I can relate to the imagination going at night- before we got our cats I swear would hear the mice in the walls. You will win this battle!

StuccoHouse said...

From your lips to God's ears. I'm not a cat person, but I will admit to eyeing the kittens at the pet shop at the mall. I even considered asking a friend to "borrow" his cat for a bit.

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