Monday, August 12, 2013

Building a Concrete Stoop

On one of the hottest days with high humidity, my husband and I decided to build a cement stoop in front of the entrance to our summer kitchen.  The summer kitchen is a screened in porch outside of our bedroom and it would be nice to have a stoop to step on instead of stepping directly into the grass and yard.  We decided that a three by five foot rectangle would suffice.  It would even hold a small potted plant as a decorative touch.  How difficult can it be to build a small stoop?

We started by clearing the area of grass and roots.  It was important to have a smooth and even area to pour the cement.   After clearing the area of debris and leveled it out, we built a sturdy wooden frame made of 2x4's.  The frame should be sturdy enough to resist the pressure exerted by the cement when it is being poured.

Caution:  Before you start messing with the cement, be aware that it is caustic, meaning it is corrosive.  So it is recommended that you wear waterproof gloves, long sleeved shirt, long pants, and high rubber boots, even in 96 degree F heat with high humidity.  Promptly wash splatter from your skin.  Rinse out your clothing before putting them in the washing machine.

How much concrete do you need?  To make it easier for me to write this blog, I Goggled "concrete mix" and from the results selected "Buying Guide:  Concrete Mix--Home Depot."  Interestingly, for a 4 inch slab and a 5'x3' area, I would need 720 lbs of concrete in either twelve (12) 60 lbs bags or nine (9) 80 lbs bags.  We used sixteen (16) 40 lbs bags but the thickness of our slab was less than 4 inches.

Before we started  mixing the concrete, we placed a "fiber divider" against the porch and what would be the stoop.  This is for the divider to absorb the possible expansion of the concrete in hot weather.  The divider comes in various sizes and may be obtained at the home improvement center.

The concrete we used was already mixed with sand and pebbles but we needed a large container, also found at the home improvement center, to mix the concrete with fresh water (not sea water or any other kind),  It is imperative to work quickly when mixing the concrete with the water so that it does not begin to dry or set.

Among the tools we used was the hoe to mix the concrete with the water in the container.  We also used it to spread the wet concrete when it was poured into the wooden frame and we used a trowel to smooth the top of the concrete.

The most important tool we used was a "screed" consisting of a 2'x4' and about two feet longer than the frame's surface.  This screed was used to remove excess concrete within and from the frame.  When all the concrete was poured, we used a trowel with a jagged edge or teeth to rough up the concrete or make grooves in the concrete so that it would not be slick when it rained and cause us to slip and fall.

Finally, after the concrete was poured and grooved, it has to "cure" for 5 days when the temperature was above 50 degrees F (not a problem).  The concrete, or at least the surface, must be kept moist and warm to obtain strength and durability.  We covered our slab with plastic and anchored it down with bricks.  We checked to make sure that the concrete remained moist.  If it wasn't, we gently wet it down with spray from the garden hose.

Now we have a stoop that marks the boundary between the summer kitchen and the outer world.  It's a crossing over from one realm to another.  It's a transition from a domesticated, tame, and safe place into the wild, more earthy, and a more natural place where the grass grow high, birds chirp, and squirrels scurry for pine cones.

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