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  • Writer's pictureMark Shepherd

New Stone and Tile Porch

This outdoor staircase is veneered with stone treads and large porcelain tiles. Take a look at the process.

To begin with my client had this old failing porch made of exposed aggregate and brick. The whole structure had sunken by up to 2" in places and needed a complete replacement. Seemed simple enough to bust it up and haul it away, so I brought over a jackhammer and started in, removing the bricks first. Turns out it wasn't so easy.

The back portion of this slab was over 2 feet thick in the tallest part. And because it was fully enclosed inside this nook it was even harder to break. It soon became apparent that this very capable jackhammer was not going to be enough to do the job of removing it.

We switched to using this Dingo walk-behind with a breaker attachment on it. This has worked well in the past for breaking out concrete retaining walls since you can point it any direction (vertical, horizontal, etc) and it has a much stronger bite to it.

Still, it took another three days (!) to get it done. A total of 5 days - unheard of for such a small area.

Next came constructing the forms for the stair structure. This was also challenging as these 17' wide stairs were closed off on one end and we had to rely greatly on the use of diagonal supports. Waterproofing was applied to the adjacent house surfaces and a cage of rebar was constructed inside the forms. The steps to do this were convoluted as there were many logistical considerations to be made.

Once the stairs were poured and were allowed to cure for a week, the forms were pulled and more concrete was poured as slabs in front of- and behind the steps. The slab up top sat on a compacted bed of heavy crushed rock as fill. All of the concrete was allowed to sit and cure for a month before the veneer was begun.

The treads are Pennsylvania Bluestone 2" Thermal Slabs and were installed first, though I realized after laying the top step treads that it would be a lot wiser to install the stair riser (vertical) tiles before putting in the lower three treads. This way those tiles could go in more easily and the mortar joint between the back of the treads and the riser faces could be consistently spaced apart.

The tiles are by Corso Italia, a printed porcelain product that I think looks very convincing. The client chose this blend of slate and marble/travertine textures which we worked very hard to ensure an even mix of color across the board.

I'm very pleased and proud of the results. I have done many tiled entryways in this vein over the years and I feel like the precision this time is the best yet. The clients are very happy with it.


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