Monday, November 24, 2008

Reverse Egyptology

This weekend we took on one of the more daunting projects...the dreaded front steps. Our 1871 Second Empire cottage had a front porch actually 2 front porches. The original front wooden stoop porch built in 1871 a full width porch built around 1885 and the dreaded front steps that were built around 1900.
Back "in the day" people didn't move every three years. Home was place you built and as you needed more space you simply "added on". By 1900 our house had had 2 porches, we assume that the owners, tired of "rebuilding" a porch they rarely used every 15 years went for the "low maintenace option", limestone steps!

Now our house sitting as far from the street as it was probably didnt have a lot of "callers' and if they did they probably entered from one of the two side doors and were protected by the side porch which we think was built about 1910 as an addition to the kitchen built in 1890. Our house like many at the time had a "summer kitchen" a structure several feet away from the main house where the actual meals were prepared. We found the footers for this structure while cleaning up the yard. I still havent located the 'privey' yet. (More urban archiology)

Anyway our previous owners decided that the low maintenace route made the most sense and had stone steps installed. Over the years due to settling these steps had moved a good six inches away from the front door, we think due to a badly placed downspot which softened the earth. In fact the front step was half buried due to the settling. Also at some point someone painted the steps which resulted in them being very slippery when wet.

Now having done this before on several restoration I knew how "involved " this was. Greg, not having dealt with this before didn't realize what a monumental task this was, and was surprised that I had a bunch of log posts and 2x4's scattered about. He inquired as to why I "had all this stuff"? My reply was well lets move this top step off. Greg grabbed the front step and started pushing and lifting, after a few minutes of grunting and graning and me not wnayting to take him to the emergency room for a groin injury... I explained that simply lifting the steps was not an option as the steps had no intention of being moved by conventional means!

And thus began our exercise in 'Reverse Egytology", much like the building of the great pyramids,I taught Greg about fulcrums and leverage. All told it took about 4 hours to 'de-assemble" the steps. I figure each step which was 6 feet long, 12 inches deep and 8 inches tall weighed about 500 lbs . They are now safely "out of the way, but I know that "eventually" they have to be moved. Fortunately I think I will wait until be have the heavy equipment in to regrade the site. I did wind up with some great pristine limestone pieces that made up the under supports for the steps that will make our wall restortion at the front of the house go smoothly!

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