Home>Discussions>YARD & GARDEN>Decks, Patios, & Porches>Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo stair
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ss77
Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo stair
ss77

I just got home from work, the excavator was here and started work. He buried the stairs - 4 treads high along one side of the house going up to the deck. Now I like the height, and now only have 2 treads high instead of 6, and we had talked about it, but I thought I had a couple of days to remove the stairs. My husband is a little upset with me- and tomorrow-Tuesday- he wants me to talk to them and decide what to do...Will the stairs of deck wood from around 2003 rot away and how long will it take? Should I dig out the stairs now or just wait and replace them later? It leaves only a two step tread stairway...would anyone else be upset with just leaving it for now and replacing later? My husband does like a bit of perfection..I am fine with a "little" not quite right, but wondering if this is dangerous..etc.
Thank you everyone! Love the advice I have read, and it has gotten me through building our home..

dj1
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
dj1

Wood and dirt don't mix, not even most treated woods. The sooner you can separate the two, the better.

If you prefer a two step staircase, this is what you do: you build a two stair staircase. Burying 4 steps in dirt is nothing but trouble.

A. Spruce
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
A. Spruce

I take it the plan was to decrease the elevation of the deck by adding fill? If this is the case, then why were the stairs not removed before adding the fill? What is even more worrisome is that if the stairs were buried, what happened to the deck supports? This whole things sounds like one big disaster, poorly planned on your part, atrociously executed by the hired help who obviously can't be called a professional, because a professional wouldn't have buried the stairs and would have had a discussion with you about your proposal and it's inherent problems, as well as viable solutions to giving you what you want in a manner that didn't create a myriad of other issues in the process.

Issue #1: Earth to wood contact is NEVER a good thing. Not only will you get rot setting in immediately, you're inviting termites and other wood boring critters into your home.

Issue#2: The deck supports, were these buried too? Again, earth to wood contact is never a good thing, particularly when you are talking about supporting structures such as support posts, wood capped pier blocks, or even the deck joists.

Issue #3: The steps. First, the buried steps are going to rot, and that rot is going to travel up into the portion of the steps you want to keep too. Second, the steps are not going to allow the soil to compact properly, resulting in weak, non-supporting soil, exacerbated by spongy, rotting wood. Third, repairing this nightmare after the fact is not going to be an easy or inexpensive task.

Issue #4: Speaking of expenses, you've just paid someone to improperly raise the elevation of the soil, now you get to pay more for someone to correct the problems created by the first guy. You get to pay even more when you have to start replacing a deck that is prematurely failing due to the aforementioned issues. You get to pay even more when the aforementioned issues invade your home, pest and rot repair on a house gets expensive very quickly.

ed21
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
ed21

A photo and explanation of what was trying to be done would be helpful.
As Spuce explained, not a good idea.

ss77
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
ss77
dj1 wrote:

Wood and dirt don't mix, not even most treated woods. The sooner you can separate the two, the better.

If you prefer a two step staircase, this is what you do: you build a two stair staircase. Burying 4 steps in dirt is nothing but trouble.

Yes, I agree. I was quite upset when I got home, and it was losing light so I could not see the extent. I figured I would have to dig it out by hand so even more upset at the mess created including the marine pillars I had the original contractor use to make sure everything was super strong. The deck was done well, stairs and stringers all were in great shape. I had thought the excavator, GC, and I had all agreed to take the stairs off, do the leveling and raising of the soil surface around the house. After that was done I would have the stairs replaced with a new set of stairs. I guess the excavator thought it would save us time. Anyway, the GC came this morning, got the piling out with the bobcat, removed the stairs, worked on getting the level right, and now it will be as it should be. Thank goodness. Once this and the driveway jobs are finished, I can put in a new set of stairs. I hated the thought of leaving it in the soil, just not right as you said..but it was under about 5 ton of stone and soil...so I was a little desperate after working a 12 hour day..I had already dug and moved 2 1/2 ton of stone in the last week after work each night...Thank you so much for agreeing with our thoughts.

ss77
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
ss77
A. Spruce wrote:

I take it the plan was to decrease the elevation of the deck by adding fill? If this is the case, then why were the stairs not removed before adding the fill? What is even more worrisome is that if the stairs were buried, what happened to the deck supports? This whole things sounds like one big disaster, poorly planned on your part, atrociously executed by the hired help who obviously can't be called a professional, because a professional wouldn't have buried the stairs and would have had a discussion with you about your proposal and it's inherent problems, as well as viable solutions to giving you what you want in a manner that didn't create a myriad of other issues in the process.

Issue #1: Earth to wood contact is NEVER a good thing. Not only will you get rot setting in immediately, you're inviting termites and other wood boring critters into your home.

Issue#2: The deck supports, were these buried too? Again, earth to wood contact is never a good thing, particularly when you are talking about supporting structures such as support posts, wood capped pier blocks, or even the deck joists.

Issue #3: The steps. First, the buried steps are going to rot, and that rot is going to travel up into the portion of the steps you want to keep too. Second, the steps are not going to allow the soil to compact properly, resulting in weak, non-supporting soil, exacerbated by spongy, rotting wood. Third, repairing this nightmare after the fact is not going to be an easy or inexpensive task.

Issue #4: Speaking of expenses, you've just paid someone to improperly raise the elevation of the soil, now you get to pay more for someone to correct the problems created by the first guy. You get to pay even more when you have to start replacing a deck that is prematurely failing due to the aforementioned issues. You get to pay even more when the aforementioned issues invade your home, pest and rot repair on a house gets expensive very quickly.

Thank you so much - all that is what I was pacing around the house last night worrying about...did not get any sleep...Tonight, looking at what happened today -see post above- I think we are in better shape. The GC must have read your response.
The walk alongside the house had a downward slope. The new soil rests on a slope against a Superior wall foundation, not near the wharf pillars and falls away from the house on an angle to increase any drainage away from the foundation.
The original plan was to level out the parking area and driveway to make it safer in the winter time with the heavy ice buildup we get due to our location - this part was an addition to the original plan. The soil will not come in contact with the pillars and i just rechecked most of the deck fasteners again as I do every year to see how they and all the bolts are. Looks good.
I will keep a strict eye each night during the work on any wood/soil contact and make sure it is corrected the same day. I am keeping the soil/gravel level around the house down so less chance of water splash up on the house as it is a log home. I don't need to invite any more problems than we already have with wood! Thanks so much for your response - I sincerely believe it made a huge difference in our lives. I will load photos later to the thread - I know it is hard to visualize. Thank you everyone! Oh an the GC said he would redo the stairs and install at no additional cost once we get the rest of the job done.

A. Spruce
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
A. Spruce
ss77 wrote:

Thank you everyone! Oh an the GC said he would redo the stairs and install at no additional cost once we get the rest of the job done.

I want to apologize for maybe being a tad too stern in my earlier post. I still stand by everything I said, though I could have been a bit more tactful about it. My post was the result of a very long, exhausting day for me, and the scene you described tends to be a hot button topic of mine, i.e., shoddy workmanship, particularly on the part of supposed professionals. Having said that, glad that our perspectives were of value to you.

On the topic of the stairs and grade being repaired for free, make sure you watch your remaining bills very closely, and DO NOT give full final payment until you are satisfied with the repaired areas. In regards to watching your remaining bills, make sure that the price of the work hasn't changed from the contracted pricing (you do have a contract, right? ), and make sure that any change orders don't seem bloated to make up for the "free" repairs.

Sombreuil_mongrel
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
Sombreuil_mongrel

The supports for the new stairs are still going to have to bear down to undisturbed soil. If you knew where the newel posts at the end of the stairs would be, you could have put 6x6's in the ground and filled around them keeping them plumb, and then not have to re-excavate to get footing. You can't build on backfill, not even steps, in my area.
Casey

Fencepost
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
Fencepost
Sombreuil_mongrel wrote:

You can't build on backfill, not even steps, in my area.
Casey

In my area, you can, but the backfill must be properly compacted. Generally is must be clay or clay/gravel mix; humus (topsoil) is not suitable for compacted fill.

dj1
Re: Deck stairs half buried by excavator - can I leave or should I dig out and redo s
dj1
Fencepost wrote:

In my area, you can, but the backfill must be properly compacted. Generally is must be clay or clay/gravel mix; humus (topsoil) is not suitable for compacted fill.

It's the same around here.

A 2 step deck staircase can rest on fill. Just anchor the staircase well (I would go 2 ft of concrete for the posts) and it will go nowhere. You won't even need a hand rail for such a staircase.

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