Will this even work?
June 23, 2008 1:18 PM   Subscribe

DIY Woodworking - The step for my kitchen door was totally rotted through, so I chiselled out all the bad wood. Now what?

The entire step had rotted, so it had to come out. Now I need to work out how to replace it without removing the surrounding brickwork. The main problems are:

- It's an old Victorian house, and there's not a straight line in the entire place.
- The step needs to join in to the existing woodwork (the rest of the wooden frame is sound).

These pics illustrate the current situation:

Overhead view | Straight on | Left side | Right side

Here's my rough plan:

- Use filler to get a reasonably flat finish on the concrete lintel.
- Paint well with bitumen paint to act as a damp proof course.
- Cut one piece of timber into three: two with projections that will slot into the brickwork on the left and right sides, and one rectangular piece to sit snugly in the middle.
- Treat all the wood, caulk the gaps between the pieces, sand down, paint.

The main thing I'm stuck on is how to securely attach the new wooden step to the concrete lintel. Long screws, or set pins into the lintel that slot into holes in the wood, or some kind of fancy glue? Or maybe the whole thing is a poor idea: I'd welcome any suggestions on the best way to proceed! It doesn't have to look flawless by any means, and I really don't want to start knocking bricks out.

Other info: south-east UK so no temperature extremes to worry about. Zero flood risk but it does have to withstand regular heavy rain.
posted by boosh to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
To attach wood to concrete either use bolts epoxied into the concrete or tapcon screws that are designed to screw into concrete. Place wooden plugs over the heads of the bolts/screws.
posted by zeoslap at 1:30 PM on June 23, 2008

Also make sure you use a nice rot proof wood, redwood, cedar, something pressure treated.
posted by zeoslap at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2008

You could also just pour yourself a nice new concrete step...
posted by zeoslap at 1:33 PM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you have Liquid Nails in the UK? That's what I'd use to attach wood to concrete.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:33 PM on June 23, 2008

Cut one piece of timber into three: two with projections that will slot into the brickwork on the left and right sides, and one rectangular piece to sit snugly in the middle.
- Treat all the wood, caulk the gaps between the pieces, sand down, paint.

Seems strong enough and correct, maybe find a [Google it] joint connector fastener(s) that can attach those two outer sections to the center one, maybe one you can conceal under a wooden plug or cover over with a friction strip on the trheashold?
posted by Freedomboy at 1:34 PM on June 23, 2008

Firstly I'd recommend stabilising the rest of the wood. Look for a wood preserver that will treat any remaining rot and harden the timber.

Attaching wood to concrete is really no problem; provided you have a reasonably good hammer-action drill and a good masonry bit, you should be able to drill holes into the concrete and attach the wood using suitable expanding plugs and long screws. Make sure you recess the screws so that you can fill them in flush before painting.

I'd start with a single piece of wood, then make a 45-degree cut somewhere near the middle. Viewed from the front of the step they'd look like this:

|======\ \======|

Put the left one in first, then the right should slot in easily.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:35 PM on June 23, 2008

Does it have to be wood?

If not, I'd suggest either pouring a little bit of concrete, or tiling it with quarry tiles (which can be bought with non-slip surfaces, if you are concerned about slipping in the rain).

If it does have to be wood, your three-part idea is ok, and a two-part will work as well, although I don't think I'd join it in the middle -- maybe better to have the join way over on one side where it won't get stepped on all the time. Wood can be fastened with construction adhesive and/or screws (plug the tops) set into concrete anchors. Make sure to use a wood that is both rot-resistant and hard-wearing.

Also, are the uprights in the door frame rotted? They look that way in at least one photo, but photos can be deceptive. Poking with a screwdriver can give you a sense of how far up the soft and squishy wood goes. This is a good opportunity to get rid of all the rotten trim pieces, while you have the door sill off.

At the edges and in the gaps, think carefully about where water will go if it is raining and wind is blowing, and caulk/seal/mortar/etc as appropriate. Don't fix one problem and create three more.
posted by Forktine at 2:14 PM on June 23, 2008

I would use a construction adhesive like liquid nails, as mentioned above to attach it. Also, it looks to me like you could do this in one piece of wood if it was fitted well. Could you just slide it in from the front? It does not have to go far in to the holes there. You could use some expanding foam to fill the dead space if it bothers you.
posted by d4nj450n at 3:12 PM on June 23, 2008

+1 to concrete. You can dye it, you know, or lay tile on top of it, or river rocks, or whatever. Concrete doesn't have to be fugg...it's also waterproof, bug proof, in this case waaaaay easier, and it'll last a lot longer. It also doesn't grow mold/mildew/get slippery when wet.

There's also no way I'd advise using liquid nails instead of a traditional fastener. The proper thing to do there is to use a low-velocity powder actuated nail driver OR masonary bit + TapCon style concrete tapper countersunk into the wood to affix the wood to the concrete. Then you cover that with wood filler and paint, or add in a kickstrip/adhesive strip/weatherstrip to cover up your holes.

Or, you could just throw up a form and pour some concrete.
posted by TomMelee at 8:34 PM on June 23, 2008

TomMelee, for my edification, why not liquid nails etc?
posted by d4nj450n at 6:57 AM on June 24, 2008

It might just be old-fogeyism in full effect. You'll find very very few tried and true construction folks who rely on that stuff anywhere near it's advertised usages. You CAN use it instead of drywall screws, theoretically. Everyone I know who uses it also nails.

Also, for me, concrete is dusty and breaks down over time as it dries and powderizes. Liquid nails has different formations for freezing or non-freezing applications, expanding or non-expanding, etc--but you'll almost always see it backed up with a real fastener. Lots of people actually use adhesives to allow play in the setup and then hold it together long enough for the real fasteners to go in.

Also, liquid nails style adhesives provide no support for shear-force, or at least not like a good ol' bolt does.
posted by TomMelee at 8:20 AM on June 24, 2008

Ok, Thanks Tom. I was aware that the liquid kind were not as good as the honest-by-god steel kind of nails, but I was thinking that this application was going to be low shear, and low tensile for that matter. More or less just keeping a block of wood from sliding around. The drying and powdering of the cement is a good point though.

And for the record, I would go with the concrete too.
posted by d4nj450n at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks very much for the advice, all. I'm taking elements from all of these suggestions: so far I've treated the remaining sound wood and filled in those awkward gaps in the brickwork, and tomorrow I'll lay a thin cement base to get the existing concrete good and smooth. I've bought a hardwood sill that I'm going to leave in one piece and screw into the concrete, and a good sealant to deal with any remaining gaps.

Actually the biggest problem now is proving to be keeping the damn cats away from the work area.
posted by boosh at 2:00 PM on June 24, 2008

« Older Seeking Austin Blogs   |   Camping suggestions for NC/VA in July Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.