Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: patio (Page 2 of 2)

Building A Dream Patio – Concrete Demo and New Patio Plans

Things have to get worse before getting better, right? (Please tell me it is right – someone? Anyone?)


As I told you yesterday, we decided to tear out the sinking porches and re-pour a new patio at the back of the house. For concrete work, we hired a local mom-and-pop concrete business.

We are fortunate to live in a very established neighborhood. Our neighborhood does not have a HOA, but all the neighbors took care of their properties and have great curb appeals. It is safe to say that we bought the worst house in the neighborhood (based on the looks). Since we started working on the house, many neighbors paused on their walks and welcomed us to the neighborhood. It was really sweet. They also gave us information of contractors they used in the past. Through our neighbors and realtor, we were be able to find trust-worthy local business to work with. It is important to support local businesses!

In the morning of the Demo day, the father, son, and son-in-law trio from Big Mike’s Concrete showed up and got straight to work. They started demoing the back porch right away:


And by late afternoon that day, the old back porch, steps next to the house, and the concrete path were completely out:


I’d like to pause here and give you an overview of our patio plans. You might remember the site plan of our property:

Ranch Site Plan

The half circle adjacent to the back of the house was the existing back porch. There was a concrete path wrapping around the garage side of the house, connecting the front and the back yard. This concrete path was narrower than the porch, leaving a strip of bare dirt next to the house.


After demo, the entire back porch and the concrete path at the back of the house (where Charlie sat) were gone. The path on the side of the house (including the part in front of the gutter extender) remained.


And our new patio will start from where the gutter is, and extend along the back of the house for 34 feet. It will look something like this:

Patio plan_back_

You can see the back door in the middle, kitchen window to the right, and the new electrical box (How can I leave it out?) on the left. The barrier on the side of the house is our current chain link fence. We will be replacing it soon and potentially move it towards the front yard. But for now, this is how the patio and fence will look like from the back:

Patio plan back

What about these columns, you may ask? We have plans to add roof structure for the patio in the future. In order to build any kind of roofing over the patio, we would need to prepare the adequate footing for future porch columns. Although these columns will not be built today, they indicates where the footings need to be.

Patio plan_2D

We have not decided what kind of roof we would like to have for the patio yet. But having lived in Southern California, Slav and I are both very into a style called Spanish revival. One of the architectural elements I love the most of Spanish revival is the arcades:


(via here)

We like the arched columns and the long patio space underneath. Coincidentally, traditional Chinese structures often use covered porches to connect buildings, a lot like these arcades:


(via here)

So we did some research on what kind of footing are needed for porch roof. This is when I felt really lucky living in Arvada, where all the building codes are crystal clear, and all the requirement, permits and resources related to renovations are neatly organized on the city’s website. With little research, we found this document on the city website clearly indicating what kind of footing we need for future porch roof structure:


You can see that for supporting the future roof of any kind, the footing needs to be concrete columns that are at least 8″ in diameter, and 3′ deep into the ground.



The framing went in the next day, and five holes were dug for pouring the footings for future porch columns:


And rebar are drilled into the foundation:


We are getting a new backdoor step poured as well. The new patio will be sitting just slightly above the ground level to give out a “more connected to the backyard” vibe. This step is necessary to bridge the deep step-down between the backdoor and the new patio.


With all the framing complete, the guys moved onto demo the front porch. It was a lot harder due to the depth of the porch, but they got it done, in 90 degree weather!

Concrete trunk scheduled for tomorrow – stay toned!

Take. It. Down – Before Building A Dream Patio

Hey Y’all! I am here with some exciting updates – we are making huuuuuge changes to the exterior of the ranch! And this time it is not just demo anymore (sorry that all you saw so far was trash, trash, and trash) – we are actually putting in something new!

Remember earlier I’ve told you a list of water-related issues we needed to correct in order to protect our foundation? When we moved in to our house in mid-June, the list looked like this:

1. Replace the leaky roof and gutter
2. Extend the downspouts
3. Getting rid of the front flower bed
4. Correct the sloping issues of the front and back porch
5. Seal the corner foundation cracks
6. Fix faucet leaks
7. Grading around the house

By mid-July, after we removed the front flower bed, our list looked like this:

1. Replace the leaky roof and gutter
2. Extend the downspouts
3. Getting rid of the front flower bed
4. Correct the sloping issues of the front and back porch (in progress!)
5. Seal the corner foundation cracks
6. Fix faucet leaks
7. Grading around the house (in slow progress) 

Notice I labeled “correcting the sloping issues of the front and back porch” as “in progress” there? Ha! That was because we had met several concrete contractors at that point to discuss what we should do to repair our sinking concrete porches:

The front porch


The back porch, separating from the back door step


One of the option is mud jacking/foam jacking. It would have costed us over $2000 to jack up both porches, possibly more. However, with our soil type, the shifts can happen again.

The other option is to complete tear out the existing porches and pour new ones. With this approach, we could reinforce the new porches with rebars that are directly drilled into the foundation. Therefore, the new porches would no longer move in relative to the foundation, it will move WITH it. This option is more expensive, costing about $3000.

We decided to go with the more permanent approach, which means tearing out both porches and re-pouring a new concrete patio at the back of the house. In general, our vision of renovation is to fix the house the “right way”. As long as money allows, we would like to avoid “bandage fixes”. With the difference of $1000, it is no brainer to go with a complete redo.

As for the front porch, we will tear it out just so we can get rid of the ugly awning above it, but we will leave the dirt underneath empty for now. We will protect it with 6-mil Poly ground cover to prevent water from draining down. The plan is to put an egress window there down the road – hopefully in a year or so.

Before demoing the existing porches, we needed to take down the metal awnings covering both of them. I am not gonna lie, this might have been the most exciting part of the whole porch redo – these metal awnings were undoubtedly the biggest eyesores on our house! I mean look at this:


This is the front porch awning AFTER Slav beautified it! He opened up the porch a bit by cutting off the horizontal railing.

And here is the view of from our living room. Arghhhh.


The window well + cover enclosed in the front porch. They had a good run.



This window well was filled with dirt and pine needles, and the metal area wall was badly rusted. You can actually see the leaves, dirt and trash in between the two layers of area well from the picture below. There is no way we could replace it with the existing concrete porch in place.


You can see why we are not fans for the front porch, right? Well, if you think this is bad, wait until you see the back porch awning:



Not only this awning was sad, it made the house look sad. I am not kidding. This is what we had to put up with for a whole month… I’d admit that the camping chairs and cooler/coffee table combo are our contribution – really completed the whole mess on the back porch. But you gotta forgive us – among dirty carpet, greasy kitchen cabinets, and broken storm doors, we had to pick our battles.

And it IS these metal awnings’ turn now! As soon as we scheduled the contractor for concrete work, Slav went full warrior mode onto them:


The metal roof panels were screwed to the frames and every screw/nail was rusted. Slav sprayed a whole can of PB blaster before any of the screws caved in. But once they were off, the roof panels just slid off.



I do not think we ever looked up at the bottom of these awnings before. We might have decided not to buy the house if we had!

Thing started turning up as soon as the roof came down. The sky! The trees! Let there be light!


Our living room became instantly brighter – I no longer needed to turn on a light to read during the day! I was so excited.


The metal frame was anchored into the front soffit and the brick. Slav had to use a grinder to separate it into manageable chucks first, before taking each parts down. It took considerable amount of time and required lots of physical strength, which means I was not able to help at all. So I decided to do my best to help, by driving out for some Chinese take-out. When I pulled into our driveway with hot-and-sour soup spilled all over my floor mat, this was the grand view that was greeting me…


It felt like a different house! Before, every time I drove in, I would say to myself “look at that ugly metal awning…we really need to take it down soon!” And this time I was like “Hey house!”

I think we instantly raised our 5% curb appeal to 20%.

It was getting dark at this point, but Slav decided to at least start on the back awning – he really could not take them down fast enough.



You can see from this picture how much the porch had sunk. The horizontal line in the middle of the exposed foundation was where the porch sat originally.

Slav took the same steps taking down the back awning by first unscrewing the roof and taking them down.


By nightfall, the roof was down. It felt amazing to watch night sky from our backdoor. Interestingly, it made the whole yard look deeper.


Slav continued to remove the frame of the awning next morning:



See the strip of dirt between the house and the path in this picture? It was a dump ground for broken toys and candy wrappers when we moved in. We even removed broken glasses here – how was this safe for the five kids who lived here!

As for the heavy awning, Slav had to cut the the frame into small pieces, like he did for the front awning.


And removed the whole thing one part after another.


See how open it became? Now we could really imagine what it would be like with a new porch! With the back of the house completely open, we suddenly had much better vision on how we would like to use the place.

For half a day, we went from this:


to this!


And pups were like “where is my porch at?”


Honestly, I do not think that they enjoy the renovation very much. We give them less attention, dinner is sometimes late, everything is covered in dust, and there is so much loud noises to hurt these cute floppy ears! For the past month, the sanctuary for our pups has been the basement. It is dark, quiet(er), and a lot cooler than the main floor. Until we install a central AC, I guess the pups are just gonna live like hobbits.

Just like the living room, the kitchen became instantly brighter. It was actually nice to make coffee here in the mornings. With adequate lighting, the dark cabinets suddenly looked more acceptable too. We had been talking about painting these cabinets white to brighten up the kitchen, which I was not very much looking forward to (I am the painter in the family). But now, we think we could wait until the real kitchen remodel happens.


And look back at the living room – I love this table now ten time better with the lovely lighting and tree shadows!


Concrete demo is happening tomorrow!

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