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abh4035

help! back porch steps near fireplace

B HG
March 17, 2019
I’m looking for suggestions on how to design the back porch steps. We have double doors going to the back porch, and the steps will end close to the fireplace, which will also be bricked. There will be a small gap between the wall and the steps if we bring the steps straight out.
Should we leave a small gap between the wall and steps or fill it in with brick and incorporate a fireplace hearth?
Help please!

Comments (35)

  • PRO
    PPF.

    I'd do something like this.

  • B HG
    Thank you, this is very helpful to have a visual.
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  • bpath Oh Sophie

    PPF, would you have a railing? Both sides? If so, how would it work with the low brick "fill-in" wall?

  • B HG
    The front porch steps come out at an angle. Not sure if we can incorporate the steps at an angle or semicircle?
  • PRO
    PPF.

    I'd probably put an sloped cap on the brick if built up this high.



  • B HG
    Not so crazy about that last one, PPF. However, I really appreciate you taking the time to create a visual for me.
    I was thinking more along the lines of something like the pictures below. Like with a “cap” or “ledge”...
    Hearth or no hearth on the fireplace?
    And how would that work with the steps??
  • PRO
    PPF.

    I was thinking more along the lines of something like the pictures below. Like with a “cap” or “ledge”...


    Me too.

  • cpartist

    The cap is a nice look. Just don't get old or ever need a railing.

  • houssaon

    I always like a railing with more than two (actually one) steps.

  • ksc36

    "I always like a railing with more than two (actually one) steps."


    As does the building inspector...

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    You might not need one of the steps but you might need a landing. You should post dimensioned plan and elevation drawings. I'm curious what was on the original permit drawings.

  • bpath Oh Sophie

    RES is right. You didn't say what the plan shows, but you do want a landing at the top, not the steps going right up to the door.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Yes, include a properly dimensioned landing outside the door threshold, and then add the necessary steps.


    Can you clarify the location and orientation of the fireplace. Surely the firebox isn't oriented to the exterior at this location?

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    This is not a problem that can be solved with a few schematic ideas; the solution will need to be carefully detailed. We need to know everything about the existing conditions including which door leaf is the operable one and the design of the fireplace hearth and how it will be used.

    Its possible the stairs would need to be wood instead of brick. Will the porch floor be bare concrete? From the front entrance it looks like there will be a material on top of the slab. That might eliminate a step. The fireplace air supply duct seems high. Maybe the back steps should have a landing with the steps on the side.

    A photo of the inside corner in question and of the fireplace would help. Too many issues and too little information.

  • B HG
    Thank you for the responses! The plans do not specify steps, because we did not intend on having steps at the time they were drawn.
    We also have a door on the left side of the porch -I’d like for the steps to be as similar as possible. I’ve attached a photo of the steps for the door on the left. However, they will be redone because we are not happy with the way they were laid.
    Entering the double doors from the porch to the house, the right door will open to the inside. I obviously did not realize how close the fireplace would be when I decided which door would be operable.
    Thank you again for your suggestions.
  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    How did the porch get so much lower than in the elevation drawing?

  • PRO
    PPF.

    I assumed the fireplace faced the interior.

    Will it have a raised hearth? If so, maybe it could be integrated into the steps.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Or the house was built much higher than the drawings...

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    The fireplace intake air duct is also high so I think Virgil is right.

    I would build a wood/composite deck and restore the original relationships of the doors and fireplace to the porch and avoid brick steps and railings.

    Steps to the ground could be inset into the deck between columns.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Houssoan's instinct about handrails should be respected rather than ridiculed.

    The IRC requires a handrail at 4 or more risers and a guard must be provided if the change in level at a stair is greater than 30 inches (a handrail can serve as a guard at a stair).

    Therefore, at least where the IRC is enforced by building inspectors, houssoan's judgement is a better guide.

  • lyfia

    What are the code requirements in your area? It is possible a landing is required outside the door and having just steps may not be sufficient. Check on that before making a choice as to what to do. More expensive to fix later.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    An exterior landing is required only if the door opens outward.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...An exterior landing is required only if the door opens outward..."


    While this is true, think about the safety and comfort of folks, many of whom may be preoccupied, coming and going through the door with only a 10 1/2-inch tread before the first riser...it's a significant injury hazard, which is unnecessary.


    Just plan on a exterior landing, and work out the necessary stairs and handrail. You'll always be glad you did.


    Incidentally...has the OP figured out why the construction of the house and porch are so significantly different than the drawings?

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    The front porch is level with the interior floor. Why isn't the back porch too?

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Good question?

  • B HG
    Thanks for the comments.

    The back porch isn’t level with the floor because that’s the way we wanted it.
  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Then I have no idea how to resolve the resulting stair dilemma.

  • cpartist

    The back porch isn’t level with the floor because that’s the way we wanted it.

    Why?

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    Hi,

    I know you're focused on the steps, but if the fireplace is an outdoor fireplace as shown in the floor plan, you might want to consider relocating it. It's in an awkward place considering the likely traffic flow. Have you done a furniture layout to ensure the fireplace is going to work for you in that location?

  • thinkdesignlive
    Also don’t forget about door threshold and if that will create a tripping hazard.
  • lyfia

    RES - that may be true for codes in your area and general national codes, but there are at times local codes that says differently. Always good to check before spending a lot of money.


    I think putting the patio down has caused the issue with needing steps there and eating into the available patio space. Steps down from the patio would have been preferred with the design or the design taken the drop into account from the start for anybody reading this and are at a point in the project where they can fix it. At this point it will be awkward with the placement of the fireplace no matter what you do unless there is the possibility to move or not keep the fireplace.


    Another option not mentioned is to create a landing in front of the door that also includes that corner spot and then turn the stairs to go alongside the house instead of in front of the fireplace or make the stairs go in all directions from that landing. I think the last part is what I'd do. Then the corner space can be used to put some pots of plants in that corner and the stairs going in all directions will look a little less off and more intentional.


    Kind of like this deck has steps all around - https://cdn.homeadvisor.com/files/eid/19330000/19335529/1885810_ddetail.jpg?modifyDateTime=1430870981000

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...The back porch isn’t level with the floor because that’s the way we wanted it..."


    The drawings posted by the OP show the porch approximately 6-inches (my estimate) below the elevation of the interior floor. The as-built condition, for which the OP asked for help, is considerably different. Clearly, a change was made during construction for which there is now a significant problem of access and egress.


    One wonders why this wasn't resolved when the construction change was made.


    The situation can be resolved using some of the suggestions above.

  • A Fox

    I would also vote for extending a landing out and have the stair extend in both directions. As an alternate also consider having the stairs only going off to the side and along the front edge of the landing instead have a a brick bench that then wraps around to become a raised hearth. That way you will create a niche around the fireplace that can be joined by a couple chairs on the side of the porch away from the door to enjoy the fire up close and not be right in the traffic path out to the backyard.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Lyfia, the only state not adopting the IRC is Wisconsin. Here is the requirements for a stair in Wisconsin:

    HANDRAIL


    LANDING


    ADOPTION OF THE IRC


    Whatever the OP does, it will involve stairs, guards and handrails so it must be submitted to the local building department (if there is one) before the work can be done. However, anticipating problems in advance does not appear to be part of the OP's approach.

    There is little point in discussing the possible integration of the fireplace hearth with a landing without knowing the height of the firebox above the floor or the height difference between floors.

  • A Fox

    I was working under the assumption that whatever the height of the firebox, it may need to move for a reasonable solution. And now is certainly the time to figure out what height the firebox should be at, as it will be a lot cheaper to modify it now compared to after the stone has been applied.

    On a side note, it's probably a good thing this is under a porch. In our last house there was a condition at the rear door where the brick had been extended down to grade with an entrance raised 2' like that. The concrete stoop had simply been poured in front of and up to the brick wall. So 70 years later when those brick mortar joints deteriorated and if there was any failure at the caulk joint between concrete stoop and brick wall, we got water in our basement. The only solution was to keep up with caulking or tear out the stoop.


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