The 1.6 Ton Concrete Stairway Procrastination Project

One challenge living in a house built on a steep hillside offers is erosion. From the street to the top of the property, I’ve estimated it’s about seven stories or seventy feet of elevation gain.

The erosion I’m talking about had washed enough dirt away from the southwest foundation of the house over the decades to expose the bottom of the concrete and allow the ivy to grow under the house in addition to letting rats move in too.

The erosion, ivy and rats led to this concrete stairway project on the southwest side of the house that I started on April 10, when I cleared away the thick ivy and ended almost four months later on August 1, 2015, with a 2nd coat of stucco in those areas where there were no steps or sidewalk. To show what I’m talking about, I’ve included nine photographs after the text of this post.

There is a double explanation for adding the word procrastination to the title. One reason is that I’ve known for several years that this job had to be done, and the second was that it was a great excuse to escape Twitter—my experience is that when you spend too much time on Twitter, it squeezes all the energy out of your brain until it refuses to function—and working on the rough draft of my next novel, The Last Sorcerer.  The next image is a working cover for the first book in a planned five-part series.

Book One on July 20 - 2015

In total, I worked on the concrete stairway project for nineteen days and 63 hours for an average of about 3.3 hours on each working day. When I started, I thought I’d be able to work the long 12 to 16 hours days of hard labor I worked when I was age 30 – 40, but I quickly learned that wasn’t going to be the case. At almost 70, when you work this hard, you quickly feel the damage age contributes.

The first damage was to my elbows from swinging a pick and sledge hammer to break up the hard packed clay—clay soil is difficult to work in dry or wet. I solved this later by using a heavy duty hammer drill and a wide chisel bit.

After that first and last 6-hour work day on April 14, I took a two-week break to let both elbows recover. The damage to the right elbow was worse than the left one. On April 15, I couldn’t move that arm or hold a pen to write, and it took the next fourteen days before I felt it was safe to continue working on the project.

Eventually, on May 22, I visited Big-5 and bought two, one-piece neoprene Pro Elbow Support sleeves that dramatically helped speed up the healing process and alleviated the pain so I could get back to work more often. I still don’t know why the elbow supports worked but they did.

By the time I finished the project, I had poured 19 bags of gravel that weighed a total of 950 pounds and mixed 41-bags of concrete (2,260 pounds based on dry weight). I have no idea how much that concrete weighed once it was wet, but I carried it up the hill in buckets from the mixing pan.

The receipts for the project reveal that I made thirteen supply runs, and I did not add in the hours spent driving to Home Depot to buy the material necessary to finish the work. If each supply run took 2.5 hours (a guestimate), then that added another 32.5 hours bringing the total to almost 96 hours.

Here are the nine photographs that show several stages of the project from near the beginning to the end, and writing this post gave me another excuse to avoid working on the last chapter in the first novel of The Last Sorcerer series.

Stairway Project One

Stairway Project Two

Stairway Project Three

Stairway Project Five

Stairway Project Six

Stairway Project Seven

Stairway Project Eight

Stairway Project Nine Stairway Project Ten


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal . His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

6 responses to “The 1.6 Ton Concrete Stairway Procrastination Project”

  1. Lloyd those were wonderful pictures you posted. Rats do move in when we procrastinate. There are so many distractions that it appears we miss something important at some point. It was a good message to people. I will take it to heart.

    1. Thank you. After I sealed up the rat highway into our house, several were trapped inside and we still heard them between the floors rattling wires. I set out a few of those glue traps and caught five. I took photographs but decided not to share them on the Blog. We haven’t heard any rat noise since.

  2. Lloyd, I’d rather read your novel than hear about your hours spent in labor maintaining your house. I understand your situation. Cost effectiveness might suggest you write the novel and outsource the labor. But it’s about what you want to do and can afford to do. I’m 65, and in the midst of a rental property inspection. I hear ya!

    1. Too bad that outsourcing the labor means I’d have to spend money designated to promote my books. I’ve paid workers before and a job like this one might run from $5k to $20k—just for labor—depending on who you hire. In my experience, a minority sub-contractor often charges much less for labor than a white contractor, and the minority contractors are usually more honest even if they aren’t always as skilled as the white contractors. But the contractors who have cheated us one way or the other on their work have almost always been white men, and I’m a Caucasian who now prefers to only work with less skilled minority sub-contractors who I have found I can at least trust to do what they say.

      At best I’m a mid-list author. You might be interested in what most authors earn by clicking the next link and scrolling down to the chart that shows what authors earn—Number of Authors Earning $10k … $1M or more per year from genre Kindle eBooks.

      My author earnings fit over there on the far right of that chart—I shouldn’t be laughing but I am.

      I’d rather readers read my novels too. In fact, to offer an idea of what “The Last Sorcerer” will be about, here’s a quick summary.

      That Traveler, who goes by many names, is beyond ancient. His guardian and partner is an artificially intelligent space ship, MS (Multiverse Ship), built to travel through black holes and into and other universes. This duo has been on the run for millions of years, fugitives from their own creators who designed both of them for a specific purpose: to explore the multiverse.

      The Traveler is a shape shifter, and he, she or it has gone by many names: Merlin, Thor, a friend of Eric the Red, Renee (a human woman), Perci Pendragon (a human man), etc.

      The Traveler has also known up close and far too personal infamous people like Hitler. Not only is the Traveler being hunted by his creators, but there is a demon from the underworld who wants to possess him and his powers that the Traveler can’t use or the ones who created him and MS will discover where they have been hiding, the earth. The Traveler was not designed to fall in love with the opposite sex or to ever have children, but MS has a goal to change all that and the Traveler has no idea what his partner, MS, is doing to his DNA.

  3. Just be ready for what we all hope will be a very wet winter. You don’t want more foundation to wash away.

    1. That thought was behind why it was built out away from the house as far as it was. Instead of washing the dirt away from the foundation, the new concrete will carry the rain down slope away from the house. I’ve already sprayed the stairs and sidewalk with water from a hose, and it worked.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.