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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So I went over to look at a potential job this morning. Customer wants some stairs repaired. Easy enough....

I get there and notice that out of 4 limestone stair treads which have aluminum railings anchored to them.....all 4 are horribly cracked around the railing hole.

Eveyrthing else looks great....like new. The brick stairs are 6 years old and the only damage is where the railing guy drilled into the limestone to set the railing. Were not talking a little crack....but CRACKED APART. Customer states it started happening last winter, so it wasnt immediate.

Dig into it further and come to find that the railing doesn't even protrude through the 2" limestone cap into the brick and block below! And whatever he poured into the hole to anchor the aluminum rails, is crumbling like soft gypsum.



Am I wrong saying that the failure was due to the fact that the railing company did not install this properly? A 2" Limestone tread is not going to bear the weight of someone holding onto a railing... and its clear that water intrusion (freeze and thaw) may have caused further (or all of) the damage....


PS: Notice in the pic that there is some cracking in the below brick....I also have to assume this is due to water intrusion once the tread and everything above popped apart during the bad winter we had. I dont believe I am looking at any structural problems here. Would you tend to agree? The rest of the structure is sound and looks great....only below the broken treads is there any brick damage.
 

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Each tread will need to be reformed in whole unless they are going to get stained later on, otherwise the repairs will be noticeable. I cant be 100% certain but it appears the rails are not only shallow but too close to the edge as well. If they want the rails in that location you will need to drill out deep anchors so the rail use weight is dissipated down and not to the sides. These kind of projects suck because to do it right means the homeowner has to spend more money than they should. Since it was not done right the first time I would write up a contract that any repairs short of a 100% do-over is warranty free.
 

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Demo the old rail, replace steps, mount New rail on posts that are dug into the ground or fastened to poured in place concrete frost footings adjacent to the steps footings, top of rail fastened to house wall to brace the assembly. tapcons to brick step bed joints if necessary. Nothing fastened to 2" thick limestone.... A fence with a sloped hand rail hanging off it over the steps.....
limestone with donut holes = surecrack.

Plaster of paris for old posts cement.... hey it got hard for awhile....
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
rails were placed around 5" in from edges. Not too close compared to some I have seen.

I really cant identify what they used as "anchoring" cement....but it sure doesnt look like hydraulic cement. its flaky and dry.

The rail is going to come out. I am going to rip the old tread up.... If I need to replace some of the brick work I will. Then will replace the limestone treads.

It is then up to the railing guy to make it right. And no...I am not putting any type of warranty on this considering I did none of the initial work and have no idea if theres even a footing under these steps. Like I said...they look really well constructed overall. And in good shape....aside from where the railings were put into them

I am going to advise the owner that the railings should be set into the underlying structure...NOT the limestone. And that where the railing passes through the limestone should be a soft joint. simply filled in and sealed with a product like sikaflex. sound right?

I dont trust hydraulic cement as a joint in stone in our freeze/thaw NJ climate. all the anchoring and support needs to come from the structure below the limestone and none of it should be transferred to the limestone, hence the soft joint so that it also seals it against water intrusion. I dont know how they expected this to be ok? The just drilled through the limestone, cut the railing down, and sat it in the holes and filled it with whatever they used.
 

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rails were placed around 5" in from edges. Not too close compared to some I have seen.

I really cant identify what they used as "anchoring" cement....but it sure doesnt look like hydraulic cement. its flaky and dry.

The rail is going to come out. I am going to rip the old tread up.... If I need to replace some of the brick work I will. Then will replace the limestone treads.

It is then up to the railing guy to make it right. And no...I am not putting any type of warranty on this considering I did none of the initial work and have no idea if theres even a footing under these steps. Like I said...they look really well constructed overall. And in good shape....aside from where the railings were put into them

I am going to advise the owner that the railings should be set into the underlying structure...NOT the limestone. And that where the railing passes through the limestone should be a soft joint. simply filled in and sealed with a product like sikaflex. sound right?

I dont trust hydraulic cement as a joint in stone in our freeze/thaw NJ climate. all the anchoring and support needs to come from the structure below the limestone and none of it should be transferred to the limestone, hence the soft joint so that it also seals it against water intrusion. I dont know how they expected this to be ok? The just drilled through the limestone, cut the railing down, and sat it in the holes and filled it with whatever they used.

I was looking at the rail in front of the top riser so maybe it was simply the angle that made it look very close.

The railings should float through the limestone so sika will work good for a seal but the rail guy needs to make sure the weight is distributed through the limestone and not on top. That aluminum moves too much and I agree hydraulic cement is the wrong product for anchoring.

When doing steps/railings like this I anchor it below the tread with a 4" spread so the weight of the rail is never on the tread itself.

Ive had too many clients looking for a warranty on repairs when they don't want to pay to do it over and get it done right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
not sure what you mean by a 4" "spread".

The problem I have is that I have no idea what type of construction lies underneath the tread and wont know until I remove them. I would like to see the railing guy extend the posts into the stairs themselves by at least 6 " and anchor them into the block under the trea. (If done this way then I would think hyrdaulic cement would be proper and function well)....and then I can fill in the rest of the joint in the limestone with Sika
 

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Pierced limestone anything,= crack, installing material that expands more than limestone inside limestone is how they used to Quarry limestone blocks that were measured in yards.... i.e. Guaranteed failure.

Prior to the spread of core drills this silliness would have been nearly impossible to do cheaply.... No trained stone cutter/mason would make something so sure to break.

Technology has increased the collateral damage idiots can do.... No I'm not talking about BHO and the deserter for 5 real Bad Men.:whistling

The post is a sword in a 2"thick stone, a crow bar 3' long...
You wouldn't fasten a wooden handrail post to a wooden tread instead of the stringer...would you?

If the HO insists on mounting the posts to the treads instead of to the side or the ground and the sides of the steps, install two piece treads where the posts penetrate with a soft joint around the post. A cheapster would relay the largest piece of each tread and cut new pieces to infill around the post, I'd glue the smaller piece down with some construction adhesive. Caulk with Vulchem limestone colored caulk.



You can grind recesses into the two pieces of tread to make space for the Post bracket and expansion anchors if you insist on a tread mounted post..
 
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