How To

How To: Fix a Sunken Stoop, Find a Rug Repairer

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Q The concrete steps from our front porch, like those on many other homes in our development, have sunk several inches. The first step is now about 10 inches down from the porch. We had the steps and part of the front walk jacked up within the last 10 years, so we don't necessarily consider that a good solution for the problem. Could you suggest a fix that's as permanent as possible? We are not averse to having the steps removed and replaced, but we want to make sure that the ground underneath is stable enough to support them. We don't know where to start.

Clifton

A Building codes now require front stoops to sit on a foundation tied into the house foundation, but stoops on older homes usually were built separately, often leading to the situation you cite. Soil under the stoop might not have been compacted properly, or it could be too soft, requiring a foundation that reaches down to a more solid soil layer.

To pinpoint the problem and possible solutions, call a geotechnical engineering company. Tim Gentry, vice president of Soil Consultants Engineering in Manassas (http://www.soilconsultants.net), says the price will probably be $500 to $600. For that, you'll get a site visit, test holes dug with a hand auger and usually two or three scenarios for addressing the issue. The company can also supply a list of contractors who do the types of work recommended, which you could use to get cost estimates. Compare these to the cost of replacing the steps with a foundation that's deep enough to result in a stable structure.

Jacking up the existing stoop and walkway might make sense even though it didn't lead to a permanent fix the first time, because you might not have used the best method. When stoops are jacked up, contractors sometimes pour fresh concrete underneath. Other options include digging down in sections to add a deep foundation and installing helical anchors, which screw down to solid soil and then push up on the stoop to keep it permanently jacked up.

Before you call a geotechnical engineer, do a little research about soil conditions in your area so you can better understand the advice and ask appropriate questions. A useful, free tool is the Web Soil Survey at http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov. Type in your address to see soil survey maps, data and ratings that describe the soil's suitability for various issues. Some parts of the country aren't covered because the data haven't been digitized, says Dan Schwartz, a soil scientist at the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District in Fairfax. Find paper maps and reference materials for these areas at soil and water conservation district offices.

Our dog chewed a section of the fringe on a Turkish rug we brought home after living overseas. Where can we find a reliable store to get it repaired and cleaned? There are so many rug stores that seem to pop up and then go out of business.

Springfield

Rug showrooms do tend to come and go, as if the only effective sales pitch is a sign that proclaims "going out of business." Ask who does the actual repair work, and then go to the place where it is done. Then you can evaluate the skill and commitment involved. Companies that specialize in cleaning and repair tend to be more stable than ones that simply sell carpets, because of the investment needed to set up a shop for washing and drying.

Hadeed Oriental Rug Cleaning (http://www.hadeedcarpet.com) has a showroom and drop-off location in Springfield and does repairs and cleaning at its headquarters in Alexandria. Though the company doesn't offer formal tours, customers are welcome to watch as a crew of 10 to 15 women reweave fringe and make other repairs, and as five to seven people work on stain removal. Another option is Cevat Kanig (http://www.cevatkanig.com), who with his wife repairs carpets in a home-based business in Springfield.

Jeanne Huber

Is there something in your home that's clogged, cracked, broken or bedeviling? We'd like to help. Send your questions to Jeanne Huber at home@washpost.com. Please put "How To" in the subject line and tell us where you live.


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