Concrete + Puppy Paws

Although it’s Wednesday, we still feel as though we’re coming off of a DIY hangover; this past weekend, we put on our DIY-party-pants, and we hit it hard. Scott’s parents planned to visit us for one full day of help, and still being fresh off the headache of baseboard installation (and miraculously living to tell the tale!), we moved the fiesta outside, an area that we’re eternally apologizing to our neighbors for.

We have big goals for the front, and in typical Scott + Kim fashion, one project idea will quickly snowball into another project idea that’ll easily require a handful of mini projects to prep for the initial larger project idea. (Got it? We know, you know.) Over the course of the weekend, we made a ton of progress, made huge messes and – again, in our typical fashion – haven’t quite wrapped up every last bit, but we’re getting there!

And one of those mini projects (that turned out to be not so mini) that was needed to prep for the larger project? New concrete!


But let’s back up. Scott and his dad wanted to tackle the building of new stairs that would lead up to our front porch, but about a week before their visit, we spent a little more time looking at the state of the stairs – which, at first, was just to get our shopping list in order. Of course, this had us realizing that eek! These stairs are in worse shape than we thought, but as we looked closer, we noticed, gah! If we’re going to do this right, we need a whole new concrete pad. This, naturally, was followed by foul language and a slew of phone calls to contractors that were never returned.

Below, you can see that our stairs all slope downwards to the left, but if you look at the base of the stairs, you’ll see the bigger problem – they weren’t even built on top of the pavement in the first place! Nope, they simply land on uneven dirt and gravel.


We’d discussed pouring a new concrete pad down the road, but with it now becoming a necessity to have, you know, level ground for the soon-to-be new stairs, it got bumped to the top of our list. After all, there were more than a few issues with the concrete in the first place. For starters, the shape makes no sense…


… A poor gutter situation (which has since been corrected as well!) caused cracks along the cinder blocks that lead down into the garden unit, not to mention, there are also a handful of missing cinder blocks…


… And cosmetically, the whole thing was full of cracks. (Which we found out was almost entirely due to the fact that there was no drainage allowance built into the large concrete pad in the first place!)


With Scott’s parents coming to visit in just a few short days and not a single returned phone call from a masonry contractor, we figured that the stairs could still be built – just not installed. (You can’t bring these two down!) But! On an evening trip to the grocery, we found ourselves behind a pick-up truck with the words “We Do Concrete!” followed by a number. We called it immediately, told the driver we were right behind him, and since he had wrapped up his day, he agreed to follow us back to our house and provide a quote. Hip, hip!

Not only was his quote extremely fair, but because the job was so small, he was able to squeeze us in the next day. (And he was super professional, very tidy and an all-around good guy! A unicorn pony, for sure. If you’re looking for someone in the Chicagoland area, send us an email, and I’ll fill you in!) The Thursday before the weekend, he dug up all the old concrete and framed in a new wider path – a path that would accommodate our soon-to-be stairs and curve nicely along the front yard, too:


Friday evening, the concrete was poured, feathered and lined for drainage ability (which would prevent future cracking). All said and done, the job took around 4 hours.


We asked our guy if he thought we were loony to add a personal touch – would it be weird if we added a puppy paw? Or two? He laughed, said it was perfectly safe for those cushy paw pads, and he even stuck around to make sure none of us fell into the fresh pavement. (We didn’t, although I’m not saying there wasn’t an incident later in the evening, in which one CC took a flying leap from the porch into the almost dry concrete. Nope, I’m not saying it.)


Bright and early Saturday morning, he came back to take away the temporary frame, and we were ready to get started on building stairs! We had ourselves a fresh slate! Side note: The stairs aren’t finished – yet. More on that once we can call it ‘done’!


Where the pavement meets up with the cinder blocks will eventually be the start of our garden bed; it’ll curve around to the right and in front of our lattice. (We cannot wait to get going on that!) In front of the garden, we’d like to lay a flagstone or paver walkway that will lead around to the other sidewalk, and we’ll fill in the very front with fresh grass.


Ooh, and look! The garden unit has a full wall of cinder blocks! We’ll be topping those with limestone caps to finish it off nicely. (Aaand installing new lights – downstairs and up!)


But our absolute favorite part? These sweet puppy prints. CC’s tiny paw is on the left, and Jack’s big brother imprint is the right, and yeah, they’re far from perfect. (Perfect from far?) Never mind, we love them so.


With the pavement laid in record time (it was a miracle, we tell you!), Scott and his dad worked on the front stairs while his mom and I prepped the patio for painting – and omg, you guys. The view from our front porch is much, much better! We’ll get into that – tomorrow!

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  • Laura @ Rather Square5.28.14 - 9:08 AM

    Okay, I just love this story for so many reasons. First, that you couldn’t get any contractors on the phone, then you called the number on the back of a random truck at the last minute and it turned out to be the perfect solution! Second, the puppy paws (wonderful touch). Third, your new concrete walkway – it looks great! Can’t wait to see what you do with the stairs and garden bed.

    Our front steps are also slowly sinking into the ground – so I’m interested in your process here and how we might apply it. Although in our case, I think the entire porch needs to be replaced…ReplyCancel

  • Kelly5.28.14 - 9:31 AM

    Love the puppy paw print touch!! and of course Jack’s face wondering what you are doing to him! Such cuties!ReplyCancel

  • Holy cow! Saying you had a busy weekend is a total under statement!

    I love that you called the number on a concrete truck and had a new pad the next day. Wouldn’t it be nice if all contractor relationships were so fast and easy? I love the new walkway. It looks amazing and I know you have more to share based on your Instagram feed :) Seriously, when you’re done there do you want to come down for a long weekend to help us finish a few outdoor things??

    Way to go, you guys!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.28.14 - 10:45 AM

      The whole outdoor thing is so new to us, so it’s definitely draining! We should do a trade – you up here one weekend, us down there the next.ReplyCancel

  • Staci @ My Friend Staci5.28.14 - 10:27 AM

    Looking sharp!! My parents had my sister and I put our handprints in the concrete in their house about 20 years ago, so you aren’t loony, just typical parents ;)

    How are you getting up to your front door right now without stairs?

    As always, can’t wait to see what’s next!ReplyCancel

  • Kim5.28.14 - 10:46 AM

    We used the back door for one evening, and by the end of the next day, Scott and his dad built up the steps enough in the front for us to use them – even though they’re not 100% done (but really close!)ReplyCancel

  • Megan @ The Brick Bungalow5.28.14 - 12:41 PM

    What a great improvement! We had new sidewalks (and part of our driveway) poured last year and it can be a pain but so nice in the end! Glad you found a great guy in a random way…adds a nice touch to the whole deal. I can’t wait to see the landscaping. I’m currently working on various garden tasks myself!ReplyCancel

  • Joanna @ TheNestbook5.28.14 - 2:59 PM

    Isn’t it amazing what a difference some new concrete makes?! We just added concrete step outside of our front door and it made all the difference in the world!ReplyCancel

  • Lesley5.28.14 - 7:24 PM

    LOVE that you put the puppy paw marks in the concrete!

    We did the same at our place and it’s a great reminder of my girl now she’s no longer with us
    Love it!…love the house reno too.


  • caroline [the diy nurse]5.28.14 - 8:08 PM

    The puppy paw prints are too sweet. I wouldve loved to have seen the “incident.” I had a paint tray on top of a desk while painting our office last week and the cat jumped up right into it and then ran away onto the carpet. I can only imagine how much fun you had with concrete!!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.28.14 - 8:27 PM

      Oh my goodness! Is it bad that I literally LOLed when I read that?! I hope it wasn’t too bad! God love our pets.ReplyCancel

  • This is awesome, love the addition of the puppy prints!ReplyCancel


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