Moving Property Exterior Steps

Thinking of re-positioning exterior steps of your Philadelphia property? Be prepared that behind your exterior steps is likely a hole in your property!

In the vibrant real estate market of Philadelphia, property management often entails dealing with unexpected repairs and renovations. Today, I want to share a recent experience that highlights the challenges and solutions related to exterior stair removal and the subsequent stucco repair—a situation that landlords and property managers may encounter when managing rental properties.

The Scenario: Unveiling Hidden Cavities

Our team embarked on a project involving the removal of exterior stairs at one of our managed properties. This decision was prompted by the installation of new doorways and the strategic reconfiguration of outdoor spaces to enhance the property's appeal and functionality. However, removing the stairs unveiled a significant challenge: a gaping cavity in the building's exterior wall. This discovery is not uncommon in Philadelphia's older homes, where exterior stairs often meet the building without proper finishing, leaving unfinished cavities hidden from view.

The Solution: Insulation and Stucco Patching

Addressing this issue required a meticulous approach. First, we filled the cavity with insulation, choosing a type that wouldn't retain moisture, mindful of the need to maintain the wall's ability to breathe. We then applied tar paper as a vapor barrier, followed by a metal lathe to provide a sturdy base for the stucco patch. Interestingly, during this process, we learned a valuable lesson—the importance of installing the lathe correctly, as it has a designated top and bottom side, a detail that can impact the effectiveness of the stucco application.

The Challenge of Stucco Application

Applying stucco proved to be more challenging than anticipated. Despite the initial struggle with the first coat, which was difficult to adhere properly, the second coat was applied with greater ease, thanks to the sticky nature of stucco that allows for better adhesion to the scratch coat. While my stucco application skills may not rival those of a seasoned professional, the task was completed with satisfactory results, albeit with a minor oversight that required additional patching.

The Importance of Understanding Material Properties

This project underscored the importance of understanding the properties of building materials such as stucco. While stucco serves as a durable exterior finish capable of preventing rainwater from entering the property, it also allows for moisture within the house to escape. Painting over stucco can hinder this essential function, transforming it into a vapor barrier. This potential compromise to the material's inherent benefits is a critical consideration for property managers aiming to maintain the structural integrity and comfort of their rental properties.

Conclusion: Navigating Property Management Challenges

Managing rental properties in Philadelphia brings a unique set of challenges, from unexpected repairs to navigating the nuances of building materials. This experience with stair removal and stucco repair highlights the importance of preparedness, adaptability, and a willingness to learn from each project. As we continue to navigate the complexities of property management, sharing these experiences enriches our collective knowledge and enhances our ability to serve our clients effectively.

Whether dealing with historic homes or modern buildings, our commitment to excellence in property management remains steadfast. We embrace each challenge as an opportunity to grow, improve, and ensure that our rental properties not only meet but exceed the expectations of landlords and tenants alike.


Joe White

Joe White is a Philadelphia Property Manager and Real Estate Broker. He is the owner of Grow Property Management and has been involved in the management, sales and purchases of Philadelphia area rental investment properties since 2008. He is an author and works as a real estate investment consultant and construction manager.

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