Watch that step!

This looks insignificant, but it isn’t.

Age at times brings clarity. Things that never occur to you in youth or middle age become crystal clear with your increasing decrepitude.

Take stairs or even single steps, for instance.

When we built the Hacienda in 2002-03, my child bride suggested we do a “sunken” living room. I was neither here nor there about it, so we told the builder to do it without specifying how “sunken” it would be. He took the easy route, thank the Goddess, and sank it just one step, which you see in the above photo.

And then there was the notion of a second floor even though the property is large enough to have expanded a one-story villa all over the place with lots of yard left. A smaller lawn would have been nice because the yard is a constant wedgie in my butt.

I was a nimble 58 when this place was constructed, and now I’m 77. Things change, and my advice to you is that if you’re building a home in which you expect to live out your life, don’t do steps.

They are not a significant problem yet, but they likely will be with time. Let’s look at the one-step up to the dining room, the one you see in the photo above. My catching one foot on it as I step up is fairly common, but I have yet to take a dive.

My child bride, however, due to a damp rubber sandal a few years ago, sailed off that step and ended up in an arm cast for six weeks. When will it be my turn?

And there’s the stairwell to the second floor, a floor that could easily have been avoided, as I mentioned earlier. Climbing it many times a day is good exercise, so there is that. Neither of us has fallen on the stairwell yet, but will we and when?

I read recently that stairwells are a major cause of accidents. And if one or both of us live long enough, it could be an almost unpassable barrier to half of the house. You never think about this stuff when you’re relatively young.

But I’m sure thinking of it now.

22 thoughts on “Watch that step!

  1. We don’t think about lots of things when we’re young and invincible.

    I know an acquaintance who missed a step after inspecting a non-functioning water heater and broke a femur — completely into two pieces. He’s been in the hospital for about ten days and has two more weeks to go. That to be followed by weeks of intensive therapy. I suspect vodka was an accomplice.

    A few years ago, I had a close friend who was 65 years old. He missed a step coming off a tall stepladder, broke a femur. Six weeks later he was dead.

    Try not to miss a step. Or, at least if you do, glide into a soft landing.

    Check the statistics for those over 65 who take a fall which breaks a bone.

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    1. Ricardo: Ladders and old folks do not mix. I know this and I still go up them. But usually I get my wife to stand below, and I don’t go high. Probably should not even go near one. I’ll have to give that some prayerful consideration. For years here, it was impossible to get to the roof of the kitchen, and a stepladder was used. Finally, about five years ago, I had a steel stairway installed. I know of one woman hereabouts who fell from a ladder and died, and another one who ended up in a wheelchair for years till she died of cancer.

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  2. Thanks for the tips. Luckily both our houses are single floor and no sunken rooms. Have you considered putting in one of those lift chairs to reach the second floor and a ramp for the sunken room?

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    1. John: Both those options will be available if the need ever arises, which I hope will not happen. I did the design for our house and included a second floor entirely to get the view which is not too good downstairs due to the property being surrounded by a brick wall. I wish now I had scuttled the view and spread the house out wider. Oh, well. Live and learn, eh?

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  3. Age and stairs, age and ladders, not a good combination. We too went with the view, saying at the time we will have to move at some time, but what is the right time? Hopefully, not after a serious fall. Only time will tell.

    Always plan for the future. Thinking something will never happen to you is not a good plan and “never” is a very long time.

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    1. Vitaminia: I go up and down those stairs a million times a day, and every time I pause at the bottom, my teeth chattering and my hands trembling. But I ignore all that because I am a man, and I go up and up and up. And, so far, I arrive to the second floor alive and well. It’s a miracle.

      But they are lovely stairs indeed.

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  4. Finally a topic I can add to with authority. When I first glanced at the photo of the sunken living room, my immediate thought was park one of those chairs near the step to grab for balance. Then I thought; just install a nice brass handrail, it can’t be that expensive. Or maybe get one out of stainless steel at a pool supply store, all ready to install. On to the stairs; you are half way there. I would install a matching rail on the opposite wall. Two rails are better than one. With one rail, you are releasing your grip for an instant between each step! Maybe when all your weight is on one foot.

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    1. Phil: Those are excellent suggestions, and in time I may do them or variations of them. Thanks for your take on the situation from the other side. For you readers, my amigo Phil is, uh, way up there in the time spectrum.

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  5. You could fill in the sunken living room to make it level with the rest of the house. Or you could barricade it with a wrought iron fence, strategically placed very large pots with plants, or even bollards. At the north and south ends, install pasamanos.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: Oh, for Christ’s sake! I could also tear the whole thing down and start over. You are a funny woman sometimes. But yes, anything cana be done, especially in Mexico. I’ll take your suggestions under advisement.

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  6. Ms Shoes took my suggestion right out from under my fingers here. Filling in the sunken living room seems astonishingly practical and relatively easy. You’d just need good work so that you could have a level floor later.

    The second floor is not so easily solved, though.

    As for floor irregularities, it’s astonishing how common different levels are in CDMX apartments. In my own, the bathroom is 6″ higher than the rest of the apartment, and I’ve seen many an apartment with that kind of arrangment. Given that I’m no spring chicken any more, I’m keeping an eye out for a place that’s all on one level. Or at least one where there’s only stairs. Up and down into kitchens and baths seems like a potential danger when one is staggering about in the middle of the night.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where there’s only a second floor to contend with. And multiple stairs going into and out of the house. And ice in the winter. And maybe a ghost or two.

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    1. Kim: So you’re as nutty as her. Fill in the living room? And what should I do with stone fireplace?

      As for different floor levels in CDMX apartments, be aware that that’s the case just about everywhere. Do you know why the bathroom floor is higher? Because the plumbing is beneath the rise. Well, I think I’ll leave things as they are and try to stay alert.

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      1. Presumably the fireplace could be raised too. Do you even use it? Honestly, this isn’t as nutty as you seem to think.

        And I know about the bathrooms and floor levels, but somehow we manage to keep it all on the same level here in the USA, so I don’t really understand why they need to put all those steps in Mexican bathrooms.

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        1. Kim: Of course, your and Ms. Shoe’s floor idea is doable. It would simply be a MAJOR undertaking.

          As for why Mexican floors are the way they are, different from above the border, you’d have a clearer picture if you watched a home being built. With floors consisting of concrete and rebar of a certain height, there simply is no space for plumbing in a second-floor bathroom. It has to be raised.

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          1. How about under the ceiling below? That’s how U.S. skyscrapers are built, then they have suspended ceilings below that.

            As for your floor, it might be easier than you think. The whole thing needn’t be filled with concrete. You just need a layer of styrofoam, some rebar, and appropriately placed supports, kind of like how they make ceilings.

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            1. Kim: Suspended ceilings are far less common here. Aside from modern, commercial buildings, where I see them most often are in colonial buildings where the interior has been modernized. It’s just a different world here in many ways, as you know.

              As for raising my living room floor, that ain’t gonna happen ever. One reason — one among many — is the sheer size of the living room. No, we’ll just have to live with it. So far, no problem. Fingers crossed.

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  7. You could put in a floor with rafters made of wood. Just keep about 6ft around the fireplace and have a step down hearth. You can also just get the chair lifts installed on the stairs. Or… just maybe an outside elevator. It’s a lot less trouble than building another house.

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    1. Nomad: The floor idea makes more sense than the previous suggestions, I think. Chair lift is an option if it ever comes to that. An outside elevator sounds nifty. Also sounds like it would cost a fortune.

      Luckily, there is no real problem at this point. I bound up and down with relative ease. Hopefully, there never will be a problem. My father checked out in an instant from a coronary. I’m hoping that I’ve inherited that option. I do have a heart issue, so there’s that. However, it’s minor.

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