I Built Crappy Steps for the Love of Dog

A few months ago, a thing happened. Well, several things happened, but one thing was a catalyst for the rest of the things. This post is about two of the things. The first one, the catalyst, is a human interest sort of thing (That’s assuming I am interesting (this paragraph not withstanding) and you are interested…) and the second thing is an actual DIY, which may or may not satisfy the seven or so people who still read my blog for that purpose. Anyway, the first thing was this:

I did not want a dog. Schmoopy knew this, and yet he put this picture in front of my face one night and was all like, “Look at this poor little orphan doggie, whose mom was killed in the forest by a hunter and whose father was trampled by a wildebeest stampede, and who was then dumped at the shelter by crooked politician drug dealers” and then Sarah McLachlan was suddenly there singing ‘in the aaaaarms of the angel…’ and I was all like, “You crafty sunnuvabee…”

We called the shelter the next day to meet her. She hated us. We adopted her anyway.

Small dog walking out of shelter on leash

Her name was Azul, but she didn’t look at all like an Azul to us. We thought she looked like an out of work hairdresser, so we named her Mona Lisa Vito.

Dog wearing cone
Small dog looking at fire hydrant

I know you have questions about the dog, and we’ll get around to those, but I don’t want to leave my seven or so DIY fans hanging, so let’s talk about those crappy steps.

Why I Built My Crappy Steps

Up until Mona Lisa Vito’s arrival, the back of my crappy house was not to be exited, it was to be dismounted. You needed to stretch first, hydrate, and don some supportive footwear in order to stick the landing. Here’s a reminder from when we put up the siding, like five years ago.

Back of house sliding door with no steps down

And here’s one from now. They look the same because literally nothing has changed in five years. I am a home improvement dynamo.

Sliding door from outside

The ground slopes a bit, so I measured to the bottom of the left side of the door – the side that opens, because that’s the side we exit from. The side that… opens.

Tape measure at back sliding door

So, about two feet. You know how a ruler works. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s equal to about three steps high. So, just for fun, see if you can leap off of your stairs from the third step from the bottom and not land in the emergency room.

I’m just kidding. Don’t do that. You’re no spring chicken…

Disappointingly, dogs are not as smart as cats and will not poop in a designated box in the basement, so Mona Lisa Vito’s arrival definitely made it a priority to construct some sort of egress out the back door. And by ‘some sort of egress’, I mean steps. Like, duh, what else? A slide?

Wait, that could be fun, actually…

How I Built My Crappy Steps

I would love to put a deck on the back of my crappy house (that’s the plan, eventually…), but there’s no money for that right now, so I needed to make some temporary steps. (But not too temporary because I can’t have them falling apart before I actually get around to the deck in five or twenty years…)

But seriously, these are really crappy steps. Don’t get excited.

I do have a closer picture of my building materials, but it doesn’t have Mona Lisa Vito in it, so I made a judgment call that you guys would prefer this one. There’re some tools and wood back there if you squint.

Dog in back yard with building materials

I started by attaching this ledger board to the house, across the bottom of the door.

Notched 2x6 piece of wood

I needed to notch the board in order for it to install flush to the house, so I had to use my scary table saw without the blade guard attachment. I didn’t get a picture of the board standing up, but ripping a heavy, pressure treated board on its short edge with the saw blade all exposed and raised, like, three inches high wasn’t terrifying at all.

Table saw with a piece of wood on it

No, of course it so was but, thankfully, I accomplished this without injury.

No, my friends, that injury wouldn’t happen until a week later whilst working on my next project. (That’s a little bit of foreshadowing for you there…)

Hand and finger bandaged

Anyway, I used construction adhesive to glue and screw this board under the sliding glass door. My crappy steps do not span this whole width, but I was thinking of my future deck and how it will require this board to go the length of the door, so that’s what I did. Plus, it just looks better.

Ledger board braced with sticks

I added a second board below that, but I only needed to go the width of the actual crappy steps for that one.

Two ledger boards below sliding door

That second board was necessary for the stringer hangers to have a place to… well, hang, I guess.

Stringer hanger close up

The stairs aren’t that wide, but extra support is good, both in life and in steps, so I used three stringers. I leveled them out with a bunch of crap stuffed underneath.

Stair stringers ready for treads

Nailed it.

Well, screwed it with outdoor decking screws, to be precise.

close up of level bubble

I then screwed down the remaining boards to make the steps. The end. No more pictures. Some tutorial, right? I know. I suck. So do these steps, but they work.

Stairs below sliding glass doors

More About the Dog

So, what else can I tell you about Mona Lisa Vito? Well, her fatha was a mechanic. His fatha was a mechanic. Her motha’s fatha was a mechanic. Her three brothas are mechanics…

Cute dog jack russell

We adopted Mona Lisa Vito six months ago from our local animal shelter. We were told she’s about two years old and we think looks she looks an awful lot like a Jack-a-Poo, but who knows?

What we do know is she’s freaking cute and silly and sweet and she says hello with her teefs on your hands, but won’t bite you because she’s a gentle good girl.

cute dog jack russell

And, OMG, those ears. Can you even?

What About the Cats?

Egor and Zero might have had an inkling something was about to change because they were very interested in the dog crate I was building before Mona Lisa Vito’s arrival. Or maybe Egor was just getting in the way, as he is wont to do.

Cat lying on unassembled dog crate

Zero, however, looked worried. (More foreshadowing…)

Cat looking worried

As you might imagine, introducing a dog to a couple of well established cats is not easy. (Of course we didn’t imagine that, because we are stupid, but you might have.) We did it all wrong. We had no plan. We didn’t put the cats in a safe space when we brought the dog in for the first time. We didn’t feed them on opposite sides of a door. We didn’t play them the F*R*I*E*N*D*S theme. We thought, what with the dog being cat sized, they would all just magically get along. We were so dumb.

Our cats have never been BFFs, but they did a little bonding over their new common enemy.

Two cats in a closet

Before long, though, Egor had totally acclimated to the new arrangement and now he just goes about his regular cat business…

Dog and cat on floor
Cat looking at dog on couch

Actually, Egor may even secretly like Mona Lisa Vito, though he hasn’t let her play with him yet.

Cat paw touching dog nose

Sadly, Zero has been a mess. Mona Lisa Vito wants to play, but Zero thinks she wants to eat him, so he’s having a hard time adjusting. I don’t have a photo of Zero and Mona Lisa Vito together because Zero has become a ninja-slash-nervous-magician and makes himself stealthily disappear in her presence.

But Dog. And Steps.

I know, right? We have a dog. And crappy steps. Next thing you know we’ll have a fenced in yard!

Black and white dog sitting on wooden outdoor steps

Wait. We actually do! That post is coming. I swear. Like, for real. Subscribe below or you might miss it…

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  • Marilyn

    Like usual….laughing my you know what off! First of all MONA is absolutely ADORABLE! 2nd…YOU NEVER MADE STEPS TO GO OUT YOUR PATIO DOOR? Really? So like if you had to go cut the grass in th back yard you go out the FRONT DOOR, walk ALL THE WAY AROUND to the back yard? Well…..thank GOD Mona found you two!! The steps looks really great though and I’m very released you won’t break your neck jumping out the patio door! ( I didn’t KNOW I was worried until today, thank goodness). You are a great writer, you really should POST every week…well, OK every MONTH! Much love, Marilyn

    • My Crappy House

      I know, right? We had NO STEPS. We did mostly go out the front door, but occasionally we’d leap out the back door. Mona saved us from broken ankles. She was definitely sent to help us and not just to poop on the rug…

  • Melissa

    You have been missed! Congrats on the ???? and the steps but I am dreading the next post because there might be blood and stitches involved. It must have been a really crappy accident

    • Ellen

      Hey, missed you.
      Are we gonna hafta wait anothah
      37 yeahs before we get actual shadowing and not just the fore?
      You are hilarious and I love that excellent dog, and the gorgeous and so cat-like cats. I look forward to updates…soon, cuz I am not gettin’ any youngah.
      The steps? Hey they work, and are just the correct amount of Crappy.

    • My Crappy House

      Ellen… I see what you did there… Totally captured Mona Lisa Vito, the first! I can just hear the foot stomping… I’ll do my best to get you the shadow in a toimely mannah.

    • My Crappy House

      Don’t worry! I will NOT be sharing any grody photos and just know that it all ended up OK. I promise it won’t be a traumatizing post for you, though it was a very traumatizing experience for me.

  • Katherine+Davies

    Bienvenue, Mona Lisa Vito! You’re utterly adorable. Those steps miggt be crappy but they’re sturdy and they work, so nice job! I doubt very much if I coud buikd some stairs even if someone held a gun to my head, so I admire your talent. Also, it’s very nice to see you again and thanks for a good laugh.

    • My Crappy House

      Mona Lisa Vito says hi back and thank you. Also, she knows how adorable she is. She’s quite conceited.

  • Lisa Garber

    Just the other day I went wandering and wondering on the internets to find what you are up to. Must have awakened the Goddess of Reno, who tapped your shoulder. Now this. You are welcome, everyone.

    • My Crappy House

      This comment cracked me up. I do believe you ARE responsible for this post. But now I’m having an identity crisis because I thought I was the Goddess of Reno…

  • V

    I was so excited “oh she alive” and then “oh a doggggiiiieeeee!” Then “oh she tried to cut off a finger” “kitties and doggies!” Then “wait what did she use to drill into the foundation for the step support?”
    An emotional Rollercoaster ma’am, well done!

    • My Crappy House

      I try to keep y’all guessing. (I rarely use “y’all”, but this is just me being unpredictable again…) So, what I’m hearing is you like actual useful information in a DIY post. That’s kind of a crazy expectation, but I’ll indulge you. There’s this monster tool called a hammer drill. You can check it out here. I drilled holes right into the concrete and used concrete anchors to attach the ledger board. I used exterior wood deck screws for everything else.

      Thanks for keeping this DIY blog real…

  • Barbara H.

    Cutest dog I’ve seen in a long time and yes, those ears! Sorry for the cat trauma but even if it was another cat stress, anxiety and acting out would probably ensue. Good job on the steps. Ouch! on the hand picture. Don’t keep us in suspense. Always so happy to see you and wish it wasn’t so long between posts.

    • My Crappy House

      I tried to find it, but I don’t think I ever did write a blog post about introducing the two cats. When Schmoo moved in with Zero, Zero was a BULLY. Egor went into hiding and we had to keep Zero in the basement for a while because he kept chasing Egor. It was a very stressful time and I was so happy when they finally started to tolerate each other. When we got the dog, I thought Egor would be my problem. I never expected Zero to be the chicken. Egor was completely unphased by Mona, but Zero is terrified. It makes me wonder if Zero had a bad experience with a dog in his time before he was adopted. He was around five when we got him and we have no idea what his situation was prior. I really hope he’s able to come around. We may have to look into getting a trainer for Mona to teach her not to chase him.

  • Cherie

    As soon as I saw the heading of your post I was amazed that you’re still alive! Good job with that! Your post was funny and your dog is so cute!! We just got another puppy so that makes 3 dogs for us and we have 12 (yes, 12!) cats. But we belonged to a rescue group and some of the kids didn’t get adopted so they’re ours. You did a wonderful job on your steps and congrats on your wedding. Keep on posting!!!

    • My Crappy House

      Oh my! You have a dozen cats! I bet it’s never dull at your house… Thank you to saving the unadopted kids. Animal people are very special people

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