The bad news was that a peek under our stairs and porch revealed that the porch is not original to the house. The mahogany flooring on the porch might still be original (they could have replaced the porch and reused the floor) or at least is very old. We knew the stairs/post/railings were cheap Home Depot replacements, but we also learned the most of the porch itself was a badly done replacement.
The base/foundation of the porch is still sturdy cinderblock, it shouldn't come apart on us anytime soon. However the wood setup under there would never pass inspection - it's just a jigsaw of lots of little pieces of scrap lumber nailed together. Worse, someone dumped scrap cinderblocks under the porch in a massive stack and there are more crumbling cinderblocks under the stairs stacked as high as possible. It will take a backhoe or a ton of manual labor to move them all and will be expensive to get rid of (unless we want to bury them the backyard). And of course the jigsaw wood work under the porch can't be done without moving the blocks. Basically someday in the future we are in for a massive headache/extra expensive full porch redo... but not today at least.
On a happier note - I LOVE how the new stairs look so far. The gap at the top of the tread won't be there, tomorrow the contractor is going to cut up a couple composite boards and cover the space. The downside to composite is that they only make the boards in one width, so it takes more than one strip to cover the stair tread and riser (we knew this going in - our neighbors have composite stairs too).
There are two things about these stairs that make me very happy. First, that beautiful gray that looks like gray-stained wood is plastic and it will never need to be painted. Ever. I am SO tired of painting and caulking and patching these stairs - I haven't really written about how many times I've had to patch or caulk a soft spot or touch things up. I am so thrilled to have that behind me.
The other thing I love is that gap between the stairs. I know for some people it's more of a casual backyard deck look than a front porch look, but to me it means that water has a place to drain. The old staircase always had a puddle of water on each step after it rained (probably made worse from sagging since it was cheap pine rotting away). And in the winter the snow melt off the roof puddled on the stairs the same way and turned to a dangerous sheet of ice. And when we'd try to shovel the snow off the steps, the shovel would once again damage the paint and require more touchups.
I'll share the rest of the porch tomorrow when it's (hopefully!) all done!