The contractor finished the porch! It’s such relief to know that we’re not going to bust through one of the rotting steps walking up, or that the porch roof will come crashing down on us. Of course it’s not totally done - we still need to caulk the gaps, repaint the left side of the stairs next to the house, repaint the railing and paint the new columns (I didn’t realize they are supposed to be painted - that’s why some people’s look like straight up plastic! They are supposed to be sanded and painted to look like wood!). We opted to do those little things ourselves to save a bit of money since this was a painful but necessary expense.
I LOVE the stairs now that they are totally finished (no more gaps!). I know the decking look is more casual but it solves the water problem I previously mentioned. And the color is just so nice - there are variations in the gray that really do look like gray stained wood - to me this is just a million times better than what we had before.