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Volume 2 Issue 3“Building Confidence”March 2004



Well, March is over and Spring is into full bloom, at least in Lotus Land, here in the Pacific South West of Canada. This is the time of year we get inspired to do those little jobs we put off last winter.

Welcome to those who have recently joined our site, I hope we can build your confidence enough to attempt that little project you have been procrastinating on.. Well, no more excuses, we have the resources on our web site and the expertise to guide you through them.


I should mention that we are getting quite a library of newsletters on our site. If you are having problems with a project and don't want to "bother me" with your question (it really is no bother), here is a tip. Dan has a search engine enabled on our site to seek out keywords within all our articles, plans, and newsletters. Just click on Search at the bottom of any page or on the left side of the Index page, type in your keyword and go to where the keyword is listed.

What's New

Check out our member's photo page. Kev from Ireland sent us his new house pictures. They really know how to build houses in Ireland.

If you need inspiration, read about Kev's experience below.

Ask Away!

Some of my latest questions I have answered:


I'm doing some work in my basement and I would like to take out a section
of an existing wall. I'm pretty sure that the wall is not structural. I'd
like to be very sure before I actually remove it. Any thoughts on how I
could tell the difference between a structural wall and a regular wall?

Hi Eric,

A bearing wall in the basement can either support one floor only, a floor
above, a ceiling above or the roof. To find out if the wall supports a floor
look for the following:

The wall will be 90 degrees with the floor joists. If the wall is parallel
to the floor joist it is not a bearing wall, unless it supports one end of
a beam or girder, which would have a post over it.

If the joists are joined above the wall it is bearing.

If the wall is near the center of the span or the middle of the house it
probably is bearing.

If there is a wall directly above this wall, it is probably bearing - to
support the top wall and anything the top wall supports

If the wall in the basement is on a footing that extends above the slab,
it is probably a bearing wall.

To find out if a wall supports the roof:

Look in the attic to see if there are trusses or rafters

Trusses usually are supported on the outside walls, except for a complicated
roof design which may require a wall to support one end of a girder truss
where the trusses change direction.

If the roof is made up of rafters, some of these, as well as the ceiling
joists and ridge board will be supported by walls. Any walls supporting
a roof, ceiling or another floor, will have walls directly below it right
down to the concrete foundation.

A wall around the opening of a stairway is a bearing wall since it supports
the floor and any wall, etc. above it.

Hope this helps,

Eric brings up a good point, if removing a wall make sure it is not a bearing wall, which has a reason for being there. If contending with a low ceiling in a basement and you are confronted with a header dropping down another 6" or 8" to support a floor above and you keep hitting your head on it, don't dismay. If this header is in an opening, it can be replaced with a flush beam that hides in the joist space, but supports the floor according to code. I've replaced these head bangers many times for clients when renovating their basements.
Dave, This is my first time to build stairs. I plan to purchase oak stair treads from Menards. The treads are 11.5" wide. My total rise is 107.175 and I'd like to use the intermediate style (7" rise and 11" run). According to the calculator I'll have a rise of 7 5/32 " and a run of 11". This means I'll have to rip each tread down to 11" right? Is there an easier way? Rob Hi Rob, I'm glad you asked me before you ripped them down. You are talking about two different things. The run is different from the tread width. Usually with a tread we have a nosing on it that overhangs the riser by 3/4" to 1". With an 11.5" tread, I would make the run about 10 3/4". Then you don't have to rip anything, except the riser. Dave
Dave, I am about to replace my carpeted stairs with oak treads and planning on using pine or poplar risers that will painted white to match the adjoining woodwork. I have not removed the carpet yet but the supporting construction seems to be either 2x8's or 2x10's. My first question is will my risers and treads go over this material or will I need to replace with plywood or some other option? FYI: The stairway does not have a exposed end on either end of the treads so in effect the treads are recessed on both sides. Its seems like the existing boards are flush with the sides of the stairway rather than inset. I have read all of your listed articles on stairway construction and they are really helpful. This is seeming a little more challenging because I am coming in behind someone elses work rather than starting from scratch. Help me not screw this up if you can Hi Jay and welcome, On the stair project. Good question with lots of info. Since you had carpet on already, which is about 1/2" to 3/4" thick and you are going to replace it with hardwood that is about the same thickness I would like to see the base treads left on, if they are in good shape, so that the risers will be about the same height as the original. This affects the bottom step and the top step. Maybe measure each riser and see if everything is within a 1/4" or so. As you say, you are coming in after someone else so check out the measurements and quality of workmanship. If the treads are loose, now is the time to fasten them securely, etc. The hardwood will depend on the base for their attachment. The hardwood installation is covered in an article on our web site under stairs. ( Any other questions or concerns, just let me know. Dave
Hi Dave, We recently remodeled our bathroom and we installed a double vanity, with two sinks. There is a smell coming from the hole in my sink and the water smells like sulfur or waste. Is the vent not working? Usually the connection to the vent is right above the connection of the drain, if the drain goes through the wall. This connection should be no more that 5' or 6' away from the p-trap. There are little vent check valves that can be installed, cheater valves, to keep you from installing a vent up through the roof. These are really not to code, but... Another thing you should check out is that the p-trap serves both sinks. If the drain goes from one to the other, through a p-trap then into the drain, this is okay. If each sink goes directly to the drain, then each should have a p-trap. If the vent is too far away the pressure of a vent is released from the other sink and would drain the p-trap through syphoning. You should hear it gurgle if this happens, though. Dave
Hi Dave, Ran into your site while looking for a specific answer to a specific question. Can you help please? How does one calculate the angle cut on the corners of exterior siding? Thanks, Dan Hi Dan, I take it you are talking about bevelled cedar siding? Today it is more common to use corner boards than to actually miter the outside corners. You either put 2" material on and come to it or put 3/4" material over the siding in the corners. Metal corners are also used for each individual miter. To figure out the miter angle for bevel siding is as follows: There are two angles to consider - the miter angle which is a 45 degree if on a 90 degree corner, which is simple enough. The other is the bevel. This is found by looking at the profile of the siding, how wide it is and the thickness of the top (about 1/4") and the thickness of the bottom (about 3/4"). The bottom also rests on the top of the siding under it, so the total thickness is something you have to determine on site, depending on the overlap. Then scribe the angle like this. on a scrap piece of siding. Scribe a square line across the width about 3" from the right end. At the top of this line, measure the thickness of the siding at the top and mark this measurement to the right and top of this line. At the bottom of this square line, measure to the right the thickness of the bottom and overlap thickness of the siding underneath. Now connect the top and bottom marks to give you your bevel angle. Cut this scrap and another piece with the opposite angle, try it on location and adjust the angle slightly to make a good fit. Hope this helps, Dave
As promised here is Kevin's story: Hi Dave, I sent you an e-mail about building a set of stairs for the house I was "self building" 12 months ago. I took your advice and the job turned out great. In fact, on doing a whole load of research on the internet, I decided to frame up and dry wall the whole up stairs walls and ceilings, sheeted the downstairs ceilings and did some other stuff too. I must have saved myself thousands in labour costs alone. I've recently roofed my 30 X 22 ft workshop and even built a cupola (which is really unusual here in Ireland) from scratch. There's no limits to what a DIY'er can do if he or she puts her mind to it. Thanks for your advice. I know we are not subjected to as many building codes as you lot over there and this allowed me a lot more flexibility to get things done.... I had a very good engineer helping me. Any time I ran into a difficult spot, he was on the other end of the phone day or night with helpful advice. It took me 20 months to build start to finish. Every spare minute I had was spent on site (Life was put on hold for this time). Finish work at 4pm, on site by 4.30pm working until about 8.30pm. every mid week day. Weekends, holidays, etc. were entirely consumed with the house. The tasks I took on..... Setting out the ground work, installing the re-bar, pouring the concrete, (I hired a professional contractor to build the block work and another to roof the main house) Hired a mini excavator for a few weeks and landscaped the garden, (great fun), Flooring the second level with 3/4" OSB sheeting, Frame the second level walls and sheeted every surface... Did the first & second fix plumbing (this was the trade I took on first out of college years ago), Completed the finish carpentry (skirting, window boards, doors, door trim, saddles, locks, etc) Chased walls for electrical and fitted outlet boxes, Built the stairs (Thanks Dave) Wired & commissioned the house with an alarm (evening college course for this one) Hired a professional contractor to build the block work for a 2 storey 30 X 22ft, workshop (yippee) and built the roof myself (really proud of this one) Built a cupola (cherry on the cake) Fitted PVC fascia & soffit to house & workshop. My wife & I painted the ceilings & walls during our 2 week vacation. Fitted crown moldings in 3 rooms. Had a face frame kitchen custom made and my wife & I fitted it in a weekend. Built a timber deck. Now that I can finally sit back with a beer in my hand and recount the things that I did to build this house, I can admit the feeling of satisfaction is something else. Pretty beat out from it though. I'm 34 now and will definitely not be building another house this way........... for a while.... I have a lot of tools, but the most useful one was the internet. Enclosed are a few pics of the project. (see Kev Hi Kev, Wow! Very Nice! You should be proud. I like the stairs and the skirt board on the outside of the stairs, a bit different. Nice job. It reminds me of me building my house in 1992, it took me 10 months. I had the knowledge but did most of the work myself. I was working full time on it. I got my daughters involved, my nephew did the hardwood floor. My brother and nephew helped with assembling the trusses. My wife, daughter and female friend helped pour the concrete foundations - some walls were 9' high. We used an overhead pump truck with a huge boom that kept the hose just inches above the top of the forms. When the pour was finished, a framer from across the street came over and told me he and his crew were keeping an eye on me and my women if I ran into any trouble - form breaking, etc. The concrete company told their workers delivering the concrete to go easy on me and my Ma and Pa outfit. They didn't realize my experience in heavy construction jobs building bridges, mines, etc. where everything is concrete work. Here in Canada, we pour footings and walls of concrete, to get above the ground and then frame on top of that with dimension lumber - 2x6s planed down smooth to 1 1/2" x 5 1/2" to build a hollow cavity wall. Drywall is applied to the inside and sheathing and exterior siding or stucco on the outside. We moved into the house before the kitchen cabinets were made. My wife never complained just washed the dishes upstairs in the tub, which was installed before the walls surrounded it. Needless to say the kitchen cabinets were the priority then. I did everything except installation of the carpets, drywall and heat recovery ventilation system. I got a plumber to help me rough-in the plumbing and finished everything else myself. This was all inspected by our powers to be. Do you believe they didn't pass my stairs into the basement? The total rise was 24" so I put in 3 rises at 8". The inspector said I needed another step because the maximum rise is 7 7/8" and I had 8". I didn't want to put in another step and lose space for parking of the vehicles. I left it and it was passed anyway. Pretty picky, eh? I imagine you have lots of memories now, as well.

Thanks for all the letters and the interest out there. Send us your pictures and we'll place them on the page of honor on our site, right up there with Kev and the others.

Feel free to forward this newsletter to any friend or family member who may get something from it.

As Red Green (a Canadian comedian) says, "If the wife can't find you handsome, at least she should find you handy".

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"Just wanted to drop a quick line saying "Thank you" for your website! My wife and I just bought a fixer-upper and the resources we have found in your site have been invaluable. We appreciate the service that you are offering. We have used information from your site to do many things. Next on our plate is a stairway. And thanks to you, we're not going to have to pay $4000 to have it done. Keep up the great work, and keep'em coming!" NL

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