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Volume 2 Issue 7“Building Confidence”July 2004



Summer is almost half over, I hope you are enjoying the weather. Our website is growing both in content and new members. Welcome to our new members as well as are faithful followers from yesteryear.


Dan enjoyed his Alaskan cruise and teaching computer tricks to his passengers. I think he is ready for another one. He tells me his computer classes were sold out. Imagine going on a cruise and taking a computer course. Maybe I should pack up my tablesaw and router and apply for a free cruise doing demonstrations, anyone interested?

What's New

There is a new jig on our site for cutting tapers with a table saw.

For members, Dan has added a Your Account page, found on the left column of the main index page. This page gives you an opportunity to view your account status and cancel or sign up for this newsletter, change your email address, etc. How many members have visited Our Assurance page? You can access this page using the link to it at the bottom of almost every page on our site. Here you find out how to cancel your membership among other things.

Ask Away!

Here are some of the email questions I have been answering this month:

I received an interesting email from Hugh who was enquiring about Lapeyre Stairs, which I never heard of. These may be the answer to some of you with limited run for regular stairs.

Hello Dave.
I'm looking for information on Lapeyre stairs. Some people call them Monk's stairs.
They are the steep alternating stairway that allows for angles over 50 degrees.
Do you know how to calculate the rise and run for these type of stairs? Here are
a couple of pics that show what I'm referring too.
Thank you.

Hi Hugh,
No, I've never heard of them before. To calculate the rise and run wouldn't be hard, though.
Maybe go with a 8" rise with a 10" run. These are not allowed in any of our houses, here.
They seem to me that they would be confusing when starting off and one could trip if
you don't get the sequence right. I take it you are interested in making a wooden one?
Let me know the total rise and I could draw one for you. I think I would rather go with
a conventional flat tread ladder with equal rungs and climb up and down facing it.

Hello Dave,
Wow, you're fast with a reply.
I found this while I continued my search.
It's ironic that it's for Washington state since that's where I'm located. It seems
to be okay to use one of these as long as it isn't the primary means to access
another level UNLESS it's too storage or a loft. Mine would be to a loft so I
should be okay.
From floor level to floor level is 8' 3" and the upper floor thickness is 8.5".
I'd really like to keep the total run to as close to 3' as possible.
Thank you.

Hi Hugh,
Thanks for the info.
Here is the layout for your stairs:
Total rise is 99" Total run is 36". Length of stringers is 140.5", allowing for
the stringer to go above the top floor level to attach handrails. 11 risers at 9.5".
Stringers to be made from 2x10x12' long, ripped to 8 7/16". Treads are 9" wide.
Here are two drawings:

I allowed the tread 1" longer so you can dado the stringers 1/2" on each side.
This will be stronger than just the treads screwed to the stringers as in the picture.
Also, put the handrails on the inside of the stringer, as specified by WA code,
not like the picture on the outside. The end cuts and treads are on a 19 degree angle,
so the length will fit. Where the 5" side of the tread is on the stringer,
just rip a small filler to fill the dado. The treads on the angle should be a bit longer
than the width of stringer to fill in the dado nicely.
Hugh responds with a load of questions which I answered in red under each question:

I thought the number of risers times the riser height equaled the total rise.
Shouldn't it be 11 risers at 9" each for a total of 99 instead of 11 risers
at 9.5" for a total of 104.5"?
Also, what do you mean by this, "The treads on the angle should be a bit longer than
the width of stringer to fill in the dado nicely." Do you mean if the dado length
is 9" I should make the tread 9.25 or so?
What do you think of me using blind dados on the stringers instead of using
a filler strip on the narrow tread side? I've never tried blind dados before
but they look fairly simple.
I really appreciate the drawings and you taking the time to figure this out for me.
I'll send you a picture or two when I get them done.
Again, thank you very much.
PS: Glad you found the link helpful.

No. We are not stepping the stringer down with a square like a normal stringer.
We are actually marking on the hypoteneuse of the triangle, which is longer than
the vertical height.
The stringer should be ripped down to 8 7/16 so its width on the angle is about 9".
This is something you should check when laying out the width of the stringers.
I just meant it would look better if the treads were a bit longer to hide the dado
rather than them being shorter. You should cut the treads out of a 2x10
which is 9 1/4" wide when dry.
Blind dados would be the way to go. I didn't want to confuse the issue by mentioning them.
Thanks, I'll look forward to the pics.

Just so I understand. You solved for the hypoteneuse, which in this case was
the square root of 36^ + 99^. The square root of 1296 + 9801 = 105.342.
Then you divided that by the maximum allowed rise of 9.5" and got 11.08.
You then rounded that down to 11 which when multiplied by the 9.5" rise
gives you 104.5" total rise.
The 36" run is measured from the upper front surface of the stringer to
the opposite edge at the bottom of the stringer, right? I've now reworded
that last sentence 3 times and I'm still not sure it conveys what I'm trying to say
so please look at the picture below. Also, I cannot tell from the photo
of the wooden stairs but is the upper floor surface even with the top tread
instead of one riser lower like on conventional stairs? I think that is all my questions.
Thanks again.

Actually I didn't know that the base was 36 at the start. I did a bit of Trig.

All I knew at first was that the height of the triangle was 99"
and the angle I wanted was 70 degree, from the WA codes.
(I must of fell asleep in Trig class so I asked Dan the formula)
- hyp = 99/sin 70 = 105.35 then I solved for the base with
Pythagorus' Theorem to get 36.03. Wow exactly what you wanted.
I then divided up 105.35 into 11 rises at 9.58. Your max rise
according to WA codes is 9.5. So I went the other way and got
an angle of 71 degrees with 104.5. I figured they wouldn't
belly-ache about 1 degree, if you are getting this inspected.
Our cutoff saws calls 90 degrees 0 degrees so 71 degrees is 19
on the cutoff saw. This gives you the bottom angle as well as the
angles of all the steps. The total run is 36", but the total
distance used is 36 + 9 (tread depth) = 45. That is what your
opening in the floor should be. This gives a bit extra,
since you won't be hugging the stairs when climbing them.
Remember that these "stairs" is really a ladder and the conventional
way of laying out stairs is not appropriate here. Yes, the top tread
is flush with the upper floor. This is specified in the WA code, too.

Dave, I am looking to start finishing my basement. It is below grade except for about 20" at the top all the way around. I have applied Drylock to the walls as insurance against small water seepage. My basement has a 3.5 year history and has no water problems. Do you see any problem with this framing method: I want to frame using 2x3's set out about an inch from the wall. I want to apply 6 mil plastic to the concrete side of the wall (to keep any leakage from entering the living space) and use Kraft-faced insulation with the paper facing the living side of the wall (vapor barrier?). Is this ok, or am I causing a potential problem? I just found your website today and joined. Looking forward to your response. thanks, art Hi Art, I just happened to be on my computer. Welcome to our site. The drylock idea is good. I don't like the idea of vapour barrier (poly) against the concrete, causing condensation problems. If you already have the paper faced insulation, I would put the kraft paper on the concrete side and the poly on the outside of the studs. Otherwise just get the fibreglass batts. Try to keep that 1" airspace, just that, air for circulation. If you are going to use R-12 insulation that is 3 1/2" thick, I would go with a 2x4 stud instead of the 2x3. If you are going to apply 1/2" drywall on the wall, your stud spacing can be 24" instead of 16". Get the insulation batts to fit, accordingly. A tip: vapour barrier is always applied to the warm side of the insulation. You should use the 6 mil poly labeled for vapour barrier. Don't hesitate to check with me again. Hope this helps, Dave Dave, I thank you for the speedy response. Here is my goal, perhaps it is overkill. My basement has been dry and I have a sump pump that is active during rain. however, as I said I have the drylock applied on the walls. I am trying to "over engineer" my basement framing in the event that a small leak (capillary or even under a little pressure) were to squirt water on the wall. That is why I want to space the wall away. So, I was thinking that the plastic sheeting, stapled to the backside of my wall (which will be 1" from the concrete) would act as insurance to keep water off the wood framing. If I did this, I would still put a vapor barrier on the warm side (Kraft Paper or plastic). My only question is, if I seal both sides of the framing, am I asking for trouble not allowing the insulation to breather? Basically, I want some insurance against small water leaks. And I want any necessary vapor barrier, considering that my basement is almost totally underground, which will minimize temperature differentials. I appreciate you taking a second look or any other suggestions. If you have time, I also have question on enlarging my basement windows (cutting the foundation) to make an escape route. the windows are both on a non-bearing wall on the foundation. The floor joists run parallel to this wall. Have you experience with this? Recommendations? Thanks for this service, Art Hi Art, Here is a procedure that I found which shows the correct steps for possible dampness in the basement. Compliments of Dow Corning:

1. Apply a polyethylene moisture barrier against the inside of the concrete wall from the bottom plate up to the finished level of the ground outside.

2. Build a standard wood frame wall, using 2x4 studs, all around the basement and place it against the concrete wall. Nail to joists above and fasten with concrete nails to the floor. Stud spacings can be 24" as there is no loading to worry about - and you don't need double plates or blocking.

3. Place batts or roll between the studs as for a regular exterior wall.

4 Cut pieces of insulation to fit the band joists between the top plate and the underside of the floor. Fit these carefully in each space between joists (header) area, taking care not to compress the insulation. On walls that run parallel to the joists, simpy run a long length of insulation right along the band joist. Pay particular attention to the top of the wall areas as they are major routes for heat to escape.

5. Install a continuous vapour retarder over the entire wall surface, stapling the polyethylene sheet to the studs with at least 6" overlap at joints. Be sure to install vapour retarder in band joist (header) area.

Notice how the poly is held into position with the 3/4" strapping. Do this rather than
stapled to the back of your wall. This leaves an air space between the poly and
the insulation to help prevent condensation problems. I believe that poly against
wood on the cold side of a room is asking for troubles with condensation and wood dry rot.
This way you are not sealing both sides of the framing, you are sealing the concrete,
as long as there is that air space between the poly and the studs.
Yes, I've done a couple of renos where I had to cut out the foundation wall.
Luckily I didn't hit re-bar in either. Lay the wall out carefully and allow for a
wooden frame Hilti nailed or screwed into anchors. Your windows sales people will tell you
how big a bedroom basement window should be for egress in a fire, etc. They also will tell you
the rough opening.
I rented a concrete blade and large saw (like a chainsaw, with a blade) and
cut the outside concrete wall at the laid out positions about 3" deep.
I then went around to the inside, after putting up a poly barricade to prevent smoke from
going into the house, and cut about 1/2" deep. I returned the saw and rented a
60 pound jack hammer and proceeded to chip away at the wall. I finished up with a
chipping hammer to clean up the edges so I could fasten a frame around the window,
like a jamb. Once the window was installed, I installed a 1x4 frame around
the outside perimeter of the window, covering up the jamb and overlaping the saw cut a bit.
It worked well, the clients were happy. I found it was alot of work, especially the one job
where I put in a double french door. The concrete chunk I took out was about 5' x 5'.
Next time when doing a job like that I would consider a company coming in and
cutting the concrete with a wet saw with diamond blade. The small window wasn't too bad.
I did it myself as well. As an aside, I replaced quite a few windows (single pane)
in stucco walls by cutting the stucco out around the window flange. Removing the entire
old window. Installing a new window - same size and installing 1x4 trim around to
cover up the flange and cut line of the stucco. This way a new jamb is installed and
insulation under the casing, rather than installing a reno window in an existing jamb.
Hope this helps,

Dave, What would you suggest for finding the rise where it is not simply a matter of dropping a tape measure from top to bottom. I`m imagining using a transit but not sure. I`m thinking its gotta be around 20`. Its on the side of a hill. Rick Okay, Rick, that's a bit of a trick. Either use a builder's level on a tripod or you also can get elevations with a long straight edge and a hand level. Come down the hill in increments. While doing this get the run as well as the rise. Add the Horizontal lengths up to get the total run and the vertical lengths to get the total rise. You don't have to be too accurate for stairs down the slope since you can always vary the top or bottom a bit with a shovel to make the stringers fit. Dave
I am putting 2x4 framed floor over several elevations of poured concrete. will put plywood over 2x4's and then carpet. HOW DO I INSULATE 2X4 FRAME???[NEW YORK STATE] Do you know if there was any poly vapour barrier placed under the slab before it was poured? Is moisture a problem under the slab? This is what I would do: Lay down over the whole surface of the slab, 6 mil poly vapour barrier. Overlap at least 4" if necessary and tape with red tuck tape for poly. Install 1x4 sleepers on 24" centers, attached to the slab with Hilti gun and nails or screws and anchors. These can be shimmed if required, if the concrete is rough. Install your 2x4s on edge on 16" centers with 3 1/2" x 15" R-12 fibreglass batt insulation between the joists. Install your plywood - 5/8 t&g with construction adhesive, screws or nails. Don't use any vapour barrier on top of the 2x4s, just the plywood. The glue will seal in moisture from penetrating the insulation. Dave
Dave, Two Questions: 1. I am tearing off an old counter top and installing a new pre-made counter top with back splash built in. I will need to cut the pre-made counter top to length and place end covers over where I make my cuts. Any suggestions? Can I use a
circular saw to make my cuts? Does it need to be glued and screwed to the cabinets below? If so, what type of glue? 2. Currently above our existing back splash we have a ceramic tile. My wife does not like this tile and would like me to install a beaded board above the new counter top back splash. If the beaded board is thin enough, could I use liquid nail and adhere the board right over the top of the tile or should I take down all of the ceramic tile that currently exists? Thanks for your help! Jason Hi Jason, 1. When you cut the end off, try to cut the end off against the wall, instead of on the open end where your finished cap will go. If the cut is a bit messy it will be less noticeable against the wall where you apply a bit of caulking anyway. Use a circular saw against a straight edge clamped to the underside of the counter top. Always when doing finishing work cut from the backside of the piece with a circular saw, to prevent chipping on the finished side. Use a sharp blade - the more teeth the better. Screw the top down to the cabinet from underneath. Use care in the length of screws to prevent penetration through the top. No glue is needed. 2. Liquid nail should be okay if you scratch up the surface of the tile slightly with about 100 grit sandpaper on a palm sander or equivalent. Cut a cap to fit over the bead board and the tile to finish it up. Try to get a few nails through this cap into the wall studs to help hold it in place while the glue sets. So determine where the studs are before applying the board. I'm assuming that the tile is stuck well to the wall still. Dave
Here is a nice letter from Kathleen: Just a quick note: I work in a regional office of about 200 employees. We have a women's program here that enables us to do things like "Bring your child to work day" and the "Angel Tree" at Christmas. We started a "Lunch and Learn" series. This is where we meet during our lunch hour and have a presenter give an informal lecture about an interesting topic. The first topic selected was Home Improvement. I was asked to do the presentation probably because I am always talking about my latest project. Anyway, I included your newsletter as an excellent resource for those off-the-wall questions that are not addressed in any book. I think it is great that someone is out there ready to translate from professional to layman's terms. Hope this let's you know your efforts are appreciated. And I am glad to hear your health is good.

Thanks Kathleen. How would you like to work in her office?

Let's hear from you with your questions or concerns.

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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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