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NEWSLETTER
from DaveOsborne.com

Volume 2 Issue 10“Building Confidence”October 2004

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Welcome

Welcome to our new members and newsletter subscribers. Dan and I appreciate your support.

A suggestion before Winter sets in - Remove all hoses from outdoor hose bibbs, let the water drain out to prevent freezing . Close all crawlspace vents to help keep heat in and keep the pipes warm. Your gutters should also be cleaned ready for the winter rains and snows. Your weatherstipping on doors and windows should be renewed, if needed. Don't forget changing your furnace filters, too.

What's New

I started a new series of articles this month - How to Build a House. I start off with discussing the importance of matching the house plans with the lot. Check it out. The next article in the Series will be The Foundation. I finally got around to writing an article on How to Install an Inside Handrail. This shows how to assemble the parts of a stair handrail system as well as mounting the newels and spindles.

Ask Away!

I've enjoyed hearing from you this past month and discussing your project concerns and questions. Here are some that may be of interest to you.



Hi Dave,
Thanks so much for having this web site! I am working on finishing a loft area into
an office in my small house. Your calculator for the stairs is a life saver!
It still took me a long time and double, triple check my layout but it seems
to be right. Now my question, I did a "test cut" to get an idea what the stair
stringer would look like in the house. I am going with the steepest pitch possible
since space is a premium. I try to build things as strong as possible so I bought
a 2x12x16 to use as the stringer. It looked good, not too many knots, no visible
cracks. When I was making the cuts, about half way down the board I got a huge
crack that actually ran through where I was making the cuts for the rise & run.
Since this was just a test piece I just nailed the broken pieces back on the board.
What type of wood should I buy for the "real" stringers? I think what I bought
was pine? I got it at Home Depot. Also, how do I best attach the stringers to the
upper floor? I thought of using a joist hanger? I am sure I will have more
questions for you when it comes to putting in the balusters and railing.
That really scares me right now! But one thing at a time. Thanks again for your
great site and help.


Hi,

I know what you mean about the cracks, I've run into that before, myself.
I buy either spruce or fir stringers. Choose a straight board with small knots.
This holds the grain together. When laying out the second stringer with the
first as a template, I move the template up and down the board to the most
suitable position to miss the knots where my cut line is. If in fact you do
get a crack on the stringer which jeopardizes the strength of the stringer just
add some wood glue to the joint and nail it back in place. Add a cleat of plywood
over the crack on the inside of the stringer and screw it in place. We have to
do the best we can with the material we have available.

When attaching stringers to the top header, most of the time you will find that
there is not enough nailing room. Just tack the stringer in position and put in
a post under the stringer. A 2x4 on the flat is sufficient. For a long stringer
put in another post in the center to relieve any bounce. Don't rely on nails to
hold up a stringer, even if nailed to a wall, the stringer should have posts
under it.

As for the balustrade, I've got to write an article on that.

Dave

Hello Dave, thanks for the information. I have not found spruce or fir but did
find cedar, do you think that would work? They seem sort of expensive.

Thanks again,

Dave

Hi Dave,

Don't use cedar for a structural lumber. Stick with the pine. I don't know what
the lumber stamp says down there, maybe SPF, that stands for spruce, pine, fir.
As I said before, choose a nice straight piece with small knots, not clear.
Save the clear pine for finishing. What you don't want is the knots that are
loose and falling out.

Dave

Dave,

I just wanted to say you are the best!

I finally found some good boards to use and got the stairs built this week!
They are not completely done but they are useable, I still need to make the
finished treads and put in the railing and balisters. Of course I need you to
write the article on how to build the railing and balisters first!

I never thought I could do this myself, but with your help I got it done,
thanks so much!

Dave

Hi Dave,

You know, your email is what it is all about for me - giving someone enough
confidence to do the job himself. It makes my day when I get an email like yours.
I'll keep this email in my inbox to remind me to write that article on the
handrails.

Dave



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Dave,
I am renovating an OLD farm house built around 1910. The framing is post and
beam with mortise and tendons. The outside covering is oak milled lapboard
nailed to the studs with cut nails. The previous owners had covered the plaster
in a first floor room with diagonal pine tongue and groove 1x6 boards. The room
runs from the front of the house to the back. We removed the boards and had to
tear out the plaster. The walls were not insulated anyway. The remaining studs
are 2x4s not milled, so the dimensions are 1 3/4 to 2 by 3 3/4 to 4 1/4.
We are sistering the 2x4s with 2x6 to make an even surface for drywall.
I also need to add headers to the windows in the room as they have none.
I should add the top of the outside walls have a 4x6 that was probably considered
adequate at the time.
My question is about some diagonal braces in the front side and back of the room.
I am sure they were put there to brace the post an beam until it was raised in
place and the oak siding was nailed on the outside. These braces would make it
hard to sister the 2x4 with out cutting them out. Do you think with the oak
siding now on the house it would be OK to cut out the braces to get the 2x6s
in place? The braces are 2x4s and the studs were cut on angle to sit on the
top and bottom of the diagonal braces I could send a picture if it would help.

Hi,

I would definitely not remove the braces. If the walls were sheathed, then the
sheathing acts as a brace. Siding does not. In your case, if the purpose of
sistering the studs with 2x6s is for getting a straight surface for drywall and
insulation purposes and not for structural purposes, I would suggest you install
a 2x4 or 2x3 wall in front of the existing wall rather than cut each stud our
to fit the braces. This way you have sufficient wall space for R-20 insulation
and provide a clean wall for drywall. Your 4x6 rough top plate is good to support
up to a 6' window. I've done this before on older buildings with rough studs
and it worked out well. The window liners are a bit wider than usual, but notice
my customers liked the wider sills, anyway. One thing I would do is to tie the
old studs to the new wall at least every 4' with plywood scabs in the center of
the stud length and at the windows and doors provide a 5/8" or 3/4" plywood rough
liner tieing the studs, sill plates and headers together. Then nail the finished
liner to this plywood. If you don't follow me, I'll draw a sketch, but I think
it is pretty straight forward. With an existing wall such as this don't hammer
on it too much and loosen the nails of the siding, etc. I prefer to use an air
nailer or use screws to fasten pieces to the existing studs.

Dave

Dave,

One more question if you don't mind.

I should have mentioned my purpose for the 2x6s was 2 fold, structural as well
as the straight surface. The old 2x4 are on 22 to 26 inch centers and are not
all in great shape. No rotting or termites, but some were just not totally solid,
although they have held up all these years. Some were short so they were cut on
45 degree angles and nailed together. This room on the first floor has 3 windows.
One in the front and two on the side. Some time in the past someone put in vinyl
replacement windows and just covered the rotting outside trim with aluminum.
All have rotted sills and trim, so we are replacing them with Pella windows.
We planned to rebuild the rough openings on the windows including adding headers.
The present windows do not have any frame across the tops or bottom. The oak
siding on this house has been covered up with vinyl siding probably because too
much of the siding was rotted in places. I have to remove some of the siding
and replace to fix around the outside of the new windows. When I have the siding
off I could remove some of the oak siding and replace with 4x8 3/4 inch plywood.
The reason for the 3/4 inch plywood is to match the thickness of the siding that
will be left in place. Would it be adequate to just put the 4x8 plywood on the
corners? Then I could cut out the diagonal braces in places to put in the 2x6
sister studs and frame the windows. The diagonal braces were put in first.
Then the studs were cut on angels to fit in the top and bottom of the braces.
This old section of the house is only 18 feet from front to back and the walls
are 10 feet high. The two braces on the side of the house run underneath the
windows. These braces are in the way to build a proper rough opening for the
new windows.

I appreciate your time.

Thanks

John

Hi John,

The 3/4" ply on the corners may work as long as you put the plywood across the
studs with its length, not vertically. This is rather expensive use of plywood,
though. How about repairing the outside first, by removing any rotten siding
and strapping the studs with vertical pieces of 3/4" +/- plywood or solid strips
to bring them out to the same surface. Put a temporary brace - 1x4 or 1x6 nailed
to the outside corner and down to the plate, as long as you can get it. Then
remove the original braces, stud up the wall with 2x6s as you suggested, frame
in the windows and headers as needed. Insulate and apply vapour barrier. Then
sheath the inside of the wall with 3/8" OSB or plywood. Install your drywall
over this. I think this would be the best bet, as long as you can attach the
sister 2x6 wall to the existing wall at the top and bottom plate and the odd stud.
This would make the new wall and existing wall act like one unit. Once the inside
sheathing is applied and nailed well, the temporary brace can be removed and the
outside re-sided.

Dave

Hi Dave! I'm building a shed on a concrete slab. Can cedar be used for the base
plate instead of pressure treated wood?

Thanks!
Doug


Hi Doug,

I wouldn't use cedar unless you got some around and the spans are relatively short.
You can use spruce, pine or fir for plates but you need to protect them from
concrete. 30 lb rolled roofing under plate or a Styrofoam sill gasket work good
and are acceptable to the code. Cedar is more expensive than SPF and is not
considered a structural wood.

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Dave,
How do I figure out what my roof load can be, based on 2x8 hip rafters and 2x6
common rafters on 24 in. centers.
Thanks Tim


Hi Tim,

You don't do it that way. We start with the load you want in your area and build
toward that. The building code gives you tables based on snow and wind loads -
live loads and the weight of the lumber going into the roof - dead loads. These
are all pre-calculated by an engineer based on these loads and the pitch and spans
of the roof.

For a live load of 52 lbs/square feet a 2x6 rafter is good for a span of 9.38 feet
using #2 and better SPF (spruce, pine, fir) at 24" on center.

For a live load of 63 lbs/sq. ft. a 2x6 rafter is good for a span of 8.73 feet
with the same lumber.

There are ways of cutting down a span on rafters: installing collar ties near the
top and a pony wall near the bottom.

First determine what the snow and wind loads are in your area, then go from there.

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Hello Dave...I Am Nicky...
I have used the Stair calculator. It doesn't show you the bottom step
deduction as when you do the stringers. In other words if I am building Deck
stairs, the bottom step needs to have the tread thickness removed. How do I
do that?
Knowing the rise is great, but as the calculator shows, if I have 5 risers of
8 inches each and I apply a 2'X12' tread on all the Risers, they will be 9.5"
each and I will 1.5" too much at the top. How do we correct that!
Thank you...and the site Is Great!

Hi Nicky,

You don't figure in the thickness of the treads with the total rise. You do that,
as you say, by cutting off the thickness of the tread from the bottom of the
stringer. Then when installing the stringer you come down one riser and the
thickness of the tread, again and nail the stringer in position. So the first
rise is the same as all the others and the top rise, as well. If you didn't cut
the bottom of the stringer off, the first step would be 1 1/2" too high, for
your treads, and the top riser would be 1 1/2" too high.

Refer to this article: http://www.daveosborne.com/dave/articles/stair-stringer.php
Look at Figure 3 and the article just to the left of it and the first few
lines below it.

Hope this helps,

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


This question was sent to Dan:

...Sure wish your stair calculator could figure for any run, any rise!

Jake


Hi Jake,

Dave wants the stair calculator to "work to code", but he lets me take off the
Building Code limitations for special purpose stairs.

Just let me know what you need, I'll do the computations and send you back the
results.

Dan

Cool: Have an intermediate deck stair with a run of 98.5" and a true rise of
72" total. Fairfax County VA allows max rise of 78" and min run of 9" per stair.
What's the best combination within those parameters? Using the standard setup
you have the best combination keeps coming out very shallow little old lady
stairs, and I'd like to see some other possibilities. Also, I have the choice
of letting the risers set on the intermediate deck or have the lowest step match
the surface of the intermediate deck, which would cut out one riser.

Thanks,

Jake

PS My given name is Dan, also, but everybody calls me Jake 'cause of the
last name.


Duh....

Guess, I'd better send this over to Dave and let him tell you!!!!

(I thought it might be simply a matter of me plugging in some numbers, but it
looks like you need a carpenter to answer this one.)

Dan


The real problem is whether I should re do the stringer I made on new rise/run,
or lower it by the height of one rise, so that the top step rise is the band board.

Last time I used your calculator to build a deck stair, it came out spectacularly
successful, but that didn't involve an intermediate
platform.

Jake


Hi Jake,

Dan sent me your question.

I just looked up the code for Fairfax County and you can use a max. rise of
8 1/4" and min. run of 9", for all of VA, actually.

With a total rise of 72" this gives 9 rises of 8" and 8 runs of 10" = 80" which
is in your parameters. If this is too high a rise, go with 10 rises of 7.2"
and 9 runs of 10.5" = 94.5", still within the 98.5".

You should always have the band board as the first rise, never have the first
step level with the deck, unless you need to bring a landing out or something
like that.

The bottom of the stringer should always rest on a deck or floor or ground, etc.
Don't come up to the deck with the stringer, this is very difficult. In the
drawing below notice how the stringer comes - against the floor joist (band board)
and on top of the landing (intermediate deck), extend the deck about 12" under
the stringer. Remember to cut off the thickness of the tread from the bottom of
the stringer and drop the stringer down from the top, the thickness of the deck.
Don't rely on the top of the stringer being supported by the floor joist,
usually it is not enough to fasten the stringer to. Place a post under the
stringer, a 2x4 is good. If it is a long stringer place a 2x4 under it in the
center to eliminate any bounce.

Dave



Hi Dave:

Thanks to Dan and you I fixed the stair problem. Your help was critical in
solving the issues. The main problem was that I hired a contractor that acted
as if he never saw a deck before in his life. After the unpleasantness of
firing him, I have been correcting all his errors.

Now for another one. This deck is totally free standing, that is, it has no
ledger board that connects it to the house (due to solid concrete foundation
and engineered beam construction precluding bolting through a typical band.

Now that I am almost done, the deck, including all cross bracing required by
Fairfax County, it still gallops and rocks like the old Puget Sound bridge,
galloping Gertie. Overall deck dimension is 16'x24' and the county does not
seem to require cross bracing on the interior columns (all those not on the
outside edge of the deck).

The columns current sit on 8" pads of concrete that are set 24 inches into
the ground. Earth was loosely filled in the 18" diameter holes (depth and
diameter set by Fairfax County code. If I remove the earth in the footing holes,
and replace it with concrete will it tie this baby down? Would adding the
county standard 2x4 cross bracing to the interior columns help?

Help!

Thanks,

Jake

Hi Jake,

You've got me wondering exactly what you did for the footings of your deck!!

Did you place 18" sonotubes on a 8" thick concrete footing, then place wood
posts inside the tubes and fill dirt around them? Please clarify

Has this been inspected yet?

Dave



Hi Dave,

Situation as it stands:

Per Fairfax county deck detail plan
(http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/publications/decks/), dug 18" round
footings 24" deep. Poured concrete pad per instructions 8" thick, leveling
and filling entire diameter of hole. Against my specific instructions, hired
laborer backfilled with earth after 6" columns were emplaced and temporarily
braced as beams and joists were being constructed.

My intention was to backfill to surface with concrete. Current backfill is
rather loose earth. Current plan is to remove the backfill, wash off the posts
and concrete pad and backfill with concrete. I guess the real question is,
will this work to stop the unacceptable later movement (both directions).
Deck has 14 posts in three lines approximately 10' high. Beams are doubled
2x12's, nailed together per Fairfax plan and bolted to columns per plan.
This weekend, adding to the bracing per county plan on all perimeter columns,
braced from internal columns to joists, using bolts for fastening (1/2 and 3/8
carriage bolts depending on required length of bolt. Some improvement has been
noted, but movement is still noticeable.

Will a concrete backfill prove the ultimate solution? Or at least ameliorate
the condition?

We really appreciate your taking the time to respond. I have a slight
connection to BC, your apparent base, in that I dated a girl from Vernon when
I was a freshman at college, like, uh, 42 years ago, and visited her parents
there once. Lovely country!

Thanks again,

Jake



Hi Jake,

I went to your County site and got the plans for the deck. Wow! I am surprised
to see they recommend putting wood in concrete. This, of course, has to be
pressure treated wood. Regular lumber wouldn't last a season if embedded in
concrete.

Okay, to your problem of movement. The backfill around the 6x6 posts will
eventually pack down and help this situation. Rather than dig out this dirt,
I would suggest putting about an 8" ring of concrete around the top of the grade.
Your movement is at the top of the grade, not at the bottom of the post.
Dig out the top 8" or so until you are out of the original filled hole, compact
the dirt around the post the best you can and pour a ring of concrete around
the posts. Try to keep the edges of the new hole steep and sharp for the
concrete to go up against. 10' high posts need cross bracing for sure, but on
the top to the beam is only part of it.

I'll show you how we do it in BC where we get a lot more rain than in Virginia:




The only time we are allowed to embed wood in concrete is in fence construction.

I'm well aware of Vernon, BC. My daughter and husband lived in Kelowna for awhile
and my Junior High School chum lives in Vernon.

Hope this helps,

Dave

I like the B.C. style on the posts, particularly the scab to the beam.
Fairfax Country allows either a 2x6 Scab or notching the 2x6, which is what
the hired man did. After the inspector is out of sight, I'll scab also
outside the notch.
All the posts are ground contact treated, but the county doesn't even require
rebar at all in the hole! I've got a digging bar that has a tamper at the
other end, and that will be perfect for tamping the existing soil down.
We'll tamp it down until we've got a base for the surface ring, and then
pour a ring around. What's the minimum size ring that will get the desired
effect? I've got my own mixer, and bagged pre-mix is cheap here, so bigger
is better, up to the point where I'm wasting concrete and energy.

I really appreciate your taking so much time on my deck problem.

Is Ogopogo still swimming around in Lake Okanagan?

Or is that where Nessie spends her summers while the scientists are looking
for her in Scotland?

Thanks again,

Jake

Hi Jake,

 When putting on the scab, fancy it up a bit by cutting a
45 degree on the bottom end on the flat side. Leave 1/4" or
so on the 1 1/2" thickness, though, never come to a point,
which allows rot. (We learn that from the boat building trade).

The thing that makes the ring of concrete work is its shear
weight in solid dirt. About 6" of concrete wide, all around
and about 8" deep should do the trick.

Re-bar isn't required in any of our footings or walls up here,
either. I've learned, from heavy construction, that when steel
is embedded in concrete the concrete takes on the properties
of the steel. It doesn't become a blob of concrete, but has
the same tensile and expansion properties of steel. I put in
a concrete post, one time without re-bar and when I back
filled it, it broke at the footing line and column line.
I always put a couple of vertical rods in a footing/column now,
and usually a mat of rods in the footing. Re-bar is cheap compared to concrete
and the work involved to get it to the final stage.

Ogopogo still lives in Okanagan Lake alright and the Sasquatch still hides
in the bush around Chilliwack. Nessie has been spotted around our waters off
Oak Bay, which is predominately Scottish blood - I think it is wishful
thinking on their part.

Well, better go for now, I hear someone else has come onto my computer.

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I want to replace my existing stair treads with parquet wood treads to match
the flooring on the landings. Is there a way I can do it myself, or must I hire
a contractor?



That is the purpose of this site, to show you how to do it yourself.

I need to have more info, though.

How thick is your parquet?

Is it pre-finished?

How thick and what is on the existing treads?

Is the parquet going to be on the landing, treads and upper and lower floors
to keep each riser the same height?

Is the parquet in 12" square tiles, or what?

Do you have a table saw?

You need to put on a nosing of material to match the grain, color and thickness
of the parquet.

Have you read and understood this article?
http://www.daveosborne.com/dave/articles/hardwood-stairs.php



found and read the article listed in your answer. In it, you mention pre-fab.
Where would I be able to get those?

Answers to the other questions:

Both the upper and lower landings are already done in Bruce Hardwood's
pre-finished parquet - they were there when I bought the house in 1996.
The stairs are carpeted. Some of the tiles were left in the house for
repairs if necessary. They are standard1/4 inch thickness, 12" squares
which can be broken into 6" segments. I would like to keep the risers
the same height. I don't have a table saw, but intend to purchase one
in the next year.

Hi,

These pre-fab treads can be bought in finishing stores, building supplies,
usually stores that specialize in stair parts and moldings.

They are usually 11" to 12" wide x 3' or 4' long with the nosing on.
The idea is to rip them to width and length and face nail or screw them
to the stringers. At these same specialty stores you can buy hard screws
with very small heads for installing stair handrails. These would be very
good to use through the face and fill with coloured putty to match, also
available there.

I mentioned the table saw, since that is the easiest way to cut the risers
and treads and nosings. Just figure out the height variation when finished,
if any, of the risers from the landing to the first step and the top step
to the floor, compared with the risers between the landing and top floor.
The carpet comes off, of course, the sub-floor below should be left on to
help support the 1/4" parguet which is glued on. The trick if you don't buy
the pre-fabbed treads is to rip the nosing down, underneath it, to match the
thickness of parguet.

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I want to remove a 10' section of wall, which was an original outside wall
(gable type). It now separates the kitchen from another room. The 2nd floor
joists run parallel to the top plate of this wall, and I assume there's a
double joist over this wall. Do I need to install a header/microlam beam,
or is the double joist enough to support the 2nd floor wall and gable section.
This wall is sheathed with 1/2" ply and vinyl siding.



Hi,

There are a couple of points I'm concerned with.

The wall may support a floor and a roof, initially. If the roof has trusses
then the gable end wall does not support the roof. If it has rafters the gable
end wall does support the roof with the support of the ridge board. If the floor
joists run parallel to the gable end wall, then the wall doesn't support the
floor. Except when there is a joint of the end floor joist above this wall.
If the wall is removed the joint in the two floor joists that usually meet in
the center of the house, but not always, do not have any support once the wall
is removed. I doubt if there is a double joist here, but this applies, as well
since the double joist will be joined over this wall at some point, if this
wall is any length at all.

If the joists are supported at a point other than a part of the wall you are
removing, fine, if not, you need a header. Putting in a header to support the
roof is not that big a thing anyway. If I was doing this job and can't determine
if I am removing a bearing wall, I would go ahead and put in a header over
the 10' section that is removed. This header should be a double 2x10 and
supported on a cripple stud nailed to a stud. It doesn't have to be an engineered
beam for this span, unless there is a load over it including the roof, that
I don't know about.

The question is, " Where is the 10' section of the wall being removed along the
gable end wall, at one end or in the center of it?"

I hope you get my point. I feel like I'm giving you a politician answer, but
just check out exactly where the load is and if in doubt put in a header anyway.
Go with the safest way out.

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Hey Dave, Can I use a 25 gauge finish nailer to nail a solid oak hardwood
floor ? brad nailer ?
Thanks



What is this a trick question? I've never heard of a 25 gauge nailer.

Dave


Oops. I should have said 15 ga.

Hi Phillip,

Okay, that's better, I thought you were throwing me a curve!

I laid a small floor once by using a 15 ga. nailer. We usually use the
15 ga just for face nailing the first rows of boards, then use the flooring
stapler through the tongue for the rest. I laid this small floor with the 15 ga.
through the tongue and it worked fine. The 18 ga. tacker is definitely too small
for hardwood flooring. If you need to install a stair nosing, make sure you glue
and nail it to the floor with 3" casing nails driven into the sub-floor and the
stringer.

For a large area, I would recommend renting the flooring stapler. It really
tightens up the joints nicely, as well as being a lot faster.

Dave



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, we had a busy month, as you can see, answering your questions. Jake from Virginia kept me hopping!

I hope this newsletter gives you the confidence to try some of those projects you normally would not have tackled yourself. As you can see from the above, I carry on quite a string of emails getting some of them answered - all for the price of a membership.

Enjoy the Fall!

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