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Volume 2 Issue 11“Building Confidence”November 2004



Welcome to those of you who have joined our website recently and those who have requested this newsletter.

Let's all have a safe Christmas! Last year I wrote an article giving some tips to make the holiday season less accident prone, Seasonal 3: Christmas (see

What's New

Checkout our new articles since our last newsletter: How to Install an Inside Handrail and Jigs 6: Circular Saw Guide. These were both based on questions from our members, so I thought more of you may appreciate them. I also wrote a check list of things to do before the harsh realities of winter sets in - Seasonal 2: Winter (see

Just a reminder to our members to checkout the My Account page on the website, which is accessible (after you log in) from the left navigating links on the Home page on our site []. This page is personal to you and shows your status as a member, if you subscribe to the newsletter, and how to cancel your subscription if desired.

Also, Dan (my brother and webmaster) created a simple way you can find specifically what you're looking for on our site. Just click on the Search link (at the top of every page on the site). You can use it to search for any word or phrase that is used anywhere on our site, including the articles, the plans and the newsletters.

Another neat feature is our Construction Dictionary ( While reading an article, plan or newsletter, if you come across a highlighted word that you don't understand, just click on it and you will be taken to that word in our Dictionary. Dan highlights the first time a construction term is used in my articles. If there's a word that is not highlighted, the chances are good that you can find it by going to the Construction Dictionary (its link is at the bottom of every web page on our site), and finding the word in the Construction Dictionary.

Ask Away!

Thank you for your nice comments about our newsletter and website. Here is what I was discussing with our members this past month.

Hi Dave. I finally got the stairs built everything fell into place after a few
makeovers. Thanks. My next project. I built a 32x32 Gambrel upstairs.
There are two bedrooms. when I drew up the plan I had thought I would put
the bedrooms on the gable ends. So therefore meeting the egress code would
be simple, I've changed my mind and now I want to put a window on the side.
I have 5/12 on the upper roof and 30/12 on the side and the roof is metal
on strapping 12oc attached to 2x6 16 oc. I want to put a 39"X60" window in,
have you any suggestions what is the best way to tackle this?


I succeeded in convincing Al to put in a dormer, so the wall holding the window
would be vertical and lessen the problem of water coming in and allow for easier
opening of the window. I explained how to build a dormer:

Hi Al,

There are two styles of dormers, the gable and the shed roof. In your case
with metal roofing the shed type would be the easiest, the gable is the nicer
looking but would involve the valleys.

For both, the front wall of the dormer sits directly above the outside wall
of the building. For the width of your window go at least 4' wide.
The roof joists should be doubled up on each side of the opening. Either
have the outside side walls sit on the top of the roof joists, flush on
the inside, or they can come down to the floor beside the roof joists.
These side walls are only about 3' long, depending on the slope of the roof.

With the shed roof the metal roofing can slip under the existing roofing.
The ceiling in the dormer should be the standard height of 96 3/4". A header
is installed between the two doubled roof joists, use joist hangers.

Here are a couple of examples:
This is the Gable roof dormer. These pictures show the framing on the side walls coming down to the floor.

This is the shed roofed dormer showing the walls on top of the roof joists, shown as rafters here.

Notice the doubled up rafters and also the placement of the front wall above the original wall. This transfers the weight of the dormer roof to the existing wall at the front and the existing roof through the header at the back.
Hope this helps,


Dave, I have an 8' circle to make for a small swimming pool, what I need to do is make it level, can you tell me what is the best way to check the whole circle for level. Thank You, David B Hi David, First level across the 8' circle. Then go from each level side around the circle as shown on this drawing: Always get a level line then go off the end of this line to level another part. That is level line 1 then from the end of line 1 level a point on the outside of the circle on line 2. From this point check out the level at the opposite end of line 1. Carry on around the circle levelling from a point that is already level. Dave This applies to most things you are trying to level. Always get one edge levelled and then go off that edge and continue. Back check contiually with a part that is already level.

I've been getting a few requests, since I wrote an article on Lapeyre Stairs (see, to calculate the spacing of the treads given a certain total rise. This is a bit mathematically challenging, given a required degree of slope to fall under. Don't hesitate to let me know if you are having problems with figuring out these stairs. Dan and I both love a good math challenge - if I can't figure it out, Dan will.

Hi Dave. I am considering buying a pneumatic or cordless nailer primarily to be used for moldings and panels (crown, chair, base, beaded panel, etc.). Which size do you recommend as being most versatile? Do I truly need a 16 gauge and 18 gauge nailer? I'm thinking that I'll go cordless. Those compressors are very heavy and unwieldy. Can I use one for most applications or do you think I need both sizes? They can get pretty expensive. Any recommendations on brand? I'm looking at Paslode. Thanks! Andrew Hi Andrew, Paslode is a good brand with access to nails, etc. An 18 gauge is all that is needed for molding. I've bought a couple of off brand nailers and have worn them out pretty quickly. I've finally bought a Porter Cable and am very happy with it. I've only used a 15 gauge once for doing hardwood floors, so never did buy it. The Porter Cable shoots from 5/8" to 2". I have the compressor, 4 cu. ft. Emglo, 1 1/2 HP. It is light and adequate for the small pinner. Dave Thanks Dave. That's helpful. I like the site. I used your stairs article and calculator to build a long set of stairs along the side of my garage that connects my driveway to my deck in back. I'm very pleased with the results. Andy
Dave, I'm very new to woodworking and have a project that I would like to do but I'm not sure of what kind of wood that I should use. Our home is about 17 years old and we've got some pull out shelves that were built into our kitchen cabinets. Unfortunately they aren't the best built cabinets and these pull out shelves are beginning to fall apart. What is the best material to use if I were to rebuild these shelves from scratch? I plan on taking the measurements off the existing shelves so they should be relatively simple to build (I hope). I also plan on using the existing sliding shelf supports since they appear to support all the weight of the canned goods that we store on these shelves. So I'm trying to find out what the best wood would be to use for the sides as well as the base. Thanks! Sincerely, Jeff Hi Jeff, We used to build cabinets and shelves with plywood. The high end units still are made with hardwood plywood for the shelves and drawers. Different thicknesses depend on how it is designed. Recently, with the european cabinets, builders have gone with the 5/8" melamine shelves for the 'boxes' and drawers. I prefer the melamine, myself. It cleans well, is inexpensive. With the drawer bottom mount slides, the drawer is supported by the slides and are very popular. Dave Hi Dave, That was going to be my next question...melamine. Do they sell the melamine already bonded to the plywood or is that something I need to add later? If they sell it that way where would be the best place to buy it because I haven't seen it at the local building supply stores in my area (ie..Home Depot, Menards). I really like the looks and cleanability of the melamine also, so I'll definitely go that route. Thanks, Jeff Yes, the melamine finish is on the board already. It isn't plywood, rather like a K-3 particle board. It comes 49"x97" so gives an extra inch in width and length. It also comes in 12"x8' and 16"x8' sheets for shelves. Home Depot has it for sure. Dave
Hello Dave, I have a double wide mobile home, with a Calif. foundation. The home is now 3 yrs. old, and now more and more we are getting parts of the floor that squeek when walked on, plus when walking by lets say a table, the things on it rattle around, not alot but they do move. I guess my question is what can I do and what should I be concerned about. Any help would be appreciated. Thank You, David B Hi David, The floors in mobiles are usually made of K-3 particle board and are very suscepticle to absorbing moisture and swelling. If any water got in, around or under the lino you may have swelling. If the flooring is lino tile it is very suspect. Checking from underneath probably won't help because it usually has a donacona layer under the floor above the steel frame. Once this stuff has gotten wet and swelled there is nothing to be done other than remove it and the flooring and replace it with plywood subfloor and new vinyl or carpet. Dave Thank You Dave for the quick response, The floor I was talking about has carpet, but none of the floors have gotten wet beyond normal, (moping etc.). My new question is what is the best way to figure out where to place addtional blocks under the house. I did add one at the seam of the two halfs of the the home, and it did stop the floor from making noise, but I would like to do it all over the house,so any of your ideas would sure help. Thanks again, David B Hi David, Here is part of the foundation setup of a mobile home as required in Washington State. It has good reference ideas for you. 15.60.060: Foundation System Footings: (1) Footings must be constructed of: (a) Solid concrete or an approved alternate that is at least 3 1/2 inches thick by 16 inches square; or (b) Two 8-inch by 16-inch by 4-inch solid concrete blocks that are laid with their joint parallel to the main frame longitudinal member. (2) Footings must be: (a) Evenly bedded and leveled; (b) Placed on firm, undisturbed, or compacted soil that is free of organic material; (c) Centered in a line directly under the main frame longitudinal members on both sides of a mobile home; and (d) Spaced not more than 8 feet apart, and not more than 2 feet from the ends of the main frame. A closer spacing may be required, depending on the load-bearing capacity of the soil. (3) A mobile home with more than one section must have center line blocking at end walls and at any other point of connection of the sections of the mobile home that are a ridge beam bearing support. Blocking is also required at both ends of a door opening that is 6 feet or more wide in an exterior wall. (4) If a mobile home requires footings on its exterior perimeter, the footings must be installed below the frost line. Footings for the main frame longitudinal members must be recessed only if frost heave is likely to occur. (5) Footings must be constructed so that 75 percent of the area under the mobile home has at least 18 inches clearance between the bottom of the main chassis members and the ground level. The area beneath furnace cross-overs and fireplaces, however, must always have at least 18 inches clearance. At no point under the mobile home may the clearance be less than 12 inches. (Ord. 2740 15.60.070: Foundation System Piers: An installer must build and position piers and load-bearing supports or devices to distribute the required loads evenly. An installer may use manufactured piers or load-bearing supports or devices that are listed or approved for the intended use, or may build piers that comply with the following requirements. All blocks must be concrete blocks. (1) A pier may be made of a single stack of 8-inch by 8-inch by 16-inch blocks if the blocks are not stacked more than three blocks high. A pier made of a single stack of blocks must be installed at a right angle to the main frame longitudinal member and must be capped with no more than two 2-inch by 8-inch by 16-inch wood blocks or one 4-inch by 8-inch by 16-inch concrete block. (2) A pier may be made of a double stack of 8-inch by 8-inch by 16-inch blocks if the blocks are not stacked more than 5 blocks high. Each row of blocks in such a pier must be stacked at right angles to the abutting rows of blocks. A wood block must be of hem-fir, douglas fir, or spruce pine fir. The pier must be capped with two 2-inch by 8-inch by 16-inch wood or concrete blocks. The pier must be installed so that the joint between the cap blocks is at right angles to the main frame longitudinal member. (3) A pier may be made with more than five rows of blocks if the stacked blocks are filled with 2,000 psi concrete or mortar. A licensed architect or professional engineer must approve a foundation system that includes a pier that is higher than 72 inches (9 blocks) high, or in which more than 20 percent of the piers exceed 40 inches (5 blocks) high. (4) All blocks must be set with the cores placed vertically. (Ord. 2740 Sec. 1 (part), 1983) 15.60.080: Foundation System Plates and Shims: An installer may fill a gap between the top of a pier and the main frame with a wood plate that is not more than 2 inches thick and two opposing wedge-shaped shims that are not more than 2 inches thick. Wood plates and shims must be of hem-fir, douglas fir, or spruce pine fir. A shim must be at least 4 inches wide and 6 inches long. The installer must fit the shim properly and drive it tight between the wood plate or pier and the main frame to ensure that the mobile home is level and properly supported at all load-bearing points. A block that abuts a wedge shaped shim must be solid. Dave
Hi Dave I enjoy your newsletter immensly. My Question is: We have a sort of family room/kitchen divided by a U shaped counter in our century old house. Shortly after we moved in, over 20 years ago, I installed a cushion backed carpet in the family room section and cushion vinyl in the kitchen portion. The wife says it's time for change. :>) She likes the vinyl flooring but has been cautioned about water damage if spills occur. We get different answers from dealers. What's the real scoop? If we go for the vinyl I know I'll have to lift the old carpet and clean off the glued down rubber foam. Now the alternate is laying individual glued down tile. If we go this way would it be possible to screw down plywood over the old cushion backed carpet and lay the tile over the plywood or would the carpet still have to be removed? I'd kind of like to retain the carpet for insulation since there is only an unheated crawl space under this area. Please give me your thoughts on these ideas. Thanks Jim Hi Jim, A laminated and a laminate floor are two different things, too. A laminated floor is made up of a plywood base with real hardwood glued to it, in strips about 30" x 8" wide, or so. It can be sanded down lightly and re-finished. A laminate floor is made of plastic laminate, such as counter tops - formica, arborite, etc. These are disposable floors. They are glued to a HDF - high density fibreboard, which is quite durable. Both floors are a floating floor which is ideal for concrete slabs. You could probably get away with putting a floating floor over the carpet. Usually they install a styrofoam underlay beneath these floating floors to act as insulation, packing, squeak preventer. So you could probably eliminate that. The baseboards are removed and the flooring installed, with the proper clearances to the walls. The baseboards are then attached. The flooring is not attached to the floor at all, but floats - so to speak. If you wear socks in the house the laminate floor is fine, but for heavy traffic, the laminated hardwood floor is better. Dave
Dave, Any suggestions on how to make the joint when you butt sheetrock to a timber frame post. Thanx, Carl Hi Carl, Yes, when making a butt joint to an exposed timber or to a window jamb, use a plastic J-mold for drywall. The J-mold is cut to length and slipped over the raw edge of the drywall. When installed it leaves a nice finished reveal which can be painted with the drywall. Wide side goes to the back. Dave
Hi Dave, I'm a novice at door building. I've read your article on how to build a door, and do not understand terms like "stop, standard jamb". We are building a cabin by our lake, and I've volunteered to build the door. Could you put all this instruction in layman's terms for me? Thanks, Lana Hi Lana, A jamb is the frame that holds the door or window. The hinges are mounted on the jamb. The stop is the thin board or part of the jamb that stops the door from swinging past the jamb when closing it. The standard jamb is the one that is rabbeted out rather than nailing a piece in the center of the jamb to act as a stop. Checkout our Construction Dictionary on the website for terms you don't understand. Any word that is highlighted in an article is a link to the word in the dictionary. Also, use the search feature on the site for keywords you want to look up or learn about. It will tell you which article, plan or newsletter you will find the word in. Good luck with the door. Remember that half the battle is using straight lumber. Dave
From a member Dave I am Back again. The porch that you were such a big help on came out great. All your advise on the posts and the framing was great thanks again for that. On to a new project. I am building a small roof over my sisters porch. It is only a 3x5 porch so am going to be building a small roof tied to the house and held up by 2 posts. My question is about the roof rafters and the rafter tails. I have the large roofing square but I really am not quite sure how to read it. How do I determine the angle on my rafter where it meats the ridge beam and how do I determine my tail angle so that when I am done I can attach a nice facia to it? Anything you have to offer would be helpful. Thanks sean Hi Sean, The rafter angle at the ridge is called the plumb line, same as the angle at the eaves. This article about Rafter Tables on the Framing Square explains it in detail. Then read the next article, as well. All you need to remember with rafters is 2 lines - horizontal and vertical. Dave
Hi Dave, I really enjoy reading your newsletter and searching your site. I need some advice on routers. I'd like to get one for my husband for Christmas and I've done some research but I'm still undecided. He is a novice but has great aptitude. At the moment, the projects he has in mind for this router is creating his own trim for our newly finished basement. I was looking at a 1/2" plunge base router. From what I read, these are more versatile and safe. Is this correct? Additional features include 10 amps; variable speed; and RPM range is from 10,000-27,000 rpms. In your expert opinion does this sound like a good router for a novice? Any information you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Karen Hi Karen, A plunge router is specifically for starting to router in a template. You can set it in the template, push down and router. A regular router is rigid and is better for following around a table, to put on an edge, for example. The plunge router can do both jobs, but is a bit bulkier. The common size of router bits is 1/4" for most jobs. You only need a 1/2" bit for large molding cutters, etc. It is nice to have a 1/2" for the times you may need it, but the bits are way more expensive than 1/4" bits. I would recommend getting a 1/4" collet, until your husband is familiar with working with the smaller bits. My wife bought me a Porter Cable router motor with intechangeable bases - a plunge base and a regular base, with a 1/2" as well as a 1/4" collet. The collet is the part that holds the bits. I like to install my router under a table with the bit sticking through the table. I then use a 1x2 for a fence clamped onto the table. This way is easier to run the piece against the router than clamping the piece and moving the router around it. By the way, I have yet to use the plunge base, but use the regular base all the time. I actually have 3 routers Glad you enjoy the newsletter and the site. Dave
Hello Dave. New member here and happy to be aboard. The reason I actually joined up is to see if you had information on the exact degrees of the compound miter needed for freeze blocks at a hip/val conection. The cut would be the same for a 90 degree facia corner. I have scoured the web and found nothing. Any help would be appreciated! Did I stump the Master? I assume probably not and I am looking forward to your responce on my question on the exact degrees of a 90 degree facia, compound miter. ( at the corners of a hip roof) The freeze blocks that terminate into a valley or a hip are the same cuts. Please help me find more info on this. Frame to live, Live to frame. Andy

I received these two emails from Andy and responded to them. Andy apparently gave me an incorrect email address since all my letters to him were returned undeliverable. I doubt he will even get this newsletter.

Please ensure you send the correct email address, it is tough to respond otherwise. I have gotten a few emails returned because they were considered spam. Also, please ensure that if you have a spam removal system on your computer, remember to register my address on your email's whitelist (allowed addresses).

Well, another busy month, as you can see, answering your questions. I enjoy hearing from you and being a small part of your projects. Thanks for the pictures and kind comments. Thanks, also for your continued support.

Dan and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. All the best in the New Year. Thanks and best wishes to our people serving over seas and at home, keeping the peace and keeping us safe.

God Bless us, everyone!!

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