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Volume 4 Issue 1“Building Confidence”January 2006



Wow, where has January gone? Time seems to be flying by!

Welcome, new members of our website, as well as to new subscribers to this newsletter. Hope this letter finds you well.

What's New

We are still fully involved in our book, polishing it up and getting it ready for review. Then we'll submit it to the various publishers who specialize in this type of book. If you can recommend a good publisher of how-to books, please let us know.

Ask Away!

Here are some of the questions and my answers for January:

Hi Dave;

I will be building a workshop with a gambrel roof very soon and I'm planning
to use the upstairs for moderate storage and first floor as an in-law
apartment for now.
The footprint will be 24'wide x 20'deep. I thought I'd use a 3" x 13" x 20'
glue lam as a center beam front to back and use 12' 2" x 8" floor/ceiling
joists from the beam out to the load bearing left and right walls. I'm not
familiar with using span tables and was hoping you could advise me.
I'm not under code restrictions since my community does not require permits
for projects under $5000. Since my materials come in under $2500 I'm safe.
I'd also like to know if a rim joist is necessary and if T1-11 is suitable
for sheathing without let-in angle brasses. I was planning to use Hardi
panels but after using it on another project 16' x 16' I think I would
prefer to use the plywood since this stuff is heavy and dusty to cut.
What are your thoughts?

Thanx and HAPPY NEW YEAR…..

Hi Randy, Happy New Year,

The engineered beam will have a span from the designer.

The 2x8 joists sitting on the beam are no problem if bridging and strapping are used and placed 16" on centers. A rim joist is necessary on each outside end of the joist run as well as bridging down the center between the joists and a row in the center of each run of joists. That is , two rows of rim joists and three rows of bridging.

About the T1-11. I've never used it myself, but understand there are two products getting mixed up in a controversy and court case with Louisiana Pacific with their similar product. LP's product is OSB and the real T1-11 is plywood.

If I was using a plywood siding (I would not use an OSB siding, period), I would let in a 1x4 brace into the studs. One at each end of the wall, angled from the top down to the plate at the corner. I would then apply two layers of 30 minute tar paper (this is required by code, if no sheathing is present) onto the outside of the studs. Then I could install my 1/2" plywood siding, as it was intended, vertically, without having to worry about the sheathing being applied across the studs, which is called for.

I also think that Hardi Plank is a good product. Yes it is dusty, but you can rent hardi clippers from rental agents instead of using diamond or carbide blades. I've even scored the hardi with a heavy duty knife and broken the piece off like glass. These are for joints that will be hidden under a corner board, anyway.

Both hardi plank and plywood siding need to be painted before installation. This is important to seal the edges, if nothing else. A final coat or two are then applied after install.


I removed a Pocket door from a Mobile Home and having trouble replacing it.
It has two brackets on top that are supposed to hook onto two roller
assemblies with flat head screws. I can not seem to connect the one that
goes into the pocket first. HELP

When removing and replacing pocket doors, the stops on one side should be removed to make it easier. I don't think you have done this. If the stops are painted in like mine are, cut the paint along the edge with a utility knife to make them easier to remove.

Here is a picture showing the stops that need to be removed.



dave i am in the process of putting a shower into a bathroom. I am not a
lightweight and i thought i heard about putting something under the shower
base. I need to support the floor of the shower to prevent flexing on the
drain pipe as i move around in the shower. Is there such a thing?


There is a drain that is usually installed in a shower base that goes on concrete. The drain doesn't hook up rigid with glue, but is a wedge affair with a rubber gasket that is installed from the top. This may be your answer. You could also embed your shower pan in a thinset mortar similar for ceramic tile to improve its rigidity.


Hi Dave,

I'm moving into an old house that gets very hot in the summer. I'm replacing
the living room ceiling with drywall and would like to insulate the attic
space at the same time, also reaching into the attic above an adjacent
bedroom. The attic is about 3 feet high at the peak and the ceiling joists
and rafters are 29 inches apart.

I'd like some recommendations as to the best way(s) to insulate to keep the
heat out. Cost is an issue, but this is a small house...the living room is
about 14x16 and the adjacent bedroom about 8x14. There were no soffit vents
under the roof but I've started cutting slots for them. There are vertical
vents at either end of the roof.

Besides the roof heating up, in the afternoon the sun faces directly into
the wall of the adjacent bedroom and it is even hotter there than the living
room. I once saw a house using an outdoor roll down sunshade to handle such
a problem and wonder if you have any ideas about making such a shade.

Best regards, John

Hi John,

I would either have insulation blown in, the easiest, or lay in batts of fiberglass. Get the 24" wide batts by 6" thick and cut the batts across the joist space, to make it tight. Then apply another layer 90 degrees to the bottom layer giving a total of 12". This is the code now - R-40 for ceilings. To prevent the batts or blown-in to seal off the soffit vents, use a Styrofoam channel, as shown in the drawing, meant for this purpose. Staple it to the roof sheathing at the eaves, between rafters or trusses. This way the insulation comes up against these channels, allowing air from the soffits to get to the attic space.

I've seen shutters that you describe in Germany. It seems every house has them over there. I have a German friend here that has one installed on his house. It completely blocks out the sun in the day time and is a storm shield, as well, being made of metal. They are controlled from inside the house. I believe they are quite expensive, though. I think wood ones would not be as effective as the metal ones which interlock to keep out the sun.


Hi Dave,

I forgot to vent a toilet. This is a small outhouse that will used very little.
Will it work OK or should I go back and add a vent? The building is about 20"
off the ground so I do have access to the plumbing line.


The purpose of a vent is to protect the p-trap from siphoning out with the waste. With no p-trap you are going to get a sewer gas smell. Just don't sit there and do your thing while smoking a cigarette!!

Personally, I would put in a vent.


I have two questions for you. I am redoing a old house and I am putting in
insulation now. But when I insulate the walls around plug ins I never seem to
get them sealed good I can always feel a draft coming out of the plug ins.
I am using regular fiberglass insulation. How can i get them sealed up better?
Next question is do I put vapor barrier on if I used Tyvec house wrap on the
outside of the house already?

Hi Lorne,

According to the building code in new construction, to ensure that the vapor barrier is continuous including around electrical boxes, we use either a poly shield around the box or use a plastic box with gasket. Both are available at building supply stores. Either way the box needs to be re-wired. For a retro job, you could use the red Tuck tape and make your own barrier around the box by sticking the 6 mil poly vapor barrier to the box with the tape. While you are insulating, make sure some of the insulation goes behind the electrical boxes and wires and behind pipes but not in front of pipes.

Tyvec is a moisture shield for the exterior of a house, similar to tar paper. It will let moisture escape but not get in, apparently. Vapor barrier needs to go on the warm side of the wall which actually seals moisture out.



Do you have any experience with SIP's? These panels look pretty promising
- no studs but pretty nice otherwise. Any comments on long term durability?

Chris J.

Hi Chris,

I've never worked with these particular panels.

I am an advocate of pre-fabrication. It saves labor which is money. As long as these panels are accepted by the building code in your area they may be worth a look at. With everything, there are pros and cons. These panels will be more expensive to buy than the materials for stick framing. The biggest advantage is the insulation factor. In your design of house, what is the window and door situation. If the windows are large and many of them, does it make sense to pay extra for R value on the walls and lose it through large windows. The windows and doors should be designed together with the walls, in my opinion. How easy is your house to access for delivery? These things will be delivered on a large truck and need a crane for erection. I've read about electrical wiring, but nothing about plumbing, maybe check into that. The plumbing may have to be attached on the surface of the wall rather than inside it. An electrician should be there during installation to access built in chases in the panels, maybe plumbers, too. In my area we are concerned about walls breathing. We have had difficulty from walls sheathed with OSB. These panels have OSB on each side.

With any new product or technique, it is best to do a bit of research on it.

Checkout these two websites. One is an architect who has worked with these panels and the other is a designer of the panels:


Would you tell me the standard size rough opening for interior and exterior doors.

Exterior with sill add 2" in width and 3 1/2" in height.

Exterior without sill add 2" in width and 2" in height.

Interior add 2" in width and height.


dave, i was reading under Useful Stuff 4: Some Helpful Tips
[ see ] and you stated
using a 16d double head nail with a 3/16" hole for anchoring into rock and
concrete. something else you can do, this is what i do, drill a 1/4" hole
and use 2 16d nails. it holds just as good as tapcons or redheads.
love your web site!!!!!

Thanks, Troy.


I tried this question earlier, but I'm not sure it went so here it is again.

I would like to reframe some trusses in my attic to allow me to make a small
low ceilinged room to store general stuff in. Right now it stinks to have to
crawl through all those rafters.

I have two basic questions:
1) is it possible to reframe standard roof trusses to allow for a void in
the center
2) if 1 is true how might it be accomplished so my house does not fall in.


Hi Steve,

This is actually an engineering question, but I'll give you my thoughts. I never received this question earlier, by the way.

Roof trusses are designed to hold up a roof and a ceiling. When you cut a chord in a truss it changes the design. To answer your first question, yes this is possible, with a big but!! You have to have the truss re-designed by an engineer, which I'm not. The bottom chord is now supporting a floor so it will have to be stronger. The two uprights probably should be supported. As I said earlier this is a question for an engineer. I suggest you take this to a salesman at a truss plant near you and run it by him. It may be cheaper in the long run to replace the trusses entirely in the area you want to change. With lots of money one can almost do anything!!


hi dave im in the process of installing a new staircase in a house im
renovating, presently its still rough framed and was wondering about
purchasing pre-cut stringers -is there such a thing? my 2nd floor opening
is 9ft and my total riser height is 105" if i have to make them myself
should i purchase lengths of 1" popular for the stringers? thanks

Hi Dean,

You probably won't be able to go to a building supply store and buy a set of stringers that will fit your particular needs. They have pre-cut stringers for decks, but up to a limit. I'm sure you could find a place that would pre-cut them for you, if that is what you want. 1" poplar is not thick enough for stair stringers. They should be 2x10 or 2x12 preferably fir, spruce or pine.


I need to replace the sill plate on two sides of my home it is a three story
frame on a stone foundation approx 40'X 40' . I would like to raise the
stone foundation approx 18" w/ concrete blocks and then attach the uprights
to the concrete blocks. What do I need to do to get a secure bond between
the concrete blocks and the stone foundation? and what is the best way to
attach the uprights to the concrete blocks. And how much support do I need
to supply for the building if I am replacing 8' sections at a time?
The stone foundation is approx 12" across the top and is slightly irregular.
The other problem is that I have rot about 24" up on all the uprights along
the sill that is being replaced what is the best way to sister the old to
the new ?
Hope you can help.


If I were doing this job, I would replace the stone foundation completely with a new concrete footing and wall. Concrete block is okay as long as it is on a good footing. If you are going to the work and expense of a job like this, you may as well do it right. I would talk to an engineer in your area. He would be familiar with your ground, snow and wind loads, termite problems, etc. You should determine what is causing the rot and correct this as well. I'm sorry I can't be more specific on this question. This is a very serious and dangerous job you are talking about, maybe not the best for a novice. I would strongly suggest getting an engineer or experienced builder in on this one.


If you have found somewhat large mushrooms growing in the basement
and your child has problems with asthma should I be concerned enough
to have an inspector come in? And who takes on the cost if you are
only a renter?


I would suspect that the owner of the building is responsible to give you proper housing. I believe your first call should be to the landlord who should call in an inspector. If that doesn't work, I would call in a health inspector to make sure there is not harmful mold growing in there. He then would advise you of the next step and would probably want the landlord to take initiative in getting rid of the problem. I too own a duplex not too far from where I live, which we rent out. This would be the way I would like it to be handled.

This question is really for the rentals department of your local government, if you get no satisfaction from the landlord.


hey Dave,

How close to the floor and ceiling should drywall go? new carpeting was
recently installed.

There is no hard and fast rule about drywall to the floor. The walls should be kept tight to the ceiling drywall. That is the ceiling drywall is applied first then the walls applied tight to the ceiling, leaving a gap on the bottom.

In a new house with precut studs at 92 1/4", double top plate and single bottom plate. The ceiling height is 96 3/4". This leaves 1/4" clearance. The baseboard is used to cover this gap up as well as hold flooring edges down.


If I am using 4 x 4 posts for a deck, is there a rule of thumb for distance
apart when determining the location of piers? I know I could conceivably go
15 feet if I were using 2 x 12 joists, but is that structurally sound if
one wanted to have a large number of people on the deck? I have seen some
decks where posts were pretty far apart and it looked like the box joists
were sagging.
Mike from Kankakee, Il.

Hi Mike,

Actually, 4x4s aren't good enough for deck posts, use 6x6s.

For putting in a beam like this you need to figure in the supporting length of joists on each side of the beam. The supporting length is half the span on each side of the beam.

Yes, you get a bunch of friends each holding a drink in their hands and you've got lots of weight.


Back again for more help. We want to install a wood floor in the new
house we are building. I wanted to use wider oak - 5" - prefinished for
the floor. A professional installer I am getting a bid from to do the
whole project (unfinished and stain to color vs. me doing prefinished
ands self install) said that for a 5" wide board you MUST glue it down
in addition to nailing which increases the cost of installation
substantially. He therefore recommends just using 2 1/2" wide flooring.
I did not think you would need to glue down 3/4" x 5" Oak flooring???
If I go prefinished and self install, what is the answer???
Do I need to nail and glue?

Hi Jeff,

Usually with wide hardwood for flooring they glue and nail. It also depends on the species for the width, some are more stable than others. Gluing should cost in the neighborhood of 50 cents per square foot, in my area, which is not that substantial a cost when looking at the overall cost of the floor. There are too many variables for me to answer more specifically. Humidity and temperature variations are the enemies of hardwood. I suggest that you trust the professional in your area. He is familiar with these elements and he is the one standing behind any warranties.

Laying a 2 1/4" floor may be in your best interest. It is the most common in my area, also.


I wont to estimate a deck.How?

To estimate a job, first draw a sketch of what you want to do.

Then make a list of materials, including any rentals you may need. On big jobs I usually type up this list of materials and fax it to the contractor desk in my local building supply. It helps if you have an account with the store, but it is not necessary.

Then break this list down, step by step into labor. Estimate the time it will take to do each step of the job. Multiply this time by your hourly rate.

Add up the cost of the materials and the hourly rate. Most contractors add a contingency amount to the contract. This will cover anything that you did not allow for leaving the rest as your profit. When I was contracting I used 10% as my rate. Very seldom I used up the entire amount. The contingency factor depends on how hungry you are, as well as how much experience you have in estimating.

Check out my Estimate Check Sheet at


Well, that's about it.

Winter is a good time to finish up some of the incomplete projects you have inside the house! Let me know if you need any help.


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