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Volume 4 Issue 7“Building Confidence”July 2006



Welcome to our Newsletter. We hope you are surviving our Summer weather, as well as your renovations.

What's New

Dan and I will be enjoying our Summer with the odd time away from home. Please bear with us if you can't get hold of us for a week or so. We both have laptops so as long as we can hook up to the Internet, we are not too far away.

Ask Away!

Here are some of the questions from our members during the month and my responses to them:

Hi Dave
I need to do something to lower my electric bill. I feel certain
I need a more efficient AC unit which I will have replaced by a pro
in that field. I also would like to
replace my windows and patio door. I am unsure as to how to measure
my windows to ensure that the new windows will fit. I have not been
able to get understandable info from my local do it yourself store.
I have aluminum framed windows and the interior is covered with
sheet rock. I don't know where to measure from and to. Can you help
me on how to do this and any info on actually replacing them. thanks

Hi Clarence,

Checkout this article on replacing windows

An aluminum window is about 1 1/2" less than its nominal measurement. The width is given first, then the height. Example a 4'x3' window is 4' wide and 3' high. Its actual size is 46 1/2" x 34 1/2". There are renovator windows that do not have a flange and are custom made to fit the existing jamb. The existing window is cut out, flush with the jamb and the renovator window is then installed with molding and caulking.

I prefer to remove about 1 1/2" around the outside of the window to expose the flange. Remove the nails in the flange, as well as the interior trim and jamb and remove the window. Install the new window in the opening by nailing the flange into the existing sheathing. Nail packing material over the flange, so it's flush with the existing stucco or siding. Cover the flange with a 1x4 trim as shown in this diagram:


Hi Dave,

I have straight-run, open-riser stairs (brick wall on one side and
open on the other) up two stories. Each flight has about 17 risers.
I was planning on using 2x12s for the stringers, but once they were
installed (on 3/4" hanger board at top) and the treads were put on,
they were still very "bouncy" (they kind of sway - we can push them
back and forth) in the center (and kind of scary). Will this
"bounce" subside when the railings are installed, or is there some
part that we are missing? Any help would be greatly appreciated!


You should put a 2x4 post under the stringer to take this bounce away. Also try to tie the stringer into the brick wall to take out the sway. The railings won't stiffen up the stringers unless they were solid or built like a truss.


I am remodeling my kitchen. It is a big job that involves enlarging
the kitchen  moving some load bearing walls, removing a number of
partition walls, removing (filling in) a window and enlarging a window.

My question right now is on removing (filling in) an existing window.
I am clear on what I will need to do with the framing. My question is
on the exterior sheeting. Do I need to replace entire sheets, or can
I simply patch in the areas of sheeting that I must remove in order to
create the new framing (and fill in the window area itself)? I'm not
sure how much structural strength comes from the sheeting and how far
to take back the existing sheets.
Thanks for your help!

Hi Bob,

Sheathing keeps the walls plumb and square to support the weight of the top floors and roof. The sheathing is most important about 8' from the corners, which acts as a brace. When removing or enlarging windows remove the least amount of sheathing as possible, then fill in as needed. If the sheathing is OSB leave about 1/8" expansion between the joints.


I have a bit of a construction issue that I would like your input on.
I will try to be brief, but the question requires a certain amount
of background. I am in the process of renovating the 10 year old home
that I live in. It has first and second floor wrap-around porches on
two levels. The previous owners enclosed the lower level porch on the
side of the house, but they did a very poor job preventing water
falling on the second level porch from seeping into the now enclosed
lower level.
I have removed the original tongue and grove fir and have given the
floor a slight pitch to allow water run-off. I then sealed the porch
with Carlisle Coatings and Waterproofings Water and Ice Protection
(WIP) 300 High Temperature self-adhering roofing underlayment.
I would like to reuse the original fir flooring and this is the
source of my questions. What would be the best way to lay the floor
in a manner that will be durable and that will not cause failures
in the membrane?
The manufacturer of the 300HT says that it can be nailed into
without problem. I, however, am worried about nailing a flooring
that will have the flex of foot traffic into the membrane.
A second concern is whether the fir flooring would rot being nailed
to the membrane without an air cavity separating them. In essence,
1. should I nail the flooring through the membrane or should I try
to have the t & g flooring float? And 2. should I separate the
flooring and membrane with nailing strips or something to allow air
Thank you for your time and consideration,

Hi Jerry,

Sorry for the delay in getting back with you, I was on vacation.

First, I would like to say that fir flooring should be protected from rain or moisture. The porch should be covered.

I would use nailing strips on top of the membrane as my option. I would screw 1x4s along the existing floor joists at a minimum of 16" centers - for a 10 year old house, they should be.


Thanks for your response. I made a mistake in the earlier email.
The house is 100 years old. The porch has a roof over it but is
open on the side. It does get some rain and snow. Is coating the
fir with varethane or something similar sufficient?

Hi Jerry,

With the different age of the house, the floor joists may be on 20" centers. If that is the case, the nailing strips should be installed across the joists at 16" centers. The original porch floor was probably a 1x4 V-joint siding installed on the floor rather than a hardwood floor system. Maybe check this out before installing hardwood (fir) flooring. This stuff is not designed to take any moisture at all, with its tight joints. I don't know where you live and your climate, so recommend getting info from your local area.

There are other options for porch floors other than hardwood. I can see your desire to keep the original theme. Maybe checkout the use of V-joint flooring rather than T & G hardwood. With both types of flooring the finish is an important part of the overall waterproofing system.


Hi Dave,
The home I am building is a 28x30 Chalet style home. I am considering
using metal roof sheeting. On a residential home, can the sheeting be
installed with purlins alone attached to the rafters, without
sheeting, or do I need both.
Thanks, Rick

Hi Rick,

Usually with metal roofing we don't use solid sheathing. Use purlins, also called strapping in this case, on 12, 16 or 24 inch centers depending on the thickness of the metal. Your dealer should know the specs for the purlin centers.


Hi Dave, Have you ever heard of using spray-foam insulation applied
directly to the bottom of the metal roofing and purlins?
Thanks, Rich

Hi Rich,

I've never heard of anyone doing that, but it may be good to keep condensation and noise down if the price warrants it.


I need to make Stringers for a 10' Rise
This will work out to the stringer being 18 to 20'
I can only find 16' 2 X 12's Is it O.K. to splice them to make
them long enough. if so HOW?
I really don't have the room for a landing and can not change
directions ( Outside deck )


Most building supply yards that deal with contractors sell dimension lumber to 20'. Home Depots, etc. only sell popular lengths to 16'.

You can build a set of stairs to a maximum total rise of 12' according to the code. You need a stringer of about 18', so I would get a stringer of 10' and 8' and splice them together with a 4' slice: 2' on each side of the joint, using a 2x12 as the splice. Put the splice on one side only and layout the opposite side. Just tack the splice in place until it is laid out. Then you can cut out the stringer and splice together. Then screw or nail the splice together well.

You should support the stringer with posts to take the bounce out, as mentioned in my stair articles.


Dave: I am still working on the house project. It is moving along well.
I have a question about Vanity Tops. Unfortunately I was not thinking
when the local cabinet supply person spec'ed the tops and put one in
that is 33" wide. The rest are all either 24, 48 or 36. The problem
is NO ONE I can find sells a stock 34" top for a 33" cabinet. Custom
ordered is a lot more expensive and would either not match the other
tops in the house OR all have to be custom ordered and WOW that ups
the price. My question is can any of these like you buy at Lowes/Home
Depot be Cut Down from a 37" to a 34". If so, HOW/WITH WHAT. I assume
without knowing a circle saw with the right blade would do it but how
would you ever cut over/through the back splash that is built in.
Would have to cut 1 1/2 off each side to keep sink centered. Then are
these sandable. And if the type makes a difference just tell me which
ones we can work with.

Hi Jeff,

These tops can be cut down on a table saw, with a fine carbide blade. Home Depot sells left and right hand ends that can be contact glued to each respective ends, pre-cut to the right shape to match their tops. These tops come without the sink cut. This is done after the top is installed, so only one side has to be trimmed.


I think you are referring to the Formica covered tops. My question
(re-read) was not clear on that - sorry. I was looking at the
marble like tops with sinks built/molded in.

Oooooh! That's a different story. Not too much you can do to those tops. If you trim them off there will be left pin holes instead of a gloss finish. Can't you get a 36" molded top? That leaves an overhang of 1 1/2" on each end which isn't that bad.


Problem is the 33" sits against a tall cabinet so it would be 3 inches
off one side......

Then cut off 1 1/2" off the side that is tight to the cabinet. Would that work?

It might - sink would be slightly off center but maybe not enough to
show - what kind of saw blade could you use?

I would use a carbide blade on the table saw with the largest number of teeth, to do the smoothest job. These tops are actually a molded plastic and should cut okay. The trick is to push it through the blade very slowly, not to heat up the plastic and melt its way through. Keep the finished surface up. When you get to the back splash, just tilt it up, as well, keeping the finished surface up, too. You will be measuring the amount to take of from the side of the blade furthest from the fence. When cutting the splash, ease up slightly on the pressure against the fence so the blade won't go into the finished piece as the piece that is against the fence is cut.


I have a customer who wants to use vinyl (if possible) replacement
windows in her condo. The only issue is that the other units all
have Benjamin Moore - MooreGuard - Navajo White (OC-95) paint on
the current wooden windows. Replacement windows in wood seem to be
running $700 or so in price so she wanted to do something cheaper
in vinyl or aluminum clad. Do you know of any companies that would
match the exterior finish to this color?

Hi Dick,

I don't know of any manufacturer that will match up a paint color like that. The best bet is to order a white vinyl window and paint it to match the others. Have the customer talk to the paint dealer and he will advise the correct paint to use over PVC.


I'm in the process of building a 10 x 12 shed with a gable roof.
I want to use a 5/12 pitch roof. I'm trying to figure how to build
the roof trusses

To build a truss, first figure out the top chord's lengths as you would for a rafter. For a 10' span, figure the top chord's length is 5' + 5". We know that for a 5/12 pitch we gain 1" for every foot of run, added to the original foot. We get this from our rafter tables which show for every foot of run we gain 13". You can calculate this the long way like this: 5 x 13 = 65" or 5'-5". Okay, layout the top chord by cutting them with a 5/12 on the plumb line, which is 22 1/2 degrees, also on our rafter table

Also, this is explained in detail in my first two articles on Roofs.

The 5'-5" on the top chord takes you to the outside line of the wall. You need to add the overhang which for a small shed may be 12", for example. So then you would add 12" + 1" for the pitch giving you a total rafter or top chord length of 5'-5" + 1'-1" = 6'-6". If you are going to put on a 2x4 truss fascia to tie all the trusses together, recommended, allow for this thickness by deducting 1 1/2" off the length of your top chord. This is best done by measuring back from your soffit plumb line at 90 degrees, rather than along the top slope.

For a small span such as 10', you don't need the webs, just have the king post with gussets on the top and bottom. These gussets would be 3/8" or 1/2" plywood nailed to both sides of the truss with 2" common nails. install a 1x4 near the center of the span to tie all the trusses together at the bottom chord to act as bridging. These trusses should be installed at not more than 2' centers.


Hi Dave, Do you have any advice for me to give my husband on setting
poles for a pole building? It will be a 28' x 40' garage.
Thanks, Anne

Hi Anne,

Is he having a specific problem?


I guess he was looking for general instructions to set the poles.
I found some pole building info on motherearth web site. He wondered
about techniques for making the poles straight and getting the
walls square.
Thanks Anne

Hi Anne,

With this type of construction, they usually embed pressure treated poles or posts into a hole in the ground. The bottom of the hole is at the depth of frost for your area. If you tell me the major city and State you live near, I can give you that info. About 6" deep of concrete is placed in the hole. The next day the poles are installed in the hole, resting on the concrete. The poles are braced to each other or to stakes in the ground to keep them plumb in both directions and the remainder of the hole is filled with concrete. Re-bar is not required to be placed in the concrete, but is an option. The next day you can start framing by cutting off the top of the poles to the correct elevation and installing the beams.


Thanks for the questions. I hope this has been helpful and maybe we touched on a subject you were wondering about. For any questions or concerns, comments or suggestions, please don't feel intimidated, just send Dan (questions about the site itself) or me an email. Remember what our father used to say, "There is no such thing as a stupid question."

Hope you enjoy the rest of our Summer.


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