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Volume 7 Issue 3“Building Confidence”March 2009



Dan and I welcome you to our Newsletter containing questions from our subscribers and my answers during March. We hope you are enjoying the Spring weather and getting those outdoor projects started.

What's New!

We have a new plan this month. A 6x8 shed with a lean-to roof, very basic, ideal for the novice who wants to build something useful. Checkout the blurb on this plan at:

Ask Away!

Here are the questions and answers for March:

Good Day
I see that you have information on installing a window in a wood framed
wall. Do you have information on installing a window in an existing
concete block wall?


Sorry, we don't. The only difference for the concrete block wall is that you have to allow for the thickness of a wooden frame, called a buck, inside the opening. This buck should be 1 1/2" thick and secured to the block with anchors and screws or the equivalent. Then the window is installed in this frame as discussed in my article.


I am looking for the basic codes regarding the required header beam
thickness to carry a standard shingled roof.
The span is 24 feet, and the charts that I have only go to 16 feet using
a 4- 2x12 laminated beam. My guess would be 5-2x12s or a steal beam? Can
you help me out?       Thank you Ray.....

Hi Ray,

As carpenters and builders we are limited by the Code to go with double headers to 10'. Anything over that must be engineered. This depends on the span, roof snow and wind loads, number of floors being supported, structural sheeting, etc. When I need a beam with a long span like yours I go to my favorite truss plant and give them the info and they supply an engineered micro-lam of OSB or veneers. The price is not that outrageous, either. They come in thicknesses of 1 3/4", so 2 will fit a 2x4 wall. I've put in a 18' header, before with a guy on each end lifting each half into position.


Hi Dave, today's question is about the ceiling I want to install under
my porches on my house. Lumber is 1 x 6 x 12 beaded pattern stock.
Question 1 involves expansion and contraction. Should I leave gaps
between the boards for expansion joints? Question 2 is how is the best
way to turn a corner and go down the next side? My porch goes almost all
the way around my house.


Hi Neal,

Solid lumber should not pose a problem with expansion and contraction, as in vinyl and aluminm products. You will probably notice that the boards will shrink over time rather than expand. So keep the joints tight.

When coming to the corners, you should miter the end joints for the best look, running the boards with the length of the porch. If you plan to paint the ceiling, for end joints, rather than a butt joint, I would cut them on a matched 30 degree angle with a latex with silicone, paintable caulking between. This is how we do siding to help hide the joint.


Hi Dave,

I have enjoyed receiving your free newsletter for a while now.
Thanks so much for all the time you invest in doing it and providing
it free of charge.

I read with interest your replies to Lisa (another homeschooling Mom).
My wife and I have five children that we have homeschooled.
Two have now moved on in life - our oldest son to the Navy working
aboard the USS Harry S. Truman.  Our next daughter is on track to
finish college in the next year with a major in social work.
We still have three children at home that we currently homeschool -
ages 17, 14 and 9.  And you guessed it - I teach the shop class
for them!  We have made some interesting things including: a lava
lamp, several trivets using ceramic tiles, stained glass windows,
refinished a few clock cases, and more....

I was wondering if the offer of being able to view patterns, etc.
that you made to Lisa is available to other homeschoolers?
Our next son just finished a class of drafting (yes hand drafting)
and is hoping to begin working on learning drafting using the computer.
If being able to view and use your site is a possibility, we would
much appreciate the opportunity to make use of it.

Please let me know.

Thanks so much!

John in Pennsylvania

Hi John,

My daughter, who also homeschools her three kids, aged 11 to 15, is here visiting. I read your letter to her and she was excited. She belongs to a home school group that gets together for biography and science fairs, lots of field trips , ice skating together, etc. This way the kids have interaction with their peers as they do at public school.

We would like to give you a membership for the year, probably the Foreman so your son can ask questions. [December 2009: there is no longer levels of membership on] If my brother, Dan, concurs, he will set you up with a username, etc.

Thanks for the interest in our site and we hope it will help instill a respect for my trade in your son.


Hi Dave,
If I add a second floor to my ranch house, do the the floor joists sit
flush with the outside of the top plate? Or do I have a rimboard and the
joists would only sit on the inside 2 inches? Also, have you installed
pvc columns before? How does one secure them to the beam? The young
person at the lumber yard didn't have a clue.
Mike M. from Kankakee, Il.

Hi Mike,

The rim or box joist fits flush to the outside wall plate with the joists nailed to the rim and to the plate. The joists must have at least 1 1/2"bearing on a beam or plate.

I have not installed PVC columns before. I looked up this site which uses the standard size of PVC pipe with caps and bases to fit:

These are not structural, so wood, steel or concrete must be inside the column. Click on Installation in the header.

Let me know if this is the type of columns you are using.


Well, that's all for this time. Not too many questions this last month, Spring has finally sprung around here so lots to do.

Thanks for your interest in our website and what we are trying to do here - Building Confidence.


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