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Volume 1 Issue 7“Building Confidence”December 2003



Welcome to those who have joined us since our last Newsletter in October.


I'm glad that the end of 2003 is near. On November 29th our younger brother died of complications from lung cancer. Chris was 51 years old, leaving a wife and three grown children, along with Grandson Brandon who is 3 1/2 years old - his joy. Chris was an artist in his drawings, his sculptures and his words. He left his family a journal in which he tells us his feelings about cancer, his health-care community and his love for his family. Chris writes, "To my Joy - I can only hold my grandson once at a time, and it's not enough..." We have a memorial page for Chris on our website, next to Dad's so our family and friends can be encouraged by his words. We'll miss you, Chris.

Let's look forward and not back. It is Dan's and my wish to all our readers that you all have a very Merry Christmas and that 2004 will bring peace and happiness to us all.

What's New

I added a second seasonal checklist. Check out Seasonal 3: Christmas, for some Christmas cautions; remember the comedy "Christmas Vacation"?

Another new article is from an answer to a question sent me. It's a cleaning formula I found works very well to clean mold and algae off siding. The article is entitled, Cleaning Vinyl Siding.

Bear with me, I still am going to add a section on jigs for the workshop as well as different sizes of outdoor sheds. Much more to come in the New Year.

Ask Away!

Here are some questions I've been answering lately:

Here is a question from one of our friends from New Zealand.:

hi dave,
im building a conservatory on my friends house, however, this one
is going to be timber framed to 1 meter high and then have aluminium
joinery on top of that. the existing house is clad in fibrolite
weather boards, can i just butt the new constuction (ie framing and
joinery) into the weather boards or should i remove the weather
boards and frame into the existing framing on the house? if i butt
the framing and the aluminium into the house i will need to scribe
it right? scribing the aluminium will be easy, what about where i
will have the existing weatherboards meeting the new ones at 90
degree's should i use some sort of internal flashing? or should
i cut the framing part of the conservatory into the house and butt
the aluminium.


My concern is to be able to get good holding for the conservatory
into the house. If you can do that by going through the existing
siding, great. I wouldn't scribe anything, but use an inside piece
of aluminum angle flashing , about 38 to 50 mm on each side. Caulk
up the joint with a latex with silicon caulking and while still wet,
install an inside corner alum angle flashing in the corner. Where
the siding comes to the siding on the inside corner, do the same
thing - caulk up the joint first, then apply the flashing.

A word of warning those fibrolite boards may contain asbestos, so
that is one reason I wouldn't want to cut them. We use a concrete
and saw dust board here called a hardi plank. I'm sure the new ones
you get to match shouldn't have asbestos in them, so check it out.


Dave, i'am installing crown around the top of some kitchen cabinets and i'am having some difficulty with the inside corners and the corner cabinets are diamond shaped. the question is, '' How quick can you get here?''. Seriously though, i have seen the tabels and was wondering off hand if you could illistrate the 22.5 miter or just give the miter degree and angle degree. perhaps this question has come up before and you have a table ready to send me. thanks and build on, kris Hi Kris, Thanks for the chuckle. I guess one day, we can each turn on a camera and see what each other are doing, over the web. You kinda lost me on the question, though. What tables are you referring to? Are you cutting the crown against the fence upright on an angle or on the flat? If upright, the miter for a 22.5 angle is half of it 11 1/4. If unsure of the angle on the cabinet, try with two pieces of scrap 1x4 or whatever and try different mitres until it fits good, not as a crown but just square around it. Sometimes these cabinet people don't make it easy for us and throw in an odd angle. I have a tool called an angle divider, which does just that, gives the miter for any angle. Then you go to the cutoff saw and set the angle to this tool. I'm working on an article to cut crown molding on the flat for large crown. Do much with large crowns? Let me know how you make out. Dave
Dave, I am adding an addition to my home, and was wondering if there is a good formula for calculating the amount of dry wall needed to cover the interior walls & ceilings? Also, I have seen 1/2" & 5/8" drywall sheets, which should be used where? Thanks, Dave Hi Dave, I wish there was an easy formula. To take the total square footage and divide by 32 doesn't work all the time either. We try to put up the shortest sheet on a wall that covers the length of that wall. That is if the wall is 9'-6, we get a 4x10 sheet. These sheets get up to 14' long, stocked in building supply centers. So the best thing to do is to go around the rooms and measure for each size of sheet. The reason for this is to eliminate joints. Always put the drywall across the studs, instead of vertically. There are 1/2" and 5/8" thicknesses, as you say. Generally, 1/2" is for walls and 5/8" is for ceilings and commercial "fireguard" use. They now sell a 1/2" celiing drywall which is denser and meets the code requirement of 5/8" for the ceiling. Remember to put 1/2" agua board around a tub or shower and cement board if ceramic tile is to be installed around the tub or shower. Dave
I am getting ready to install a "half-round" galvanized gutter and would like to know the proper way to install the round downspout into the gutter. Thank You. Michael Hi Michael, There should be a "thimble" to fit your gutter and downspout. A hole is drilled through the bottom of the gutter, the thimble inserted, the downspout attached to the underneath of the gutter onto the thimble and then caulked well on the inside of the gutter. The thimble is made with a screen to keep leaves out. You should be able to buy this where you got the gutter and downspout. Dave
hOW DO YOU TIGHTEN A LOOSE NEWEL POST? i DESPARATLY USED METAL ANGLE SUPPORTS OON THE ONE AT THE LANDING BECAUSE THEY WOULD BE COVERED WITH THE MOLDING - BUT THE ONE AT THE FRONT OF THE FIRST STEP IS VERY LOOSE AND i NEED A REAL FIX. (i KNOW i SHOULDN'T HAVE USED THE METAL ANGLES BUT TIMING WAS CRUCIAL AND i HAD NO OTHER IDEAS AT THE TIME. ps IT IS A FINISHED CEILING UNDER THE STAIRS. If you look real close at the face of the newel post, you will see wooden plugs that cover either bolts or lag screws. Drill out these plugs and expose the bolts to find why they loosened up. If lags were used and have stripped themselves, use the next size up. If bolts were used try tightening them up again. You may need to cut an inspection hole in the ceiling underneath to add new nuts, but try drilling the plugs out first. Usually for a landing or floor, rather than metal brackets, we go right through the floor and attach the bottom of the newel to the floor joists. Hope this helps, Dave OK - I looked for the hole there are none, It looks like this was installed by nailing from the back side of the stringer (toenailed in) It is not a finished ceiling under this post, but I do not see any bolts coming through from the floor above (newel post location) Can I drill a few from the basement ceiling and be done with it? It won't do any good to bolt the newel post to the floor. It should be screwed into the riser. If you can get some screws into the back of the newel, through the riser, from underneath the stairs, go for it, this should help. Otherwise, you'll have to lag it into the riser through the front of the newel and glue wooden plugs in the hole. See below:
Drawing of how to secure a newel post with details.

Dave, I am going to make a spindle railing around the opening of the stairs in my attic. Because of the sloping walls, I will need to build a railing that is removable so that I am able to get large items up there. Any suggestions on how to build a removable railing? Thanks, John Hi John, I've been thinking about your handrail for a few days now and think I came up with an answer. I hope a 4' opening will be enough. Put the newel posts on each side of the opening, leaving 4' in between make up a section of handrail and spindles, except in this case have the bottom rail up from the floor about 4", instead of right down on the floor as per usual. I would use a mushroom rail 22.5"x2.25" on the top and the bottom. For the bottom have it upside down. Get 4 brackets made at a machine or welding shop, the same height as the brackets and screw them on to the newels at the correct position. This way when you want to remove the section, just lift up on it a bit to clear the brackets and put it away. For a safety, just above the bottom rails on each side screw in a little stop block or screw to prevent the section from lifting out. I would get the brackets made first and paint them up. Give the welder a sample of the rail to follow. Have them snug but not tight. Have a back on them so they can be countersunk and screwed into the newel with a 1 1/2" x # 10 flat head wood screw. The brackets should be made of at least 1/8" thick plate. Do you think this will work? Dave Dave, Thanks for the idea. It sounds like it will work. I'm going to give it a try and I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks again, John
Howdy there Dave. James ...from Monette Ark. Do you have a simple way to divide up the spindle spaces on the balcony? Well, howdy, James, Welcome to our site. Here is an answer to a similar question from another member on spindles. To clarify the building code: It is not just 4" between spindles that is necessary, but that a ball of 4" in diameter cannot pass through the spindles. (The 4" ball refers to a baby's head). If the spindles have deep turnings on them, you can see what the code is referring to. What I do is instead of using 4" between posts is figure on 5" centers of spindles. This gives 3 1/2" between. Don't be too set on having the first and last spindle the same as your spacing between the spindles themselves. What is important is that the distance between the first and last spindle is the same and that it prevents a 4" ball from passing through the space. Rather than start at the ends, work from the center of the section each way. On different length sections use the same spacing between spindles, but differ the spacing between the first and last spindle and the newel post or wall. Another tip, if the spacing at the ends of the section are too close or to distant, change your center point on a space instead of a spindle or vice versa. You will notice that figuring on 5" centers will be easier than figuring on a space. Rather than dry fitting everything, try laying out the location of the spindles on the handrail with painter's masking tape to mark on. Once the centers are determined, lay out the position of a few spindles to calculate your spacer blocks. The first and last will probably be different than the typical blocks between spindles. Lay out all the sections before cutting anything to see if the spacing works for all of them. A slight adjustment may be needed to satisfy all the sections and to maintain your selected spacing between spindles. Also try to get the spindles on the same centers on each side of the newel post. Hope this helps, Dave
Hi Dave, I have a stair project I would like help with. Would you be able to do a few sketches for me? Sure. Be very accurate on your total rise and available run, floor openings etc. Thickness of treads, inside or outside steps?? A drawing of this is helpful, but not mandatory. Just realize you are my eyes and you have to do the measuring for me. Dave Hi Dave, I wrote to you a few days ago and asked for a few sketches. These are the dimensions: The length of floor area for the stairs is: 108.5" The ceiling ht of the room is: 91.5" the depth of the ceiling/attic floor is: 9.5" the maximum allowance for the riser is 7.5" the minimum allowance for the tread is 10" and the staircase must be 36" wide I have to submit a cross section showing the geometry with a handrail. The staircase will be entirely enclosed. If you need more information, please let me know. FYI: this staircase is going from the first floor of a house to the attic in order to make a bedroom in the attic. The staircase will be in the middle of the house and the bearing wall will be on the left side of the staircase. A new wall will be build to enclose the staircase on the right side. Thanks so much for your help. Your website is very useful! Hi Mary Ann, You could go with 14 rises at 7 7/32 13 runs at 10.5 = 136.5 Stair opening 115.5 or 13 rises at 7 25/32 12 runs at 10.5 = 126 stair opening 105 Which would be the better choice for you 25/32 is 1/32 less than 13/16? This is close to the maximum rise allowed by most jurisdictions of 7 7/8. If you choose this one, maybe check with your building inspector to verify this rise is okay, otherwise we could safely go with 7 7/32 and add an extra riser. Notice the difference in runs and stair opening needed, too. What kind of handrail do you want for the drawing, the typical newel posts and spindles? You mentioned that this stairway will go up to an attic bedroom. Did the inspector okay this with your design of house and your existing ceiling joists, headroom, etc.? Let me know and I'll start the drawings for you. Dave Are 7/32 or 25/32 less than 1/2? 7/32 is 1/32 less than 8/32 which is 1/4" and 25/32 is 1/32 less than 26/32 which is 13/16, 1/2 is 8/16 so 13/16 is more than 1/2. Try to get the fraction down to a level that you understand. Check out the Article How to read a tape measure, with this link. Also check out our construction dictionary - any words that are highlighted can be clicked on to view their definition in the dictionary. Dave Hi Dave, Any sketches for me yet? Please let me know if you need more info. Thanks MAM Hi Mary Ann, I'm waiting for your answer to my question on the handrails. Dave OH! Sorry, the staircase will be enclosed, so I will only need one that will attach to the wall. No spindles or anything. Thanks, Dave! MAM Okay, good!! I'll try to finish the drawing tonight, after work, too much to do and too little time to do it. Dave Hi Mary Ann, Here is the drawing:
Diagram showing details of staircase with measurments.


Good Morning, Dave!

Thank you so much for your work, I really, really appreciate it!!!!
I'll get to work on this weekend, and if I have any questions, I'll
be in touch.

Mary Ann

You're welcome, Mary Ann,

Your treads should be made of 1" plywood, available for making stairs
in most areas. If you make the risers of 1/2" or 3/4" plywood and nail
and glue them to the backs of the treads, you will only need the two
stringers. Then you can cover them with whatever - carpet, hardwood,

Here is a quick sketch to show what I mean. This makes a very strong
"squeak less" step. I use construction adhesive, in a tube, which is
good for filling voids if the saw cut is a bit "off". My screws of
choice are # 6x2" drywall screws, which will set themselves a bit
with a power screwdriver.

Diagram showing how to secure treads in a staircase.


Survey Says

Here is the break down on our Survey for this issue:

  • Shed Plans 15%
  • Patio deck plans 18
  • Picnic table plans 12
  • Planter plans 14
  • Outdoor furniture plans 17
  • More how to articles 24

The following titles were suggested for articles: basic home remodeling; building a home bar; tiling, stone patios.

Thanks for your time in filling out the survey.

Finally, Dan and I appreciate your continued support in our goal to help build confidence out there.

Have a safe and happy Christmas Season.

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