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Volume 2 Issue 5“Building Confidence”May 2004



Welcome to our new members. Dan (my brother and webmaster) and I want you to enjoy your stay and be a part of our website. Don't be shy when it comes to asking questions or boasting a bit about your projects. Our job is to build confidence in you so, together, we can build that project you have been putting off for a while.


For the last three weeks, I have been recovering from a radical retro pubic prostatectomy. I'm mentioning this so if someone is searching on the internet for info about this or you know of a family member or friend who is about to go through this procedure and they want to email me about this, I'd be more than happy to share what I've learned in the last month. Suffice it to say that now I'm a prostate cancer survivor. The cancer was confined to the prostate and I am cured, so says the doctor. I've kept an accurate diary of my personal experiences that may help a candidate for this surgery and am willing to share this info. Read my "A Prostate Survivor's Story" ( Luckily, my family doctor believed in the PSA test, which early diagnosed my disease, without any symptoms or indication through the normal exam. Needless to say, I'm an advocate of this test and stress the importance of every man out there over 50 having this test done every year. Apparently 1 in 7 or 8 men over 50 have prostate cancer and your chances are double if there is a family history of this. Just a word to the wise.

What's New

Nothing new this month for articles, but plan on doing better as my healing process improves. I've been answering questions and doing custom plans, so haven't been bored or slacking off.

Ask Away!

Here is a great dialogue between Tom and myself:

Hi Dave,

I am a new member and I am planning on building a small two step staircase in
my house this weekend. I have a couple of questions that I am hoping that you
could help me with. Here goes:

I read on your website that it isn't a good idea to use 2x12 to construct the
tread. Why is that? What about 2x10?

Onto the more difficult question. Background: The total rise that I hoping to
cover with my stairs is 28" with the top step being the landing. So in essence
my two steps will need to cover two thirds of the total rise.
(Yes I realize that the stairs aren't code but I am going to go with it so that
I can minimize the wasted space in a bedroom). I computed the rise in the
staircase to be 7 and 13/16 w/ a 1.5" tread on it for a total rise height of
9 and 5/16. The run I would like to make 10" so that I will be in the room
about 20" when complete. Removing 1" for the overhang of the tread puts me
at 9" run.

My question is regarding the outside stringers. I would like to build the
kind of staircase that has a flush stringer on the outside. I saw on another
website that they used metal brackets to place the treads on. Is this a good
approach? I would have thought that I should build three stringers and then
nail one on the inside of a 2x12 to get the same effect.
Please advise.

I also would like some direction on how to calculate the length and angle
(which I assume is 45 degrees) for the outside stringer.

Thanks in advance.


BTW - Nice website I have already learned a lot!

Hi Tom,

A 2x12 or 2x10 usually splits when it dries out. If this is the finish I would
go with 2 - 2x6s spaced about 3/16" apart.

You should read the article on stringer layout again. Your calculation of rise
is wrong . With a total rise of 28" you need 4 rises of 7" each, forget about
the treads for now. If you went with 3 rises of  9.33" each, this is way too
high. With 4 rises you need 3 runs of 10.5 to 11". Never come out from the
top floor with a step flush with the floor. This is redundant. Start the first
step one riser below this floor. This riser is calculated in the number of rises
but is left off the stringer, so the stringer actually has 3 rises and 3 runs.
When you install the stringer, the stringer is nailed into position 1 riser down
from the floor level plus the thickness of the tread. The bottom of the stringer
is cut off the thickness of one tread, so this drop nullifies itself. Then the
treads are nailed on the bottom step giving a finished rise of 7" and on the
top step giving a finished rise of 7". The steps in the middle of the stringer
are all 7" risers because the treads are added above and below the treads.
That's why the tread thickness is not worried about until the bottom of the
stringer is cut off that amount, and everything works out right.

With the run of say 10.5" and using a tread of 11" this would give a nosing of
about 1/2" tight or 11/16" with the space.

I agree with the closed stringer on the outside of the open (cutout) stringer
rather than metal brackets or wooden cleats to support the treads. Usually the
closed stringer can be a 1x12 or 3/4" plywood cut accordingly with a cap or
molding on top to hide the edge grain. This is nailed in place before the stringer
is attached to the wall. This closed stringer comes up and down the slope and
is cut vertically at the correct height of the baseboard which joins it.

Your last question tells me you missed a part of the procedure of laying out the
stringer. Don't think of angles when doing stairs. Think of 7" rise and 10.5" run.
This is laid out with a framing square. Remember the rise is vertical and the run
is horizontal. Always lay out and cut the stringer, then try it in position,
to be sure. Once satisfied cut the other stringers out by using the first one
as a pattern.

Hope this helps,


Hi Dave,

You were right on every one of the suggestions. I figured out the whole thing
about cutting 1.5" off the bottom of the stringer. Long story short this is my
first staircase. I ruined a 10' 12x2 figuring out what I was doing but those are
the breaks. The staircase I build is totally non-code but I didn't want to take
up too much room in the room.

I will have more questions in the future. Thanks for getting back to me.


Thanks for the reply, Tom,

Glad everything worked out for you. Nothing to be ashamed of learning a new
procedure and making mistakes. At least you had enough sense to ask. I've been
a carpenter for a long time, now and I have to realize, too, that what is easy
for me is brand new for many people. I used to enjoy working with apprentices,
years ago.

You know where I am if you need anything else.


I need to make a door frame smaller(sides only). Is this an easy process? The easiest way to make a door jamb is to use a 1x6 and rip it down to the outside of your finished wall. Then hang the door flush on the side it is opening on. Rip a stop out of 1x2 about 1 1/2x 1/2" thick and nail it loosely into position with the door closed. Dave
Dave, I'm getting ready to do the inside trim on a room I've remodeled into a 1930s office. However, I'm an amateur and I've never done window trim. Any ideas? Hank Hi Hank, One thing to be aware of is that we always leave a 3/16" to 1/4" reveal from the window or door jam to the start of the casing - never come flush. When this is painted the casing looks like the extension of the jamb. Here is a drawing of a window I made for a guy to match his older house. Maybe this will give you some ideas: Hand drawn sketch of window frame with detailed measurements.
I'm installing hardwood down a hall way. When I come to the end it turns towards the bathroom. The boards are parallel going down the hallway. Do I just keep them running the same way when I turn towards the bathroom or do you turn them with the hallway direction again. Thanks, Mike Hi Mike, The conventional way of doing it is to keep the boards going in the same direction. I've seen it both ways, but personally prefer the boards going the same direction. Applying hardwood is like an artist doing a canvas, a lot is left up to the individual tastes of the installer. Dave
Dave, I am putting a 5-0x3-0 window into a load bearing wall of a flat roof single story house. My plan is to support the roof with two 1,000 lbs shore posts with a triple 2x4 beam across the ceiling joists about a couple of feet from the wall to allow room to work. I will use a floor jack and 4x4 to raise the roof ever so slightly and then snug up the shore posts. My header will be dual 2x12 douglas fir with some space in between. I will use fir 2x4s for both the king and jack (cripple) studs. To prevent/minimize settling and spread the load at the ends of the header, should I use two jack (cripple) studs? Is this too much? I have stucco. Would it be any benefit to apply liquid nails to the studs that will lie up against the outside to give support to the sheating at the edge of the cut? Thanks, Bill Hi Bill, Looks like you have it pretty well figured out. Just watch the lifting of the roof part. Keep it minimal, just compress the wood enough to slide the header in. For a 5' span, 1 stud and 1 cripple are sufficient. We don't get into a double cripples until the span is over 8'. Your header is oversize, I would go with a double 2x10 tight to the underside of the top plate. This should set your height of window, too. Don't leave a space between the headers, just nail them together with 3 rows of nails spaced 16" on center. Keep them flush to the outside of the wall. Rip some 1/2" plywood for spacers or packing to get the 3" header to 3 1/2" at the bottom of the header where you can fasten the drywall or paneling to it. This will stabilize it enough. I usually put a 1x4 trim on the outside of the window. You can nail the sheeting through the stucco around the window and cover it with the 1x4 trim. This looks good, too. I would also screw the drywall to the framing around the opening, on the inside, under the casing. Dave
Hi dave, just back from fl. Going back to work on a home I put up in the hills last summer by myself. Basically a two and a half storie. 10' up from the ground, I will be building a wrap around deck, three sides of the home with a roof. As I designed the home basically, I am making up plans as I go. Would 4x4 on 8' centers be sufficient or would 6x6 inch be better for the pole and beam construction. Also, I have heard that the bottom end set in concrete can invite rot in the future. Is this so or do you have advice on setting the poles? I will be setting them in 4' of course. I have built the home using sip panels designed on my laptop and produced at a factory here in MI. If anyone has an interest in this, I can foreward pictures by net. Hi, 6x6 posts are required now for decks. Put a 6x6 post saddle in the concrete after the column is poured. This is a bracket with a piece of reball welded to it which inbeds into the concrete. An 8x8 square concrete column is required 8" above the grade or a 12" diameter sonotube. When you are laying out the posts, keep in mind the posts for the roof will be right over the posts supporting the beam for the deck. Yes, wood set in concrete rots. We do this with treated fence posts, but not anything structural. If you would like to contact this person for info about his sip panels, here is his email:
do you know how to shingle a roof with what's called California cut? I'm not familair with that term. Are you referring to a closed valley, the way the shingles overlap at the valley rather than showing the flashing?? yes , I guess thats what they do....I've been talking to some other friends and they say they over lap from one side in the valley. Then you chalk a line from the top of the valley to the bottom and cut them. It give's you a straight line down the valley. Yes, we just call it a closed valley. According to the code, here is what you do. Get some 30 lb non-perforated roofing paper or felt. Start at the top and roll a length out the length of the valley. Cut it off and cut it in half, widthwise. Lay one half into the valley and nail or staple in place. Lay another full width piece over this half piece, and fasten, as well. Start laying you shingles, as usual and have them go up the opposite side of the valley about a foot, let them run wild. When laying the other side of the valley, let the shingles run wild, as well, as long as they are to the center line. When finished the roof, go back and trim the shingles in the valley. Snap a line about 2" back from the center line of the valley. This leaves a bit of a trough for the water to run down without coming to the edge of the shingles. I usually find a 12" x 8' piece of 3/8" roof sheeting and lay it under the snapped cut line and the shingles. Use a utility knife with a hooked blade and cut down to the board along the line. I find this method works well. I've never had a call back on a roof where this was a problem. If you don't like the idea of the 30 lb felt flashing you can use metal valley flashing, too, just more expensive. We have to put the 30 lb felt at all the eaves anyway, so just allow a bit more for the valleys. We have to sheet the remaining deck with 15 lb roofing felt, too. Dave

The above chat shows the different terms used for the same procedure in different parts of the country. We must love California or its people, because I've noticed we call a few things after this state: California overhang, California Closets, etc. My daughter was driving me somewhere the other day and came to a stop sign, paused without coming to a full stop and continued. I asked her what kind of stop was that? She replied, "A California stop".

My readers out there are not the only ones that learn things from this web site. I've learned about French drains, California roof valleys, a soldiers life in Afganistan, among others.

Keep sending those questions, comments and pictures. Together we can build confidence out there.


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