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Volume 2 Issue 8“Building Confidence”August 2004



Fall is creeping up on us slowly. It's time to clean the furnace filters and prepare for winter. Refer to our article: Seasonal 1: Fall

Welcome to our new members and thanks for those who are hanging in there with us.

What's New

Dan has added a new page for the convenience of our members. It is called Your Account and gives details about your renewal period and newsletter.

Also check out the new article on How to Replace a Sliding Patio Door. Under Tables on the Index Page, check out the decimal inch conversion to fractions as well as the Concrete Form Calculator - an easy way to figure how much concrete needed to fill a form for a foundation wall.

Coming up, I plan to do a series of articles on building your own home. I've had a few members express interest in this. I will try to get an article or two out each month. This is a very complex subject, a trade in itself, you may say, so I plan on covering everything in graphic detail for the average handy person. Obviously, this is a venture only an experienced person should tackle. Hopefully this series will give you the confidence to either build the house yourself or act as your own general contractor and know the various steps that need to be performed and in the correct order.

Ask Away!

Here are some of the email questions I have been answering this month:

hello Dave! this is a great site, and my husband and I have relied on it quite a bit
in the last week. We are remodeling our older home and doing everything on our own.
for this reason, i would like to see more "tearing it up" articles, such as removing
an old hardwood floor or pulling up ceramic tile. knowing how to install new stuff
is great, but we gotta tear up the old stuff first! i would love to salvage the bits
of hardwood floor that will be removed to make room for the new stairs as i am sure
that i won't find anything to match this wonderful old wood. the previous owner also
laid down quite a bit of ceramic tile, which most people would think is nice, but
they laid it down right on the hardwood floor! is there any way to pull up the
ceramic tile without ruining the wood? i guess what i would like to see is more
about how to save the great old stuff we find as we rip out our modern surfaces.
for now, i am going slow and gentle as i tear up these little tongue-in-groove planks.
thanks for all of your help. how wonderful it is that you share your talent and


Hi Carme,

Thanks for such a nice email.
Usually, I don't get into tearing up floors or ceramic tiles or such mainly because
it never occurred to me that anybody would need this. I thought anybody that knew
how to install the material would work in reverse and remove it. I guess sometimes
this is not always the case, such as hardwood floors. I worked for my nephew for
a while when he had a hardwood flooring business and needed a hand once in awhile.
Many times he would be asked to remove an old fir floor and replace it with oak
or other more exotic wood. He would carefully remove it so he could have replacement
pieces for those customers who appreciated the look of the old floors. I found
pretty quickly that you have to be careful when removing the old flooring. Since
the flooring is nailed through the tongue, the tongue has to come up first, but
pulled out of the groove as well, without breaking the bottom of the groove off.
One way is to drive the nails right through the tongue, depending on the nail used.
In very old installations they used a stamped metal nail that had an angle on the
one side or tapered - pretty tough to nail these through. The other type is a
special spiral nail, very hard, with a slight head. These can be nailed through.
What you need is not a nail set, but a pin punch. This is like an elongated nail
set that can drive nails out of boards to a maximum of about 3/4". It's not
designed for this, but works well. It is designed to tap pins out of shafts, etc.
The size to get is for 1/8" pins. It's a great tool for removing finishing nails
by driving them through the piece that is nailed. Here is a picture of one I found:
Photo of a pin punch tool.
When removing ceramic tile from hardwood, my only advice is to hammer it to
break it up rather than prying and bring up wood with it. Once the tile is removed
get a pro to come in with a drum sander and go over the floor again. They should
be able to see if the floor has enough "meat" left on it above the tongue. You can
only sand down a hardwood floor so much. Once you reach the tongue that's the
end of its life. This is only a distance of 1/4". Check out the edge of the hardwood
by looking in an air register vent for example.

Hope this helps,

what is the miter setting for an 8 side octagon. Hi, I thought all octagons were eight sided. Sorry, couldn't resist. The miter is 22 1/2 degrees on the ends of each piece - 360 divided by 16 cuts. Dave
How do you construct box beams for concrete? The rafters will rest on these beams. How do you build a base cabinet to hold a sink 39" long by 21" width? How do you construct a gable roof that will be covered with galvanize and ridge cap? How do you go about spacing the purlins across the rafters?THANK YOU I need to ask you some questions, first: What is the size of the concrete beam? What does it sit on - how is it supported on its ends? For the base cabinet, check out this link on our site: The purlins are 2x4s nailed on 12", 16" or 24" centers depending on the thickness of the steel. Your dealer will have that info. The rafters or trusses should be on 24" centers. If they are spaced further apart than 24" the purlins must be larger. Dave Hi Dave: The size of the concrete beam is 11 1/2" tall x 5 1/2" wide. The beam sits on 6" blocks with actual size 5 1/2" wide. My uncle who is a carpenter said that if you're using galvanize, then I can set the rafters at 4' OC. Comment please. Bye. Carlisle Hi Carlisle, Here is a drawing for you: Diagram of a concrete beam form showing anchor bolt, rebar and post. Start with a 2x6 beam bottom, cut the length required. Rip two pieces of 3/4" plywood (5'8" would also do) 13" wide, allow 1 1/2" for the beam bottom. Cut a number of 2x4s about 16" long to be used at the top of the 2x6 post. These should be placed on about 4' centers and are used to nail 2x4s into them to hold the beam sides from spreading during the pour. Nail or screw these to the posts. To hold the top in use 1x4 or 3/4" plywood cleats cut 14" long, both ends should be flush with the 2x4s. Notice the rebar and anchor bolts. Anchor bolts should be placed every 4'. This will secure a 2x6 on top of the beam so the rafters can be nailed securely to it. This 2x6 should continue over the other concrete blocks, as well, so check out the correct height. Don't forget about the rebar, this is important for a beam such as this. Try to get some rebar bent to go around the outside of the 6 bars, as shown, to tie them all together. These should be placed on 16" centers. Between the 2x6 sill plate and the top of the beam, put in some 6" sill gasket to separate the wood from the concrete. Brace the posts well - to each other and keep them plumb. The posts should be left in for about 2 weeks. It takes concrete 28 days to reach maximum strength, so don't rush to remove the posts. The sides can be removed after a day or two, just be gentle. The spacing of the rafters can be 4', but then the purlins should be designed for a 4' span. In residential constuction, we usually put in rafters at 16" or 24" and use 1x4 or 2x4 for strapping. The best thing to do is to ask the dealer who sells the roofing and go with the manufacturers suggestions. I can't get into structural design loads without knowing the area you live in, considering snow, wind and other loads. Hope this helps, Dave
Hi Dave, I am thinking about opening up a space in my basement. I'm pretty sure the wall is not load-bearing (based on a prior e-mail to you) but I can't be sure. Just to be safe, I was thinking about building the new space as though it is load bearing. Basically, I want to widen an existing doorway(about 3 feet) to an entire room opening (about 15 feet). I know that I will need to support everything before removing any of the existing wall, but I'm unsure of what is necessary after that. Can you help? Thanks, Eric Hi Eric, For a 15 foot opening in a bearing wall, you need an engineered beam, depending what the beam is holding up. You can get these at truss plants in your area. You can give them the details and they will make it up for you. The cost may be between $200 - $300. I would check to see if you need this before going any further. It may be worthwhile getting someone in there to verify if the wall is load bearing or not. After the wall is removed you need a double cripple on each end under the beam. These are nailed to a stud. Here is a picture. The framing is the same in a window as a door opening, except no window studs. In the case of a header being over 8', the header must be engineered and have two cripples supporting it on each end. Diagram of framing a window showing double top plate, header, regular studs, cripple stud, rough sill and window studs Dave
Dave, Do you have any input on repairing drywall. I need to prep a room for painting. I have removed all the old hooks, but some large holes say 1/4 inch need to be re-spackled. Some of the paper is torn. What I was going to do is remove as much loose material and then fill with spackle. Sand and re-apply to smooth out the edges. Is this the right approach? Also I have a crack that runs the celing. I am planning on retaping the crack. And re-spackle over this. Do you have any input on taping and joint compond work? Let me know. Hi, You have the right idea, exactly on filling small holes. With the crack on the ceiling: I assume this is a smooth ceiling, without any texture. I like to use a fiberglass tape for drywall repair. It is self-stick, about 2" wide. Remove any loose paint, paper or tape. Sand the area about 6" at least, on each side of the crack. Lay on the tape centered on the crack, dry - no mud (drywall compound). Now with a 3" putty knife lay the first coat of mud on. Press it through the tape and leave a build up over the tape, just enough to cover it. Don't be too fussy with getting it smooth here, try more to build up the thickness of mud over the tape evenly. Leave it for 8 hours, at least, until dry. Sand down high spots only. Don't sand down to expose tape. No worries if you do, just build up the mud again. The next application of mud should be with a 6" drywall knife or trowel, looks like a putty knife, but 6" wide. One edge of the trowel should be centered on the tape and extending over it to feather out the edge. Get into the habit of applying pressure on the feather edge and no pressure over the tape. You do this with a twisting of the drywall knife. Do this to both sides of the tape. Wait 8 hours again to dry. Sand very lightly, just to remove any ridges. Sometimes a third coat is required, just to fill in any air holes or slight depressions that may have been left. Sand when dry. Vacuum any dust on the wall. Prime with a Latex Drywall Primer-Sealer. I like to use a ready mixed drywall compound that comes in a plastic pail. The main problem with novices is not putting on enough mud. Have the trowel edge covered with mud, apply it with the trowel or knife almost square with the wall or ceiling, then slowly reduce the angle as you draw the mud off the knife. After a few practice strokes, you'll get the hang of it. See the drawing. Drawing showing how to apply drywall compound using different angles of a trowel to smooth and finish. Hope this helps, Dave
Re Steel square book by Townsend revised 1972. "if a line is drawn on the side of the rafter from the outside upper corner of the plate and running upward parallel to the top edge of the rafter, this line is called the measuring line. two measuring lines meet at a point in the center of the ridge board and somewhat below the level of the ridge. The vertical distance from this point where the two measuring lines meet, down to the level of the tops of the wall plates in called the rise of the roof." Modern Carpentry by wagner page 237 partially shows this but indicates rise is from plate level to top of ridge board. Both of these definitions of rise appear to be mathematically correct right angles. what is the significance of the two different definitions? Appreciate your website. thanks I would say that the Townsend definition is more correct than Wagners. In theory, we use the top of the rafter as the measuring line and we mark our points on the top. When we get to the outside of the wall (or plate) line, we scribe a vertical line on the edge of the square, (called the Plumb Line) and continue down to the plumb line for the overhang, less 1 1/2" for trimmer. We then go back to the wall line and layout the seat cut or bird's mouth. We allow half the thickness of the ridge and cut off the plumb cut at the high end. The total rise is from the top plate to the ridge. Since the bottom of the rafter its on the top plate, not counting the seat cut drop, Wagner should say that the rise is the top of plate to bottom of rafter. Again in theory, we don't worry about these technicalities, we just layout the rafter, either measuring from a calculation or stepping the square down the board. If the rafters fit okay with a ridge board between them we are happy. That is we adjust the height of the ridge to fit the rafters. We don't secure the ridge first then have the rafters fit it. Good question, it shows you are thinking. In practice we try to keep it simple. I get so many questions about the angle of stairs or the angle of a roof. A carpenter is not interested in these angles. We figure with the vertical and horizontal, using the square and it all works out fine. We say that a roof is a 7/12 pitch not a 30 degree angle. Dave
Hi Dave, In calculating Total Rise for inside stairs, I don't know what the final floors will be made of, so do I calculate from subfloor to subfloor? or is it subfloor to upper joist tops? I'm a bit confused as to what total rise actually includes. Thanks much
Figure your total rise from upper floor to bottom floor - from sub-floor to sub-floor. If you are putting the same thickness material on both sub-floors and the treads you will be okay for heights. Don't try to make stairs more complicated than they are. It is simply dealing with a vertical rise and a horizontal run. Don't think of angles or anything like that. When stepping down the stringer with a steel square, you are still using vertical rises and horizontal runs. Follow the directions in the articles. Play with the stair calculator to get different rises and runs. Dave
Dave, I have 2 patio doors (sliding) in my home that need to be replaced. I'm planning on replacing them with the same type of door as the original. However, nobody seems to want to install sliding patio doors unless you pay them as much as the door itself. As an example, the door(s) I plan getting are about $1000 each and the bids I've gotten to install each of them are about $900/door. Crazy! So I thought this might be something I might want to try doing myself. I've done some miscellaneous woodworking but I've never tackled replacing windows or patio doors in a house. How difficult is it to pull the old ones out and reinstall the new ones? If you've got any pointers or suggestions I would greatly appreciate them. Thanks, Jeff Imagine that much to install a patio door. I wrote an article on this subject which is on site now: How to Replace a Sliding Patio Door

Thanks again for your questions and fodder for this newsletter. Let me hear from you, the good, the bad, the ugly - your projects, that is. I like a good challenge.

Dan and I thank you for your continued support. We still have members renewing, at their original rate, from May of 2003.


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