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Volume 2 Issue 11“Building Confidence”December 2004



Welcome to our new members and those still with us to close off 2004. Dan (my brother and webmaster) and I wish you all the best in the New Year and hope all your problems can be solved as easily as getting the right advice from an email.

What's New

I've spent a busy month answering questions and preparing for Christmas.

I wrote a new article: How to Hang and Finish Drywall. (

We added some HVAC conversion units to our Conversion Calculator (

Checkout our new set of plans for building a gazebo roof over part of your deck: Gazebo Hip Roof 10'x10' Plans [].

Ask Away!

Here are a few questions I've been dealing with for the past month:

I plan on framing a two story garage how do i use my speed square to figure out
the angle to cut for a 12 and 12 roof pitch

Hi Shasta,

Look on one side of the speed square for the arrow and pivot showing which corner
to pivot the square. Lay the square down on either side, depending on the correct
angle direction you want, with the pivot end against the side of a rafter.
Notice the line marked common. This is the line referring to the pitch based on
per 12 inches. In your case to find 12/12, a 45 degree, pivot the 12 mark around
until it is lined up with the same edge of the rafter that the pivot point is
resting against. When the 12 lines up with the edge, the 45 degree mark should
line up as well. The degree marks are good for those having a cutoff saw and who
just want to set the degrees of the angle rather than needing to determine the
pitch and scribing an angle to cut with a circular saw.

Here is a drawing:

Photo showing how to use a speed square.

Hope this helps,



Here is a tip from a member:

Dave, You wrote under "Helpful Tips" :
Put a paint roller in a plastic bag and seal tightly for next day's use, to avoid
having to clean it.

-- I find sticking the roller in the plastic bag in the fridge (not the freezer)
over night works even better. :-)
Thanks for a great site.

Thanks, Anders


Hi Dave,

I am building a room within a large shed. I want to put an upper story on the room.
The upper room will be used to store things and will be walked around on.
The width of the upper and lower rooms is 12 feet. It is about 30 feet long.
What size of rafters should I use to support the floor of the upper room safely?
Are 2X6's good enough, or would I be a lot safer using 2X8's? I have bought
5/8 inch plywood for the upstairs flooring. Is that good enough? Someone told me
that 2x6's are good enough, but that I should put all heavy items near the edge
of the walls, near the downstairs wall studs. This implies to me that the floor
is not really sturdy enough with 2x6's to handle much of a load. I don't want to
constantly be afraid that the ceiling will collapse down onto me in the downstairs
Thanks for your advice. Kim

Hi Kim,

I'm glad you asked this question before you took some bad advice.
To get your terminology correct, rafters support a roof and joists support a floor,
ceiling or roof and ceiling both.

In your case for a 12' span you can get away with using 2x8s at 16" centers but,
and this is a very important but, the joists must have bridging and strapping.
Bridging is the solid blocking or herring bone cross members between each floor
joist. Strapping is a continuous 1x4 nailed to the bottom of the joists in the
middle of the span, in your case. The sub-floor should be glued and screwed or
nailed, as well, although this isn't a requirement, but my suggestion.
The bridging keeps the floor joists from twisting under a load and collapsing when
the joists fold over on the flat. The 1x4 strapping can be replaced with drywall
on the ceiling underneath. What this does is make the floor work as a unit,
especially with the gluing of the sub-floor. The 5/8" sub-floor should be tongue
and groove to eliminate having to put in blocking every 4' to support the edges
of the plywood between the floor joists.

I explain how to build a wood floor such as this in the following plan, check it out
at: Shed Plans at

Hope this helps,




I need to cut in a stringer with out the rise and run for trim before I put the
treads and risers inside the stringer not on top of the stringer. I went to home
depot for advice. No luck. You're my last hope.


Follow the same directions I give for cutting the stringer out, except either dado
the stringer to accept the treads and risers or glue and screw a ledger under
the treads. I don't like to do it this way, as explained in How to Build Stairs at

Read the two articles following this one as well.

A better way to do the closed stringer idea is to make an open stringer as in the
article then screw this to the closed stringer and install them both together.
In this case the closed stringer can be 3/4" material, while the open stringer can
still be 1 1/2" material.



Hi Dave,
Do you have a 800 number that we can talk to you? How do you set up a password
and username on your site? Because I don't have a password to put in. I would
like to be able to use your site, because I'm building a 30 / 40 shop,
apartment on top. So could you reply to me? Thank you for your time.

Hi Rick,

We do everything over the internet here. If you need advice or plans it is sent
with an email.

To register with us is very easy, just go back to our website
and click on any article. You will be taken to a signup page. When it asks for
your username type in any name that you can remember, a password is again any name
or series of numbers that you can remember. If the username or password has been
used already, you will be informed of this. The questions you will answer is for
in the future if you forget your password, we can help you remember it. You are
then asked to decide on the method of payment, Visa, MasterCard or PayPal.
With PayPal you have to be pre-registered with them.

We have people from all over the world who are members of our website and I don't talk
to any of them by phone. Your membership is automatically renewed after the
3 months or year expires, by charging your credit card with the same amount as you
first were charged, unless you choose to cancel in the mean time.

Hope this helps,



I want to build some melamine shelves using boards with prefinished edges.
I don't want to dado cut and then have to re-edge the front. Would biscuits or
dowels be adequate substitution for dados?

Yes, biscuits would be good. I would stay away from dowels, though, unless you
have a proper dowel jig. They need to be right on with each other or they
won't fit - very hard to match up exactly without a jig.
There are different types of shelf rests out there. Depending how high this shelf
is - say over 5' tall you only need the center one to be secured to keep the
gable sides together. The rest of the shelves could be supported by shelf rests.
Another way is to rip small ledgers strips to support the shelves.
Remember that gluing the melamine to melamine, just doesn't work. I always buy
full 4x8 sheets of melamine, rip the shelves and gables, put in dados and glue
and screw the shelves in, then iron on the melamine tape, to finish. Installing
the tape is not that hard with a bit of practice.



Thanks for the ideas. Any special considerations of the shelves are
7-8 feet tall?
I have a pantry and closet with a 9' ceiling that I want to be able to put seldom
used items near the ceiling and use most of the space. I want to avoid having
any screws that would be visible on the outside edges of the shelving unit.
I suppose I could put a board across the top of all the shelf sides and screw in
from the top. This would hold the tops of the shelf sides in place.
Could I get by with only one secured center shelf or should I have a couple
shelves secured about 1/3 and 2/3 the way up?

I love the useful advice on your website. You give just the facts needed to get
the job done without all the filler. So many books talk a lot about the process
of doing things but seem to forget to tell you basics like how high to rough in
electrical or plumbing.

Thanks for your help


Hi Dale,

For that high you should tie the shelves together at two places alright. The 1/3,
2/3 height is good. Depending on the width, these shelves should have a back which
helps support them too. Secure the back at the top into the wall to keep the unit
from pulling over.

Thanks for the nice comments.


hello experts, i have an old house with lead based paint on the interior walls. i,
of course, need to remove and repaint. any other way than to tear out and rerock?

The long term solution to lead paint in an old house is, of course, total removal
and discard. This is usually done by a professional firm specializing in lead
paint removal. During this process the lead dust is tried to be kept to a minimum,
but the hazard is there. Young children is one of the groups affected by lead
posisoning as they pick up the dust on the hands then the hands into their mouths
or chewing directly on the window trim, etc. If this may be your case, maybe go
with a long term solution.

For short term, one can paint over the lead paint and encapsulate it on wall and
ceiling surfaces, some trims, as well. On rubbing surfaces such as windows and
doors, floors, steps, is tough to keep the surfaces covered before wearing
out and exposing the lead dust again.

The best thing to do with lead paint is to handle it as least amount as possible.
If short term is your goal, wash the surfaces with TSP (trisodium phosphate) and
rinse thoroughly with clean water. Let dry. Paint the walls and ceilings with an
oil based primer to seal the lead off and paint with choice of latex or oil base
paints for a finish. If sanding is needed, always use wet and dry sandpaper,
using it keep the dust down.
Oil base primer is my choice for sealing the lead paint off. Your paint dealer may
have an appropriate acrylic latex primer which does the same job.
Check with him first.

Here is a good brochure from the US government on lead paint:

Hope this helps,




Hi Dave;
Do you provide drawings to make it easy to understand? Also, what is the turn
around time from the time your receive the information.

Dave what are your qualifcations?

Can you provide for me an example of how you would respond to question?
Would you also being providing a drawing, sketch or other when you reply to
clients questions. If so, here is an example.

Quesiton: I would like to build for my dining room a ceiling under the
already existing ceiling. The room size is 12'x21'x8' height.

I would like a new drywall finished drop or lowered ceiling to be 12"
wide x's the length and width.

I am wanting to install up lighting , threfore, the plan is to lay the puck
lighting on top since it is short in height.

I am wanting to cut out hole into the lowered ceiling around its permiter
to accommodate down lighting that is not more than 3" in height.

Please advise how this should be built.

Thanks Jim

If this proves to be a satisfactgory response, I have a few other questions like.
Wanting to make a facia and soffit on a flat gable. Other questions will
surely arise as well since I am in renovation mode in my home.


Hi Jim,

I usually draw up a sketch, if needed, to explain my answer. Turn around time
is usually a couple of days. I just got back from a short vacation, so time
was a little longer, up to a week. If I'm online and get a simple question,
I may answer it right then. I surprise a lot of members by doing that.

I'm a journeyman carpenter, certified by the Province of British Columbia, Canada.
The certification means only that I am accepted to work on a government project
- road, dam, building, etc. To get it I had to write an exam and prove that I had
at least 6 years of continuous employment in my trade. I became a journeyman
in 1966. You can see my bio by clicking this link:

If you like what you see, I invite you to join our website, get free plans,
access to ask me questions on your projects, access to our entire cache of
articles on how to do construction related projects and custom plans for a
nominal charge.

Although, my trade is carpentry, I'm very familiar with electrical and plumbing
as related to the residential building industry. If I can't answer a question,
such as an engineering question, I'll say so.

I won't answer your question until you become a member of our site. I don't
believe it is fair for our members who have paid for this service.



I need to create an 18" soffit around the exterior of a room. What is the best
and easiest way to box these out? In one place I will be even with the bottom
of a dropped header and the other walls are drywalled. How heavy of lumber to
I need for a small soffit like this (2x2)? Do I pre-assemble sections on the
floor and then raise into place or build them in place?

I'll show you how we do this with drywall:

Diagram of a ceiling soffit.

The 2x2s at number 1 and 2 are screwed into the wall studs and ceiling joists
at the desired places. The drywall is cut to the appropriate measurements with
a 2x2 attached to the edge of one side and hung from the ceiling.
The other is then attached to the wall 2x2 and the one hanging from the ceiling.
Just watch the measurement overlaps. Have the 1 - 3 drywall overlap
the 2 - 3 drywall.

I hope this is what you are wanting. This is also the way we box in an
air duct, etc.



 I was planning to purchase a set of double interior French doors for a room
 in the basement that is on a bearing wall so the wall is 2x6 construction.
 Note: The builder already framed in the opening. The lumber yard could
 only get the doors I want with 4 9/16 jambs. What is the best way to
 extend the jambs to fit. I don't want to try to build the jambs from
 scratch because I think it would be to much work to get everything aligned.
 Also do you happen to have any good plans for a 4' bath vanity with 2 center
 doors and 3 or 4 drawers on each side?


Hi Dale,

If you can't get the required jamb width, here is how to extend it yourself.
Usually we only have to extend the jamb by about 1/4" or 1/2" in most cases.
In this case I would do two extensions each 1" thick. Extend the jamb on the
thick side of the jamb, 1 1/4".
Rip two strips of material, out of solid wood, 1" thick x 1 1/8" wide.
Nail and glue these strips on around the jamb, after the jamb is in place
in the opening. Leave a smal reveal, about 1/8", as shown. This reveal looks
like a fancy jamb molding rather than an extension , if kept flush.
Paint will fill in the corner and hide the joint.

Diagram of how to secure a door jamb extension.

Regarding the vanity plan. I could draw you up a custom plan for $30.
If interested, just send me the measurements you have for your available
space and I'll draw the plans, including instructions for you. You can pay
me on line with Visa or MasterCard when you get the plans.


Well, that's all for now. Stay tuned to our next Newsletter in January for an interesting renovation of a garage loft and how to get a set of stairs up there, through the floor.

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