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Volume 3 Issue 2“Building Confidence”February 2005



Welcome to our new members and those reading this newsletter for the first time. This will give you an insight into some of the questions I receive from some of you out there and my answers. Thanks to those renewing their membership to our site, some hanging in there since May, 2003.

What's New

Series 2 on How to Build a House, The Foundation is finished and added to the website. Coming up will be the third issue: Perimeter Drainage. I'm also working on an article entitled How to Build Cabinets.

I added another plan for our list: Bedroom End Table

Dan updated our illustrations in the articles, I'll let him explain: "I just made it so the diagrams print out in black and white when you print the web page. This is so you don't have to use any of your color ink, which is generally more expensive than black ink. To print any page on our site, first click the Print Version button on the upper right corner of the web page (or at the bottom of the page near Dave's signature). That gets you the black and white page. It also automatically connects up your printer for you so you don't have to mess around with trying to find out how to send the page to the printer. Just turn on your printer's On-Off switch or button, make sure it's got some paper in it and click the Print button in the little window (called a dialog box) that shows up over the web page."

Ask Away!

Last month I featured a project with Art. He was a little overwhelmed at the newsletter. Well, I'll let him tell it:


Well....I'm a little stunned by the newsletter and a bit embarrased.  I'm not
so sure that my questions warrant the entire newsletter or just that I
completely monopolized your time in January!  At any rate, thanks for your
kind words.  You've been an awesome teacher and I have so much enjoyed being
the student.  I couldn't have done it without you!  And that's not
an exageration.

I've been busy the last few days.  The lighting and all electrical is in
place and operating.  The last piece of drywall was put up last night.
Left to do is the mudding, ( this part I'd personally like to hire out,
but the budget won't allow),  installation of the finished oak treads and
the railing/balusters.  Barring any problems, I think I'm clear on what
to do at this point from your past emails and the articles you've recommended.

I'll send some photos when I finish up in the next few weeks and let you see
the final product.  Keep in touch.  You "done good" my friend!


Hi Art,

Didn't mean to embarrass you!! Your identity is our little secret. I had
other questions alright in Jan. but it was your project I thought would be
a good example to show people. Most of my questions pertain to stairs, but
I'm branching out a bit. I'm about to answer someone's "question", involving
24 separate questions on everything from wiring, plumbing, and drywall.

Thanks for the thanks, that's what life is all about, really.



As I was telling Art, here are Dale's questions:

  I have a variety of questions as I move into additional stages of my
 1) Do you have some rules of thumb for estimating how many lights,
 outlets, etc. can be put on a 15 or 20 amp circuit?  I know local
 building codes may vary and I will not hold you to your answers but
 I am trying to figure out the best way to setup circuits in my basement.
 The following are some of the rules I have come up with but I am not
 sure if they are valid.  Please give me your thoughts.
   a) All basement/below grade and wet location outlet circuits must
   have GFI outlet at the start of the circuit.   Is GFI required for
   light only circuits?
   b)  Kitchen circuits should be 20 amp and only have about 4 outlets
   per circuit.  Kitchen outlets should be about 4' apart max.
   c)  Rooms (like living room or bedroom must have one outlet within
   4 feet of the door and then no more than 8 feet apart.
   d) Microwaves must be on a dedicated 20 amp circuit
   e) Standard refrigerators do not need a separate circuit but should
   apply to the 4 outlet rule above.
   f) No hiding junction boxes
   g) Nail plates over any wire less than 1 1/4 inches from the stud
   h) If I want to prewire for a future outside hottub, how big of
   wire should I run?
   j) 15 amp circuits are made to handle a max. of (I believe) 1800
   watts.  What is the real value and what is the value for 20 amp
   k) Should outlets and lights in a bedroom or living room be on the
   same circuit?
   l) I was planning at least one circuit per room and several in the
   kitchen.  The following is a list of the rooms I am working on:
   exercise room, pool room, theater/living room, kitchenette/bar,
   full bath, hobby room, hall, storage/furnace room and bedroom.
   m) Is there a max. number of can lights I should put on one circuit
   based on 65 watt bulbs?
2) Drywall
    a) Should the ceiling be done before the walls?
    b)  What is the best way to mark outlets when putting up drywall
    and then cutting them out?  I heard about a "nail" adapter that
    can be put in an outlet to poke a hole when the drywall is put up
    and then using a rotozip to "router out" the outlet.  I have tried
    to use a rotozip but have problems staying right around the box.
    What is the trick to using a rotozip to cut out outlets?
3) Flooring
    a) I want to mount the toilet as soon as possible but was wondering
    if I need to install the tile floor before setting the toilet or
    can I put spacers under the toilet and put the tile in latter
    (I assume I would need to pull the toilet and reinstall it at that
    time) or mount toilet tight to floor and cut tile in around it.
    I plan to use 12x12 ceramic tile.
4) Doors
    a) Can I or should I mount door frames prior to drywalling?
    If I do mount door frames right away, should I stain and varnish
    them right away to keep out drywall dust and then wrap them in
    plastic until I am done with drywalling and remove it before
    installing the trim boards?  I would like to mount the doors now
    just to get them out of the way.  They were on sale so I got them
    now even though it may be a few months before I get around to
     b) How wide should I rough in for a 4' French door (50", 51" ??)
5)  Trim
    a) What size nails should I use for nailing in the top and bottom
    of the base and trim.
    b) What is the best way to make a curved oak baseboard for a
    rounded wall?  If curf cutting, how close, wide and deep should
    the curf cuts be?  Does anyone make a flexible oak base?
6) Tub install/rough-in
     a) If I have a full one piece tub enclosure, do I put any drywall
     behind the tub walls or do they go directly to the studs and
     waterproof drywall slips over the edge of the tub enclosure.
      b) How far out from the front of the tub should I use waterproof
      drywall vs regular drywall?
      c) Do I need to have a stud on the two  front edges of the enclosure?
      d) How do in take out the stationary door on a Pella sliding patio
      door if I need more room to get a French door or tub in the basement?

Hi Dale,

Wow! Lots of questions.

1) Lights and plugs circuits are 15 Amp # 14 wire and can have up to 12
plugs or lights combined. Best to combine plugs and lights, then if the
circuit blows some lights are still left on another circuit. When connecting
lights and plugs, keep them polarized with the black wire going to the brass
screw and the white wire connecting to the silver screw. Only one black and
white wire per fixture. To carry on to another fixture use a short wire,
called a pigtail, to connect to the wire by using a marrette, or wire nut.
Don't connect another wire to the double screw in the plug or light
receptacle, at least this is the required method in my area.

 a) GFCI Rules:
All plug outlets within 118" of a tub or shower must be GFCI (Ground Fault
Circuit Interupter)
All plug outlets within 118" of a wash basin must be GFCI. These first
two do not apply to washing machine or dryer plugs installed in a combined
washroom or bath and laundry room.
All carport plugs must be GFCI.
All outdoor plugs are GFCI, except for the Christmas lights plug if over
8' above the ground. All outdoor plugs should be on one circuit by
themselves up to 12 plugs.
Use only 2 wire cable, GFCI won't work with 3 wire cable.
Lights only are not required to have GFCI.

 b)  Kitchen counter plugs are normally 14 - 3 wire 15 Amp, split receptacle
 and should be within 36" of each other, along the same counter.
 If the counter top is less than 12" wide it doesn't need its own plug,
 otherwise every counter needs its own plug. These plugs are on a separate
 circuit only 2 per circuit and not adjacent to each other. A split
 receptacle is when the brass side of the receptacle is split, removing the
 tie between the two screws. Just twist it off with pliers. This creates
 two circuits - a black wire is attached to the one screw and a red to the
 other. The black and red wires are called the load and are directly
 attached to the breakers in the panel. The white wire is attached,
 as usual, to the silver screw with the tie left attached. Notice on the
 panel the two main vertical bars on which the breakers are attached.
 Unless you shut off the main breaker, these are hot so don't touch them
 and hang onto the panel at the same time. Notice that the breakers
 attach to each of the bars alternatively. When installing a double
 breaker for 220 Volt or a split receptacle for two circuits, be sure
 to install the breaker so that the connections of the breaker attaches
 to alternate bars. Each bar is 110 Volts. The black or red wire attaches
 to the breakers and the white wire attaches to the neutral bar obtaining
 110Volts. For 220 Volts the red and black are attached to opposite bars
 through the breaker without a neutral, the ground is attached to the ground
 or bonding bar. In a dryer connection you need the red and black wires for
 the 220 Volt element as well as the white for the neutral for 110 Volt to
 run the motor and timers, etc. The 110 Volt is obtained internally off the
 terminal block inside the dryer.
20 amp plugs are allowed in the kitchen, but must be wired with #12 wire and
have a special 20 amp receptacle, only one 20 amp receptacle per circuit.

c)  Plugs around a room must be no further than 6' away - most lamps, etc.
have 6' cords. These areas don't count the swing of the door against a wall,
windows that extend to the floor, fireplaces,  other permanent installations
which limit the use of a wall. A wall less than 36" doesn't need its own
plug. Bedroom plugs must now be protected with an arc-fault type breaker.
A normal breaker will only trip with an overload not a short. This new type
will trip with both. Check this out in your area.
Hallways have their own rule, one plug within 15 ft of each other without
going through a doorway.

d) Only if in a separate microwave built in cavity. These are 15 Amp 14 wire.
e) Fridges should be on there own circuit a clock receptacle is also allowed
	 on this same circuit.
f) No hiding junction boxes Correct, they should always be accessible.
g) Nail plates over any wire less than 1 1/4 inches from the stud surface.
h) For prewiring for a future outside hot tub, this depends on the size of
	 motor and heater, contact your dealer for this. A GFCI breaker is probably
	 required. The motor needs one circuit and the heater is probably 220 Volt
	 needing 2 circuits.
j) 15 Amp circuit at 120 Volts is 1800 W, correct.
   20 A at 120 V = 20 x 120 =2400 W.
k)  Yes, outlets and lights in a bedroom or living room should be on
   the same circuit?
l) I was planning at least one circuit per room and several in the
   kitchen.  The following is a list of the rooms I am working on: exercise
   room, pool room, theater/living room, kitchenette/bar, full bath, hobby
   room, hall, storage/furnace room and bedroom.
m) Just mix circuits up with plugs up to 12 per circuit. The wattage is
   already considered in this mix, as well as the numbers of plugs and lights
   used at the same time.

2) Drywall
a)  Yes the ceiling should be done before the walls
b)  The pros use a router with a 1/8" special cutting bit. they mark the
    approximate location of the hole, then insert the bit at the top or
    bottom of the box (more room for the plate to cover) and rout out the
    box by guiding the bit against the outside of the box. This can be done
    with a rotozip as well. It makes a lot of dust, I prefer just to measure
    the location of the box and cut it out with a drywall saw.

3) Flooring
a) Yes, the toilet is installed after the tile is laid and grouted.
   If this is going to take awhile, temporarily mount it over some
   polyethylene and purchase another wax seal when doing the final

4) Doors
a) Doors should be installed after the drywall is installed. the drywall
    hold the studs secure. The drywallers would probably whine if the doors
    or even jambs were in place since they like to come to the door and cut
    out the door opening after the drywall is in place. The jamb would be
    in the way for this.
b) For rough-in add 2" plus the doors. With a double door add 1/4" so
    allow 50 1/4"

5)  Trim
a) I like to use 1 3/4" for nailing casing and base, they are the same
    diameter as 1 1/2". With air nails, I use 2"
b) Good one!! I haven't had much success cutting the back of a base for
    bending around a curved wall, for a stained or natural wood finish,
    painted it's okay. What I did in my house was make a steam box and use
    solid oak base, not fingerjointed, and steamed it. It worked great.
    For the base that was painted I use solid oak as well and just painted
    it after installation. I think they make oak style base out of plastic
    that can be bent , but... Plastic.

Wow, finished! Remember that the electrical answers are based on the Canadian
Code, British Columbia Ammendments. Use them for reference only. Here we can
do the wiring in our own homes under a homeowner permit. I purchased a
Red Book, we call it, written by an ex-electrical inspector. It is an
excellent guide for the homeowner. I had absolutely no problem at all wiring
my house, panel and meter base, service mast, everything myself. The inspector
didn't check it out that well, either, so relied on myself and the book.
The book was called Electrical Code Symplified - Residential. Try to find a
book such as this in your area. I bought mine in a building supply store,
about $12. Excellent guide for wiring. When wiring the panel come in square
with the wires and have them look neat and square off to the breakers.
The inspector was impressed with my panel job. I've seen lots of huge
industrial panels on big jobs I was on, so I copied their idea of being very
neat and organized. All wires around the perimeter of the box, away from the

6) The one piece tub installs against the framing and is screwed right to the
studs through the flange along the top and down the outside. So you need a
stud down the sides under the flange. The drywall is then placed up to the
top of the flange. I put a wood casing around my tub installations, covering
the gap between the flange and the drywall. Then caulk on top of the casing
and against the tub with paintable latex with silicon caulking. If doing tile
above the tub the tile comes down to or against the tub and is caulked at
the tub. I've been living in my house since new in 1992 and the casing still
looks good. Don't use MDF casing, though, in the bathroom, at all, only real
wood such as fingerjoint pine. The green board is used around the top of the
tub enclosure and ceiling over the tub.
I'm not sure about removing the stationary door in a sliding door. It may be
screwed in from the frame, so the svrews are not accessible once installed.

I've never done this. Maybe check with the supplier of Pella windows.
There is an option of installing a renovator tub that comes in two pieces so
it can be brought in after the doors are installed. It is then brought to the
bathroom where it is put back together and installed as a one-piece.



Dear Dave,

I own a century home in London (Ontario, Canada) and I'm preparing to do some
renovations. One of my projects involves installing a new subfloor (over
which new 3/4 inch hardwood will be installed). I'll be working from the bare
joists and was wondering if I should glue my t & g plywood to the joists as
well as use screws. If so, what glue do you suggest? As far as screws are
concerned, how many do you suggest for every 4 x 8 sheet? Thanks, Elias

Hi Elias,

Yes, glue should be used. Use a construction adhesive from a tube, such
as PL 400. It comes in the small and large tubes, depending which gun you
have. Screws are the best, but air nails and the adhesive is a good
combination, too. Nail or screws every 6" around the edges and 12" apart in
the middle of the sheet. Figure about 70 per sheet. Buy #8 x 2" deck screws
in bulk. Approximately 1/2 pound per sheet.

Dear Dave,

Thanks for the speedy answer to my subfloor question. Here's a follow-up
that is structural in question.

As I mentioned, my home is more than a hundred years old. I would add that
over the years, previous owners were rather clumsy in their dealings with
the home. In particular, sometime about 40 or 50 years ago, when central
heating was installed, a section of a floor joist (about three feet) on the
main floor was cut, which caused a part of the floor to sag in a couple of
areas (the dip is rather noticeable as it nears the wall). I would like to
correct this dip and level the floors, but I'm afraid that jacking up two or
three inches from the basement may cause undo stress. One idea I had was to
use a number of metal tele-posts (jack posts) in the basement to prop the
joists, ensuring that they never sag any deeper (they haven't moved in a
very long time), and then level the joists by building up from them,
that is, by adding 2 x 8 lengths on the inside of the joists in question
(tapering the 2 x 8s so as to adjust for the level). Any ideas? I include
a picture of the part of the floor in question.


Hi Elias,

I think you have the right idea with the jack posts. It took 40 or 50 years
to settle like this . If you have the time, jack up a bit and leave it for
another day. Even 1/8" per day, until slowly the floor is back to an even
plane. It's pretty hard to jack up the floor in an old house like that to get
it perfectly level, everywhere. Better to build it up from on top room by
room, as a reno is taking place, or just live with it, if it is not too bad.
Obviously, the picture you sent shows the settling from a joist being cut.
You should be able to jack this up quite easily. The tough part to fix is the
floor that needs to be jacked up under a wall. This is the part that I say to
maybe live with it or build it up on top of the floor. The walls are usually
plaster and if one starts jacking them up, cracks will appear, etc. Another
thing with jacking a wall up, is that the wall acts as a giant beam. To take
a sag out of a beam that is 8 or 9 feet high, is a pretty tough thing to do.
Better to leave it in place and build up the floor instead. Whenever a reno
is done on these old houses, I always try to get the homeowner to remove the
plaster and lath on the outside walls and insulate. Also a good time to
upgrade the electrical and plumbing. On interior walls remove the plaster
only and leave the lath, if it is in good shape. Install drywall over the lath.

Good luck,

Dear Dave,

Thanks for the advice regarding jacking up the floor (and building up from
the floor to get a level playing field for the subfloor application).

One additional questions about another matter: can you recommend techniques
door building (front doors, doors for bedrooms? Any literature on the matter?


Hi Elias,

Rather than building doors, I would try to find used doors and cut them down
to fit  or repair them. I've built doors for garages, and sheds as shown in
this article.
How to Build a Door

The doors in your house would be mortised and tenons, not an easy thing to
build. I've seen lots of these doors in second hand places and used reno
sales, etc.

I've ripped these doors down for width and length without much trouble.



How to do a basic roof?
How to do a basic deck?
I'm in California
Thanks Dave

Hi Dan,

A basic roof is a gable roof, check out this article and the one on the
steel square, as well.

Here is a drawing of a typical deck. In California, it depends on the
depth of frost there, how deep you have to go with the footings.

Diagram showing how to support a backyard deck with a concrete footing and column using a scab to hold the beam to the post.

Basically, the footing and concrete column supports a post, if you want the deck raised, or the beam could go right on the concrete, as well, for a low deck. The beam, then supports the joists which carry the decking material, usually 1 1/2" thick cedar - 2x4 0r 2x6. Recently, 5/4" decking is becoming popular. this is 1" thick material, rounded on its edges. For 3/4" or 1" the joists should be on 16" centers, for 1 1/2" decking the joists can be on 24" centers. You can eliminate the beam on the house side by attaching a ledger to the house framing and attach the joists to that with joist hangers. If the house wall cantilevers or is brick faced or uses pre-manufactured joist/trusses, the deck has to be free standing instead of atached to the wall. Also, I just wrote an article on building a house foundation: Check these out, then get back with me on any specific questions. Dave Hi Dave, Sorry I may not have been clear in my earlier mail. I meant I want to re roof/shingle my house. I think there are three composite layers on there now and the house is a single level 1500 sq ft rectangle, when viewed from the top, not a very complicated looking job. I'm an auto mechanic by trade and this job doesn't seem that hard to me. I just don't know how to do it...ha ha. Dan Hi Dan, Boy, was I ever off base!! Re-shingling a roof is not that hard, but with three layers on it now you have to remove everything right down to the sheathing. A roof is designed to hold no more than 3 layers of shingles on it. Most shingles weigh about 210 to 250 pounds per square or 100 square feet, 10' x 10', so you can see why the 3 layer rule. Start at the ridge of the roof and take off the caps and then continue down the roof. A garden spade works good. They make a roofers tool for removing shingles with a wedge under the spade to help lift the shingles off. When the shingles are all off, go over the entire roof deck and nail in any loose nails and pull out any sticking up, there will be a lot of them. Don't just hammer them over. Either nail them in all the way or pull them out, completely. Next, around the eaves of the roof install a 50 pound roofing felt that is non-perforated. This prevents any ice from backing up the roof and water going through. Then cover the entire roof deck that is left with a 15 pound non-perf. roofing felt, overlapping the joints by at least 4". Start at the eaves with your shingles. Depending on which type you are installing, there is a starter row to put on first. This protects the joints above it from water leaking in. Don't depend on the 50 pound roofing for this. Then continue up the roof. Every bundle of shingles I've put on always had instructions including drawings on the installation. Exposure, nails, etc. So take a few moments to read the instructions from the manufacturer. For the ridge and hip caps, I use the same colour of shingle but in a butt style shingle. These come in 3 tabs per shingle. With a utility knife, cut the 3 tabs off and bend them over the ridge with an exposure given on the bundle. Overhang the 50 lb. roofing felt and shingles about 1 1/2" at the eaves and about 1" at the gable. Don't overhang the 15 lb felt, keep it flush with the barge board, just overhang the shingles themselves. Make sure you tie yourself off to the ridge of the roof if it is a steep pitch, by using a good sized eye screw or plate for that purpose. Dave

Hope these questions and answers help you build enough confidence to do the job yourself. I'm only a computer click away if you need some advice.

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