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Volume 3 Issue 11“Building Confidence”November 2005



Welcome to our readers old and new. Wow, another month and Christmas will be here!

What's New

Dan, my brother and webmaster, in his wisdom, has come up with a new idea to issue gift certificates for access to our site. Similar to a gift certificate from a retail store, ours is an online purchase making it possible for you to give access to to your friends.

A gift membership to is a one time payment for either a three month period or a year and is activated when your friend first starts using it. If you buy a year gift membership and tell your friend about it, that year's access to would start when your friend first uses it in two months, for example, and lasts 12 months after that first access (14 months after you purchased it).

Dan wrote the software (and fully tested it!) so you can say exactly when your friend will be emailed with the Gift Certificate. You can have the email automatically sent on his birthday or on Christmas or any other holiday. Or, you can choose to have the Gift Certificate emailed to you so you can use it yourself or email it to your friend yourself.

The three month gift membership is a one time payment of $14.99, which gives your friend three months of full access to (including all articles, all plans and email help from Dave) starting when your friend activates the Gift Certificate. The year gift membership is a one time payment of $31.99, which gives your friend an entire year of full access to (including all articles, all plans and email help from Dave on your projects) starting when your friend activates it. These prices are an introductory special and are subject to change in the new year.

You can specify when you want your friend to be notified of your gift. An email will be sent to your friend at the time you select, which will contain full instructions on how they can access the site and acknowledges you as the giver of the gift.

Your friends are welcomed as full members of our site for the entire period that you purchase for them.

You have the choice of using your credit card (Visa or MasterCard) or using your account at PayPal, both very secure payment methods. We also give the choice of mailing a personal cheque or money order.

We have updated our Stairs articles, adding drawings that may hopefully explain details better. We have also added drawings to our dictionary for the same reason.

We have bundled our Stairs Articles for people, who for one reason or another don't want to be members of our site, but would like information on building their stairs. This package will include all the stairs articles, the Stair Calculator, the Construction Dictionary of construction terms (linked to words in the articles) and Frequently Asked Questions on stairs. This packaged price is $12.99, all downloaded to your computer.

I have decided to close my contracting business. This gives me more time to devote to our website and serve my community through my church. In the following weeks, I'll be pretty busy helping to make sets and back drops for our church's "Live Nativity" and the youth's pageant called "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever". I've never attended either of these before and encourage you all to get involved with your own communities during this special time of year.

Ask Away!

The following is a string of emails from Bill on a porch roof extension that I helped him with, you may have a similar project on the go.

Hi Dave,
Do you have any tips on cutting bevels beyond the circular saw's limits.
I am planning to build a wrap around porch with unequal sides which will
require the irregular hip rafter and jack rafters to be cut at approx. 63
degrees. The only way I can think of to do this safely is to use a hand
saw but I'd prefer to use my circular saw for a smoother more accurate
cut if possible. I have a Bosch saw that will go to 56 degrees.

Hi Bill,

Before I help you with making a jig to cut these pieces, I think I need to ask the question, Why is the hip not on a 45 degree angle? Maybe show me what you intend to build, with a drawing showing dimensions, etc. I think you may need some help with laying out the rafters. Dave

I've attached a very quick sketch of the addition and porch layout.
I do have a larger, more detailed plan but no way to send it unless you
can accept a .DWG drawing [a type of image file used in drafting
software]. As you can see the porch is 10 feet wide on one side and
only 5 feet wide on the other. I wanted the hip to extend from the
corner of the 2 intersecting roofs. The 10 foot side will have 2/12
roof pitch and the 5 foot side a 4/12 pitch. I did the calculations on
my Construction Master Pro calculator and this is what it gave me.
The rafters are 2 x 10s 24" OC [on center]. The hip is an LVL [Laminated
Veneer Lumber--used for beams] 1.75" x 11.25".

Hip diag. 11 feet 3 and 5/9 inches
Plumb: 8.48 degrees
Level: 81.52 degrees
Cheek 1: 26.57 degrees
Cheek 2: 63.43 degrees

Irregular Jacks:
IJOC = 24"
IJ1=4' 2 5/8"
IJ2= 3' 1 15/16"
IJ3= 2' 1 5/16"
IJ4= 1' 5/8"
And so on and so on.
I don't know if this gives you what you are looking for.
Thanks for your quick response

Hi Bill,

Got it!!

I suggest you go with an equal pitch roof. 2/12 is too low slope for shingles. Plot this drawing into your calc. and see what it says.

Diagram of porch addition showing rafters with measurements and roof pitches.

I'm taking for granted that the roof attaches to the walls of the house and you have the height below windows, etc.


Thanks for your feed back. I will do an elevation of this and see what
it looks like. It would make it a lot easier to run the hips at a 45
then what we had. The design I sent was what the structural engineer
came up with. As we know engineers don't necessarily make good designers
or carpenters. We do have height on the 30 foot side to get the 4/12
pitch. I assume the 5 foot side would stay the same and that the roof
would meet properly at the intersection of the two roofs (which will be
revealed when I do the elevation).

I will let you know how this works out for us. I appreciate your
attention to my situation.

Okay, Bill,

Some engineers are just not practical. I've never seen a hip installed that is not on a 45 degree. That's what started me thinking, why do you have a hip not on a 45? I built a duplex with a roof line similar to yours and did it this way.

I've done reno work for a structural engineer that his questions would surprise me. Maybe he was just testing me, I don't know. Oh, well!

Interesting if you take my drawing back to the engineer and see what he says.


A while later...

I'm building an addition with a wrap around porch that is 10 feet wide
on one side and 5' wide on the other. The engineer calls for 2 x 10
rafters for the 10 foot side and 2 x 6 rafters on the short side 24" O.C.
The two sides joined will create a hip roof but I am wondering how to
make the 2 roofs come out even with 2 different size rafters?
There aren't that many rafters so I'm thinking it would be easier just
to make them all 10" rafters for the little difference in price.
Am I thinking right or is this an easy solution. My thought is that the
only way to make the tops of the rafters even would be to build up the
side with the 6" rafters but I don't like that idea as the facia would
not match the facia on the other side. You helped me out with a question
regarding the hip on this same roof that I'm finally getting around
to building. Thanks for your advice.

Hi Bill,

I remember your earlier question. Are you the one who's engineer wanted to put in a hip rafter not on a 45?

Anyway, another way to approach this problem is to cut the overhang of the 2x10 rafter to match that of a 2x6 rafter. This way the fascia will be the same size. Another way we do this is to cut the rafter off flush with the outside wall and then scab a 2x6 onto it for the overhang. I prefer the first method, myself. This way the rafter has a bird's mouth which holds the wall better.


Yes I am the one with the earlier question. Cutting the 2 x 10 to match
the 2 x 6 seems like a simple enough solution but I can't quite see how
the 2 x 10s and the 2 x 6s will be on the same plane. Wouldn't the
bird's mouth of the 2 x 10 have to be much deeper than that of the 2 x 6
to make the top of the rafters be the same? I've tried to visualize this
but I just can't get it through my head how they will match up. Probably
overlooking something very obvious?
Thank you for your quick reply,

Good point, Bill,

I think you should get a new engineer!! I looked up your plan. Your rafter span with a 4/12 pitch will be 10'-6.5" less 3.5" for the plate less 1.5" for the ledger against the wall leaving 10'-1.5" for the span. A span is considered the distance between supports.

For a 40 lb snow load using spruce, pine or fir #2 and better a 2x6 rafter is good on 24" centers.

For a 50 lb snow load it is good for 16" centers.

For a 60 lb snow load it is still good for 16".

What part of the country do you live in?

If you use 2x6s for the rafters on both sides this will eliminate your problem. If he feels the span is too great, ask him about putting in a 2x4 web from the top of the ceiling joist at the house up to the center of the rafter span. This is if you live in an area of greater than 60 lb per square foot snow and wind load.

Sorry Bill, I just don't have too much confidence in this engineer of yours. Dave


You must be working overtime. Your response time is incredible.
The annual membership fee is money well spent.

I live in Vermont. I looked up the insurance company's chart on
expected snow loads for my town and they say it's 50 lb but suggest
a safety margin of 10 lbs per square foot or 60 lb. So based on your
calculations 2 x 6s will do the job? This would save me a considerable
amount of money. While talking about this same subject he has designed
2 x 10 support beam for the floor and roof with 2 x 8 joists.
Does this sound ok or is it over-designed also.

To the engineer's credit the original design had more of a 2/12 pitch
but I believe we can get a 4/12 without a problem.

Hi Bill,

Just for interest I looked up Vermont snow loads: Wow! It varies from 40 in Burlington, 45 in St. Albans (below 600ft), 50 in Bennington and up to 70 in Montpelier. The safety factor is already worked into the snow loads.

2x10 for beams and 2x8 floor joist sound reasonable, depending on the span of the beams. A 2/12 pitch is too low for shingles, the minimum is 3/12 for shingles.


A while later...

Dear Dave,

Thought you might be interested in how our porch roof ended up thanks
to your help. We had to settle for a 3.5" pitch because of having to
match the roof up to the room on the left and because of the eaves
from the main roof. All in all I'm pleased with the way it turned out
despite the fact that there were some minor mistakes but then again
I wouldn't consider myself a carpenter. I've had worse mistakes by so
called professionals in their trade. It certainly was not the easiest
roof for an amateur to build.  Thanks again.


Photo of a porch roof a member built.

Photo of the porch roof built by our member.

Thanks for the pics, Bill,

We learn by our mistakes. You know in my years as a contractor I've never had a "perfect" job. There was always something I had to do to split the difference in the original plumb or level, something was out of square a bit, so I had to compensate. I remember only one job that came close. I was renovating a bathroom in an old house, doing everything myself. I replaced the cast iron tub for a new modern fiberglass one, new valve and fixtures, counter top and sink. I just laid the ceramic tile tub surround and was applying the grout. A tiny speck in the corner of one of the tile caught my eye. I felt it and it was raised a bit. I took a flat head screw driver and put the blade against the protrusion and bumped it off with my hand. A tiny piece of the corner of the tile came off with it. I could hardly notice it, but it wasn't perfect!! I was so disappointed, because up to that point everything on this job just fit into place perfectly.

Your job looks good. I notice the columns are supported under them to the footings. From 1000 miles away it looks well done!!

Glad I could help.

I'll get Dan to put the pictures up on the website, along with your story.


You can find Bill's photos on our website on the Photos Page.

Our next exchange happened when someone ordered our Child's Picnic Table plans and Dan noticed that they paid twice.


I noticed that you paid twice for the child table plans. Once at 10:13 PST and again at 10:27 PST. Then you downloaded the plans at 10:28.

I voided your first payment so you've only paid once.

Remember to ask Dave any questions about the plans or your project. He's just an email away.

Dave's brother and webmaster

Thanks,  we will be using these plans to have the State Prison in
our town make 4 picnic tables for our City Park.  Do you know if
this plan would comply with ADA requirements?
Glenna May

I'll CC this to Dave. He's the expert here.

Dave's brother and webmaster

Hi Glenna May,

The plans you purchased probably would not comply with the ADA. (American Disability Act) They could probably be easily modified for access by a wheelchair on one or both ends by moving in the end frame, as shown:

Diagram of child picnic table side view with measurements.

Diagram of the side view of the child picnic table with measurements and where to nail.

Notice I notched out the end crossbar to allow wheelchair access. Remember this is for small children, so I allowed for a small child's wheelchair.

To provide bracing for the table, having removed the bracing under the table, notice I installed some cross bracing under the bench.

May I suggest you run this by your ADA local government department for their approval first. I would appreciate any feedback from them.

Hope this helps,

Dave Dave: I`m building the 10' X 10' gazebo, Hip roof. I`m having trouble with the hip rafters, I feel like I got the top plumb cut fine and the bottom with the tail but seem to be messing up the birds mouth. I'm not sure exactly how to cut the seat cut depth. I cut mine 2" plus and 1 7/16" plus a 1/4" for the drop and still seem to be about a 1/2" high. Can you help me out on this and maybe make a diagram to get me through this. Thanks so much. Rick

Let's take this from a different perspective.

Measure the amount of rafter left above the seat cut. On the common rafter it should be around 4 1/2", as shown on my drawing. Measure yours.

Diagram of hip cut in a hip rafter and a seat cut in a common rafter with measurements.

Layout the hip rafter similar to the common, except use 5 and 17 on the square instead of 5 and 12. Measure down the plumb line 4 1/2" or whatever your measurement was on the common. Go back up 1/4" to allow for the hip drop, since the hip's edges are higher than its center.

Then at 90 degrees to the plumb line and at the drop point scribe a line for the seat cut. Trim off the tail of the rafter at 5 1/2" so it won't be below the soffit line.

The area to cut out is shown in grey.

My drawing on the plan may be a bit misleading for the hip seat cut.

Hope this helps,


Well, that's it for this time. The next newsletter will be after Christmas, so enjoy this time with your family.

My Christmas gift to you is to encourage you to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. Attend a "Live Nativity" in your area.

"God bless us, everyone!"


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