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Volume 4 Issue 3“Building Confidence”March 2006



Dan and I would like to welcome our newest readers to this issue of our newsletter, as well as to those who became new members of our website recently and thanks to the "old timers" who are still with us. We hope you all well with your remodeling and projects.

What's New

I've been busy on various projects around the house and for my church for Easter, along with answering your questions including custom plans.

With our security these days, on our computers, I'm noticing a few emails are coming back to me marked as spam or not recognizing my email address. Please ensure that you inform your computer if you expect to get a reply from me. My brother and webmaster, Dan, is willing to help you with your email settings to ensure you have an open email line on your computer to us. Just send him an email if you need help with your spam settings.

Ask Away!

Here are some of the questions and my answers for the month of March:

Hi Dave!

Enjoyed your recent newsletter, thanks!

I have a couple questions regarding applying brick to the concrete slab
floor of my front porch.

What type of brick should be used?  We have some brick which matches the
house but there are 2 rows of holes down the middle of each brick.
We are assuming these holes assist in application to the exterior walls,
but are they appropriate for the floor of the porch?  We would like to
be able to use them but don't want the porch to look silly if they are
not the correct type.

Second question -- are bricks applied to the porch floor with a thinset
(as with ceramic or porcelain tile) or with brick mortar that matches
the house?

Your daughter is lucky to have a great Dad like you coming to her rescue!
(want to adopt me ? : )

take care!


Hi Pat,

I sent your "adopt me" note to Sabrina for a laugh!!

The bricks you describe are for a wall installation. I wouldn't use them on a floor unless the holes are filled with mortar and laid with the face up. If you drop something heavy on the floor, they are liable to break easily. Try to get the solid type or the patio blocks. You want solid bricks for around openings since you will see the face and one edge. You can lay the bricks in thin set or mix up mortar yourself, which may be cheaper for a large area. You can buy bags of Mortar Mix similar to Concrete Mix.


hi, dave, it's Mickey from Reading, Pa again.
I have permission from a local land owner to tear down an approximately
100 year old barn on his property. I approximate it to be about 20' X 35'
and 2.5 stories high. I only saw it once but plan on going back this week
to get another look at it. It has a stone foundation up to about 3' tall
and then the wooden structure. I think 4 support walls on the bottom
floor which is open because a combine is living there now. the up stairs
is all open except some cross beams. the floor is rotted and the wood
siding is shot, but i want it for the beams and floor joist to make wood
projects....I couldn't let them just burn it like they were going to.
I never brought a building down like this before so I was going to tether
2 trucks to it and gentle bring it down to the ground by weakening the
base...maybe with chainsaws like you would a big tree. can i get some
Ideas from you or feedback.

Hi Mickey,

Remember to have the rope to the trucks longer than the height of the building!!

These old timber buildings were usually well built. They have braces built into the framing to hold the walls square rather than depending on sheathing. The rotten siding probably doesn't have too much effect on the structure, so don't let its condition fool you into thinking it will be easy to pull down.

You probably need only to remove the braces on the bottom floor. Remove any from the inside that can't be removed from the outside. By removed I mean cutting a chunk out of them, not just a saw cut, with the chain saw. With a 20' span you probably don't have a center beam with posts, but if you do, remove those braces first. Then remove the two outside walls (35') braces from the outside. If it starts to go you can get out of the way quickly. If the top floor doesn't collapse, at least it is 10' closer to the ground so you can work on it safer.

Good Luck,


As time goes by... a follow up:

hi, Dave, it's Mickey from Reading, Pa.  The tear down of the old barn
went a lot longer than planned, but well with no injuries.  It was all
pin and tenon together.  I live in a big Amish area and think that may
have influenced it.  I'm not real good with identifying wood, so is
there a web sight that you know of that gives pictures/descriptions of
milled wood.  The barn sat on about 40 pylons...some i can i.d. as oak
but others look different.  I've been trying to think of what they may
have used.  birch, cherry, maple, mahogany to name a few.  they are
EXTREMELY  heavy, about 8 to 9' long and cut into 6x6, 6x7, 7x8 on an
avg.  one is so dark it look like the dark luguan subfloor.  anyways,
thanks for the advice on a rope 2x the height of the building...
I didn't think of that.
have a good week.

Hello, Thank you for offering this service as part of membership. To keep things brief, I am planning for a stairway in our 100 year old home. Because of space limitations, I am planning to build a winder staircase. My problem is that I am having a bit of a problem visualizing the way the stringers are built at the point the stairs form the 90 degree turn. If you have anything prepared illustrating the way it is done or can prepare some information, I would appreciate it. Thanks in advance. -Jerry

Hi Jerry,

I've written an article on winders and answered questions on this, as well. There is a picture of a members stairs he built using winders. These are all on our website. Our website is getting more and more info on it. To help our members find all this stuff, my brother and webmaster, Dan, put in a search engine to find key words just on our website. Give it a try. You'll find it at the top left on every page - a box with a link to click on - Find. Simply type in the key word, in this case, winders, click on Find and you will have a list of all the places on our site that you will find the word winder. Give it a try.

When you get an idea of how your stairs will work for winders, let me know and I can help lay them out for you along with framing ideas. Be sure to look at the member's pictures page for that photo on the winders. It shows the framing stage of them.

If you can't find these articles, let me know that too and I'll send you the links. Hope you found the Stair Calculator. This only works for straight stairs, though, but will give the rises and the number for any stair.


Dave,  Have you any suggestions for the BEST methods for hanging shelves
or other heavy objects from drywall where using a stud won't work?

Hi Terry,

The best anchor is a screw in the stud. Sometimes I put a small 90 degree angle bracket on the top of the shelf unit or under a shelf screwed into the shelf as well as into the stud.

Photo of a drywall anchor.There are anchors for drywall which hold quite well. My favorite is a plastic E-Z drywall anchor that is screwed into the drywall, then a screw is screwed into it, as shown in the picture. It is designed to drill its own hole. I use these for towel rod holders, etc.

For hanging pictures there are hangers designed to hold 100 lbs. just by fastening to a bracket nailed into the drywall. For heavy weights such as this try to use more than one anchor to spread the weight around.

Hope this helps,


Can you tell me how to install a shower valve in my new bathroom.
The two 1/2" water pipes are stubbed out between two 2X4's in the wall.
I just don't know how to mount the valve between them. Is there some
type of special bracket that is made to do this?

Hi Bob,

Sometimes the valve has brackets to screw to backing between the studs, Most times the valve doesn't have anything for this at all. Regardless, backing, a 2x4 or 2x6, is fastened on the flat in between studs and centered with the shower drain. Usually the instructions will give the distance the valve should be back from the finished shower wall, depending on the finished trim you have selected.

The valve is then fastened to the backing with plumbers metal strapping. The hot and cold water supply should connect directly to the valve inside the wall, they should not be stubbed out. The plumber probably stubbed them out as a temporary service so he could turn the water on. So before removing the supply pipes from these stub outs turn the water off.

Depending on the type of valve you got it will take either 1/2" female iron pipe adapters or 1/2" copper pipe sweated fittings. If you sweat the copper pipe fittings to the valves remove any rubber washers, etc before heating the valves up, so you don't damage them.

The shower head should be on the same center line vertically. For a shower only, the valve is centered horizontally at 54" above the finished floor with the head at 78" above the finished floor.

For a tub/shower combination, the valve is centered with the drain and 15 1/2" above the tub rim, the spout is centered 4" above the tub rim and the head is 78" from the finished floor. If you have the original instructions with the unit follow their specs.



I would appreciate any feedback from you regarding finishing the
interior pine side of an out-swing french door patio door.

After applying a conditioner (per Minwax's recommendation) I am
considering applying a gel stain.

Is any sanding necessary?

Thanks, Dan

Hi Dan,

Yes, sanding is needed to remove any mill glaze from the boards used. This should be about 100 grit paper, sanded with the grain or with an orbital sander. I prefer gell stain, myself. I apply it with a rag and rub it in good.



Just to clarify, in addition to the sanding of the raw wood, is any
sanding necessary after application of stain and/or polyurethane?

Do you think that polyurethane, such as Minwax's "Wipe On Poly", is the
way to go for a final finish, or is another finish like Minwax's
"Wood Sheen" (gel stain and lustre finish in one) a better alternative?

Thanks, Dan

Hi Dan,

I would not sand after the stain. Put the first coat of finish on then sand very lightly with 220 grit between layers to remove any dust and grain raise. I like using the Varathane product called Professional finish. It comes in a black label, it is oil based, but dries fast. I don't like to use a finish and stain in one application. If you want the stain darker or lighter it is sealed and can't be re-stained without removing the clear finish. Minwax is a good product, I've just had experience with the Varathane products.


Hi Dave

I'm going to be developing a basement. I live in Calgary, AB, so it gets
cold here in the winter. I want to put a subfloor down. A couple of options:
1. A product called dri-core, they are 2ft.X 2ft. sq of 3/4" osb with a
vinyl waffled backing which goes directly on the cement. The pieces all
are tongue and grooved to fit together as a floating floor. 2. 1X4's glued
to the cement with 3/4" styrofoam cut to fit in between.I would leave a
1/2" space between all materials for breathing purposes. On top of this
I would screw down 7/16" osb for the finished floor. The first one I believe
is much less labor intensive to install, but would it be warm enough in your
opinion? Can I also install ceramic tile on this for my bathroom? I know
with the first one I can? I'm just not sure whether the 7/16" is sufficient
for the tile?
Thanks Barry

Hi Barry,

Hi Calgary!! One of my daughters and her family live in Cochrane!!

The dricore is a good product to get the finished floor off of the concrete. It is not suitable for ceramic installation since the tile would have too much movement. I believe it would be warm enough.

1x4 or 2x4 strapping on the concrete with 1 1/2" styrofoam ( for 2x4) is the best. The sub-floor should be minimum 5/8" thick, though, with the joists at 16" on centre. With ceramic tile another layer of min. 5/8" sub-floor is applied and screwed to the underside every 6" on centre.


I am building a Hip roof over my front porch. I have several questions
that I cannot seem to get answers for.
1) I have to put my post on concrete 42" deep (per Code). How do I
anchor the post on top of the concrete.
2) Is it better to use a beam on top of the post or bolt 2 x8's to
either side.
3) The main beam will be 24 feet long. the side beams will be 9 feet.
How do I attach the side beam to the main beam and the house.
4) Should the common rafter be attached to the ledger board or rest
on top
I have attached a diagram of the roof, form the front. are my beam
sizes and rafter sizes OK for the span.
I will send another email with the top view.

Hi John,

1. Embed a post saddle into the top of the post into the wet concrete, after leveling it off.
Check out this plan: Also our dictionary defines a post saddle along with a picture of one.

2. I prefer to always put the beam on top of the post with a scab over the post and beam. From:
   Use a 2x4 or 2x6 cleat or scab over the joint of the beam and post, with a 45 bottom cut, nailed with 3" galvanized nails, too. The drawing shows the scab.

3. Usually the side beams are attached to the ledger on the house with a double joist hanger. They are attached to the main beam with nails, toe-nailed into the posts with a scab over the joint of the beam and posts.

4. I need the drawing to see how you intend to tie the porch and house roofs together. They were not attached.


What width should indoor stairs be? They will be going to a master
bedroom upstairs. I was`thinking about 42". They will be a strait run.
what thickness should a concrete footing be?

Yes, 42" is a good width of stairs. The minimum, as suggested by the
building code, is 36" above the handrails to the finished drywall, etc.

Hi David,

The thickness of a footing depends on the width of the wall, the soil conditions and the number of stories and weight of materials and occupants in a structure.

In my area a standard single family residence of up to two stories and a roof the concrete foundation wall is 8" thick. With an 8" wall the maximum overhang of a footing on each side is 4". This gives us a width of 16". The footing thickness is usually 6", but 8" is also required in certain soil conditions. We form the footing with either a 2x6 or 2x8 on each side. I always put 2 1/2" rebars in the footing, hung off the top cleats, for added strength.

See my article on house foundations:


how do you frame in a bifold door? what are the rough opening measurements?

Hi Linda,

This is taken from my article on How to Frame a Wall:

A bi-fold closet has a finished opening of the size of the door, so allow for that when framing it in. That is, the rough opening would include the thickness of the wall finish, say 1/2" drywall, for example, plus the door. For a 3068 bifold, the rough opening would be 37" by 80 1/2" plus 1" for carpet or hardwood. So lay out accordingly.


Dave, I have a customer with occasional condensation from a drain pipe
in the basement ceiling. The area is finished and has a dropped
ceiling. One particular place gets stained each year as best we can
discern. I presume it gets damp in the summer months and perhaps cold
waste water running through the pipe creates the condensation and then
drips in the ceiling tile. It isn't much, but just enough to stain the
tile. In your humble, but of course accurate opinion, could insulating
the 2" PVC solve the issue? :>)
Thanks! John

Hi John,

Yes, I think you are on the right track. If this persists check out the roof jack that the vent pipe goes through the roof to be sure it is tightly sealed against the outside of the pipe. The vent is required to slope toward the drain when rain water gets inside so it will not plug the vent, but drain out. If any water is on the outside of the pipe it also could leak down the outside of the pipe to a point where it will drip off. Usually vent pipes do not need to be insulated through a cold attic, but may be picking up drops of condensation anywhere along its length from dripping exhaust fan vents, or a leaky roof jack, etc.


I just became a new member and I already have a question for you. I plan
on dropping my ceiling and printed out your article describing how to do it,
which I found very clear and easy to understand. My question applies to my
situation with my house and my existing ceiling. I have a "flat roof" on my
house ( 1 and 12 ) so I have no attic space and my ceiling is composed 4x6
beams 32" on center. I guess I am trying to say that my roof is also my
ceiling, if that makes sense. My roof is comprised of insulation board
(which you can see between the beams from the inside of the room), plywood,
roofing paper and asphalt shingles. My concern is this...can it be possible
to put too much weight on the existing beams/roof by dropping the ceiling?
The room's dimensions are 14'x16'. I was hoping to drop the ceiling so I
could level the ceiling (since it is pitched ) and put in canned lighting,
but worry that tying into the existing beams may put too much weight or
stress on them.
I hope I haven't proven you wrong and this IS a stupid question.

Hi Diane and welcome,

This is a good question!! Your concern is valid. You didn't provide me with enough info, though. I need to know the snow load or where you live for roof loads.

I'm guessing here that the 4x6 beams you see are actually 4x8 beams, at least they should be for a 14' span and minimal snow load. I also suspect that someone before you has added the styrofoam insulation between the beams on the inside. Usually these roofs were made with tongue and groove 2x6 or 3x6 boards with the good side down to make a nice looking ceiling between the beams. On top of the boards would be built-up roofing consisting of a layer of styrofoam insulation with various layers of roofing felt hot mopped (with tar) between the layers then a thin layer of pea gravel raked on top.

In my drop ceiling article, most of the weight of the drop ceiling is supported by the walls. The beam or strongback above the joists is also supported on the perimeter walls as well as the existing joists, roof or ceiling in the center of the span. When an engineer selects a size of roof joist for a span the ceiling finish is included which is usually drywall. There is always a safety factor allowed for in the calculations.

The idea is to spread the load of the drop ceiling among the existing beams, don't just put one wire or support hanging from the center beam. That is let each existing beam take a little of the weight of the strongback.


Hi Dave,

Pat here again with questions on a new topic.

We want to add a deck and slab to the back of our house.  I had previously
asked you about the deck portion.  Now I have questions regarding the roof.

I spoke with one of the engineers from the company who manufactured our
trusses regarding allowable weight, etc.  He suggested knee walling up
from the outside walls to support the weight then we would not have to
worry about stressing the trusses.

Please take a look at the following pictures so you can get an idea of what
we are facing.
The deck will be off the short roof section of the house and the slab will
be off the longer roof section of the house.  The deck will have 2 'gentle'
steps down to the slab.  We are going to use 6 x 6 posts to support each
roof.  We are going to try to maintain the 'stagger' of the original roof
to some extent, obviously not to the original offset.

We will anchor the roof to the knee wall and then I am assuming we will
strip back some of the shingles and nail a 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 across the
existing roof and attach the rafters to it.

We are also concerned about accidentally causing a situation which might
allow leaks in the existing roof.

Do you have any suggestions or comments?


Hi Pat,

You may have enough height on the roof to avoid using a knee wall. Instead just go off the top of the sheathing, remove the shingles, nail on a 2x4 across the roof directly over the wall. The sheathing will nail into the sheathing of the roof at the top. The shingles will be replaced without flashing over the joint. The siding should be removed along the wall. the shingles are replaced with the addition of step flashing for this intersection. The siding then goes back over the step flashing.

Here are two drawings one with, the other without the knee wall. Notice the different slopes of the roofs. The one without the knee wall is slightly less than the existing roof.

Diagram of roof add-on without knee wall showing flashing, sole plate, sheathing, ceiling joist, ledger, fascia, beam, scab and post.

Diagram of roof add-on with knee wall showing ceiling joist, knee wall, beam, scab and post.



I am finishing a basement and we are putting down an OSB subfloor
which will eventually have wall to wall carpet over it. Should I
install base trim before or after the carpet goes in? Dick

Hi Dick,

You can do it either way. In new construction we put the base down first, keeping it up about 1/2" above the sub-floor. Sometimes the new paint gets marked up a bit, so is then touched up after the carpet is laid. If installing the base after the carpet is laid. Pre-paint the base and lay it on top of the carpet, not pushing it down too hard onto the carpet. The nail holes are then filled and touched up.


ok, I was planning on doing trim first so I should leave it 1/2" off
the subfloor?

Yes, I use a 7/16" or 1/2" thick base and use that as packing under
the base.

My home, built in 1958, has a concrete front porch about 15 feet wide
by 5 feet front to back. Due to settling, the porch and two steps have
slightly tilted to one side. I was wondering if I could frame around
the porch and level it by pouring new concrete over the old, or should
I try something else?

Hi Dick,

Yes, that's exactly what I would do. There is no way you can move that size of chunk of concrete and it probably won't settle much more. You can buy Topping Mix from most building supply stores or just make up your own with sand and cement at least 1" thick.


I'm working on a project using old barn siding. Why were most old barns
painted red?

Hi Terry,

Interesting question. As a young fellow I was awed by the wisdom of my father. As a carpenter he not only built things but also painted or stained them. When Dad was working on something down in the basement, the rest of the family could smell it up stairs. Most of the time it had a fishy smell. "If Dad's down in the basement, I'd better go down and see if he needs any help", I thought. With my help, holding the dumb end of the tape or cleaning containers, I always had a question. Hey, Dad, how come that stuff smells like fish. I found out it was linseed oil. I looked it up and found that linseed is actually flax seed. Latin for flax is linum and Latin for oil is oleum. Linoleum is another product from flax.

Anyway, to get back on the subject of red barns. In the old days Dad would make his own stains and paints with a base from linseed oil. Farmers were pretty smart, themselves, and knew how to save money. They would mix up linseed oil and rust (ferrous oxide), which they had lots of around a farm, for a paint for their barns. This not only gave them a reddish brown color but protection from moss, mold and mildew. Later they discovered that white wash was even cheaper and looked cleaner, especially for their dairy barns.


Thanks again for your questions, I hope my answers were of use to you readers with possibly the same problems.

I'm a bit late with this newsletter, so should be sending April's issue along in a few days.


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