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Volume 5 Issue 2“Building Confidence”February 2007



Welcome to another newsletter. I hope our website is helping to build your confidence.

What's New!

By mid-March, my wife Frances and I will be leaving on a six week vacation to the land of her childhood, Texas. We will be driving down from our home on Vancouver Island in the Province of British Columbia, Canada. This is nothing new for us, we have driven this route many times. The interesting part is for the latter three weeks we will be driving into Northern Mexico for the first time. We will join a short term mission team from our church to build a water treatment system for a church base camp in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains at a place called Rio Chico. I've never driven into Mexico before, nor have I been on a mission such as this. I've mentioned this in previous newsletters and it is about to become a reality. I'll give you a complete newsletter on this project, which I'll be supervising, when we get back in May. Wish us well!

Ask Away!

I've gotten some good questions, this month:

We are remodeling a room into a kitchen. The window over the
sink will be on the outside wall. This wall (8 ft high) is the
gable end and the roof is engineered trusses. Since this gable
end is not a load bearing wall is it permissible to build a
smaller header for the window opening? The wall does have a
double 2x4 on the top. The window will be about 5 feet wide
and we would like to be able to put the window as high on the
wall as possible to get the most height. Could we make the
header out of 2x6 rather than 2x8 or 2x10s?


Yes, a header isn't needed over a window in a gable wall, with a truss. The bearing of the truss is on the side walls, not the gable end. Actually the wall itself above the window is a header in effect as long as proper sheathing was applied. Even a single 2x4 on the flat with studs back up to the double plate is good enough. More on this can be found in my article Remodeling 5: How to Install a Window in an Existing Wall.


Thanks for doing this website. I am enclosing a two car garage
to use for living space and it has been invaluable. I do have
one question about framing walls and hanging doors.
I will be framing two partition walls with a T intersection.
I intend to locate the doors at the intersection as well.
My question is how should I layout the studs to support this?
I am also concerned that the wall is sturdy enough for the doors
at that point. I am attaching the base plate to the floor with
Tap-Cons. The short wall is located directly under a ceiling
joist. The longer wall with the doors being perpendicular to the
joist will be attached every 16 inches.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for the support of our website, too.

A partition stud is used at the T. It looks like this:

Diagram of detail of an intersecting wall.

The partition itself is colored gray. It allows for the partition wall to be attached securely to the studs. At the double plate overlap the partition over the intersection. Don't worry about the intersecting double plates if framing tight to the ceiling. Just nail 2x4s between the floor joists above the walls, flush with the bottom of the joists. The top plate of the partition is then fastened to this blocking. Tap-cons are good in the floor. When I frame inside walls, with the ceiling already in place, I always fasten the bottom plates down first. I then make up the walls with the studs nailed to the top plate. When raising the wall the studs are placed on an angle to shorten the height, placed on the bottom plate and plumbed up, making a nice tight fit between the top plate, tight to the bottom of the floor joists or ceiling, and the bottom plate. In your case, this gives you a chance to tapcon the short bottom plate at the partition intersection down to the floor to give a very stable plate to fasten the partition stud and cripples to the plate. Another thing, when nailing the studs to the bottom plate if doing this by hand as opposed to a nail gun, use 4 - 2 1/4" toe-nails in each stud to bottom plate. 2 nails per side. This is equivalent to 2 spikes which are used in the top plate to stud.

I like a cripple nailed to the partition stud on each side, as shown, to allow for adequate space for 2 1/4" casing coming into the corner. The jamb is installed in the usual manner. Dave


I got this off their website, but it doesn't say too much!!

Where do I put Everything?

Each custom system is sized to the user or users.

All controls should be convenient to all adult users.

~ The mixing valve is normally positioned at waist height.

~ Volume control valves are normally positioned directly above
or directly below the thermostatic mixer, depending on how the
system is piped.

~ The Quattro diverter (if used) is normally positioned slightly
above the volume control valve.

~ Remember to leave adequate spacing between the valves for the trim.
We recommend that the valves be positioned approximately 8" apart
on center. This can be adjusted if necessary.

~ The shower head should be located above the head of the tallest
user, but still within reach of other users.

~ A hand shower on a wall bar is an attractive option for showers
for children or physically challenged persons.


There is no actual code on the height of fixtures, mainly conventions.

For a typical shower, the control valve should be set at 54"; the shower head at 78" from the floor. The Hansgrohe system, as above says to set the mixer valve at waist height of the user and the other valves above or below at about 8" centers.


Hi Dave,
I want to build a platform bed, with slats for mattress support.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Hi Tamela,

I would make the inside of the frame about 1" to 1 1/2" larger than the mattress to allow for tucking the sheets and blankets in. The side frame could be a 1x6 or 1x8, depending on the height of the mattress, with a 2x2 screwed and glued to the bottom edge. Cut the slats to fit snug and screw them into position, especially the one in the center to prevent them from slipping out.

I made a "captains" bed for my young grandson, shaped as a truck pickup box, complete with step bumper and tail lights and half the cab. I tried to find the pictures but can't locate them.


Hi Dave:

I am building a retaining wall to widen my driveway. The verticals
are 6x6 treated timbers in cement 3 to 4 feet. The Horizontals are
treated 4x10s bolted to the timbers. The verticals are 4 feet apart.
The maximum height of the wall will be no more than 3 feet.
I heard that there are hill side retaining devices called
"soil screws" or "soil nails" that can be used to anchor the wall
without disturbing the soil under my driveway. Can you tell me
where to find such devices? I am located in the Seattle area.
Can a homeowner do it without an engineer?
Approximate cost. websites?


Hi Doug,

Yes, there is a product called a soil screw which would be good for your application. Here is their website:

I wouldn't think you need to get an engineer for something like that. These things have been engineered for different loads and should have info on that. Check with your local building suppliers for their where abouts.


hi Dave

Shaun here - looking to build an elevated deck this spring
surrounding a portion of my pool (located in CT) - it is a 26'
round pool w/an elevation of 4' to the rim. Although called a
round pool it is sectional with an angle about every 4' 8".
I would like to "wrap" the deck around roughly 7 sections of
the pool and use it to enter - exit the pool as well. Offering
a flat platform of say roughly 16' - 20' long x 8' wide.
So lots going on here - I've already built a 24'x26' deck
w/ 16x16 screened in porch w/a vaulted ceiling (blah, blah)
in the past - however never wrapped it around something with
multiple angles such as a pool - 2 primary questions - the
intersections of each facia 2 x10 "boxed" sectional will
"split" land on a "6"x6"x5'PT post" (lag bolted) with "X"
(sound strong enough to you?) bracing beneath -So is it okay to
cantilever say roughly the last 6" to 12" over the pool itself
and incorporate a ladder into the pool from the deck itself?
Any tricks I should know other than standard construction tips....
Any help deeply appreciated

Hi Shaun,

Yes, it is okay to cantilever floor joists over a beam. The rule to follow is that for every foot of cantilever allow 6 feet of joist on the other side of the beam. You can cantilever up to 2 feet with a 14 foot joist. Hanging a ladder off the end of the 6 inch or 12 inch overhang would not be a problem.


Hi Dave,

Thank you for the response Dave - I checked my old framing book
and was pretty sure I was within spec, but no harm asking for
another opinion - BTW has anyone done this project and posted
plans to the site? I didn't see anything - if no one has - would
you like a sketch of my working drawings sent to you for the site
- I imagine other members are thinking along these lines as well.
Once again thank you and keep the great site going lots of help
as I finished a 1000 sq addition added to my house this past summer
- Thanks Shaun

Hi Shaun,

Thanks for the nice comments on our site. We don't put member's plans on the site, but we put pictures of their projects, up there. We have to be careful of plans with different snow and wind loads and depths of frost, etc. all over the country and other parts of the world, for that matter. I would rather advise them on their plans individually.


Hi Dave,

I have talked to a few prime contractors who have offered to
assist me in coordinating the lifting and landing of my bungalow.
The project consists of lifting the house and adding concrete
block around the basement with the end goal of getting a higher
basement height.

There have been 2 opinions expressed. One is that after the lift,
the block mason's laying of concrete block will need to "settle".
The "settling" time period would be 3 - 6 days. The second
contractor expressed that there shouldn't be a need for a
"settling period". My structural engineer seemed to agree with the
latter (no settling period necessary). Which do you think is correct?
Essentially, the block will be laid on top of an existing foundation
and wall. I am only ADDING 3 rows of block on top of existing block.
I am not pouring any concrete or interrupting the existing block.
I will need to have the block mason's make minor block repair for
where the "house lifting" contractor will run steel I beams under
the house.


Hi Eric,

When installing a block wall, the mortar takes 28 days to fully cure. Most of the curing is done in the first week. I wouldn't say you need time for the block to settle. I would definitely say you need time to leave the block mortar joints cure for at least a week. If you put the house on the block too soon, the weight of the house will settle, alright. I can't believe an engineer would advise to drop the house on freshly laid block.


(The following is in reference to an email in our last Newsletter - our readers are the greatest.)

Hi Dave,

The manual that Ginny was looking for is available here:

The site also has a handy glossary
and index to other manuals

Part of the key to finding it was to search for "magicstat"
and not "magic stat". The space made all the difference!

Interestingly, Honeywell's own site, which has plenty of manuals,
doesn't have this one. Maybe it's a discontinued model?



Hi Steve,

Thanks for the email and info for Ginny. I'll send it on to her. I'm always learning something from my readers of our website and newsletter. Thanks for your help, I'm sure Ginny will also appreciate it.


Hi Dave,

Thanks a million. I was looking all over for the manual that came
with the MagicStat, I know it's here somewhere. ;-) I did some
troubleshooting and it seems to be working OK for now.
Hope all is well with you!


Hi Ginny,

It's nice to know that people out there care about you enough to send me an email so I can inform you. Most of the people we deal with are pretty good people. Glad the ole thermostat is working!!


Hi Dave,
My name is Ruben and I'm from wenatchee wa..... I had a question ....
how would you figure out the amount of concrete for a 60 degree radius
that is 8 inches wide?

I had to go to my brother the Math Wiz for this one:

Hi Ruben,

Here is a diagram of what I think you are describing.

Diagram showing radius of a circle.

If you need to know how much concrete is in the shaded (gray) section of the diagram you need to know how big a circle it is. Get the radius of the circle (half the diameter) (measure the radius in yards) and use this formula to get the amount of concrete.

Concrete = 1/6 x radius x radius x 3.1416 x .222

This will give you how many cubic yards (just called "yards") of concrete for a slab that is 8 inches thick and is a 60 degree section of a circle that is "radius" long (be sure to measure "radius" in yards).

The above formula follows the formula for the volume of a cylinder (anything shaped like a tin can, in the case of a circular concrete slab it is like a flattened tin of tuna), which is:

Formula for calculating volume of a cone.

In your case, you only want a 60 degree section of the total volume. A complete circle has 360 degrees, so any section of it is just the number of degrees divided by 360. If you want only 60 degrees then it's 60/360, which is equal to one sixth (1/6).

In the first formula above, I changed the height from 8 inches to yards by using the following conversion. There are 36 inches (3 feet) in a yard, so 8 inches would be 8/36 yards or 2/9ths of a yard, which in decimal form is approximately .222.

Dave's brother and webmaster

Hi Dan,

thank you for your reply.. it was most helpful... I plan on
staying a member of your site.... its full of good info and
its nice to know you're there to answers questions...
thanks again..

I registered a few years ago when I was having trouble with building a set of steps. I like the news letter. I hope you can help me. Do you know about the type of cement to be used for the shower pan? Hope you can help. Thanks Jack

Hi Jack,

There are actually 5 types of portland cement that we use in mixing concrete with variations of the first 3 with air entrainment. The two most common are Type I (Type 10 in Canada) called Normal Portland Cement. This is an all purpose blend which is the most popular. Type III ( Type 30 in Canada) is a high early strength mix.

For a shower pan a Type I should be used. For small amounts of concrete pre-mixed bags are handy. The cement and aggregate are pre-mixed, all that is needed is water. For a bit larger job, one can buy an aggregate mix of sand and gravel called naavy jack which is mixed with cement in the proportion of 6 shovels of aggregate to 1 of cement to give about a 3000 psi mix.


dear dave, i want to do an open span from my dining room
to my kitchen to open it up more. it is a 24' span.
i have old barn beams 5.5" x8" thick some are 12' and some
are 10' long...some are poplar , birch, and oak. how do you
graft these together? i have seen it done in some barn
structures. above the kitchen/dining room is roof rafters.
for an
alternative i can make an laminate beam but how tall will
it have to be if i'm using 2x4s pine?
thank you for your attention and good luck.

mickey from Reading, Pa

Hi Mickey, it's been awhile!

Those beams won't be strong enough for your 24' span. I would suggest you talk to a truss salesman to get the specs on an engineered beam. For example I bought one for a job I was doing about 3 years ago. The span was 18' and the beam was a double 1 3/4" thick x 12" deep. It cost $300.

Any beam over 10' long, now, should be engineered.


I recently installed some window sill extensions to receive
the trim and now it's winter time and the joint is opening
up even though I used wood filler when installed. Can I use
"bondo" or something else to remedy this and seal the joint
without ever opening up again?


This is more or less normal, expansion and contraction. I prefer to use a latex caulking with silicon for adhesion in joints like this. The caulking expands more than a filler and can be painted. If the moisture content in the wood is too high it also will shrink up, causing cracks.


Dave, I'm writing from Auburn, NY. I removed a 2 ft wide base
cabinet and installed a dish washer. I have a perfect spot to
use this left over base cabinet as an island. Actually it
would be a peninsula, the unfinished back would be against a
wall. I can get a 4 x 8 sheet of laminate that matches the
existing counter top. If I use the entire 4 foot width of the
laminate, it will have a 1 foot hang over on each side.
For the front edge I would also leave a 1 foot over hang cut
into a semi circle. So it will look like a giant letter D.
My question is that if I use your recommended 5/8 plywood,
what do I use as backing? (the 5/8 plywood cut into strips?)
If so how wide are these strips. Would I glue them into place?
What kind of glue do you recommend? We have a Lowe's and
Home Depot.


Hi Jack,

For a situation like this I would go with 2 sheets of plywood. I would go with 3/4" rather than 5/8". If you have already bought the 5/8" don't worry about it, use it. But if you need another sheet go with a 3/4" one. When buying plywood for something like this in which you are depending on the plywood for support, buy a sheet that lays flat on the pile at the building supply store. That is don't take the top sheet without first looking at it to make sure that it is not warped.

Contractors, like myself, will remove that top sheet or two and pick the flat ones under it. The clerks will return these warped sheets back to the pile for some unsuspecting customer to pick.

It would be better to go across the 2' width of the cabinet with the long grain of the plywood. This would help strengthen the overhang.

The strips are usually 3" wide. The glue I use is yellow carpenter's glue, similar to the white glue but stronger and water cleanup. I like to screw the strips or in this case the plywood together with the top with drywall screws rather than nails, before the laminate is glued down. The laminate is glued with contact cement, to avoid any confusion there. Checkout my article Cabinets 4: How to Make Your Own Plastic Laminate Counter Top.

If the overhang has too much movement, you can always put in wooden angle brackets to help secure it. These don't look too bad, either.


I've just joined your site, I'm trying to get some good info
on stair layouts.I've got three separate platforms I need to
build stairs for. Can you tell me :if the sides are different
heights because of ground, should I just use largest
measurement?(left side=53inch/right side=52.25) Use 53?
I tried to download your full stair articles and info but it
would not let me/or e-mail?...Can you help me get some
information on building stairs?

Hi Remo and welcome to our site,

If the ground is not level at the bottom step I try to average the total rise. That is in your case if the total rise varies from 53" to 52.25" I would figure the total rise at the center point as 52.625 or 52 5/8". Then the center is only 3/8" lower than the left and 3/8" higher than the right. This is a tolerance that we can easily live with.

The best way to access the articles on our site is directly from the web pages themselves. You can print these articles and plans directly from the web pages. No need to "download". Downloading is for the people who want to pay to download a plan, including the stair package. You as a member of our site have complete access to any page on our site, as well as online advice from me.

If you are having trouble accessing our site, please let me know and I'll ask Dan, my brother and webmaster, to figure out why.

Hope this helps,


Dave, building a deck/porch on front of house that is
18" above grade. Want two landings/steps 48" long and
6" rise. Total run is 12ft. Not sure of the best way to
build this approach. Can you help.
thanks George
Hi George,

Most people who email me have the opposite problem as you, not enough run!

This is not a standard set of stairs, but like you say, a pair of landings. A stringer won't do. I would build two separate boxes anchored to the ground. The first box has a total rise of 6" with finished treads, the second 12" with finished treads. For example if the treads are 1 1/2" thick the box should be ripped from 2x6s at 4 1/2". The second needs to be 10 1/2 ripped from 2x12 or two 2x6s scabbed together. Put the scabs on the inside. I would also put down a mud sill, as we call it, flush with the grade at 18", to anchor the boxes to. This mud sill could be three 2x6x8' on the flat and should be pressure treated, as well as the other box material.

The box should have joists every 16" centers.


Well, that's it for another month. Thanks for your questions and the support of our website.


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