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Volume 5 Issue 7“Building Confidence”July 2007



Welcome to another newsletter. Dan and I hope you are enjoying your summer and all that good building weather.

What's New

We have changed our memberships recently to three new levels: Apprentice members have access to the articles only; Journeyman members have access to articles, plans, tables and calculators and Foreman members have access to everything including asking me questions. All existing members (before July 3, 2007) are Foreman members. [This three-level membership system was discontinued in December 2009] Our newsletters remain free, as does our dictionary.

Bear with me, my next article is How to Install Vinyl Siding, coming to our website soon. Dan and I are always open to and appreciate your suggestions for articles, plans and the website in general and we thank you for these.

Ask Away!


I'm in the process of renovating my open attic into an additional
bedroom. The project is nearing completion and I'm looking to cap
the kneewall at the top of the staircase with a length of finished oak.
What is the best way to secure the oak to the top of the kneewall?
I'm thinking countersunk screws through the top, with wood plugs to
fill the screw holes. Are there any alternatives to this method?
And if so, which would you suggest?

Hi Chris,

Screws are good. Another option is galvanized finish or casing head nails. Pick the dark grain to nail into, use a slotted screw driver to set the nails, with the grain, rather than a round nail set. Then fill with a filler the color of the dark grain.


Hi Dave,

Wonderful site. I've used the stair calculator. I just rebuilt
brick molding around an outside entry door and rebuilt the bottom
of the door itself, plus installed a new threshold. It was rotted
out at the bottom. The door is flush in an outside brick wall.
I carefully caulked and sealed the bottom of the molding with
silicon to prevent the wood from sucking up water and snow melt
from the bottom. Now, I'm thinking that I'd like to build a small
roof over the door
to further protect it from rain and snow. I also want it to blend
with my house, which has a hip roof. Do you have
a plan for such a canopy? The door opening is 36" by 80".
I'm thinking the little hip-roof canopy should be around 48" wide
and overhang the outside of the brick by about 24" (the width of
the sidewalk. I am definately opened to
suggestions regarding size. I do not want to build an enclosed
entry-way. I am open to any help you can provide.

Best regards,

Hi Rob,

Here is an idea for a self supporting porch roof with braces, attached: This not a hip, but a gable which might look better.

Diagram of the side view of a porch showing ridge board, overhang, rafters, ceiling joist, beam, rafter fascia, brace, cleat and 4x4 vertical.


In your article about windows in walls, not sure what a "window liner" is?

The window liner is the finish extension of the jamb made to come out flush with the wall board. The casing then goes over this liner and the wall. Sometimes the window comes complete with a liner, most times the finisher installs it.

Hope this helps,


Hi Dave, I do a lot of drywall and had a question on drywall painting.
I have better results with using a good quality flat wall paint used as
the prime coat tinted to 1/2 color as top coat as I do using
primer-sealers. The primer-sealers cost 1/2 the costs of a good quality
flat wall paint. I have not used a primer sealer in years. Someone the
other day told me that they use one with great results. I would have
photographing sometimes when I used them. What is your opinion on this?
I appreciate your input and love your site.
Thanks again, Joe

Hi Joe,

I prefer to use a good quality primer/sealer first. I've tinted the primer/sealer, as well, with 1/2 tint for a darker finish coat. You may have been turned off by a cheaper primer/sealer, get the better quality with better hiding qualities. The problem with drywall is the different porosity in the paper cover and the mud. A good sealer changes that into the same porosity after it dries so the next two finish coats will hide the mud joints with a nice even finish.

Maybe give the new primer/sealers a try. You may notice they hide better than the older ones.

Thanks for the nice comment about our site,


Thanks for fast reply. I don't want to take too much of your time.
I know you are very busy. You stated in your reply - A good sealer
changes that into the same porosity after it dries so the next two
finish coats...
I have primer sealer tinted so I only have to apply one finish coat.
Is this correct?
Thanks again, Joe.

Hi Joe,

I think a paint job is a bit skimpy without 2 coats of finish. The pros around here spray on the primer/sealer, then roll on two finish coats. They may have a guy spray the finish on, but a guy comes behind with a roller to apply it.

A good paint job has a minimum of 3 coats of paint - a primer with 2 finish coats. If the finish coat is very dark, like a dark red, it may need up to 7 coats before the color gets dark enough.


Hello Dave,
I stumbled across your site a couple of days ago and find it very
informative. Just to my background: I was an architect with my own
practice in Europe for over 18 years before coming to California
and getting my contractor's license. I found it a lot more fun
nailing bits of wood together than telling others what I wanted
done... So now I've bought a house and it has a few issues, but
one of the things that are new to me in terms of "doing it myself"
are sash windows. What's the best way to dismantle old ones and
either replace them or restore them and how do I recover the
damned weight?

Best regards

Hi Andrew,

Interesting email. You're the first to ask about sash windows. Luckily, I've had experience with them. Personally, I would replace them, but that's up to you.

To get at the weights, remove the upper and lower sashes by removing the inside stop. With these old windows these stops are usually painted in. First get a utility knife and cut the paint at the inside corner and with a flat bar, pop it off. You should see where the sash cord hooks to the weight, disconnect this cord on the sash and tie a knot in it so it won't go through the pulley. Remove the piece of wood behind the stop to expose the weights.

Watch out for the lead in the paint on those old windows. Keep any scraping moist to keep the paint dust out of your lungs. Wearing a dust mask is a good idea!!

If replacing the window, we usually just cut the cord and let the weight fall inside.

Hope this helps,


Hi Dave,

I have a new home. It was a spec home, so it came as is, as far as
the design goes. My ownership began on December the 14, 2006.
I have a 1 year warranty. My question is I have several areas of
this 2500 square foot, two story home (second floor only) in which
I experience a popping sound and creaking noise when you walk.
The floor also can be seen to flex, with the creaking and popping
noise. I've this to the attention of the building from the time I took
possession. Any ideas as to the cause?

Please advise,
Enjoy your website.
Thank you for your consideration

Hi Robert,

In a new house it is not unusual to hear popping and groaning sounds for a couple of years while the house is drying out and settling. I'm not saying this is what is happening in your house, but I suspect so. Spec houses are built pretty quickly, not giving time for the wood frame to dry. It took me about 10 months to build my house and I still experienced noises for the first two years.

I'm surprised your house came with only 1 year warranty. Usually they have 5 years.


Hi Dave!

I really like your site and gotten a lot of valuable information
from it. My question is: Is underlayment (felt/tar paper) necessary
for a gazebo roof. I bought a kit and the directions do not call
for it.

One more question: The roof of my 12' decagon gazebo kit has only
rafters from the sides to the peak. Is bracing part of the way up

Thanks for any info you can send.

Thanks, Carol,

Ice shield, the first 3 feet of 30 lb. roofing felt over the eaves, is not required on a building roof that is not heated. Underlayment of 15 lb. felt is recommended by the manufacturer over the entire roof deck. I would suggest this is optional on an unheated gazebo roof.

On a 12' gazebo roof the rafters have short spans. Unless you are in a heavy snow or wind load area, you should be okay. I can't verify this unless I have your kit plans or know where you live. The shorter walls should have the necessary support to keep the walls from bowing out under a heavy load or bracing is required on the rafters, under heavy loads.


Well, keep those questions coming and enjoy your summer!


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