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Volume 7 Issue 11“Building Confidence”November 2009



Welcome to our newsletter about home renovation questions.

What's New

We have added a number of new plans this month. Seven of them are for matching bedroom furniture and the eighth is for a patio roof. Check them out!

If you need a last minute gift idea give a gift of knowledge and help with a Gift Certificate!

Dan, my brother and webmaster, and I appreciate your support!

Ask Away!

Here are some of the questions I have received from our readers this month:

Hi Dave,
how do i figure out how much ceramic tile i will need to tile a floor or wall.

Hi Lanny, From an article on our website: Ceramic tile is sold by the square foot, no matter what the actual size of the ceramic tile itself. No need to figure out how many ceramic tiles you need, just figure out your area to be covered and go see your ceramic tile outlet for samples and costs for your particular area. They will advise you of the thin set mortar and grout needed for your particular job. Also, buy your correct notched trowel, sponge float and sponge for the grout while you are there. Other tools you need is a ceramic tile cutter (purchase or rent), a ceramic tile wet saw (rent) or angle grinder with diamond blade. Ceramic tile nippers and grout remover may also be handy. There are mortar and additives (bonding agents) to enable you to install the ceramic tile right over an existing surface of ceramic tile or vinyl flooring, providing these surfaces are in good shape and stuck down well. So inform the salesperson of your particular job and include the details so they can advise you appropriately. They will suggest the choice and colour of grout for your ceramic tiles; ceramic floor tiles have a sanded grout that stands up better for foot traffic. Ceramic wall tiles use a non-sanded grout.


can i put tile down over vinyl flooring. i have about a 5 by 5 foot
square i want to cover. i have never laid tile before but i am wanting
to learn how to.

Hi Lanny,

You should join our website. It's really not expensive (about the cost of a cup of coffee a week). Our website is a site that gives you confidence to do it yourself and save the big bucks. As a member you can get free advice from me on any project.

Here's how to become a member (click here)

I suggest you check out our website, on the left side of the index page there are links to various pages. We also have a free newsletter available there. Dave

Hi Dave. I am installing windows in my house that I am building and I
am getting conflicting advice on how to install flashing around the
window opening. The only consistent message is that the tar paper
should be overlapped shingle style. Any good advice.

Hi Russ,

I'm guessing you are making wooden windows? Are you referring to a flange around the windows (all sides) or to a flashing at the head? What is your casing like on the outside?

What type of wall are you installing the windows into: stucco, brick, siding? Is this new construction or reno windows?

Pictures would be helpful to me.


Sorry for the lack of detail. New construction, Vinyl windows,
installing into a 2x6 wall with OSB sheeting. No casing yet all though
the plan is for Vinyl siding so the casing would likely be vinyl as well.

Are you asking about flanges or flashing? I'm interested in how you are making these, when you have more time.


I am calling it flashing, basically it is the black tar paper you place
around the rough opening before installing the Vinyl window, most people
also recommend a peel and stick tar type flashing along the rough
opening Sill.


Some jurisdictions prefer no tar paper, others demand it. I personally don't have a problem with it. If you have a lot of windows to do, I usually cut the tarpaper roll into a 12" wide rolls. For small amounts needed, just cut the paper width into 12" strips.

Start at the bottom of the opening and staple the paper on the sill, that is wrap the paper 90 degrees from the sheathing over the opening framing. Don't go on the inside wall face, though. So you should have 5 1/2" on the sill and 6 1/2" covering the sheathing. Do this on the sides and top, as well. Install the window into the opening. Then when you paper the wall for siding, overlap the paper over the flanges of the window. You can also use red tuck tape to go over the flange and the paper. Peal and stick is used mainly for commercial buildings.

You can use the red tuck tape inside, as well, to seal the vapour barrier to pipes or wires coming through the barrier, etc.


Thanks Dave. The building department here recommended the peel and
stick and I bought it now so I will probably use it. It seems that they
are always going CODE Plus. I couldn't really find any specifics in the
building code on how to do this.
Thanks again and sorry for not being clear at the start.

Okay. Peel and stick is very very sticky. Pull off about 6" of the backing and place the p&s into position then continue to pull the backing off slowly as you keep it in position. Once stuck it is stuck.

It really does a good job around decks, between the tarpaper and vinyl decking coming up the wall or onto a metal flashing.


Hi Dave:
Love your site and read it every time, but I believe I have something to
add to your reply to the gentleman who asked about sealing wire
penetrations against fire.
Here in northern Virginia, I recently did a basement upgrade from rough
storage area to living space. A framing contractor did the hard work,
but as one who worked his way through college as an electrician, I did
the wiring. At the rough in inspection, the friendly and helpful
Fairfax County inspector instructed me to fill every hole in which wires
penetrated the horizontal 2x4 plates capping the interior walls. She
advised that I could jam the holes with rock wool or buy the rather
expensive fireproof caulking made expressly for that purpose. On the
re-inspection she checked every penetration visually.
The county inspectors here are particularly mindful that the vertical
space behind basement walls should not provide any opportunity for draft
of a fire that starts or penetrates behind the drywall. Fire resistant
material, such as fireproof quality drywall or plywood 3/8" or thicker
must seal the joist area from the top plates to the ends of the joist so
fire cannot propagate between the joists and the floor above. Even the
minimum airspace remaining around a 1/2" hole drilled for Romex wire
penetration of the wall caps must be filled. This part of the
inspection is given no leeway, and they come back to check your work.
On the other hand, the inspectors will not only describe how they want
something fixed, they will show you how to make it safe if you need
Thanks for the opportunity to comment, and for the helpful hints I get
from every reading of your site.

Hi Jake,

Thanks for your nice letter and clearing up the electrical question for me. I'll send it onto the original inquirer.

Glad you still get our newsletter.

Thanks, Jake,


Thanks for the quick reply.
You might let the inquirer know that the fireproof caulk costs about USD
13.00 per tube, but is so much faster (and so much easier for the
inspector to see) that I consider it worth it.
Since my wife never runs out of house-changing projects for me, I'll be
a member for life.
I really enjoy the monthly newsletter and I think your answers are
Have a nice Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day, here) and Thanksgiving,

Thanks again, Jake. I'll let him know.


(Jake first signed on with us in June, 2005. I just checked our records and am surprised to find that we still have 9 original members from 2003 still with us. For your information, they are still paying the original membership fees that they signed up with. That was and is our promise to members who renew their membership - "We will never raise your rates as long as you don't cancel".)

Hi Dave, I have to waterproof my sister-in-law's basement walls.
Is there something I can trowel, spray or paint on to stop water
from heavy rains.
Thank you,
Decatur, Ga

Hi Bob,

Here is a link for you:

You can give this product a try, first. It is not cheap, but works to keep out water from either inside or outside.

The wall should have been treated with a foundation coating and a perimeter drain laid, before backfilling. If there are large cracks present you should fill these up first with a product from Bondex called Quick Plug.


Dave, I want to make a coat rack that hangs on the wall. I know that
the pegs are usually spaced about 7 inches apart. What angle or degree
are the holes drilled to put the pegs? I'm using "Shaker type Pegs"
for heavy coats, etc. I'm making a fancy one out of oak, so I want it to
look real sharp. Thank you & I hope that you and yours have a great
Kelly, Port Orchard, WA

Hi Kelly,

Happy Thanksgiving!

I would put the angle at about 7 degrees.


I was wondering if there is a way to attach a carpet runner to a tile
stair riser. It's only like 3 steps high but, i cant get it to stay
put. At the top of the rise is hardwood floor.

I've found that screws don't take well to carpet, causing unraveling. I prefer to use nails or tacks through carpet. In your circumstance, I would attach the carpet high up on the riser with either carpet tacks or a nice looking upholstery tack. This depends on how long the nap of the carpet is. If you can hide a carpet tack in the nap, use it. To hold the tack in place, drill a 1/4" to 5/16" hole in the grout line of the tile about 3/4" deep. Get a dowel a little larger than the hole and point the end very gradually to fit into the hole. Use a bit of Weldbond glue on the peg, clean the hole out with air or damp piece of cloth on a wire, then hammer the dowel or peg into the hole, carefully, so you don't crack the tile. Take measurements of the centers of the pegs for reference, measured off a wall and the tread. Install the carpet and tack in the tacks to hold it in place.

Hope this helps,


(Sent: Friday, October 03, 2008)
Hi Dave,
Quick question for you... I know you're in the business, but I didn't find
your site before I started building... anyways,
I'm building a 12 X 16 shed without any plans and I originally started
out thinking I was going to use a regular hip style roof.
Well, we are liking the idea of using a gambrel roof instead but I want
to have an overhang on my roof (at least a few inches) to protect the sides.
I saw your shed design (
here and am curious if you could tell me the details about the trusses to
give the overhang shown in the picture? I don't want to use ANY supports on
the inside...just the outer parts of the cross beams...
IE... Can it be 2x4
Thanks in advance... JIM in Pennsylvania

(Jim caught me during a weak moment. DON'T TELL DAN, my brother and webmaster AND PARTNER!!!)

Hi Jim,

I shouldn't be giving you this info for free, but you asked so nicely, I didn't have the heart to send you my generic, 'buy the plan', email.

Here is the truss drawing showing the 2x6 at the bottom of the trusses which forms a 2" overhang.

Hope this helps,


Hi Dave! You probably don't remember me, but I sent you this email last year
in October. Just after desperately trying to figure out how to build my
shed, both of my parents got ill and we actually moved for a year to
help them out. We are back now and i was going through all of my emails
from hotmail (it was a new account for me and I've always been TERRIBLE
at checking emails) and I came across your response to me. I couldn't
let it go without THANKING YOU for sending me your response! I did get
the shed built and have to do the doors now and siding on the front to
finish it up.
I may be building another shed in the spring and I will be using your
design for that! (mine was all trial and error and I would never do it
again! hehehe)
Anyways... I THANK YOU AGAIN for your kindness and I will assure you
I won't be selling your designs or giving them away or anything!
You have my word!
THANKS AGAIN, Happy Thanksgiving and TAKE CARE!!!!

Thanks, Jim for taking the time to send me your email. Much appreciated.

All the best,


(Sometimes you just have to go with your heart, right?)

Greetings, Dave!
Thanks so much for providing the invaluable information on your site!
I'm finding subjects there which I would never have dreamed would be
there. One is the concrete stairway. I'm sure that if I had been
taking classes on carpentry, I would never have sought out a class on
teaching how to install one.
My application may be similar to something you've done before so I'd
like to get your advise. I have an attached garage and I'm planning
to do some extensive remodeling. When the garage was put next to the
house, there wasn't a convenient way to have access to it directly
from the house. As part of the remodeling project, I'm going to open
that access. Other parts of this project will eliminate the current
stairway to the basement. I'm going to put a stairway to the basement
in the garage (there's enough room on the connecting wall) along the
side of the house. I'm planning on using conventional (your convention!)
construction using stringers on each side. Once finished, the stairway
will be enclosed and part of the house. My question is how deep my
excavation has to go. Realizing that we, like you, live in
'four-season' country (Wisconsin), I wouldn't think that I would need
to go down more than four feet. That depth seems to be the rule-of-thumb
around here. However, I don't see any point in going down more than that
until I get to where the stairway goes down further. How deep should the
concrete be at any point - would 4" be adequate?
My only concern with this thinking is that the base of the concrete
would be sloped. This might promote movement if there wasn't good
adhesion to the soil. It might also make it more difficult for a
compactor to compact the soil since the soil would be on an angle.
Stakes into the soil might alleviate this concern. Am I being penny-wise
and pound-foolish?
Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
2). I was intending to ask your advise on a part of a my remodeling
project. It had to do with a concrete stairway. I hadn't considered that
until my contractor suggested it. The stairway will be along the
existing foundation of the house but inside the existing attached garage.
My question was how deep I had to excavate, thinking that I simply
needed to go down the four feet needed to get past the frost line
(yes, I live in a cooler climate, also - Wisconsin). I then realized that
I needed to reroute my drain tile so I have to go down that far anyway.
So much for trying to save a couple bucks!
Don Doss
PS: Many thanks to your brother who get me past a dilemma after
I signed up!

Hi Don,

Welcome to our site. Yes, Dan sent me a copy of the email. He is in the middle of a big site change, that may have been some of your problem. I leave all that tech stuff to him. If the concrete stairs are inside the house, frost won't be a factor. Unless I don't understand the situation correctly, I wouldn't worry about re-routing the drain tile. If the garage footing is the same level as the house you could leave the drain tile in place, through the garage, and just continue it around the outside perimeter. Is it really worthwhile to dig up the drain tile inside the garage against the house wall? How deep is the tile below the garage slab?

A drawing of a section of the garage to house wall would clear this up for me. A pic would also work.

For your question about the slope for the concrete stairs:

With rebar in the slope and across the treads, this unit is self supporting. The concrete doesn't need to adhere to the soil along the slope. You should tie the rebar into the concrete foundation wall, where you can and build a good footing at the bottom of the slope. That is extend the bottom step down to prevent the whole thing from moving. If you have a 4" slab under the treads this would be good.

A floor plan of the reno would be helpful.


Well, that's it for another month. We hope you are surviving the Winter. It is a great time of the year, when it is over we sure appreciate the Spring. Hope you checkout our Winter Olympics in Vancouver (my hometown) coming in February 2010. We are hosting the world!

Enjoy our website at for advice and answers for your renovation needs.

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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