Building Confidence

Volume 8 Issue 6
ISSN 1923-7162

Welcome to our Newsletter including home improvement questions and answers, a tip of the month and an article from our website.

What's Happening

Dan and I have been putting together a series of ebooks so people can purchase our articles for their smart phones and computers. For about $9.99 (price varies with country) people will soon be able to download an ebook covering a specific subject from our site or

We also plan to have these books printed and distributed to bookstores.

This is an exciting time for us. We'll have announcements on the availability of our up coming ebooks and books shortly.

Tip of the Month

Always miter the cap in the corner of the deck railing for a nice looking fit. Galvanized nails or screws should be used in any outdoor finishing work, such as backyard decks and deck railing.

Ask Dave!

Dave, I need to form concrete steps from one patio slab to a lower patio slab. The width is 18'. First, can that be poured as one continuous tread for each step. if not, how do I separate the spacing, say three, 6' foot widths without having a huge gap (from the form) between each section? Mark

Hi Mark and welcome to our site.

Yes, that is a long tread to pour all at once. I would suggest forming it up, as if it was one pour, but put in bulkheads at the 6' and 12' points. Pour the two outside forms one day. Strip the bulkheads the next day and pour the center section. This process gives the concrete a time to shrink naturally and gives it a construction joint in a desirable spot rather than across the tread just anywhere. Also, round over the joint on both sides with an edging trowel to emphasize it rather than trying to hide it.

If you were pouring a shallow pour, such as a sidewalk, you could put in the construction joint after the pour, during the finishing process, by using the edging trowel every 5' or so. The concrete would naturally crack at these "weak" points. For deeper pours, more than 4", it is better to form bulkheads and stop the pour.


Hey Dave Just about done my ramp / deck job.... it is an engineering overkill.... could have an elephant dance on that deck I think. I've got to mount a handrail on the side of the building. It is an old building that appears to have vinyl siding over SM insulation, which covers very rotten shiplap. The challenge is to find solid anchor points, by locating the studs through so much other stuff.... and not drilling a zillion holes in the new vinyl siding. No guarantee in an older building that the studs are spaced on 16" centers... but maybe. I looked at a Milwaukee M12 wall scanner today, which is a "super stud finder" that can pick up re-bar through 6" concrete, etc... but the manufactures rep I chatted with didn't feel it could pick up stud locations in my situation since the density of the ship lap and studs is too similar. Any thoughts on how to locate the studs? Thanks Richard

Hi Richard,

Probably the best thing to do is to remove a course of vinyl siding above or below the handrail. Removing vinyl is quite easy. There is a little tool that hooks onto the bottom of the siding and pops out the bottom. Slide it along and release the piece. Just lift it up and find the stud placements. Use the tool again to hook the bottom onto the top of the lower row. Make sure you don't attach the handrail to more than one spot on the same piece of siding. That stuff needs room for expansion and contraction.


when I use the stair calculator and request a 7 1/2 rise and a 9 1/4 tread using 2x10s for the treads (1 1/2 thickness) does the calculator automatically compensate and if so what does it calculate for the riser thickness? or do I have to enter the dimensions as they would be before the treads and risers are installed?

Yes, you need to enter the total rise first. This is the dimension from the top floor to the bottom floor.

Then enter the usual choices of rise or customize the run, as in your case, enter 7.5 or 7 1/2 rise and 9.25 or 9 1/4 run.

Then enter your stair thickness choices or custom thickness.

Then click on Calculate.

For a drawing with all the measurements, click on Print Results.


Dave: I am building a covered porch "deck" in front of my house. The deck portion is finished and now I am starting the roof. I am planning a roof much like the patio cover you have on your site. My house is old "1936" and built out of rough cut oak, this is a farm house out in the country. I am pondering the best way to attach the ledger board to the house. I am presented with the ends of the rafters oak 2X4 on 21 to 24" centers. I am thinking that I may put 2X6 between the exposed rafter ends using steel "L" brackets to form a solid flat surface to attach my ledger board. I am using 2X6 lumber for the joists which I will cover with 5/8" OSB sheets. When I attach the ledger to the rafter ends connected together with the 2X6 I plan to screw to the 2X6 and lag bolt into the rafter ends. Any better Ideas? There is no building code for farms in Missouri.

You seem to have the solution in hand. Rather than use lags into the rafter ends, maybe go with a #10 x 3" flat head wood screws and put in a double row of these screws into the center of each 2x6 placed between the rafters. The end grain in these old rafters will probably be very dry and want to split out, if too large a fastener is used.


If I am installing a window that is to be 72 inches long what if anything do I need to do to support the area of studs that need to be removed prior to the header installation? Is there danger to the structural integrity when an area that wide is removed?

It depends on what the load is above the window. If a floor is above, or the roof, as in a rancher, or if the window is on the gable end.

Please tell me exactly where this window is in relation to what is over it.


On the particular wall there is just an exterior wall. The window is on the first floor outside. the wall continues straight up beyond the second floor and to the soffit of the roof. There is a 30" x 60" window already there and I plan to use a portion of that opening for the new window 24" to 36" in height not quite sure yet.

Hi Robert,

Okay, that's good if you have a second story above the window. This wall acts as a large beam itself over the window, so you don't need to worry about roof load. The floor above the window usually has a box or rim joist which will hold it up while you are doing the reno. Just make sure you don't have a heavy load on the floor directly above the window, such as a piano. Otherwise you don't need to support the floor while you remove the studs. If you find that the header won't go in because it is too tight or a slight crown in it, just use a bottle jack with a 2x4 on top and jack it up ever so slightly in the middle of the span. If you have a ceramic floor above this window try not to jack it up at all. Other than that you should be okay.


Hi Dave sorry to bug you again but I am working on the kitchen in an old house that we have recently purchased. The woodwork is awesome and the kitchen has wainscoting that is as old as it comes. I am working on saving it and restoring it. I am belt sanding and using a Rockwell to get at the crevices and contours of the woodwork. However it is tedious and slow going. The grunge and grease of the years are taking their toll on me as well as my sanding pads. Do you have any suggestions as to how I may expedite the process?

Hi Robert,

No problem with the questions.

I would use a chemical stripper such as Circa 1850 Stripper. This is better than Polystrippa which needs paint thinner as a solvent. Circa uses water instead. Follow the directions on the can, which is always important when working with chemicals. Since you already sanded, you may have to sand the other, as well, but after you remove most of the finish.

Hope this works easier for you.


Hey Dave I wanted to ask about installing a 6' sliding door where a standard exterior door is now. Outside is a porch with a roof over it. What will I need to do for support when I am preparing the rough opening and will a double 2x10 work for a header?

Hi Robert,

If the roof is hung off the wall above the header, it should support itself, without any snow load, etc, while you replace the header. If the roof's ledger is fastened to the existing header, then you need to support the ledger with posts to the deck and remove the fasteners into the header, before removing it. Try to leave any fasteners into the wall to help support the roof and keep it in position. Install the new header, then re-fasten the ledger to the header and remove the temporary posts. I assume that the roof is more than 6' wide.

A double 2x8 is minimum header for a 6' span. No problem with putting in a 2 - 2x10 header, which is usually used in new construction for all the headers of a house 9' and under.


If you have a door frame, you can reference the "sides" as the "door frame posts" and the lower part as "door sill". But how do you call the upper part of a door frame? Intrigued (but not enough to become a member yet). Paul

Hi Paul,

We call the door frame a jamb, with the threshold for an outside door on the bottom; the head on the top and the sides are just sides. I wouldn't call them posts. Terminology, like this, may change from one geographic area to the next. Posts or columns are for supporting a beam.

Thanks for your interest in our website.


Article of the Month

Cabinets 1: Frameless Kitchen Cabinets

Building a set of kitchen cabinets is a project that requires woodworking skills. Building kitchen cabinets is the ultimate test of a finish carpenter's skill. The cabinet builder should be well versed in taking and relaying accurate measurements, in the operation of shop tools, such as the table saw, router and using a circular saw, both freehand and with a guide.

The design of kitchen cabinets depend on the hinges used. The old style kitchen cabinets, with a face frame, used the classic Amerock hinges mounted on the face frame. Some hinges inset into the cabinet door giving a 3/8" thick overlap, others allowed the full thickness of the kitchen cabinet doors to overlap the frame. The concealed pin hinges were popular for awhile, making the cabinet doors flush with the frame. The doors were held shut with spring and roller catches. Finally, the magnetic catch emerged. Hinge design further evolved into a self-closing style, including artistic shapes and colors that forced everyone to re-do their kitchen cabinets. Our globe got smaller and European hinges came onto the marketplace. The design of these hinges revolutionized the kitchen cabinet industry. Frameless European kitchen cabinets were born. Cabinet doors could be easily adjusted three ways, drawers rolled easily on steel drawer slides, and there was no face frame to contend with.

The kitchen cabinet style today relies on...

Almost the End

It has been a pleasure receiving your emails and comments on the newsletters, the quiz and the survey. I hope this newsletter helps you in your particular renovation or project. Please checkout our website: It is loaded with information filled articles, handy calculators, converters, tables and plans for large and small projects.


(Ask Dave) (About Dave)

Your source for building tips, woodworking & furniture plans, house plans and building advice directly from Dave...

Hi, I'm Dave Osborne. With over 50 years experience as a journeyman carpenter, foreman and contractor in heavy construction I enjoyed working with apprentices and sharing the tricks of the trade that others shared with me. Now I get emails from Members all over the world and we include many of my answers in our Free Monthly Newsletters. Some of my answers include drawings and instructions specific to a project, but may also answer your questions. I use correct construction terminology, so you can confidently inform your building supply dealers or contractors exactly what you need.


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