Building Confidence

Volume 8 Issue 12
ISSN 1923-7162

Welcome to Dave's Shop Talk's Home Improvement Newsletter of questions from our members and Dave's answers, as well as a Tip of the Month and a Home Improvement Article, both from our website at

What's Happening

My wife and I have just returned from a cruise from Tahiti to Hawaii. We thoroughly enjoyed the time away, but are both glad to be home again and eat sensibly. I took my laptop with me in order to stay in touch with family, friends and members of our website.

Dan, my brother and webmaster, spent the last half a year building a new site with two partners. Its stats have been doubling each month and he says at this rate he'll have over 2 million people visiting the site each month!

The site is a way for local businesses to get new customers in their neighbourhood using coupons. It has its own easy coupon maker that automatically makes its own barcode.

Only Vancouver has coupons right now, but the system works anywhere in the world. To see what the coupons look like, move the map up to Vancouver on the west coast of Canada.

It looks like a good deal. We put a coupon on it for Dave's Shop Talk. You can see it at

Tip of the Month

With oak flooring, don't use a nail set. Use a large slotted screwdriver instead, aligned with the grain. These marks, when filled in, will blend better with the grain than a round hole from a nail set.

Ask Dave!

Here are the questions and my answers for the month of December:

Hi Dave Does your cleaning solution for Vinyl siding work on Hardy Board?

Hi Vic,

I wouldn't put the TSP on a painted surface or leave bleach on for too long. For cleaning Hardi Plank, which is painted, use a solution of half a cup of bleach in 5 gal. of water and add some liquid detergent. Apply the solution with a deck or window brush and scrub it right away. Rinse with clean water as soon as clean.


Hi Dave, just joined up. With energy getting more and more expensive, I'm planning to heat with wood. (or at least supplement my current system) I'm looking for thoughts or plans for a open front storage shed for firewood. Possible up to 8' deep, 16' wide and 8' high (head clearance). The look I'd like is similar to an open front horse shed like you see in front of some Quaker Meeting Houses. No floor except gravel. Any thoughts?

Hi John and welcome.

Probably, the best design for your wood shed would be a lean-to roof, sloping away from the front and large double doors, in the front, to expose the wood.

We have a lean-to roof shed in our list of plans: It could be easily extended to 8' wide x 16' long, with the doors on the long side. Checkout this plan and see if it will work for you with the above modification. If you want, I could do a custom plan for you at a nominal charge of $55. You can read about this here:

Hope this helps,


Good evening: I have a problem and I am not sure the best way to fix it. I live in sherman texas and my house was built in 1928 with original hardwood floors. I am having to remodel the bathroom and want to penny tile the floor. Do I need to use backer board? if so the doorways leading from the bathroom also have hardwood floors. If i install the backer board it will raise the floor level in the bathroom. If i have to use backer board what is the best way to transition in the 2 doorways leading to the bathroom? Any help is greatly appreciated.

You don't have to use backer board. The code states that your floor thickness for ceramic tile should be 1 1/4" thick. If you have 3/4" shiplap and 3/4" hardwood equaling 1 1/2", so you are good. Without using backer board, your bathroom floor will still be about 3/8" to 1/2" higher which still needs a transition. You can buy beveled transition strips called Schluter strips at tile supply stores. Checkout this link: Refer to the 1.2 Schluter®-RENO-U profiles for 5/16 to 3/8 inch thick tiles.

I refer to similar strips when doing my daughters reno in this newsletter: Refer to the first photo.

Another option is to make a transition strip out of hardwood, as shown here.

Drawing of a transition strip for a hardwood floor.

When grouting next to a hardwood strip, make sure the hardwood strip has its finish coat of polyurethane already on and dried.

To match up with a piece of hardwood, you could cut out a piece from under the vanity, if replacing it, or in a not heavily traveled part of the floor, behind the toilet, for example. Just fill in the gap, after removing the hardwood, with plywood or lumber ripping.

Hope this helps,


Good Evening: This is Mark from Denison Texas and I have problem and am hoping you can provide some advice on how to repair my issue. I live in a 1928 bungalow pier and beam home and am remodeling the bathroom. It has a cast iron tub that I will be replacing with a claw foot tub. Upon removing the half wall at the front of the tub I found that the plumber that installed the tub instead of using a hole saw and cutting a hole for the water pipes and drain pipe cut a hole in the floor approximately 8 to 10 inches wide and 2 feet long to accommodate the drain and water pipes. My concern is with the weakening of the floor by them cutting this hole as with the claw foot all the weight is on four points on the floor instead of spread out and that the front two points are directly on either side of the hole. I am considering laying a couple of layers of plywood over the whole bathroom floor to try and stabilize it but am not sure this would work. Any information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Mark,

This is typical construction for a bathtub. Since the tub covered up the hole, the plumbers were not too concerned with the hole. Make sure that the hole is just in the flooring and the floor joists under the sub-floor and finished floor are not cut away, as well.

Before installation of the claw foot tub, checkout the structure of the floor, the integrity of the floor joists, checkout the position of the claw foot legs and where they sit in relation to the joists. You could install blocking between the joists, out of the same material the joists are made from, (within reason), right where the feet rest, then replace the sub-floor. If you provide blocking as support for the feet, replace the, probably, 3/4" shiplap, for 3/4" utility/sheeting grade plywood. You could then install a 1/4" to 3/4" overlay for new vinyl flooring or tile. For ceramic tile, minimum sub-floor thickness should be 1 1/4". You may need to watch the height of floor to match the existing floor height in the hall.

Hope this helps,


Good Evening: first I would like to thank you for answering my questions so it has helped greatly. I do have another quick question. I have a 1928 craftsman home, pier and beam the floors are about 6 inches thick. I want to install an electric radiant floor in the bathroom I am remodeling. I want to just lay mortar and tile over the old wood floor since it has been patched in multiple places. Is it a problem installing electric radiant heat in the mortar laid on top of a hardwood floor? It is about 50 sq ft that I would be doing. Thanks again for all your help.

Hi Mark,

Yes, you can lay a mat down containing wires for radiant heating.

Make sure the sub-floor and hardwood is at least 1 1/4" thick and the hardwood is secured well to the floor joists. This makes a solid substrate for the tile, so the joints don't crack. Thinset is applied and the mat rolled into it and bedded down with a light roller or sponge float. The tile is then applied, as usual, over the mat. Here is a good website that I found showing installation procedures:

Be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions.

Happy New Year!


I am building a new house and the builder is in process of putting on fiber cement siding. As his crew lays up the siding they are not nailing or fastening in any way the piece of siding as it overlaps the piece below it -- about a 2 inch coverage over the lower piece of siding. This creates a situation where the siding is loose and wobbles and you can pull it away from the house up to a quarter inch or more. When I asked about fastening the bottom of every row they told me that fiber cement siding needs to have flexibility to expand and contract -- and to nail it or fasten the bottom of each piece to the top of each lower piece would void the warranty. I have never heard such a thing and I am very concerned about all this "loose" siding. I am convinced that in a driving wind with rain that water will penetrate upwards and the wind will cause a good deal of noise with rattling siding. What is your view on this.


Your contractor is installing the siding correctly, although we usually choose an overlap of 1 1/4" to 1 1/2". When I have installed Hardi Siding, it would always hang tightly to the bottom course. The only time we would nail at the bottom of the course being installed is at a butt joint. We would use a small galvanized shingle nail for the butt joints, always applying paintable caulking to the joint, which has a bit of adhesion, as well. This way the joint is tight.

I can't understand why the siding is flapping in the breeze like you describe. As I said, the siding is installed at the top with galv. roofing nails or air nails approved for siding. The nails should be hammered in tightly, ( not crushing the siding) and not loosely as for vinyl siding. The siding should not be loose so you can lift it up. Either they are not nailing it securely or something else is preventing the courses to lay flat. The only fiber cement siding I have installed is the James Hardi brand. Here is their website:

I notice that Hardi does allow for face nailing each course at the bottom, which can be done later. Maybe show this to your contractor. It sounds to me they are getting expansion and contraction properties of vinyl siding mixed up with fiber cement siding.


Feature Article of the Month

Remodeling 4: How to Frame a Wall

How to frame a house wall is not that complicated, if one learns a few basic home improvement principles of house framing.

The two main components making up a house wall consist of the vertical pieces called the studs and the horizontal pieces called the plates. For a standard ceiling height of 8', the studs are cut 92 1/4", with a bottom, top and double plate that totals 4 1/2", giving a total height of 96 3/4". The extra 3/4" allows for the ceiling finish, with a bit of room. Studs are usually placed on 16" centers for a bearing wall supporting a floor, ceiling and roof and 24" centers for a ceiling and roof only. To save time in cutting all the studs a home improvement person can purchase pre-cut studs for an 8' or 9' ceiling. Studs come in solid wood or are made up of short stock, which is finger jointed together using a mechanical process of glue and pressure. These, however, cannot be used for ... read more at

Almost the End

I hope these answers may help with your renovations. We invite you to look at our website to see if our articles, tables, jigs, tips, plans, etc may assist you with your work. Any comments on our Newsletter?


(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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