Building Confidence

Volume 9 Issue 2
ISSN 1923-7162

Welcome to Dave's Shop Talk's Home Improvement Newsletter of questions from our members on their construction projects, a Tip of the Month and a home remodeling article, both from our website at

What's Happening

As promised, I have included some photos of our basement reno, under the Ask Dave! section.

Dan reports that his new site Free Choice Coupons is gaining momentum. You can help your own local businesses and let your friends know about the good local deals they can now get from his site.

Tip of the Month

To make a stationary tool out of a portable tool, place it in a vice or mount it in a table. You can put your belt sander, for example, upside down in a vice. For small pieces of wood it is better to hold onto them than the sander. To make a table saw, place a portable circular saw under a table with the blade through the board. For the fence use a straight piece of board held with C-clamps.
Checkout: and

Ask Dave!

These are the pictures of the ceramic tile floor from our basement reno:

Photo of a ceramic tile floor transition in a doorway.

This shows the transition from an existing bedroom tile to a different tile used in the hallway. Notice the small tiles between the jamb, used as a transition from one to the other.

Photo of what the transition look like when the door is closed.

This is how the transition looks with the door closed. On the other side of the door, all we see is the tile in that room. The change of tiles or transition should always be hidden under the door. When standing in or out of the room, with the door closed, you only see the tile on that side of the door.

Photo of floor tile transition under a bifold door.

Here I show the same kind of jamb treatment for the bifold doors. The tile is the same inside the closet, but we should be consistent with our designs in between the jambs.

Photo of floor tile trim along walls.

Notice the border around the room. This was my wife's idea. The layout of the walls is on a 45 degree, so this gives a nicer design rather than just cutting the tile against the wall. Notice I used tile base, as well. The top of the base tile is trimmed with a small amount of latex caulking to seal the space showing between the tile and the wall. Caulking, like this, really finishes up the job, nicely and shows the difference between a novice and a pro.

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

The following string of emails is from Pat, who is doing major work on his house:

My home is concrete block, built 1955, zero wall insulation. I live in southeastern Ohio. I want to insulate exterior: 1-1/2-in furring with 1-1/2-in polyisocyanurate between the furring. I plan to use fibre/cement exterior siding. Now, what do you think so far? And, where to put vapor barrier plastic? And, should I change so that furring is 3/4-in with 3/4-in polyiso between furring and cover all that with another unbroken span of 3/4-in polyiso? A detailed sentence or two, along with a rough sectional sketch would be of substantial assistance to me! Thank you so much.

I would say that you have the right idea. First, glue some 30 or 60 minute tarpaper on the concrete block with an acoustic caulking. This stuff comes in a tube which fits in a caulking gun. Don't use too much, you just want it to stay in position until the strapping is nailed on over it. The tarpaper is the breathable type approved for walls, not the roofing tarpaper. Lap at least 4", starting at the bottom. Fasten the pressure treated 2x2 strapping on against your insulation sheets, that is start your first strapping at a corner inside or outside, then fasten the insulation next to it, nice and tight and plumb. Put on your next 2x2 tight to the strapping and carry on this way. You can have the strapping up to 2' centers. Usually, Styrofoam is shiplapped or butt joints, choose the butt joints. I wouldn't rip the sheets to be exactly 2' centers, 24" or less between studs is good. This way you will have nice tight joints between the sheets and the studs. If the wall is over 12' long you will need to put a stud at the 12' mark and layout the courses above for 2' shorter. This ensures the center of the siding board will be on the center of the stud. So for long walls, layout is important. For 12' wall and under, you can just go with a stud against the insulation sheet. Nothing is put over the strapping, fasten the Hardie Plank, or whatever brand you are using, directly to the studs. You never apply poly to the outside of a house, anymore, unless it is the breathable stuff like the house wraps. Poly vapor barrier is only placed on the warm side of the wall, which is on the inside under the drywall or paneling, never on the cold side. Before fastening the fiber/cement board on the wall, make sure the front, back and edges are primed. They will do this for you or do it yourself. Then 2 more coats are required to finish the exterior. This is important with Hardie Plank type fiber/cement boards.

Hope this helps,

I can send a drawing, if you need one. I'm on a cruise ship right now, enjoying Hawaii for the first time.

Let me know if you need anything further,


Hi Dave -- Thanks for your excellent advice. I am still studying it and making mental plans. I will probably contact you again when closer to starting the job. I don't have the money yet for the purchase of materials, but I plan to do all the work myself. What is the best way to fasten the strapping to the concrete block house? This block was laid in the mid 50s so it's good and hard by now! Short of winning the big lottery, I'll never be able to cruise Hawaii. I am somewhat envious, and am happy you were able to do so. I hope it was a terrific experience for you.

Hi Pat,

It was nice to go on vacation, but just as nice to come back home safely. That was our first time to Hawaii and we enjoyed it very much. The advantage of a cruise for the first time is that we get to see 4 of the islands. Cruising is not that expensive when you consider it includes room and board and entertainment. We probably will go to Maui again by direct flight from here. Another cruise we want to go on is the Panama Canal cruise. We will hopefully time it when we can get a repositioning cruise through the canal and get off at our home port of Vancouver, BC. That way we only have to fly one way. We keep an eye on cruise line sales. We have an advantage with flying, since our son-in-law is a Captain with WestJet. We fly standby, but get very good rates, again, WestJet has seat sales. Sometimes it is cheaper to book a confirmed flight on seat sales than our discounted standby price. Regardless, we are good for awhile, now.

You have 3 choices, as I can see, for fastening your strapping to the concrete block.

1. Concrete nails - 2 1/2" long. You need minimum of penetration into concrete of 1". Nail these into the mortar joints

2. Powder actuated nailing with a Hilti gun, etc. These you can rent at most rental yards. Make sure you get instruction from the clerk. Hilti guns, in my opinion, are the best. When I was in heavy construction, it was required to have a ticket to operate these guns. I learned that they are low velocity guns that only shoot the nail the distance they are setup to shoot. So if you want to shoot a nail into concrete or steel a distance of 1", the gun is setup to shoot this distance. When renting a gun, like this, make sure you tell the guy what you are using it for and get the proper nails for it. The nails and shots are probably a bit more than $1 per shot. You can get different power ranges for the shots, as well. The shots are blank bullets, with different amount of gun powder in them. Tell the guy how hard the concrete is. Here again, if the concrete block itself is too hard to take the nail, shoot into the mortar joints.

3. Drill the mortar joint out to accept the right size of plastic or lead anchor. This is done with a carbide drill bit, called a masonry bit. Place the strapping in position and with a 1/8" masonry bit, drill right through the stud into the mortar joint, marking the joint. Drill/mark all the positions of the anchors on each stud before removing it. For an 8' stud, come down to the nearest horizontal joint about 12" from the top and up about 12" from the bottom, for a fastener. Then place one fastener, roughly in the center of the stud. If you get good holding, this should be enough fasteners per stud. As I mentioned in an earlier email, place the studs on 2' centers. This is not a structural wall and studs do not need to be placed on 16" centers. The important thing here is to get good fastening. If the concrete is too hard the nail, may bend and then the stud will rock back and forth on the bent nail. Remove this bent nail before proceeding. Be very careful in holding the gun exactly square with the stud in both directions. You will find it will not shoot into concrete on an angle, it must be 90 degrees with the wall. Use safety glasses while shooting the gun and ear muffs. Anyone around you should be warned that you are shooting, to avoid the swat team from locking down the area, as well as anyone in the immediate area to protect their ears, simply holding their hands over their ears.

Hope this helps,


Thanks Dave! Your advice gives me confidence. I have done lots of do-it-yourself projects, but this exterior siding/insulation is new to me. I can wire, plumb, frame, etc., and am setting up a woodworking shop where I plan to build some case goods, cabinets, and who knows what. I have a small electronic security company - installing alarm systems and video monitoring. I'll let you know my progress on the siding. Best regards, Pat

Hi Pat,

You shouldn't have any problem with your experience. One thing I should mention, if you choose to drive in a concrete nail. Only drive the nail flush with the stud and stop. Sometimes, when you hit the nail after it is flush with the stud, it may pop loose. Just be aware of this. You may be better off to try the concrete nail routine, before investing in the Hilti gun. I have my own Hilti, so obviously, I use it all the time when fastening to concrete.

Don't hesitate to ask any further questions. I use most of my questions and answers in our newsletter, so they may help our non-members, as well, who read these newsletters, so it isn't any problem.


Here is a question on one of our shed plans:

On the 12X16 shed with a gambrel roof with loft, can you do the loft half way leaving the other half open without joists over head? Will the trusses, without joists support the weight?

Yes, you can have a floor in the loft half way. You need to continue the 2x6 along each 16' side to have the overhang the same as well, as act a bit like a strongback, for strength. I would double up the box joist on each half of the long sides. Then nail on the 2x6 as on the other half, with the floor. and a single box joist on the end.

The open trusses will then sit on the 2x6, on top of the double box joist on top of the wall at the same level as the other trusses. Toe-nail the double box joist into the last joist of the floor, securely and the 2x6 into the box joist, well.

Hope this helps,


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 6: How to Make a Drop Ceiling

Usually a ceiling is just a nice covering of the bottom of the next floor up. A drop ceiling, however, is lower than the bottom of the upper floor.

There are different reasons for making a drop ceiling. Some home improvement people put a drop ceiling in the basement so it's below the pipes, ducts, etc. Other home improvement people may have a 10' ceiling in an old house and want to drop it down. It's very common in a bathroom to put in a drop ceiling if the house is built with a 10' ceiling.

To drop the height of a ceiling down, follow this home improvement procedure. ... read more at

Almost the End

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Thanks for your continued questions and comments,


(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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