Building Confidence

Volume 9 Issue 5
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 & Tip of the Month

May was a busy month for me, personally. I spent a lot of time on top of my roof, power spraying the moss and algae off of it. One corner was particularly bad, caused from overhanging fir trees. It was also the highest point of the roof, about 30 feet to the ground. I invested in a 3 point harness to wear, tied to a bracket on the ridge. I recommend, strongly, this type of safety harness. In fact it is required now in British Columbia by Workers Compensation rules.

I bit the bullet and hired a professional faller to remove those three trees, causing me so much grief all these years. They not only created shade for moss to propagate, but also filled the gutters with needles and cones.

Some of you may cringe when you hear of a power sprayer on a roof. Yes, you need to be careful. My electric sprayer is only 1500 psi, I hold the nozzle back a bit and fan it out. It does a great job. I start at the ridge and work my way to the eaves, never spraying up to lift the asphalt shingles. Always use the least amount of pressure that is necessary to remove the moss. Try to get it all, so it won't relocate in the Fall.

Ask Dave!

I am planning to build a covered front porch, which will include building a gabled roof and pouring a small slab of concrete. What I typically see in new construction, is that the porch roof is built first, with temporary supports. Then the porch slab or steps are poured and the permanent support posts are added last. My question, I guess, is why is this so? And, would there be any problem if I pour my slab first, install my finished posts, and build my roof onto those posts?

In my opinion, based on the building code, we build the foundation for a house below the frost line. At this time we also include the footings for posts which support roofs, decks, floors, etc. The footings for these posts are set below the frost line and concrete posts extend up to about 8" above grade. Usually, the preferred size of post is the 6x6, even for decks. Then, as you say, the porch slab and concrete stairs are poured in place after the backfill is compacted in place. In a retrofit or renovation, we do the same thing. We excavate for the footings, usually square pads with concrete posts, 8" above grade with a steel post saddle on top. Erect our posts beams and roof, then fill and compact the area for the slab and pour it under the roof. If you live in an area, not influenced by frost, you still need to build a footing or pad to support the weight of the roof structure. This footing or pad should be below the slab for aesthetic reasons and have a short concrete base so the wooden post is not sitting in water.

If you pour the slab first and then put your posts on top, make sure you allow a thicker slab under the post to support the roof. There is nothing wrong with this. A post saddle should be embedded into the slab at the time of pouring or drilled in later. The saddle not only holds the bottom of the post secure, it separates the wood from concrete. The concrete base for a typical post is usually about 2' square by 8" deep.


Yeah, my Dad took your Dad's saying a step further: "there are no stupid questions, just stupid people." My question is whether gutters are needed to protect the foundation of a house. I understand their utility in keeping water from dripping on people at doorways and preventing the "trenching" that can occur over time. But, in researching this on the internet, the comment that gutters are needed to protect the foundation is repeated over and over with no explanation. Is this just a myth created by the gutter industry, or does it have merit? Or, is it only applicable to some houses such as those with basements?

Yes, I think everyone's Dad had some weird and wonderful statement or saying. If there are stupid people out there, does that mean their questions are wise? Ha!

In my area gutters are not required by the building code, although, just about everyone installs them. If installed they have to be installed correctly - either run into the perimeter drain or run into a separate pipe, which leads to the ditch or storm sewer system or run onto the lawn through a splash guard. Different jurisdictions handle the codes according to their own amendments. In areas where there is severe freezing, gutters are a detriment. In Texas, they leave gutters off the house over their flower beds, so that they get the little rain that may fall.

The new houses built today usually have fascia gutters installed. This is a 5" gutter that goes directly on the rafter or truss fascia, eliminating a separate fascia board. Those 5" continuous fascia gutters coming right out of the truck are the best and the competition keeps the price fair. In building my own house these are the tasks that I assigned to the sub-trades: foundation coating - sprayed on from a truck; continuous gutters and downspouts; drywall install and mud, including textured ceilings; insulation and vapor barrier, not just the blown in; carpet and lino, I did the hardwood and ceramic tile; HVAC; rough-in plumbing - you don't want to make mistakes here.

Everything else I did myself - foundation, framing, including installing the windows and doors, finishing, cabinets and counter tops, electrical - under a homeowner permit, roofing, perimeter drain, etc., siding - while the contractors were drywalling, plumbing finish and trim, painting. I enjoyed doing most of the work myself. It took 10 months to get it done to the occupation permit, although I moved in months prior to actually getting official permission to move in. We moved in before the kitchen cabinets were built - my first priority.

Well, I've rambled enough. I better get the boat hooked up - heading out to set our crab traps and enjoy our good weather.



Hi, Dave! I'm getting started on the 10' x 12' gambrel-eave shed. I'm going to use the wood foundation. We live in an area that can see pretty gusty winds. As I read the directions, I see nothing that secures the joists to the three 6 x 6" pressure treated timbers that will, in turn, be sitting on a compacted gravel bed. It looks like the flooring just sit on them. Can that be correct? Should I be using anchor ties or something? Frost line here is 30" so I didn't want to use the concrete foundations. Thanks for your help, Rick Woodland Park, CO

Hi Rick,

Thanks for the email.

Each joist is toe-nailed to where it crosses over the 6x6s, one nail on each side, of each intersection. The box joists are also toe-nailed into the 6x6s, from the outside, as well as to each joist.


Dave, I'm eager to join your website & access your plans, etc -- but I know just how many online scams there are -- an email response here could dispel that. Also, since I'm located in the U.S. -- will you plans only include metric measurements -- or will the antiquated U.S. form of measurement also be included?! Thanks in advance --- Mary.

Hi Mary,

We are real people here, alright.

You can checkout About Us without being a member and the latest newsletter, among others - videos, etc.:

Yes, I'm Canadian, but I still use the Imperial measure, although familiar with metric, as well.

We have a refund policy, if not satisfied, a full refund - up to 30 days, as long as you don't download a bunch of plans and articles. We can tell, or at least my webmaster brother, Dan, can.

Hope to hear from you, Mary,


Dear Dave, The mere fact that you took the time to respond to my email inquiry pretty much says it all. Very soon, I'll no longer be listed in the "non-member" category. :-) Many thanks! Can't wait to start building! Mary in Colorado

Okay, thanks, Mary,


(Mary did join our site)

Hey Dave I was planning on building a 12' x 12' free standing type garden sitting spot, with a simple shed type roof. I wanted it to look a little bulky, and was planning on using 6x6 posts with a beam notched in front and back, with 3x6 rafters 4' on center with plywood and cedar shakes for the roof. Was just trying to figure proper way to attach rafters. Over a beam, or flush to it? I am sinking the post in the ground 36" with a thick footing poured at the bottom. Will angle braces at the corners and the plywood roof take care of any sway or do I need other bracing? Any help on layout would sure be appreciated Thanks Mike

Hi Mike,

Your centers on the 3x6 rafters are too far apart. I would not go more than 2' centers to support the plywood. If you want to go with 4' centers on the rafters, you should install 2x4 purlins on edge on top of the rafters.

I would install the rafters over beams instead of between them. With under slung beams you are able to move the beams in a maximum of 2' cutting down the span on the rafters.

I would move the posts in from the ends of the beams, as well. This also cuts down the span of the beam, as well as leaving room for a brace on each side of each beam. Also a brace should be installed from the post to a rafter in the other direction.

Your beams should be a double 2x10x12' long.

Just a note: with cedar shakes you don't need solid ply sheathing, strapping is also acceptable. I understand if you want the plywood for aesthetic reasons.


Hello Dave. Thanks for the last message from Wednesday. I understand the unprotected openings issues about the fire protection and risk to other properties. What still doesn't line up on the chart is the numbers that their architect submitted. This is mostly irrelevant -- I just wanted to understand the numbers before having contact with city hall. In regards to the truss idea, it is not feasible in this case due to the low height of the roof. We'll need to use rafters and the purlins for this garage. BTW, I noticed some people state rafters and some (like yourself) state roof joists. What is the difference? Regards, Doug

Hi Doug,

Rafters actually are part of a unit, similar to trusses being a unit. Rafters need to have ceiling joists and ridge boards. Ceiling joists to tie the walls together to prevent them from bowing out under a load, similar to the bottom cord of a truss. Ridge boards to fasten the top of the rafters to and keep them straight. The bird's mouth is part of a rafter forming a notch for the wall to fit in helping the ceiling joist, which is nailed to it, to hold the wall in.

Roof joists are simply structural members forming a flat roof or roof slope as well as the ceiling.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 9: How to Install a Hardwood Floor

First of all, determine which direction you are going to install the hardwood floor boards. Conventionally the hardwood floor boards are run with the length of the room rather than across it. Another choice is installing the hardwood floor boards diagonally. Measure along a wall, the equivalent of one board plus the tongue, plus 1/4" for expansion. Go to the corners of the room and snap a line between these points. Don't follow the wall, follow the line. This first hardwood floor board should be laid down with its more at

Almost the End

Well, that does it for another month. We hope some of these questions and answers will help you with your renovation project. If you need more advice, join our website, then send me an email.

Be careful out there!


(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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