Building Confidence

Volume 11 Issue 1
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

Tip of the Month

Set a toilet floor flange 12" from the finished wall, centered with the toilet. One supply for cold water is installed 9 1/4" from finished floor and offset 6" to the left of toilet center, terminated with a shut-off valve. Ref: Plumbing and Ventilation 1: Plumbing Rough-in Dimensions and Instructions.

And a Bonus Tip:

The drain for a shower is 2" located to match the shower base. The control valve is part of the rough-in before the walls are finished and is installed 54" above the finished floor. The shower head is connected to the control with appropriate piping at a height of 78" from the sub-floor. The hot and cold water supplies are connected directly to the control valve. Standard connection is hot on the left, cold on the right when facing the shower. Ref: Plumbing and Ventilation 1: Plumbing Rough-in Dimensions and Instructions.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave, I have a question for you regarding Schluder or Hydro Ban bath/shower waterproofing. Do we really need all that? Currently our master bathroom is pretty much ripped out to the studs, save for sink and toilet are still there. There had been a 3' x 4' molded shower (not good quality) in the corner and a jetted tub in the other corner. Tub is gone and will most likely not be replaced or if replaced it will be with a slipper tub that can be removed easily if we get tired of it. Tub drain is still in the floor and I intend to use a brass "industrial" type drain cover to make it look (what?..... Industrial?) The fixture for the tub (if/when) will come out of the half wall next to the toilet and have flat retro style knobs and a goose neck faucet that will be able to rotate out of the way if needed. I want to leave the shower "open". Mainly for wheelchair access - you never know what could happen in the years to come. I read up on mortaring in a sloped shower bed. Doesn't seem too hard, but I'm wondering if it would crack... I also read about the new linear drains that look like a decorative metal slit in the floor and can accommodate an off-center drain (which I will have unless I kindly ask Pete to move it over a bit) (but I'd rather not disturb the slab any more than necessary). Back to my original question --- Schluter has a shower pan with an off center drain that is just about the perfect size, (also pretty pricey); something about it gives me an uneasy feeling. I read good and bad on the web. How do you do it these days? Have you gone with the "new" or stuck with the tried and true? This shower is going to be approx 48" X 60". Nothing fancy - no steam, no thousand needle jet massage array, just a very nice regular shower, big enough to accommodate a shower chair and enough area to navigate a wheelchair. Thanks Pat

Hi Pat,

In my opinion, if you can get a shower pan to fit your situation, go for it. I did a lot of reno work and pulled up a lot of these tiled in place showers with the tiny 1" square tiles. These are high maintenance constructions, requiring keeping an eye on the grout - not deteriorating, requiring sealing, etc.

What I like to do is put in a fiberglass shower pan, plumb it in with proper fittings. In a slab situation, where you can't get underneath the shower, use a shower drain with a tapered fit, not a glue on fitting. This way you can cut the 2" drain pipe to the correct level and mount the pan, then fit the shower drain from the top. It will slide down onto the ABS pipe, using tapered rubber gaskets for the proper fit, a very easy installation. I then install on the shower walls of Hardie backer board, a 1/2" thick cement board which matches thickness to the drywall in the rest of the room. This way you can put the shower in a corner or along a wall without building walls to enclose it. It is enclosed with glass partitions and doors.

You can get these partitions either custom made or stock sizes to fit the pan. You can tile over the hardie backer with the modern larger size tiles. I helped my daughter with an ensuite reno in her house - her ultimate dream home. She found a shower pan and glass enclosure with doors at Costco. This was the nicest I have ever seen and the best quality. It was large enough for a double shower - 2 controls and 2 shower heads. I installed the whole works and it turned out very nice.

The only criticism I had for it was that the door only opened 90 degrees. I thought they would have designed the hinges to open at least 110 or 120 degrees. This is not really old school, but it is not the new way with all the plastic liners they use today. I like a very stiff wall that the backer board provides so that the tile and grout has less tendency to crack. I mud the backer board joints with fibreglass tape and a cement mortar (rather than drywall mud) inside the shower enclosed area.

Hope this answers your question.


Hi Dave, We are looking at getting new carpeting installed in living room, stairs and upstairs bedrooms, and have been getting estimates, etc. There seems to be a difference of opinions from the two main carpet retailers in town, one in favour of, and one against getting the new carpets power stretched on installation. Do you know anything about this subject, and if so, what would your point of view be? Thanks, D.

Hi Doug,

When we got our carpets installed, the installer had a power stretcher, but only used it when he needed to stretch the carpet in a room that was 1" wider than the carper, itself. I am not an expert on this subject. I would rely on the judgement of the installer with the particular type of carpet he is installing. In the living room, where we needed it stretched a full inch, the carpet shows no sign of abuse or wear compared to the other ones. It seems to me that the installer did not like to use the power stretcher unless it was really needed. For one thing it was faster without the power, so that may have been the reason. Like I said, trust your installer, he is the one that guarantees his work.


Dave, This week's tip is in the ball park for a small project I'm working on. My butcher block table has been abused. Wet things have been left on it turning the top black in several places. Ive sanded it down and am ready to top it with something. Checked the topics listed on the Shop Talk web site but saw nothing that fit. Was considering a very light min wax stain (natural) then clear polyurethane. Most of what I saw on the internet suggested bees wax with either mineral or coconut oil. I don't prepare food on it or eat off it. Mainly I use it as a portable bar and smoothie station. It does get liquid slopped on it...guessing made of white oak but I'm no wood expert. Your recommendation would be appreciated. Thanks, Trace

Hi Trace,

Yes, usually for a butcher block - cutting block you use the mineral oil to seal it which is food grade. In your case, there is nothing wrong with what you intend to do. MinWax is a good product, as is Flecto Varathane products. What not to use, as a finish, is shellac. This is intended as a sealer. Alcohol will attach the finish if "slopped" on it. The polyurethane finish is the best, in my opinion.


Dave What is the best wood to make a cutting board out of, and do you have any plans. Thank you Mike

Hi Mike,

In my opinion use any hardwood, maple is good and readily available for a decent price. I would cut the ends off a 2x4 about 1 1/2" and arrange them with the end grain up, laminated in rows alternating the joints. Use a good wood glue with clamps overnight. After sanding smooth, routing the edges, etc. seal with mineral oil. Here is a website that I found that is very good:

It shows some different shapes and good advice on keeping the block clean and sealed.

Hope this helps,


Right now the old floor is linoleum tile. I have seen much advertisements about the new cork flooring. Would this be a good choice for a bathroom floor, or should I stay with the tried and true Ceramic tile w/concrete backer board ? Dave if you could elaborate on both, I would appreciate it. The last Ceramic floor and wall job I did, was back in the late 80's, and I feel certain, that has changed considerably..... Thanks for you help and advise in advance ............. Brandy

Hi Brandy,

I've put in cork flooring which is good, but would not be my choice for a bathroom. Cork is very porous. I would go with the ceramic tile on backer board. I don't think things have changed that much, except the liners they use today. They are using larger ceramic tiles and staggering the joints. Thin set mortar is still used, although an acrylic bonding agent is suggested, now. You can seal the joints 48 hours after grouting. Just paint the grout lines - works great.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Cabinets 4: How to Make a Formica Counter Top

I know you can go into the large building supply stores and purchase a bathroom or kitchen cabinet formica counter top with a rolled top with little shaped end caps supplied as well. But, I would rather build my own kitchen cabinet formica counter top and include a bit of personality to it. I'll show you how.

Drawings of laminate counter top edge profiles including oak rounded over, oak beveled, exposed oak bevel and oak half round. On the left I've drawn six different profiles for the edges of your formica counter top, using a combination of formica and oak trim, for example.

Most formica counter top manufacturers today use K-3 particle board which, when exposed to water, from a kitchen sink area, will swell up and crumble away. I can't count the number of times I've seen this happen. Particularly around a kitchen or bathroom sink, I use plywood. Don't buy a sheet of G1S at $40 a piece, but 5/8" D-grade sanded or factory grade or even a select standard sheathing. Anything is better than particle board for around a kitchen sink.

In the corner of a manufactured rolled formica counter top is a miter joint right across the counter, just itching to get all wet and start swelling up or collecting dirt. Formica sheets come readily available in 4x8 and 5x12 sheets. In most cases, for the normal kitchen cabinet formica countertop, no joints are required at all, if you do it yourself.

The easiest way to make a formica counter top is to... Read more at Cabinets 4: How to Make a Formica Counter Top

Almost the End

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(Ask Dave) (About Dave)

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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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