Building Confidence

Volume 11 Issue 8
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

Formica is applied to the plywood top with a solvent based (not latex) contact cement on both surfaces applied in an area with lots of fresh air. Ref: Cabinets 4: How to Make a Formica Counter Top.

And a Bonus Tip:

Erecting batter boards is a good ideas to help get an excavation square and accurate. Ref: How to Build a House 2: The Concrete Foundation.

Ask Dave!

Your weekly tip regarding PEX tubing is incorrect. While there are PEX tubing connectors for some systems that require crimping and the use of a crimping tool, there are simple push on connectors in various forms that connect PEX to copper or other tubing merely by pushing together. Marketed under the name Sharkbite and other trade names, domestic plumbing now becomes more of a measure-cut-push together project than one requiring any special tools or soldering torch technique than before. Coupling, elbows and other fittings are available with the appropriate female fittings so the tubing just pushes together in one simple motion and the job's done! Roger

Hi Roger,

I don't agree that my tip is incorrect, only that I did not mention the external fittings line of Pex. I don't like those bulky fittings. The price of the crimping tool is within the reach of most homeowners or available at most rental yards. In my opinion the internal Pex fittings are far superior to the external ones. I won't advocate a product which I won't use myself. Sorry.


Hi Dave: perhaps I should have used the word incomplete. I think it is important in such tips that you do include the options available. From my own experience, I prefer to use the simple (as you described, "bulky") fittings because they are faster and simpler than having to bother with yet another small tool that will not be used on a regular basis. I felt your usually excellent overview was lacking by not at least mentioning the option of the fittings with the caveat that you didn't endorse nor advocate their use. Roger

Thanks, Roger, I appreciate your comments.

I'll include your comment in our next newsletter, using only your first name, of course. I will do a bit of research on the external variety, too. I haven't used this type, but have extensive experience in the internal variation. I'm biased, I guess.

Thanks, Dave

Note: Roger is absolutely correct and I appreciate his email. Even though I don't use or endorse a product, for me to do a good job in advising you, I should include these as an option, giving my opinion and leave the decision up to you. In my line of work as a builder and renovator, I bought a $200 tool for crimping these fittings. These are also available at rental yards and since I bought my tool, I see they are available for half the price. A homeowner who is adding or repairing the odd supply line should know about the fittings that are available to him/her without needing to crimp the fitting together. Just keep in mind that some households have more water pressure than others, so check that out in your own areas.

Dave, I am looking for some suggestions on how to run some trim down a set of stairs that have slate tile. The owners put baseboards on the landing and left the stairs with nothing. The problem is that the slate is three tiles across and a small gap was left on the sides and one side has the grout filling it and the other is just dead airspace, since the stair did not go right to the wall. What would be an easy fix for making these beautiful slate stairs more finished. I can send a pic if that would help. Thanks Christina

Hi Christina,

Usually the trim on stairs is a 3/4" skirt made of 1x10 or 1x12. The idea is to install this on the outside of the stringer when building the stairs, originally. You can install a skirt after the fact, but is a bit of a trick to cut out each tread and riser. You need to scribe each tread and riser to fit perfectly. If you could send me a pic of the stair tread to wall joint and let me know how much the gap is that would be good. I need a closeup of the nosing, as well.

The drawing below shows a skirt installed.

Drawing of a stair skirt.


Dave: You probably already know of this or something even better, but for forty plus years I have cleaned paint brushes used with latex paint with almost any old soap that was available. It always was a bit of a task at the end of a painting day, but they did get clean and I got really good mileage out of my brushes. Just recently I was finishing up a paint project by washing my brush in the laundry room at home. I happened to grab the only detergent close to hand which was a common domestic laundry soap booster called "Shout". I sprayed some on both sides of the 3" sash brush, worked it in a bit then ran it beneath the hot water and I was amazed that it was instantly clean. Considering how old the brush was (a genuine high stroke total brush!), not only was the paint residue from the current project removed, but some of the old stain came away and the brush looked nearly new. As I said above, you probably know this, but from now on when I am cleaning paint from my brushes, I'll just "Shout" at it! Roger

Thanks, Roger, that's a good one. No, I didn't know about that. I know there are brush cleaning agents out there, but not as good or cheap as you describe.

Sounds as if this is the stuff on TV where they say, "Shout it out" for laundry stain?


Hi Dave! It's been awhile since I last emailed. Like I said, I had to tender to some other issues and that meant a delay on my project. I am now back to finish my stair project. Thanks to your stair stringer software I am able to easily mark the spots. My next issue is on the side stringers. Do you have a formula for this as well as far as how far it should rise above the nose, etc. based on the total rise and run? Thanks for your guidance. Pancho

Hi Pancho,

There is no hard and fast rule on the stringer skirt, as we call it, it should be about 3/4" above the line of the nosings to look good.


I live in the high desert (7000 ft) of southwest Colorado and people here believe that decks should be made of pressure treated lumber. I was taught that PT lumber was treated to slow the rot caused by dirt microbes, not the microbes of damp lumber not touching the ground. Is that true? Also, I was taught that the best way to prevent rot in decks above ground was to cover non-PT lumber with a penetrating stain on all sides before you assemble the deck. Is that true?

Yes, you are correct. the pressure treated wood is treated with a pesticide to kill bugs not from dry rot which is caused by lack of air movement. The staining of all 4 sides and edges before installation also applies to siding as well. PTW should be used for the structural framing support of stairs or decks less than 12" from the ground. One misconception of PTW is that it repels rain, as is. You can stain or paint PTW after it has dried out thoroughly. It is not good practice to use it inside the house, either. It is slowly being replaced by powder coated steel in kids playground equipment.


I'm recladding my deck with Trex Transcend, and the wide fascia boards will cover the band joists. On the deck, I've used picture framing and mitred corners to hide the "raw" ends of the Trex, but now I'm wondering what to do about the joints on the 90 degree corners of the deck where the wide trim boards will meet. Trex recommends various spacings between boards --- 1/8" would apply here, but that doesn't make for a good looking mitre meet, even if I could cut an exact 45 degree all the way across the 11.5" boards with my circular saw... The only alternative seems to be a butt joint, which will leave some "raw" Trex exposed. Any thoughts??? Thanks. BTW, your stair calculator was a life saver on this project.


I just arrived back from vacation and found your email in my Junk folder. Sorry about that! I personally would miter the corner and leave a gap between the boards. I would cut down the gap a bit to 1/16 to 3/32. I have seen this done by other tradesmen and it looks okay. Of course, they used a cut off saw rather than a circular saw. You could make up a guide for the circular saw so you could have a perfect cut, as shown on our website: Another trick we use in doing a miter by hand is to recut through the miter with a hand saw, by fastening the boards together, first.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Going Green 1: Tips

Starting Green

These days, everyone should know what the term Going Green represents. As a youth in the 60's, I remember the protests of the hippies against the Vietnam war and the lack of concern and care for our planet. Today we have groups like the Sierra Club and Green Peace whose role is to educate the public. The movement has grown to the point of government changes nationally including International summits on the environment. Wow! Who said the youth of our world can't influence the powers that be.

Rebate Incentives

Our governments have introduced rebate incentives to their residents. They agree that we need to preserve and care for our resources: forests, rivers, lakes and oceans, soil and air, oil and gas and even our ozone layer, which neutralizes the harmful radiation from the sun. We've seen rebates on energy saving light bulbs and appliances, as well as government legislation for manufacturers to save energy on products from vehicles to toilets.

US residents can find out what rebates they qualify for at: the Energy Star site.

Canadian residents can go to this link for Canadian government rebates.

Cash Saving Incentives

As people who share the same planet, we don't have to be legislated to care for our resources. Here are some of the things we can do, individually and as a family, that won't cost us a penny:

  • When leaving a room, shut off the lights.
  • When finished with watching TV or playing games, turn the power off.
  • Use the recycle bin for: glass, tin cans, plastics, cardboard, newspapers, engine oil, batteries, tires, electronics and send your clothes to the less fortunate.
  • Lower your speed when driving. 55 mph compared to 70 mph saves you up to 50% of your gas bill on the same trip. (Reference: Economy FAQ)
  • Use alternate forms of transportation: ride bicycles, walk or use public transit.
  • Wash clothes and dishes in warm or cold water, hang up clothes on racks or clotheslines, limiting the use of your dryer.
  • Use reusable grocery bags.
  • Purchase large packages to save material on containers.
  • Use worn out socks for rags to apply stains and old clothes for dusting and cleaning rags and dish cloths.
  • Recycle photo film containers and pill bottles for small screws, nails and liquids.
  • Collect rain water for watering your livestock, pets and plants.

Purchase Smart

When the time comes to recycle your appliances and electronics look for the Energy Star sticker for the most energy efficient products. Purchase natural organic compounds instead of chemically produced ones. Choose latex paints rather than oil based. Replace incandescent bulbs with energy saving, cooler burning flourescents. Grow your own vegetables or buy local. Recycle products and reuse recyclable products. Drink filtered water rather than purchasing an abundance of small containers or re-fill your own containers for water, coffee and other fluids.

Green Maintenance

Maintaining our homes is not an expensive procedure, but good maintenance will save in energy costs. Since about 45% of our utility expense is for heating and/or cooling... Read more at Going Green 1: Tips

Almost the End

Thanks for the questions, this month. I hope my answers help the readers of this Newsletter, as well.

If you need advice on your projects at work or home, please become a member of our website, then send me an email. Check out our website!


(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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