Building Confidence

Volume 11 Issue 10
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

Always miter the cap in the corner of the deck railing for a nice looking fit. Galvanized nails or screws should be used in any outdoor finishing work, such as backyard decks and deck railing. Ref: Remodeling 20: How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp.

And a Bonus Tip:

When plumbing or framing a house always make the grade stamps on the pipe or lumber you're using visible to the building inspector. Ref: Roof 3: How to Build a Hip Roof.

Ask Dave!

Dave My son has wood panel doors that are used to screen in his porch. During summer months he inserts screens and glass during the colder months. Some of these doors have rotted at the bottom. What material would you recommend to use to build new doors and how should it be treated. The verticals are 1x6, bottom is 1x12, top is 1x6. I was planning to join the wood with biscuits. Thank You Ron

Hi Ron,

Probably the best natural woods to use is teak (used on boat decks) and cedar (for house decks). Both these species of wood have natural oils in them to act as a preservative. Most species of wood (fir, pine, spruce) are good for outdoor exposure if they are treated with a good quality penetrating stain. I was told by an experienced painter that the best primer for exposed wood trim, etc. is oil based stain. Let it weather for a couple of years, then cover it with a good quality acrylic latex exterior paint. I did this for my own wood trim around our house—doors, windows, corners—and it has worked well. Before painting, I went over any cracks or holes with a good silicone/latex paintable caulk, such as Dap Alex Plus.


Should the width of the riser match the width of the tread or should it be flush with the outside stringers, leaving a small overhang for the tread beyond the outside stringer, say 1/2 inch?

I prefer to have the risers flush with the stringers, but the treads overhang the stringer. On a 3' wide set of deck stairs, I overhang the stringers by 6", giving a span of 24" for two 2x6 treads. I would overhang the treads by 1 1/2" minimum on the ends and about 1" on the front.


Hi Dave, came across this recently. The article suggests a 2 x 4 on the bottom of the 2 stringer stair. Your comments on this please. Thanks.

Yes, that's the way to go.

This is the way I show members how to secure a stair stringer:

Diagram showing how stair stringers are secured to the box joist or header.

I like to notch out for the 2x4 rather than having the stringers sit on top as your email shows. For outside stairs, I put a pressure treated board embedded into the ground so the stringer can fasten to it, as well.


Hi Dave, thanks for the previous reply. I wanted to get some suggestions from you as far as what transition piece I should be using for the oak stairs (natural oak stain) to the kitchen upstairs which I plan to tile using a 13 x 13 porcelain tile with an earth tone color. I have looked at 3 1/2 in oak landing thread. I think there's also a 5 1/4 size as well. Wanted to find out what other options are available that you would recommend. Thanks for your suggestions as always. Pancho

Hi Pancho,

Have you thought about parquet flooring? There are many combinations to do with oak parquet, as well as strip flooring. Google parquet flooring and click on images.


Hi Dan, I just want to say thanks guys for the work y'all have put into this sight. You guys helped me tremendously today with my porch step project. This was a demo and rebuild project so I had parameters that I had to stay within. The stair calculator allowed me to play with a lot of scenarios until I was able to find one that would work (it was the scenario that didn't require the ripping of boards). Thanks for the site. I will be using y'all again in the future.

Thanks for this, Nick.

Dan and I are glad we were able to help out. Thanks for the pics, also.

All the best,


Just a quick note to say thank you for the conversion table. There is so much wrong information out there my head was hurting. I am math challenged and it spelled out for me, which in your conversion calculator it does it for me. No guess work. Thanks again, Dave!! Bill

You're welcome, Bill, thanks for the email.


Here is a link to a small business that sells over the internet such things as ceiling tiles and moldings. Have a look at these tiles: drop in, glue-up, nail-up, in metal, leather, styrofoam for any room in the house. They also give you instructions for installation.

Photo of nice ceiling tiles.

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Jigs 2: Table Saw Push Stick

The table saw push stick is a very useful tool for the table saw where the ripping is too small to safely use your fingers to push the piece through. The table saw push stick is simply a stick with a 90 degree notch out of it. This notch is rotated about 45 degrees so the push stick is held at an angle. You can fancy it up with... Read more at Jigs 2: Table Saw Push Stick

Almost the End

Thank you for the emails this month. We got a few that were not questions but thank you notes. Thanks for them, as well. We always appreciate a thank you note.

A bit of Website NEWS: has moved to a new hosting service which offers Dan full control of our server. He is in the process of upgrading our site. He has asked me to go through our site, test things out and do a general revue. I'm passing this request on to you as well. As members of our site, please go through our site and if you can think of articles or plans that would be helpful to you individually, please mention them to us.

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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