Building Confidence

Volume 11 Issue 11
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

Both the sill plate and the bottom plate of a house frame should be either pressure treated wood or bedded down on top of a sill gasket or both. Ref: Roof 2: Calculating a Roof Pitch.

And a Bonus Tip:

When siding a house of various levels, start at the lowest elevation of the house. Ref: How to Build a House 5: How to Install Vinyl Siding.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave, I don't know if this question comes under your purvue but I'm sure you know more than I do and I'd appreciate any help you can give me. The basement walls of this brick Victorian house are made of field stone. The stones, very irregular in shape, have mortar between them (as you'd expect) but the walls have also been 'parged' perhaps with what a friend of mine calls Irish cement. This layer is quite old and I wonder if it wasn't put on from the beginning. In any case, the parging is crumbling as is the mortar between the stones. This is a continuous process and so the basement tends to be very dusty and piles of mortar dust build up at the bottom of the walls. My initial thought was to remove all the parging and repoint the stones. Quite a bit of the original parging is intact so this would be a big job. The other alternative would be to remove as much of the old mortar and parging and reparge the walls. Question 1. What do you recommend as the best way to stop this process of disintegration and eliminate the dust?" Question 2. If I reparge the walls after removing loose mortar, should I nail wire mesh onto the walls for the parging to stick to? Or is there an epoxy or glue that serves just as well to keep the parging in place? Question 3. If I choose to remove the old parging and the old mortar from the joints between the stones, what is the best tool to use? Is is possible to use a power tool or electric hammer. I'd very much appreciate any word of advice you may have. Question: If I put a new coat of parging over the whole basement after removing the worst of the crumbling old mortar, should I first attach wire mesh to the wall for the parging to adhere to?

Sounds like you have quite a job ahead of you, Angus.

As you say this is not my specialty as a carpenter, especially the stone foundation.

My advice to you is that you remove and replace the faulty mortar and parging. I'm doubting whether you need to remove the parging that is in good shape. If it's not broke, don't fix it, rule. There is an ideal tool to use for removing the mortar and parging, available at tool rental places - an electric chipping hammer. I bought myself a cheap air hammer with 3 bits: a point and 2 chisels. I chipped some rock in my driveway and was amazed at the bit not being mushroomed over. I paid $25 for this tool which makes it less than the cost of a rental, if you have a compressor.

Yes, I would fasten stucco wire to the wall before replacing the parging. Also, there is a product called an acrylic bonding agent that improves the adhesive quality of mortar sticking to concrete, rock, etc. This is a liquid used in place of or mixed with water in the concrete/parging mix.

If you intend to use the basement for living space or even for storage, I would suggest you putting up 2x4 walls, about 1" clearance from the foundation. This wall would be insulated with fiberglass batts, then poly vapor barrier then paneling or drywall. This would keep the dust down and the cold out. If doing this be sure the vapor barrier is always installed on the warm side of the wall.

Hope this helps,


Dear Dave, Thank you so much for answering my question. You touched on all the points I've been stuck on and I appreciate it very much. I'll have to think about what you've said and investigate the tool and the acrylic bonding agent to find out more about them. Also, your tip about putting up walls makes a lot of sense, the way you described it. I'm not going to be using it for living space, but I was beginning to realize that replacing the parging etc. wasn't going to relieve the problem of dust coming down through the walls. By the way, my stairs turned out beautifully, and the result has considerably boosted my confidence. Thanks!

Thanks, Angus, I'm glad to hear that we boosted your confidence. That is what our website is all about.


Not to belabor a point, but that's exactly what it did for me. Those stairs (to the basement) was the biggest job I've done. Now, in addition to the basement wall, I'm undertaking a variety of other projects. Thanks again.
Dave, Am building a bookshelf unit and need to know if a 30" wide 3/4" MDF shelf with 1 1/4" drop edge on both front and back will support a shelf full of books without drooping over time. Thanks, Martin

Hi Martin,

I would say this would be okay, especially if you can fasten the back edge either into the wall or the back of the cabinet. You need that front edging, too, which is good.


Dave, Thanks for the quick response. The back of the shelf unit is 1/8" plywood and I won't be able to get behind it to secure it to the shelf after the shelves are installed. This is a 13' wide cabinet with shelves going all the way to the top of a 12' ceiling. The shelves will be put in place last after the entire unit is installed. The shelves will be supported by shoe molding attached to the shelf standards. The drop edge will be solid white maple. Do you have any suggestion for attaching the rear shelf drop edge to the back? The only idea I have is to drill through the drop edge all the way through the plywood backing and drywall and use a dry wall fastener. Thanks, Martin

Hi Martin,

Yes, that's what I would do, as well - put 1 anchor in the center of the back rail for each 30" shelf.


Right now the old floor is linoleum tile. I have seen much advertisement 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 your help and advice 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.


Dave I am building a podium for my step son who is a teacher. The main support will be 1/2" plywood cut 10 degrees to the desired height with an 18" width on all four sides and the bottom. How do I cut the 1" x 4" base with 45 degrees to match the 10 degree four sided pedestal? Thank You Happy Holidays Ron

Hi Ron,

Is this what you are describing?

Drawing of a podium that is angled by 10 degrees.

To cut the miter angle on the 1x4 - lay the 1x4 flat on a cutoff saw or table saw and cut the 10 degree end cut. With it still on the flat cut the miter cut at 45 degree.

As long as the base is square the 1x4s will be at 10/45 degree compound angles. If your cutoff saw is not a compound angle cut off, use your table saw with its bevel set at 45 and the angle of the cutoff guide set at 10.

Happy American Thanksgiving,


Dave, That's it thank you. Ron Dave, Thanks to your help with the 45 degree cuts with the 10 degree pitch, I finished the podium for my step son who is an 8th grade history teacher. Ron

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.

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Jigs 4: Feather Wedge Table Saw Jig

It seems that a carpenter is always needing a thin feather wedge to shim something. I use old cedar shingles as thin feather wedges for shimming door and window jambs. Sometimes we need a thin feather wedge to lift a cabinet or shim something. Here is a quick way to make up some thin feather wedges on your table saw with a jig.

Out of a piece of 3/4" plywood or 1x6 board cut and assemble the pieces of the table saw thin feather wedge jig according to the drawing.

Notice the... Read more at Jigs 4: Feather Wedge Table Saw Jig

Almost the End

Thanks for your emails this month.

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.


The Benefits of Membership

Membership gives you full access to our hundreds of how-to articles, woodworking plans, converters, calculators and tables. Our Stair Calculator is one of the most popular on the internet. We have projects you can build for (and with) your kids, furniture for your wife, and sheds and gazebos. If you run into a problem or need advice your Membership includes unlimited email questions to me through our Ask Dave quick response button.

Join us!