Building Confidence

Volume 12 Issue 2
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

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Tip of the Month

Make a circular saw guide instead of buying an expensive cutoff saw. Ref: Jigs 6: Circular Saw Guide.

And a Bonus Tip:

Make a simple woodworkers compass for scribing circles and arcs. Ref: Jigs 7: Woodworking Compass.

Ask Dave!

Dave, We are planning to install hard wood in this living room House built in the 80's room 16ft x 13ft floor is OSB joist are 2 x 10 The problem we have is that there is a deflection in the floor. It would appear to be 4 joists were installed crown down compared to the others. There is up to 5/8 deflection. The floor joist are accessible from the basement. I have included 3 options 1- shim all the joist 2- sister a 2 x 6 along side glue and screw or nail or bolts. 3- any other options ?? Thanks

Hi Dan,

I would try to shim between the joists and the sub-floor, if they aren't glued. Use wedges in pairs, from each side of the joist when you shim large spaces like 3/8" to 5/8".


Riser and Tread: which goes first - I think the riser, but ... In your instructions, you said: "Start at the bottom riser, narrower than others, then put on the next riser up. Now nail the first stair tread on the stair stringers and nail the riser onto the tread." This sounds like you want to drive a toe nail through the riser and into the tread. But if you lay the riser in first, how can this be done? Thanks for the reply.

The bottom of the riser is nailed or screwed into the tread from behind or underneath the stairs. That is why I tell you to start at the bottom first so you can lean over the top of the riser and nail it into the tread, since you won't have room to get in there, to nail the bottom few treads, if you start at the top. Once you get a few treads in place, you could go under the stairs and nail in the risers to the treads. So don't nail in a toe-nail; drive a nail from behind.

Hope this helps,


Hi Dave, great website. Can you tell me how to attach a stringer to a concrete floor and what adjustment I need to make on the bottom riser? Also, I used your calculator for a staircase that's 93" total rise, T=10.5, R=7 3/4 treads 1" thick and at the point of attachment to the landing it said to measure down 8 3/4". The ledger on the landing is a 2 x 8. Any suggestions? Thanks.

The bottom of the stringers are always cut off the thickness of the tread. Otherwise the bottom riser will be higher than the rest of the treads and the top riser will be less. Then, when attaching the stringer to the upper floor, come down the thickness of the tread. This puts the stringer runs level.

With a narrow box joist, you cut use a piece of 5/8 or 3/4 plywood and nail it to the end of the stringers and into the box joist. Allow for this thickness and cut off the ends of the stringers to compensate. Now this is only an attachment aid. You don't want to rely on the weight of people supported only by some nails or a few screws. So, go a bit farther to support the stringers with posts under them. Another aid to hold the stairs in position is to put in a block between the stringers on the bottom. You can notch the stringers to fit over the block, which is the preferred way or cut the block to fit between the stringers and screw the stringers to the block from the outside of the stringers. This block is attached to a concrete floor with anchors into the concrete and screws though the block into the anchors.

Hi Jack,

I put both of your questions in this reply.

This is a common question not enough room to secure the stairs. Here is a drawing which answers both questions:

Diagram showing how to secure a stair stringer to a box joist or header.

Dave, Could you show me and describe in more detail, laying out the top and bottom of the stringer. I just can't seem to get it right, but I'm trying. My treads are 10 1/2" and risers are 7 3/4". Also, can you clarify placement of the gauges? I think you use the blade for tread and tongue for riser, but not sure if you put the gauge on the outside or inside of the square. Thanks Jack

Hi Jack,

Checkout my video:

This video shows the gauges in position. Also, checkout my article on Stair Layout for the drawing of the gauges on the square.

It is easier to use the stair calculator. It will not only figure out the rise and run for you, the number of each, but also the drawing of your particular stringer, the attachment point on the top and the cut off amount on the bottom.

Here are the results of the Stair Calculator:

Diagram of a stair stringer with 11 treads and measurements.
Diagram of the 11 stair stringer with detail of how it is attached to the upper floor with measurements.

Hope this helps,


Can I Cut a Ceramic Tile Already Applied to the Drywall? I am remodeling a bathroom, and in the process removing all of the base, cove tiles at the bottom of the walls. Of course, there is a lot of damage, but beadboard is going over the wall, so no problem. I have two tiles, one on each side, abutting the tub, where the shower tile abuts on the top. Removing these last two tiles may in fact damage those bordering tiles, and create even more work. (I'll need to reinstall narrower versions of the cove tiles so their edges line up with the field tiles forming the shower walls. I know I can go to the box store, buy two tiles, and have them cut to the right size on the wet saw. But I was wondering --- I have a Porter Cable vibratory tool --- is it practical to just cut these tiles without removing them, then removing the waste piece? My tool has an attachment with a semi-circular metal blade with rough coating on the edge that appears to be for this application. I tried a test cut on a scrap, and it appears it might take a LONG TIME to cut through just one tile. Is there another tool? Is this a practical thing to do? Thanks.

When I did renos around showers, I would remove the drywall and tile stuck to it. Then replace the drywall with cement board, tape and mud, prime, then apply new tiles. If you want to remove just two tiles and continue, I would use a heat gun and try to soften the glue (tile adhesive), then pry the tiles off. If you cut the tile off, it would probably remove the drywall, as well. One of the best small tools that I have found for cutting ceramic tile, including inside corners and circular shapes is the 4" angle grinder fitted with a diamond blade. My first diamond blade was $50, but now they are very common and are available for 3 in a pack for $20 or $30, or less: a very useful tool.

Hope this helps,


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Jigs 3: Dado Router Jig

Sometimes rather than make a dado for shelves with the dado blades on a table saw, it is handy to use the router jig. Here is a simple router jig to do just that.

Rip two pieces of 3/4" plywood, not oak, but fir or cheaper, preferably scrap, 3"x36" and two pieces 3"x16". Measure the base plate diameter on your router. Make a box with the short pieces on top of the long pieces, as shown. X equals the... Read more at Jigs 3: Dado Router Jig

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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