Building Confidence

Volume 12 Issue 6
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

To save money in a home renovation, choose standard size windows and doors rather than custom sizes. Ref: Seasonal 1: Fall.

And a Bonus Tip:

Be sure to check the required rough opening sizes of your windows with your salesperson to be sure they will fit you particular window openings. Ref: Upholstery 1: Upholstery Answers.

Ask Dave!

Dave, Our company contests usually create very little interest on the part of our customers so don't feel like the Lone Ranger (the marketing people never really understand quality builds brand loyalty, not gimmicks). Just keep doing what you are doing. Getting the kind of info you dish out for $50 / year is like winning the Handyman Lottery. Trace

Thanks, Trace for the words of wisdom.


(Trace was commenting on the lack of interest in our "Contest" in the May Newsletter.)

Dave Can you tell me what is a ruler in 10th's used for, I bought one in the Sally Anne and went to cut a 12" slice off the Plywood, and it did not fit, so I checked it and it was 12" on the ruler??? Scratched the old head and grabbed my other ruler and found my error was this ruler in 10th's was a longer inch than Imperial Like 1" in 10 ths is 1 3/16 in imperial ??? Beats me and 1' is 10 " ??? The Wife can Beat me at most things, Dan has to hold my hand in computers, but I can make tin Patterns. Ross

(Ross is our cousin - and is a retired sheet metal worker. He refers to the time he brought my wife some tin patterns for his motor cycle that she could use to make him some saddle bags. I laughed at the time! His 3 sons all followed him as tin bashers.)

Hi Ross,

You see 10ths on the steel framing squares, actually quite common. I've never seen 10ths on a tape measure, though. Before the electronic calculators came out, we used 10th of inches and 10th of feet to easily read our stair and roof calculations directly on the framing square. I have a framing square that was passed down to my Dad from his Dad (Grampa Osborne) which has an inch divided into 1/100ths, hardly readable any more. It also has 10ths; 12ths; as well as, 8ths, 16ths, 32nds. I also have a surveyor rod, from Uncle Colin, in 10ths of feet. So before the metric system was used in this country, someone figured out the Imperial system of measurement in length in 10ths of an inch and 10ths of a foot for us.

When I was doing Transit and Level in my apprenticeship, I had to memorize the inch conversions to a decimal foot. Dan prepared an easy table and calculator for this and put them on our site at:

Most modern transits have a calculator built into them.

We don't really need the 10ths and 12ths on tape measures today because the calculator will easily turn fractions into decimals: 23/32 = .71875, for example. With the metric system (meters, centimeters, etc) all the measurements already are in 10ths or decimals.



(I did a bit more research on this tape and found that Lufkin made Engineer tapes in 10ths of a Foot. Ross mentioned that the inches were 1 3/16 of an Imperial inch. What he thought was an inch was actually a 10th of a foot = 1 3/16". All inches are Imperial or British measure. Metric is the alternative. Even in Britain they have changed over to the Metric System, except for road distances and speeds, and some other items still measured in Imperial.)

Hi Dave I have oak cabinets stained cherry that were installed when the house was built in 1986 and were added-to back in 2005. Structurally they are in great shape. The cherry finish is showing wear and some of the stain is gone. What do you recommend to use to clean the cabinets and restore the cherry finish? I would like to use a wipe-on restore cherry finish, does anything like this exist? If so, what is the brand name. Thanks, Ron

Hi Ron,

It is hard for me to tell what the finish is, either lacquer or polyurethane. I would guess lacquer if professionally done. The pros use lacquer, mainly because it dries so quickly on an assembly line. The homeowner or retro professional would probably use urethane which is a harder, thicker finish.

Stain changes the color and finish protects the wood and stain. You probably need to sand the remaining finish off so that it will be even. That being said, it is very difficult to re-stain something that has a finish over it in some areas and worn off in others. That is why they have strippers to remove the finish completely. Then you can go over the area again with stain, let it dry and then go over the parts that have been sealed deeper with the finish. Refinishing cabinets is not as easy as putting a stain and finish directly to the raw wood the first time. If there is an effective product out there that you can just wipe on and restore the finish and bring the stain up to the original color, all nice and even without a blotchy look, I would like to know about it. There are products that are called Varnish Stains that has a stain mixed into the finish, which probably isn't varnish any more, but urethane. These are difficult to get a perfect even finish with and once dry, they seal the wood so it is even more difficult to get an even stained finish.

A good paint supply outlet, with a knowledgeable clerk may be able to help you with the right products to do a reasonable job. Take a door down to him/her and see what they say.


Hi Dave, I'd like to extend a hardwood floor from a family room to an adjacent kitchen. The family room was carpeting over sub-flooring before I laid the wood. The kitchen had linoleum. I would think the sub-floor would be at the same height throughout. But it is not. The hardwood and the kitchen sub-floor are already at the same level. This means if I lay wood in the kitchen, it will be 3/4 of an inch above the adjacent room's floor. I've been advised to rip up the 3/4" layer of plywood in the kitchen to put things on an even keel. I've been procrastinating ever since. Is this my best option and are there others? Once I get this worked out, I'll have questions about sanding and a transition piece. Thanks, Trace

Hi Trace,

I'm guessing here, but I suspect the builder put the plywood on the sub-floor in the kitchen to act as an underlay for the lino. Usually, we only need to put 1/4" over the sub-floor for lino. Before you decide to remove this underlay, make sure you know what it is. Depending on the age of your house, this may be an underlay for the lino which is 3/4" thick. Another thing to consider is - was this underlay or subfloor or whatever put on before the cabinets were installed or after. If installed before, this means that the cabinets are sitting on top of this. If this is the case, I would just leave it and put the hardwood on top. Having said that, according to the building code, the max height between floors is 5/8". If you have any heat registers in the kitchen, it would be easy enough to pull out the register vent and look at the edge of the floor, exposed. If you are lucky, it may be a 1/4" underlay installed for the lino, which could be easily removed if put against the cabinets rather than under them. If it is a full 3/4" leave it.

When you put in a transition piece from kitchen floor to family room. Plan on installing a transition strip flush with the hardwood flooring and covering the joint by about 3/4". Use the same flooring for the transition as for the flooring, itself. Cut the strip to length, rip the tongue side off and round it over. The flooring comes to and matches (tongue into groove) the transition strip. When the flooring comes into the transition strip the flooring end tongues go into the transition groove. When parallel, the tongue goes into the transition groove. What happens on the other side of the room when the tongues and grooves don't match?

In this case we cut a spline and slip in between the two grooves. Make this spline out of the hardwood scraps at about 6" lengths. Leave a 3/4" space between splines and an 1/8" clearance between the grooves and rip its thickness so it fits in easily, but snug. The spline normally is about 5/8" wide by just a touch under 1/4" thick.

Hope this helps,


Thanks, Dave...I'll chew on this and let you know what I come up with. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on sanding? The wood stock is 3/4 inch white oak. If I had the confidence I could handle a sander I would like to remove the top layer on the old floor. This would allow putting a uniform finish throughout. My one and only experience with a floor sander rented from Depot created valleys in the wood. I shut it down after 5 minutes and went over the entire floor lightly with a palm sander. Not really effective. I also have a hand held band sander. But after scraping paint off the porch with it am convinced it's not the tool for larger spaces. Any advice on sanding hardwood floors or referrals to a publication would be great. I don't mind buying how to books. Thanks, Trace

Hi Trace,

I have never attempted to sand a hardwood floor - installed them, only. They start with a large drum sander to cut the top down all even, then flood fill the entire surface, then sand with a large rotary sander and progressively change sanding discs from coarse to fine. The areas around the walls, etc are sanded with a small rotary sander that can get close up. This creates lots of dust. If you are living in the house, you may want to get a pro to come in and do his thing with his equipment.

I like to do it myself, within reason. The above is the reason I leave sanding a hardwood floor to the pros. By the time you rent the equipment, buy sanding belts, discs, flood fill, masks, the cost is not much less than getting a pro to go in there and do the job. After installing your floor, do you really want to learn how to sand it and risk the chance of messing it all up?


Just what I needed to'll get no argument from me on that one. Installing several Moen accessories in a bathroom I've been remodeling. I was as persnickety as could be when I did my measurements for the toilet paper holder. I thought I had it dead on: 6 1/2 inches wide for the pilot holes and perfectly level. If I recall a recent e-mail correctly - 24" from the floor. When all was done, the crossbar is not compressed and it "feels" a half inch too wide. Moen has an installation tool and I just ordered one. It's a template with designated holes for all of their products with a level built in...carpentry calculation for dummies. I'll let you know if it is as good as advertised.

You got me on the Moen tool! I never heard of that one.



Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

How to Build a House 2: The Concrete Foundation

The Excavation

There are two main reasons why we excavate (dig a hole) for the concrete foundation of our house. We need to protect the concrete foundation from the forces of nature, freezing and thawing being the major ones. Runoff water and protection from pests the others. The depth of frost is available for just about anywhere we plan on building on our planet. To prevent our concrete foundation from lifting we dig a hole deep enough so that the bottom of the concrete footing is below the depth of frost line. The soil under this concrete footing should be undisturbed soil or rock containing no top soil, organic or vegetable matter. The top of the concrete foundation wall should extend up above the grade to at least 8". This keeps our wooden framed house above the elements including surface runoff and above the pests that live in the soil ready to devour our home or at least enter it. To help in the layout of the excavation and concrete foundation we make use of a handy tool called the... Read more at How to Build a House 2: The Concrete Foundation

Almost the End

Our Feature Article of the Month, starts with this issue on a Five Part Series on How to Build a House. Hope you checkout our site for this and other How to Do It articles.

Thanks for your emails this month.

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(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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