Building Confidence

Volume 12 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

What's New

We have an announcement for all our readers. Dan and I are building 10 eBooks in our Building Confidence series!

We have four eBooks already published and listed with Amazon, which you can see here.

These don't replace our site, of course. There is much more to our site than could be put into even 10 books!

Tip of the Month

A wheelchair ramp should not be steeper than a rise of 1' for every 12' of length. Ref: Remodeling 20: How to Build a Wheelchair Ramp.

And a Bonus Tip:

For exterior doors with sills allow an extra 2" for width and 4" in height over the nominal size. For example the rough opening of a 36"x80" door should be 38"x84" with sill. Ref: Concrete Volume Calculator.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave The cold weather is right around the corner. It was 65 degrees is Plymouth Ma today, It was a great day to wash the car and truck, which I did. In any case I am building a couple of Adirondack chairs, first time. What material would you recommend. The plans I have are out of Handyman and the material they recommend is Southern Yellow Pine called "Perennial Wood". It is a treated material. Looking where to source it in Massachusetts. What material would you recommend. I am looking for 7/8 in thick by 5 3/8 in wide, Thanks Ron

Hi Ron,

If you are looking for that thickness, I would go with what they call 5/4's by 6 which is actually 1" thick and 5 1/2" wide with rounded edges. It comes natural or pressure treated and readily available usually for decks. I would tend to hesitate about using the pressure treated option, rather go with the natural and then finish it with a stain or clear urethane. Pressure treated wood is only treated for pests and rot rather than rain or moisture. Spruce, pine or fir are usually good softwood choices. 7/8 is a custom thickness as is 5 3/8, which calls for a specialty lumber supplier or a surface planer.

Good luck finding a supplier.


Dave: I've been a reader of yours for years, and finally need to request your expertise. From 1999 to 2006, my wife and I personally restored a fisherman's cottage (built originally on Assateague by fishermen approximately in 1895*), and moved to Chincoteague Island, VA in 1926. The house is two stories tall, and the approximate outside dimensions are 20' x 20,' not counting the one story kitchen, which was added in 1930, coinciding with the arrival of a public water system on Chincoteague. During the restoration we replaced all the original first floor joists (the originals were cedar trunks flattened only on the top, and fastened by crude dovetails to the first floor posts and beams). Walking across the room was like bouncing on a trampoline. The new (year 2000) first floor joists are treated 2 x 12 pine support in the middle of the 20 foot span by a beam on concrete footings with each side being a approximately 10 foot span. The first floor is now as stable as any modern house. The second floor joists are 4x5's on approximately 18 inch centers (they appear to be cedar salvaged from a sailing vessel), which we re-fastened to the second floor beams with modern galvanized hangers. To stop the upstairs floor from bouncing with each step, we constructed a beam using a run of 5 each 2 x 8's nailed and glued together, overlapped. That beam is approximately in the center of the house. The longest span for those joists is 10 feet on each side of the beam. A wall constructed for the bathroom results in the joists in the bathroom area being only 6 feet on the bathroom side and 7 feet on the living room side of the house. A post holds the main 14' beam up at its end, and similarly supports a constructed beam (3 each 2 x 8's), spanning fastened by galvanized hangers at the other end. The beam from the post to the far outside wall is constructed of 3 each 2 x 8's approximately 7 feet long. The joists about 7 ft. long on the front side, and only 4 feet on the rearward side, where they are supported by a wall with 2 x 6 studs. Finally: here's the question: What must be to enable removing the post supporting the long beam holding up the second floor? The post is the sole remainder of a wall that originally defined a first floor bedroom. The post interferes with rational furniture placement for the first floor. I believe your rules are one doesn't get free advice on this sort of project, and I will upgrade my status as necessary to abide by your business rules. Thanks for the years of helpful hints which I look forward to every week! Thank you for considering this as a possible inclusion that would be of interest to your other readers. *By the way, the house has an amazing history...when we outsiders bought it, the neighbors were concerned we would tear it down because it was in such bad shape. The former owners were of advanced age and in ill health, and we bought it from their daughter when they passed. When the immediate neighbors learned we intended to restore the building to its former glory, they told us the true story of the house. The 94 year old granddaughter of the fisherman who built and lived in the house spent a full afternoon telling us of the house's history. She observed all of the following as a young girl in 1926. The house originally stood on Assateague Island, along with 13 other houses at the foot of the Chincoteague Lighthouse. The U.S. Government decided to buy all the land on the Virginia side of Assateague, to establish one of the first U.S. national seashores. All the residents of the 14 houses were subsistence fishermen. A local doctor obtained the land the village was on in some manner, but had no way to evict the squatters. He used his land ownership to fence off and bar the villagers from gathering shellfish and mooring their boats. He figured if he could get rid of the villagers, he would be paid much more for the land, considering it was improved. The villagers figured out how to crush his evil by one, using methods the Romans would have recognized, they moved all the houses but one that collapsed during the move across the bay to Chincoteague, where their relatives provided them plots of land for free. Our cottage was house among the historic traveling houses. Best, Jake

Hi Jake,

Good to hear from you again.

Thanks for the interesting story, I'll include it in the next newsletter.

To answer your question. Depending on the ceiling height, you could put a girder in under the beam, from one wall to the other, the same direction as the joists go. For a standard height 8' ceiling you won't have enough height. Sometimes we put in a flush beam, in the joist space, using joist hangers on each side. In this case you could put the girder in the joist space and have a custom hanger coming through the ceiling to hold the beam up, not an easy job.


Hi Dave :) At some point during or after we installed windows, Pete went around on the sides of the house and the back where he could get to it and caulked the seam at the OSB and bottom plate. He was unable to do the front of the house because it has the brick facade. That, together with the window installation made the house quite cozy with no drafts and it was quieter as well. Today we had a serendipitous discovery of an icky situation... (as in - so glad we found it before it got worse scenario) The far corner in the front room (our house is brick front and this corner is the front left corner of the house, looking at it from the street) seemed like I felt a draft. Well, actually, the first thing I noticed was a small dried "puddle" that made me think the dog had gotten sick at some point and I somehow had missed it. But when I went to clean it up, I thought I felt a slight draft coming from somewhere. Keep in mind this is one of the first rooms where I laid tile about 9 years ago. I saw a couple tiny dark "streaks" further down the tile near the dried puddle. So, not being bashful, I pulled the baseboard off the wall. Back when I finished tiling the floor, I had taped the floor/wall seam with duct tape, just to be double sure no air leaks. Well, much to my surprise, there were a couple small pinhole leaks caused by wind (?) air being sucked in due to difference in outside/inside temperature. I know I'm probably not describing this very well. Pete pulled the rest of the baseboard off the walls. That's when we saw the moldy area. Long story a little shorter, the main problem had been caused by the builder not installing any insulation in an area approximately 10" X 2', under one of the windows. Outside air was drawn into this void through the unsealed seam of the OSB at the bottom plate. This caused the drywall to begin to mold and condensation to puddle near the area. Lucy's (our dog) chair sits right in front of the window. Although I move the chair to dust mop and vac, I never noticed the dried puddle until a couple days ago. Pete undercut the drywall on the front and the side walls. The outside wall where he had previously caulked that seam was fine. The inside wall (porch) was dry but the nail heads were rusted. Pete cleaned and caulked all the seams and cracks. In some areas he used foam - for instance in the space where there was no insulation, there was a chunk of wood missing out of part of the top board of the bottom plate, so he foamed that area with extra foam then he installed insulation. And Dave, after having you listen to this entire story, my question is this - do you think we should wipe down the bottom plate with a bleach solution where the mold had been on the drywall? It doesn't look especially dark, just looks like pt wood. Hope you are rested from your awesome vacation!! Hi to Frances and next time you see Dan, please give him my regards - I'm always wondering what he's up to. By the way, I went on Amazon and got your 3 ebooks. In about a week I will go back on and give you some (well deserved) rave reviews! Hope your ebooks take off for you like a rocket!! Pat

Hi Pat,

I saw your situation many times around our area, being so humid most of the year. Yes, about 10% bleach; 90% water is a good solution to cleanup and prevent more mold. After cleaning it, you can dry the area well with a hair dryer. I'm glad Pete filled the void with the foam - which expands and fills the area well. I've seen the plate and studs just like black mush, which I had to remove and reinforce with new stuff. Try to caulk the outside where the water was coming in, when the weather cooperates. Sometimes these thing happen only during a strong windy rain coming from a different direction than normal.

Thanks for the interest in our books, looking forward to the reviews. Will give Dan your regards. I keep him busy on our website and now the 10 eBooks. Dan is involved in developing a website - for the past two years. He keeps pretty busy, which is good. Thanks for the good wishes.

All the best for you both,


Thanks Dave! I'm thinking that rain did not penetrate the wall, but it was condensation that formed in the space where the builder did not put any insulation. Since Pete's taken care of that, I think we will be OK now. Although we would LOVE to caulk that outside, we can't get to that seam because of the brick veneer. I felt pretty good about our situation after reading about the "black mush" you have encountered. I would have freaked out if we had found something like that!! LOL So glad our problem had not progressed to that point :) Another question popped up -- what do you use as weep hole inserts in the brick? We never thought about mice being able to get in through the weep holes... or snakes... I've seen a couple products on the web, but I'm just wondering what you might suggest. Live long and prosper my friend. Take care! Pat

We use the bottom part of the mortar joint in between the bricks, every few brick lengths, or so. If there is nothing there just drill a 3/8" hole, or less to fit the mortar joint. We usually don't screen the weep hole off. We just have garter snakes up here. There are little round metal vents that slide into a hole, but I don't think they come this small.


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 a curved handle or whatever.

You can click the small picture to get the full-size image of a table saw push stick and then print it off on your printer in landscape orientation. The length of the printed table saw push stick outline should be about 11 1/2" (29 cm). Use it as a template to cut your own table saw push stick. The hole in the handle is so... Read more at Jigs 2: Table Saw Push Stick.

Almost the End

Hope you enjoy the Newsletter this month.

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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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