Building Confidence

Volume 13 Issue 1
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

Be sure to check out our nice ebooks! We have finished 5 of the 10 eBooks in our Building Confidence series! Please tell your friends about them.

Tip of the Month

When attaching a beam onto posts, install scabs over the joint for strength. Ref: June 2004 Newsletter.

And a Bonus Tip:

Before removing a wall during a renovation, be sure to determine if it can be removed safely, or is it holding up a floor, ceiling or roof. Ref: March 2004 Newsletter.

Ask Dave!

Dave, I put a washer and dryer as new installation in daughter's basement. All went well and no serious problems. Decided to install a lift pump to get the drain water from the utility sink (new) to the overhead sewer line (not new). All works except I am not comfy with the way the drain hose from the washer "hooks" into the utility sink. The hose is not an old style with the molded hook on the end. It is a new flex type that is intended to stick down into the stand pipe and then be strapped to the pipe. They (GE) even included a long cable tie to strap the flex hose to the stand pipe. So now my question, is there a U-shaped device that I could loop my flexible drain hose that would ATTACH to the utility sink so I could be sure the hose would not be propelled out by the thrust of the water as it exits the hose during the drain cycle. I have checked all the local hardware stores as well as Lowes and HH Gregg with no luck. Temporarily (I hope) I bent a piece of 10-2G 3 conductor and tie-wrapped the hose to it and have it "hooked" over the side of the utility sink. It works but is kinda funky. Do you know of a clamping U-shaped device that would be a little more secure and look a little less goofy? And if so, where would I get one. Thanks. I appreciate getting your tips regularly. Ray

Hi Ray,

Sometimes the good old stuff was the best. One solution is to drill a couple of small holes, on either side of the drain hose, about 1" from the top of the sink (if it is plastic) and either cable tie it or pipe strap it there.

Would that do the trick?


I have an existing opening in floor 108"; total rise 111 1/2" and 10 3/8" floor thickness. I have a head room issue. your calculator has my floor opening bigger. I can not make opening bigger. can you help? thanks Bob

Hi Bob,

Unfortunately, you need more opening length for an ideal set of stairs. We can cheat a bit - for your total rise we get 15 risers at 7 7/16 . We can't change this, but we can play with the run a bit. Minimum run is 8.25 with a 1"nosing. Your 108 opening will work in this case. The last 2 steps are under the opening giving a headroom of just over 80". This 7 7/16 rise and 8 1/4 run is a bit steep, but satisfies the code. Being a basement stair is not as bad as the main stairs - carrying heavy objects up and down. In a private residence people get used to it. This is the best you can do without getting more opening. Make sure you make the treads 9 1/4 wide, you will give up 1" at the bottom of the stair space. I don't know if this is an issue or not. The base of the stairs should have 36" before an obstruction like a wall. Your total run is 14 X 8.25 = 115.5 + 1" for the nosing.

Hope this helps,


I have a home I purchased with an addition on the back on a concrete slab. When I tried to sell the home the inspector said the concrete slab which is 4 inches is not enough to support the structure. I called the city codes and they said the footer has to be 12 inches wide by 12 inches deep. They said I could dig around the perimeter of the addition and pour concrete under the slab. This seems like something I could do but I am not sure of the easiest way to do it especially how to set forms for the concrete. When I dig it out I am not sure how to get the concrete to stay in place. The 12 inches under the slab does not seem to be a problem but adding the 8 inches to the side seems a bit confusing. Can you give some suggestions. Thanks


This is a good question. In a case like this where it is very important to get the concrete up tight under the slab, you can do this 2 ways: dig down all around the perimeter, but dig out about 4" from the edge of the slab and use the ground itself as a form, if it is stiff enough. dig down all around the perimeter, but dig out about 7" from the edge of the slab and put in a 13" deep form made of 2x 6 and 2x8 boards, supported by vertical 2x4's on the flat.

Here is a drawing for you to help make this more clear:

Drawing of a form for a concrete footing to be poured so the footing connects tightly to the bottom of an existing concrete slab.

Hope this helps,


We are planning to install our "spare" TV in our bedroom using a swing-down ceiling bracket we bought. The trick is finding the wood (joists?) on the other side of our popcorn ceiling. Should I assume that the only reliable way to detect wood is to hammer some thin nails into the ceiling in a search pattern? How wide should I expect a ceiling wood joist to be? The TV bracket that attaches to the ceiling is 4" wide and 6.5" long. Since the ceiling joist is likely to be smaller, I assume that I might first have to screw a small piece of plywood to the ceiling before screwing the bracket up there. When the TV is swung down, we'll need to be careful with the bedroom door. But it would be clear of the door in the swung-up position. Your thoughts? Curtis

Hi Curtis,

I have a stud/joist finder which works on the density of a wall or ceiling by finding the more dense stud or joist. These are readily available in most hardware stores - electronic stud finders - in various price ranges. Mine is a simple one, about $20.

I would try to keep the TV away from the door, if opened from outside when down, if there is another spot.

The position of the ceiling joists are usually at 16" centers. If they are trusses, they are usually 24" centers.


I thought about getting a stud-finder, but assumed that it would not work on a rough popcorn ceiling. Would it?

It should work, but you need to be careful not to scratch the stuff off when you slide it. I would try my knuckle first. You can tell by the sound if you knock over a joist.

Would you recommend I start my search pattern 16"/24" from each wall (back & side)? Is there a way to predict which direction the joists/trusses are running?

Usually they start at the outside wall, at 1 end or the other, not with relationship to the inside walls. They run across rather than lengthwise with the building, if the walls are less than 20'.

Should I assume that the wood in the ceiling is a 2x4? If so, I should expect the 2" side to be facing me, not the 4" side, right? Does my idea of first screwing up a plywood 5"x8" rectangle make sense?

They won't be 2x4, unless they are trusses. Probably, 2x6 or 2x8, if joists. They could be roof joists where there is little or no pitch, which would make them 2x10s. Yes 1 1/2" against the ceiling. I would determine first where the joists are, then you will know the size of plywood you need to screw onto the ceiling.

My wife likes that spot in the corner near the door. A wall mount would have been easier, but she liked the idea of getting the TV closer to the bed using a swing-down ceiling mount.

So you should be able to get it closer to the bed and away from the door, then, right? Will the screen be able to be angled, for the best view?

Curtis is my son-in-law. He was able to find the joists okay and attach the plywood to them securely. The joists actually went the opposite way that I predicted. He lives in an attached town house development.

This email was from our December Newsletter and needs a slight revision...

Hi Dan and Dave, Thanks for the info, and of course I'm going to let the automatic renewal happen. Our house still isn't finished, but we wouldn't have got this far without Dave's advice, delivered via the site you run. A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to both of you and your families! Steve

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the nice email.

Dan and I both wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2015!! Thanks and glad I was able to help.


Steve is an American, I believe, that is now living in France. He contacted our website when he was in the planing stage of building a small house for his family in the French countryside. It has been a pleasure to consult with Steve about his project. He has been subscribed to our website since Jun 14, 2004. We wish him and his family well.

Hi Dave, Thanks for the kind comments. But American?!?!? Last time I checked my passport, it was British :-D Happy New Year nonetheless ;-) Steve


Sorry about that, Steve. As a Canadian I get that all the time, when travelling, so I know how you feel. I have to be careful, though, because I married a Texan!

My background is English - my grandfather was born in Stafford on Avon; my grandmother was born in Bedminster. They met over here in Canada and got married.

Thanks for clearing that up. I'll run a retraction for next Newsletter.

All the best,


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 16: How to Hang a Door

Hanging doors in new construction is usually an easy process when the doors are pre-hung to the jamb. A pre-hung door consists of the door choice being from stock sizes of 32, 34 and 36 inch width by 80 inch height. Custom sizes are available at an increased price.

The jamb is the frame that is separate from the door to which the hinges are already mortised and attached. It consists of two sides and a top or header for an inside door and for an outside door a threshold, weatherstrip and brickmold is included.

The jamb is designed to stop the door flush with the outside of the wall, in the closed position. The stops of the jamb are either a separate piece of wood, or more commonly, in a manufactured jamb, are rabbeted out of solid material.

The thickness of the jamb is usually 1 1/4" on the inside and 3/4" on the outside. The standard rough opening in a wall is 2" more than the nominal size of the door. This gives a total air space, of about 3/8" between the jamb and the frame of the rough opening for shimming and adjusting the jamb to be plumb and square. The other 1/8" space is for clearance between the door and the jamb itself, so it won't rub on each other, after painting, etc.

When ordering a pre-hung door unit you need to specify:

  • The thickness of the jamb — an inside jamb is a different thickness than an outside jamb with sheeting, brick or block. The jamb width includes the drywall or finish on the inside so that the door casing or trim will go over the jamb and the drywall, etc. An outside jamb includes a brickmolding which goes against the sheeting or brick, etc.
  • The size of the door — width first by height in inches (or mm), for example 3680. If the rough opening is framed already with wood on brick, concrete block, or other masonry, and is not a standard size, give the rough opening for a custom pre-hung unit and the manufacturer will adjust accordingly.
  • Swing of the door — this is viewed from the outside of the room, facing the door. If its hinges are on the right side and it swings towards the right, into the room, it is a right hand door. If the door swings out of the room, for example a small powder room or the front entrance door and you are standing outside the door, if the hinges are on the right and the door swings out toward you, it is a right hand reverse door. This comes from the old days when clearances around a door were much less than today. The craftsman would actually bevel the leading edge of the door so that the back edge would not hit the jamb as it closed. So when they use the term right hand reverse, the reverse refers to the bevel.
  • The lockset and hinge choices of finish and design. The hole is pre-drilled for the lockset in the door, as well as, the hole and mortise for the latch strike plate on the jamb.

A carpenter is aware of slight inconsistencies in framing and we refer to working with them as "cheating" to make it right. If the door frame is out of plumb from one side to the other, we can adjust the jamb in or out a bit on the bottom to compensate. With the door attached to the jamb, we can see exactly the amount we need to cheat it in or out so the door will close against the jamb at the top and the bottom. With a double door set or French doors, if the sides of the frame are not in the same plane, we have a problem of getting the doors to meet at the bottom. But, with the doors pre-hung on the jamb we can cheat the adjustment of the jamb in or out. The door casing will then cover our adjusted jamb.

In areas where the door opening is built from brick, concrete block or stone, etc. a wooden frame is attached to the masonry opening. The frame should allow for a jamb, as well. We do this in wood frame construction, the rough opening allows for 2" of jamb and airspace for wooden wedges, as discussed above. If the wood frame is the jamb itself or the wood door will fit a steel jamb which is already mounted in place, we follow a different procedure to hang the door.

Measure the width and height of the opening where the... Read more at Remodeling 16: How to Hang a Door.

Almost the End

Hope you enjoy the Newsletter this month.

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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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