Building Confidence

Volume 13 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

What's New

Be sure to check out our nice ebooks! We have finished 6 of the 10 eBooks in our Building Confidence series! Please tell your friends about them!

Tip of the Month

When cutting stair stringers, remember to cut off the bottom of the stringer the thickness of the treads. The stringer is then dropped that thickness from the top floor. Ref: Stairs 3: Stair Calculator.

And a Bonus Tip:

Clean out air ducts once per year. These are the dryer, bath and kitchen fan ducts, as well as, furnace and HRV ducts. Ref: Useful Stuff 4: Home Improvement Tips.

Ask Dave!

How does one determine the swing of a door?

Conventionally, a door opens into a room. Stand on the outside of the door facing into the room. If the door swings to the left, it is a left hand door; if it swings to the right, it is a right hand door.

For a door that opens outwards from a room, say for example an outside door or a small bathroom, the bevel on the door is reversed. Also, the lockset hand is reversed. Stand on the outside of the room facing into the room, as before. If the door opens towards you with the hinges on the left, it is a left hand reverse door; if the hinges are on the right, then it is a right hand reverse.


How do you frame in a bifold door? What are the rough opening measurements?

A bifold closet has a finished opening the same size of the door, so allow for that when framing it in. That is, the rough opening would include the thickness of the wall finish, say 1/2" drywall, for example, plus the door. For a 3068 bifold, meaning 3'-0" x 6'-8", the rough opening would be 36" for the door width + 1/2" + 1/2" (drywall on both sides) = 37". The height would be 80" for the door + 1/2" (drywall on the top) = 80 1/2". So the rough opening is 37" by 80 1/2" plus 1" for carpet or hardwood. So lay out accordingly.


Any suggestions on how to make the joint when you butt drywall to a timber frame post?

Yes, when making a butt joint to an exposed timber or to a window jamb, use a plastic J molding for drywall. The J molding is cut to length and slipped over the raw edge of the drywall. When installed it leaves a nice finished reveal which can be painted with the drywall. Wide side goes to the back of the drywall. Just slip it on and install the drywall, it won't go anywhere.


On a 2x6 exterior wall, how thick do you make the door header?

The header is the same thickness as a 2x4 wall. Don't add a 1/2" spacer, just nail the two 2x10s together as usual. Nail the header in place with the outside of the header flush with the outside of the wall.

Nail a 2x6 (on the flat) under the header and against the two cripples. This gives the thickness of the wall below the header for drywall (or any other type of wallboard) on the inside of the wall. Make sure the 2x6 trim, on the flat, is not nailed on under the cripples. The cripples should be supporting the header directly as in this drawing below:

Diagram showing how to frame a header in a 2x6 wall.


Do you use tar paper for moisture barrier under vinyl siding, the same as felt paper? We have 15 and 30 pound, which one? Is Tyvek house wrap better?

The moisture barrier behind siding is a special breathable tar paper, not roofing felt. It is listed in minutes of water penetration, such as 15, 30, 60, minutes. Roofing felt is a non-perforated tar paper which is listed by its weight, such as 15, 30, 50 pounds per 100 square feet (a square). Tyvek is a good product for walls, it also is breathable.


Does the thickness of the stair tread change the total rise?

The thickness of each stair tread does not affect the total rise whatsoever. When the stair stringer is laid out, the thickness of the stair tread is taken off the bottom of the stair stringer and added on at the top when you install the stringer, so it cancels itself out.

When you put on the stair tread, the rise remains the same, since you add the thickness of the stair tread on the top of the riser and subtract the thickness on the bottom of the same riser. These two also cancel each other out.


The bottoms of my stringers are resting directly on cement. How can I maintain some sort of dry spacing so they don't rot out like the old ones did?

If the stringers aren't pressure treated, put a piece of asphalt shingle between them and the concrete. Concrete and wood don't react well together in a damp environment, as you've seen. This should keep the wood dry. You should be able to find discarded pieces of shingle at a local construction site.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Jigs 5: Table Saw Tapering Jig

A fence is used on a table saw to make cuts exactly parallel to an edge of the material being cut. When we want to make a cut on a table saw that is not parallel with an edge, one way to do it is with a table saw tapering jig. We could make a simple table saw tapering jig with the exact angle we need for this project or make a little more complex one that can be adjusted for whatever tapering angle you might need in the future as well. We'll call it a table saw tapering jig.

The table saw tapering jig consists basically of two pieces of wood that can be adjusted to different angles. The table saw tapering jig is placed against the table saw fence, the material to be tapered is placed against the table saw tapering jig and both the material and the table saw tapering jig are moved along the table saw fence together giving a straight cut at an exact angle.

Making Your Table Saw Tapering Jig

Let's start making this table saw tapering jig by ripping two pieces of 3/4" plywood 2 1/2" wide (about the same height as the table saw fence) and cut to 30" long. Find a piece of piano hinge or butt hinge about 2" to 2 1/2" long and fasten this to the two pieces of plywood so when they are placed with their 2 1/2" faces together are even in length. After installing the hinge on one end of the table saw tapering jig, they will open up on the opposite end. Keep the hinge flush or below the top and bottom edges of the plywood pieces.

Now we must devise a way to... Read more at Jigs 5: Table Saw Tapering Jig.

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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