Building Confidence

Volume 13 Issue 12
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

Apply finish to hardwood before grouting ceramic tile that's touching it. This prevents the grout turning the hardwood black.

And a Bonus Tip:

With oak flooring, don't use a nail set. Use a large slotted screwdriver instead, aligned with the grain. These marks, when filled in, will blend better with the grain than a round hole from a nail set.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave, I have an issue with baseboard going around a corner, from the height of a hardwood floor to a lower floor covering of vinyl. Once the new floor is installed I'd like to continue the same trim around the corner. Problem is, the 2 adjoining floors are not at the same height. Anyway, I'm bamboozled on how to proceed. No need to rush an answer out. I'm 2 weekends away from finishing the floor. As always, Thank You, Sir, Trace

Hi Trace,

I would put in, what we call a Plinth block - mitered at the corner, both sides as shown:

Drawing of the plinth block on the corner of base molding.

Make the plinth block at least as wide as the transition strip. This block can be as fancy or as plain as you like, on the top, but the sides are square. It is thicker than your base molding so that the base can go into it at the two levels. The finished flooring goes on first; the plinth on next; the base next and the transition to the plinth, last.

Hope this helps,


Would have never dreamed of that solution but I like it. Thanks, Trace

Yes, the plinth block was quite common in the old houses, used as a transition from base to door casing. I still see this on new homes with the classic theme.


Hi Dave, One problem I persistently have is measuring accurately. I decided to read the article and watch the video on tape measures. I thought I knew what I needed to know about tape measures but as I've grown to expect in this club, that was far from the case. You pointed out features I had seen before but had not realized the significance of. I also learned I have some memorization to do; that alone should help. While I've been known to measure almost anything incorrectly, one common problem is measuring from the inside of an existing wall to the inside of another wall, The starting point is easy enough but the end point is not a point at all but a piece of steel bent into a rounded shape which does not fit into the corner to which you wish to measure. Sounds like it should be simple but I've made enough mistakes to know my method of guessing isn't working all that well. What do you do when taking such measurements? Thank You, Trace

Hi Trace,

Yes, getting an inside measure is not accurate with bending the tape around. I do two things - most times when I want to measure accurately from one inside A to inside B, I measure from A and mark a foot mark near inside B, then go to the B and measure back to my mark and add the two measurements together. I prefer this method. The other way is to measure from A to B by extending the measuring tape so that the back side of the case is tight to the inside of B and read the measurement where the tape goes into the case. On most tape cases there will be a measurement to add 3" or so which is the width of the case. Try these two ways and see which one you prefer.

When working on a cabinet, for example, you need very accurate, tight joints for shelf edging or facing. I then take the piece and mark it for length, in place, not using a measuring tape, at all.


Hi Dave, Thanks for the tips on measuring, I'll take heed. On my 3rd. tiling job I made the mistake of hurrying. My girlfriend was expecting me for dinner and I still had half a bucket of thin set left. I went to town on the tiles. I was having good success keeping the edge true with your board banging method but got carried away on one and broke the corner off a tile. After laying the last row of tile I intended to do yesterday, I checked the outside line (good except for the ding) then braced it longitudinally so the tiles wouldn't drift apart. I then took off for the evening. Upon returning the cement had set up and two of the tiles no longer abutted against one another evenly. Earlier in the day I had been painstaking with each tile and used a level to ensure it was even with the adjacent ones. They turned out fine. But "Haste makes Waste" as they say and I'm debating whether I should chip the 2 bad apples out and start over or hope the grout covers these mistakes up enough that I can live with them. I've been asking myself "What would Dave do?" Thanks, trace

Hi Trace,

I would lift the offending tiles. You could probably use the chipped one along a wall or where a narrower tile was required. Grout won't cover a chip like that.


Hi Dave, I just breezed through the list of "how to" topics on the web site. I saw a few I need to circle back to, but not exactly what I was looking for unless I decide to build a door. Just noticed my front door does not clear the new floor. I've been cutting back wood trim as a matter of course as the floor proceeds down hallways past closets, bedroom and bathroom entrances. However, this is something different - steel (or whatever they make metal doors out of). I have a Skill circular saw but have never cut metal with it. I've got a Saw's all with metal cutting blades but that thing is not too accurate. I've used Milwaukee's metal cutting saw - it works well and is a possibility. Thought I'd see what you had in mind.

Hi Trace,

These doors are steel, alright. Usually, they have a U-shaped door sweep on the bottom of them, which contacts the wood part of an aluminum threshold. You usually, allow 1/2" for the sweep. If this is the case, you could get a 7" aluminum oxide blade for cutting steel that fits on a circular saw. The trick is to just set the blade below the steel, because it won't cut the wood between the steel surfaces. Cut the steel out all around and finish the cut with a wood blade. The U-shaped sweep will cover the cut.


I have a deck that is 20 ft wide ( measurement is the one running along house )and 12 feet in length (measurement is going from house ) . Can I build a hip roof over this deck ? If so can you get me plans .

Yes, a modified hip roof will work. Since the width from the house is 12', the length should be 24' or greater. We can modify it so that we come out 2' from the house with a ridge then start the hip roof at 10' wide.

Here is a drawing:

Diagram of the plan view of a complex house roof showing ridge, common rafters, jack rafters, hip rafters and fascia with measurements.

Diagram of side view of roof showing hip rafter, jack rafter, common rafters, ridge, overhang, post and beam with measurements and slope of roof.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 3: Home Improvement Ideas

With home remodeling, home improvement or home repair, it is always nice to get some ideas. Good home improvement ideas can come from magazines, TV programs and the Internet. Here are a few different home improvement ideas that may be of interest to you. I got these when I built my house.

Home Improvement: Window Dressings

Thumbnail size of photo of window trim. Here is a picture of a window dressing my wife did. She did all the 'toppers' herself. In some instances she used bed sheet material instead of curtain fabric, which kept the cost way down. On the larger, living room windows, she lined them. I'll ask her to answer your questions on them if you have any.

Thumbnail size photo of window sill. This picture is primarily for you to look at as one option of making a window sill. The sill extends out from the wall about 3/4" and is accented with a piece of casing upside down with it's ends cut at 30°.

Home Improvement: Window Seat Storage Chest

Thumbnail size photo of closed window bench storage seat.Thumbnail size of photo of open window bench seat. We have had a lot of comments on our window seat. My wife got the same material from the store where we bought our furniture and covered the window seat and fronts with material to match as well as making cushions for the top. This is a good idea for useful storage.

Home Improvement: Mantle Piece

Thumbnail size photo of fireplace mantle. I designed this mantle piece from a picture in a magazine. Give me your dimensions of your fireplace opening and I'll give you a price on designing one for you to make. Send along your own picture and I'll design a mantle piece unique to your home, just give me your specs, i.e. wood preferences, color of stain or paint, heights, etc.

Home Improvement: Ceramic Tile Hearth Bordered with Hardwood

Thumbnail size photo of floor tiles around hearth or fireplace. Here is my home improvement idea of bordering a ceramic tile hearth with strips of hardwood left over after installation of the hardwood floor. If you decide to do this it is very important to have the hardwood down first with the finish applied. This prevents the grout from the tile from turning the hardwood black.

Home Improvement: Hardwood Stairs

Thumbnail size photo of hardwood steps. Hardwood stairs make a nice home improvement feature in a house. Put the hardwood stair risers on first, then place the hardwood stair nosing in position. Scribe a line along the inside of the stair nosing. Remove the stair nosing and layout the pieces of hardwood that come to that inside stair nosing line by ripping the first piece that's against the stair riser, to the correct width. The stair risers can be cut out of plywood 1/4" to 1/2" thick, usually. The stairs should be framed in beforehand with 5/8" minimum plywood, as used for the sub-floor. The hardwood is attached to this plywood by nailing through the spline and face nailing at the back of the stair riser. The hardwood stair nosing is face nailed and glued securely. TIP: When installing oak flooring, don't use a nail set to set the face nails. Use a slotted screw driver instead, aligned with the grain. These marks, when filled in, will blend better with the oak grain than a round hole from a nail set.

Home Improvement: Hardwood Stair Handrails

Thumbnail size photo of newel post.Thumbnail size photo of top of newel post. Notice the detail of these home improvement pictures for an oak handrail support ending at the newel post. These stair parts are available from home improvement finishing stores and are glued and screwed together. The stair parts are made from oak hardwood, for staining or clear finish, and hemlock, for painting, with hemlock being quite a lot less in price.

A curved hardwood handrail is not that difficult to make. The base and handrail are made up of... Read more at Remodeling 3: Home Improvement Ideas.

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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