Building Confidence

Volume 14 Issue 3
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 make a table saw, fasten a portable circular saw under a table with the blade through the board. For the fence use a straight piece of board held with C-clamps.

And a Bonus Tip:

Always put the crown of a board up when installing rafters, joists and beams.

Ask Dave!

My customer wants a pergola over her patio. It will be 28 ft. wide. She does not want any posts in the middle of her patio. What can you suggest for a 28 ft beam. I am leaning towards using 12 and 16 ft. 2x8 or 2x10 but not sure how to build. thanks

What is the other dimension - 28'x what? That is a wicked span without posts!


I know. That's why I wrote you. The pergola will be 28 ft. wide by 12 ft deep ( from house to edge of patio ) If you say it can't be done then maybe she will believe me. Thanks

Hi Harlan,

These things can usually be done, but the question is how much money does she want to spend to get it done. To keep the cost down, she could go with a triple beam of 2x10 with a post in the center. Then lay the members of the pergola across the two beams, cutting the span down to 12'. If she refuses to go with the posts in the center then I would tell her that an engineer would have to design the size of beam to span the entire 28' which won't be cheap and may look ugly. There are trusses which will span 28', no problem, they have to be engineered, though.


This next email refers to one of my Weekly Tips:

Pex piping is a good alternative to expensive copper pipe in a home renovation. Adapters from copper pipe to Pex are available.

A crimping tool is required which can be purchased or rented.

Hi Dave: I wanted to make a comment about this morning's tip. In point of fact there are unions of various types that connect PEX tubing to existing copper or other types of tubing. These unions make plumbing a matter of "push to fit" exercises and virtually eliminate not only sweat-joining couplings, but also any vagary possible with the use of crimping tools. In addition, ball valves and stops are sold with the same sort of gasketing/internal crimping/clasping system which are all designed to accept normal residential or commercial water pressures. I have been rebuilding the antique farm house in which we live and have replaced much of the old copper in the course of moving the kitchen, installing a laundry room and renovating the bathrooms. Some of the copper was retained, but I connected PEX tubing using these simple to use unions. Now it can be said that the unions (and elbows and reducing Tees, etc) are expensive, which is true. But the time savings is worth money whether they are used by a professional or a do-it-yourselfer like me.

Photo of a pex pipe union.

Here's an example of a simple, 1/2" union: Sharkbite U004LF 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch Sharkbite Coupling (Lead Free) Roger

Thanks for the comments, Roger. In my reno business at the time, we only had large plastic unions, not like your sample pic. I eventually bought my own crimper. Now the crimpers are very inexpensive compared to what I paid, then. I still think that the pex crimp fittings are a better choice - definitely faster to install than turning a couple of wrenches. I have my own water supply with the older Quest piping with the crimp fittings and have not had a bad connection in 24 years.


Hi Dave: The unions and valves such as in my photo require merely to be pushed onto either the PEX or copper. No wrench turning at all, and no tools other than the PEX cutter to make appropriate PEX length. Roger

Hi Roger,

That is faster then. Isn't new technology great!

Thanks for the update. I will put this in the next newsletter, if that is okay with you. I never use anyone's last name, just their first name.


Hi Dave: Feel free to quote me anyway that is helpful! One other comment here as well. These particular unions as shown are marketed under the trade name "Shark Bite". The way they work is inside are stainless steel jaws that grip the tubing...copper, PEX or virtually anything else. Inside also is some sort of "space age" sealing ring that is capable of sealing under whatever the rated pressure is for the medium being transported. Now, as I have said, these fittings are fairly expensive. For example a ball valve in 1/2" is in the $15 or so, and a 1/2" union can be $7 or $8 if I recall correctly. But the manufacturer also sells a small half-circular plastic tool that can be pushed up against the fitting, and when pushed hard will actually release the stainless teeth allowing the easy removal of the tubing from the fitting. I have removed many of these when a job had to be redone because of additional plans or restorations. Thus the usable life expectancy of these parts is quite long making their purchase price a far better value over time. I have used 1/2" and 3/4" PEX tubing with fittings in the respective sizes for domestic water line installation and there these fittings in larger sizes are always being introduced. Roger

Thanks, Roger. I appreciate the update on Pex products.


Hi Dave, Last weekend I replaced a garbage disposal at my mom's house. 5 years ago I wouldn't have dreamed of tackling that. However, the successes I've enjoyed with your help have given me the confidence to forge ahead on just about any home improvement project. Best Regards, Trace

Thanks, Trace, glad we are part of your reno life.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 6: How to Make a Drop Ceiling

Usually a ceiling is just a nice covering of the bottom of the next floor up. A drop ceiling, however, is lower than the bottom of the upper floor.

There are different reasons for making a drop ceiling. Some home improvement people put a drop ceiling in the basement so it's below the pipes, ducts, etc. Other home improvement people may have a 10' ceiling in an old house and want to drop it down. It's very common in a bathroom to put in a drop ceiling if the house is built with a 10' ceiling.

To drop the height of a ceiling down, follow this home improvement procedure. Nail 2x4's as a ribbon around the perimeter walls, nailed into the studs. The bottom of the 2x4's—plus any drywall or other home improvement finishing material—would be the new height of your ceiling.

Go to the longer dimension wall, the wall along the length of the room, and layout on the ribbon on each long wall, 2x4's spaced apart by 16 inches on center (O.C.), so the 2x4's span across the width of the room. You can use joist hangers here but only nail them on one side for now. Don't install the 2x4's yet. Just mark on the ribbon where they will go.

Make up a double 2x4 beam ('strongback') the length of the long wall. Stagger the joints—if any—and place this strongback above and resting on... Read more at Remodeling 6: How to Make a Drop Ceiling.

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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