Building Confidence

Volume 14 Issue 4
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

Before working on your kitchen or bathroom taps or the water supply to a dishwasher, turn off the water first. The shut-off for the dishwasher is usually under the sink.

And a Bonus Tip:

To get rid of moss or algae off your sidewalks or driveway, use TSP and bleach in warm water. Keep clear of grassy areas.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave I need to build a 1/4 per foot into my stair sub treads so that they can drain water if it ever get though the tile finish surface. which will be slight out of level not how to figure that into the calculate. Second question when using your calculator do we add in the finish floor on the height of stairs example concrete slab first floor to top of sub floor 109 inch but flooring being applied is 3/4 inch more so we input 109 3/4 correct.

If you are adding the same amount to the bottom sub floor, the treads and the top floor, then the total rise is from bottom floor to upper floor. Cut the thickness of the bottom tread off the bottom of the stringer and drop the stringer down from the upper floor the same amount. If any of these are different then yes, they need to be allowed for in the layout.

If putting on a slight slope to shed water, don't figure this out in the calculator. When you go to layout the stringer, after getting the rise and run from the calculator, then you can just angle your tread a bit out of level. It may be easier to scribe the normal tread and risers then just go back and change the tread to suit the slight slope.


Dave Just a quick note. Several weeks ago you gave a tip on using a hand held belt sander in a vise. I tried it on some of my hobby projects and it really worked out well. Saved me a great amount of hand sanding and also saved me some dollars as I was thinking about buying a bench mounted sander. Thanks for the tip it really helped out. Dennis

Thanks, Dennis, glad it helped.


Are you assuming worn-out socks are made of anything in particular? Or does the fiber matter when applying stain? All mine are wool, for example.

Good point! Wool socks would not be too good for staining, probably leaving strands of wool on the finish. I was thinking cotton or polyester socks, which is what I wear.

We better revise that tip!



I have to put a platform outside a third floor window and I am thinking for doing a platform with Diagonal (Knee Bracing?) to the wall supports on the 2nd floor do you have any info on this? this is for a fire escape or as the inspector said a place to go in case of a fire while they wait for the fire department. Thank you

How big is this platform and roughly how much weight, people?

Can you fasten the inside edge to the outside window side? This would stabilize it, then brace the outside edge.

How far away are the 2nd floor supports?

A photo, if possible, would really help me see your situation.


Hello Sorry it took me a bit to respond and thank you for looking into this. the platform is 3' X 3' maybe 4' X 4' I attached a rough diagram and a couple of pictures I need this outside the fourth floor window. the platform is for fire escape so enough to hold 2 people 4 to 5 hundred pounds. my idea is to fasten the platform under the window sill and run diagonal boards to the building. the fire safety inspector asked me to get any info on supporting it. any help is greatly appreciated Don

Hi Don,

Here is a drawing for you:

Drawing of a platform outside a window to be used in case of fire to hold two people until the fire department comes.

Be sure to remove vinyl siding (if that exists) before attaching the 2x6 ledgers to the wall through the sheeting and into the studs or box or rim joist. Attach with 1/2" pre-drilled galvanized lag screws. You should probably have a handrail a on 3 sides, as well. Attach to the wall (remove vinyl siding, if any) with 3 1/2" deck screws. There should be a double stud next to the window on each side for this. Try to get lags near the middle of the ledgers into the stud or joist, as well. Notice the notch in the brace at the wall end which helps give support, as well. Toe-screw these braces from the side for greater strength into the ledger on the wall and into the platform frame 2x6. A 5/8" plywood scab over these joints, also improves the strength of the joint. Handrail height from the floor should be 36" to 42" with a center rail.

You may also want to purchase an escape rope ladder. I've attached these to the window sill before. They are a consumer product which contains a rope ladder and eye-screws. You attach the the rope to the eye-screws and leave it in the box. In an emergency, throw the box out the window and climb down. Check on the height of the window sill to the ground. I wouldn't want to wait too long for the fire dept to come and rescue me if the house is burning!! The fire inspector may okay this without having to build a platform.

Hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions,


Thank you very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 7: How to Install a Skylight in an Existing Roof

"Location, location, location!", is what they say in real estate, but it's just as important with skylights.

In this home improvement article, we will talk about a 2'x4' skylight, so if you have a larger skylight, just adjust the numbers.


With most skylights there are two locations to consider, the roof and the ceiling. The skylight location you choose is dependent on the type of roof you have. The two types of roof common today in North America are the rafter and truss roofs. The best place to find out what kind of a roof you have is in the attic. Rafters are individual structural members that give the roof its shape and support. They are usually 2x6 on 16" centers. Trusses are units that support the roof as well as the ceiling. These are usually 2x4 construction with webs and gusset plates over the connection points and placed on 24" centers. Watch for the location of any hip or valley rafter, you don't want to cut through these or the roof trusses. Since your roof rafters will probably be on 16" centers we have to choose one to cut out for your 2'x4' skylight to fit. Another decision to make, once discovering the structure of your roof, is... Read more at Remodeling 7: How to Install a Skylight in an Existing Roof.

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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