Building Confidence

Volume 15 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

When drilling through a finished frame, as when installing door pulls, hold a scrap block of plywood on the inside to prevent the drill from chipping the wood as it goes through the other side.

And a Bonus Tip:

When cutting a machine screw to length, thread on a proper size nut first, cut the screw and back off the nut which cleans the threads in the process.

Ask Dave!

This past month we have had a few responses from our subscribers who are annoyed that our Stair Calculator has a mind of its own when exceeding the limits of the Building Code.

Dan and I discussed this issue and came to the conclusion that a builder has a right to build a set of stairs, in his own house, to suit his individual needs. Therefore, we have changed the Stair Calculator to include rises and runs outside the envelope of the Building Code. We have stated at the beginning Instructions of our Stair Calculator:

"In using this calculator it is IMPORTANT that you know and follow the Building Code requirements for stairs in your local area. This Stair Stringer Calculator will let you enter any size stair for planning purposes ONLY. It is NOT an invitation for you to ignore your local Building Code."

I'll go over the Building Code in relationship to building stairs in a single family residence.

For All States:

  • All States (other than NY and NJ) the minimum run is 10"; the maximum run is 10 3/8".
  • The maximum rise (other than NY and NJ) is 7 3/4".
  • The minimum nosing is 3/4"; the maximum nosing allowed is 1 1/4".
  • The minimum headroom over interior stairs is 6' - 8".

New York and New Jersey have their own amendments to the International Residential Code (IRC) as follows:

  • Maximum rise is 8 1/4".
  • Minimum run is 9"; the maximum is 9 3/8".

For our Canadian members:

  • Minimum rise is 125 mm = 5"; maximum rise is 200 mm = 7 7/8"
  • Minimum run is 210 mm = 8 1/4"; maximum run is 355 mm = 14"
  • Minimum tread depth is 235 mm = 9 1/4"; maximum tread depth is 355 mm = 14"
  • The maximum nosing allowed is 25 mm = 1".
  • The minimum headroom over interior stairs is 6' - 4 1/2".

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Remodeling 18: How to Install a Pocket Door

A pocket door is so named because the door slides into a pocket in the wall and disappears, leaving only its leading edge visible with a little hooked pull showing to close it.

The framing of a pocket door is a bit more involved than a regular door. The rough opening should be the width of the pocket door doubled plus 2 1/2" for the pocket door frame, pocket door width and shim space and 84" for height. For example for a 30"x80" pocket door, the rough opening should be 62 1/2"x84" from the finished floor.

Diagram of how to frame a pocket doorThe pocket door frame will come assembled without the pocket door. It will come with a bag of hardware containing the pocket door rollers and wooden pocket door stops, which are strips of wood about 1 1/4" x 80" long. These are cut to length and installed after the pocket door is hung. Just put them in the pocket until ready to hang the pocket door, so you won't lose them.

The pocket door frame is installed in the rough opening at the framing stage, before drywall is installed. The pocket door frame is plumbed, leveled and fastened with shims to the rough opening, make sure the track is level. Attach the bottom plate of the pocket door frame to the floor, just inside the opening. The bottom plate of the pocket door frame is cut out in the pocket door opening.

Drywall is then installed on the wall coming over the part of the pocket door frame, which acts as the pocket. The pocket door frame is the same thickness as the framing of the wall, that is 3 1/2" for a 2x4 wall. Make sure drywall screws that are used are only 1 1/4" long, so they won't scratch the pocket door in the pocket. The pocket door casing is installed in the usual way.

The pocket door comes as your choice to match any design made locally, so it can usually match the other doors in your house. The instructions to install the pocket door are included in the bag of hardware. Simply, two brackets with rollers are screwed into place on the top of the pocket door. The pocket door is then lifted into position in the pocket door opening and the rollers are slid into the pocket door track, which comes as part of the pocket door frame. A plastic door aligner is fastened to the bottom front of the pocket side of the jamb to keep the pocket door centered in the pocket door frame. The wooden stops are then fastened to each side of the pocket door jamb at the pocket side of the jamb, the latch side of the jamb and the header part of the jamb, leave about 1/8" clearance between the stop and the pocket door.

The latch and pull hardware (not included with the pocket door frame) is attached by notching out a chunk of the leading edge of the pocket door at the correct height and inserting the flush pull and latch or privacy lock, if a bathroom door. A latch plate is drilled and notched into the jamb, opposite the latch set in the pocket door. This hardware usually comes with manufacturer instructions.

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I hope you enjoyed the Newsletter this month and that your summer was a good one.

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(Ask Dave) (About Dave)

Your source for building tips, woodworking & furniture plans, house plans and building advice directly from Dave...

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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