Building Confidence

Volume 18 Issue 1
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

I combined some tips on heights and distances for installing items in your house:

  • The height of a chair is 18" off the floor. The height of a table is 30" off the floor.
  • The height of a closet rod is 60" to the center with 2" above the rod for the shelf.
  • The height of a kitchen counter is 36". The height of a bathroom vanity is 32".
  • The height of a 1 1/2" kitchen sink drain is 16" from the finished floor, centered for a single bowl and offset for a double bowl, 8" to the left. The supply shutoffs are centered with the sink, 8" apart and centered 23 1/4" above the finished floor.
  • The height of a 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" bathroom vanity sink drain is centered at 18" from the finished floor. The supply shutoffs are centered with the sink, 8" apart and 21" from the finished floor with the hot on the left and the cold on the right.
  • Set a toilet floor flange 12" from the finished wall, centered with the toilet. One supply for cold water is installed 9" from finished floor and offset 6" to the left of toilet center, terminated with a shut-off valve.
  • The drain for a shower is 2" located to match the shower base. The control valve is part of the rough-in before the walls are finished and is installed 54" above the finished floor. The shower head is connected to the control with appropriate piping at a height of 78" from the sub-floor. The hot and cold water supplies are connected directly to the control valve. Standard connection is hot on the left, cold on the right when facing the shower.
  • The drain for a bathtub is located below the tub drain and tied into the tub overflow. Install the control 15" above the rim of the bathtub with the hot supply on the left and the cold on the right. Install the spout at 4" above the rim of the tub and the shower head, if included at 78" from the floor. Install the curtain rod brackets 76" from the tub floor centered on the curtain rod.
  • Install toilet tissue holders at 24" from the finished floor and towel bars at 45" to 48" above the finished floor.

Ask Dave!

Dear Reader, I'm noticing that since we have so many articles on our site, now, I'm getting fewer questions from our subscribers. I encourage you to send me an email if you would like me to discuss a subject, relating to new construction or renovation, in this Newsletter. Just reply to this email.

From the beginning of this service to our Newsletter readers and paid clients, most of the questions and concerns are related to building stairs. As most of you know, Dan, my brother and webmaster, has created a basic Stair Calculator to help in determining the number and size of rises and runs. Most problems come from the total run available for your stairs is simply not enough space. This requires some manual manipulating to decrease the individual run and tread depth. I usually solve the problem by giving them a minimum run, which causes a steeper set of stairs, but at least falls within the envelope of the Building Code. Please ask me if you need help in this situation.

Another situation which our Stair Calculator does not anticipate, is when the top step is desired to be flush with the top floor, for whatever reason. Sometimes, I have to agree, that this is required under certain circumstances. Therefore, Dan and I have relented. Dan is in the process now, of dealing with the option of having your stairs flush with the top floor and revamping the drawings to show this option, automatically. I used to do this manually, including changing the drawings to show the top step flush. I'm anxious to see what Dan comes up with.

Speaking of stairs, here's our feature article:

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Deck 4: Deck Stairs

During the last few years answering questions on this website, I've retained a few good examples of different types of deck stairs.

Basic Deck Stairs

Diagram of deck stairs with hand railings showing stringer, treads, ledger post, scab, ground grade, concrete or treated wood pad and footing with measurements.Here is an example of the basic deck stairs off a raised backyard wood deck. Notice that the one piece 4x4 posts holding the deck stairs railing also carry the weight of the stair stringers. When attaching stair stringers to a backyard wood deck with only a 2x6 box joist, there usually is nothing to attach the stair stringers to. Here the stair stringer is bolted to the posts and a ledger board is installed under the stair stringer for those with a longer run. Either pressure treated wood or concrete pads are shown under the posts and bottom stair of the stair stringer, rather than having the stair stringers and posts just sitting on the ground.

Special Deck Stairs

Diagram of tapered steps in a set of stairs between an upper and lower deck with miter angles.In this drawing, tapered deck stairs are shown with the stair treads having equal depths as they turn the corner. This example shows a run of deck stairs between two levels of a backyard wood deck.

Drawing showing extended treads as they go around a corner.Notice in this drawing that the deck stair treads are extended in depth so that the stair nosings are all the same lengths.

Diagram of deck stairs with returns.In this drawing is a raised backyard wood deck of about 5' with deck stairs returning back to the deck. A set of deck stairs such as this is a bit more complicated than the simple deck stairs in the first drawing. This example is from a custom plan that I drew up for Tom, a member of our site. Refer to my article Deck Stairs with Returns. for the plans for these deck stairs.

Other ideas for deck stairs may be to climb up to a pool or hot tub.

Diagram of pool stairs showing front elevation and side elevation with measurements.

Diagram of pool in a deck.Rather than climbing up to a pool, here is a sketch of a pool or hot tub enclosed by a deck, but not sitting on it. The pool or tub is sitting on a level bed of compacted sand.

Diagram of deck stairs with stringers down onto ground sloped perpendicular to the line of the stringers with measurements.

Here is a drawing I did for a couple who had to contend with the back garden sloping 90 degrees to the direction of the deck stairs. Notice how we divide up the vertical height difference as well as the width of the deck stairs for the supports, so that each support has a different height. Since the height difference is 4" we can still stay in the safe envelope of riser height by starting with a height on the left of about 4" and ending with a height on the right of 8".

I hope some of these drawings will help you in deciding how to build your deck stairs and your backyard wood decks.

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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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