Building Confidence

Volume 18 Issue 5
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

Keep soil at least 6" below the bottom of wood siding or any wood on a house.

Make a simple woodworkers compass for scribing circles and arcs. See full article in this newsletter. (See our site for many more jigs!)

KEEP BUSY! Now's a good time to catch up on your projects!

Ask Dave!

Hi, Dave. I want to build a partition in the basement. The best location for it would be underneath the main beam (wood, 4 2x10s). Is this an acceptable practice? I assume I need to leave the supports accessible from one side, in case they need adjustment. What advice do you have? Brian

Hi Brian,

Yes, a partition is okay under the beam, in fact it will help support the beam as well, if tight. If the house is older than a couple of years, it probably won't need adjusting. Most shrinkage occurs in the first two years. We used to frame a wall under the beam with 2x6 studs and treat it like a bearing wall. That is if a door is wanted in the basement between studs, a header is needed. The only thing I can see that may be a problem if the supports under the beam has a concrete pad below the slab to allow for the extra weight at the posts positions. If this is the case, it would be wise to leave the original posts in there and just frame the partition with 2x4 studs at 2' centers. The bearing of the beam would still depend on the posts.


Thanks for the quick reply, Dave. There will need to be two doors in the partition. The bottom of the main beam is 87", so there will be room. The floor is concrete; there is no extra pad under the posts. And the house is 37 years old, so the shrinkage shouldn't be an issue now. Are you saying I could frame with 2x6s and remove the metal posts? I never considered that. If I enclose them in the wall, is there any benefit to removing them? I appreciate your insights, and your prompt response! Brian

If you enclose the posts in the wall, sure leave them in there. Then you won't have to worry about bearing.


Hi, Dave. Have you ever used Fabulon to finish wood floors? I'm given to understand that is what they use in bowling lanes, so one would expect it to be quite durable. And, it's made in Canada. Brian

I've used polyurethanes before, but not Fabulon. I would imagine it would be a good product if used for bowling alleys.


Hi again, Dave. Hypothetically, if you were replacing stairs going down to the basement, and you were constrained by a chimney at the top and the concrete foundation wall at the bottom, how would you proceed? The hypothetical stairs being replaced have a 7.5" rise (x13) and 7.625" run (x12); they descend to a 27"- deep platform at the bottom (from which you must turn left or right). I realize that the tread length is not "to code," this hypothetical town has no building inspector. Wanting to comply with code as much as possible, your calculator said I could do 11 runs of 8.75" and 12 rises of 8 7/32. This leaves about 5" less platform depth at the bottom, and less headroom at the bottom, but is the best solution I can think of. Do you have any other suggestions? I can't make the platform higher without compounding the headroom problem. Thanks! Brian

Hi Brian, you're a busy guy.

Actually, most jurisdictions have a maximum rise of 7 7/8, except New York allows 8 1/4. I would go with close to this rise and if the run required to fit your space works out at 8 3/4, add a 1 1/4 nosing, the max and your tread depth is 10 which is minimum with the code.


Thanks, Dave. Given the hypothetical conditions, I think I'll go with the 8 3/4, with the 1 1/4 nosing. With my Size 11.5 shoes, I need all 10". Brian

Good choice, Brian, same shoe size as mine!


Hi, I have a well with 2 posts extending down into concrete. I was told when replacing to use a standoff simpson galvanized anchored into concrete. My question is the side of the posts contact the brick sides of the well. Is that Ok or do I need flashing or elevation? Thanks Pat

Hi Pat,

Could you describe the well for me, the size and use. Is it for drinking water, irrigation or something else? Are the posts wood, steel, etc. to hold up a roof?


Hi Dave, It is for irrigation but not used recently but is attached via roof to garage. Dimension is about 4 feet diameter and posts are wood. Attached pictures if you can access.

Member photo of a decorative well.

Member photo of the bottom of a decorative well.

Thanks for the pics.

It seems strange to me that the original builder put the posts inside the well. If I was re-doing this I would install the new posts outside of the well. It looks like you have room on the beam supporting the roof to put the posts on a small pad closer to the ends of the beam.

It is good that the roof is stabilized by being attached to the garage.

What are your thoughts?


Hi Dave, I made some measurements and that seems to work. Thanks for the clever solution. I never thought of that, thanks. Pat

Glad I could help.


As promised, here is the plan for the jig I mentioned at the top of this newsletter: We have a bunch of different handy jigs on our site for you.

Jigs 5: Table Saw Tapering Jig


In my woodworking career there have been numerous times I needed to scribe an arc or a complete circle, usually full size. For example, scribing the trim for a 6' wide circle head window with a 3' radius or making a template for rounding off the corners of a curved archway.

A handy idea to use for a large woodworking compass in the field, is to make a compass from a length of 1x2 or a similar size ripping. Yes, the yuppies use what they call trammel points, a point attached to a block and a pencil attached to a block with a specific sized stick of wood, or beam between them. The adjustment is made by sliding the ends along the beam to arrive at the correct radius. Well, although I have a pair of trammel points it's often faster to pick up one of the rugged and ever present sticks laying around a woodworking site. I measure the correct radius from the square end and drive a nail through it at this point. With my pencil always at the ready, I scribe the arc while the nail holds the center point fast into the piece of wood or plywood onto which I want the circle or arc drawn.

Here is a drawing of a simple woodworking compass:

Diagram showing how to use a compass to make a semi-circle top opening for a dog house with measurements.


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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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