Building Confidence

Volume 19 Issue 8
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

Put a paint roller in a plastic bag and seal tightly for next day's use, to avoid having to clean it.

A little candle wax on screws help them go in easier.

Stagger your screws or nails to avoid splitting the grain of the wood.

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

Ask Dave!

How much concrete do I need for a 6" post 48" deep?

It depends on the diameter of the hole you drop your post into.

Here is a link to our concrete calculator: Concrete Volume Calculator

Try it out yourself for various diameter holes.

To calculate how much concrete is needed we should subtract the displacement of your 6" x 6" x 48" post which is 0.5' x 0.5' x 4' = 1 cu ft.

Hole SizeVolume of HoleConcrete Needed after subtracting the volume of the post
8"1.4 cu ft0.4 cu ft
10"2.2 cu ft1.2 cu ft
12"3.1 cu ft2.1 cu ft

A hole 8" to 10" is good for a 6x6 post.

Our Calculator figures out the number of bags of concrete mix for various weights of bags, as well.


Hey Dave do you happen to have a gravel calculator to determine how much wash gravel I need in a French drain?

Hi Kelley,

Yes, there is a Concrete Calculator on our website, which simply does volume. This should work for the volume of your drain gravel, as well. Choose cubic yards.


Hi Dave, We are building a small "inlaw" apartment onto our house and have asked the builder to use pocket doors on each side of the bathroom. My father-in-law had them on his other home and liked them and the new apartment is very limited for space. The builder is dead set against it. He says they're expensive, and will probably give us trouble down the road that will result in tearing a wall out to do repairs. Any suggestions? Dave

Hi Dave,

I have installed pocket doors, one in my own home and never have had any problems with them. The door can be removed by removing stops and releasing it from the rollers on the track. The frame is actually part of the wall with the track attached to it. I've never experienced any problems with any of my installations. The door itself is the same as any other door, the frame and hardware is the only added cost.

They are not my preferred door, but with limited space they are ideal, especially for a small bathroom or closet. We have ours in a walk-in closet off our ensuite. One thing to watch is not screwing in a hanger or shelf into the wall and have the screw penetrate into the door.

Your builder has the right and should explain the pros and cons of your choices, but should also remember that he is working for you and should try to satisfy you to the best of his ability. I don't agree with why he is dead set against installing pocket doors.


Hi Dave, Thanks for the great info. I bought a log cabin in Idaho and since it wasn't lived in for 20 years, it's taking some work to get it habitable. I used your instructions to do quite a few things. I'm in my 60's, female and haven't really done much wood working. I even made my stringers for stairs and they're great! It was quite a challenge without a decent saw or even workspace. Anyway, I finally have indoor plumbing with a hot shower and that's a treat. Each visit sees great progress. I found your instructions for the stud wall confusing until I realized you build it on the floor, flat and not upright like it is at the end. My daughter said "build a stud wall" so I went to your instruction first and spent a small amount of time to get the message. When I built the stairs, I left a little space for the sheet rock, like you suggested. Several people didn't like that and I defended your reasoning and that made them madder (I don't know why). Anyway, since it looks like I'm doing the sheet rock myself, I appreciate the tip. thanks. Thanks for all the tips. Georgia

Hi Georgia,

Thanks for the nice email.

I find it interesting your friends' reaction to the space in the stringers for the drywall. In construction we work with a lot of different trades. Carpenters are required to layout many things for some of the trades, so we get to work closely together. Anything we can do to help the sub-trades will increase the profit of the general contractor and decrease the bottom line of the owner. You can imagine the extra work involved for the drywall applicator to notch each step going down the stairs instead of just slipping a sloped piece into a space. This is an example of your friends not really understanding the procedure. I'm glad you took my advice and left the space, you will appreciate the consideration doing the drywall yourself.

Thanks again for the email, I love to hear success stories like yours.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Concrete Work 1: Exposed Aggregate Driveway

My wife and I recently put in an exposed aggregate driveway. We waited about 19 years, after we built our house, until we got our new driveway. Here are a few tips that I will share with you if you intend to put in a similar driveway.

Exposed aggregate concrete is batched with sand, cement and pea gravel, along with water and the necessary additives. There is no difference in how the concrete is poured but it is not troweled to a smooth finish. After the bullfloat is dragged across it to give it a level and straight surface a retardant is sprayed on to slow down the extreme top layer of the slab from hardening.

This is where the professional guys come in - it is all about timing. When to spray on the retardant or Exposal and when to wash off the cream of the concrete, or laitance to expose the aggregate. To wash too early is to wash the pea gravel away, to wash too late is to not be able to get the laitance off at all.

Some guys seed the top of the concrete with special stones after the placing of the concrete, then trowel them in carefully. In my area, we pour the slab with the pea gravel already in the primary mix. I was going to attempt to try this, being a true do-it-yourselfer, but I'm glad I hired a pro crew, who did an excellent job.

I prepared the surface of the driveway by removing some of the fill near the asphalt pavement at the street, to allow for 4" of concrete. The entire surface, after leveling, was compacted with a rented plate compactor. When the concrete truck backed up the driveway to get close enough to the garage door to spout from the truck, I noticed the tires hardly left any impression in the fill at all. It was a very hard compacted surface, which is very important for any concrete job.

I also drilled out the edge of my existing garage slab at the point of contact with the driveway to install #3 (3/8") rebar between the old and the new concrete. Since my driveway is downhill from the house, I wanted to be sure the driveway slab would not pull away down the slope leaving a gap at the garage door.

I put the rebar in at 12" centers and tied them all together with a long length of rebar. I formed the edges with a slight splay at the street to give a bit more room to turn out. I used 1x4 for the forms and at the splay I cut slots about 1/2" deep every inch apart, on the back side of the 1x4, so that the wood would bend easily.

Photo of a rounded form for a concrete curb on a driveway.

At the other end of the driveway, the street end, I re-cut the existing pavement to give the guys a clean edge to finish the concrete to.

It worked well.

Photo of the edge of Daves driveway before the concrete curb was formed and poured.

The finishers put in construction or control joints so that with the expansion and contraction of the concrete any cracks would be formed in the base of these joints and would be less conspicuous.

Photo of a concrete float being used to smooth the surface of the concrete driveway.

Below, Rick, the contractor, under the watchful eyes of the boss, is putting in another construction joint. The red flagging tape was to keep the wild deer in our area from walking across the newly poured concrete.

Photo of worker using the concrete float to smooth the surface of the concrete driveway.

Almost finished. You can see the bull float being used here to smooth the surface of the concrete.

Photo of concrete worker using a bull float.

Rick sprays the Exposal or retardant on the wet surface to retard the setting up of the concrete to the top 1/8th inch of the surface.

Photo of worker wetting the surface of the concrete driveway during the finishing stage.

Rick washes the laitance off carefully, while his helper is sweeping the worst of it off the slab. The young kid dug a hole in the front of our property, at the street, so that the excess cement paste would be trapped in the hole, rather than washing down the street. We washed the street off a while later, as well. Concrete is a messy business.

Photo of Dave sweeping away the wet surface of the concrete to expose the aggragate stones for the finish look of the driveway.

Here's a photo of our finished driveway.

Photo of the front of Daves house showing the concrete driveway and curb.

Thanks, Rick and guys, for a job well done!

Almost the End

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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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