Building Confidence

Volume 19 Issue 10
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

Attach stair gauges to the edge of the steel square so it can slide along the stringer or rafter, maintaining the same measurements.

To nail brads or very small finish nails use a brad pusher.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave It's been a while. Hope all is well and your site is doing well. I'm putting in a 3/4" hardware floor. What is the best fastener L shape nails or staples. Thank You Ron

Hi Ron,

Yes, we are hanging in there.

I prefer the flooring air staples, using the air nailer with the rubber mallet.


Hi Dave, my husband Al is a member and you sent him the plans for this. He made some modifications and we are very happy it all worked out great. This plan is not for a novice wood worker. Thank you so much for your plan and help. Lord willing he might get you plans for the night stands next summer's project. Thank you again Anita Photo of dresser made from our plans.

Well done, Al!

Thanks for the pic.


Hi Dave, Got a question from a condo owner in our building asking if the kitchen wall is a bearing wall. Is there any simple way of determining that? Dan

In an apartment block there is no easy way to determine if a wall is bearing or not. It depends if the wall supports the ceiling/floor joists. If there is no attic space to verify this, it is best to consider that the wall is bearing.


Okay! I'm pretty sure I asked you that question before and I couldn't recall how to tell if the wall was bearing or not. Now I know why. There's no answer to the question!! I found out the owner wants to cut a hole in his kitchen wall above the sink so he can get things easily and be part of the conversation while he prepares things in the kitchen. So, anything special he has to do with the hole in his kitchen wall (assuming it's a bearing wall)? If he wants the opening to be wider than just a stud apart he'll need to install a header below any cut stud above the upper horizontal of the opening. Right? (As per your article Remodeling 5: How to Install a Window in an Existing Wall.) He's in the suite right below mine, so he needs to get it right! Dan

Yes, he should treat the wall as a bearing wall and support any opening, except a stud space, according to the width of the opening. If wider than 8' he needs to get an engineer to design the beam. I would say in an apartment building like yours, any cut into a structural component must be done by a professional. If he cuts into the wall above his sink he may hit a plumbing stack or power cable.


Another thing to think about is that any structural change must be permitted, this helps the renovation to be safe and according to the code, with an inspection on completion.


Okay. Thanks very much, My Brother! Danny

Ha! Not too often I get a question from Dan, my brother and webmaster. I feel very fortunate that Dan partnered up with me to put his computer programming skills to work on our website. We, that is you our clients and I, can thank Dan for the Stair Calculator on our site, as well as the various converters and videos that Dan has produced. Dave

Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Deck 2: Deck Railing

In the previous article I discussed building a raised backyard wood deck. For safety reasons and to abide by the building codes in our local areas, we must install a deck railing around these decks to contain those people enjoying the deck.

For heights over 2 feet above the ground, we must install a deck railing or guard as the building codes call them. A deck railing should be at least 36" high, although 42" is more of the acceptable standard. The deck railing should be vertical barriers, rather than horizontal, where a child cannot climb up on them. They should also be less than 4" apart so that a toddler's head could not fit through and get stuck.

A deck railing is comprised of posts about 6' apart with a 2x4 top and bottom rail, a 2x6 cap and vertical pales. Building supply dealers usually have a choice of pales for a deck railing in different shapes and styles. You can also make up your own design of deck railing from 1x4 or 1x6 stock. Some choose for their deck railing a 2x2 plain balusters or fancier turned spindles, similar to the indoor newel post and spindles.

Photo of a guardrail.In this picture of the deck railing around my second story backyard wood deck, notice the following features: The pales of the deck railing were designed and cut out of 1x6 stock using a jigsaw for the arcs and a hole saw for the circles. The top and bottom rails were dadoed out to form a groove in which the pales of the deck railing could be slid into to hold them in place. Between the pales in the dado, I cut and installed spacers. Drawing of how to secure a handrail post using lag bolts into a box or run joist.Notice the vertical 2x4 on the right completing the deck railing. The bottom 2x4 is within 4" off the deck. This is the only horizontal member allowed on the deck railing as well as the top rail and cap. I like to have the bottom rail raised, like this, so any rain can run off and it is easier to keep clean. These units will be tied into the supporting posts by screwing into the posts through the 2x4s of the deck railing. The posts are 4x4 lag bolted into the box joist or rim joist of the deck. I usually notch out 1 1/2" from the post leaving 2" of wood to bolt onto the joist.

Another choice of deck railing is the 2x2 baluster:

The 2x2 baluster deck railing is supported only by the 2x2s screwed to the box joist of the deck. The 2x2s on 5" centers make this deck railing strong enough.

Diagram of baluster handrail showing cap, box joist and ballustades with measurements.

The alternate choice of deck railing is using the 2x2s, but with the support of 4x4 posts about 6' apart, as shown.

Diagram of alternate 2x2 baluster handrail, showing cap, post, rail and box joist with measurements.

Diagram of a 4x4 corner post notch with measurements.The corner 4x4 post of the deck railing is a bit of a trick since we have to cut the 1 1/2" notch out from the corner. Just set the circular saw blade to 1 1/2", cut out the top and sides. I use a chisel to pry out the piece, which usually splits away. I then clean up the cut with the chisel.

Always miter the cap in the corner of the deck railing for a nice looking fit. Galvanized nails and screws should be used in any outdoor finishing work, such as backyard decks and deck railing.

Almost the End

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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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