Building Confidence

Volume 19 Issue 12
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 building a project from wood, draw a simple sketch to make it easier to allow for thickness of materials.

When installing a new tub, insulate the cavity below and around the tub with fibreglass insulation to keep the water warmer longer for those long soaks.

Ask Dave!

Hi Dave! Just wanted to wish you, your brother and families a happy holiday! Thank You for the answers you have provided me and many! Also just a note. Don't forget to tip or gifts for your pro, contractor, plumber handyman anyone that helps make your life easier. You would be surprised what a card and token of appreciation will get you in the new year! Thank You Wayne

Thanks, Wayne. You're right, it's amazing how far a little encouragement goes.


Hi Dave, the attic trusses in my cottage are 2x8 between the ceiling and the knee wall (see diagram), which doesn't allow a lot of room for insulation. I am insulating (all fiberglass) the cottage roof at R-56 which is 17" of insulation. What should I do about the section of the attic truss which is only 7 1/2"? Also, do I need to use ventilation chutes when I am insulating? Thanks

Hi Andy,

This is a very good question.

In a situation with a vaulted ceiling like this, you are required to strap the roof with 2x4s to allow for cross ventilation. This is something you should discuss with your building inspector. Of course, this needs to be done before the roof deck is applied.

Check out, in your area, if they have readily available a high density insulation for the 7 1/4" space. You may need to use Styrofoam at this location, whichever gives the higher R-value. Another option is to drop the ceiling, a bit in this location. Whatever, I'm sure you would need to strap the roof, though. It is important to check this out with the inspector.


Dave, I'm building cabinets to go above a kitchen counter. There is no window in the wall. How should I design the section that goes above the sink? How high should it be above the countertop? Should it be inset (not as deep as the other cabinets)? Thanks, Martin

Hi Martin,

If there is no window behind the sink, the wall cabinet should be 30" above the counter top and the standard 12" deep. This leaves an 18" high cabinet. The standard height of wall cabinets above the counter top is 18".

The wall cabinet above a stove is set at 30" making it 24" above the stove with the hood in place. This leaves the cabinets above the stove and the sink the same at 18" high and 12" to 12 1/2" deep with the doors of 3/4" beyond that.

With an 18" high cabinet above the stove, you have the bottom of the cabinet set at 66" from the finished floor and the top of the cabinet set at 84". This is the standard for an 8' ceiling. The top of the cabinets are either left with a 12" space or filled in with a 12" soffit.


I am building a new house and the builder is in process of putting on fiber cement siding. As his crew lays up the siding they are not nailing or fastening in any way the piece of siding as it overlaps the piece below it -- about a 2 inch coverage over the lower piece of siding. This creates a situation where the siding is loose and wobbles and you can pull it away from the house up to a quarter inch or more. When I asked about fastening the bottom of every row they told me that fiber cement siding needs to have flexibility to expand and contract -- and to nail it or fasten the bottom of each piece to the top of each lower piece would void the warranty. I have never heard such a thing and I am very concerned about all this "loose" siding. I am convinced that in a driving wind with rain that water will penetrate upwards and the wind will cause a good deal of noise with rattling siding. What is your view on this.


Your contractor is installing the siding correctly, although we usually choose an overlap of 1 1/4" to 1 1/2". When I have installed Hardi Siding, it would always hang tightly to the bottom course. The only time we would nail at the bottom of the course being installed is at a butt joint. We would use a small galvanized shingle nail for the butt joints, always applying paintable caulking to the joint, which has a bit of adhesion, as well. This way the joint is tight.

I can't understand why the siding is flapping in the breeze like you describe. As I said, the siding is installed at the top with galv. roofing nails or air nails approved for siding. The nails should be hammered in tightly, ( not crushing the siding) and not loosely as for vinyl siding. The siding should not be loose so you can lift it up. Either they are not nailing it securely or something else is preventing the courses to lay flat. The only fiber cement siding I have installed is the James Hardi brand. Here is their website:

I notice that Hardi does allow for face nailing each course at the bottom, which can be done later. Maybe show this to your contractor. It sounds to me they are getting expansion and contraction properties of vinyl siding mixed up with fiber cement siding.


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.

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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