Building Confidence

Volume 20 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

Tips of the Month

To help hold up a set of stairs when the box joist is not large enough, install a plywood riser onto the stringer and onto the riser.

Save worn out cotton and polyester socks (not wool) for staining wood projects.

Ask Dave!

I have installed a dividing wall [2 X4] in a building. The wall will have an interior door in it. My question: Which do put in 1st; the door or go ahead and put up my 1/2" rock or does it matter. I will put in molding around the door once I have everything in place. Which came 1st?; the chicken or the egg? Kelly

Hi Kelly,

We usually put the drywall up first, for 2 reasons: 1. to stiffen the wall up so the jamb will be held securely and 2. to ease installation of the drywall. It makes it much easier to trim the drywall when installed over the door opening, then trimmed off flush with the jack stud or cripple.

The chicken came first, by the way.


When cutting stairs, should the bottom tread be 3/4 shorter if you plan on putting a 3/4 riser board on, for a finish look on my stairs.... Boston Mass.

Hi Boston,

No the tread should not be shortened because of the riser. The riser affects every tread the same, above and below, which doesn't affect the run, as long as the same thickness riser is used from bottom to top.

The bottom of the stringer is cut off, the same amount as the thickness of the tread, though.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Seasonal 2: Winter Proof Your Home

Before Winter sets in with all its fury, check out the following list to keep your home warm, cozy and secure.

  • Remove all hoses from their hose bibbs. Even the frost free hose bibbs need to have the garden hose removed so that any water remaining in the valve stem can drain out. Drain the garden hose, itself and store away. On older style hose bibbs, shut off the tap inside the house. Make sure you know where the main shut-off to the house is, before anything happens. It is a good idea to shut off the main valve when going on vacation. The in ground irrigation system should be turned off and the lines blown out before freezing weather sets in.
  • Close all vents to the crawl space. The crawl space should be insulated to prevent pipes from freezing. A small baseboard heater or inline heater along the pipes, is recommended during this time of year, if temperatures in your area drop below freezing. Secure the heater well to prevent problems. Make sure your sump pumps are operational, if so equipped.
  • Basements should be insulated. I recommend constructing a 2x4 wall in front of the concrete foundation wall, floor to ceiling, installing insulation and vapor barrier. Strap and insulate short concrete walls. Leave a 1" airspace between the wood wall and the concrete. Only put vapor barrier on the warm side of the wall.
  • Your furnace filters should be changed by now. Cleaning the air ducts is also recommended. Have a service person tune-up your furnace. Make sure furnace, fireplace and stove chimneys are free from bird's nests or debris and the wood burning liners are swept clean regularly. Close fireplace dampers when not in use. Use Soot & Creosote Remover when actively burning wood.
  • Your hot water tank should have an insulation blanket around it, also, exposed hot water pipes should be covered with proper pipe wrap insulation.
  • Time to check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Check your portable fire extinguishers to be sure they are charged and the powder is not settled and hardened over time.
  • In older homes, check out ways to insulate. Little foam pads are available under face plates for plugs and switches. Clear film is made for covering single pane windows. Use caulking to fill gaps around windows, doors and siding. Check out the weatherstrip on doors and windows that open. Are your thermal pain windows still sealed or do you notice condensation between the glass panes?
  • Check to see if you have fresh air coming into your home in a regulated fashion. Check out the dehumidifier switches for bathroom fans. Forced air furnaces should have fresh air introduced to them through their cold air return. Talk to local experts who can advise you on this subject. Usually local government departments have free brochures and advice.
  • Clean exhaust vent pipes and hoods from the bathrooms and clothes dryer for dust and blockages. Check out the condition of the hoses and pipes, as well, particularly, the corrugated light plastic hoses, which in my opinion, should be replaced with solid pipes made for this purpose.
  • Roofs and gutters should be cleaned of moss and debris. I've heard that Tide powder laundry detergent works great on keeping moss off roofs. This is the time to sprinkle some Tide on the roof and let the rains take care of it. Checkout the condition of the roof - shingles needing repair or missing entirely, as well as, overhanging tree branches that could come down in a heavy snowfall and do damage. Check the downspouts, as well, to be sure they are attached to the gutter and not plugged with debris. If the downspouts run onto the lawn, rather than connected to a storm drain, make sure they run the water away from the building foundation, but not over walkways where they could freeze and cause a safety hazard. Also, checkout drain guards at the bottom of steps leading into the basement from the outside, as well as driveway trench grates.
  • Check the insulation on the floor of the attic and the ventilation in the attic space. Inadequate insulation here is the result of ice dams in the gutters and at the eaves.
  • Reverse the rotation on your ceiling fans to bring any warm air trapped up at the ceiling down to where it is needed.
  • Keep a few bags of coarse salt for walks and drives when everyone is wanting it at the same time. Also, prepare for eventual power failures, having a stock of candles, batteries, rechargeable flashlights left in the receptacles until needed, fully charged power bank for your cell phone, food and water, fireplace and air tight stove cord wood, etc for serious loss of electricity and services for an extended period of time. Be sure to top up supplies in your first-aid kit, as well as, a good backup of your vital prescription medications.
  • Finally, don't forget about your garden equipment - lawnmowers, weed whackers and blowers that have a gas motor. These gas tanks should either be emptied and run dry or have a stabilizer added to them, to prevent the gas from varnishing. Boaters are familiar with this process every winter season, dealing with their outboards and engines, if not being used for a few months.

Bundle up, get outside and enjoy the great outdoors in the wintertime.


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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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