Building Confidence

Volume 20 Issue 11
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

Save nylons (panty hose, etc.) for straining paint.

Use WD-40 to remove paint transfer from a vehicle bumper after a slight scrape.

Ask Dave!

Hello Dave, I just learned something about the frost line for a concrete footing. In Sacramento, California snow is non existent, but we have a low frost penetration, since our days average about 33 degree or higher. What is frost line? Since I did not understand why the frost line with no snow! The footing of my 1927 built house is just under the surface, and about 16" height of foundation wall, and about 6" thick. But the foundation looks the same since new! Why does the frost line code bother with that? Thanks for your time! Ed

Hi Ed,

This is an interesting question, especially for myself, who has lived north of the 49th parallel all my life. You are absolutely correct. I looked up the ground snow load for Sacramento and it is 0. These figures are based on the average over a 50 year period, used by the US Army for design for their buildings.

The frost penetration for Sacramento is 5 inches.

The ground snow load is used to design the roof loads. In our area the roof loads need to support 60 pounds per square foot of wet snow. I've measured 3 feet of snow on my roof, one winter when we had a blizzard come through. This has only happened once in 30 years, since we have lived here, but the roof has to support this load even if it is once in 50 years.

Frost penetration figures are also based on a 50 year pattern. It means that in the coldest expected weather, the frost will go down to 5" in Sacramento. This means that the bottom of the footing should be below 5". Our frost penetration is probably 12", since we need 18" of frost protection. Frost penetrates the earth in a cold spell, freezing the ground solid. The problem is when it thaws in the Spring, the frost heaves and lifts the ground up and anything resting on it, including a building foundation. Up in Northern Canada, they build structures on the perma-frost - ice that is permanent or so they thought, until global warming came into the picture. As long as the ice didn't thaw, the building didn't move. Now they have a problem in the North.

Hope this helps,


As a new woodworker I have lots of questions , but first - how did you go about making the "routed" molding around the bed?

This question is referring to the Plan: Bedroom Furniture: King Size Bed on our website.

The molding isn't necessarily routered. I left it up to the builder. One way of installing molding is layering up a series of different purchased moldings. When I make custom moldings, panels, etc. I put my router under a table and push the piece against a fence with the router bit in its center. This bed was originally a custom plan. He wanted it to fit his mattress.


Dave, How do you recommend attaching oak treads to the stringer? For cosmetics I don't want to have large screw holes to fill. Thanks, Martin

Hi Martin,

You could attach small angles to the side of the stringer, then attach screws from underneath to the treads. Use construction adhesive on top of the stringer runs.


Dear Dave, Have seen many questions on building from people in California, but none have questioned this. Where can I find copies of the California Building Codes? Have asked our County Inspector and he gives us the run around. We're in San Bernardino County. Any addresses? Please & thank you.

I went on your county website which gives excellent info on requirements. Click on this link:

You can probably find copies of your building codes in libraries, as a reference volume. The International Building Code governs the building codes of the 50 states. Each state and jurisdiction may amend the IBC to meet their state, county or city requirements. The International Code Council (ICC) reviews and publishes the code every 3 years or so and the state codes usually amend their copies the following year. The latest copy of the Calif. code is 2021. You can buy one here.

Your first step in applying for a permit is drawing up plans for your reno or construction. The inspector will go over these and either approve them or not. You should not start construction until you get your permit.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Seasonal 3: Christmas

The Christmas Season is one of the happiest times of the year. However, each year around this time we hear about tragedies that could have been avoided with a little forethought and care.

When thawing pipes with a propane torch, have a bucket of water handy. Use the water in the toilet tank.

Inspect your Christmas tree lights before putting them on the tree. Teach your cat not to bite on the wires. Remember the movie "Christmas Vacation".

Use mini-lights or LED lights on the tree instead of the old fashion hot bulbs.

Keep some water in the tree holder dish, that's why it is shaped that way. Dead trees still need water to keep them from drying out too quickly. Choose a fir or pine, not cedar—they drop their needles too quickly.

When finished with your tree at the end of the season, take it down to the local mall and get it chipped for a small donation to the local service club.

Don't use calcium chloride on your newly poured concrete sidewalks or your old ones for that matter. This stuff is very corrosive to new concrete and particularly to steel and iron products. Better off to use a high nitrogen fertilizer, good for the grass in the spring, as well.

Enjoy your holiday season—be happy not horrified.


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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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