Building Confidence

Volume 21 Issue 2
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

Safety Tip: Keep your work area clean. Especially on table mounted power tools such as table saws, band saws, routers, etc. Clutter under foot is inviting an accident, a slight trip and a finger or hand can be cut or removed.

Safety Tip: Know your power tools is almost a common sense rule. Take the time to review the power tool manual. Try different things with the new power tool and get familiar with it. Then go back and review the power tool manual again after using the power tool for a while.

Ask Dave!

Hey Dave and Dan... Planning on finishing the basement. I'm a pretty sharp guy, but I guess not that Many questions on where and how to start and have been on the computer a lot. Wanted to put in new steps into the basement as my ribbon cutting and was a lot intimidated by cutting the stringers. I saw your site and many others and took a leap of faith with you two for a year. Entered my info into your Stair Calculator and holy man...can't wait to start making saw dust. This isn't a question but just wanted to say I was impressed and can't wait to struggle through my basement project and your site. Thanks much already... John

Thanks, John,

I'm here for any questions. If you can build a set of stairs with a bit of instruction, I would say you are pretty sharp. Of course, I could say we have pretty sharp instructions, too. Ha!

Nice email, thanks,


Hi Dave what is the proper method and product to use for pine tongue and groove. I want just a clear coat. Thanks


You should use a polyurethane - Varathane, Semi-gloss or satin finish, in an oil or alkyd base. Avoid latex since it will raise the grain of bare wood.


Thanks, a couple of questions about prep - does the pine need to acclimatize in the cabin for a while before installing? If so how long - do I need to varathane both sides of the pine prior to installing or do I just varathane after installing? Thanks

Yes, leave the pine for at least 24 hours to 48 hours. It should say on the package.

Just Varathane the one side after installation.


Hi Dave, I am laying tiles in my laundry room, the subfloor is wood. the spaces in between (seams) what do I fill them with? drywall compound, wood filler? thank you Marion

Hi Marion,

Use a floor leveler compound for wood floors. There is a type for concrete floors, as well. It comes in bags and needs to be mixed with water and a bonding agent. This stuff goes on very smoothly and can be sanded easily, after it dries. With vinyl tiles the floor needs to be very smooth. Always read the directions on the bag for mixing cement products, some need to be slaked - left to cure/set for a short time, then stirred again without adding any more water.


Thanks, you have a great site here. I signed up for a year. The info about stairs and saw blades really helped out. Your site will be my #1 go to site. Thanks, again Harlan

Thank you, Harlan, that's good to know.


Hey was time for me to cancel my membership BUT, I want you to know that it's only because you solved my problem and I'm not planning any projects for the time being. The Stair Calculator was a god send....made a seriously iffy project into a pleasure. While not fully assembled, my son reports it's all looking good. Thanks --Bless you all. Steve

Thanks, Steve, glad we were able to help.

All the best in the future,


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Stairs 4: Installing a Landing in a Staircase

According to the Building Code, a set of stairs requires a landing: where a door swings out over the stairs; at the top of an exterior set of stairs, at a change of direction (except on curved stairs) and if the total rise is over 147 inches. Installing a landing in a set of stairs changes the direction of those stairs, which can give you more room in a confined space. Let's discuss how to layout a landing in a set of stairs to form a 90 degree change in direction.

You should already have your staircase total rise calculated, giving you the size and number of risers and also the number of steps. (For more info on measuring the staircase total rise see How to Build Stairs.) Remember, there is always one less tread than there are risers.

In calculating the number of rises and treads, simply treat the top of the landing as the top of a step. (For more info on calculating the number and sizes of rises and treads see Calculating the Exact Rise or use our easy stair case calculator.) For calculation purposes, it's like the landing is just a very wide step. Adding a landing doesn't change your riser height. If you calculated 13 steps before adding the landing, you will have 14 risers, 12 steps and 1 landing.

For a uniform set of stairs put at least three steps above and below the landing. Build the landing at the exact finished height of one of the steps and build it as wide as the steps and at least as long as its width. Build the landing long enough so it can support the stair stringer above it. Usually extend the landing 12 inches back from the front edge of the riser to support the stringer. See Figure 1.

To arrive at the placement of the landing determine your run for each step, say 10 1/2". If you are going to place the landing 9 steps from the top and 3 steps from the bottom, multiply the number of steps by each run, in this case 9 x 10.5" = 94 1/2". That means the stairs down to your landing will attach to the landing at 94 1/2" from the edge of your upper floor. Since you want the stringer that supports these stairs to be supported by the landing, you extend the length of the landing by 12" and place the nearer edge of the landing at 84 1/2" from the edge of the upper floor. We'll call this the back edge of the landing.

Now measure from the 94 1/2" mark out the width of the stairs, say 3'. We'll call this the forward edge of the landing. In our example, this forward edge of the landing is the edge of the 11th riser.

The height of the landing will be the same height as the tenth riser from the top or the fourth riser from the bottom, in this example. To get the height of the landing multiply the riser height by the number of steps up to the riser, in our case 7.625" x 4 = 30.5". Measure up from the bottom floor to the finished height of the landing. Build the landing to these measurements. Remember to include as part of the landing's height the thickness of the material you'll be using for sub-flooring on the landing itself, usually 5/8" or 3/4" plywood.

Construct the landing of 2 x 4 (or heavier) floor joists at 16" centers (if only 3' x 3'). Put 2 x 4 posts under each corner of the box frame. When installing the sub-floor, overhang the plywood to form a nosing to match that of the stairs. Layout and install the stringers for above and below the landing.

After installing the landing and installing the upper stringer, which is supported on the landing, continue the bottom stringer as if the landing was a floor, supported off the front of the landing. For details of how to build the rest of the stairs see my article How to Build Stairs. For a complete list of my articles click on articles at the very bottom of any web page of

Diagram of the framing of a landing showing box joist, scab, legs, layout marks and where to nail.


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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