Building Confidence

Volume 21 Issue 4
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

Before changing bits or blades, be sure the power tool is disconnected from the power cord. Before reconnecting be sure the wrenches and adjusting keys are removed from the power tool, and the guards are in place.

When cutting Pressure Treated Wood, use the appropriate saw blade. When handling PTW wear gloves and wash up before eating.

Ask Dave!

Hi, I am trying to calculate square footage of a floor plan that has a 1/8" = 1' scale. It measures 4 3/4" x 5". Can you tell me how to do this?

A scale of 1/8" = 1 foot. This means that a line measured in inches on the plan is 8 times smaller than what it shows full scale. Multiply the length of the line by 8.

4 3/4 = 4.75" X 8 = 38 feet; 5" X 8 = 40 feet. Just make sure that your measurements taken from the plan are in inches multiplied by 8 (for this scale), giving the answer in feet. Square footage is calculated: 38 x 40 = 1520 sq. ft.

Hope this helps,


Hello Dave I have a set of stairs that have 69.5 Total Rise and 97 3/4 Total Run and I did 6 15/16 raise and 11" run and I have to raise the stringer about an inch off the landing to be level. what did I do wrong?

Did you cut the thickness of the tread off the bottom of the stringer? The top of the stringer should be installed from the top floor, at 1 rise down plus the thickness of the tread, as well.


When installing new stair treads, should I glue each one before nailing? Should I use screws instead of nails? Thanks! Gary

Hi Gary, Yes, always glue new treads to the stringers and nail them with at least a 2 1/2" galvanized finish or truss head nail, for 1" treads. Set it below the surface. For 1 1/2" treads, use a 3" galvanized finish nail. The reason we don't use screws for treads is the size of the head. They do make a small head screw for handrails, etc. which can be found in finishing stores. Usually, glue and nails work well. For initial glue of treads to the stringer, I prefer a construction adhesive, applied from a tube. It fills any gaps left from saw cuts on the run of the stringer.


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Stairs 6: Installing Hardwood on Stairs

Top and Bottom Risers

When installing hardwood or finished wood over an existing stair, be aware of any change to the height of the top and bottom risers, be sure to allow for this if the hardwood isn't going over the top and bottom floors, as well. Remove any existing hardwood or carpet down to the plywood treads. If there is any nosing or overhang on the plywood treads, remove them by cutting the nosing flush with the riser. Re-nail or screw your plywood treads securely.

Inspect Your Stringers

Check your stringers to be sure they are in good shape. It is easier to replace or repair them now rather than later.

Install Risers Before Treads

If you are putting in finished risers as well, put them in before the treads. Have the riser top flush with the upper plywood tread to help support the nosing. That is, the tread will be supported by the riser below it. You will have to purchase a nosing to match your treads, in tongue and groove and thickness. You can also buy pre-fab treads with nosing attached.

Installation Details

First, cut the nosing to length for the particular stair tread. Place it temporarily in position on the tread and scribe a line at the back of the nosing on the existing tread. Remove this nosing and calculate the width of piece you need at the back of the tread (it usually needs to be ripped). Then install the pieces from the back (tight against the riser) towards the nosing.

Notice that the nosing has the same matched groove as the flooring's tongue, so orient the flooring strips so the tongue is towards the nosing. For a wide tread you probably will need the nosing plus three pieces of hardwood plus the ripping of about 1" or so, depending on the width of the strips.

These strips are nailed in just as the floor is, through the tongue. The back strip or two, can be face nailed. Use no glue on the strips. Fit these pieces snug to the sides of the stairs, no expansion joints here. Then when all the strips are installed the nosing can be slid in. Use glue here to hold the nosing securely and in the tongue and groove of the nosing and its matching flooring strip. Nail through the face of the nosing with some finish nails every 6" and set them below the surface to be filled.

If the flooring is pre-finished and the nosing is not, sand the nosing down before installation so it is flush with the flooring.

Apply a urethane finish over the nosing and new treads, after a light sanding.


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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