Building Confidence

Volume 21 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 We are into our 21st year putting out this Newsletter. Dan and I would not be able to do this without your input every month. Thank you and keep the questions coming!

Tips of the Month

Pex piping is a good alternative to expensive copper pipe in a home renovation. Adapters from copper pipe to Pex are available. Fittings are either screwed on or crimped on.

Use inexpensive plumbing strapping for holding pipe and valves onto wall framing.

Ask Dave!

Should the width of the riser match the width of the tread or should it be flush with the outside stringers, leaving a small overhang for the tread beyond the outside stringer, say 1/2 inch?

I prefer to have the risers flush with the stringers, but the treads overhang the stringer. On a 3' wide set of deck stairs, I overhang the stringers by 6", giving a span of 24" for two 2x6 treads. I would overhang the treads by 1 1/2" minimum on the ends and about 1" on the front.


Hi Dave, came across this recently. The article suggests a 2 x 4 on the bottom of the 2 stringer stair. Your comments on this please. Thanks.

Yes, that's the way to go.

This is the way I show members how to secure a stair stringer:

Diagram showing how to secure a stringer to box joist or header.

I like to notch out for the 2x4 rather than having the stringers sit on top as your email shows. For outside stairs, I put a pressure treated board embedded into the ground so the stringer can fasten to it, as well.


Hi Dave, thanks for the previous reply. I wanted to get some suggestions from you as far as what transition piece I should be using for the oak stairs (natural oak stain) to the kitchen upstairs which I plan to tile using a 13 x 13 porcelain tile with an earth tone color. I have looked at 3 1/2 in oak landing thread. I think there's also a 5 1/4 size as well. Wanted to find out what other options are available that you would recommend. Thanks for your suggestions as always. Pancho

Hi Pancho,

Have you thought about parquet flooring? There are many combinations to do with oak parquet, as well as strip flooring. Google parquet flooring and click on images.


Hi Dave and Dan, I just want to say thanks guys for the work y'all have put into this sight. You guys helped me tremendously today with my porch step project. This was a demo and rebuild project so I had parameters that I had to stay within. The stair calculator allowed me to play with a lot of scenarios until I was able to find one that would work (it was the scenario that didn't require the ripping of boards). Thanks for the site. I will be using y'all again in the future. Thanks for this, Nick.

Dan and I are glad we were able to help out.

All the best,


Just a quick note to say thank you for the conversion table. There is so much wrong information out there my head was hurting. I am math challenged and it spelled out for me, which in your conversion calculator it does it for me. No guess work. Thanks again, Dave!! Bill

You're welcome, Bill, thanks for the email.


Hi Dave, Many thanks for your helpful and quick response. I'll gladly provide you with some answers to these questions: Ceiling height of the first floor? Answer: 88". Not very high, I know, but it's an old house built in 1902. the hall space at the bottom of the stairs? Answer: 37". The vertical wall (bottom wall) opposite the bottom of the stairs is the outside wall and front door. width of stairs? Answer: The top 4 stairs are 32 1/4" wide. The 5th is 34". The bottom 6 (where the lower handrail is positioned) are 35 1/2" wide. if you remove the lower handrail, what is the distance from the bottom wall to the vertical wall where the handrail is attached? Answer: 81". Is this job going to be inspected, can we cheat on the code, slightly? Answer: This job will not get inspected. Strictly an "inside" job, so yes, we can take some liberties. I'm sure there are other issues that are a problem with these stairs, like headroom, but all these old houses are like this, i.e. no longer current with the code. As long as I'm not impacting/changing the structural integrity of the house or its main framing in any way, their present layouts are "grandfathered in" and there is no need for me to seek a permit. This is how I understand the rules to be regarding this type of work. Is there room to extend the floor opening at the top floor? How will this affect the space below the stairs? Answer: No, there isn't much room there. As it is, half of the opening to the bedroom at the top of the stairs (to the left as you go up, or to the immediate right in the photo I sent you) already steps down onto the top stair, so extending the floor opening would mean that this entire room would be stepping out onto the stairs. I've attached another photo to make this aspect clearer. How do you feel about winders? Answer: I'm not exactly sure what winders are. Do you mean making the stairway wind left at its bottom half (where the handrail is) instead of keeping it straight? If yes, then I think that's a great idea. In fact, that's what my wife would prefer we do, for appearance sake, if anything. So yes, that would be good if it's something I can do. Also, we were planning on replacing the handrail anyway The main priority of our project is to make the stairs more comfortable (and less hazardous) by widening the tread part. It would be great to achieve 10" or 10 1/2", but even 9" would be better than the current 7 3/4. We also wanted to make them out of hardwood, like oak. But, we're flexible to all options at this time which would make the stairs "friendlier" to use. I've attached a few more photos with this email that address some of the points in your questions. Hopefully those will help also. If I've left anything out in my answers please let me know and I'll do my best to provide the necessary details. Many thanks again for your assistance. You are a great resource! Best regards, Andre

Hi Andre,

This is about as close I can get to the building code:

12 rises at 8.21 (8.25 is max for New York other states is 7 7/8)

11 runs at 7.93 with 1 1/2" nosing = 9.43 (9.25 is code)

Your headroom on the bottom step is 79.79 (80 is code)

The winders are 30 degrees x 3 to make the 90 degree turn. Each winder is a step.

Here is a drawing:

Diagram showing winders in a stair case.

Hope this will work for you,


Feature Article of the Month

(taken from our website:

Jigs 4: Feather Wedge Table Saw Jig

It seems that a carpenter is always needing a thin feather wedge to shim something. I use old cedar shingles as thin feather wedges for shimming door and window jambs. Sometimes we need a thin feather wedge to lift a cabinet or shim something. Here is a quick way to make up some thin feather wedges on your table saw with a jig.

Diagram of wedge jig with measurements.

Out of a piece of 3/4" plywood or 1x6 board cut and assemble the pieces of the table saw thin feather wedge jig according to the drawing.

Diagram showing how to cut wedges with the wedge jig on a table saw.

Notice the little nail on the jig, which holds the thin feather wedge in place. Just don't have it protrude too far from the jig, to be cut off with the table saw blade. I use a small finish nail and cut the head off and file the end sharp. When pushing the table saw jig through the blade, keep the cut piece in place with our table saw push stick (see article Table Saw Push Stick) on its side. Use a 2x4 or 2x6 for stock, cut to 6" long. Or use 3/4" stock for narrow feather wedges.

Make some thin feather wedges and keep them in your toolbox (see project Carpenter Tool Box Plans), handy for the next time you need thin feather wedges to shim something.


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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