MonthJuly 2016


Deck Stair Connections and Anchors

I subscribe to the notion that less wood in contact with anything close to the ground, the better.  This includes anchors for deck stairs.
The pressure treated wood kicker often used to anchor deck stairs invites trouble unless you live in a particularly arid environment, like Arizona or New Mexico.  In most places, water, leaves, and debris make nice homes for creepy critters, store moisture, and undermine the integrity of wood.  For deck stair construction, it makes sense to apply flashing in some appropriate areas, establish stand-offs between wood and wet, and anchor using threaded rod and angle irons for the stringers.
It’s tempting to simply flash the bottom of the stair stringer, but flashing often allows some moisture behind it.  Instead, put it on and then screw in the #14 screws to give you a standoff.  In tropical locations, for rods and angles, stainless steel is the only way to go, but in a lot of places, galvanized is fine.  Also flash the top of the stringer where you install the tread.
The top of the stringer should be solidly anchored to the rim joist using a joist hander and lagged, like this:
Deck Stringer Connection-Rim Joist

Deck Stringer Connection-Rim Joist

Deck Stringer Connection

Bolt-Through on the Joist

Here is the completed stringer connection. Note that the stringers have stiffeners fastened with screws.
Completed Stringer w/Stiffeners

Completed Stringer w/Stiffeners

Where the stringers make contact with the footing, make sure you separate wood and wet by using two products – peel and stick flashing at the bottom (not shown), and then install 4-5 #14 stainless screws ( short screws 1 – 1 1/2″) to provide a standoff for the stringer, like this:
Standoff with base screws

Standoff with base screws


The foot of the stringer needs to be attached to the footing. Interior stairs typically have a kicker installed, but exterior needs to have thought put into how to avoid rot, so I prefer an all metal solution with steel angles and rod bolts like this.

Angle and steel rod anchors

Angle and steel rod anchors

Again, consult your local building code and the Simpson Strong-Tie Connector literature/website for appropriate use of connectors and anchors.  Simpson has a useful deck center code guide that frequently receives updates.

Scribing Stair Skirt Boards


In the below pics, the left-hand skirt board was my first attempt.  After making the floor cut for this skirt, I started second guessing, and measured before cutting out for the treads and risers. Hmmm, got some gaps that aren’t too nice. Good thing I did this intending to fit the risers and treads to the skirt, rather than skirt OVER the treads and risers.  It will be okay.

Skirt Base Transition

Skirt Base Transition

Scribing Gauge

Scribing Gauge

Right Skirt Base

Right Skirt Base

The right hand skirt base (looking from bottom to top of stairs) is my second attempt. NO measurements were taken.   I found that making my scribe gauge out of longer stock allowed me to use the same piece of stock and keep it reasonably plumb more easily. I used a scrap piece of poplar. I simply scribed for treads and risers exactly as explained. Worked like a charm!  I don’t need a zero tolerance fit because I intend to fit treads and risers after the skirt is on, but this is darned good without any touch up sanding.  Very good recap of this technique provided here.


Wainscot Installation


Following up on the previous posts from this week, I finished the installation of a Craftsman-style wainscot in a small bathroom.  

The top cap on the wainscot is a 3/4″ full bull-nose.  Fortunately, the 1/2″  filet that you will see in the door top trim is available in stock at our Home Depot,  I discovered that after I’d already made about 24 feet of it. It is part of a series of trims that are carried locally.  Most Craftsman trim is NOT bull-nosed. I like the look and have it running throughout.  Note-Colors don’t reproduce well on my camera.  The top half of the wall is a light green. It is the accent color throughout the house. The trim color is mannequin cream. The wall panel color is Kansas grain.

Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot

Backside of finished, unpainted wainscot for the kitchen

installed wainscot

Finished bathroom wainscot

Wainscot Frame Construction


This morning I rabbeted out the back of the wainscot frame to accept 1/4″ birch plywood. The frame is made from borax treated radiata pine, suitable for wet locations, and very resistant to Formosan termites.  

The inside of the frame corners needed to be cut square to fit the plywood (alternately you can round the corners of the panels), using either a chisel or an oscillating tool. Once the corners are cleaned up, the panels can be cut to size and fitted from the back.

Since contraction and expansion of plywood panels is not an issue, I glued the panels in with waterproof glue, and pin nailed them to hold until the glue is dry.


Wainscot Frame

Frames for wainscot – rabbetted and pocket hole screwed.

Panels - pinned and glued.

Panels – pinned and glued.

Pin Nailer

Pin Nailer

Wainscot Setup with a Rabbet and Kreg Jig


There are plenty of how-to on YouTube, but Gary Striegler is the guy to follow for methods using the Kreg jig that are simple and quick. Striegler uses a frame with inset panel glued to the wall and finished with trim.  I prefer to rabbet the back of the frame to accept the edges of the panel. This allows the entire assembly to be glued together and installed all at once. The backside rabbets will have to be cut out with a chisel on the corners. This technique allows use of a broader range of stock lumber and does not require inside trim to cover the panel to frame joint (along with a pin nailer to install it).

NOTE: Gary Striegler is using poplar for the frame.  S4S poplar that is most available is NOT 3/4″ thick. It is 13/16″ thickness.  

Rabbet Bit  Rabbet, Wainscot Frame

Wainscot – Pocket Hole Joinery


Gary Striegler’s 10 minute video, demonstrates the approach I think I’d like to use for the kitchen wainscot, which uses pocket hole joinery and offers and attractive set of options.  The technique is simple and straightforward. I also have most of the Kreg equipment needed for the pocket hole joinery setup. Note that the actual wainscot is held above the floor, so we do not have to demolish the tile flooring until we are ready to install baseboard. 

Stile and rails for the wainscot would be poplar, paint grade. The cap rail for the wainscot I’ll mill using a router to match the line of the handrail on the entry wall. It will be stained to complement the countertop and stair handrail.  For now, I can simply install the wainscot stile and rail and leave the cap until we have picked the wood and finish for the bar top, and integrate it at that time.

We have discussed three panel ideas-

1. board on board to match existing hallway

2. beadboard to match small bath and window seat

3. bamboo veneer finished with polyurethane and paint finish to incorporate a tropical element

My quick thoughts

1. Board on board can’t be used in the small bath because of its thickness.  It also is tough to scale for the planned window seat area.

2. Beadboard is available in several different modes – MDF, single board, plywood, and PVC.  

3. Bamboo veneer is the thinest and probably not durable enough for the bath or the window seat

Electrical Junction Box Extension


What do you do when an electrical junction box is set deeply into a wall and you plan to remodel a wall, as we did, by adding wainscot, paneling, or trim?  This requires the installation of a junction box extension.

Any exposure to flammable material by spliced wiring is not allowed by NEC. It needs to be fully protected by the J-Box – with no gaps allowed.  For this, you need to extend the junction box with an electrical box extension.  

With an existing J-box than cannot be moved without demo of the wall, you can add a J-box extender.  There are several different types, and I’ve used three of them

Carlon box extender for most residential wiring

Metal box extender for condo wiring or exposed conduit wiring

Arlington BE 1-5 below is carried by Home Depot

For new construction, or remodel where you can install a new J-box, I really like the Carlon adjustable box. I used these for all planned wainscot installation locations.  

Regardless of which one you use, always choose the best product that will do the job, not the least expensive.  Carlon sells tons Zip Box Blue, thin wall plastic J-boxes that meet NEC, if installed correctly. Problem is, they flex, and for DIY it is all too easy to push the box out of shape.  Pass over the Zip Box Blue thin wall boxes, and pay the extra money for the Carlon SuperBlue Hard Shell Boxes. They are easier to install, and you get more capacity, and no worries about fire. 

Again, consult the NEC and your local building code.

Shelf Pin Holes for a Shoe Shelf


For the replacement hallway shoe shelf, I wanted the shelving to be adjustable. This meant once again taking on the task, and pursuit, of perfect shelf pin holes. I opted for L-shaped 1/4″ shelf pins only in antique brass so discoloration won’t be an issue. The small hole will allow for a retaining screw to be installed so that the slanted shelves will stay in place.

The next problem to solve was how to get clean holes without any blowout. I already have used the Woodpecker shelf pin template, which works well, but each bit/method I’ve previously experimented with left me unsatisfied with the results. The 5mm pins used in the closet organizer have no flange to cover the hole, and there was always a tiny bit of tear-out using a Vix bit with a brad point 5 mm drill bit.  I had also attempted to use a 5 mm spiral UPCUT bit in the router, which is specified by several online sources. I thought it odd at the time since I  found that the UPCUT bit, just like a spiral drill bit, will cause some tear-out.

Thinking that a DOWNCUT bit made much more sense, this time I ordered a 1/4″ DOWNCUT spiral bit, and it turned out to be spot-on.  

Spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the Porter Cable threaded template bushing adapter (since a 3/8″ template guide is not in the Bosch lineup) latched into the Bosch spring loaded, latching template guide accessory. All parts sold separately. 

Not to say it was a perfect job. Every job has a learning opportunity!

Early lesson learned – when cutting shelf pin holes in hardwood plywood, dial back the speed in the router to avoid burning.  Fortunately, found that out in a test piece of stock.  Second lesson – threaded template bushing adapter tends to become unscrewed, and needs tightening periodically. Pay attention to little stuff, it matters – the template will move when hit with a rotating router bit that is not fully un-plunged.

Spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the PC threaded template

Spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the PC threaded template bushing adapter


Pin holes-complete!

bottom view - pin hole downcut bit

Bottom view spiral DOWNCUT bit shown below with the PC threaded template bushing adapter