DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Straight Edge Rake

  • Used to pull leaves and debris toward the user.
  • Also used to gather up heavy trash such as sticks and stones.

Box-Joint Pliers

• General utility tool with up to eight adjustments, allowing for jaw openings up to 4-1/2″.

• Either multiple hole or tongue-and-groove designs available.

• Straight and curved jaws are available.

• Most common type of box-joint (multiple slip-joint) is 10″ water pump pliers.

 

Square Tip (Robertson) Screwdriver

  • Have square tipped heads to help grip the screw on all four sides to provide more torque.
  • Range in sizes from 0 to 3 and jumbo.
  • Popular with decking projects.

 

Adjustable Wrench

  • Comes in two styles: locking and non-locking.
  • Non-locking styles feature an adjustable end opening with little provision made for slippage.
  • The locking style also has an adjustable head, but uses a locking mechanism to secure jaws in desired position, eliminating the need for constant readjustment. When properly adjusted to a nut or bolt, it will not slip.

 

Ball Peen (Ball Pein) Hammer

  • Ball Pein HammerUsed with cold chisels for riveting, center punching and forming unhardened metal work.
  • Striking face diameter should be about 3/8” larger than the diameter of the head of the object being struck.
  • Designed with a regular striking face on one end and a rounded or half ball on the other end instead of a claw.
  • Sizes range from 2 oz. to 48 oz. with 12 and 16 oz. the most popular.
  • Variations include a cross-peen hammer (with horizontal wedge-shaped face) and a straight-peen hammer (with vertical wedge-shaped face).

 

Seat Wrench

  • Also known as a faucet seal tool or faucet seat wrench.
  • Used to remove faucet seats.
  • It is L shaped. One end has four flat sides, the other has five flat sides.

Block Plane

  • Is much smaller than bench planes and used for smoothing the end grain of boards and shaping small pieces of wood.
  • Blades are positioned bevel side up and set at a low angle (12 degrees in low angle models and 20 degrees in standard models) to permit very thin shaving of work piece.
  • Available in both adjustable and non-adjustable models, adjustable block planes feature steel screws, usually on the end of the plane, to vary the height of the cutting iron.
  • Some block planes have an adjustable mouth to vary chip thickness. A very narrow mouth is best for fine finishing, while a wider mouth allows quick stock removal on less critical work.

Ultrasonic Measuring Device

  • Tapeless electronic devices allow a single person to measure interior spaces (generally up to 50 feet) without assistance.
  • These electronic tapes often include built-in calculations for area (square footage) and volume (cubic footage) and can store measurements in memory.

Post Level

  • Used to set and plumb posts and columns
  • Attaches to post and displays level in two directions.
  • Also available in magnetic models for positioning waste lines in plumbing applications.

Dovetail Saw

  • Similar to a backsaw, with stiff reinforced back, only smaller with finer teeth.
  • Used for fine finish cuts, such as cutting dovetail joints in woodworking.
  • Common saw for trimming molding and furniture repair.
  • Can also be used to cut plastics and laminates.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Strap Hinge

  • Specifically designed for surface applications.
  • Provides greater support for wide doors.
  • Since they may be exposed, they are available in ornamental style.

Roller Spring Catch

  • Helps the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Available in single and double roller types.
  • Features quiet operation, easy installation, long life and easy adaptability to many door and frame designs.

Drapery Accessories

  • Rings must be 1/4” larger in diameter than the rod for free movement. Some have eyelets for insertion of a drapery hook.
  • Ring Clips are oval or round. When pressed on the sides, the prongs open. When pressure is released, the prongs grasp the top of the drapery.
  • The Slip-On Hook fits over a rod or into an eyelet on the rod. The drapery heading fits between the two close-facing shanks on the opposite side of the hook.
  • The Pin-On Hook works the same way except that the drapery heading is hooked into the sharp pin, which is opposite to the side that hangs on the rod.
  • The Pleater Hook is used with pleater tape sewn to the drapery heading. Three or four prongs, or shanks, form pleats when the heading is placed onto the shanks.
  • Swagholders make decorative window treatments with ordinary fabric by draping and forming poufs, rosettes, bishop’s sleeves and festoons.
  • Fasteners for draperies include hollow wall screw anchors, toggles and plastic anchors. These work well in drywall, plaster walls, concrete blocks and other masonry materials.

Twist Link Welded Chain

  • Has links twisted at uniform angles. The slight twist in the links tends to make the chain more flexible and prevents the entire chain from twisting and knotting during use.
  • One type is the coil chain, which has long lengths.
  • Another type is machine chain, which has shorter links than the coil chain.

Lag Screw

  • Lag BoltAlso called a lag bolt.
  • Similar to wood screws but stronger.
  • Used when ordinary screws are too short or too lightweight and when increased gripping power is needed.
  • Used for wrenching into wood surfaces or for inserting into lag shields in masonry.
  • Has a hex head.

 

Molly Bolt

  • Also known as an expansion bolt.
  • Consists of a screw in a metal sleeve.
  • When the sleeve is inserted into a pre-drilled hole and the screw is turned, the sleeve spreads.
  • Screw can be removed and inserted in the fixture to be mounted and replaced.

Cut Flooring Nail

  • Has a blunt tip to prevent splitting of flooring.
  • Used to attach wood to concrete.

T-Hinge

  • Shaped like the letter T.
  • Because it is exposed, some are available in ornamental styles.
  • The vertical strap is secured to the frame while the horizontal strap is secured to the door.
  • Commonly used on gates and cabinet lids.

Magnetic Catch

  • Uses a magnet to help the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Ranges in pull from 8 lbs. to 40 lbs.
  • The holding power is reduced if only part of the magnet makes contact with the strike. Therefore, the magnet must be installed carefully to properly align the catch and the strike.
  • Quality features include a floating or self-adjusting action to ensure proper alignment and contact.

Mailbox

  • One type is made for mounting on a post (typically in rural areas), the other is for mounting on a house (typically in town).
  • Rural mailboxes are medium or large size, usually made of heavy galvanized or painted steel, aluminum or plastic. Since they will be exposed to the elements, they must be able to resist the weather.
  • You may need a mounting pole for rural mailboxes. Wrought iron posts are attractive and last a long time. Wooden posts should be treated if they are to last a long time.
  • Suggest enamel plates and stick-on letters for street names and numbers. Large 4” high numbers make it easy to identify a house at night.
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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Exterior Paint

  • Like interior paint, exterior paint is available in both latex and oil-based formulations—both of which are designed to withstand wear and exposure to severe weather conditions.
  • The advantage of exterior latex paint is that it films on exterior wood allowing moisture to evaporate through the film, which helps reduce blistering.
  • The disadvantages of exterior latex paint, especially of some lower-quality products, are poorer adhesion to badly weathered or chalking surfaces and, in some cases, less effective hiding qualities.
  • The best qualities of oil-based paints are their effective penetration of the surface and excellent adhesion. Oil-based paints have advantages over latex paints in that they adhere better to chalky surfaces and they provide better results for anyone repainting a surface that already has several layers of oil-based paint.
  • Trim paints are chosen to contrast with house color. They dry quickly to a hard finish; they are primarily for use on window frames, shutters and railings. Trim paints are not recommended for large surfaces.
  • Flat finishes, which mark easily, should not be used on doors, door frames or other areas that are exposed to wear. Satin or gloss paints are recommended for these areas.
  • Major problems associated with house paints are generally due to:
    • failure to follow manufacturer’s directions
    • excessive moisture
    • painting wet surfaces
    • painting during inclement weather
    • failure to use proper primer coat
    • failure to clean the surface completely.
  • Any of these conditions can cause blistering, peeling, early fading or similar problems.

Foam Brush

  • Foam brushes have handles like regular brushes, but a foam pad replaces the bristles.
  • Considered disposable because they are inexpensive, but most are durable enough to be cleaned and reused.
  • Ideal for clear finishes, however, most brands are not recommended for use with lacquer or shellac, which have chemical formulas that destroy the foam.

Heavy Duty Scraper

  • Is used to scrape old wallpaper off walls and peeling paint from work surfaces.
  • Blade is removable for replacement and is secured with screws.
  • Angled head offers enhanced leverage.
  • Many now come with ergonomic rubber grip handles for enhanced comfort.

Ladder Paint Tray

  • Similar to paint tray for step ladders but designed for extension ladders.
  • Can fit on aluminum or fiberglass extension ladders with round or flat rungs.

Coloring Tint

  • Tint used to change color of glazes when faux finishing.
  • Available in a variety of colors.
  • Generally comes in 12 oz or 1 oz. bottles and tubes.

Masonry Waterproofing Paint

  • Coating used for masonry surfaces including stucco, concrete, brick, cement, etc.
  • Most masonry paints are acrylic latex-based. Oil-based paint is not recommended for masonry because of the residual alkalinity in the masonry.
  • Most latex-based masonry paints require a special pre-treatment or bonding primer to tie down old chalk and dust before application.
  • Rough surfaces should first receive a coat of block-filler. Acrylic elastomeric coatings bridge cracks and pinholes to provide the best waterproofing.
  • Powdered cement paints, which have a shorter exterior life than latex coatings, must be mixed with water. They can be applied only over a porous masonry surface such as brick, stucco or concrete, or over surfaces that have been previously coated with this same kind of paint. For proper adhesion, the old surface must be wetted down thoroughly and the paint applied to the damp surface.
  • Masonry paint can be waterproof as well as decorative. For best color retention, coat with a good acrylic latex paint 30 days after application of waterproof masonry paint.


Paint Roller

  • A tool consisting of a handle with an extension socket on the end to allow the user to add an extension pole and a frame that holds the roller cover.
  • Great for speed of application.
  • Standard wall rollers are 7″ to 12″ wide.
  • Some rollers have shields incorporated into the structure of the tool to combat spatter and drizzle.
  • Smaller rollers, called trim rollers or mini rollers work well on woodwork and other small areas that cannot be painted with standard rollers. They are available in many different sizes and shapes, depending on the area for which they are designed.
  • An advanced roller is the paint stick, which pumps paint straight from the handle or the can to the wall, where it can be rolled on with the attached roller. The advantage is that the user does not have to deal with drips or messy trays.

Paint and Varnish Scraper

  • Also called a wood scraper.
  • Removes old finishes and smooths the surface with its sharp cutting blade.
  • Often used with paint strippers and other chemical removers
  • Can either have a fixed blade like a putty knife (generally called a wall scraper) or a replaceable blade.
  • Sizes range from the 1″ blade—primarily used for small, hard-to-reach areas—to a 5″ blade.
  • Replaceable blades are usually made from tempered, high-carbon steel. Some have carbide or even diamond-honed blades for greater cutting ability and durability.
  • Contour scrapers can accommodate a variety of blades for removing materials on rounded surfaces and in grooves.

Ladder Levelers

  • Can be mounted to one or both legs of a ladder to allow it to remain level on uneven surfaces.
  • Consists of two swivel shoes that adjust between 3-1/2” and 8-1/2” (depending on the model) so that one leg can stand on the ground and one can stand on an elevated surface, such as a step.

Roller Tray

  • A container that holds paint when using a paint roller.
  • Most trays have ribbed bottoms to remove excess paint from a roller cover after filling it.
  • Ladder-lock legs permit them to snap onto a stepladder.
  • A good quality tray can last indefinitely if cleaned after each use.
  • Plastic tray liners are also available.
  • Some trays features a lid that closes and seals paint, roller or brush inside the tray. This eliminates the need to clean the painting equipment after each use. It also saves paint.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Should I clean my roller cover or throw it away?

It depends. When used with latex paint, roller covers can be easily cleaned and reused. First, use the curved part of a 5-in-1 tool to scrape out as much paint from the roller as possible. Then, use the same tool to wash out the paint using a sink or bucket until the water runs clean. Put the roller cover back on the roller handle and spin as much moisture out as possible. Then put it back in its plastic sleeve. If used with oil-base paint, go ahead and discard it.

What’s the difference between transparent, semi-transparent and solid stains?

The difference lies in the amount of pigment in each. Transparent stains, although they appear clear, have some pigment in them for UV protection. Semi-transparent stains have more pigment, but still allow some of the wood grain to show through. Solid stains are basically like paint. They hide most of the wood’s character, but they offer the best protection from moisture and UV rays.

What is an oil-based paint?

These paints have resins and thinners in them that evaporate when the paint dries. This process forms a hard coating and provides heavier coverage on the first coat, effective penetration and excellent adhesion. They are particularly good for chalky surfaces and those that already have several layers of oil-based paint.

How wide of a brush should I use?

The best answer is whatever you feel comfortable with. A bigger brush holds more paint and applies it more quickly, but it is also harder to control.

Is there a way I can test my exterior paint to see if it contains lead?

Yes. There are several do-it-yourself test kits that are approved by the EPA. Go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/kits.htm for a listing of test kits that have been approved. Approved test kits generally come with verification cards, while many non-approved test kits don’t.

I can still see the seams where I patched a hole in the drywall. How do I get rid of it?

It might take several applications to get it right, sanding smooth between each one. Also be sure you are feathering out the seams well beyond the patch, which will help hide the patch and the seams.

What’s the best type of stain to use on my wooden deck, an oil or latex base stain?

There are pros and cons to each type. Oil base stains generally offer better penetration into the wood to offer more protection from water absorption. However, they have a higher VOC content and require the use of solvents for clean-up.

Water or latex base stains are better at retaining color longer, but generally sit on top of the wood like paint, and don’t penetrate as deep into the wood. This generally requires stripping the finish off before applying a new stain.

Hybrid oil/latex base stains offer the best of both worlds, including better absorption into the wood, but lower VOC content and easier cleanup with soap and water.

What does the term gloss paint mean?

It refers to how shiny the paint is. Manufacturers use terms such as flat, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss to describe their paint, but there are no specific industry standards.

Should I use a different type of roller cover for oil-based paint and latex paint?

Yes, just as you would with a paint brush. Natural fiber roller covers made with mohair or a blend of polyester and lamb’s wool are usually recommended for oil-based paints, varnish and stains. Synthetic fiber roller covers, on the other hand, are most often recommended for applying latex paints.

What type of scraper should I use to remove the peeling paint on my exterior wood siding?

If you have a lot of scraping to do, opt for a larger one with a carbide blade. While these cost more, they will last longer and do a better job.

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Power Tools Terms (84)

Hand Drilling Hammer

  • Has short handles and is used for pounding hardened nails into concrete or for using with tools that drive nails and pins into concrete or brick.
  • Only hammer to use with star drills, masonry nails, steel chisels and nail pullers.
  • Weighs between 2 lbs. and 4 lbs.
  • Larger striking surface, generous bevel and special heat-treating minimize chance of chipping the striking face.

 

Router Bit

  • Attaches to a router to create a variety of shapes and cuts.
  • Use carbide bits for cutting laminates and harder composite materials.
  • Use high speed steel bits for general purpose cutting in wood and aluminum.
  • Generally grouped into three types: grooving bits, edging bits and specialty bits.
  • The standard d-i-y bit uses a 1/4” shank.
  • Available in an anti-kick-back or chip-limiting design that helps protect the piece of work where the router is being used by preventing the bit from lurching forward and biting into the material.

Sabre Saw Blade

  • A carbon steel blade used for cutting most woods and some plastics.
  • The high-speed steel blade is used for cutting metal, fiberglass and abrasives and thin plastics.

Jointer

  • Used to smooth the edges of wood and help remove warps.
  • Can cut flat surfaces.
  • Size is determined by length of the tool’s knives. Most common size is 6”.
  • Often combined with a planer.

Forstner Bit

  • Used for drilling flat bottom holes in wood. Helps avoid the danger of the bit wandering.
  • Available in sizes ranging from 3/8” to 2” and larger.
  • Great for drilling holes in cabinet doors with concealed hinges.

Random Orbit Sander

  • Uses a round disc of sandpaper to sand in both a circular and back-and-forth motion, which reduces swirl marks.
  • Common sizes are 5” and 6”, but smaller and larger sizes are available.
  • Sands in all directions, both against and with the grain.
  • One of the biggest differences in these sanders is the grip style a manufacturer may use. Some have grips at the front of the sander, while others have handlebars that can be attached at either side of the sander.
  • Another important feature is variable speed for slower, delicate work or faster, heavy work.
  • Most use a dust bag to collect sanding dust.

Rotary Edger

  • Comes in single- or double-wheel models.
  • In the single-wheel model, a rubber-tired wheel moves along the walk or driveway and turns a cutting blade against a cutting edge.
  • Teeth float above the bottom trench to cut grass without being clogged by stones, sticks and other debris.

Router Table

  • A table built to accommodate a router mounted underneath.
  • Provides a smooth surface for routing, and a fence for guiding the material.
  • Another version is a horizontal table that holds the router horizontally.

Reciprocating Saw Blade

  • Carbon steel blade used for soft woods and plastics. Do not use for material with nails.
  • Carbon-tipped blades are best for nail-free wood, nonferrous metal, plastic and fiberglass.
  • High speed steel blade is used for most metals, plastics and fiberglass. Blades are brittle and easily broken.
  • Bimetal blades combine carbon steel and high speed steel. They last as much as three times longer than other blades.

Lathe

  • Used for wood turning applications to create spindles, miniatures, bowls and plates.
  • Consists of a track or bed, headstock, tailstock and a tool support or rest.
  • The tool locks in a piece of wood, with the headstock turning the piece and the tailstock supporting the other end.
  • Different types of tools shape the wood as it is spinning.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Halogen Bulbs

  • Like incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs produce light by passing current through a coiled tungsten wire. The tungsten wire is enclosed in a small quartz or high-temperature glass tube, which is then filled with gases, including a halogen gas.
  • The advantages of tungsten halogen bulbs compared with standard incandescent bulbs include less loss of light over lamp life; smaller physical size for better directional light control; whiter, brighter light; more light per watt; and longer life.
  • Like incandescent bulbs, halogen lights have the advantage of instant-on light. They are easy to use with dimmers for energy savings.
  • Typical halogen lamps last 2,000 to 4,000 hours compared to 750 to 1,000 hours for incandescent lamps. Wattage levels for home use run from 5 watts to 500 watts.
  • More energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs. They generate up to 30 percent more light for the same electricity.
  • Halogen bulbs blacken much less than incandescent bulbs and stay brighter as they age. Because of their brilliant white light, they are excellent for use in displays.
  • Be careful not to touch the glass on halogen bulbs. This can degrade their lifespan and they can also be extremely hot within seconds of being turned on.

Starter

  • A small silver-colored cylinder found mostly in older fluorescent lamps.
  • Allows the electrodes to heat up prior to the lamp starting.
  • When the lamp in an older fluorescent begins to flicker, both the tube and the starter should be replaced.
  • Starterless operation is achieved with instant-start and rapid-start ballast designs.

Wire Channels

  • Use to fasten conduit to a wall or other framing member.
  • Staples can be used to fasten conduit or bare cable.
  • Straps are another type. They can be either one-hole or two-hole.
  • Generally, staples are best used inside the house, straps are best used outside.

Receptacles

  • Taps the electrical circuit to provide power at a given location.
  • Available in flush- or surface-mounted designs.
  • A single- or double-wipe contact refers to the area of the inserted prong where the contact is made.

Lithium Battery

  • Holds power for eight to 10 years on the shelf.
  • Available in 9V.
  • Used for cameras, watches and other items used repeatedly over a long period of time.

Fluorescent Bulbs

  • Current flows through an atmosphere of inert gas and mercury vapor, producing ultraviolet energy that is invisible to the human eye. A phosphor coating on the inside of the tube transforms the ultraviolet energy into visible light.
  • Fluorescent bulbs can vary from straight tubes 6″ to 96″ long to U-shaped tubes and circular tubes. Wattages for home use range from 4 to 75 watts.
  • Tubes also come in a variety of diameters. Several common types are available in reduced-wattage versions that consume 15 percent to 20 percent less energy. The most common tube is the 1-1/2″ used in most bulbs from 15″ to 96″ long. The smallest diameter is 1/2″, used in low-wattage twin tube designs. The largest is 2-1/8″ used for some high-wattage, non-residential installations.
  • Produce up to 105 lumens per watt, compared with a 100-watt, type A incandescent, which produces around 18 lumens per watt.
  • Features include a long lamp life, relatively low brightness and low heat content and glare, compared with incandescent lamps.
  • Fluorescents work well for area lighting, especially in kitchen, bath and task areas.
  • Available in many shades of white and colors. Color is determined by the type of phosphor used in the bulb. Soft white fluorescent bulbs are recommended for living areas, baths and kitchens since they offer good color rendering. Warm white bulbs are good for living areas, although not in areas where color discrimination is important. Cool white bulbs are used for work areas.
  • Use a ballast. Dim only with special equipment that is relatively expensive. Standard household fluorescents are also sensitive to temperature, and therefore work best indoors. High-output fluorescents are for outdoor use and commercial application.
  • Ballasts have sound ratings— “A” is the quietest; “C” is the loudest. Often noise made by fluorescent fixtures can be reduced by replacing the ballast.
  • Electrical connections to the bulbs are made to the bases at each end. The most common is the two-pin base, designated miniature bi-pin for small diameter bulbs, medium bi-pin for average size bulbs and the mogul bi-pin for industrial bulbs. Single-pin bases are used for instant start bulbs, and recessed double contact bases are used on rapid–start bulbs longer than 48″.

Wire

  • Different than cable. Cable refers to two or more wires or conductors grouped together in a jacket.
  • Copper or tinned copper is the most common conductor in home wiring because it has minimum resistance at reasonable cost.
  • Wire is grouped by gauge number, running from 0000 to No. 40. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire. For home use, the most common gauges are between 10 and 20.
  • Larger wire carries more current. Forcing too much current through a wire will cause it to overheat and trip a breaker.
  • Wire is also characterized by letters that correspond to the insulation type and electrical capacity.
  • Grounding wire provides a path of least resistance from the frame or case of an appliance to the ground to guard against electric shocks. Both two- and three-conductor cables can carry grounding wires.

Plug Fuse

  • Also known as Edison base fuse, plug-in fuse or glass fuse.
  • A safety device that breaks an electrical circuit when it is overloaded.
  • The most commonly used fuse. Available in 5- to 30-amp sizes.
  • It has a threaded base like a light bulb and a small window to view a metal linkage. Electricity flows through the linkage. When the circuit is overloaded, the linkage melts and turns black, cutting off the flow of electricity through it. The fuse then must be replaced.

GFCI Receptacle

  • Stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.
  • Also known as a GFI or ground fault interrupter
  • Used to protect against ground faults, which occur when a person comes into contact with a live electrical wire. This may be caused by worn insulation on a wire or by operating a faulty appliance or power tool.
  • The GFCI interrupts power quickly enough to help prevent a lethal dose of electricity.
  • To turn the GFCI back on after it trips, push the reset button located in the middle of the switch.
  • They can be installed as a receptacle or at the main power panel.

Heavy-Duty Battery

  • Short life and best used for low-drain applications such as remote controls and wall clocks.
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Building Materials FAQ's (273)

I want to build my deck out of wood that is naturally weather-resistant. What should I use?

Use either red cedar, white cedar or redwood. All of these are proven to be both decay and insect-resistant.

How much of a slope should my gutters have?

Allow a fall of about 1-1/4” for each 20’ of guttering.

How should I finish plywood that I’ve used on the outside of my house?

The best recommendation is to prime and paint it. Be sure to paint the edges that are exposed as well. Or, you can finish it with a semi-transparent or opaque stain.

Can I replace the spring on my garage door?

There are two types of systems—tension and non-tension. Tension springs have the spring in the center and a large iron roller in the middle. Because is there is so much torque, most people hire a professional to work on these. The other type has the springs on the side of the door.

Why is it called a 2×4 if it is really on 1-1/2”x3-1/2”?

The piece of wood started out 2”x4”, but the process of drying and planning made it smaller. How much it shrinks depends on whether the lumber has been left green (undried) or has been dried.

What can I use to clean my wood fence?

Use a product designed for the purpose. Ordinary household cleaners may contain bleach, which breaks down the fibers in the wood and can also damage surrounding greenery.

Will OSB expand and contract like plywood?

OSB has a tendency to expand and contract, although manufacturers have come out with better resins that have made them more and more stable. When installing OSB as a subflooring or roof decking, space the panels 1/4” apart.

My carpet has started to buckle after it was installed.

Buckling can be caused by improper installation, high humidity, using the wrong cushion or by moving heavy furniture. To correct the problem, remove all furniture from the room and have the carpet power stretched.

After installing my new vinyl tile floor, how long should I wait to clean it?

Wait one week after installation before washing your new floor.

Can I install ceiling tile over any existing ceiling?

The existing ceiling must be in sound condition. Ceilings can be drywall, plaster, popcorn surfaces or open joists. A suspended ceiling may be installed anywhere there is a place to support the wire hangers.

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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What type of storage tote should I buy to store my clothes to store in my apartment?

Buy one that is clear or somewhat clear so you can see the content of what’s inside. This will help you easily locate that special sweater this fall.

Will this handle fit my sliding glass door?

I’m sorry, there are too many manufacturers and styles to know which one fits your door. The best thing to do is take the one you think looks the closest. It may not work, but if it does it will save you a trip back. Otherwise, it’s best to bring in your old handle to make sure we can match it up.

What can I use to anchor a drapery rod on drywall?

A plastic anchor will support a lighter rod. Rods supporting heavier weights will need a molly wall grip.

Are there nails that match my walnut paneling?

Yes, paneling nails come in a variety of colors.

In my apartment, I share a walk-in closet. What’s the best way to share this space?

While you’re sharing the closet, the best way to keep the peace in the closet is to keep everything separate. Each of you should get one of the long walls, then you can decided how to divide up any of the remaining short sections.

I have a hole in my screen. Can I repair it or do I need to replace it?

You can patch small holes—those ¼” and 3/8”—with a small amount of household cement. This glue patch will be next to invisible. Larger holes up to about 3 inches in diameter in aluminum screen can usually be easily patched. A patch should go at least ½” to 1” larger all around the hole. These are either kits or just pieces of screen. Unravel a number of strands and then weave the strands through the screening and bend them tight. Plastic patches need a touch of household cement on the ends of the strands after they have been woven through.

How do I install a molly bolt?

Drill the proper size hole to insert the molly. Turn the screw head until you feel the molly expand and grip the drywall. Next, remove the screw for intended use. A drive-in type is available which eliminates the need for drilling a hole.

Is there a nail I can use that is less likely to split my wood?

Pointless nails protect against wood splitting, because they cut through fibers rather than following the grain of the wood.

Do you have a screw for an electrical outlet cover?

In most cases they are a 6 – 32.

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Home Security FAQ's (38)

What is lock bumping?

Lock bumping is a lock picking technique for opening a pin tumbler lock using a specially-crafted bump key. One bump key will work for all locks of the same type.

I have mis-drilled the hole for my doorknob. Is there anything I can do to cover this mistake?

One option is to use a brass door reinforcer. This product will also increase the strength of your door.

When my house was built, they did not install a doorbell. Is there an easy way to solve this?

Yes, there are wireless door chimes that are fairly easy to install.

Will any lock fit my door?

Most locks come in two sizes: 2-3/8” or 2-3/4” backset. This is how far the center of the hole is away from the edge of the door. You need to know this distance or purchase a lock that has an adjustable backset.

What can I do to add security to my door?

Consider installing a stronger strikeplate—these are larger and have much longer screws.

What kind of deadbolt should I use with my door?

There are two types of deadbolts: single cylinder and double cylinder. A single cylinder deadbolt must be opened with a key from the outside and a turn on the inside. If your door has a sidelight or a glass pane, I suggest a double cylinder deadbolt. With this type, an intruder can’t break the glass and reach in and unlock the bolt. This design does present a danger, however, in case of a fire, as a key has to be used to exit.

Do I need a deadbolt?

These locks provide more security as the deadbolt latch is larger and protrudes farther into the door frame. It can also be keyed on both sides for additional security.

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate.

Where should I install carbon monoxide detectors in the home?

The safest recommendation is to put one in every room, but most people are not willing to do this. The simplest rule is to mount one between the bedrooms and the rest of the house, but closer to the bedrooms. If there is more than one sleeping area, each should have its own alarm. In multi-level homes, install one on each level, and if possible have them interconnected so any one unit will sound the alarm throughout the house. The basement ceiling, near the steps, is a good location for extra protection.

Do you have multiple door locks that require only one key?

Some locks come in pairs that use the same key.

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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

One-Handed Bar Clamp

  • These are bar clamps designed with a pistol grip to allow the user to tighten or loosen the clamp instead of screwing it.
  • Can be adjusted by using just one hand on a trigger switch.
  • Perhaps the most significant innovation to come about recently in the area of clamps.
  • Available in jaw openings from 6″ to 50″ and a variety of sizes

Folding Workbench

  • Is a portable specialty bench that comes as a tabletop or folding bench.
  • The folding benches offer easy storage and a firm, broad base.
  • Many models come with a tabletop clamping device to secure work piece to the table and hold irregular pieces securely.

Pipe Clamp

  • Can be mounted to standard threaded or unthreaded pipe to clamp boards together while gluing.
  • Clamping can be performed from one end or both, and jaws can be positioned at the ends or anywhere along the pipe.
  • Pipe clamps can also be quickly converted from a clamp to a spreader.
  • A hardened steel set screw holds the head firmly on the pipe, but is easily loosened. The 3/4″ size has a crank handle, and depth from screw center to pipe is 11/16″. The 1/2″ size has a crosspin handle, with depth from screw center to pipe of 7/8″.

Folding Sawhorse

  • Made of either construction-grade tubular aluminum or steel or fabricated steel.
  • Most require a wooden cross-beam (Generally a 2×4 or 2×6) be added. With a metal cross-beam there is danger of ruining saw teeth.
  • Most steel models have adjustable legs that fold up into the unit for easy storage.
  • Plastic units generally fold flat for easy storage. Some also are equipped with a lower shelf.
  • Most non-adjustable units are between 24” and 27”, which is considered a comfortable working height.

Handscrew Clamp

  • Also called a cabinetmaker’s clamp, it consists of two hardwood clamping jaws adjusted to the work by two opposing steel screw spindles assembled into the jaws.
  • The jaws adjust to a variety of angles and come in a wide range of sizes up to 10”.
  • They are used for clamping wood, metal, plastic and fabrics.
  • Handscrew adaptors can be used to convert handscrews into miter clamps.
  • Also available are handscrew kits so woodworkers can make their own jaws.

Sawhorse Brackets

  • Generally made of steel or high-impact polystyrene and convert dimensional lumber into a sturdy wooden sawhorse.
  • Brackets allow user to construct a sawhorse of any height and length.
  • Brackets are generally secured to wood with screws, nails or wing nuts. Other types provide flanged nail holes for easy nail removal with a claw hammer.
  • Selling features include ease of assembly since miter cuts are not necessary and sturdiness and convenient storage since most brackets allow legs to fold together.

Corner Clamp

  • Designed to hold miter or butt joints at a 90º angle.
  • They can be used for gluing picture frames, cabinets, molding and trim.

Oil Finish

  • Common types include Danish oil, tung oil or Swedish oil.
  • Provides coloring and protection in one step. However, oil finishes do not stand up to alcohol or water the way polyurethane does, so they are not recommended for high-traffic, abuse-prone applications.
  • Oils make nice, low-luster finish for furniture and other fine pieces. Waxing can provide water resistance with these finishes.
  • Lemon oil can be used to replenish fine wood with its natural oils while protecting the finish. It is best to use products that contain no beeswax or silicones that could cause a buildup or darken the wood.
  • Timber oil is a wood finish designed to penetrate exotic hardwoods such as mahogany and teak. This specialty wood finish helps preserve the hardwood and maintain its natural appearance.
  • Available in several shades, timber oil is a combination of tung oil, linseed oil and long-oil alkyds. In general, teak should be treated with oil-based formulas. Since teak is denser than many other common woods, wood protector should be applied with a brush or by rubbing it in with a cotton cloth.

Spring Clamp

  • Similar to a clothes pin, this clamp consists of two metal jaws to which clamping pressure is applied by use of a steel spring.
  • They are designed for use with thin materials.
  • Spring clamps are versatile enough for home, hobby or professional use indoors or outdoors, holding round or odd-shaped objects.
  • They typically come with 1″, 2″ or 3″ jaw openings.

Paste Wax

  • Protects and adds luster to any stained or finished wood surface.
  • Many formulations contain carnauba for enhanced durability.
  • Commonly used on hardwood floors and fine wood furniture and even marble surfaces.
  • Dries quickly and doesn’t cause surface to become slippery.
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FAQs (0)

I want to build my deck out of wood that is naturally weather-resistant. What should I use?

Use either red cedar, white cedar or redwood. All of these are proven to be both decay and insect-resistant.

How much of a slope should my gutters have?

Allow a fall of about 1-1/4” for each 20’ of guttering.

How should I finish plywood that I’ve used on the outside of my house?

The best recommendation is to prime and paint it. Be sure to paint the edges that are exposed as well. Or, you can finish it with a semi-transparent or opaque stain.

Can I replace the spring on my garage door?

There are two types of systems—tension and non-tension. Tension springs have the spring in the center and a large iron roller in the middle. Because is there is so much torque, most people hire a professional to work on these. The other type has the springs on the side of the door.

Why is it called a 2×4 if it is really on 1-1/2”x3-1/2”?

The piece of wood started out 2”x4”, but the process of drying and planning made it smaller. How much it shrinks depends on whether the lumber has been left green (undried) or has been dried.

What can I use to clean my wood fence?

Use a product designed for the purpose. Ordinary household cleaners may contain bleach, which breaks down the fibers in the wood and can also damage surrounding greenery.

Will OSB expand and contract like plywood?

OSB has a tendency to expand and contract, although manufacturers have come out with better resins that have made them more and more stable. When installing OSB as a subflooring or roof decking, space the panels 1/4” apart.

My carpet has started to buckle after it was installed.

Buckling can be caused by improper installation, high humidity, using the wrong cushion or by moving heavy furniture. To correct the problem, remove all furniture from the room and have the carpet power stretched.

After installing my new vinyl tile floor, how long should I wait to clean it?

Wait one week after installation before washing your new floor.

Can I install ceiling tile over any existing ceiling?

The existing ceiling must be in sound condition. Ceilings can be drywall, plaster, popcorn surfaces or open joists. A suspended ceiling may be installed anywhere there is a place to support the wire hangers.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

How heavy of a hammer should I buy for my toolkit?

A 16 oz. hammer will handle most jobs easily.

What size shop vac should I buy?

If you will be using it mainly for quick clean-up jobs, a small 1.5 hp model will do just fine. They are also easy to store. Medium sizes, such as the 6 gallon size, are still easy to maneuver and they will hold more debris than the smaller versions. Models below 10 gallons tend to be louder and easier to tip. The large models, those more than 10 gallons in capacity, are best if you want something for your garage or workshop and will be cleaning up large spills. While they take up more storage space, their larger capacity means they don’t have to be emptied as often.

What is an outdoor edger?

These tools provide a vertical cut into the soil, to create a clean line between a lawn and a flowerbed, driveway, sidewalk or some other structure. The fastest models are powered models. A non-powered edging tool looks like a shovel with a small blade shaped like a half moon. You can push the blade in with your foot so that it slices off a thin piece of turf, leaving a clean, straight edge of soil along the edge of the lawn.

What are compound pruners?

These use mechanical action so the tool does more of the work. It requires less effort and force.

What can I use to clean my deck?

You can use one of the deck brightener products that are on the market, or you can use TSP (trisodium phosphate). You can also use a power washer if you are careful not to mar the wood.

If I buy a cordless drill, what volt-model should I buy?

A 12-volt model will handle the needs of most D-I-Yers. For bigger projects a 14-volt or higher model are a good choice. For lighter duty, a 9.6-volt model should be sufficient. For extended use, you should get two battery packs.

What is a worm drive circular saw?

Unlike standard circular saws, these have the motor mounted parallel to the saw blade. In addition, they usually have a larger motor. These features provide for more powerful and stronger tools that are preferred by pros looking for heavy-duty, long-term use.

What size adjustable wrench should I buy for general use?

When it comes to gripping, bigger is generally better. If you are going to get just one I recommend a larger one: either 10-inch or 14-inch.

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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

What will happen if you put straight gas in a 2-cycle engine?

Without any oil in the fuel for lubricating, the engine will seize up and will probably be ruined. Always remember to use the oil/gas mixture in the proper ratio recommended by the mower manufacturer.

When do I apply a pre-emergent herbicide?

These are applied in late winter or early spring before seeds begin to germinate.

How do I fix a leak in my gutter?

For some types of guttering, there are repair tapes that quickly and easily patch holes. Or, you can patch it using cement and a patch of the same material as the gutter. For larger holes, you may want to replace the entire section of gutter.

When should I apply fertilizers to plants and trees?

Don’t apply liquid fertilizer at the same time you plant. Some root hairs will break, and the fertilizer will burn them. Wait 2 to 3 weeks after planting before you fertilize. In general, apply fertilizers to plants at the beginning of the growing season. For deciduous trees fertilize when leaves appear; and for evergreens, when it turns cold. Shrubs do not require much fertilizing.

Wasps have built a nest on our patio. How can I get rid of them?

There are sprays that have a range of 20’ so that you can stand far away and still be effective. Some sprays leave a foam so that returning pests will also be killed.

What is a perennial?

These flowers will survive winter and return the next summer. If you plant perennials, you will not have to replant them next year, unless you want to move them to a new location.

I need a glove to work in chemicals.

Use a neoprene-treated glove. It is chemical resistant.

Is there a sprinkler that I can restrict to a small rectangular area between two buildings?

Yes, an oscillating sprinkler can be set so that it will direct water to a specific area. There are also pattern sprinklers.

What is the best type of gutter cover to install?

There are many different types that perform well, and others that don’t perform well at all. Eventually, debris will get into the gutter. So the best type of gutter cover is probably one that can easily be removed for periodic removal of debris.

What annual maintenance needs to be done on my mower?

If you are going to store your mower for the winter, disconnect the spark plug and drain the fuel from the tank. Then, reconnect the spark plug and run the engine until it runs out of gas. This keeps aging fuel from going bad inside the engine. In the spring, change the oil in the mower if you have a four-stroke engine. In addition, replace the spark plug, the fuel filter and air filter.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Bronze Screening

  • Offers a nostalgic look for accenting old homes.
  • Made of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc.
  • Screen weathers to a dark finish.

Storm Window

  • Sometimes called combination windows because they combine the functions of storm and screen windows.
  • Typically made of aluminum
  • Easy to install and usually attached directly to the exterior casing surrounding the window.
  • The single-track type consists of a piece of glass in a lightweight sash, fixed permanently in a nail-on frame.
  • The dual-track style has a glazed sash and screen. The glazed sash is in the top half of the outer track and the screen is in the lower half. Another glazed sash in the inside track covers the screen and can be raised to uncover the screen for ventilation.
  • The triple-track storm window has two glazed sash and a screen panel, all in a separate track. This is best for second floor windows.

Engineered Flooring

  • A popular alternative to solid hardwood flooring.
  • The surface veneer is made of hardwood such as maple or oak, while tongue-and-groove strips underneath are constructed of plywood.
  • Easy to install because it can be installed without a subfloor and requires no sanding or finishing.
  • Usually installed by gluing to the subfloor, although some types snap together and do not require glue.
  • The size of the veneer will determine the floor’s durability. High-quality engineered floors feature surface veneer of 5/32” to 1/8”.

Paneling

  • Softwood paneling comes in either knotty grades (2 & Better Common and 3 Common) or clear grades (Superior, Prime, Select, C & Better Select or D Select).
  • Hardboard panelings have vinyl, printed or paper surfaces that make them look like genuine wood. Woodgrain finishes are the most popular, but other varieties are available in solid colors, marbleized patterns and novelty designs.
  • Another type is plywood wall paneling. On the back of these panels, a stamp will indicate information such as glue type, fire resistance, wood species used and structural description.
  • Comes in 4’ x 8’ sheets in thicknesses from 1/8” to 5/32”.
  • Have either smooth or V-grooved edges.
  • Perforated paneling is a hardboard that comes in 4’ x 8’ sheets in thicknesses of 1/8” or 1/4”. Thicker panels will support more weight.

Encapsulated Insulation

  • Batt and roll insulation encapsulated for easier handling.
  • Encapsulation enables the insulation to breathe and prevents condensation build-up.
  • Easier to handle by reducing dust and other irritants associated with insulation installation.
  • The non-woven type tends to stay in place better than plastic-wrap insulation. This product must meet all building code requirements for flame spread resistance, as it is flammable.

Tees

  • Three female openings in a T shape.
  • Straight tees have the same size openings.
  • Reducing Tees have two openings of the same size and one of a different size.
  • Sanitary Tees are used in waste lines. They have a curved branch designed for a cleanout plug and are designed to prevent obstruction of waste.
  • A Cross has four female openings of equal size.
  • A Wing Tee has lugs for fastening the fitting to a wall or stud.
  • A Compression Tee uses compression fittings on two or more ends.
  • A Test Tee has a threaded opening to be used in conjunction with a threaded plug for a cleanout opening on a drain pipe.

Fiberglass Asphalt Shingle

  • Has a base mat of glass fibers covered with ceramic-coated mineral granules.
  • Some types may use a polyester or fiberglass blend for the base mat.
  • An inorganic shingle.
  • Features a better fire rating and often has a longer warranty than other types of shingles.
  • Does not absorb water and resists cracking.
  • Most come with seal-down strips. These are most effective when applied in warm weather, which allows the asphalt in the strip to soften and adhere to the next shingle.
  • An inorganic-based shingle usually has a Class A fire resistance rating from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL also tests for shingle performance in high winds. To qualify for the wind-resistance label, shingles must withstand test winds of at least 60 mph for two hours without a single tab lifting.

Foundation Vent

  • Used to ventilate basements and crawl spaces.
  • May be constructed of steel, aluminum or plastic.
  • Used with brick, block or frame construction.

Fiberglass Door

  • Easy to maintain and requires less time to refinish.
  • Will not rot, crack or split.
  • Comes in a variety of styles including sidelights, transoms and glass.

Epoxy

  • One of the strongest adhesives known, epoxy is designed primarily for the bonding of non-porous surfaces, but can also be used effectively on wood.
  • Available in clear, white or metallic finish.
  • Most epoxies come in two parts: a resin and a hardener (or “catalyst”) which must be mixed together before the adhesive is used. Once mixed, the material will set permanently in a specified length of time—most will permanently bond, even under water.
  • The bond will withstand most solvents when curing is complete.
  • Excellent for sealing gaps and will withstand vibration and shock.
  • Can be used on pipes, radiators, wood, metal, ceramic tile, china, marble, glass and masonry.
  • Since epoxy is toxic and flammable, use extreme caution when handling.
View category→

Building Materials Terms (161)

Bronze Screening

  • Offers a nostalgic look for accenting old homes.
  • Made of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc.
  • Screen weathers to a dark finish.

Storm Window

  • Sometimes called combination windows because they combine the functions of storm and screen windows.
  • Typically made of aluminum
  • Easy to install and usually attached directly to the exterior casing surrounding the window.
  • The single-track type consists of a piece of glass in a lightweight sash, fixed permanently in a nail-on frame.
  • The dual-track style has a glazed sash and screen. The glazed sash is in the top half of the outer track and the screen is in the lower half. Another glazed sash in the inside track covers the screen and can be raised to uncover the screen for ventilation.
  • The triple-track storm window has two glazed sash and a screen panel, all in a separate track. This is best for second floor windows.

Engineered Flooring

  • A popular alternative to solid hardwood flooring.
  • The surface veneer is made of hardwood such as maple or oak, while tongue-and-groove strips underneath are constructed of plywood.
  • Easy to install because it can be installed without a subfloor and requires no sanding or finishing.
  • Usually installed by gluing to the subfloor, although some types snap together and do not require glue.
  • The size of the veneer will determine the floor’s durability. High-quality engineered floors feature surface veneer of 5/32” to 1/8”.

Paneling

  • Softwood paneling comes in either knotty grades (2 & Better Common and 3 Common) or clear grades (Superior, Prime, Select, C & Better Select or D Select).
  • Hardboard panelings have vinyl, printed or paper surfaces that make them look like genuine wood. Woodgrain finishes are the most popular, but other varieties are available in solid colors, marbleized patterns and novelty designs.
  • Another type is plywood wall paneling. On the back of these panels, a stamp will indicate information such as glue type, fire resistance, wood species used and structural description.
  • Comes in 4’ x 8’ sheets in thicknesses from 1/8” to 5/32”.
  • Have either smooth or V-grooved edges.
  • Perforated paneling is a hardboard that comes in 4’ x 8’ sheets in thicknesses of 1/8” or 1/4”. Thicker panels will support more weight.

Encapsulated Insulation

  • Batt and roll insulation encapsulated for easier handling.
  • Encapsulation enables the insulation to breathe and prevents condensation build-up.
  • Easier to handle by reducing dust and other irritants associated with insulation installation.
  • The non-woven type tends to stay in place better than plastic-wrap insulation. This product must meet all building code requirements for flame spread resistance, as it is flammable.

Tees

  • Three female openings in a T shape.
  • Straight tees have the same size openings.
  • Reducing Tees have two openings of the same size and one of a different size.
  • Sanitary Tees are used in waste lines. They have a curved branch designed for a cleanout plug and are designed to prevent obstruction of waste.
  • A Cross has four female openings of equal size.
  • A Wing Tee has lugs for fastening the fitting to a wall or stud.
  • A Compression Tee uses compression fittings on two or more ends.
  • A Test Tee has a threaded opening to be used in conjunction with a threaded plug for a cleanout opening on a drain pipe.

Fiberglass Asphalt Shingle

  • Has a base mat of glass fibers covered with ceramic-coated mineral granules.
  • Some types may use a polyester or fiberglass blend for the base mat.
  • An inorganic shingle.
  • Features a better fire rating and often has a longer warranty than other types of shingles.
  • Does not absorb water and resists cracking.
  • Most come with seal-down strips. These are most effective when applied in warm weather, which allows the asphalt in the strip to soften and adhere to the next shingle.
  • An inorganic-based shingle usually has a Class A fire resistance rating from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL also tests for shingle performance in high winds. To qualify for the wind-resistance label, shingles must withstand test winds of at least 60 mph for two hours without a single tab lifting.

Foundation Vent

  • Used to ventilate basements and crawl spaces.
  • May be constructed of steel, aluminum or plastic.
  • Used with brick, block or frame construction.

Fiberglass Door

  • Easy to maintain and requires less time to refinish.
  • Will not rot, crack or split.
  • Comes in a variety of styles including sidelights, transoms and glass.

Epoxy

  • One of the strongest adhesives known, epoxy is designed primarily for the bonding of non-porous surfaces, but can also be used effectively on wood.
  • Available in clear, white or metallic finish.
  • Most epoxies come in two parts: a resin and a hardener (or “catalyst”) which must be mixed together before the adhesive is used. Once mixed, the material will set permanently in a specified length of time—most will permanently bond, even under water.
  • The bond will withstand most solvents when curing is complete.
  • Excellent for sealing gaps and will withstand vibration and shock.
  • Can be used on pipes, radiators, wood, metal, ceramic tile, china, marble, glass and masonry.
  • Since epoxy is toxic and flammable, use extreme caution when handling.
View category→

Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Pellet-Fed Wood Stove

  • Burns a processed wood pellet fed electronically into the stove’s combustion chamber.
  • The advantage of this type of stove is it has a steady and controlled fuel source.
  • Disadvantage is the electronic controls will not operate if the power is out.

Radiant Heater

  • Directs infrared heat to the objects or people to be warmed.
  • For short periods of time, these heaters are more energy-efficient than convection heaters.
  • Usually has a wattage rating of 1,500.
  • The heating element is encased in quartz or a metal sheath and has a reflector panel behind it to direct the heat.
  • The quartz rods will periodically need to be replaced.

Evaporative Cooler

  • Sometimes called a swamp cooler.
  • Uses ice and cool water to cool and return moisture to the air.
  • Ice and cool water is mounted on top of the unit. As the ice melts, cool water flows over a wicking material. A fan mounted behind the wick creates a cool moist breeze.
  • Environmentally friendly as it uses little energy and contains no harmful chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Crack a few windows to prevent moisture build-up on inside walls when using an evaporative cooler.

Electret Filter

  • More expensive than other types of filters, but also removes more particles than other types of filters. Also helps protect the heating and cooling system mechanical parts from dust, which helps extend its life.
  • Electrostatically charged. Contains “sites” that carry a permanent electrostatic charge. Sites attract and capture sub-micron-sized particles, as well as larger particles.
  • Captures large airborne allergens like household dust, pollen and mold spores.
  • Also captures microscopic allergens like pet dander, smoke and smog. Some manufacturers produce models that can capture bacteria and particles that can carry viruses.
  • Disposable. Should be changed every three months.

Gas Stove

  • Ideal for those with little space to store wood or with the time to maintain a wood stove. Also better for heating smaller areas.
  • Uses natural gas so it is a reliable heat source when the power goes out.
  • Flame height and heat intensity is easily adjustable.
  • The direct vent type is ideal for homes without an existing chimney.

Baseboard Heater

  • A convection-type heater.
  • The heating elements are completely enclosed, so they are safe for use around small children, but they do not give off as much heat as other types of heaters.
  • Has protective grills removable for easy cleaning.
  • Available with or without a thermostat.

Dehumidifier

  • Removes excess moisture from the air by blowing humid air over cold evaporator coils in a refrigerator system.
  • Moisture collects in a pan, and the unit will automatically shut off when the pan is full.
  • A humidistat controlling the dehumidifier will respond to changes in moisture content and is necessary for efficient energy consumption.

Electronic Filter

  • Filters the entire home by installing in the duct system.
  • Only operates when the furnace or AC blower is running.
  • Typically must be installed by a professional.
  • Electronic cells must be cleaned regularly.

Outdoor Fireplace

  • Portable, wood or wood-pellet burning heat source that can be used at home, on the patio or on the camping trip.
  • Some can also be used as a grill.
  • Some styles are enclosed and vent through the sides while others may include a chimney.
  • Another variation is the firepit, which is bowl-shaped.

Ceramic Heater

  • A convection-type heater.
  • Uses a ceramic disk heating element.
  • Ideal for spot heating.
  • Lightweight and easy to carry.
  • Safe alternative to other heating sources as they operate at temperatures below the combustion point of paper.
  • Includes a washable filter to reduce air pollutants.
View category→

Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Wire Fencing

  • Wires are welded together.
  • Can be taken down, rerolled and reused.
  • Stronger than woven fencing.
  • Used for fencing off children’s play areas, for protecting shrubs and young trees and for storing leaves for mulch.
  • Available as galvanized or vinyl-coated in heavy 14-gauge 2”x1” or 12-1/2-gauge 4”x2” mesh.
  • Typically sold in 50’ rolls, 36” or 48” high.

 

Machete

  • Large knife-like tool used for chopping and clearing thick brush and for heavy pruning tasks.
  • Usually has a hardwood handle with a hardened steel blade.

Sweep Rake

  • Used like a broom to pull leaves and debris past the user.
  • Fan-shaped.
  • May have a straight or round leading edge.

Scuffle Hoe

  • Cuts with both edges of its sharp, steel blade and works in both the push and pull motions.
  • Blade shifts back and forth to keep the angle right in either direction.

Oscillating Sprinklers

  • Sprays multiple streams of water out of openings in a spray tube that oscillates back and forth, watering a rectangular pattern.
  • Used for watering medium to large areas.
  • Traditional designs use curved aluminum tubes.
  • Other designs use corrosion-free, molded straight tubes with jets set at progressive angles.
  • Pattern adjustments are usually full sweep, left, right or center.
  • Place more water at the end of the spray pattern than in the middle.
  • Some models have built-in timers for automatic shutoff.

Lawn Sweeper

  • Features a cylindrical drum outfitted with rows of bristles that use a rotary sweeping action to pick up leaves, rocks and grass clippings.
  • More efficient than raking and works better on dry and level lawns.
  • A canvas container, usually 6 to 7 cu. ft. capacity, holds collected debris.

Flower Border

  • Encloses flower gardens or other plants.
  • Typically available in 6, 12 or 18 in. heights.
  • Made of galvanized or vinyl-coated metal or plastic.

Landscape Stones

  • Low-maintenance mulch that retains its look and does not decompose or erode.
  • Types include lava rocks, marble chips, limestone chips, river pebbles and brick nuggets.
  • Apply them 1” to 4” deep.
  • Lava rocks are lightweight and are more likely to be washed away by the rain.

Bermuda Grass

  • Spreads by fast-growing surface runners during warm periods.
  • Becomes brown and dormant from first frost until late spring.
  • Not recommended for northern areas.

Garden Fencing

  • Designed to keep small predatory animals out of the garden.
  • A welded, galvanized fence with a large 4” square mesh at the top and a small 1” mesh extending 12” up form ground level.
  • The lower mesh can be buried several inches below ground to prevent digging under the fence.
  • Other specialty fencing is designed for use as a tomato cage, for protecting seedlings or as a flower trellis.
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Plumbing Terms (100)

CPVC Pipe

  • CPVC stands for Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride.
  • Used for both hot and cold water supply or chemical distribution systems.
  • Good for temperatures at 200° F in pressure systems and non-pressure systems.
  • Requires special solvent cement that is different from cement used for other types of plastic solvents. Most solvents will indicate this on the can.

Cap

  • Is closed on one end and fits over end of pipe run to seal a run of pipe or a fitting.
  • Either has female threads (for galvanized pipe) or no threads (for copper, PVC and other solvent welded pipe).

Water Pump Pliers

  • Also called expanding jawed pliers.
  • Larger sizes can be used as a quick opening pipe wrench.
  • Used to loosen sink strainer jam nuts or grip flush valve jam nuts.

Copper Fitting Cleaning Brush

  • Use to clean copper fittings before soldering.

Check Valve

  • Operates automatically, permitting flow in one direction only.
  • Sometimes combined with a throttling or shut-off valve. Some communities require a check valve in cold water lines between the water heater and meter.
  • Used to prevent water pumped to an overhead tank from flowing back when the pump stops.
  • Some check valves are designed for use with vertical pipes only. Therefore, it will not work if installed upside down. The closing deviceóa disk, ball or clapperófalls shut by gravity when installed vertically.
  • Another variety is the Swing-Type check valve, which is a small, smooth swing-type gate located in the center of the valve. As water is pumped through the flow side of the valve, a gate swings open to allow water to pass. If water attempts to back up through the valve, the gate is forced shut against the pressure side of the valve.

Tub & Shower Faucet

  • Usually combination style, where hot and cold mix in a single arm.
  • Available in different patterns, they can be built into the wall or flush mounted on the wall above the bathtub.
  • In three-valve bath and shower faucets, two valves control water and a third diverts water either through the spout or to the showerhead.
  • Two-valve tub and shower faucets have an automatic device on the spout that, when activated, diverts water to the showerhead.
  • Two-valve tub fillers and shower fittings fill either the tub or control water in the shower, as do the tub and shower faucets.

Septic Tank

  • A large watertight settling tank that holds sewage while it decomposes by bacterial action.
  • Made of asphalt coated steel, redwood, concrete, concrete block, clay tile or brick.
  • Tanks must be sized to suit the house. Twobedroom homes need minimum 750gallon tanks, according to the U.S. Public Health Service. Threebedroom homes need 900gallon tanks and fourbedroom homes require 1,000gallon tanks. Garbage disposers, washing machines and dishwashers are figured in this estimate.
  • Household sewage flows into the septic tank anddecomposes. Sludge collects on the bottom of the tank and liquid effluent flows out to a distribution system. The distribution system is a series of underground disposal lines that radiate outward from a central distribution point; the effluent seeps into the earth.
  • Sludge remaining in the tank must be cleaned out periodically to prevent this layer from building up enough to cause clogging of disposal lines or household sewer lines.
  • Under ordinary use, the tank may need cleaning at two to four-year intervals, but most experts recommend that the sludge level be inspected every 12 to 18 months. Inspect by opening a special manhole cover or trapdoor located at or near ground level.
  • Septic tank cleaners dissolve sludge through enzyme activators that regenerate the natural bacterial activity of decomposition for which the tanks were designed. These natural bacterial activators continue from the tank into the drain and tile field.

ABS Pipe

  • Drain PipeMeans Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.
  • Made from a thermoplastic resin. Lightweight and easier to use than metal pipe.
  • Commonly used for DWV (drain-waste-vent) applications or for underground electrical conduits.
  • Available as either solid wall or cellular core construction.

Plug

  • Is closed on one end and either has male threads (for galvanized pipe) or no threads (for PVC and other solvent welded pipe.
  • Used to seal a run of pipe or fitting.
  • A Cleanout Plug can be added to a tee at the base of a vertical drain pipe. The plug is threaded for easy access to the drain. The threaded fitting for the plug can be added on, or some tee fittings have the threaded connection built-in.

 

 

Nipple Extractor

  • Also known as an internal pipe wrench.
  • Used to remove pieces of pipe that have broken off.
  • Has a rigid cylinder with a moving part that fits into the inside of the pipe and is used with pliers to turn it.
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Home Security Terms (35)

Night Latch

  • Installed on the inside surface of the door.
  • Has an automatic locking feature. The large, spring loaded latch automatically locks whenever the door is closed.
  • For light security and usually used in combination with another lock.

Ionization Fire Detector

  • Measures the changes in electric current caused by invisible particles ionized in the heat of combustion.
  • Transforms air inside the detector into a conductor of electric current. When smoke enters the detector and impedes the flow of current, the alarm sounds.
  • Responds particularly well to the smoke caused by a flaming fire.
  • Requires little power and is effectively powered by household batteries.
  • Slower to respond to a smoldering fire.
  • Detectors are required to emit a low warning when batteries are weak.

Keyless Entry System

  • For advanced home security and convenience.
  • Audio and visual indicators confirm the lockset is activated.
  • Uses a keypad on the door or a remote control to open the door.
  • Some models will sound an alarm after the incorrect code has been entered more than three consecutive times.
  • Anti-theft rolling code feature ensures the same code is never used twice.
  • Some systems are compatible with some garage door openers so the homeowner only needs one remote.

Photoelectric Fire Detector

  • Uses a small lamp adjusted to direct a narrow light beam across the detection chamber. Smoke entering the chamber scatters this light beam, causing it to hit a sensor and set off the alarm.
  • Usually more sensitive to smoke from a slow, smoldering fire than an ionization detector, but reacts less quickly to flaming fires.
  • Available in both battery-operated and plug-in versions.

Hasp

  • Consists of a metal hinge and an anchoring bolt so locks can be secured to gates, sheds and garages.
  • Conceals the mounting screws when the lock is in place.
  • Insert a padlock through the ring and lock to secure the hasp.
  • Another type is the hasplock, which has a padlock attached to it, which makes it impossible to lose the padlock when the hasp is open.

Thermal Fire Detector

  • Used primarily by large commercial firms.
  • The alarm sounds when the temperature rises to a certain level.
  • Most are also triggered by a quick rise in temperature even if an extreme temperature is not reached.
  • Not as safe as other types of fire detectors as fire usually must be intense before the thermal unit will sound.

Barrel Bolt

  • A sliding lock mechanism used to provide security for average weight doors and windows.
  • Is surface mounted where the bolt slides into a catch on the other side of the door.
  • Available in decorative finishes and with surface or universal strikes.
  • Some have spring action to hold the bolt in place, and some are lockable.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

  • Detects carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, deadly gas that poses a potentially deadly health risk to people.
  • Measures the amount of carbon monoxide over time and sounds an alarm before people would experience symptoms.
  • Operates on batteries or can be plugged in.
  • Some models provide a running digital readout of CO levels.
  • Hard-wired or plug-in models typically use some type of solid-state sensor, which purges itself and resamples the air periodically. That cycle increases the power demand.
  • Battery-powered detectors typically use a passive sensor. They will operate even in case of a power failure.
  • Available in combination units that have CO and smoke detectors in the same unit.

Strike

  • The metal plate the latch slides into on the doorjamb or frame.
  • All new locksets come with strikes, but some homeowners may want to replace them with high-security strikes or replace damaged ones.
  • Adjustable strikes are available that provide 1/4” adjustment to allow for door and frame warpage.

Alpha-Track Radon Detector

  • Detects radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas formed wherever there is uranium, an element present throughout the crust of the earth. It poses little risk if it makes its way to open air, but if it seeps into a house, it can collect in hazardous concentrations.
  • This detector consists of a small sheet of plastic. Alpha particles that strike the plastic cause microscopic pockmarks.
  • After an exposure period, users mail the detector to a lab. The lab’s count of the pockmarks gives a direct measure of the mean radon concentration.
  • Another type uses activated-charcoal granules, which trap radon gas. After an exposure time, the container is resealed and shipped back to a lab for analysis.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

My new light fixture is rated for 60W bulbs. Is it OK to use 75W bulbs if I want the room to be brighter?

No. This could cause a serious fire hazard, as the bulbs could get too hot and melt parts of the fixture and even catch on fire.

I need a circuit breaker, but I don’t have it with me. Are they all the same?

No, it’s best if you bring in the old breaker and match it up. If you know the name of the brand of service box, we could also match it that way. Of course, you can make a guess and if you are right, you can save a trip back.

What’s making the tubes in my fluorescent light flicker?

Wiggle the tubes to make sure they are properly seated. Replace any tubes that are dark or have damaged pins. Replace the starter if there is one.

Is there a special receptacle I should install outside?

Yes, we have a special box with a cover designed to protect. In addition, the receptacle should also have ground-fault circuit-interrupt protection.

How do I use a wire nut?

Strip off about ½ inch of insulation from the wires you want to connect. Hold these wires next to each other and twist clockwise. Screw on the wire connector using only your hand strength. Make sure not bare wire is exposed.

I am installing a ceiling fan; do I need a special electrical box?

Yes, special saddle boxes are designed for hanging heavy fixtures—up to about 50 pounds. Since a ceiling fan moves, these boxes are good for about a 35-pound ceiling fan.

The plugs in my outlet are very loose. Can this be fixed?

No, you should replace them … immediately. Loose contacts can lead to arcing, which can cause a fire.

How do you figure amperage?

It is watts divided by volts. For example, a 1500-watt heater (divided by) 120 volts equals 12.5 amps.

What’s causing my fluorescent fixture to hum?

The ballast probably needs replaced. Another sign of a faulty ballast is black tar like substance oozing from the fixture.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

My ceiling fan is reversible. What setting should I use in the summer and what one should I use in the winter?

Use the down draft setting in the summer, and the updraft setting in the winter.

How large of a kerosene heater should I buy?

Kerosene heaters are rated by their BTU output. Approximately 28 BTUs/hour are required to maintain one square foot of space at 70°F. Multiply this figure by the total square footage in the room you want to heat and you will have the approximate BTU rating of the heater you should buy.

How do I change the air filter in my furnace?

The filter generally is located as close to the blower unit as possible. It will be between the incoming ductwork and the blower. Furnaces may have a slot with a flap that closes over it. Slide the old filter out and slide the new one in the same way.

I already have some loose-fill insulation in my attic. How do I know if I need more?

Generally, if you have less than 9” of insulation on the attic floor, it needs more.

Which is better: a metal or a cast iron stove?

Both conduct heat identically well. As a general rule, though, the thicker the metal, the longer the stove will last.

What size air filter does my furnace need?

Check labeling on or measure the existing filter. If no filter exists, measure the length and width of the space where the filter should be.

How do I attach insulation between floor joists?

Insulation must be installed with the vapor barrier facing up. This means the paper flanges cannot be used. Use insulation supports (thin metal rods) to support the insulation. You can also attach a string in a lace pattern across the bottom of the joists.

Can I burn coal in my wood stove?

Stoves designed for wood should be used for wood only. Coal burning requires a special grate designed for that purpose. Some kinds of coal produce heat much more intense than wood and can damage a standard grate and even the inside of the firebox.

What is the benefit of a humidifier?

A humidifier can make a house more comfortable during the winter months. Cold air holds little moisture. When it enters the house and is warmed, the air in the house becomes dry. Humidifiers restore moisture to the air and can make the house feel warmer, allowing you to use less heat and thus save energy.

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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

My toilet is constantly running causing ripples in the bowl. What’s wrong?

Either the float on the fill valve is stuck or it is set too high, causing water to overflow from the tank into the bowl through the overflow tube. Check the float on the fill valve to make sure it isn’t getting stuck on anything. Next, check for mineral build-up on the body of the fill valve, which may be causing the float to stick. This can be removed with steel wool or fine grit sandpaper.

There is dripping along some of my pipes. Does this indicate a leak?

Not necessarily. Warm, moist air condenses when it strikes cold pipes. To prevent this condensation, wrap the pipes in insulation.

How do I remove hard water stains from my stainless steel sink?

Try cleaning it with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

What size water supply line do I need?

There are generally two sizes of supply lines. The toilet supply line head is the larger of the two. The smaller ones are sink supply lines.

What do the letters “K,” “L” and “M” on copper tubing mean?

Type K is the heaviest. Type L is medium weight and used most often for waterlines in homes. Type M is thinner and is used underground or for light domestic water lines if local codes allow.

What is an anti-siphon toilet fill valve?

The anti-siphon protection prevents the toilet tank water from getting into your home water supply system.

What is a pressure assist toilet?

It is a type of flush mechanism that uses both water and compressed air to flush the toilet, which helps eliminate clogs by flushing waster further than a gravity fed system.

What does the toilet vent pipe do?

It is a pipe that runs from the toilet drain to the outside, usually to the roof. This prevents air lock in the drain line.

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