DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

How do I clean a solid surface countertop?

Clean up is easy. Use soap and water.

How do I get foam insulation off my hands?

Before it cures, use an acetone or fingernail polish remover. If the foam cures, a solvent won’t do any good. The insulation won’t harm your skin and will fall off in a couple of days. Or, you can try a pumice soap and warm water. However, always read caution statements on the back of the can and use gloves to avoid contact with skin.

Are there advantages of a wood frame over aluminum on a sliding patio door?

Wood is stronger and a better natural insulator.

Why are the shingles I just installed already blowing off the roof?

One possible cause is that the shingles were laid in the fall or winter and the self-sealing tab never had the opportunity to properly seal. This doesn’t always happen, but can. A possible solution is to put asphalt adhesive in a caulking gun and tack down the tabs, one by one.

What is the advantage of wood siding over other types of exterior sidings?

Wood acts as a natural insulator. It also can add dimensional stability to the structure.

Is a suspended ceiling something I can install myself?

Yes. Installing a suspended ceiling is a relatively easy project that requires few special tools.

Will ceramic tiles resist acids?

Glazed ceramic tiles are highly resistant to acids (except hydrofluoric) and other corrosive substances.

If the wallboard in my basement was damaged during a flood, can I simply dry it out and keep it?

No. It needs to be replaced. Wallboard damaged by floodwater is a health hazard because there may be mud and contaminants dried up inside the board.

What is the difference between Exterior panels and Exposure 1 panels?

Exterior panels are fully waterproof and made to withstand exposure to the weather for its entire life. Exposure 1 panels have a waterproof bond as well but won’t hold up as well if exposed to the weather for a long period of time. They are designed for construction where a temporary exposure to the weather is necessary.

Should I use a special type of fastener for wood I’ll be using outside?

For exterior wood applications, I recommend a corrosion-resistant fastener, such as stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized steel.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Pipe Insulation

  • For insulating water pipes from freezing in the winter. It also helps control heat loss when pipes carry hot water and controls condensation and dripping.
  • Available in preformed insulating tubes that fit over the pipe.
  • Another type comes in batt form, which can be wrapped around the pipe.

Folding Door

  • One style is woven, which is used when ventilation is necessary and usually consists of natural wood or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
  • Another style is laminated, the more durable of the two, which is usually PVC-laminated to steel.
  • The most common size is 32” x 80”.
  • Two units or an expansion set can be combined to fit larger openings.

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.

Soap Dish

  • Often sold in a style that matches other bathroom accessories such as towel bars.
  • Comes either stand-alone or wall-mounted.

Glider Window

  • Slides horizontally to open.
  • Durable, since the sash is fully supported in the frame.
  • The nail-on frame style uses nailing flanges and is used mainly in new construction.
  • The block frame style is used either as a replacement window or in block construction.

Gypsum Wallboard

  • Consists of a core of gypsum plaster covered with two sheets of heavy paper.
  • Panels are 4’ wide and range in length from 6’ to 16’.
  • Boards 1/4” thick are normally used for recovering old walls and ceilings.
  • Boards 3/8” thick are used in two-ply construction.
  • Boards 1/2” and 5/8” are used in single-ply new work. 5/6” boards provide better fire resistance and sound control.
  • Benefits include low cost and ease of installation. The plain-papered face provides an excellent surface for paint or wallpaper.
  • The edges are typically made with a slight taper, which allows for a filled and tapered joint.
  • Greenboard is a type of gypsum wallboard that has a water-resistant (not waterproof) facing and is used in bathrooms and areas that will be exposed to water or steam.


  • Sometimes referred to as window or door casing.
  • Used around windows or doors for trim.
  • Styles include colonial, oval, R2E, ranch and molded.

Saddle Tee

  • Joins a smaller drainpipe to a larger one, such as a 1-1/2″ pipe to a 3″ pipe.
  • Used when installing a drain on existing plumbing. Saves the labor of cutting and rejoining the main pipe.
  • Some types are made for joining a PVC pipe to a cast iron drain.

Plastic Resin Glue

  • Is powdered urea formaldehyde glue.
  • When mixed with water, it makes highly water-resistant bonds.
  • Frequently used for furniture repair, it is applied to clean, close-fitting surfaces and cured under pressure for at least 10 hours at 70° F.
  • The finished glue is non-toxic and impervious to most materials.

Patching Plaster

  • Is a fast-setting powder ready to use by adding water.
  • It dries hard to uniform, white color.
  • It repairs and covers large holes and deep cracks in plaster walls and ceilings.
  • Patching plaster may be drilled, sanded and painted and can be textured to match existing surface.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Electrical Tape

  • Most common type is plastic, usually 3/4” wide.
  • Handy for many uses. In electrical work, it is used to cover bare wires after they have been exposed.

Can Light

  • Also known as recessed lights.
  • Provides ambient lighting.
  • Ideal for rooms with low ceilings and can be used to supplement existing light in kitchens and bathrooms.

Home Networking

  • Home networks connect multiple computers in the home, satellite dishes, cable TV, sophisticated audio systems and home.
  • The heart of these systems is the networking hub. Usually thought of in conjunction with computers, the home network hub differs in that it provides central control of computers, peripherals, phones, TVs and audio components. This is the unit where most of the wiring from different locations comes together to meet.
  • Most home networks use coaxial, Category 3 and Category 5 cable. Coaxial cable is used for TVs, VCRs and satellite equipment. Category 3 cable is used for telephones while Category 5 is used for telephone, fax and computer systems. Some cables combine different functions into one cable.
  • “Structured” wiring refers to a bundle of cables that runs from the networking hub to meet a home’s future information-carrying needs. This wire bundle may consist of some combination of Category 5 cables, fiber-optic lines, Category 3 cables and coaxial lines.
  • Jacks are used to terminate the cable. There are different jacks for telephones, computers, satellite, audio and video equipment. Many of these jacks and cable connectors require special tools for installation.
  • Patch cords are used to connect different computer and audio/video devices with one another or with a central networking device such as a hub.
  • Binding posts are used to connect bare speaker wire, while F-Connectors are used with coaxial cable.

Conduit Connectors

  • Used to connect lengths of conduit.
  • Can make straight or bent connections.
  • Conduit can also be bent to a 90º curve using a conduit bender.


  • The opposite of a plug. It has slots or openings on the inside designed to receive male receptacles or plugs.
  • Technically known as a female receptacle.
  • Larger appliances have special configurations (often called NEMA configurations). The configuration of the slots must match the configuration of the prongs on the plug.

Fish Tape

  • Also known as a snake.
  • Used for pulling the electrical cable or wire through the wall or through electrical conduit.
  • Often comes in lengths of 25 or 50 feet, 1/2” or 3/4” wide with a hook on one end. Also comes coiled in a case.
  • Also used to probe wall cavities to determine the best path for routing a cable.

Landscape Fixtures

  • Designed to accent or light steps and pathways. It also serves a decorative function and is relatively easy to install. Don’t install landscape lighting with extension cords, which are for temporary use only.
  • Mushroom lights, named for their sloped shades, are commonly used along pathways or in gardens. The bulb ranges from 5 watts to 60 watts, and light is reflected downward to give a soft illumination to the immediate area near the fixture. Opaque, tiered lens attachments shield light from the eyes and direct it downward.
  • Bollard lights are cylindrical in shape, with the faceted lens being part of that cylinder. The lens diffuses light in a 360° pattern to create a soft glow. Lens shields can limit lighting to a 180° range.
  • Globe lights have spherical lenses, so they cast light in all directions, providing subtle illumination that can cover a large area without glare. They are often used around outdoor living areas.
  • Deck lights are designed to fit under steps, benches and railings. They can be mounted in many other ways as well. Many other kinds of fixtures can be recessed into steps or planters to directly illuminate pathways.
  • Landscape boulders blend naturally into the environment and glow from within, casting illumination for pathways. The faux boulders contain low-voltage lamps and UL-listed components that are easy to wire, can be installed on their own system or added to an existing low-voltage system.

Extension Cord

  • Indoor extension cords come in two-wire cords in lengths from 6′ to 15′. White and brown are the basic colors.
  • Outdoor extension cords are used for outdoor power tools and exterior lighting. They come in 16/3, 14/3 and 12/3 wire, and the most common lengths are from 25′ to 100′. Heavy-duty extension cords should be used with high-wattage appliances.
  • Any UL-listed cord will carry a UL label near the female end. Many companies are now using an alternative method of labeling allowed by UL, which permits the UL markings to be molded into the cord ends. This ensures a permanent marking that cannot be provided with a label. It is important to check for this UL insignia, whether it is a label or a permanent marking. Non-listed cords can be similar in appearance to listed ones.
  • To be UL-listed for outdoor use, three-wire round cords must have connector and cap molded to the cord and a lip on the end of the connector to prevent misuse. Beginning in 1998, UL-listed outdoor cords began appearing with the “SJTW” marking on the cord, not “SJTW-A” as was previously used. For a period of time, either marking will be acceptable for outdoor use.
  • Grounding cords are available in both heavyweight and heavy-duty construction differing from standard cords, because they have three conductors instead of two and are equipped with a three-prong grounding plug and connector.
  • Step-saver cords have built-in pendant switches to control appliances and lamps across the room.
  • Wind-up reels keep tangled, foot-catching cords off the floor.

LB Fitting

  • Connects at a 90º angle.
  • Has thick gaskets to make it impervious to moisture.
  • Generally, an LB fitting is placed outside at the point where the conduit leaves the house.
  • This fitting should not be used to make wire connections.

Circuit Breaker Box

  • Also called the electrical house panel or service panel.
  • A metal cabinet used to hold a series of circuit breakers.
  • Usually found near the main service entrance of the house.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

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.

What is a polarized plug?

One prong is bigger than the other is. This feature is designed to make sure that a 110-volt plug is never put into a socket that is not a 110-volt outlet.

What is the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight?

The floodlight will have a broader light pattern, and a spotlight will focus on a more narrow area.

How can I tell if a socket or switch has a current?

The best way is with a voltage tester. If it blinks, then power is still flowing through the circuit.

Which color of wire nut do I need?

Check the package, it will tell you what size and how many wires each color of nut will hold.

I have a circuit breaker that tripped. Is this dangerous?

Usually the problem is simply an overload and you only need to run fewer appliances on the circuit. However, if it is not overloaded and it keeps tripping, you should suspect a short. Also, look for a defective cord, socket or plug.

What do the colors of the plastic insulation mean on wires?

They are designed to indicate their use, but be careful, because they are not always hooked correctly. Hot wires, those carrying current at full voltage, are usually black, red or white with black marks. Neutral wires are usually with or gray. Ground wires are usually either green or bare copper.

Is it easy to replace a faulty plug?

Yes, start by snipping off the original plug. Slide the cord into the new plug, strip the wires and connect them to the proper terminals. For lamps and small appliances there are quick connect plugs. The snipped wire is inserted and a small lever is closed which holds the wire and pierces the wire to make the connection.

Do I need a special lamp for this droplight?

I recommend a rough service bulb. These heavy-duty bulbs will take rougher treatment and water droplets.

Is it okay to use an extension cord with a fuse on it rather than a surge protector for my computer?

No, a surge protector has components that trip before a spike in electricity damages your electronic equipment.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Angle Vise

  • Contains marked adjustments to permit clamping at different angles.
  • Can also be adjusted to a flat position and used as a regular vise.
  • Can be locked into any position with a thumb screw, and bolts can be tightened for permanent positioning.

Plastic Pipe Saw

  • Designed to cut PVC and ABS plastic.
  • Can also cut wood and drywall.

Carpenter’s Hatchet

  • Also called a half hatchet.
  • For general use of felling and trimming trees or notching wood.
  • Other popular hatchet models include Hunter’s Hatchets, Broad Hatchets, and Camping Hatchets.


  • Tool consisting of two curved pieces of metal that are joined at one end with a pivot that has a screw to adjust the distance between the two pieces.
  • Used for transferring measurements from a model or prototype to a part being produced.
  • Can also be used to measure the inside or outside of holes or objects that cannot be reached easily with a graduated measuring device.
  • Common models include inside and outside calipers.

Rabbet Plane

  • Also called a rebate plane.
  • Lightweight tool (generally 4” long) used by cabinetmakers and do-it-yourselfers to cut rectangular recesses (called rabbets or rebates) out of the edges of boards and to make grooves in flat surfaces.
  • Has an adjustable mouth for either fine or course work.
  • Cutter is positioned at front of plane to enable tool to fit closely into corners


Torque Wrench

  • Designed to permit an operator to determine applied torque on bolts, nuts and other fasteners.
  • Torque value (generally measured in foot pounds) is set to a micrometer scale on the handle or preset by an adjusting screw in the handle.
  • Typically has square drives to use standard detachable 3/8” and 3/4” sockets.
  • Available with audible signal (clicking sound) or visual display.
  • Many torque wrenches are available with dual scales for conventional and metric measurements.

Hex (Hexagonal) Tip Screwdriver

  • Also called a hex key or hex wrench.
  • It is used to tighten socket set (hex head) screws and usually comes in sets.
  • Some hex sets are attached to and fold into a metal carrying case.
  • Other variations include T-shaped hex tools with vinyl grips and L-shaped keys for greater torque power.

Needle-Nose Pliers

• Also called long-nose pliers, they have a pointed nose for doing work in tight places.

• Used frequently for electrical and electronics work.

• Most have side cutters for cutting wire.

• The jaws and cutting blades meet evenly.


Stove Bolt

  • Used to hold light metals or wood.
  • Heads can be flat, oval or round.
  • Heads are slotted for a screwdriver.
  • Usually supplied with a nut and is intended for use with a nut.


Wedge Anchor

  • Has a shank similar to a sleeve anchor—a solid shank, threaded at the top and with a cone-shaped plug at the bottom.
  • Shank is grooved on opposite sides.
  • As the nut on top is tightened, the washer pushes the rectangular shank down and spreads the wedges over the plug.
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FAQs (0)

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.

How big of a snow blower do I need?

Most consumers buy a single-stage model, which has a rubber paddle that reaches to the ground. People with driveways that are wider than two cars may want to consider a two-stage model. These can throw snow farther, because they have an intake and an impeller that throws the snow. However, these do not always clean all the way to the surface of the drive.

Does it matter what kind of blade I buy for my bandsaw?

There are different types of blades for different types of cuts, but here are a few blades that will give you versatility. A 1/4” wide blade is a good, all-purpose blade. A 4-tpi 1/4” size is good for quick curved cuts, or try a 6-tpi 1/4” blade for slower speeds and smoother cuts. The 1/2” hook-tooth blade is best for long straight cuts. For joinery or tight cuts, use a 1/8”, 14-tpi blade.

Why do snips come in right- and left-handed models?

The different types of snips are used to make cuts in different directions.

What’s the difference between a file and a rasp?

A file is generally used to smooth metal, where a rasp is specifically designed for shaping wood.

What is the difference between a professional power tool and a consumer tool?

A pro tool is designed to withstand heavier workloads and as a result they have more power. They also have motors that are able to withstand use for a long period of time without burning up the motor.

What type of rope should I buy?

Working strength is the most important factor.

Should I use a sheet metal screw or a wood screw?

The main difference is that a sheet metal screw has threads along its entire length. A wood screw has threads along about two-thirds of its length and costs a little less.

How do I install a toggle bolt?

Drill proper size hole and insert bolt. Don’t forget that you have to insert bolt through the item you are fastening to the wall. Collapse the toggle and push bolt through the hole until the toggle springs open. Now, tighten the bolt to complete the anchoring.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What type of drill bit should I use for cutting a large hole for a new door lock?

For larger holes use a hole saw. They range in size from about 1 inch to 4 inches. They have a pilot bit and a saw-toothed circular rim.

What utility knife do you recommend for cutting asphalt roofing shingles?

A fixed blade utility knife with a large hook replacement blade is your best bet.

What type of blade should I use when I am cutting wood?

When cutting across the grain, a crosscut blade has a series of evenly spaced, medium-sized teeth that are bent alternately from the left to the right. When cutting along the wood grain, a rip blade also has teeth bent to the left and right, but its teeth are on the top of the blade, not on the inside. They are like chisels that scoop out the wood as the saw moves along the grain.

I need to drill a 1-inch hole in a piece of wood. What bit do I need?

For drilling medium sized holes in wood, a spade bit is a good choice. Common sizes range from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inch. They can also be used on chipboards and floorboards.

I need a good stepladder. What should I consider?

Wood stepladders are sturdy and the least expensive, but they are heavy. Aluminum stepladders are lightweight but more expensive than wood stepladders. Fiberglass stepladders combine strength and lightweight and are the most expensive.

What size of string do I need to buy for my string trimmer?

This varies greatly. You either need to bring in your old string or know what brand and model you have. If you don’t know, we can make a guess. If we are right, you won’t have to come back. If you have an electric trimmer its probably .064 and if you have a gas trimmer is most likely .080.

What is the difference between a band saw and a scroll saw?

The band saw blade makes a continuous loop and cuts by spinning in a circle. It can handle thick pieces of material, up to 6” thick. A scroll saw can only handle thinner pieces and uses a small blade that moves up and down.

Do you have a tool for cutting lightweight metal sheeting?

Yes, they are called metal cutting snips, and they come in a variety of sizes and designs.

I need a punch for general use, what type should I buy?

The center punch is probably the most versatile and can handle a variety of jobs that require a punch.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Bricklayer’s Hammer

  • Used for setting or splitting bricks, and chipping mortar from bricks.
  • Features a curved, chisel-like pick and a small, square striking surface.


Bow Head Garden Rake

  • Rake head is attached to the handle with a long, curved bows extending from each end of the head.
  • Handles are usually 48” to 54” long.
  • Used to break up and smooth soil after it has been spaded and cultivated.
  • Has sharp, curved steel teeth to pulverize dirt clods.
  • The straight back is good for leveling the soil for planting.

Center Punch

  • Also known as a nail punch, the point of a center punch has a short bevel.
  • Used for starting holes in wood or metal, or to align rivet or bolt holes.
  • Also used for driving rivets after rivet heads have been removed.
  • Good all-around punch that is useful for most jobs requiring a punch.

Hole Saw

  • Cup-shaped blade with a bit in the middle, called a mandrel.
  • Used for cutting holes in wood, plastic, plaster and light metals.
  • Available in a range of diameters.

Wallcovering Water Tray

  • Long, narrow tray used to wet pre-pasted wallpaper.

Screening Tool

  • Used when installing door or window screening.
  • Has a cylindrical handle and bladed wheels on each end.
  • One end is tapered at the edge to help push the screening and spline into the proper slot of the frame.

Brick Jointer

  • Used to strike joints of brick walls for a finished appearance.
  • Because it receives hard wear, the tool is heat-treated.
  • Each end is a different size to make different size rounded joints.
  • The most popular combinations are 1/2″ x 5/8″ and 3/4″ x 7/8″.

Clamp Vise

  • Is a combination fixed and portable vise, featuring a bottom clamp for easy attachment to workbenches, sawhorses or tables.
  • The best choice for portable use.

Miter Box

  • Used to help cut exact angles for wood trim and rafters.
  • Better models provide a mechanism for a backsaw.
  • They are made of plastic, hardwood or aluminum.
  • Some boxes feature magnetic mount guides. The magnets grasp and hold the saw to the miter box saw guide or hold the saw blade to the plane of the saw guide.

Shingling Hatchet

  • Generally used for installing wood shakes and shingles made of wood, fiberglass and composition.
  • Some models have a replaceable adjustable gauge that helps installer determine the exposed length of a shingle.
  • Many models also include nail slots and draw knives built into the head.
  • Handles can be made of hickory, fiberglass, tubular steel or solid steel.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Stove Bolt

  • Used to hold light metals or wood.
  • Heads can be flat, oval or round.
  • Heads are slotted for a screwdriver.
  • Usually supplied with a nut and is intended for use with a nut.


Wedge Anchor

  • Has a shank similar to a sleeve anchor—a solid shank, threaded at the top and with a cone-shaped plug at the bottom.
  • Shank is grooved on opposite sides.
  • As the nut on top is tightened, the washer pushes the rectangular shank down and spreads the wedges over the plug.

Double Loop Wire Chain

  • Made of light-gauge wire with the links formed by knotting or tying the wire to the desired link size.
  • One of the most popular chains because of its versatility.
  • Commonly used for dog runners, swing sets, playground uses and padlocks.

Shelf Bracket

  • Fits into the slots on shelf standards and supports shelves. Some types mount directly onto the wall.
  • A flexible storage system can be built with standards and brackets that are easily removed and repositioned by pushing up and lifting out.
  • Can be mounted in cabinets, closets or bookcases.
  • One type is used with invisible shelving systems, which offers ways to put shelving into living areas. These systems mount brackets directly on the walls to support wood or glass shelving. They are not suggested for heavy support jobs.
  • Another form of standard is the Z bracket. It is frequently used for utility shelving in basements or garages. It offers more support than other types and is less expensive.
  • Floor-to-ceiling standards can be used to create room dividers.
  • These pieces are usually double-slotted and come in lengths ranging from 7’6” to 12’.

Bullet Catch

  • Helps the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Used primarily on furniture and smaller cabinet doors where it is desirable to hide the catch as much as possible.

Door Closer

  • Closes the door at a controlled speed. Usually used on storm and screen doors.
  • Operates with a spring and piston. When the door is pulled open, the spring inside the cylinder is depressed, thus exerting pressure to pull the door closed automatically. The piston controls the speed. An adjusting screw allows the user to change the speed of the closing.
  • A closer made for the disabled has an automatic hold-open feature that engages when the door is opened about 90º. A wheelchair occupant can tap the door again in the opening direction to close it automatically.
  • Interior door closers have a canister-like apparatus mounted on the door and a knuckle-joint arm to push the door closed. A spring-loaded closer is another type that can be installed on existing door hinges.
  • Use closer reinforcements to attach to the frame to provide a stronger anchor.

Cut Flooring Nail

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

Carriage Bolt

  • Has a square shoulder under the head that pulls into soft materials such as wood and prevents the bolt from turning while the nut is tightened.
  • Has coarse, partial threads and a smooth, rounded head.


Impact-Expansion Concrete Anchor

  • Diameter sizes range from 1/4” to 3/4” and lengths from 1-3/4” to 6”.
  • The drill size used should be the same as the anchor diameter.
  • Setting the anchor requires driving the center pin down to the top of the anchor, which expands the sides of the anchor against the walls of the hole.
  • The hole can be drilled through the item to be fastened without moving the fixture.
  • Anchor can be plated hardened steel or stainless steel.

Weldless Flat Chain

  • Commonly called sash chain.
  • Made by stamping or shaping a flat strip from metal. Strips are then formed into links and attached to each other.
  • Especially suited for use over pulleys or where chain must lie flat.
  • Weldless chain is generally recommended for light work only.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What do the marks on the head of a bolt mean?

No marks is the least hard.
Three marks is a medium hardness.
Six marks is the hardest bolt.

Even with a lock washer, I continue losing the nut off my mower.

Use a lock nut with a nylon insert. This arrangement will not vibrate loose as readily.

Which is a bigger nail—No. 6 or No. 8?

No. 8 – the bigger the number the bigger the nail.

What do I use to hang a plant?

For small to medium size hangings, there are kits that include a toggle and a decorative hook. These often have screws so that you do not have to use the toggle if you install it directly into a joist. For larger things, you may have to buy a large hook and toggle separately.

What type of nail should I use?

Use hot-dipped galvanized roofing nails, either 11- or 12- gauge with a 3/8” diameter head. Or, follow the shingle manufacturer’s recommendation for the type of nail you should use.

I am building a swing. What type of chain do you recommend?

Passing link allows the links to pass each other easily, which helps prevent kinking and tangling?

What are the advantages of a carriage bolt?

The square shoulder, sunk into wood, prevents the bolt from turning and the round head gives a smoother finish.

What kind of anchor should I use to attach machinery to a concrete floor?

Use a heavy expansion anchor such as a sleeve or wedge anchor.

What can I use to tighten up a sagging clothesline?

A turnbuckle installed at one end permits you to tighten the line to the desired tautness.

How many nails should I purchase?

You will need about 2-1/2 lbs. of roofing nails for each square of shingles.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

What is the advantage of the higher priced air filters for furnaces?

They take out smaller particulates that are circulating in the air.

Why do I need both soffit vents and a ridge vent?

A properly balanced vent system consists of two types of vents. Intake vents are placed along the soffit to allow fresh air into the attic. Exhaust vents are installed in the upper third of the roof to allow attic air to escape. With a properly vented system, the air in the attic should completely change every six minutes.

How should I clean my washable filter?

Spray gently with warm water in the opposite direction of the airflow. Do not use the full stream of a garden hose. Too much pressure can push holes in the filter and void the warranty. Some manufacturers suggest using a household detergent; refer to the package to verify. Do not use ammonia-based products. Make sure the filter is completely dry before reinstalling.

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.

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.

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.

What is the difference between a stove with a catalytic combustor and a non-catalytic combustor?

A catalytic combustor stove lowers the temperature required to burn wood efficiently. The stove burns fuel slowly and also burns off smoke that would otherwise leave the chimney as wasted fuel. This type generally doesn’t need much cleaning. A non-catalytic combustor stove (a recirculating stove) uses a heavily insulated firebox that keeps the heat in and creates a more complete combustion. This type also has a secondary combustion chamber that burns off more gasses and soot.

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.

Why do I need vents in my attic?

Venting protects against moisture buildup in the attic and framing materials and helps keep the home cooler. In the summer, a tremendous amount of heat can build up in the attic, which can make the air conditioning system work much harder than it needs to. Venting keeps the attic cooler because it allows that hot air a place to escape. In the winter, vapor occurs when the warm air inside the house meets the cool air outside and condenses into water droplets. Ventilation keeps this moisture from rotting insulation and framing materials.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Chimney Cleaner

  • Cleans creosote, a potential fire hazard, out of chimneys.
  • Soot destroyers can be used in wood- gas- coal or oil-burning fireplaces. They come in a powdered form, cylindrical sticks or aerosol spray cans. They are sprinkled on hot fires.
  • Creosote removers, a second type, crystallize creosote in wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. They are available in powder form and are to be sprinkled on cool fires.
  • Round wire brushes are another type of cleaner. Use them in wood burning, airtight stoves and fireplace chimneys.

Window Fan

  • Uses less energy than air conditioning and contains no chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Brings fresh air into the room while expelling hot air.
  • Typical size is 20”.
  • Larger window fans require mounting kits and side panels. The panels support the fan and prevent air from circulating around and back into the fan, resulting in a loss of performance.
  • Smaller units are easiest to install, as they come with the panels attached to the fan.
  • Used to intake and exhaust, for bringing inside air into a room or expelling inside air out of a room. Better models have electrical reversibility, which allows the user to switch from exhaust to intake without turning the fan around.

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.

Wood Fireplace

  • Burns seasoned wood or manufactured wood logs to provide primary or secondary heat to a home.
  • Newer prefabricated fireplaces are more energy efficient than traditional masonry ones.
  • Must use a venting system. In a conventional, open-face fireplace, the chimney serves as the vent. The drawback is that it pulls warm air up the chimney and out of the house.
  • A prefabricated fireplace has an enclosed firebox made of a material that will hold some of the heat from the flue gases so more heat is radiated back into the room.
  • Fireplace systems will incorporate a damper in the flue, which can be closed when the fire is extinguished. Otherwise, the warm air will continue to flow out of the house through the draft that is created.


  • Holds burning logs off the hearth.
  • Prevents logs from rolling forward.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.

Floor Fan

  • Can be moved anywhere in the home to provide air movement that will cool and circulate air.
  • Sizes are generally 10” to 12” in diameter. They can be mounted in rectangular or round, hassock-type case.
  • A hassock fan throws air outward and upward in a 360° direction.
  • A rectangular fan will tile about 170° and may be used as a table fan, throwing air outward.
  • Typically has a speed-selection control, while some may run at a fixed speed.
  • One variation is the stand-mounted fan. This type can generally be easily tilted and may be used as an exhaust fan if placed near a window.

Pleated Filter

  • A low-cost alternative to fiberglass filters, designed to protect the home’s HVAC system from dust.
  • Made of a dense and efficient cotton/polyester material.
  • The pleated design provides greater surface area to capture more particles than fiberglass filters.
  • Smaller sized particles can pass through the filter because fibers are not eletrostatically charge and the media must be woven with spaces between fibers to allow adequate airflow.
  • This type of filter should be changed every 90 days.


  • The andiron is a pair of metal bars with decorative front shafts that hold the logs.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.

Oscillating Fan

  • Moves back and forth in an adjustable pattern to spread air over a larger area.
  • Oscillation function can generally be switched off with the turn of a knob.
  • May be used on the floor, a table or mounted on the wall.
  • Usually does not have as high an air delivery as floor fans.
  • Typically ranges in size from 8” to 16” in diameter.
  • Tile angle varies from about 50° to 90°.

What kind of caulk should I use around window frames?

Latex caulks are good for filling these kinds of gaps. They clean up with water and most are paintable. However, they must be applied in temperatures of more than 40 degrees.

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Home Security FAQ's (38)

My doorbell doesn’t work; do you know what’s wrong with it?

There are three components to the doorbell, the button, the transformer and the bell itself. First, look for any loose wires throughout the system. If all the wires are connected, test the doorbell button by removing it and touching the two wires together. If this makes the doorbell work, you have a bad button that it easily replaced.

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.

My dusk to dawn light doesn’t go off and remains on all day. Do I need to replace it?

First find the sensor and see if it is being obscured by something. If not, you can probably just replace this sensor.

What are the different types of smoke detectors?

Thermal smoke detectors detect heat only. Ionization smoke detectors respond particularly well to smoke caused by flaming fires. Photoelectric smoke detectors detect smoldering fires but react slowly to flaming fires.

What kind of security system do I need to protect my doors and windows?

A perimeter system protects the doors and windows while an area alarm has a motion detector that protects entire rooms.

Where should I keep a fire extinguisher in my home?

Don’t mount it too close to where a fire is likely to occur. For example, don’t keep it next to the stove. A good place is at the top of the stairs or near a workshop. In most cases, it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher for every 600 square feet of living space.

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

What is radon gas and how do I protect my family from it?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can collect in hazardous concentrations in areas like the basement. A radon detector in your basement will help keep your family safe.

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate

My smoke detector beeped last night, but there was no smoke. What is wrong with it?

This is a warning signal that the batteries are low. If your alarm is more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing it, just to make sure that you have one that is in good working order.

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Home Security Terms (35)

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.

Passage Lockset

  • An interior lockset used inside the home in hallways or closets between rooms where privacy is not important.
  • Has two, non-locking knobs, one on each side of the door. Some models use levers instead of knobs.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.

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.

Trailer Lock

  • Used to secure standing trailers by rendering the towing device inoperable.
  • Locks cover or fill the coupler socket so it cannot be mounted on a ball.

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.

Gun Lock

  • Fits over the trigger housing of guns to prevent firing of the weapon.
  • Some models have a sound alarm to warn that the gun is being tampered with.
  • Some have tamper-evident devices to alert owners that the gun has been disturbed.
  • Some models can lock multiple guns at once.

Home Intrusion Alarm

  • Wide variety of types available. Selection will depend on what you want to accomplish. Some feel a loud alarm at the point of entry will scare away the intruder. Others prefer a remote alarm located in a bedroom that will alert only the homeowner. Others prefer an outside alarm that will alert neighbors. Other kinds will sound an alarm and are connected directly to monitoring systems that will alert the police.
  • Simple alarms may consist of a door-locking device with a buzzer attached. When the device is tampered with or the door opened, the alarm sounds.
  • Many intrusion alarms are more elaborate and have twocomponents. A perimeter alarm detects intrusion at points of entry, such as door and windows. An area alarm detects motion inside a room.

U-Bar Lock

  • Provides maximum protection for bicycles, gates, etc.
  • Hardened steel shanks resist cutting.
  • Available in combination lock or keyed lock versions.

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.

Cable Lock

  • Uses the combination of a lock and cable to lock and secure objects in a variety of applications.
  • Some models have a chain or cable permanently attached to a combination or keyed lock.
  • Chain or cable often has a protective plastic coating to prevent scratching.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

What is the difference between annual, perennial weeds and biennial weeds?

Annual weeds, such as crabgrass, germinate from seeds each spring. After maturing, they drop seeds before dying. These are the seeds that germinate the following year. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, do not die at the end of growing season. They may lay dormant in the winter, but will become noticeable in the spring. There are also biennial weeds, such as thistle, which grow vegetation in the first year and then flower and die the second year.

How often should I apply fertilizer to my lawn?

You should feed your lawn every six to eight weeks during the growing season. This usually means April, June, August and October, but your lawn may require more or less feeding depending on the type of grass you have and your soil conditions. Always be sure to check with your local extension agent to get growing tips for your area and for your type of soil.

When is the best time of day to water?

Some people mistakenly believe that daytime watering can burn their grass, but the best time to water is actually from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If that is not possible then morning or early evening.

I’m buying outdoor power tools. Which is better: an electric or gas leaf blower?

A gas blower provides mobility and is more powerful.

How do I rid my lawn of moles?

You must first get rid of the food source—grubs, sod webworms and some beetles. Then you can use either a toxic cartridge that “smokes” their holes or a toxic pellet that you place in the burrows.

What are time-released granular pellets?

These controlled-release fertilizers provide consistent feeding for three to nine months depending on the product. The fertilizer granules are coated with a permeable substance. With each watering, a bit of fertilizer diffuses through the coating and into the soil. Advantages include the need for fewer applications and less of a chance of burning the plant. However, they do not provide as quick a boost and they cost more.

What is lawn thatch?

It’s a layer of stems and the crowns of dead grass just above the soil. While clippings decompose quickly, thatch decomposes slowly. When it builds up, it creates a problem. Either use a de-thatching machine or a core-aerating machine to fix the problem.

How often should I give my grill a thorough scrubbing?

Be sure to do it at the beginning of the grilling season. Then, it depends on how often you use it. Three times a year is probably adequate.

Is there anything I need to do to winterize a young tree in my yard?

Some people recommend that you use a wrap to help prevent damage from a frost.

What are the advantages of snow shovels with curved handles?

These are called back savers because they allow you to work without bending over.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

St. Augustine Grass

  • Recommended for Florida and Gulf Coast areas.
  • A coarse, tough grass that requires a power mower but little other maintenance.

Straight Edge Rake

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

Weed Trimmer

  • Used for trimming weeds where lawn mowers cannot reach.
  • Comes in electric and gas-powered versions.
  • Some gasoline models have a two-cycle engine, which uses a blend of two-cycle oil and gasoline in the gas tank. Gasoline models with a four-cycle engine do not require mixed gasoline.
  • D-handles are usually adjustable and allow for left- or right-handed use.
  • A strong monofilament nylon line serves as the cutting blade. Cutting path is typically 17”.
  • Straight shaft trimmers allow for easy trimming under shrubs and branches. Curved shaft trimmers are easier for trimming along sidewalks, etc.
  • Some models have a head that can twist and convert the tool into an edger.

Sphagnum Peat Moss

  • Adds body to sandy soil to help with water retention and also loosens and aerates densely packed soil with high clay content.
  • Consists of the remains of a spongy type of northern moss called sphagnum.
  • Reduces leaching of soil nutrients.
  • Adds organic material to soil.
  • Available in compressed bales from 6 cu. ft. down to 1 cu. ft.
  • Also available in smaller packages for use in flowerpots and in planter boxes that must be soaked before using.


  • Light-duty models typically have a 3 to 4 cu. ft. capacity.
  • Medium-duty models typically have a 4 to 6 cu. ft. capacity.
  • A rollbar in front of the wheel contacts the ground to make dumping heavy loads easier.
  • Tray may be made of aluminum, steel or heavy plastic. Handles are either hardwood or metal.
  • Features a semi-rounded front for easy dumping.
  • Wheels may be solid rubber or pneumatic (inflatable). Inflatable tires are apt to puncture.

Straight Nozzle

  • Usually constructed of brass, diecast zinc or plastic.
  • Better models use an o-ring to seal off the waterflow, protect the inside adjustment threads and allow for smoother and easier spray adjustment.

Spading Fork

  • Used to dig and aerate soil.
  • Has straight tines.

D Handle Round Point Shovel

  • End of handle is shaped like the letter “D.”
  • Best for ordinary garden digging jobs.
  • Available in light and heavy weights.

Vinyl Fencing

  • Easy to install.
  • Sturdy enough to withstand the elements and requires little maintenance.
  • Fence posts can be made to slip over existing 4”x 4” posts. Boards and rails allow standard size limber to be inserted into them for added strength.
  • Available in a variety of post and rail, picket and privacy design styles.

Centipede Grass

  • Good in moderate shade and infertile soil.
  • Has few insect or disease problems.
  • A good lawn for hot areas.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Do the paint flakes that you shake on when the garage floor epoxy is still wet help with slip resistance?

A little, but they are mostly designed to hide imperfections and offer a custom look.

What is a tack cloth?

It’s a cloth that picks up and holds dirt, sand and other debris. You should use one on any surface before you apply a coat of paint or any other finish.

What is meant by “open” time when using glazes?

Open time refers to the time it takes for the glaze to begin setting up. This is generally the amount of time you have to reach your desired effect. Most of the time you have up to 15 minutes, depending on the product you’re using. However, be sure to read the directions carefully to make sure. You can also mix Floetrol to the glaze to extend the open time.

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.

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.

I have a painted concrete floor in my garage. Can I still apply an epoxy coating?

It depends on the shape it’s in. If it’s in good shape, you can forego the etching process, give it a good cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner and rough it up with a floor sander before apply the new epoxy finish. If it’ flaking, however, you’ll have to completely remove the old finish before applying a new one.

I’m going to be painting a table that has a gloss finish. Do I need to prepare the surface?

You should use a liquid deglosser, which works without sanding and also produces a slight tack for better adhesion of the new finish.

Should I apply a protective coating over a faux finish?

While it isn’t mandatory, it will enhance the durability. Just be sure to let the glaze dry for two days before coating.

Where do I start when painting an interior wall?

Use an angled brush to trim the perimeter of the room and around door and window frames.

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.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Enamel Paint

  • Is a type of oil-based or water-based paint with superior adhesion qualities.
  • Used in both exterior and interior applications.
  • Provides a resilient durable finish that can last for years.



  • Comes in five general types, including garnet, emery, aluminum oxide, silicon carbide and alumina zirconia. Of these, the first two are natural minerals or abrasives; the others are synthetic materials that are tougher and longer wearing than the natural abrasives.
  • All U.S.-manufactured sandpapers conform to the same numerical system for grading coarseness. The smaller the number, the coarser the grit.
  • Coarseness generally runs from 12 (extra coarse) to 1500 (ultra-fine). Grit finer than 600 is usually measured on the European FEPA scale, and identified with a “P” immediately before the number.
  • The back of each sandpaper sheet contains important labeling information, including product and lot number, abrasive type, grit size, whether it is open or closed coat and backing. The backing weight is rated by letter. “A” is the thinnest weight, while “C” and “D” are the best options for hand sanding of wood. “X” is effective for heavy-duty sanding.
  • Manufactured on a variety of backings, including paper, cloth and fiber.
  • Garnet is a reddish-brown natural abrasive. By special heat treatment, a tougher, sturdier grain is produced. Garnet is used almost exclusively in the woodworking field; it is not suitable for use on metal.
  • Emery is a black natural abrasive that can polish metal surfaces. Emery is typically used in conjunction with an oil lubricant.
  • Aluminum oxide is the most common general abrasive. It is a synthetic brown that is hard and long-wearing. It is used on wood, metal or painted surfaces and is well suited to finishing high-tensile materials such as steels and bronzes, as well as some hardwoods.
  • Silicon carbide is hard and sharp—effective in sanding low-tensile materials such as cast iron, aluminum, copper or plastic. It is also useful between coats of finish.
  • Alumina zirconia is harder than silicon carbide and tougher than aluminum oxide. It should be used for grinding and shaping metal and wood—not for polishing.
  • Sandpaper comes in two styles: open coat (OC) and closed coat. “Coat” refers to how densely the grain is adhered to the surface. “Closed coat” means 100 percent of the surface is covered with grain. Open-coat sandpaper has greater spacing between the grains, which prevents it from clogging up as quickly with sanding residue. Closed-coat sandpaper, however, fills more rapidly with the substance being sanded and must be discarded sooner.
  • Many styles available in sheets as well as sizes for various sanding power tools.

Ladder Jacks

  • Convert a pair of extension ladders into a working platform.
  • Ladder jacks can accommodate 12”, 14” and 20” wide planks, depending on the model, and can be attached to either 2 or 3 rungs.
  • Clamp secures platform to ladder jacks and ties supporting ladders together to help secure entire ladder jack system.
  • Can be mounted to either side of an extension ladder.

Spackling Compound

  • Is used for patching cracked plaster, filling nail holes, repairing wallboard and smoothing surface imperfections on unprimed wood.
  • Lightweight vinyl spackling is the easiest to use—it resists shrinking, cracking and sagging and requires little sanding.
  • One type of spackling changes color when optimum drying time is achieved. It goes on pink and turns white when dry to signal time for sanding and painting.
  • While some are formulated specifically for either interior or exterior applications, many can be used in either situation.
  • Available in 8 oz., pint, quart and gallon buckets as well as 6 oz. tubes.

Paint Pad

  • Lies flat on the surface, allowing the user to avoid spattering.
  • Most pads are made of mohair or foam and can apply either latex or oil-based paints.
  • Some models have guide wheels or trim tabs that guarantee a straight line at the point of intersection.
  • Paint pads are also an excellent way to apply waterproof coating to a deck or fence. Attached to a long handle, they eliminate bending and stooping and can be washed and re-used.

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 Bucket

  • Rectangular plastic bucket used for painting.
  • Common sizes range from 1 to 5 gallons.
  • Can be equipped with accessories such as a bucket grid or screen to help clean paint from brushes and rollers when in use.
  • Generally has a handle for easy carrying.
  • Some buckets feature a lid that closes and seals paint, roller or brush inside the tray.

Paint Can Bucket Hanger

  • Provides a convenient place for paint or tools.
  • Can secure one gallon paint can to ladder for ease of painting.
  • Some models include swivel hooks that snap to the can to keep it level.
  • Other models specifically designed to attach to the frame of extension and step ladders.

Painter’s Tool

  • Also called 5-in-1, 6-in-1 or 8-in-1 Tool or a Glazier’s Tool.
  • Can be used for a variety of tasks, as a scraper, spreader, crack cleaner, roller squeegee and even a can opener.
  • Half-round cutout helps remove paint from rollers during cleaning.
  • Blade is fixed to handle.
  • Many models have ergonomic handles for enhanced comfort.

Extension Pole

  • Makes roller painting both faster and easier for hard-to-reach areas.
  • Generally range from 1′ to 16′ in length.
  • Some poles are adjustable, or telescoping, to handle a multitude of painting situations.
  • They also enable the user to stand on the floor instead of a ladder when painting high walls or ceilings.
  • Generally made of fiberglass or aluminum
  • Some include quick-release adaptors for easy tool changes.
  • Usually extends in 6” increments.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

What is an under-mount sink?

It’s a type of sink that mounts underneath the counter. It’s common in kitchens with solid surface counters.

I have a water pipe in an unheated garage, how can I protect it from freezing?

Wrap the pipe with a heat tape, which comes in different lengths.

Is a trap necessary under the sink?

You need a trap to shut off odor (sewer gas) from coming into the kitchen and bath area.

What is a supply valve?

This is valve is under the sink or beside the toilet and shuts off the water to the faucet or toilet.

Can I test to see if the leak is coming from the refill or the flush valve?

Yes. Shut off the water supply to the toilet. Mark the water level on the inside of the tank with a pencil. Check the water level in 10 or 20 minutes. If the water has fallen, you know the flush valve is leaking.

My faucet is leaking and I think it is due to my hard water. What do you recommend?

Instead of buying a new valve stem, try to ream the faucet seat with a seat reamer to remove any calcium deposits that may have formed from your hard water.

Do I need all of those special wrenches? Can’t I just use a standard wrench or a pair of adjustable pliers?

The plumbing fittings these wrenches are designed for are usually difficult to access and the standard wrench or pliers will not fit into those tight spaces. Using the proper tool will save frustration and ensure a proper installation.

My garbage disposal smells bad. What can I do?

There are garbage disposer cleaners that will eliminate this smell, or a home remedy is to grind up citrus peels in the disposer, which will also eliminate the smell.

What can I use to make sure my water pipe does not freeze?

Heat tapes have a thermostat on them so they know when to turn on and off. Simply wrap the pipe and plug them in.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

PEX Pipe

  • PEX stands for crosslinked polyethylene.
  • Chief advantage is its flexibility and strength. It can make turns around corners without couplings.
  • In a PEX plumbing system, a separate line is run from the main water supply to each fixture in a set up much like a circuit breaker box.
  • Used for carrying hot and cold water.
  • Excellent chemical resistance to acids and alkalis, but do not use for fuel oil, gasoline or kerosene systems.
  • Do not weld with solvents. Join with heat fusion, flare, crimp ring or compression fittings.

Closet Auger

  • Also known as a toilet auger.
  • Used for clearing toilets. Better than a regular auger because it is more rigid.
  • Consists of a short cable with a crank.
  • The handle is covered with a rubber sleeve to protect the porcelain in a toilet bowl.

Pipe (Stillson) Wrench

  • Used to grasp pipes and other curved surfaces. Solid housings and hardened steel jaws provide excellent bite and grip.
  • Has two serrated jaws, one adjustable and the other fixed and slightly offset.
  • The Straight pattern is standard.
  • The End-pattern style has jaws slightly offset and is handy for working in restricted spaces or close to walls.
  • The Offset style has jaws at 90∫ to the handle and is also handy for tight spots.
  • The jaws will leave marks on the pipe, so itís best to avoid using them on coated pipe, such as galvanized pipe.
  • Some pipe wrenches have aluminum handles for lighter weight.


Ball Valve

  • Uses a large lever to turn a ball that closes or opens the flow of water with one quick quarter turn.
  • Are the standard for natural and LP gas, replacing the older plug valves that were traditionally used as gas valves.
  • Available in either metal or plastic, threaded or non-threaded types.
  • Ball valves with double-stem seals provide greater durability.

Tankless Water Heater

  • Can operate on either gas or electricity.
  • Tankless water heaters are small heating units that are hooked into plumbing lines and heat water only as needed. They do not store water, but heat it as it moves through the unit.
  • Larger tankless heaters are installed at the point where water enters the house; smaller units are installed at the point where water is used and require more than one in a house. Some operate on house current, others on gas.
  • Some of the larger units require different size plumbing lines and different size flue vents than do tank-type heaters.
  • If gas-fueled, the heater must be properly vented; if electric, it may need to be wired with two units in series which may not be practical for existing home wiring. Larger units require a 220V or 240V line. Smaller units will operate on standard 110V lines.
  • Tankless heaters are more expensive than tank types. However, they do produce savings in annual energy consumption and cost.
  • Although tankless heaters will deliver continuous hot water, they are limited in quantity. The central units cannot support hot water demands from several points at the same time; obviously, the smaller units will heat water delivered only at the points where they are installed.
  • Because of the high initial cost and the fact that American consumers are not used to the limitations these heaters place on the availability of hot water, their recommended use is to supplement existing tank-type heaters or in summer homes or locations where demand for hot water is light.

Flux Brush

  • Used to apply flux to a pipe.
  • About 6″ long.

Black Poly Pipe

  • Used for carrying low-pressure cold water. Common applications include golf course sprinklers, underground conduits or to carry corrosive liquids and gases.
  • Good chemical and crush resistance.
  • Lightweight enough to cut with an ordinary knife or a fine-toothed hacksaw blade.


  • Also known as a snake.
  • Consists of a coiled spiral cable, usually 1/4î thick and of varying lengths.
  • The most basic type has a z-shaped handle used to crank the cable as it snakes through the drain.
  • Another type uses a funnel-shaped container to store the cable and then to spin it as it works its way through the drain.
  • Professionals use an auger attached to a drill or other device that spins the cable. Usually these versions can maneuver a much longer cable.

Chain Vise

  • Helps hold pipe when cutting or reaming pipe.
  • Smaller than the yoke vise. Has a fixed lower V-shaped jaw with teeth on where the pipe is laid and a bicycle-type chain fastened to one end. When the pipe is inserted, the chain is placed over it and locked in a slot on the opposite side.

Pipe Joint Compound

  • Pipe DopeAlso known as pipe dope.
  • Thick oily paste brushed on pipe threads before joining.
  • Prevents leaks, corrosion and makes it easier to disassemble.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Cordless Drill

  • Operates with a rechargeable battery, with sizes ranging from 9.6 volts to 24 volts.
  • Most portable drill and popular among DIYers and professionals alike.
  • Lower-voltage drills cannot handle more heavy-duty drilling jobs.
  • An important feature is an adjustable clutch. This lets the user select the degree of force applied to the drill. This helps prevent the motor from stalling and overheating, which can damage the battery.


Diamond Blade

  • Circular steel disc with a diamond-bearing edge.
  • Used to cut tile, marble, slate, quarry tile, granite, stone, limestone and porcelain tile.
  • Can have either a segmented, continuous rim or turbo rim configuration.


  • 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.

Auger Drill Bit

  • Most commonly used with a brace for drilling holes in wood.
  • Length varies from 7″ to 10″.
  • Dowel bits are short auger bits from 5″ long.
  • Long (ship) auger bits range from 12″ to 30″.

Cabinet Table Saw

  • A professional-grade table saw where the saw motor is housed in a cabinet.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism are located under the table.
  • Used for ripping large pieces of wood.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • A heavier, bulkier machine reduces vibration from the saw.
  • Power of the saw’s motor determines the thickness of material that can be cut and how efficiently the saw will perform.
  • To operate, the material is fed onto the blade, unlike the miter saw where the blade moves across the material.
  • The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut. Best used for permanent placement in a workshop.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Sizes can range from 2 to 5 hp.

Power Drill

  • Available in different chuck capacities, such as 1/4″, 3/8″ or 1/2″. For example, 1/4″ means that is the largest diameter shank that will fit the chuck. The speed of the drill also increases with the size.
  • Motor load limit can be light-, medium- or heady-duty. The higher the amp rating, the more powerful the drill. Drills rated at 2 amps are generally considered light-duty drills, while 5-amp drills are considered heavy-duty.
  • Tighten the drill bit in place with a chuck. A keyed chuck uses a rotary key to tighten and loosen the chuck. A keyless chuck is operated by hand.
  • Another feature on some drills is variable speed. They allow the operator to control the drill’s revolutions per minute, usually by varying pressure on the trigger switch. Some models also allow the user to vary the torque. Higher torque is better for driving screws, and higher speed is better for drilling holes.
  • A good quality 1/4” drill can drill through concrete, metal, plastic and other materials. Better for high speed and not high torque. Better for sanding and buffing than 3/8” or 1/2” drill sizes.
  • A 3/8” drill has more speed, but less power than a 1/2” drill. They are usually built with a double-reduction gear system. Can perform most of the drilling jobs a 1/4” drill can, and can handle a larger range of drill bits.
  • A 1/2” drill has high torque and slow speed, which is ideal for making large holes in metal and wood. Best drill for use wtih hole saws.


Dado Head Blade

  • Consists of two kinds of blades in one assembly: two small and thicker-than-normal circular blades on the outside and blades called cutters on the inside.
  • Use to cut grooves or slots across boards.
  • Used on a table saw.
  • An alternative type is an adjustable dado, which consists of a single blade.

Compound Miter Saw

  • Uses a circular blade that is pivoted to the correct angle then dropped onto the material, which is clamped stationary on a plate.
  • In addition to a simple pivot action, the blade tilts to make compound cuts.
  • Good for cutting moldings and trim.
  • The turntable has a large compass scale that is marked in degrees to show the degree of the cut.
  • Most models tilt in only one direction, but better models tilt both to the left and to the right.

Countersink Bits

  • Used in electric drills and drill presses for fast drilling of holes in wood.
  • Bits have a forged, flat paddle with a point and cutting edges on one end.
  • Bits are heat treated and cutting angles finish ground.
  • Electricians use them for drilling clearance holes for wire in floor beams.

Cordless Saws

  • Most portable of all saws. Cordless versions of circular, sabre and reciprocating saws are available. Very popular among both professionals and DIYers.
  • Operate off of a rechargeable battery, which is available in a wide range of voltages.
  • Used for finish work and the larger capacity batteries have sufficient power for large framing or carpentry jobs.
  • Usually feature an electronic brake to stop the brake instantly and avoid accidents.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Extension Ladder

  • A non-self supporting type of ladder with two similar sections that are linked with internal guides on the bottom of base section and external guides on the top.
  • Sections are pulled apart to increase length.
  • Used for working in high areas and primarily for exterior applications.
  • Available in heights ranging from 16’ to 40’.
  • Smaller extension ladders are extended manually and secured with gravity spring lock brackets
  • that rest on the selected rung.
  • Larger extension ladders are extended by means of a rope and pulley running down the side of the ladder and secured with a cleat.
  • Generally available in all aluminum and fiberglass with aluminum rungs.
  • Rungs can be round or flat and are usually serrated for enhanced slip resistance.
  • Ladder shoes pivot to allow full contact with ground. Shoes can also be turned up to penetrate soft ground for extra stability.
  • Quality classifications include consumer (household), commercial (mechanic) and industrial grades.

Hold-Down Clamp

  • Is the screw portion of a “C” clamp, designed to be secured onto any surface, with the screw used to apply clamping pressure.
  • Also available in locking models, similar to locking clamps.

Platform Ladder

  • A type of aluminum stepladder with three steps for ordinary household climbing tasks.
  • Some models feature extra wide non-slip treads for comfort during long periods of use.
  • Common step heights include 10”, 20” and 30”.
  • Most have a 200 lb. duty rating.
  • Most have a platform above the steps for resting tools and materials and a high handrail.
  • Folds easily for convenient storage.

Web Clamp

  • Also called band clamps, they apply even clamping pressure around irregular shapes or large objects to hold tight by means of a spring-loaded locking fixture.
  • Commonly used on cylinder-shapes and to hold chair legs while gluing.

Step Ladder

  • A self-supporting device used for climbing that consists of two rectangular frames hinged at the top with one side containing the rungs for climbing.
  • Non-adjustable in length and folds closed for storage.
  • Available in increments from 2’ to 12’ in height.
  • Steps are flat and riveted and are generally 3” or more in width.
  • Most models include a top plastic platform on top for storing tools or loose fasteners.
  • Available in wood, fiberglass and aluminum construction in various duty (weight) ratings, with fiberglass considered the best construction of the three.
  • Quality classifications include consumer (household), commercial (mechanic) and industrial grades

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.

Rust Remover

  • Cuts through and dissolves rust from metal surfaces to form a metal shield that can be painted.
  • In jellied form, it clings well to vertical surfaces.
  • When brushed on, the rust dissolves quickly.
  • These products are extremely harsh on the skin; protective gloves should be worn.
  • The solution is applied with a stiff brush or aerosol spray and allowed to dry for 12 to 24 hours, depending on humidity (check manufacturer labeling and literature).

Utility Vise

  • Similar to a bench vise.
  • Generally has jaws ranging in length from 3″ to 6″.
  • Better models feature swivel bases so the vise may be turned to the best angle for each particular job.
  • Some utility vises either have cast-in pipe jaws or permit special curved-face pipe jaws to be inserted between the regular jaws to add versatility.


  • Is available in solid, liquid and aerosol form.
  • Used to remove dirt, oil and grease from basement and garage floors, driveways, patios and sidewalks.
  • Some formulations are made for concrete only and should not be used on blacktop surfaces.

Woodworking Vise

  • Has jaws made of wooden pads to hold work piece securely in place without marring surface of work piece.
  • Generally mounted to the side of a workbench
  • Some woodworking vises have a fast-acting screw arrangement for the rapid positioning of the movable jaw prior to clamping.
  • Smaller vises have continuous screws and are light and easy to clamp on a workbench or sawhorse.
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