DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

Can I install hinges or plane off the edge of a steel door?

Yes. Most steel entry doors use wood frames so it’s easier to install the hinges or to plane down the edges so they fit in a doorframe.

How much countertop space should I have beside the refrigerator?

Experts recommend having 18”, with 15” as the bare minimum. This should be located on the latch side.

I want to put molding around a curved window in my house. Can I get molding that is curved?

You might want to try a cellular PVC molding that is flexible enough to be run around curved openings, like your windows.

Can I use an asphalt roof patching material to patch a hole in a rubber roof?

No. Asphalt is not compatible with rubber roofing. Patch according to the manufacturers specifications.

How do I clean my vinyl siding?

Use a soft-bristled, long-handled brush. You can even use one attached to a garden hose. If needed, use a general purpose cleaner for ordinary dirt.

How do I clean ceiling tile?

Do not soak acoustic tiles with water. Instead, use a damp sponge with a mild liquid detergent solution. Lightly wipe the surface of the panel. If the panel is badly stained, you should replace it.

How do I cut the vinyl to fit around doorjambs or decorative trim?

Use a backsaw to trim off the bottom of the doorframe. Cut off just enough so that the tile will slide underneath.

What is the rating mean on the carpet?

The rating refers to the amount of foot traffic the carpet is made to withstand.

What is the advantage of using glulam beams?

Glulam beams can span long distances and they are much stronger than dimensional lumber. Glulam can also be engineered to meet specific construction requirements. They can also be left exposed as an architectural effect.

Why is this 2×4 so much more expensive than these other 2x4s?

The quality is very different between the two. One is a Stud grade piece of lumber and the other is Utility grade. The Utility grade is much lower quality and shouldn’t be used for construction in load bearing walls.

View category→

Building Materials Terms (161)

Door Jamb Weather Strip

  • Used to seal the sides and top of a door to shut out drafts and insects.
  • Available in a variety of forms, including roll-formed and extruded aluminum with vinyl bulbs or flaps.

Pocket Frame Door Kit

  • Pocket doors are ideal for wardrobes, dining rooms, bedrooms or anywhere space is at a premium. It frees up floor space by allowing the door to recess into the wall.
  • The pocket door kit includes all the pieces needed to convert a regular doorframe into one that will accept a pocket door.
  • The door is sold separately, and is typically either a solid wood or hollow frame door that is slightly smaller than the size of the frame where it is being installed.
  • Kit includes tracks, rollers, steel/wood wall studs and miscellaneous hardware.

Flashing

  • Strips of sheet metal or roofing material.
  • Used to make waterproof joints on a roof.
  • Some flashing may be called a “boot”. This kind is specially made to fit around a vent pipe. They are often made of plastic. It fits snugly over the pipe and then slides under the shingles for a waterproof joint.
  • Seals with flashing sealant, usually sold in a tube and applied with a caulk gun.

Pedestal Lavatory

  • The bowl rests on a pedestal and does not have storage space underneath.
  • The most common type of pedestal is made of vitreous china, but manufacturers offer other high-end types as well.
  • More difficult to install than countertop vanities.

Grab Bar

  • Installed for safety around tubs to help prevent falls.
  • Also used as a handrail to help anyone who may have trouble sitting down or standing up.
  • Never use a towel rod in place of a grab bar.
  • Never install diagonally, as a person’s hand might slide if footing isn’t secure.

Western Lumber

  • Known for its ease of workmanship and nailing as well as strength and dimensional stability.
  • Western lumber includes more than 15 commercially important Western softwood species.
  • Most common species are Douglas fir and Hem-fir.
  • Can be classified as High Quality Appearance, General Purpose Board or Radius-Edged Patio Decking Grade.
  • The Western Wood Products Association (WWPA) has a rigorous inspection and quality control process. Lumber with the WWPA logo indicates the lumber has passed that quality control process.
  • Lumber with only the “WWPA Rules” stamp indicates the lumber has been graded according to the WWPA rules, but not been inspected by WWPA.

Southern Pine

  • Has high strength, resistance to wear and holds fasteners well. It is often used in homes and other structures.
  • Descriptions for this type of wood range from 1 through 4.
  • No. 1 has the highest quality and best appearance.
  • No. 2 is characterized by tight knots and is generally free of holes.
  • No. 3 is good, serviceable sheathing, usable for many applications without waste.
  • No. 4 contains usable portions at least 24” long.

Quarry Tile

  • Has a shale body, extruded then cut to size with edges ground smooth.
  • Can be glazed, but is usually sold unglazed.
  • Must be sealed after installation.
  • Very durable, and often used in institutional settings.

Modified Silicone Polymers

  • Delivers excellent performance on vinyl, fiber cement, aluminum and wood siding.
  • Combines the best characteristics of polyurethane, silicone and water-based products, offering permanent flexibility.
  • Great for applying in wet weather and low temperature applications for caulking around exterior windows, doors and vents.
  • Can be painted with latex paint.

Naphtha (VM & P)

  • Fast evaporating, clear, colorless solvent.
  • Used primarily to thin oil paints, varnishes and enamels for spray applications where mineral spirits drying time is too slow.
View category→

Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

  • CFL BulbCompact fluorescent bulbs offer different style and performance from standard fluorescent bulbs. Their color nearly equals that of Soft White incandescents, and they offer superior energy efficiency and long life.
  • Can be as small as 4.5″ long, and some are the same size as their incandescent counterparts. Not all fixtures designed for incandescents may have enough room inside the shade or glass for the bulb.
  • Cannot be dimmed. Their life will be maximized if they are used in locations where a light stays on for hours at a time.
  • Reflector-shaped compact fluorescents can replace standard R30 and R40 shaped incandescent reflector bulbs.
  • Globe-shaped compact fluorescents can replace standard G25 bath and vanity globes or G30 decorative globes that are used in pendants.
  • Decorator or flame-shaped bulbs can replace similar incandescent bulbs in chandeliers, sconces and outdoor fixtures.
  • Stick-shaped compact fluorescents can replace standard Type “A” bulbs in portable lamps.
  • Twist-shaped compact fluorescents can replace standard Type “A” bulbs in virtually any application.
  • When choosing a compact fluorescent bulb to replace an incandescent bulb, compare the lumen output of the two bulbs. For maximum energy efficiency, select a bulb with the highest lumens and lowest wattage combination. For example, replace a 100-watt incandescent household lamp that produces 1600 lumens with a 25-watt compact fluorescent lamp that also produces 1600 lumens.

Wall Box

  • Used for housing switches and receptacles.
  • Made of metal or plastic and have the capability to be mounted to a wall or stud.
  • The holes in the side of the box where the conduit enters the box are called knockouts. In metal boxes, conduit can also be secured to the holes.
  • Four-Inch Square and Shallow boxes are other types only 1-1/2“ or 2”deep for places too shallow to mount a standard box.
  • Handy box is surface mounted and has rounded corners for safety.
  • Drywall box has expandable arms and can be mounted on drywall.
  • Plastic box is best for new installation and often has a nail built-in for quick attachment to the stud.
  • Gem box is a commonly made box, usually 2” wide, 3”high and 2-1/2” deep and made of metal. Deeper boxes are available.

Double-Pole Switch

  • Controls power to lights and devices by turning off the hot side of the circuit.
  • Mounted in an electrical box.
  • Has four brass terminal screws

Plug

  • Connects to the power supply through the receptacle.
  • Technically, it is a male receptacle.
  • Available in polarized and non-polarized versions. In the polarized version, one blade is larger than the other to help reduce the potential for shock.
  • Three conductor plugs have three blades, one of which is a grounding pin.
  • Large appliances have plugs with specific configurations.
  • Can use to build extension cords or to replace plugs on appliances or power tools or other devices requiring a plug.

Grounding Adapter

  • It allows you to use a plug with three prongs in a receptacle that has only two slots.
  • Cube-shaped plastic or rubber.
  • Has a small U-shaped piece that is to be attached to the screw in the middle of the receptacle.

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″.

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.

Ballasts

  • Fluorescent lamps require special auxiliary equipment to provide reliable starting and to assure proper electrical operation. The principle function of the ballast is to hold operating current within proper limits and to provide enough voltage to start the lamp.
  • Instant-start ballasts provide sufficient voltage to start fluorescent lamps without preheating and are commonly used with single-pin lamps and some special lamp types.
  • Rapid-start ballasts heat the cathodes continuously from a low-voltage transformer within the ballast. This is the most common type of ballast in use today for 40-watt lamps and for all lamps that use recessed double-contact bases.
  • Reduced wattage lamps operate on most existing ballasts, which can reduce wattage 14 to 20 percent. In addition, new ballasts developed to minimize the wattage consumed by the ballast itself further reduce electrical consumption.

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.

Plug Body

  • Adapts a light socket for use as a single outlet.
View category→

Electrical FAQ's (92)

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.

I need to install a receptacle for my kitchen range. Is it okay to use one designed for a dryer?

No, they may look similar, but they have different features. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s label to ensure you are buying one that is rated for the proper amperage.

How do I troubleshoot a fluorescent fixture that doesn’t light?

It’s probably not the bulb, because they rarely go bad all at once. Wiggle the tube to make sure it is seated. Replace any damaged lamp holders. Replace the starter. Check the switch and outlet box to make sure it is getting power.

Do I need a special kind of fitting for outdoor conduit?

Use a fitting with covers and gaskets, made especially for outdoor use.

I am putting a couple of more outlets in my garage can I use 14-guage wire?

While 14-guage wire is the minimum for most houses wiring, it can only be used for 15-amp circuits. Number 12-gauge wire is recommended for general home use. There is often a chart on boxes of wire that will show you recommend gauges for specific applications.

What do the numbers mean on electrical wire?

A wire marked 14/2 means that it’s a 14-gauge wire and it contains two wires inside the insulated jacket.

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.

Do four-foot fluorescent fixtures come in different wattages?

Yes, the most common are 25-, 34- and 40- watt bulbs.

How much energy do compact fluorescent light bulbs save?

Most estimates are 70%, which means that over the life of the bulb you can save as much as $100.

How do I create a bend or a turn in conduit?

You can use a connection fitting, much the same way you would use a plumbing fitting, or you can bend the conduit with a conduit bender.

View category→

Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Door Jamb Weather Strip

  • Used to seal the sides and top of a door to shut out drafts and insects.
  • Available in a variety of forms, including roll-formed and extruded aluminum with vinyl bulbs or flaps.

Pocket Frame Door Kit

  • Pocket doors are ideal for wardrobes, dining rooms, bedrooms or anywhere space is at a premium. It frees up floor space by allowing the door to recess into the wall.
  • The pocket door kit includes all the pieces needed to convert a regular doorframe into one that will accept a pocket door.
  • The door is sold separately, and is typically either a solid wood or hollow frame door that is slightly smaller than the size of the frame where it is being installed.
  • Kit includes tracks, rollers, steel/wood wall studs and miscellaneous hardware.

Flashing

  • Strips of sheet metal or roofing material.
  • Used to make waterproof joints on a roof.
  • Some flashing may be called a “boot”. This kind is specially made to fit around a vent pipe. They are often made of plastic. It fits snugly over the pipe and then slides under the shingles for a waterproof joint.
  • Seals with flashing sealant, usually sold in a tube and applied with a caulk gun.

Pedestal Lavatory

  • The bowl rests on a pedestal and does not have storage space underneath.
  • The most common type of pedestal is made of vitreous china, but manufacturers offer other high-end types as well.
  • More difficult to install than countertop vanities.

Grab Bar

  • Installed for safety around tubs to help prevent falls.
  • Also used as a handrail to help anyone who may have trouble sitting down or standing up.
  • Never use a towel rod in place of a grab bar.
  • Never install diagonally, as a person’s hand might slide if footing isn’t secure.

Western Lumber

  • Known for its ease of workmanship and nailing as well as strength and dimensional stability.
  • Western lumber includes more than 15 commercially important Western softwood species.
  • Most common species are Douglas fir and Hem-fir.
  • Can be classified as High Quality Appearance, General Purpose Board or Radius-Edged Patio Decking Grade.
  • The Western Wood Products Association (WWPA) has a rigorous inspection and quality control process. Lumber with the WWPA logo indicates the lumber has passed that quality control process.
  • Lumber with only the “WWPA Rules” stamp indicates the lumber has been graded according to the WWPA rules, but not been inspected by WWPA.

Southern Pine

  • Has high strength, resistance to wear and holds fasteners well. It is often used in homes and other structures.
  • Descriptions for this type of wood range from 1 through 4.
  • No. 1 has the highest quality and best appearance.
  • No. 2 is characterized by tight knots and is generally free of holes.
  • No. 3 is good, serviceable sheathing, usable for many applications without waste.
  • No. 4 contains usable portions at least 24” long.

Quarry Tile

  • Has a shale body, extruded then cut to size with edges ground smooth.
  • Can be glazed, but is usually sold unglazed.
  • Must be sealed after installation.
  • Very durable, and often used in institutional settings.

Modified Silicone Polymers

  • Delivers excellent performance on vinyl, fiber cement, aluminum and wood siding.
  • Combines the best characteristics of polyurethane, silicone and water-based products, offering permanent flexibility.
  • Great for applying in wet weather and low temperature applications for caulking around exterior windows, doors and vents.
  • Can be painted with latex paint.

Naphtha (VM & P)

  • Fast evaporating, clear, colorless solvent.
  • Used primarily to thin oil paints, varnishes and enamels for spray applications where mineral spirits drying time is too slow.
View category→

FAQs (0)

Can I install hinges or plane off the edge of a steel door?

Yes. Most steel entry doors use wood frames so it’s easier to install the hinges or to plane down the edges so they fit in a doorframe.

How much countertop space should I have beside the refrigerator?

Experts recommend having 18”, with 15” as the bare minimum. This should be located on the latch side.

I want to put molding around a curved window in my house. Can I get molding that is curved?

You might want to try a cellular PVC molding that is flexible enough to be run around curved openings, like your windows.

Can I use an asphalt roof patching material to patch a hole in a rubber roof?

No. Asphalt is not compatible with rubber roofing. Patch according to the manufacturers specifications.

How do I clean my vinyl siding?

Use a soft-bristled, long-handled brush. You can even use one attached to a garden hose. If needed, use a general purpose cleaner for ordinary dirt.

How do I clean ceiling tile?

Do not soak acoustic tiles with water. Instead, use a damp sponge with a mild liquid detergent solution. Lightly wipe the surface of the panel. If the panel is badly stained, you should replace it.

How do I cut the vinyl to fit around doorjambs or decorative trim?

Use a backsaw to trim off the bottom of the doorframe. Cut off just enough so that the tile will slide underneath.

What is the rating mean on the carpet?

The rating refers to the amount of foot traffic the carpet is made to withstand.

What is the advantage of using glulam beams?

Glulam beams can span long distances and they are much stronger than dimensional lumber. Glulam can also be engineered to meet specific construction requirements. They can also be left exposed as an architectural effect.

Why is this 2×4 so much more expensive than these other 2x4s?

The quality is very different between the two. One is a Stud grade piece of lumber and the other is Utility grade. The Utility grade is much lower quality and shouldn’t be used for construction in load bearing walls.

View category→

Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

Which type of sander do you recommend?

For the homeowner, I suggest a random orbit sander because it balances the two main functions of a sander. It removes stock quickly and still provides a quality finish.

How can you check to see if an old square is still accurate?

Simply find a straight edge and make a mark at 90 degrees. Then flip the square over and make another mark next to your first mark. If the two lines are parallel, the square is still square.

Is there a small power saw that is good for lighter work?

Yes, there are 3½ inch saws that are designed for trim work. However, they are also good for people who don’t want to handle a large saw. They can be used to cut everything from lattice to a 2×4.

What are the advantages of a finish sander?

Rather than orbiting, it moves the sandpaper back and forth and should be used where it is absolutely necessary that the sandpaper move in a single direction. These often use square sheets of sandpaper, which also makes it easier to get into corners.

I need to plane a piece of plywood. What type of plane should I use?

When using a plane on plywood, be sure to use a double-edged disposable blade. The adhesive in plywood will quickly dull a regular cutting iron.

What type of level should I buy?

A 9-inch torpedo level is good for hanging pictures and other small household tasks. A complete home toolbox will also include two-foot or longer carpenter’s level for larger projects like checking walls, bookshelves and fence posts.

How do I remove paint from wood?

You can use a chemical paint stripper. Be sure to brush it on in one direction and always wear chemical-resistant gloves and safety goggles. You will also need a putty knife.

I have roaches in a basement room. What do you recommend?

There are both room foggers and roach bait.

How can I remove the molding from my wall without damaging either the drywall or the molding?

A pry bar is more efficient than a claw hammer, and its smooth base keeps it from damaging the wall.

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

A 16 oz. hammer will handle most jobs easily.

View category→

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Nail Hammer

  • Used for general carpentry, household chores and nail pulling.
  • Should be used only with non-hardened, common or finishing nails.
  • Curved claw offers leverage in removing nails and can also cradle a 2×4.
  • Choose 16 or 20 oz. weights for general carpentry; choose 7, 10 and 13 oz. weights for fine cabinetry or light-duty driving.
  • Available with smooth or waffled (serrated) faces. Milled face is for finishing jobs while waffled face provides more control when hammering large nails into lumber. Some claw hammers feature a side notch on the head for easier pulling of small nails and fasteners.

 

Supported Gloves

  • Protects against solvents and resists chemicals, cuts punctures and abrasions.
  • May be constructed of neoprene, nitrile, PVC, rubber or vinyl.
  • One style is a coating over a lining of cotton or other fabric. The fabric helps insulate and adds comfort.
  • Another style is dipped, where the PVC or other material does not have a fabric lining.
  • Neoprene offers the most chemical protection and flexibility.
  • Nitrile offers good abrasion resistance.
  • PVC offers good liquid and solvent protection.
  • Rubber offers good gripping power and cut and puncture resistance.
  • Vinyl offers breathability, gripping power and minimizes absorption.

Chain Saw File

  • Is made for both round-hooded and square-hooded chain saw teeth.
  • For round hooded teeth, the file must be held level against the bevel of the cutting surface of the tooth at an angle of 25° to 45° with the saw blade.
  • File direction is off the cutting edge, pressing back and slightly up during the stroke.

Bolt Cutters

  • Are heavy-duty cutters that cut bolts, threaded rods, cables and other metals from 1/16″ to 5/8″ thick.
  • Made from drop-forged tool steel and range from 12″ to 36″ long. 24” and 30” are most common.
  • The longer cutters have greater strength.
  • Special leverage joints allow great pressure to be applied with minimum effort.
  • End-cut cutters operate similarly to end-cut pliers, with special jaws available to cut special metals.

 

Wallcovering Stripper

  • Used when wallpaper is particularly difficult to remove. Features a razor-sharp replaceable blade.

Hand Sprayer

  • One type produces a fine, floating spray suited for controlling insects.
  • Another type produces a wetter, heavier spray for treating exposed surfaces where insects feed, lodge or crawl.
  • Another model, a plant mister, produces mist for indoor plants.
  • Features intermittent, continuous or hydraulic pressure pumping action.

Concrete Groover

  • Is used for cutting joints in concrete to control cracking.
  • Common groove sizes range from ¼” to ½”” wide and are generally ½” deep.

Plier Stapler

  • Similar to a desk stapler, but is generally used in heavy-duty work.

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.

Compass or Keyhole Saw

  • Cuts curved or straight-sided holes.
  • Saw blades are narrow, tapered nearly to a point to fit into most spaces.
  • Blades come in three or four styles that can be changed to fit the job.
  • Some models have induction-hardened teeth for longer life without sharpening.
  • Keyhole saws are small compass saws with finer teeth that can cut metal.
  • Turret head keyhole blades can be rotated and locked in several positions for easier cutting in tight, awkward spots.
View category→

Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Rivet

  • Securely fastens something that can be reached from just one side.
  • The multi-grip type expands to fill over-sized and irregular holes and self-adjusts for misaligned holes.
  • Used in metal, plastic and composite materials.
  • Ideal for installing gutters and drop ceilings or repairing large appliances.
  • Available in 1/8”, 3/32”, 3/16” and 1/4” diameters.
  • Can have dome, countersunk and large flange head styles.

 

Machine Screw

  • Can have round, oval, flat and fillister heads.
  • Intended to be screwed into pre-threaded holes in metal.
  • May look like a bolt, but user drives it with a screwdriver instead of a wrench.
  • Comes in coarse (24 threads per inch) and fine (32 threads per inch) sizes.
  • They are sized according to diameter, thread and length. Example: a 6-32×3/4 means the screw has a 6-gauge diameter with 32 threads per inch and is 3/4” long.
  • The round head type is most commonly used. The flat head type is used when the top must be flush with the surface.
  • Oval heads are used in countersunk holes. Fillister heads are used in counter-bored holes.

 

Pulley

  • Consists of metal wheels with grooved edges.
  • Aids in lifting loads.
  • Can be used with chain or rope.

Manila Rope

  • The most frequently used natural fiber in twisted rope today.
  • Must be handled with care to prevent rot and mildew.
  • Good resistance to surface heat.
  • Stretches little and holds knots firmly.

Caster Wheel

  • Comes in a variety of diameters and materials with a multitude of uses.
  • Consider load requirements, type of flooring and amount of floor protection needed when choosing a caster.
  • Soft rubber wheels are recommended for asphalt tile, hardwood floors, etc.
  • Plastic wheels that are non-marking are recommended for rugs and carpeted floors.
  • Metal wheels are desirable where casters will carry heavy loads or where protection of the flooring is not important.

Crescent Sash Lock

  • Tightly locks window sash to prevent opening them from the outside
  • Available in a variety of metals including wrought or cast brass, bronze, aluminum and steel.

Siding Nail

  • Galvanized or with some other non-staining finish.
  • For applying residential wood lap siding to plywood or fiberboard sheathing.

Cotter Pin

  • Versatile fastening device.
  • Made of ferrous and nonferrous wire.
  • Comes in various diameters and lengths ranging from 1/32” x 1/2” to 1/4” to 18”.
  • Inserts into a hole in a bolt, shaft or similar part. An eye on one end prevents the pin from going through while prongs at the other end are bent back to lock the pin in place.

 

Insulated Staples

  • Used to mount cable to studs or other framing members.
  • There are different sizes, so make sure you are recommending the correct one.

Load Binder

  • Provides more control in binding and releasing two chains.
  • Has two hooks, each of which attaches to a chain. The user uses the central lever to tighten the chains and secure the load.
  • Can be either a ratchet type or a lever type, which determines how the chain is tightened.
View category→

Hardware FAQ's (78)

How long will a bottle or tube of glue last?

If it has been bottled tightly and kept in a normal temperate environment, it should last up to one year.

I have a bolt that is not threading in properly. Can I fix this?

Yes, a thread repair kit allows you to retap it, put in an insert and rebuild it.

Should I use a finishing nail?

These are mostly for interior work when you would countersink the head and cover the nail hole.

Are the shelf support brackets used on RTA furniture all the same size?

No. The most common size is 5mm, but there are many variations. If you can’t find the right size, it may be easier to just drill the holes out a little larger to a size bracket that you can find.

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 super glue work on all types of plastic?

No. Certain plastics like polyethylene or polypropylene have a coating that can prevent the two surfaces from bonding properly. You need to use a glue with an activator as well as an adhesive. The activator will “prime” the surface and provide a better bonding surface.

What does a lock washer do?

It helps to tighten the grip of the nut. If the screw needs to maintain lots of torque or if it’s going to vibrate, you should consider using a lock washer.

How long of a nail should I use?

If the board you are fastening to another is not going to bear weight, it should be a half inch longer than the board is thick. If it is going to bear weight, it should be 2-1/2 times the thickness of the material to be fastened.

I had shelf support brackets that bent because there was too much weight on it. Are there stronger ones?

Yes, there are heavier ones and some have angled pieces to support the top, which will almost triple its strength.

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.

View category→

Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

Where should I look for air leaks around the house?

Look around door and window frames, electrical and gas service outlets, outdoor water faucets, air conditioners, vents and fans and where dryer vents pass through walls.

What is creosote?

Creosote is formed when the smoke and gas from burning solid fuels condense on a chimney, creating a black, crusty build-up. It creates a fire hazard and reduces the efficiency of the chimney.

What type of furnace filter should I buy?

Both the type of filter you choose, as well as how frequently you change it, depends on several factors, which include: if you have pets, if you have allergies, how clean your furnace ducts are, if you smoke indoors and the amount of dust present. If these are factors, then you probably need a filter with a higher performance rating.

How do I know how much humidity my humidifier is producing?

Use a hygrometer. These are inexpensive and will tell you how much humidity is in the air.

How can I stop an air draft around the light switch and receptacles?

A foam seal is available to go behind the switch or receptacle plate.

How often should I clean the chimney for my fireplace?

Clean chimneys once a year and inspect them twice a month. This is usually best performed by a professional chimney sweep. A clean metal chimney will “ping” when struck with a metal object. A dull thud indicates it is dirty.

I’ve balanced the blade, but my ceiling fan continues to wobble on the high setting. How can I fix it?

The fan is probably wobbling because the electrical box that it’s attached to isn’t secured tightly to the house’s framing members. You need to take the fan down and re-install it after securing the electrical box to a 2-by-4 brace fastened securely to the ceiling joists.

Where should I place my humidifier for maximum efficiency?

Place portable humidifiers near an inside wall, preferably facing a stairwell. Also keep the unit at least 6” from the wall for proper air circulation. Since moist, warm air rises, an upstairs floor unit will not be as effective.

What is the best product to weatherproof my door?

Many people prefer the doorjamb weather-strips. They work on metal with screws or wood with nails. Unlike the v-strips, foam strips or felt like these can’t fall off.

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.

View category→

Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Airtight Wood Stove

  • Has a sealed firebox and a tight-fitting door
  • An air intake damper allows air to circulate around the firebox and controls the rate of fuel consumed. It can be manually or thermostatically controlled.
  • Provides slow-burning heat for a long period of time with little attention.
  • Prone to heavy creosote buildup in the chimney and pipes because it is slow burning.

Floor-Vent Humidifier

  • Replaces standard floor vent registers.
  • Provides humidity for individual rooms without the need for a plug-in humidifier.
  • Uses a water chamber where homeowners can add water, which then passes through a wick filter and into the air when the furnace cycles on.

Ceiling Fan

  • Creates a gentle indoor breeze and supports heating and air conditioning systems by using less energy than a 100-watt light bulb requires.
  • Typical sizes are 36”, 42”, 48” and 52”, and some industrial models are as large as 56” to 72”.
  • Many models combine the fan with a light fixture.
  • Most ceiling fans have variable speed controls.
  • Standard mounting kits are available for ceilings as low as 8’ and close to-the-ceiling models can be used on 7’-6” high ceilings.
  • Blades may be real wood, metal or plastic.
  • Heavy-material motor housings will aid fan efficiency as the additional mass gains more momentum, reducing the energy necessary to keep the fan in motion.

Vented Gas Heater

  • Requires vents to the outside.c
  • Available in medium- or high-output models ranging from 25,000 to 65,000 BTUs/hr.
  • Includes an enclosed radiating circulator unit with tempered glass in front of a series of radiants.
  • Designed to take up medium space.
  • Popular with consumers seeking to trim heating bills.

Box Wood Stove

  • Radiates warmth through the firebox to the surrounding air.
  • Draws air for combustion through the door.
  • Door is not tightly sealed, has no damper control and releases a considerable amount of unburned gas up through the chimney.

Furnace-Mounted Humidifier

  • Forces dry air from the furnace through a saturated foam element or plate.
  • Connected to the water supply so it is refilled automatically.
  • Another type sprays a fine mist of water into the heated air.
  • Uses an automatic reset humidistat to adjust moisture output to compensate for weather changes.

HEPA Air Cleaner

  • Passes air through a filter to remove pollen, dust and other airborne allergens.
  • Uses a high-efficiency-particulate-arresting  (HEPA) filter.
  • Often used in medicine, atomic energy and semiconductors because of their superior air-cleaning ability.
  • Can trap as much as 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger.
  • Designed to trap allergy-causing pollen and mold spores, as well as filter out smoke and dust mites.

Oil-Filled Heater

  • A convection-type heater that contains a factory sealed oil reservoir that never needs changing or replenishing.
  • A tubular heating element heats oil, which in turn heats the exterior of the heater.
  • Slow heating, but ale to provide uniform temperatures through out the space being heated.

Stove Paint

  • Uses to touch up or completely refinish a stove.
  • Specifically designed for wood- or coal-burning stoves and can withstand temperatures up to 1,200°F.
  • Common colors include green, brown, blue, maroon and black, in gegular and metallic finishes.
  • To maximize radiant heat from the stove, use a flat black paint. It will radiate 90-98 percent of radiant heat. Shiny metallic finishes are less efficient.

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.
View category→

Home Security FAQ's (38)

What will I need to cut a hole for a doorknob?

You’ll need a hole saw sized for the door handle you are installing and a space bit to bore the hole for the dead latch. The most common size hole for the handle is 2-1/8” diameter, and the most common hole size for the deadlatch is 1” in diameter.

There is a wide range of prices of padlocks. What is the advantage of the more expensive ones?

They are heavier, more durable, and will provide greater security.

Will this casement window operator work on my window?

There are both left-opening and right-opening ones, and you need to make sure you get the correct one.

I’m installing a new deadbolt lock. What is meant by setback?

It’s the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the hole where the deadbolt will be installed. The most common setbacks are 2-3/8″ and 2-3/4”.

Can locks be rekeyed so that more than one uses the same key?

Locksmiths can also re-key existing or new locks to the same key. However, they have to be the same brand and use the same key blank.

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.

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.

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.

Will a door closer work on my heavy storm door?

A traditional screen door closer may not be strong enough. However, they make heavy-duty ones that will work. They also have the advantage of staying open automatically if they are opened all the way. Some newer doors have two closures—one on top and one on bottom.

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.

View category→

Home Security Terms (35)

Foam Extinguisher

  • Extinguishes Class A and B fires.
  • Class A fires are the most common type. They involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and many plastics.
  • Not effective on flammable liquids or gases escaping under pressure.

Handleset

  • Usually an entry set that combines a lockset with a deadbolt, the deadbolt is located just above the knob or handle. Can be a one- or two-piece unit.
  • Available with both single- and double-cylinder deadbolts. Styles of locksets also will vary widely.
  • Available in a variety of styles and finishes.

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.

Dry-Chemical Extinguisher

  • Some types extinguish only Class B and C fires.
  • Includes sodium and potassium bicarbonate base agents.
  • Some types are marked general-purpose or multi-purpose. These types can be used on Class A, B and C fires.

Surface-Mounted Deadbolt

  • Squarish in shape and mounted on the surface of the inside of the door.
  • The bolt may be turned with a key or a turn knob.
  • Instead of sliding into the door frame, the bolt slides into a surface-mounted strike.

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.

Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

  • Extinguishes Class B and C fires.
  • Class B fires involve flammable liquids, gases and greases.
  • Class C fires involve electrical equipment or wiring where the electric non-conductivity of the extinguishing agent is important.
  • Has a limited range and is affected by draft and wind.

Deadbolt Lock

  • Provides maximum security on a door.
  • Called “dead” because there are no springs to operate the bolt. It is only operated manually with a key or a thumb turn from the inside.
  • The bolt locks the door to the frame and helps prevent someone from prying the door open.
  • The throw is the length the bolt is extended from the lock housing.The industry standard is a 1” throw.
  • Locks are designed to fit specific size holes and backsets. Backset refers to the distance between the edge of the door and the center of the handle.
  • A single-cylinder deadbolt is operated with a key from the outside and with a turn button on the inside. It is used mostly with solid metal or wood doors.
  • A double-cylinder deadbolt is operated with a key on both the inside and outside. It is best used on a door with glass in or around them as the style prevents someone from breaking the glass, reaching in and unlocking the door.
  • Double-cylinder deadbolts can pose a danger during an emergency. If the key is missing or not readily available, people could be trapped inside a locked house. In some areas, codes may not permit this style of deadbolt.

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.

Entry Lockset

  • Two doorknobs that can be locked from both the inside and the outside.
  • One type locks from the inside by turning or depressing a small button, while a key must unlock the outside knob.
  • Some models must be locked with a key on both the inside and outside.
  • In other models, only the inside knob can lock or unlock both sides of the set.
  • A medium security entrance-door lock.
  • A quality feature on entry locksets is a deadlatch.
View category→

Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

Do I need to turn the water off to my outdoor spigots during the winter?

It’s a good idea to keep them from freezing, especially if you don’t have a frost-free sillcock supplying water to your outdoor spigots.

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.

How can I make sure my pump sprayer and my hose end sprayer lasts a long time?

The best thing to do is to always clean it out after every use. You should run water mixed with a mild soap through the sprayer tip.

What’s a better choice in edgers: electric or gas?

Since all gas-powered equipment is noisy, some people prefer the electric models. The cordless models have run times of about one hour, which is generally sufficient for homeowners.

How do insecticides work?

There are basically two types: systemic and non-systemic. The systemic is absorbed by the plant and makes it poisonous. The non-systemic provides a coating on the outside of the plant.

When do I apply a pre-emergent herbicide?

This is applied in late winter or early spring before seeds begin to germinate.

How do I clean up engine oil or grease from my driveway?

Use a driveway cleaner formulated especially for that purpose.

What’s the best way to trim large branches with a saw?

About 6” to one foot away from the trunk of the tree, cut about half way up through the branch. Next, cut down from the top. Finally, cut off the stub at its collar on the trunk.

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.

What’s the purpose of sealing an asphalt driveway?

Sealing the driveway protects the asphalt from sun, moisture and grease that can damage the asphalt underneath.

View category→

Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Scissor-Action Trimmer

  • Similar to a draw-cut trimmer, but has two moving blades instead of just one.
  • Operates with side-to-side pressure, like ordinary household scissors.

 

Thatching Rake

  • Used to remove thatch and dead grass from the lawn.
  • Pointed on one side for pulling and rounded on the other for pushing.
  • The wheeled version rolls along the ground. It digs as it is pushed forward and cleans itself of debris as it is pulled backwards.
  • The half-moon version does not have wheels. The user drags it along the ground. The pull stroke digs up the thatch, while the push stroke cleans.

Lawn Mower

  • Usually gasoline powered. Electric and cordless models are available for smaller lawns.
  • Cuts grass with a flat blade that rotates at the speed of the engine.
  • The self-propelled type has an operator-controlled, wheel-drive engagement handle to control forward power.
  • The side-discharge type discharges grass clippings to the right side of the mowing path.
  • The rear-discharge type discharges grass clippings to the rear of the mowing path.
  • Available with an attachable lawn bag to gather lawn clippings.
  • The mulching type is designed to cut and recut grass clippings into fine particles that will fall back, unseen, into the turf.

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.

Seeder

  • Efficient way to plant seeds in rows in a garden.
  • A blade at the front opens the soil while a dispenser drops the seed into the furrow then pushes soil over it.
  • Comes with seed plates to regulate the spacing of planted seeds.
  • Marks the spot for the next row for even spacing.

Impulse Sprinklers

  • Also called pulsating sprinkler.
  • Will discharge more water in a given period and cover a greater area than other sprinklers.
  • A spring-loaded arm provides a strong spray that is close to the ground, making it more wind resistant.
  • A large orifice prevents clogging.
  • A baffle plate controls the height of the stream to allow sprinkling under low tree branches.
  • A diffuser pin adjusts water stream from full jet to fine mist.
  • Also offers part- or full-circle operation.

Mortar Hoe

  • Used to mix mortar, concrete, plaster and spackling.
  • Can have plain or perforated blades.
  • Handles can be 48” to 66” long.

Scoop

  • Has a deep blade for moving loose or bulky materials. Not recommended for digging.
  • Most have a D handle but some may have a long handle.
  • An aluminum scoop is light, durable and best for removing snow, grain or any loose material.
  • A heavy-gauge steel scoop is the most durable and can be used for nearly any loose material.
  • An ABS resin and poly scoop is designed for light duties such as snow.

Bypass Pruning Shears

  • Has a hook and blade cutting mechanism.
  • Preferred by most professionals because they cut close to the stem and are ideal for cut flowers.
  • Usually used for stems less than 3/4″ in diameter.

Hand Edger

  • Used for edging thick sod around walks, flowerbeds, trees and shrubs.
  • Has a long handle with a sharp, high-carbon steel blade.

 

View category→

Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Can I combine several different faux finish techniques?

Yes. However, be sure to try out the various techniques first on a scrap piece of drywall to make sure they will look good before applying them to the wall.

What type of caulk should I use on trim before painting?

Use siliconized acrylic latex caulk. It tends to be more flexible and has better adhesion. This will prevent cracks later on.

What type of paint should I use in my kitchen?

High-gloss paints are great for high-traffic areas because they provide a tough, washable finish that also resists water and grease. Use them on kitchen and bathroom walls, kitchen cabinets, banisters and railings, trim, furniture, doorjambs and windowsills. However, the gloss will make surface imperfections more noticeable, so you will have to work a little harder to ensure a good finish. A semi-gloss provides a little less durability but is a little easier to work with.

Can I avoid scraping the peeling paint off the exterior of my home by using a pressure washer before painting?

It is not advisable. Pressure washers should only be used for removing dirt, mildew and algae that can lead to premature paint failure. Flaking paint should only be removed by scraping and sanding.

What can I use to thin epoxy?

Use acetone, it will soften most paints and plastics so you must exercise caution when you are using it. Acetone is the active ingredient in many paint strippers.

Is there any way to easily separate a joint where an epoxy has been used?

Although it is not easy, it can be done. Apply an oven cleaner, such as Easy-Off, to the bond and let it sit for 10 to 15 minuets. The epoxy will eventually start to soften and can then be pried apart with a stiff putty knife.

What are the differences in paint gloss types?

Semi-gloss and higher are more durable and can be lightly scrubbed down if the walls get dirty. For large areas of wall, such as a hallway, flat or satin-based paint will better hide surface problem areas.

Where should I use a flat paint?

These are also called matte finishes and they are good for walls and ceilings in lower-traffic areas.

Do I need to apply a waterproofer on top of the stain?

No, that won’t give the fence extra protection. The waterproofer must penetrate the wood to work and it can’t do that if there is already a coating on the wood.

What should I use to thin shellac?

Denatured alcohol, which can also be used in many shellac based products?

View category→

Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Paint Mildewcide

  • Paint additive that reduces mold and mildew.
  • Good for interior and exterior use.
  • For latex and solvent-based paint.
  • Also can be used with water-based adhesives.
  • Some paint manufacturers suggest that additives may not live up to their claims and can even have adverse effects, such as increasing mildew growth. They can also void paint warranties, so check manufacturer policies and literature.

 

Sanding Screen

  • Special sanding device used for sanding drywall and plaster.
  • This abrasive screen cloth is durable and more resistant to fill from drywall compound and plaster.
  • Generally comes is 4”x11” sheets in 220 grit.

Glazing Paint

  • Interior latex paint that is ready to use, with no mixing of additional glazes required.
  • For use on walls, ceilings, furniture and crafts.
  • Available in a variety of effects, including metallic, distressed wood, lime wash, sand texture, etc.

Lacquer Thinner

  • Is available in many grades and degrees of solvency and in several speeds of evaporation.
  • An excellent cleaner for brushes and spray guns where lacquer has been used.
  • Since it leaves no residue, lacquer thinner does not require cleaned brushes to be washed with soap and water.
  • Highly flammable solvent that should be used with extreme caution.

Shellac

  • Provides a fast, hard-drying, durable finish for furniture, woodwork, hardwood floors and other wood-finishing applications.
  • It also functions as a sealer and stain-killer on drywall, cured plaster and new wood. Shellac is widely compatible with other coatings, and it can be applied over old shellac, varnish or lacquer finishes that are adhering well.
  • Most shellac is sold in a 3-lb. cut, the consistency recommended for most uses. The 3-lb. cut can be thinned to a 1-lb. cut for applications such as wood sealer before staining by thinning one quart of shellac with three pints of alcohol.
  • For applications where water spotting may be a problem, shellacked surfaces can be protected with paste wax or varnish.
  • Shellac may be applied with a brush, foam brush or from a can. When brushing, flow on the shellac from a full brush—with minimum brushing—and do not re-brush areas, since the alcohol-based solvent of shellac dries quickly.
  • Cleans up with ammonia and warm water.

Scraper

  • Used For scraping debris off of floors, sidewalks or hard surfaces.
  • Good for removing ice.
  • Has a flat, steel blade.

Primer/Sealer

  • Ensures better and longer-lasting results when applied before any type of paint.
  • Primers and stain-killing primer-sealers are designed to seal porous surfaces, block out stains, promote adhesion of the topcoat and hide unwanted colors.
  • Improves adhesion, prevents stains on the surface from bleeding through the finish paint and seals porous surfaces.
  • Priming the surface also saves paint and prevents paint resins from soaking unevenly into the substrate.
  • Water-based primer-sealers bind moderately chalky surfaces and offer good adhesion to glossy surfaces and metals. They are almost odorless and clean up with soap and water.
  • Oil-based primer-sealers can be used on both interior and exterior surfaces. They work well for nicotine stains and cedar bleed. They give off a low odor and clean up with mineral spirits (paint thinner).
  • Acrylic block fillers should be used to prime concrete block.
  • Stain-killing primer-sealers are oil-based, water-based or shellac-based. They prime virtually anything that needs painting, including metal, masonry, wood, drywall and previously painted surfaces. They are typically white-pigmented and can be tinted to match the color of the topcoat to reduce the amount of finish paint needed for the job.
  • Shellac-based primer-sealers are ideal for interior woodwork and spot-priming knots on exterior wood. They are best for sealing off troublesome stains from water leaks, mildew and fire damage. They also seal off odors from smoke and pets. Clean up requires alcohol or a 1:3 solution of household ammonia in water.

Masking Machine

  • Offers automatic tape alignment for applying masking tape to film or paper.
  • Useful when masking off large areas.
  • Contains blade for easy tearing of tape end.
  • Many different types and styles available.

Graining Comb

  • Tool used to achieve striated effect, which involves covering a wall with regular paint, applying a glaze and then running the comb through the glaze to remove glaze.
  • Combing tends to darken the color of the wall and it can be done in any direction.
  • Cross-hatching is when the wall is combed once straight down and once horizontally.

Mineral Spirits

  • Also known as paint thinner.
  • A petroleum distillate solvent frequently used in the manufacturing and thinning of oil-based paints.
  • Odorless mineral spirits have been refined to remove some odorous components.
  • Excellent paint thinner and for cleaning brushes or rollers after painting.
View category→

Plumbing FAQ's (121)

When replacing a faucet, do I need to put putty underneath it?

Yes, this will prevent water and moisture from leaking around the faucet and underneath the counter.

Why is water leaking from the base of my toilet?

Most likely the wax ring at the base of your toilet has failed. To replace it you will need to loosen the bolts that hold the toilet to the floor, pull it up and remove the old wax ring. Place a new wax ring at the base of the toilet and replace the toilet using new bolts. For more information on this, watch our video “How to Replace a Toilet.”

What is a toilet vent?

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.

What is the difference between soft copper tubing and hard copper tubing?

Hard copper is rigid line used throughout the house. Soft copper is used where flexibility is needed, such as faucet supply lines.

Are all faucet seats the same?

No, you will need to bring in your old seat to match up with the new one when you visit your local hardware store. Each brand has its own design and thread.

Why is my showerhead spraying unevenly, or why is water not coming through some of the holes?

The shower head may need to be cleaned of hard water deposits. Take the shower head apart and clean it using an old toothbrush and a decalcifying-type cleaner.

Which is better for sealing pipe threads, teflon tape or pipe paste?

They both do a similar job, but the teflon tape is a bit easier to use. Be sure to wrap in a clockwise direction when using teflon tape.

Pipe paste will remain gooey and flexible.

What is plumber’s putty?

It is a sealing putty used for a variety of tasks including to seal basket strainers, garbage disposal rims and tub drains.

What can I use to join plastic (CPVC) to copper?

The easiest thing is to use a push fitting.

What type of plunger should I use to unclog my toilet?

The best type of plunger to buy is one that includes a flange around the bottom. This allows the plunger to create a better seal inside the toilet. For more information on the best products to clear your toilet, watch our video “Unclogging a Toilet.”

View category→

Plumbing Terms (100)

Pop-Up Drain

  • Also known as a P.O. drain.
  • Controls the mechanism in a lavatory sink with a plug that can open or close the drain.

Disc-Type Faucet

  • A washerless faucet.
  • Water is controlled by openings in the two discs. When the discs are rotated to align, the water flows. When the discs are misaligned, the water shuts off.
  • May have one or two handles.
  • Fix by replacing the O-rings or, better yet, replace the whole disc.

Solvent Weld Fitting

  • Used for unthreaded plastic pipe
  • Has specially-formed sockets into which plastic pipe is inserted.
  • Bonded with cement that is compatible to the type of plastic being connected.

Yoke Vise

  • Helps hold pipe when cutting or reaming pipe.
  • Has V-shaped jaws that grip pipe from above and below. The lower jaw is fixed, while the upper jaw is raised or lowered by a screw.
  • Holds pipe with the inverted V-shaped yoke that unlatches on one side and tilts to accommodate the pipe.

Tank-to-Bowl Hardware

  • Creates a secure connection between the tank and the bowl.
  • Consists of long brass bolts with rubber washers and a large foam-rubber washer.
  • One size fits all toilets.

Kitchen Sink

  • Undermounted Sinks (See bottom image) mount below the countertop.
  • Self-Rimming Sinks feature a rolled edge that mounts directly over the countertop. They are the most common and easiest to install.
  • Double sinks are the most common in new construction, with one bowl available for washing and one for rinsing dishes.
  • Single bowls are necessary in small kitchens with little counter space or can function as a second sink for meal preparation.
  • In triple sinks, the middle bowl is designed for the garbage disposal.
  • Shapes are rectangular or square; custom sinks can be round, oval or other shapes.
  • Standard size is 8″ deep; low-end sinks are only 5-7″ deep and top-quality sinks can go 10″ deep.
  • Sinks are constructed of many different materials including enameled steel, stainless steel, cast iron, brass, stone and composites such as quartz or granite combined with resin.
  • Enameled steel has a tendency to chip and is less durable than cast iron or stainless steel.
  • Stainless steel comes in different gauges; the lower the number, the thicker the steel. Thicker steel is less noisy, and undercoating can help dampen noise. Satin finish is the easiest to clean.
  • Other accessories for kitchen sinks include sliding cutting boards, clip-on colanders and custom dish drainers.

Utility Pumps

  • Larger than all purpose pumps and often gasoline powered.
  • Used to pump manholes, for irrigation and lawn sprinkling, for fire protection and as an emergency water supply during power failure.
  • Capacities range up to 85 gallons per minute. Suction lifts up to 25′.
  • Another type is a highpressure, handheld utility pump that adds as much as 80 lbs. to intake pressure. It operates on 115V current, and when connected to a standard garden hose, can be used to hose down hardsurface driveways and window screens, to wash cars and boats and to clean animal-housing areas. They will also draw water from shallow wells, tanks, etc.

Tub Drain

  • Bath DrainUses an overflow opening to control draining in a tub.
  • The Spring type consists of an assembly controlled by a lever that moves a pop-up plug up and down. It is easiest to install, especially in retrofits.
  • The Weight type consists of an assembly that controls a weight that lifts up or down out of the drain hole. It is also controlled by a lever.

Compression Faucet

  • Also known as a washer-type or stem faucet.
  • When the spindle is turned down, the washer or disk attached to its lower end is pressed tightly against a smoothly finished ring or ground-seat that surrounds the flow opening to shut off the water flow. If the washer and seat do not make a firm contact at all points, water will leak. This usually happens when the washer becomes worn.
  • Seats in faucets that are not removable may be reground with reseating tools.

Flared Fitting

  • Operates the same as a compression fitting, but one end of the pipe is flared.
  • Used in refrigeration, small appliances and oil heating.
View category→

Power Tools Terms (84)

Abrasive Attachments

There are a wide variety of attachments for drills that can be used for shaping or finishing metal. Others can be used for sanding and cleaning a variety of materials.

Buffers polish metal or furniture.

Abrasive discs can be used for grinding or sanding.

Wire wheels remove rust and paint, and some types can clean concrete, asphalt and plaster.

Disc and drum rasps quickly complete coarse sanding jobs.

Bayonet Saw

  • Operates similar to a sabre saw.
  • Some models have a worm gear and a large blade orbit to make it suitable for metals, plastics, thin wood and laminate.

Contractor Table Saw

  • More portable than a cabinet table saw, but bulky and originally intended for temporary use at a jobsite.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism is located under the table.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • Used for ripping large pieces of wood.
  • 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.
  • Rip fence capacity is important for determining a saw’s quality. The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Typical sizes are 1-1/2 to 3 hp.

Sabre Saws

  • Jig SawAlso known as a jig saw.
  • Cuts with an up and down motion and is ideal for cutting curves and irregular lines.
  • Usually can cut through 1” hardwood and 1-1/2” softwood. More powerful models can cut up to 2-3/4” thick in wood and 3/4” in aluminum and some can cut thin steel.
  • Quality machines operate at approximately 3,000 strokes per minute.
  • Generally, better machines also have longer strokes, often 1”.
  • The scrolling feature on some saws allows the user to turn the blade by means of a knob on the top of the tool instead of turning the whole tool.
  • Good quality jigsaws will also have features on the base that allow them to cut at an angle. An antisplintering insert is a removable plastic piece that sits in front of the blade and reduces the splintering of the material.
  • Another quality feature is a blade guide. This is a disk that sits behind the blade and supports it, keeping it on a straight path and resisting deflection. It provides for a more accurate cut and helps prevent blade bending and breaking.
  • Better models have orbital action for more aggressive cutting.

Seam Roller

  • Roller used to flatten seams between wallpaper strips.
  • Roller is generally 1-1/4” to 2” in width and has a smooth plastic roller surface.

Abrasive Attachments

  • There are a wide variety of attachments for drills that can be used for shaping or finishing metal. Others can be used for sanding and cleaning a variety of materials.
  • Buffers polish metal or furniture.
  • Abrasive discs can be used for grinding or sanding.
  • Wire wheels remove rust and paint, and some types can clean concrete, asphalt and plaster.
  • Disc and drum rasps quickly complete coarse sanding jobs.

Sledgehammer

  • Used for jobs where great force is required such as breaking up concrete or driving heavy spikes.
  • Feature long handles from 14” to 36” and heavy heads weighing from 2 lbs. to 20 lbs.
  • Double-face sledgehammers feature two identical faces.
  • Single-face sledgehammers have one flat face for striking and one wedge-shaped face for splitting wood.

Sanding Belt

  • Used with belt sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • Good quality belts should resist tearing and stretching.

Benchtop Table Saw

  • Most portable and lightweight table saw.
  • Used for ripping wood.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism are located under the table.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • 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.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Most models use a 10” saw blade.

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.
View category→

Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Mobile Workbench

  • Enables user to position a workbench wherever it is needed in the workshop.
  • Some models feature adjustable leveling feet, adjustable height, detachable casters, latching doors, drawers, hooks for hanging tools, dust collection ports, quick-change tool set-up, lock-down hardware and corner tops.
  • They can hold large and small tools, and some models are designed to serve as a shop bench, router station or clamping station.

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.

C-Clamp

  • The most common type of clamp—consists of a C-shaped frame, made of either forged steel or cast iron, into which an adjustable screw is assembled to change the jaw opening.
  • The size of a C-clamp is measured by its jaw capacity—the dimension of the largest object the frame can accommodate with the screw fully extended. Most range in jaw capacity from 2” to 10”.
  • Also important is depth of throat, the distance from the center line of the screw to the inside edge of the frame. C-clamps range from 3/4″ to 14″.
  • Most have a sliding cross-pin handle or a wing nut that is used to tighten the screw.

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.

Tool Chest

  • Stores tools as well as parts, screws, nuts, bolts and other small pieces.
  • Available in a variety of drawer configurations, with four- and six-drawer configurations being the most popular.
  • Many tool chests also come with casters or wheels for portability.

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.

Specialty Stationary Workbench

  • Comes with a variety of drawers, holes and pegs for tool storage.
  • Some models are equipped with vises to hold work firmly in place.
  • These units are generally expensive and can’t be easily moved around the shop.

Tool Box

  • Is available in a variety of configurations and made from a variety of materials, with steel being the most popular.
  • Plastic toolboxes are available in a number of styles as well. Some are suited for light-duty use, while others are comparable to steel in quality.
  • The highest quality plastic boxes are constructed of polypropylene, and some models can hold up to 75 lbs. of tools.
  • Some carpenters and precision tool users use hardwood chests because the wood absorbs rust-producing condensation.
  • Carpenters’ toolboxes are specially designed so carpenters can carry hand saws and framing squares in the same box with other tools.

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.

Bench Vise

  • Tool that mounts on a workbench or table to hold work pieces securely in place between two flat jaws.
  • Generally used in light-duty applications.
  • Available in both stationary and swivel models to hold work at various angles and positions.
  • A threaded spindle opens and closes the jaws of the vise to hold and release work piece.
  • Generally has jaws ranging in length from 3″ to 8″.
  • Jaw opening ranges from 4” to 12” in different models.
View category→