DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Bamboo Rake

  • Lightweight and inexpensive.
  • Used to gather light debris such as dry leaves or grass.
  • Teeth should be evenly bent for best raking results.

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.

 

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.

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.

Sanding Disc

  • Most often used with disc sanders and random orbit sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • One style is PSA. PSA stands for pressure sensitive adhesive, so sandpapers of this type have a sticky backing. Generally, this type is used for sanding jobs where you will use the sandpaper until it is worn out. Not for tasks where you will be changing sandpaper frequently.
  • Another style is hook and loop, which attaches to the sander like Velcro. It is removable and good for jobs that require frequent changing of the sandpaper.
  • Holes in the sandpaper enable dust extraction to reduce buildup of dust on the abrasive.

Snap-Blade Knife

  • Blade sections snap off (generally between 8 and 13 per blade) without having to open the tool to change blades.
  • Generally used for cutting light- and medium-duty materials such as wallpaper, rubber, vinyl and leather, or materials with adhesive backing that will stick to the blade and prevent sharp, accurate cutting.

Framing Square

  • 90 degree L-shaped tool made from one piece of material (steel or aluminum), with the long end (blade) usually 24″ and the short end (tongue) 16″.
  • Also known as carpenter’s or rafter square because this tool is generally used for laying out rafters and marking stair stringers.
  • Similar squares are also available in other sizes (8″ x 12″).
  • Generally has framing tables (rafter and Essex tables) etched into the body to provide information on roof framing.
  • Also has ruler increments printed on the inside and outside edges.

Micrometer

  • A caliper shaped like the letter “P” used for close tolerance work on tools such as drill presses and lathes.
  • These devices can make inside, outside and depth measurements to within .001″.

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.

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.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Screen Storm Door Hardware

  • Includes a variety of latches, strikes and pulls available as original or replacement hardware for screen and storm doors.
  • Some latches have keyed locks.
  • Most are designed for easy installation and are weather-resistant.
  • Most are designed for specific types of doors (wood vs. aluminum) and door thicknesses.

Furniture Glide

  • Allows furniture to move easily along the floor. Also protects floor from scuffing.
  • The three-prong type is hammered into the legs of light furniture. It is easy to install and easy to remove.
  • The cushion type is for heavier use and is mounted by hammering into the furniture leg.
  • A cushion glide for caster holes is the best type for heavy furniture. Here, the socket replaces normal stem-type casters.
  • Some glides have a tilting stem with a 40° range of movement. These glides are made for furniture with angled legs so that the base of the glide sits flat on the floor.
  • Other types of glides include rubber leg tips and heavy-duty, self-adhesive nylon or felt pads.

Support Hardware

  • Includes metal plates and braces specifically designed for use as reinforcement in a variety of applications.
  • Available in an assortment of sizes, shapes and finishes.
  • Specific items include t-plates, corner braces, mending plates, triple corner braces and chair leg braces.
  • Can be packaged with or without mounting hardware.

Repair Link

  • Used to temporarily link chain and couple light attachments.
  • Do not use for securing loads.
  • One type is the Lap Link.
  • Another type is the Quick Link, which is similar to the lap link, but not as strong.

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.

Siding Nail

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

Barn Door Hardware

  • Made of zinc or galvanized, heavy-gauge steel especially for barns and outbuildings where rough, heavy-duty use is required.
  • Consists of a hanger similar to a four-wheel trolley with a box-shaped track that acts as a guide.
  • Use either roll or ball bearings. Ball bearings are considered the superior choice.
  • Capable of supporting loads from 100 lbs. to 3,000 lbs.
  • The track is usually mounted to the building by brackets, although some track requires no brackets and is mounted directly to the building with screws.
  • Other hardware includes flush pulls, bow handles, stay rollers, bottom guides, bumper shoes and end stops.

Stem Caster

  • Provides mobility for heavy furniture.
  • Select caster based on the weight of the piece of furniture, floor surface and the method of attaching it to the furniture.
  • Always recommend the largest size caster consistent with furniture style.
  • If casters are to be used on furniture, consider the occupied weight of the piece rather than the furniture weight alone.
  • Use a socket adapter inserted into a hold in the furniture. The stem of the caster then slides into the socket.
  • The top end of the socket snaps into a small ridge in the stem.

Braided Cord

  • May be made with or without a center filling (core) that gives it strength.
  • Diamond braid cord, also known as maypole braid, does not have a core and is frequently used for drapery cord or Venetian blind cord or as low-cost clothesline. It splices easily.
  • Solid braid cord is firm, round and tightly woven so it will not unravel when cut or torn. Works well over pulleys and has good abrasion resistance.
  • Double braid is when both the rope and the core are braided. It is the strongest and most expensive type of rope.
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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Accelerator/Hardener

  • Japan DrierAlso known as Japan drier.
  • Increases the gloss and hardness of oil-based paint.
  • Also decreases dry time by as much as 30 percent.
  • Generally mix 8 oz. per gallon of paint.
  • Not for use water-based paints.

Airless Paint Sprayer

  • Used when painting large areas with the same color or painting intricate surfaces such as furniture or grillwork where other tools will not reach all surfaces.
  • Airless sprayers eject paint at high pressure. An electric airless paint system consists of a paint container, high-pressure pump, motor, handle and housing and pressure regulator. Extension nozzles, longer suction tubes, extra nozzles and viscosity measuring cups are optional accessories.
  • Choice of spraying tip depends on paint consistency, but generally the thinner the paint, the smaller the tip needed. Paint consistency also governs pump pressure. Thinner materials such as stains, lacquers, enamels and sealers require less pressure than heavier materials such as house and wall paint.
  • Paints that have been formulated for brush or roller application may be too thick for spraying. They should be tested first and thinned if necessary.

Plaster of Paris

  • Is a quick-setting white powder used to repair wallboard, plaster walls and ceilings, set bathroom wall fixtures—towel racks, soap dishes, etc.—and for art projects.
  • It usually hardens within 30 minutes.
  • No more water than necessary should be added; when water evaporates, the plaster shrinks.

Rag Rolling Applicator

  • Used with rag rolling technique to achieve effects similar to crushed velvet, parchment, chamois leather, watered silk or brocade.
  • As with sponging, ragging begins with application of a coat of paint in a solid color and allowing it to dry. A crumpled cloth is then used to add glaze in another color.
  • To rag-roll, a cloth is rolled into a sausage shape of varying tightness, then lightly dipped into the glaze and rolled gently across the base coat.
  • Ragging and rag-rolling results vary according to the cloth material used. Linen, lace and burlap are common choices, but almost any material will do if it is clean and free of lint.
  • Can also be used with a negative method, which involves applying a base coat, then a glaze coat. A rag is then rolled over the glaze to remove some of it before it has a chance to dry, partially exposing the color of the base coat.

Masking Tape

  • Also called painter’s tape, it is a general-purpose, pressure-sensitive tape used to mask off areas not intended to be painted.
  • Commonly colored blue for painting applications.
  • All-purpose tapes are increasingly being replaced by tapes designed for specific tasks, such as specific tapes designed for baseboards and trim, glass, hard-to-stick surfaces, lacquer surfaces, brick and tile and delicate surfaces.

Paint Odor Additive

  • Reduces paint odors from both latex and oil-based paints.
  • Can also be used on lacquers, varnishes, epoxies, stain blockers and primers.

 

Wood Stain

  • Is available in oil-based, water-based and gel formulations.
  • The two major types of wood stains are semi-transparent and solid-color (opaque), where the essential difference between the two is that semi-transparent stains impart color, but the texture and the natural grain of the wood continues to show through; while on solid-color stains, the texture still shows through, but not the grain itself.
  • Interior stains, used for furniture and woodwork, come in either pigmented or dye categories. Both can have oil, synthetic or water bases. Pigmented stains color the wood with the same type of pigments used in paint. They range in color from almost clear to semi-transparent. They are easy to apply—usually brushed on or wiped on with a rag, then wiped off enough to control the depth of the stain. They leave no brush or lap marks if applied properly.
  • Exterior stain is used primarily on wood siding and shingles, decks, outdoor structures and furniture. It is also available in latex and oil-based formulas. Oil-based stains penetrate the wood, and they erode with weathering. Latex stains do not typically fade as rapidly.
  • Stains may or may not protect the wood; check manufacturers’ labels. An oil or polyurethane finish can be mixed with the stain, so the do-it-yourselfer can complete the staining and finishing job in one step.
  • Wood stain pens will hide minor scratches, nicks and chips on furniture and wood.

Painter’s Putty

  • Available in either dry or pliable form.
  • Repairs cracks, dents, breaks and holes in furniture, wood and concrete floors, woodwork, metal and other interior surfaces.
  • In dry form (known as water putty because water must be added), it dries to the shade of new wood but can be tinted with dry color. It sets rapidly, cannot be reworked, dries hard and can be sanded, tooled and finished like wood.
  • Pliable Putty (also known as wood putty because it is made from hardwood) is rubbed on wood surfaces before painting to close pores in certain woods such as oak, mahogany, walnut, chestnut, elm, butternut, hickory, ash, rosewood and satinwood. It is not synonymous with patching materials, which fill holes or cracks in finished or unfinished surfaces.
  • Most wood putties come in paste form and must be thinned; the container label tells which thinner to use. Putty is brushed on, rubbed, sanded and sealed before finishing.
  • Wood putties are available in water-based form, allowing greater safety, rapid drying and less shrinkage. All wood putty patches must be sanded flush with the old surface. Patches can be stained, painted or varnished.

Graining Feather

  • Used in marbling technique, in which a base layer of white or color is dabbed on with a damp sponge, and then a second glaze of a different color is applied the same way, causing the two colors to “marble.”
  • The feather provides the “veined” look.
  • Marbling is often done with fireplace mantles.

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.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

What type of primer should I use on ceilings?

It depends on factors such as whether or not there are stains that need attention and if you are painting the ceiling white or giving it some color. If you don’t have stains and you will be painting the ceiling white, there are specially formulated primers that go on pink or blue and turn white when dry.

What type of precautions should I take when using paint stripper?

When using strippers, be sure to read the safety and usage instructions on the label. Wear chemical-resistant gloves and protective clothing, ventilate the room if using indoors and avoid exposure to the skin and eyes.

How long will I have to wait between coats of paint?

While drying times can vary based on factors such as humidity, plan on waiting about four hours when you are using latex paint. If you are using oil-based paint, you will probably need to wait up to 24 hours.

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.

How do I pick the right paint brush material?

There are two types: synthetic and natural bristle.
Natural bristle brushes are used with stains and varnishes.
Synthetics are good for any kind of paint.

I have textured ceilings. What nap of roller cover should I use?

It depends on how textured the ceiling is. If it’s slightly textured, a 3/8-inch or a ½-inch nap roller cover should work well. If it’s heavily textures, you might need a 5/8-inch or a ¾-inch nap.

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.

Should I use a primer?

In most cases, you need a primer if the surface has never been painted before. If you are repainting something, you will need a primer if the old paint is worn down and the surface is exposed.

What is the difference between a wood stain and a varnish?

A wood stain is used to change the appearance of the wood, such as to bring out the definition in the wood grain or match the look of another species of wood. Semi-transparent stains provide a color to the wood, but still allow the texture and natural grain to show through. Solid-color stains allow the texture to show, but not the grain. Varnish, which may be water- or oil-based, provides a clear, transparent coating that is durable and hard. Varnishes also come in a variety of shines from flat to high gloss, and they may be water or oil based.

What is the difference between a square-cut and an angle-cut paint brush?

Straight-cut paint brushes are traditional and have been used for centuries. While both provide good coverage, angled paint brushes cover a bigger surface area in one stroke. They also allow you to cut in on corners to provide a smoother, cleaner edge.

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Power Tools Terms (84)

Power Screwdriver

  • A common type is a variable-speed, reversible drywall screwdriver. It is designed for driving drywall, decking and other self-drilling screws. They offer higher speeds than a power drill.
  • A cordless, in-line screwdriver is handy for light-duty household applications. They have less power and speed than a power drill, but are easier to handle.

 

Generator

  • A portable source for electricity that runs on gasoline, diesel fuel, LP gas or natural gas.
  • Wattage outputs range from 1,850 to 8,000 watts.
  • To select the right generator for your needs, total the wattage of the items you need to run at the same time. This will be the minimum wattage needed in a generator.
  • Most models usually include two or three different outlets or receptacles to operate 12V DC and 115V AC current as well as 240V AC current.

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.

Twist Drill Bit

  • Used in both wood and unhardened metals to make clearance holes for bolts, screws, etc., and to make holes for tapping.
  • Bits marked HS (high speed) or HSS (high speed steel) are suitable for drilling in metals or wood,
  • Bits made of carbon steel should be used only in wood and not in metal as they are more brittle and less flexible than HSS bits.

Sidewinder Circular Saw

  • Designed to make straight cuts on materials that are difficult to cut with a handsaw.
  • Can make cuts on a variety of materials, and different types of materials generally require different blades.
  • More compact than a worm drive saw. Has the motor mounted on the side of the blade.
  • Requires less maintenance than worm-drive saws and does not have an oil-filled crankcase.
  • The size of the saw tells you what is the largest size blade that you can use with it. Generally, blade sizes range from 5-1/2” to 10” in diameter. 5-1/2” and 7-1/4” are the most popular. The larger the blade, the thicker material it will cut.
  • Rated by amperage. Better tools have higher amp and rpm ratings.
  • Cordless models are popular, but offer less speed and power than corded models.
  • A popular feature is an ejector chute that directs dust away from the work and a tilt base that allows the user to cut a variety of angles.

Palm Sander

  • Also known as a finish sander.
  • Sandpaper attaches to a rectangular pad on the bottom of the sander. The motor moves the pad in small, circular orbits.
  • Easy to handle.
  • Can use regular sandpaper, and measures its size by the portion of a standard 9”x11” sheet of sandpaper it uses. A 1/4 size uses a 1/4 of a regular sheet, a 1/3 uses a 1/3 sheet and a 1/2 uses a 1/2 sheet.
  • The holes on the bottom of the sander help to remove the dust from the material as you are sanding.
  • Some models have a sandpaper piercing plate that allows you to transform a standard sheet of sandpaper into one with holes designed to fit on the bottom of the sander.
  • Good for sanding corners and finish work. However, it may leave some scratches as is sands both with and against the grain.
  • Some models incorporate a triangular pad extension for sanding in tight corners.

Welder

  • For the d-i-yer who wants to experiment with welding, there are several consumer-level welding setups available.
  • Arc welders are for welding iron to thin metals up to 1/4”.
  • Wire feed welders, also known as Mig welders, are used for hobby, workshop, home and farm repairs.

Sliding Compound Miter Saw

  • Uses a circular blade that is pivoted and/or tilted to the correct angle, then dropped onto the material, which is clamped stationary on a plate.
  • Also has a sliding action that allows it to cut wider material than a standard miter saw.
  • Good for cutting complex trim and moldings.
  • Most models tilt in only one direction, but better models tilts both to the left and to the right.

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.

Worm Drive Circular Saw

  • Designed to make straight cuts on materials that are difficult to cut with a handsaw.
  • Can make cuts on a variety of materials, and different types of materials generally require different blades.
  • The motor is inline with the handle and at a right angle to the blade arbor. It also has an oil-filled crankcase.
  • The worm gear style of power transmission means this saw has plenty of torque, which keeps it from stalling in wet or pinched lumber.
  • Quieter operation than sidewinder saws, but heavier, usually 14 to 19 lbs.
  • It has better sightlines than a sidewinder style saw
  • Most common blade size is 7-1/4”. Also available are 6-1/2” and 8-1/4” blades.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Fluorescent Fixture

  • Used to house fluorescent lamps, and can be rectangular or round.
  • The rapid start type has a starter (a small aluminum barrel that is a type of automatic switch) and ballast in one piece and turns on the instant the switch is flipped.
  • The starter type has a small ballast and a starter and will flicker for a moment before turning fully on.
  • The instant type turns on after a momentary pause.
  • Fluorescent lights are less expensive to operate than incandescent, and most of the parts are replaceable.

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.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter

  • An arc fault occurs when the insulation surrounding wire and cable is damaged or deteriorates. The arc fault can flare at temperatures in excess of 10,000ºF and ignite surrounding combustible material.
  • Standard circuit breakers do not respond quickly enough to arc faults. An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) recognizes an arcing fault and acts instantly.
  • The National Electrical Code® (NEC) requires AFCIs be used in new construction on all bedroom circuits, family rooms, dining rooms, closets and hallways.

Multiple Outlet Strip

  • Also known as a surge suppressor or a power strip.
  • Achieves the same purpose of a tap, but has a cord that plugs into an outlet and a strip of outlets contained in a metal or plastic box.
  • Better models have built-in surge protectors that protect electronic equipment from sudden surges of electricity.
  • A surge protector does not protect against a lightning strike.

Continuity Tester

  • Used to determine if a wire or circuit can carry electricity from one end to the other.
  • Generally consists of two probes (one of them being an alligator clip) and an indicator light powered by a battery.
  • Can also be used to test cartridge fuses.

Lamp

  • Provides localized light for specific activities such as reading, writing, sewing and food preparation.
  • The light should cover the entire task area and be located so shadows are reduced to a minimum.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles.

Appliance Cords

  • Combine cord and connector. The difference between cord sets can be in type of connector and/or cord used.
  • Free-end attachment cord sets without connectors are used in re-wiring direct attachment irons, toasters and similar small appliances. They have pre-tinned ends to speed up wiring.

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.

Socket Adapter

  • Screws into light sockets to adapt them for use as two outlets while keeping the function of a light socket.
  • Also known as a current tap or socket switch.
  • Some models have a switch or pull chain that turns off the bulb without turning off the outlets.

Receptacle Analyzer

  • Analyzes a receptacle to determine whether or not the wiring is sound, if it is grounded and if the receptacle is receiving power.
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Building Materials FAQ's (273)

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.

What is the difference between latex and vinyl patching cement?

One difference is in the way they are mixed. Vinyl mixes use a cement-like powder activated by adding water. Latex cement has a powder mixed with a polymer liquid. No water is added.

I need some joist hangers. Do you have any recommendations?

The most important factor is to make sure you are buying the right joist hanger that fits the dimension of lumber are you using.

What type of lumber should I use for a garage door header?

A garage door has a predictable load and span, and constructing one out of stock dimension lumber can be difficult. Try a laminated stock intended for use as a garage door header.

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.

Does wallboard have an R value?

Yes. Generally, 3/8” board is 0.32, 1/2” board is 0.45 and 5/8” board is 0.56.

Is tile a project I can do myself?

Many do-it-yourselfers have had great success installing their own tile.

How difficult is linoleum to maintain?

It cleans with water and a mild detergent. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for resealing when necessary.

How do I cut ceiling tile?

Use a sharp utility knife.

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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What is the difference between a caulk and a sealant?

Although “caulk” and “sealant” are often used interchangeably, a sealant is generally a high-performance caulk. A product that meets or exceeds the requirements of American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) Specification C-920 is considered a sealant because of its high-performance characteristics, such as durability both inside and outside and during inclement conditions. If there are no specifications on the label—or if the label says the product meets requirements of ASTM Specification C-834—it is considered a caulk.

What fixture can I use which will enable me to hang a picture straight?

For lightweight pictures, a saw-toothed hanger on picture frames will permit you to adjust the picture on the nail.

Why would I use brass screws?

Brass is softer than and not as strong as stainless, and its main use is when you want the decorative look of brass.

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 some common uses for sealants?

Sealants are used to seal or close cracks or joints between sills and foundations; where siding joins window and door trim; openings around external electrical outlets, electrical and telephone cables; dryer vents; kitchen, attic and bathroom vents; flashings; skylights; other cracks and openings that leak water into homes or that leak heated air and energy out.

Do you have a caster that works better on a bed?

Yes, a special bed caster has a wide wheel, which makes it easier to roll. Casters come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different weights.

What kind of anchor should I use if I’m attaching conduit to a foundation wall?

Use either hammer anchors or a concrete/masonry screw.

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

They represent the hardness of the bolt. No marks indicates the least hard, three marks is medium hardness and bolts with six marks are the hardest.

How strong should the chain be I buy?

Chains are all rated to their working loads. Welded chains have links that are welded to form a continuous loop, and are the strongest. Weldless chains are formed by bending, twisting or knotting the metal to form individual loops. They are recommended for light work only.

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Home Security FAQ's (38)

What type of padlock holds up best in the weather?

While brass padlocks will hold up better in the weather than standard ones, most people are happier with the plastic weatherproof casing. Obviously, the brass ones provide a decorative option.

How long should a smoke detector last?

We recommend that you replace any smoke detector that is more than 10 years old.

What features make a padlock stronger?

The high-security padlocks often have cases that provide a collar around most of the shackle. That makes it harder to get bolt cutters on them.

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.

I need to attach my grill to my deck to deter it from being stolen. What do you recommend?

Aircraft cable is a good alternative. You can swage both ends and use it with a padlock. It’s more attractive than a heavy chain, and it can be used on many things—such as outdoor furniture.

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.

What is a gunlock and how does it work?

A gunlock fits over the trigger to prevent the firing of the gun. A good gun lock will cover the trigger completely and have a quality, pin-tumbler locking mechanism.

Do I need to worry about carbon monoxide in my home?

If you have a gas or oil furnace, dryer, refrigerator, water heater, space heater, fireplace, wood stove or gas range, then you need to be concerned. These can all be sources of carbon monoxide gas.

What is the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt?

A single-cylinder is key operated from the outside while a double cylinder is key operated on both sides. They both have their advantages.

What is the best type of fire extinguisher to have in my kitchen and my garage?

A dry-chemical extinguisher marked general-purpose or multi-purpose is best for home use.

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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

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.

Turpentine

  • Has greater solvency than mineral spirits, causing it to work more quickly.
  • It also has a stronger odor and contains a small amount of resin.

Edging Clamp

  • Three-way clamp resembling a C-Clamp with a third screw located in the middle of the throat.
  • Used to apply pressure at a right angle to the side of the work surface.
  • Commonly used for installing molding and trim on furniture and countertops.

Alcohol

  • Is available in denaturedwood isopropyl or methanol form.
  • Wood and methanol alcohols are extremely toxic and should not be recommended for do-it-yourselfers.
  • Denatured alcohol, a safer substance, is used for thinning and for cleaning shellac and pigmented shellac primer.
  • Alcohol is excellent for removing grease and oil spots, fingerprints and other smudges.

Welding Clamp

  • Also called Locking “C”-Clamp or welder’s pliers.
  • A unique type of clamp ideal for holding work while welding.
  • Typical jaw opening sizes range from 2-1/8″ to 8.”

Deglosser

  • Prepares surfaces before painting and assists paint and varnish in bonding to old finishes.
  • Available in water- or solvent-based formulations.
  • Concrete Cleaner is specifically designed to clean and degrease concrete and masonry surfaces and to prepare concrete basement floors to be painted.

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.

Degreaser

  • 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.

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).
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FAQs (0)

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.

What is the difference between latex and vinyl patching cement?

One difference is in the way they are mixed. Vinyl mixes use a cement-like powder activated by adding water. Latex cement has a powder mixed with a polymer liquid. No water is added.

I need some joist hangers. Do you have any recommendations?

The most important factor is to make sure you are buying the right joist hanger that fits the dimension of lumber are you using.

What type of lumber should I use for a garage door header?

A garage door has a predictable load and span, and constructing one out of stock dimension lumber can be difficult. Try a laminated stock intended for use as a garage door header.

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.

Does wallboard have an R value?

Yes. Generally, 3/8” board is 0.32, 1/2” board is 0.45 and 5/8” board is 0.56.

Is tile a project I can do myself?

Many do-it-yourselfers have had great success installing their own tile.

How difficult is linoleum to maintain?

It cleans with water and a mild detergent. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for resealing when necessary.

How do I cut ceiling tile?

Use a sharp utility knife.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

Can I drill a hole in concrete?

Yes a high-speed masonry bit is used on concrete, concrete block, cinder block, brick and stone.

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

There are different types of blades for different types of materials and cuts. Blades with larger numbers (7, 10, 12) are best for cutting thick materials. Blades with smaller numbers (0000, 00, 2) are best for cutting thin materials.

Are lawnmower blades specific to particular mowers?

Yes, you need to know the brand, width of the cut and whether it is a mulching mower. Some blades come with adapter kits that allow them to be used on different brands.

What type of sandpaper do I need for preparing wood before I paint it?

Aluminum oxide is a good multipurpose sandpaper. It cuts fast and lasts long time. It’s usually best to use three different grits of sandpaper. Start with the #320, which is a course grade. Follow this with #400 and then #600. Sand with the grain of the wood at all times. For sanding fine woodworking projects you may want to use garnet sandpaper.

What does the amp rating mean on power tools?

Generally, more amps translate into more power for electric tools.

How do I know if my level is accurate?

To check it, place it on a level surface, then flip it over. Both readings should be identical.

Are staples interchangeable with different staplers?

No the brand of staples should match the brand of stapler.

How do I choose a cordless power drill?

For occasional around-the-house chores, a lightweight 9.6V model is a cost-effective choice.  It will drive about 50 screws between charges. For light remodeling projects, a 12.0V model will drive about 150 screws. For heavy duty jobs such as drilling in metal or major remodeling, consider a 14.0V drill. An 18.0V model is usually only needed by professionals requiring high torque.

What’s the advantage of a carbide-tipped circular saw blade?

The cutting edges are made from extra-hard carbide steel that will last up to 20 times longer and are good for cutting materials of different hardnesses.

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.

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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

Can I use soil from my garden to grow pots in containers?

Not by itself. Garden soil has a lot of great trace minerals that are good for growing plants, but it doesn’t have the proper drainage characteristics that potting soil does. When used by itself, it won’t drain quickly enough, which will restrict air getting to the roots. It will also dry out and pull away from the sides of the pot.

What are the advantages of snow shovels with curved handles?

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

What does the phosphorous do?

This is the “down” number. It stimulates cell building and root growth, and is particularly beneficial in helping seedlings, flowers and vegetables to develop

I have some bare spots in my lawn. What do you recommend for starting grass growth?

There are lawn patching products that are specifically formulated for these situations. It is a mulch that contains seed and fertilizer. You apply the mulch to the bare spot and keep it watered.

What does vermiculite do for the soil?

It lightens and loosens heavy soil for root aeration. It guards against soil compaction.

What should I look for when buying a lawn mower?

For a mulching or self-propelled mower, you need plenty of horsepower so look for one that has a 5 to 6 horsepower engine.

What sizes of wheelbarrows are there?

For general use around the yard, there are 3-cubic-foot and 4-cubic-foot models. The heavy-duty, 6-cubic-foot model is designed for commercial use.

Which is better, rubber or vinyl hose?

Rubber hose will last longer and will not kink as easily. However, it is heavier and more cumbersome to handle.

What can I use to keep outdoor faucets from freezing?

Install a frost-free lawn faucet that is angled down to drain. For existing faucets, you can use an insulating cover.

What should I look for when buying a lawnmower?

For a mulching or self-propelled mower, you need plenty of horsepower so look for one that has a 5 to 6 horsepower engine.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

French Door

  • Also known as a garden door.
  • Is hinged at the outside of the unit and contains at least two active panels that swing in or out from the center.
  • Made of wood, fiberglass or steel.
  • Comes in a wide range of glass styles.
  • Uses a three-point locking system for improved security.

Vinyl Patching Cement

  • Used for patching concrete.
  • Consists of a powder mixed with water.
  • It has greater adhesive strength than cement and sand mixtures and a greater resistance to cracking and chipping.
  • Not affected by repeated freezing and thawing.
  • Can be applied in layers as thin as 1/16”.
  • Bonds to brick, tile, marble and concrete.

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.

Wall/Ceiling Junction

  • The trim used where the wall and ceiling meet.
  • Common types include cove, crown, bed, attic and picture.
  • Available in many different widths, from 1/2” to over 5”.
  • Several types can be combined for more elaborate trim work.
  • Picture molding is placed below the ceiling and traditionally was used to support a wire that held picture frames. Today, they are used mostly decorative than functional.

Felt Weather Strip

  • Least expensive type of weather stripping, but also has the shortest life.
  • Installs by gluing, nailing or stapling to the frame or molding around doors so the door will close snugly and quietly against it.
  • A good choice when appearance is no concern.
  • Available in a variety of widths, thicknesses and quality.
  • Reinforced felt weather strip is sturdier and designed to last longer.

Countertop Lavatory

  • Offers the advantage of storage space under and next to the sink.
  • The mounting for vanity sinks can be self-rimming, flush-mounted, undermounted or integral. Integral sink basins are typically made of solid surfacing or cultured stone, and any damage to the sink will mean replacing the entire unit.
  • In addition to cultured stone and solid surfacing, bath sinks are made of enameled steel, vitreous china, glass, cast iron and stainless steel. Vitreous china is the most common material, since it provides a high-gloss finish and is durable and sanitary.
  • For bath vanities, 34″-36″ is a more comfortable height for adults than the typical height of 30″-32″.

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.

Spike & Ferrule

  • Used to hold a gutter to the eave of the roof.
  • The spike is inserted through the ferrule.
  • The ferrule helps hold the width of the gutter constant throughout the run.

Plaster of Paris

  • Is a quick-setting white powder used to repair wallboard, plaster walls and ceilings, set bathroom wall fixtures—towel racks, soap dishes, etc.—and for art projects.
  • It usually hardens within 30 minutes.
  • No more water than necessary should be added; when water evaporates, the plaster shrinks.

Construction Adhesive

  • Also known as mastic, which is a general term for any thick adhesive.
  • Used in heavy-duty bonding and construction, mastics are usually applied with a caulking gun or trowel.
  • Reduces the need for screws, nails and other fasteners.
  • Flexible and waterproof qualities make them ideal for outdoor applications.
  • Can be used to join flooring and sub-flooring, paneling, drywall and roofing, molding, tile, masonry and concrete, metal and wood.
View category→

Building Materials Terms (161)

French Door

  • Also known as a garden door.
  • Is hinged at the outside of the unit and contains at least two active panels that swing in or out from the center.
  • Made of wood, fiberglass or steel.
  • Comes in a wide range of glass styles.
  • Uses a three-point locking system for improved security.

Vinyl Patching Cement

  • Used for patching concrete.
  • Consists of a powder mixed with water.
  • It has greater adhesive strength than cement and sand mixtures and a greater resistance to cracking and chipping.
  • Not affected by repeated freezing and thawing.
  • Can be applied in layers as thin as 1/16”.
  • Bonds to brick, tile, marble and concrete.

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.

Wall/Ceiling Junction

  • The trim used where the wall and ceiling meet.
  • Common types include cove, crown, bed, attic and picture.
  • Available in many different widths, from 1/2” to over 5”.
  • Several types can be combined for more elaborate trim work.
  • Picture molding is placed below the ceiling and traditionally was used to support a wire that held picture frames. Today, they are used mostly decorative than functional.

Felt Weather Strip

  • Least expensive type of weather stripping, but also has the shortest life.
  • Installs by gluing, nailing or stapling to the frame or molding around doors so the door will close snugly and quietly against it.
  • A good choice when appearance is no concern.
  • Available in a variety of widths, thicknesses and quality.
  • Reinforced felt weather strip is sturdier and designed to last longer.

Countertop Lavatory

  • Offers the advantage of storage space under and next to the sink.
  • The mounting for vanity sinks can be self-rimming, flush-mounted, undermounted or integral. Integral sink basins are typically made of solid surfacing or cultured stone, and any damage to the sink will mean replacing the entire unit.
  • In addition to cultured stone and solid surfacing, bath sinks are made of enameled steel, vitreous china, glass, cast iron and stainless steel. Vitreous china is the most common material, since it provides a high-gloss finish and is durable and sanitary.
  • For bath vanities, 34″-36″ is a more comfortable height for adults than the typical height of 30″-32″.

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.

Spike & Ferrule

  • Used to hold a gutter to the eave of the roof.
  • The spike is inserted through the ferrule.
  • The ferrule helps hold the width of the gutter constant throughout the run.

Plaster of Paris

  • Is a quick-setting white powder used to repair wallboard, plaster walls and ceilings, set bathroom wall fixtures—towel racks, soap dishes, etc.—and for art projects.
  • It usually hardens within 30 minutes.
  • No more water than necessary should be added; when water evaporates, the plaster shrinks.

Construction Adhesive

  • Also known as mastic, which is a general term for any thick adhesive.
  • Used in heavy-duty bonding and construction, mastics are usually applied with a caulking gun or trowel.
  • Reduces the need for screws, nails and other fasteners.
  • Flexible and waterproof qualities make them ideal for outdoor applications.
  • Can be used to join flooring and sub-flooring, paneling, drywall and roofing, molding, tile, masonry and concrete, metal and wood.
View category→

Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Gas Fireplace

  • Uses natural or LP gas.
  • Burns either natural or LP gas to provide primary or secondary heat to a home.
  • Conventional models require a venting system and a smoke dome or chimney installed through the roof.
  • Newer gas fireplaces can be vented through the wall using a power vent.
  • Built-in units require no special flooring or hearth front.
  • Can be converted to a wood-burning fireplace.

Non-Vented Gas Heater

  • Requires no outside vent.
  • Suitable for zone heating and is clean burning and inexpensive to operate.
  • Uses an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). This device shuts off the heater and the flow of gas to the burner if the oxygen level in the room becomes inadequate. An ODS is required on all unvented heating equipment.
  • Infrared-type heaters of this type use a ceramic radiant or panel that is positioned above the gas burner. The ignited gas gives off a bright orange glow to produce heat. A screen-like guard protects the radiant plaques but they are not otherwise enclosed.
  • Convection-type heaters of this type first warm the air, which then warms the objects. Has burners enclosed within a painted or enamel-coated sheet metal housing that has air openings on the top, front and possibly the sides.

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°.

Vented Gas Log

  • Requires a venting system and a smoke dome or chimney, installed on the roof.
  • Operate at a range of 60,000 to 90,000 BTUs and loose heat as they require the chimney damper to be open.
  • Made of high-temperature, heat-resistant ceramic or cement in a variety of finishes.
  • Place directly on the fire grate or lay on a flame pan covered with a bed of volcanic granules for a more realistic looking fire.
  • Requires no electricity to operate.
  • Fits into fireplaces with a gas hookup and can be installed into any UL-listed, solid fuel burning fireplace.

Kerosene Heater

  • Uses a wick rather than a pressure-fed fuel system.
  • Standard features include an automatic shut-off device to extinguish the flame if the heating unit is bumped or jarred, grills or guards to keep hands away from the surface and push-button battery-powered lighting devices.
  • Some areas do not allow the use of this type of heater. Check with local government agencies.
  • Only use K-1 clear kerosene fuel. Yellow or colored fuel will smoke, smell and hamper wick operation.

Exhaust Fan

  • Used primarily to extract stale air from an attic, kitchen or bathroom.
  • Kitchen fans are installed above the kitchen range or under the range hood and prevent smoke and grease from accumulating in the kitchen and spreading throughout the house. A switch simultaneously starts the fan and opens an outside vent.
  • Bathroom fans may come with an optional light or heater and are used to expel steam and odors from the rooms.
  • Should carry certified sound ratings developed by the Home Ventilating Institute and its member manufacturers. Ratings are in steps of 0.5 sones and 10 (CFM) cubic feet per minute. Limits for sound outputs are 6.5 sones for bathroom fans and 9 sones for kitchen fans up to 500 cfm.

Vent Free Gas Log

  • Operates with the chimney damper closed, thus preventing heat-loss.
  • Has an adjustable input with a maximum of 40,000 BTUs.
  • Any unit made after 1980 includes an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) that shuts off the heater and flow of gas if the oxygen level in a room becomes inadequate.
  • Another safety feature is an automatic shut-off valve to shut off the gas flow if the pilot light is extinguished or the gas flow is interrupted.
  • Made of high-temperature, heat-resistant ceramic or cement in a variety of finishes.
  • Placed directly on the fire grate or lays on a flame pan covered with a bed of volcanic granules for a more realistic looking fire.
  • Requires no electricity to operate.
  • Fits into fireplaces with a gas hookup and can be installed into any UL-listed, solid fuel burning fireplace or in an
  • American Gas Association (AGA) design-certified, vent-free fireplace listed for use.

 

Duct Fan

  • Boosts the flow of air from the central heating system to areas in a house that are hard to heat or cool.
  • Overcomes the added resistance in long duct runs.
  • The prop fan type fits inside the duct.
  • The squirrel cage type fan has the motor mounted outside of the duct.
  • Most models vent about 200 cubic feet per minute in 6” to 8” diameter ducts.
  • Wired in series with the central furnace blower or operated by an auxiliary thermostat.

Whole-House Fan

  • Draws hot air from the living area into the attic where it is vented outside.
  • Installation and operation costs less than an air conditioner.
  • Keeps a gentle breeze stirring throughout the house and can make the temperature seem 2° to 3° cooler.
  • Has louvers that open automatically when the fan is turned on and close when it is turned off to seal out outside air.
  • Rated according to the measurement of cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) that it moves.
  • Fans with variable-speed motors cool the house at higher speeds and maintain general air circulation when turned down.

Fireplace Insert

  • Airtight fireboxes that can be inserted into fireplaces and mimic some of the effects of a wood-burning stove.
  • Most types draw air from the room, circulate it around the insert and return warmed air to the room.
  • Some units have blowers to help distribute the heat.
View category→

Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Floral Snip

  • For pruning, shaping and maintaining houseplants.
  • Usually operates with a scissor action.

Drain Spade

  • Also called a tilling spade.
  • Used for digging ditches.
  • The top of the blade may have a turned lip called the foot pedal.
  • May have a D handle or long handle.

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.

Soaker Hose

  • Uses thousands of tiny holes to allow water to seep out slowly over its entire length.
  • Saves water compared to sprinklers.
  • May be made of canvas, vinyl, plastic or rubber.
  • Can be run on top of the ground, under mulch or buried.
  • If buried, wrap the end of the hose in plastic to prevent dirt clogging it.
  • Generally, vinyl and rubber hoses are the most durable because they do not decay when buried.

Underground Sprinkler

  • Offers timed and pre-measured watering without hoses running through the yard.
  • A basic kit includes pipe and control tubing, valve assembly, sprinklers and electric control center.
  • The safest and most convenient type is the automatic pop-up sprinkler. It can have adjustable spray, bubbler and fixed spray heads for specific watering tasks.
  • Offers water savings as the sprinkler heads apply water at the rate of a gentle rain.
  • Reduces water loss from erosive run-off. System is freeze-proof and can be winterized quickly.
  • Sprinkler heads are mounted flush with the ground and out of the way of mowing equipment and children.
  • Control center runs from any 110V outlet.

Hand Edger

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

 

Lawn Weed Control

  • Weeds are classified as grassy (such as crabgrass), broadleaf (such as dandelions and plantain), annual or perennial.
  • Weed seeds can lie dormant in the ground for several years, then grow again when conditions are right.
  • Spring is the best time to control broadleaf and grassy weeds when they are small and vulnerable. Weed killers are formulated to work best in temperatures between 60°F and 85°F.
  • Pre-emergent herbicides attack weeds before they break the surface of the soil. Apply them early in the spring. Post-emergent herbicides attack the plant after it begins to grow.
  • Selective herbicides kill certain plants but do not harm others. Non-selective herbicides will kill all vegetation they touch.
  • Do not rake or dethatch lawns after applying a pre-emergent herbicide. It will destroy the protective barrier the chemical has created.

Inorganic Fertilizer

  • Dissolves in water to become readily available to plants.
  • Contains ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate.
  • Causes fast growth for a few weeks, but can also cause foliage burn if improperly applied.
  • May contain some synthetic organics, too.

Edger

  • Available in gas-powered or electric versions.
  • A wheel rolls along the ground as a guide while an adjustable blade edges sidewalks and trims around trees.
  • Some models feature padded handles and a vibration reduction system to reduce the strain on the user.
  • Other features include a skid plate to protect the blade gearbox, a debris deflector on the blade and a start/stop control on the handle.

Landscape Snip

  • Used in the garden or as a household tool.
  • Can cut through many types of material.
  • Has a serrated blade.
View category→

Plumbing Terms (100)

Water Supply Tube

  • Steel Supply TubeUsed to connect a water supply line to a faucet fixture, toilet or appliances. Several types available.
  • Plastic type is flexible and inexpensive but not designed for exposed connections.
  • Ribbed chrome type bends easily without kinking.
  • Braided type features pre-attached connector nuts at both ends and can be flexed to fit.
  • Chrome-plated copper or brass tubes are more rigid than other types and are good for exposed applications.
  • The most common size is 3/8″, with lengths ranging from 6″ to 72″.

Soldered Fitting

  • Used to join copper pipe.
  • Unthreaded. Joined by soldering, or sweating, using flux, solder and a torch.

PVC Cutter

  • Used for cutting ABS, PVC and PE pipe.
  • Makes clean cuts with one-handed operation.

Teflon Tape

  • Does the same job as pipe joint compound, but is easier to use.
  • Thin tape applied to pipe threads before joining.
  • Do not use on gas pipes.

Ballcock

  • Also known as a fill valve or inlet valve.
  • Controls refilling the tank.
  • Consists of multiple parts, but is commonly sold as a complete unit. Parts include: upper lever, float rod, lower lever, plunger, valve seat, refill tube, nylon seat, eye screw, body, hush tube, regular shank, shank gasket, lock nut, coupling nut washer, riser pipe and repair shank.
  • Older models use a float ball. When repairing them it is best to replace the entire unit instead of trying to repair its parts.
  • Newer models eliminate the flat ball and may have an anti-siphon feature that keeps toilet water from backing up into the water lines.

Standard Showerhead

  • Usually has full-range, adjustable sprays and features self-cleaning rims and swivel ball joints.
  • Is typically made of chrome-plated brass or plastic. Plastic models are less expensive but also less durable.
  • All new models must meet the federal standard flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute, although some deliver a more satisfying shower than others.

Vinyl Tubing

  • Vinyl TubingEconomical and used in a variety of applications.
  • Usually joined with pressure fittings and clamps.

Threaded Fitting

  • Most commonly used in steel fittings, but some plastic and copper fittings will be threaded.
  • Uses pipe dope or Teflon tape on the threads when joining to prevent leaks and corrosion.
  • If the threads are on the interior, the fitting is female. If the threads are on the exterior, the fitting is male.
  • IPS means Iron Pipe Size, and also refers to threaded pipe.
  • MIP means Male Iron Pipe size. It refers to a male threading that will fit an IPS pipe.
  • FIP means Female Iron Pipe size. It refers to a female threading that will fit an IPS pipe.

Tubing Cutter

  • Primarily used to cut copper pipe.
  • Easier to use than an ordinary hacksaw, and it makes a cleaner cut.
  • Has a single cutting wheel and two rollers that make smooth right-angle cuts.
  • Some have a triangular blade-type reamer that folds out of the way when not in use.
  • Sized to cut material with outside diameters ranging from 1/8″ through 4-1/2″.
  • Major points of wear are rollers, wheels and pins on which they are mounted. When cutter wheels are worn out, they should be replaced; sharpening them is not advisable.
  • Separate cutting wheels for plastic pipe are also available.

Pipe Solvent

  • Glue used to weld together two pieces of plastic pipe.
  • There are different types of solvent for PVC and CPVC.
  • Also available are one-step solvents that combine primer and solvent into one.
View category→

Home Security Terms (35)

Combination Lock

  • User must dial a combination to open the lock.
  • Hardened solid steel alloys make better locks and shackles.

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.

Pin-Tumbler Padlock

  • Provides maximum security for valuables.
  • Pin-tumbler locking mechanisms make padlocks harder for thieves to pick.
  • Tumblers with five or more pins provide the best security, while four pin is the next best.
  • Hardened solid steel and steel alloys make better locks and shackles.
  • Solid extruded brass padlocks are more resistant to rust than steel, but can be damaged more easily.

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.

Tubular Cylinder Padlock

  • Offers many key changes by replacing the cylinder.
  • Usually used in electronic security systems, but some owners of motorcycles and expensive bikes use them as well.
  • Pins are arranged in a circle and are exposed.
  • The key is cylindrical.

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.

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.

Fire Safe

  • Protects valuables and documents exposed to fire.
  • According to UL, a fire safe should maintain an inside temperature below 350º for an hour or more.
  • The safe should also be resistant to rupture and explosion at these temperatures.
  • Some safes can be mounted in walls, floors and other areas.

U-Bar Lock

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

Fire Safety Ladder

  • Used to escape from an upper story window.
  • Comes in varying lengths, but most are sold for second-story rooms.
  • Features include tangle-free designs, compactness and strength ratings of the lines and footsteps.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

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.

Is it all right to replace fuse or circuit breaker with a larger one to prevent them from blowing or tripping?

In most cases the answer is no. They are designed to blow at certain levels to protect equipment and for fire safety.

I have low voltage outdoor lighting. Can I add additional lights?

You will have to look at your transformer to determine what its maximum wattage is. Most bulbs are four watts, but they come in different wattages, you will have to add up what you are currently using.

I’ve noticed that some outlets have a T-shaped neutral slot. What does this do?

It identifies the outlet as a 20-amp grounded receptacle and it should be used only on 20 amp circuits.

How is UF electric wire different from regular Romax cable?

If you lay cable underground, it must be UF (underground feed) cable, which has each individual wire insulated and has plastic wound around the insulated wire for weather and sunlight protection. Romax has a paper product around the wires.

Do all the sockets in my house need to be a GFI?

Only the first one in the series needs to be a GFI (ground fault interrupter).

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

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

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.

The dryer plug will not fit the receptacle in our new house. How can I remedy this?

In most new homes, there should be four-prong dryer and range receptacles. If you have a three prong power cord, you will need to change it.

What is a transformer?

It’s a device that changes the voltage. In most home usage, it reduces the voltage for use on low-voltage equipment, such as thermostats, doorbells and low-voltage outdoor lighting.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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.

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 advantage of the higher priced air filters for furnaces?

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

How can I keep my insulation in the attic from spilling over onto the soffit vent?

Use a baffle in each rafter cavity that contains a soffit vent.

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.

How can I get the most efficient use from my dehumidifier?

Operate the dehumidifier with doors and windows closed. Place the unit away from walls, furniture and other airflow obstructions.

Will these higher-quality air filters last longer?

Actually, since they catch more particulates they typically last a shorter amount of time. Always check the manufacture’s recommendations.

How do I know what is the best type of weather stripping to use?

It depends on what you want to seal. Make sure the type you choose can withstand the friction, weather, temperature changes and wear and tear of the location. If it is intended to seal a door or window, make sure it will seal it well while still allowing it to open freely.

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.

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.

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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

Can you have a garbage disposal if you have a septic system?

Yes, in fact, many manufacturers make models specifically for homes with septic systems.

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.

What do I do if there is a crack in my toilet bowl?

If it is small crack, you can try to repair it. Drain the toilet, dry it off, apply some Plumber’s Goop and let it dry completely before refilling the tank. However, you may have to replace the bowl.

What is the purpose of an aerator on a faucet?

An aerator diffuses the water to prevent splashing.

What is the proper way to join galvanized to copper pipe?

You should use a dielectric union. This will prevent electrolysis from occurring, which deteriorates the copper tubing.

How do I remove the seat?

Use a seat wrench, which has several sizes of square and hex ends.

Are all electric hot water heater elements the same?

Three are three types—screw in, bolt in and clamp in. The also have different wattage ratings and can work on either 120 or 240 voltage.

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.

Can I use an ordinary hacksaw to cut copper pipe?

Yes, but it doesnít do as good a job as a tube cutter, which makes a cleaner cut at a 90-degree angle.

Why isn’t my toilet bowl filling up?

See if you toilet has an overflow pipe. If so, a rubber tube should go into it. It has a metal clip on it and sometimes it can come loose.

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