DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

What’s the best way to sand drywall without getting dust all over my house?

A hand sander that can be connected to a shop vacuum is probably your best bet. In addition, be sure to put up plastic sheeting on doorways to seal off the area being sanded from the rest of the house. And don’t forget to close registers and seal off heat returns to keep dust from entering the home’s duct work and HVAC system.

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.

How do I determine how much molding to buy?

Measure the length of the area requiring molding. Round off the number to the next full foot. If you determine you need 33’ of molding, you should buy at least 34’. If you are going to be cutting a lot of miter joints, remember that those cuts create waste. Add 10 percent of the total length to the amount you purchase.

Should I use 3 mil visqueen or 4 mil visqueen?

The 4 mil is thicker, which makes it more durable. The 3 mil is not as good, but if it’s for a short one-time use, it is a little less expensive. For example, it could be used as a disposable drop cloth.

How much is a board foot?

A board foot is a basic unit of measurement for lumber equal to 144 cubic inches. To calculate board feet, multiply the length in inches by width in inches by thickness and divide by 144 inches. For example, if you have a 1” thick board that is 96” long and 6” wide, then the calculation would be  96 x 6 x 1=576. When you divide 576 by 144 you get 4.

How do I keep plywood from splintering or chipping when I cut it?

First of all, you’ll want to use a blade designed for cutting plywood, usually with small teeth. If you are using a handheld circular saw, place the good face, the face you want to be seen, downward. If you are using a table saw, place the good face upward. This way, the only splintering occurs on the unseen face.

What is Type C gypsum board?

Type C gypsum board meets all of the requirements of Type X board, but it includes additional properties to enhance its fire resistance.

What’s the difference between a laminate and an engineered floor?

An engineered floor contains a top layer of real wood attached to layers of plywood or a durable, medium density fiberboard. Laminate flooring contains no real wood and only composite materials with a print that simulates the appearance of wood.

What color should the grout be?

Choose grout color based on your design preference. For a uniform, blended look, use a color that complements the tile color. For a more dramatic, grid effect, chose a different color.

Can I install paneling over a brick or concrete surface?

First you will need to install furring strips over the masonry surface. Then, attach the paneling to the furring strips.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

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.

Anchoring Cement

  • Used for setting bolts, handrails or anything to be set in concrete.
  • Develops a strength greater than concrete.

Interior Plywood

  • A laminate made from thin sheets of wood called veneers.
  • Layers are glued perpendicular to the next, creating a strong, stiff panel.
  • Varying thicknesses are available. The most common are 1/4” and 3/4”.
  • Sheets usually measure 4’x 8’. Other sizes may be available.
  • Most common wood type is Douglas fir and Southern pine.
  • Available in a wide range of grades, with the most common being C-D, Exposure 1 (usually called CDX or sheathing).
  • Another popular grade is A-D Exposure 1, which is suitable when only one paintable side is needed.

Corner Bead

  • Used to protect and decorate the outside corners of an interior wall.
  • An alternative to clear plastic corners

V-Type Weather Strip

  • Once the door is closed, the open ends of the V shape close together, with one end of the V touching the door and the other adhered to the door.
  • Forms an airtight seal.
  • Spring-metal tension strips are more difficult to install than adhesive-backed tension strips made of vinyl, but are the best permanent type.

Utility Sink

  • Also called a laundry sink.
  • Provides an extra deep, multi-purpose single bowl for pre-washing laundry or washing out items like paint brushes not suitable or other more expensive sinks.
  • Sturdy, durable and often made of fiberglass.

Felt Paper

  • Also called building paper.
  • Installed under shingles.
  • Composed of a tough, fibrous base saturated with asphalt.

Splash Block

  • Diverts water away from the foundation of the house.
  • Only works if the grade of soil is already pitched away from the house’s foundation.

Acetone

  • Fast acting thinner, cleaner and remover for resins, inks, adhesives and contact cement.
  • Also used for thinning and cleaning fiberglass.
  • A heavy degreaser, it can be used as a metal cleaner prior to painting.

Siliconized Acrylic Caulk

  • Combines silicone with acrylic latex formulas for improved water resistance.
  • This medium-performance, water-based caulk can withstand greater movement than acrylic latex.
  • Can be used for interior or exterior with good adhesion, even to glass and ceramic tile.
  • It also comes in a variety of colors as well as clear formulas.
  • It applies easily (though best applied in temperatures above 40° F), is non-flammable, paintable, mildew-resistant and cleans with water.
  • It endures moderate temperature changes, with a life expectancy of about 25-35 years.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Track Lighting

  • A system of movable lights wired to a metal track that makes a great accent lighting choice for living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms.
  • Available in many colors, sizes and shapes, is easy to install and flexible since the lights can be moved around and repositioned.

Range and Dryer Cords

  • Range and dryer cords are free-end types, commonly called “pigtails,” attached directly to the appliance. Free ends are fitted with cable terminals that connect to screw terminals of the appliance to assure positive connections. A metal clamp attached to the cable serves as a strain relief at the point where the cable enters an appliance and a cord protector.
  • Heavy-duty attachment plugs for ranges and dryers are much larger than standard attachment plugs. Most are “L” shaped with a power cord feeding out the side of the plug.
  • Sizes range from 30 to 50 amps for dryers and ranges. The different amperage attachment plugs are not interchangeable because of a difference in their configuration.
  • A recent change in the National Electrical Code requires new range and dryer receptacle installations to be 3-pole, 4-wire grounding receptacles. The neutral (grounded circuit conductor) can no longer be used to ground the frames of electrical ranges and dryers.

Single-Pole Switch

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

Plug Body

  • Adapts a light socket for use as a single outlet.

Fish Tape

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

Can Light

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

Thin-Wall Conduit

  • Also known as EMT (electric metallic tubing).
  • Steel pipe used to carry house wiring in places where it is exposed.
  • Comes in inside diameters of 1/2” to 4”. 1/2” is most common.
  • Do not use underground.

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

Twin Light Adapter

  • Adapts a single light socket for a double light socket.
  • Y-shaped and holds bulbs at an angle from one another.

 

Electrical Tape

  • Most common type is plastic, usually 3/4” wide.
  • Handy for many uses. In electrical work, it is used to cover bare wires after they have been exposed.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

Can I bury electrical cable directly under the ground without conduit?

Always check local codes. But generally, UF cable (underground feeder and branch-circuit cable) may be buried without conduit. It is rated for dry, damp, wet or corrosive locations. Do not embed it in concrete. NM (or nonmetallic-sheathed cable) should not be buried due to damage from moisture.

What is the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight?

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

What is a polarized plug?

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

What tool should I use to strip the plastic sheathing off wire?

A combination wire stripper tool has openings that fit different sizes of wire. When a wire is put into the correct one and pulled it will remove the covering without damaging the wire.

I am running an underground cable in my lawn, what should I use to connect the wires?

You can use waterproof wire nuts if you do not have a waterproof box.

What do numbers on electrical cable mean?

They refer to the number and types of wire inside the cable. For example, 14-2 means the cable has two 14-gauge wires inside. 12-3 G means the cable has three 12-gauge wires plus a bare ground wire.

Can I bury conduit?

Use plastic conduit if you want to bury a conduit to carry an electrical line. Make sure the joints are waterproof.

Do four-foot fluorescent fixtures come in different wattages?

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

I have some tools that have three prongs, but the outlet I want to use has only two prongs. Can I safely cut the extra prong off?

No, the third prong is the grounding prong. If you cut it off or use a plug adapter that is not grounded, you will disable a feature that is designed to protect against electrical shock.

Is there a tool for removing the outer sheathing on cables such as Romex?

A utility knife will work, but an inexpensive a cable ripper is designed for the task and will not damage the wires inside.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

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.

Anchoring Cement

  • Used for setting bolts, handrails or anything to be set in concrete.
  • Develops a strength greater than concrete.

Interior Plywood

  • A laminate made from thin sheets of wood called veneers.
  • Layers are glued perpendicular to the next, creating a strong, stiff panel.
  • Varying thicknesses are available. The most common are 1/4” and 3/4”.
  • Sheets usually measure 4’x 8’. Other sizes may be available.
  • Most common wood type is Douglas fir and Southern pine.
  • Available in a wide range of grades, with the most common being C-D, Exposure 1 (usually called CDX or sheathing).
  • Another popular grade is A-D Exposure 1, which is suitable when only one paintable side is needed.

Corner Bead

  • Used to protect and decorate the outside corners of an interior wall.
  • An alternative to clear plastic corners

V-Type Weather Strip

  • Once the door is closed, the open ends of the V shape close together, with one end of the V touching the door and the other adhered to the door.
  • Forms an airtight seal.
  • Spring-metal tension strips are more difficult to install than adhesive-backed tension strips made of vinyl, but are the best permanent type.

Utility Sink

  • Also called a laundry sink.
  • Provides an extra deep, multi-purpose single bowl for pre-washing laundry or washing out items like paint brushes not suitable or other more expensive sinks.
  • Sturdy, durable and often made of fiberglass.

Felt Paper

  • Also called building paper.
  • Installed under shingles.
  • Composed of a tough, fibrous base saturated with asphalt.

Splash Block

  • Diverts water away from the foundation of the house.
  • Only works if the grade of soil is already pitched away from the house’s foundation.

Acetone

  • Fast acting thinner, cleaner and remover for resins, inks, adhesives and contact cement.
  • Also used for thinning and cleaning fiberglass.
  • A heavy degreaser, it can be used as a metal cleaner prior to painting.

Siliconized Acrylic Caulk

  • Combines silicone with acrylic latex formulas for improved water resistance.
  • This medium-performance, water-based caulk can withstand greater movement than acrylic latex.
  • Can be used for interior or exterior with good adhesion, even to glass and ceramic tile.
  • It also comes in a variety of colors as well as clear formulas.
  • It applies easily (though best applied in temperatures above 40° F), is non-flammable, paintable, mildew-resistant and cleans with water.
  • It endures moderate temperature changes, with a life expectancy of about 25-35 years.
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FAQs (0)

What’s the best way to sand drywall without getting dust all over my house?

A hand sander that can be connected to a shop vacuum is probably your best bet. In addition, be sure to put up plastic sheeting on doorways to seal off the area being sanded from the rest of the house. And don’t forget to close registers and seal off heat returns to keep dust from entering the home’s duct work and HVAC system.

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.

How do I determine how much molding to buy?

Measure the length of the area requiring molding. Round off the number to the next full foot. If you determine you need 33’ of molding, you should buy at least 34’. If you are going to be cutting a lot of miter joints, remember that those cuts create waste. Add 10 percent of the total length to the amount you purchase.

Should I use 3 mil visqueen or 4 mil visqueen?

The 4 mil is thicker, which makes it more durable. The 3 mil is not as good, but if it’s for a short one-time use, it is a little less expensive. For example, it could be used as a disposable drop cloth.

How much is a board foot?

A board foot is a basic unit of measurement for lumber equal to 144 cubic inches. To calculate board feet, multiply the length in inches by width in inches by thickness and divide by 144 inches. For example, if you have a 1” thick board that is 96” long and 6” wide, then the calculation would be  96 x 6 x 1=576. When you divide 576 by 144 you get 4.

How do I keep plywood from splintering or chipping when I cut it?

First of all, you’ll want to use a blade designed for cutting plywood, usually with small teeth. If you are using a handheld circular saw, place the good face, the face you want to be seen, downward. If you are using a table saw, place the good face upward. This way, the only splintering occurs on the unseen face.

What is Type C gypsum board?

Type C gypsum board meets all of the requirements of Type X board, but it includes additional properties to enhance its fire resistance.

What’s the difference between a laminate and an engineered floor?

An engineered floor contains a top layer of real wood attached to layers of plywood or a durable, medium density fiberboard. Laminate flooring contains no real wood and only composite materials with a print that simulates the appearance of wood.

What color should the grout be?

Choose grout color based on your design preference. For a uniform, blended look, use a color that complements the tile color. For a more dramatic, grid effect, chose a different color.

Can I install paneling over a brick or concrete surface?

First you will need to install furring strips over the masonry surface. Then, attach the paneling to the furring strips.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What should I look for when buying a saber saw?

Look to see if the mechanism for adjusting the base plate is sturdy. On less expensive models these are weak and will eventually wobble making it difficult to cut accurately. Look for a model that draws 3 amps and has variable speed.

What are some attachments besides drill bits I can use on my drill press?

You can use rotary rasps, sanding attachments and even a rotary planer for small pieces.

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 does a sandpaper holder help me sand?

A sanding block helps speed up sanding jobs, relieves strain on your hands and makes your sandpaper last longer.

Do you have a tool for cutting chicken wire?

Yes, tin snips are a good choice for cutting many kinds of mesh wire.

How long of a tape measure should I buy?

A 12-foot-long tape is handy for most household work, but I recommend a 25-foot one because it can also be used for carpentry, plumbing, and other major projects.

The staples I am using do not go far enough into the wood, what do you recommend?

Your stapler does not have enough power to drive the staple into the hard surface. If you can, use a shorter staple or you will have to use a more powerful tool.

What types of power sanders are there?

The four most common are belt sanders, finish sanders, orbital sanders and random orbital sander.

Can I use my circular saw to cut masonry?

Use an abrasive wheel looks like a thin grinding wheel. It can also be used to cut fiberglass and light metal.

Can I sharpen the blades of my snips using a file or sharpening stone?

Generally no. Most do-it-yourselfers don’t have the type of sharpening device needed to sharpen the blades of snips. It’s probably best to purchase a new pair and properly maintain the blades.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Hand Truck

  • Also known as a dollie.
  • Use to haul trash cans, packages, firewood, etc.
  • Capacity ranges from 100 to 400 lbs., depending on the model.
  • Has either a solid metal toe plate or tubular shape to support the load.
  • Handle styles include pin, safety, continuous or upright.
  • Variations include a bag truck. It performs the same task as a hand truck but also incorporates a hoop to hold plastic trash bags with an elastic cord encircling the hoop. The hoop attaches to the frame to hold varying sizes of lawn bags.

Self-Adjusting Pliers

• Feature an adjustable pivot with handles that allow compound movement.

• They have deep teeth and curved jaws that stay parallel as the handles are squeezed.

• Designed to provide additional leverage and gripping power.

 

Jeweler’s Screwdriver

  • Has a rotating head that is held by the forefinger to steady the screwdriver while the thumb and middle finger turn the screwdriver to remove or install small screws.
  • Mainly used by jewelers and hobbyists and others who often work with very small screws.
  • Generally manufactured in sizes ranging from .025” to .1”.
  • Usually available in sets with Phillips and slotted tips.

 

Wood Chisel

  • Comes in a variety of sizes and styles. The butt chisel has a short blade that ranges from about 2-1/2″-3″ long. It is used by pattern makers, cabinetmakers, carpenters and do-it-yourselfers for carving and paring, particularly in tight spots. It can be used with hard-faced hammers.
  • A firmer chisel is square-sided, medium-duty chisel and has a longer blade, usually from 3-1/2″-6″ and is used mainly for cutting deeply into wood. It should be used with soft-faced hammers.
  • Paring chisels are for light-duty, detailed work such as trimming cabinets.

 

Fuse Puller

  • Used to remove cartridge-type fuses.

Precision Knife

  • A pencil-sized tool used for precision cutting of lightweight materials, such as paper or poster board.
  • Also called a hobby knife or X-Acto® knife.
  • Ultra-sharp blades made from surgical steel come in a variety of sizes in triangle and curved shapes.
  • Contains a built-in chuck to hold and secure blades.
  • Some models feature blade storage in the handle.

 

Combination Square

  • Has a grooved blade and head that can be adjusted (by loosening the thumbscrew) to many locations along the 12” blade to provide different measurements and for scribing.
  • One edge of the head (which is usually metal or plastic) has a 90-degree fence for crosscutting while the other has a 45-degree angle for use as a miter square.
  • The head also contains one level vial to check for level and plumb and a scratch awl for scribing.
  • Some combination square sets are available with an attached protractor that is movable throughout 180º for setting the blade at any angle within that range.

Stud Finder

  • Stud finders are devices that help locate wall studs, enabling you to hang pictures, mirrors and shelves securely.
  • Come in two basic types—electronic, which finds the stud by measuring the density of the wall, and magnetic, which detects nails and/or metal studs in the wall.
  • In addition to wood and metal studs, some advanced electronic stud finders will locate pipe, conduit, electrical wires and even reinforcing bar buried up to 6” in concrete.

Splitting Wedge

  • Tool used to finish splitting wood when struck with splitting maul after a starting notch is made.
  • Made of steel, aluminum and plastic.
  • Steel wedges are forged from a solid piece of high-carbon steel and may be heat-treated.
  • Aluminum and plastic wedges are designed primarily for use with chain saws and crosscut saws to hold the kerf apart to prevent binding.
  • Wedges should be struck with a sledge or woodchopper’s maul having a larger striking face than the head of the wedge.
  • Never strike the steel wedge with the cutting edge of the maul.

Bar Clamp

  • Has a clamping device built on a flat bar, which is usually made of steel.
  • The length of the bar determines the capacity of the clamp, which is the dimension of the largest object that can be accommodated between its clamping jaws.
  • “Reach” is the distance from the edge of the bar to the end of the clamping jaws.
  • Screw pressure applies the final clamping load.
  • Bar clamps are used for clamping large objects, making them popular with woodworkers and hobbyists.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Casement Operator

  • Limits and controls the swing of an unlatched casement.
  • Consists of a lever and a handle crank. Cranking the handle opens the window.
  • Certain models allow the casement to be opened outward without removing the screen.

Plate 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.
  • If casters are to be used on furniture, consider the occupied weight of the piece rather than the furniture weight alone.
  • Designed to be attached to the furniture with screws or bolts.

Sisal Rope

  • A twisted rope that can be used where it is likely to be discarded after each use and where strength is not important.
  • Do not use where personal safety or valuable property is involved.
  • Good resistance to sunlight and stretches little.
  • Polypropylene has largely displaced sisal in low-cost usage.

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.

Threaded Rod

  • Rod with continuous thread from one end to the other.
  • Available in different diameters.
  • Used where extra-long bolts are required.
  • Can be bent to make U-bolts, eye bolts and J-bolts.

 

Lag Screw Shield

  • Used inside drilled holes to provide anchors in the hole for lag bolts as they are wrenched into the shield.
  • As the screw enters the shield, the shield expands and grips the interior.
  • Horizontal fins prevent the shield from turning in the hole while tapered ribs ease insertion and ensure against slips.

Upholstery Nail

  • Has ornamental or colored heads.
  • Used to fasten upholstery where nails will show.

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.

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.

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.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What do I need to know to buy the right type of caulk?

The type of caulk you use will depend on the following factors:

  • Where it will be applied?
  • What type of surfaces will be bonded or caulked?
  • How much stress or movement will the joint be subject to?

What can I use to tighten up a sagging clothesline?

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

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

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

What are the advantages of a carriage bolt?

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

I have a tarp that I want to tie down. What should I use?

The easiest way is to use a grommet tool and grommets.

What Type of Ladder Should I Buy?

The major points to consider when selecting a ladder are:

  • The kind of activity involved—The intended activity will make the choice obvious. For example, a stepladder would be the choice to paint interior walls and ceilings, while an extension ladder usually is needed to paint outside. If the job involves more effort than usual, or will require more time on the ladder, you should probably by a platform ladder instead of a stepladder.
  • The demands of the application— All ladders are designed to hold a certain weight. Therefore, ladders are matched or “job-rated” to the physical demands of the application. For instance, a ladder used daily on a construction site obviously should have a sturdier construction than the ladder used a few times a year around the house. The most important factor is the rated load capacity—the aggregate working weight of the user, his clothing and his tools. For that reason, the duty rating is described in terms of pounds. (See Pro Corner for more information.) Every ladder’s duty rating is color-coded. A label in the appropriate color is prominently displayed on the side rail. Look for the proper duty ratings to match the highest level of use.
  • The height the ladder must reach so the climber may work from a safe position—Stepladders should be high enough for the user not to have to stand above the second step from the top. (The first step from the top carries a label warning the user not to stand there.) On extension ladders, the user should stand no more than four rungs from the top, which should extend 3’ above the work surface. The base of the ladder should be one-fourth the distance from the top support of the ladder to its bottom support.
  • The basic material from which the ladder is made—The most common materials for ladders are wood, aluminum and fiberglass.
  • Wood ladders are non-conductive when clean and dry. They also offer a natural, firm grip for the worker’s feet and hands. However, wood ladders are heavy.
  • Fiberglass ladders offer a favorable blend of the more desirable qualities of wood and aluminum. It’s non-conductive (like dry, clean wood) but made of sturdy modern materials (like aluminum). If you are planning to use the ladder in a variety of circumstances, a fiberglass ladder is the best choice.
  • Aluminum ladders are lightweight, provide excellent strength and offer reliable performance. Aluminum ladders are corrosion-resistant and require little if any maintenance. They conduct electricity, however, so they should never be used when working near electrical lines.

 

What do I use to hang a plant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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.

What is the easiest way to shut out cold air coming in around my aluminum door?

A stick-on foam tape works well on aluminum, but it must be applied when the surface is warm and dry.

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.

Do I have to get on the roof to clean the chimney?

Brushes are now available for cleaning chimneys from the inside. It’s made easier with the many brush accessories available, including extension rods, smaller brushes for cleaning in closer areas and connecting hardware such as loops, adapters and couplings.

Where should I place my air conditioner to get the most out of it?

Place window air conditioners in a window that is shaded most of the time and will allow maximum air circulation into the room or rooms to be cooled.

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.

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.

Which is more energy-efficient: vented or non-vented gas logs?

Vented gas logs are less fuel efficient than non-vented logs. Vented logs operate somewhere between 60,000 to 90,000 BTUs and lose heat because they require the chimney damper to remain open.

How do I know how large of an air conditioner I need?

The BTU rating of the air conditioner gives you its capacity. To find what BTU rating you need, multiple the square feet of the room by 25, adding 1,000 for every window and 400 for each occupant. Example: A room measures 12’ x 15’ with two windows and two occupants. The formula works out to 180 sq. ft. x 25 = 4,500 + 2,000 for the windows + 800 for the occupants = 7,300, or a 7,000 – 8,000 BTU air conditioner.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

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.

Duct Insulation

  • Insulates ductwork to minimize heat loss and improve efficiency.
  • Available either as self-stick vinyl foam with aluminum foil backing or in handy rolls of 1-1/4” thick fiberglass combined with aluminum foil.

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.

Chimney Cleaner

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

Ultrasonic Humidifier

  • Uses high-frequency energy to break the water up into tiny droplets, which are then dispersed into the air by a small fan.
  • Quiet and use little energy.
  • Has the potential of leaving a sticky white dust around the house if used with hard tap water.
  • Can pose health risks if the unit raises the level of airborne particles in the air.
  • For best results and to prevent pollutants in the air, use distilled water with this type of humidifier.

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.

Grate

  • Holds burning logs off the hearth.
  • Prevents logs from rolling forward.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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.

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate

What are the different types of smoke detectors?

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

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

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

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

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Home Security Terms (35)

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.

Gun Lock

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

Passage Lockset

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

Trailer Lock

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

Privacy Lockset

  • An interior lockset.
  • Designed for privacy rather than for security.
  • Has a locking button on the inside knob but no key device on the outside knob.
  • Can be either a knob or a lever.
  • In an emergency, the lock can be opened from the outside by inserting a narrow object through the small hole in the outside knob and either depressing or turning the locking mechanism inside, depending on the type of lock.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

I always clean the grates on my grill, but do I need to clean my burner cover bars after each use to keep pests away?

No, just use a wire brush on them from time to time. They sit close enough to the flame from the burner that any drips from above will burn away when the grill is turned on high.

When should I dethatch my lawn?

Dethatch after thatch on the ground has built up past 1/2 inch. Some thatch on the ground is useful as it acts as insulation, holding in moisture and keeping out high heat. Too much thatch can prevent moisture, air and nutrients from reaching the soil. It also encourages pests and lawn disease.

What is a good all-around, multi-purpose fertilizer?

A 12-12-12 helps promote growth and is good for all vegetables, flowers, fruit and nut trees, shade trees, evergreens and shrubs. A 1-1-1 ratio (10-10-10,15-15-15, 20-20-20, etc.) is widely used at the time of lawn establishment, but established lawns generally respond better to fertilizer ratios high in nitrogen. Two of the more common complete fertilizers used by homeowners for flowers and vegetables are 10-10-10 and 5-10-10. A high phosphorus fertilizer such as 6-18-6 is often recommended for vegetables when transplants are set out.

Do you have an ice melter that will not damage concrete or adjoining grass?

Yes, one option is a product that uses a specially formulated corn derivative.

When and how do I apply mulch?

Summer is the best time. Applying in the spring slows the soil’s ability to warm naturally. Coarse mulches should be applied 3” to 4” deep, and fine mulches 1” to 2” deep. It should be wet thoroughly after application. One cubic foot of coarse mulch should cover about 3 to 4 square feet of space.

What is an outdoor edger?

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

Which are better, plastic or metal trashcans

? Most people prefer the heavy-duty plastic models because they do not bend or get out of shape as easily. However, metal cans make good storage containers for things such as birdseed, when you want to protect the contents from mice, rats, squirrels and insects.

What is a soaker hose?

It is a hose that is blocked at the end and moisture seeps through its walls. It can be woven through a garden to provide water directly onto the soil.

So how do I prevent ice dams from happening on my roof?

Three ways. If you are installing a new roof, you can install an ice/water shield as an underlayment to the shingles. Second, you should have adequate insulation in the attic to keep heat from escaping, which causes the snow to melt. Third, the attic should have adequate ventilation to allow the roof deck to evenly cool and help prevent snow on the roof from melting.

How often should I give my grill a thorough scrubbing?

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

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Hedge Shear

  • Used to shape ornamental shrubs and clip soft, young growth.
  • Blades are typically 8” to 10” long.
  • Some types have a serrated edge.
  • Some types have notched positions for bulk cuts.
  • Do not use in place of lopping shears or hand shears.

Ditching Spade

  • For digging and clearing trenches.
  • Has a pointed square blade.
  • Best for use in heavy soil or rocky surfaces.
  • The top of the blade may have a turned lip called the foot pedal.

Bulb Planter

  • Used to plant or transplant flower bulbs or small plants.
  • The user twists the tool back and forth into the ground while pushing it into the ground. When desired depth is reached, remove the tool from the soil. It will pull up a core of earth with it.

Hose Hanger

  • Provides compact and efficient hose storage.
  • Mounts easily to the side of a house or garage.
  • Hose is simply draped over hanger brackets for easy storage.

Lawn Cart

  • Also called a utility cart.
  • Carries bulky material such as mulch, shrubs or fertilizer around the yard.
  • Can be made of metal, poly plastic or wood and has two wheels.
  • Has a V or hopper-shaped bottom and a front spout for easy dumping.
  • Typical capacity is 3 to 4 cu. ft.
  • Features may include deep tool trays to keep tools organized and tool clips on the side for hanging garden tools.

Downspout

  • Attaches to the gutter to carry water down the side of the house.
  • Rainfall capacity of a guttering system is largely dependent on the size and number of downspouts rather than strictly gutter size.
  • Downspouts are usually rectangular in shape and come in 10’ lengths.
  • Popular sizes of downspouts are 2”x3”, 3”x4” and 4”x5”.

Lawn Disease Control

  • Controls fungus-related diseases that destroy healthy lawn turf.
  • Fungi adheres to the plant, steals food from and/or deposits toxic substances in the cells of the plant.
  • Some types of disease controls are granular chemicals while others are liquids.
  • Homeowners who use a mixture of grasses have a better chance of their lawn surviving a disease as most diseases attack one specific type of grass.
  • Common types of lawn fungi are snow mold, leaf spot and dollar spot.
  • Snow Mold attacks grass any time from late fall to early spring. Grass turns a reddish color or tan to gray. It can destroy small areas or complete lawns.
  • Leaf Spot results in brown or black spots on leaves and can occur through a wet, cool fall, winter and spring season. Thinning of the lawn may not be noticeable, but leaf activity is quite pronounced.
  • Dollar Spot starts in mid-spring and/or when weather is moist and cool. Damaged spots are a bleached straw color. A cobweb-like growth is a sign the fungus is active.

Dry Fertilizer

  • Combines nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • With some types, there is a danger of burning the lawn if applied too heavily or not watered immediately.
  • Spreads with a lawn spreader.

Leaf Blower

  • Also called blowers.
  • Uses a high-powered fan to clear the yard, driveway, deck, etc, of leaves and debris.
  • Most common model is hand-held, although some are wheeled.
  • Some models can be converted into a vacuum that collects leaves and debris into a bag.
  • Some vacuum models will turn leaves into mulch.
  • Available in gasoline and cordless models.
  • Gasoline models are typically two-cycle.

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.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Do I need to prime my ceiling before painting it?

While it’s always a good idea to prime before painting, unless you ceiling has stains, you probably don’t need to because it doesn’t take the abuse and get as dirty as walls typically do.

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.

Can I store unused spray paint?  Sometimes I have paint left in an old can of spray paint but the tip is clogged.

Paint dries in the tip if you do not flush it out. When you are finished with your project, you can turn the can upside down for a few seconds and spray. The propellant will blow out the remaining paint that is in the tip.

How many coats of varnish do I need to apply?

Generally, from two to four coats, applied in thin layers.

What type of paint is best for my project?

Price matters. The more expensive it is, the better performance you will get. You want to understand the types of binders and solids in your paint because they affect the coverage.

Less expensive paints may only cover up to 200-feet, but more expensive ones will go further with fewer coats.

The inside of my grill needs painting. What type of paint should I use?

If you need to touch up the paint on the non-porcelain surfaces of your grill, such as the endcaps or the cook box, use a high heat-resistant Barbecue Black or Fireplace Black spray paint that is rated up to 700 degrees F. First wash the surface and use some fine sandpaper to rough up any bare spots. Then be sure to mask off and cover the porcelain hood so you don’t get paint on it. For the cook box, first cover any other parts of the grill with paper or cardboard, then use the spray to touch them up.

How much glaze will I need for an average room?

It depends, but generally one quart of tinted paint to six quarts of glaze is common. When using acrylic glaze, the ratio increases to one quart of tinted paint to eight quarts of glaze.

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’s the best way to apply varnish?

The best type of room is one that is not too humid and is about 70 to 75 degrees. To protect against debris from getting onto the finished piece, the room should be free from dust. You might even consider mopping the room or covering the floor with paper. Make sure that the surface to be varnished is clean, dry and free of any finishes.Try to have the piece horizontal. In addition, to mix the varnish, stir it. Don’t shake it, because air bubbles can get into your finished piece.

What is the difference between two paints?

Different types of paint with have different amounts of solids and resins in it. Some even come with warranties from 15 years to a lifetime.

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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.

 

Varnish

  • Is a blend of oils and resins that coat the surface of wood to give it a transparent, protective coating, allowing the beauty of the wood to show through.
  • It can leave a gloss, semi-gloss or satin finish, depending on its formulation.
  • Varnishes fall into three groups, divided by their base: alkyd, latex or phenolic.
  • Phenolic varnishes of modified phenolic oils deliver the best durability, especially in exterior uses. They absorb ultraviolet light and neutralize oxidation. However, they also tend to yellow faster than other varnishes.
  • Alkyd varnishes offer flexibility and hardness in both interior and exterior uses, but in exterior use they oxidize more quickly. However, they do not yellow as much as phenolics.
  • Latex varnishes offer the advantages of oil-based coatings and the cleanup convenience of a water based coating. The acrylic coatings take from 30 to 90 minutes to dry and do not yellow the wood. Some acrylic-based varnishes are even durable enough for use on floors; check manufacturers’ recommendations.
  • Varnishes are also typically mixed with a tung oil or linseed oil.

Brush and Roller Cleaner

  • Restores hard brushes and washes away oil and latex paints as well as varnish.
  • Reduces cleaning effort and helps applicators last longer.
  • Most formulations will not harm either natural or nylon bristle brushes, but they can harm synthetic bristles. Synthetic brushes should be cleaned in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Safer to use and less odor than paint thinner.
  • Can also be used to remove paint from hands.

Stippling Brush

  • Brush used to create stippling effect which is a faux technique that gives an aged look to new surfaces.
  • Stippling involves using the brush to paint criss-cross patterns using glaze over a base coat. The brush bristles are then used to dab on glaze to achieve the desired look.

Paintbrush Comb

  • Used to clean paint and other coatings out of paintbrushes.
  • Simply run comb through paint brush filaments while running under warm water or while soaking in solvent-based cleaners for oil-based paints.

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.

Polyurethane

  • Comes in water-based and oil-based formulations.
  • Recommended for interior use on floors and many times wood furniture because of its excellent protection.
  • Polyurethane stains are better used for interior applications for water-resistance and hard use, but do produce a rather plastic appearance. For a more natural-looking gloss, use an Alkyd for furniture and indoor architectural trim and doors.
  • It is generally not recommended for outdoor use because it will yellow and crack when exposed to ultraviolet light—unless ultraviolet light absorbers are added.

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.

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.

Tack Cloth

  • A varnish-impregnated, open-mesh cloth that picks up and holds loose dirt, lint, sand and other foreign particles adhering to wood, metal, plaster and other surfaces.
  • Used to clean surfaces immediately before applying each coat and between sanding.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

What is an under-mount sink?

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

Can I use a copper tube cutter to cut PVC pipe?

While there are separate cutting wheels available for plastic pipe, such as PVC, you would probably be better off buying a PVC cutter.

What are the working parts of a toilet?

The refill valve, the flush valve and the trip lever.

My sump pump runs constantly, do I need to buy a new one?

It could just be a bad switch that is easy to replace.

Can I attach metal fittings and plastic fittings?

Yes, there are transition fittings that make this possible.

Which is better for sealing—Teflon™ tape or thread joint compound?

They do the same job, but Teflon™ tape is easier to work with and makes a cleaner joint.

I am not getting enough hot water from my gas water heater. What could be the cause of this?

The thermostat may be set too low, otherwise it the burner is probably not burning correctly. If that’s the case, it’s best to call a service technician.

When sweating copper, should I use propane gas in the blue cylinder or and propylene gas in the yellow cylinder?

Either one will work. The difference is that propylene in the yellow cylinder burns hotter. It has a flame temperature of 3,600 degrees F opposed to 3,450 degrees F for propane. A hotter flame means it can heat the pipe faster so it is ready to solder sooner. The higher temperature can also overcome the effects of a small amount of water left in the line, which is common in plumbing retrofits. The negative of propylene is the cost: about three times that of propane.

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

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

Why is my toilet refilling every 10 minutes. What is the problem?

More than likely, water is leaking from the tank into the bowl. This could be the result of the lift chain being tangled which isn’t letting the flapper seat properly. A build-up of scale or hard water deposits on the seat of the flapper might also be preventing the flapper from seating properly. Remove this scale with steel wool or with No. 500 abrasive paper.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Traps

  • Installed under sinks and tubs to route wastewater to the drain.
  • Bridges the gap between the sink tailpiece and the drain line.
  • The bend in the trap uses gravity to hold water and prevent sewer gas from seeping into the house.
  • Attach using slip nuts
  • Three configurations include: P trap, S trap and J bend.
  • Most common sizes are 1-1/4” and 1-1/2”.
  • Also available is a trap with flexible tubes that help in connecting misalignments of the tailpiece and the drain line.
  • Available in plastic and chrome-plated brass.

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.

Pipe Threader

  • Uses a die head to create threads on unthreaded pipe ends
  • The hand tool type revolves around a stationary pipe. It is good for threading pipe on the job.
  • With the powered type, the tool stays stationary while the pipe revolves into the die.
  • Always use thread cutting oil for best results.

Pipe Primer

  • Used in conjunction with pipe solvent.
  • Prepares plastic pipe for solvent by softening its surface.
  • Some primers also contain a cleaner that helps remove surface dirt and grease from 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.

Continental Shower

  • A versatile wall and hand shower combined.
  • Some brands feature on-off flow control built into the handle, which is a brass push-button diverter valve that permits instant switch from showerhead to hand shower and a 6′ flexible hose and hang-up bracket.
  • It can be easily attached to existing shower arms.

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 Fitting

  • Achieves a watertight seal by tightening a nut, which compresses a ring onto the pipe.
  • Avoids threading, gluing or soldering a pipe connection.
  • Used with water supply tubes or other unthreaded ends of pipe.
  • Can also be used to connect two different types of pipe, such as plastic and copper.
  • Can be removed and reinstalled or retightened.

Seat Dresser

  • Also known as a faucet seat reamer or valve seat-grinding tool.
  • Used to smooth a faucet seat. Seats may not operate properly if they collect corrosion or calcium deposits or become rough with wear.
  • Inexpensive ones often have 1/2″ and 5/8″ cutters.

Pipe Cleaner

  • Use in conjunction with pipe solvent and primer.
  • Removes surface dirt and grease from plastic pipe.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Detail Sander

  • Used for sanding detail work and in tight spots.
  • Easy to handle.
  • Can accept a variety of attachments for particular applications.
  • Some models have orbital action sanding, while others use a pivot drive that moves the pad in a small arc.

Air Compressors

  • Used to power pneumatic tools such as nailers, sprayers and pressure washers.
  • Rated on cubic feet per minute of air volume output (cfm), pounds per square inch of air pressure input (psi) and horsepower (hp). The higher the ratings on any of these, the more versatile the compressor.
  • The most important rating is the cfm, because it indicates the amount of air volume needed to operate various tools. Match the cfm rating on the compressor to the cfm rating on the tool when buying a compressor.
  • Compact or portable compressors use a diaphragm-type compression pump powered by an electric motor. They are best used for light applications such as inflation or light spray painting.
  • Piston-type compressors use an electric or gasoline motor to drive the pump unit. They offer durability and high work capacity.

Bench Band Saw

  • Has a band or loop-like blade that comes in various widths and strengths for different cutting purposes.
  • Used for making irregular cuts in thick material (6” or more).
  • Best for light tasks, not thick hardwoods.
  • Uses blades up to 1/2” wide.
  • Some models have tables that can be tilted for angled cutting.
  • Sanding attachments and sanding loops are available for sanding on irregular or curved surfaces.

Brad Point Bit

  • Used for wood drilling only.
  • Tip has a screw-type point leading the drill flute that prevents drill walking.
  • Helps prevent splintering, as the brad point is the first part of the drill to emerge, allowing the user to back the drill out of the hole and finish from the other side of the material.

Beam Saw

  • A circular saw with a high capacity, usually with blades 10” and larger. Can cut through 4” material.
  • Used for cutting heavy timbers or for crosscutting or mitering angles on large, thick stock.

Profile Sander

  • Used for sanding details and profiles, not general sanding tasks.
  • The head can accept a variety of attachments for a variety of tasks.
  • Good for sanding moldings, shaped wood edges and panels.

Nailer

  • Available in different types according to the type of application, such as roofing, drywall, concrete, finish and framing.
  • Framing nailers can use stick nails or coil nails. Nail sizes range from 1-1/2” to 3-1/2”.
  • Roofing nailers can be used to fasten asphalt and fiberglass shingles, siding or insulation board.
  • Finish nailers can be used to install molding, trim, paneling, door and window casings and cabinets.
  • Brad nailers are for firing brads, which is a tapered nail with a small head or a slight side projection instead of a head. They range in size from 5/8” to 2”.
  • Palm nailers are for work in tight spaces. Instead of firing nails, it operates like a pneumatic hammer to drive conventional nails with a repetitive series of blows.
  • Available in pneumatic, electric and cordless versions.

Floor Band Saw

  • Has a band or loop-like blade that comes in various widths and strengths for different cutting purposes.
  • Mounts on the floor and usually has wheels sized from 12” to 36” in the industrial models.
  • For sawing heavier and thicker materials.
  • Some models have tables that can be tilted for angled cutting.
  • Sanding attachments and sanding loops are available for sanding on irregular or curved surfaces.

Spade Drill Bit

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

Trim Saws

  • Small circular saw used to cut sheet goods, moldings and trim.
  • 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.
  • Easy to handle and lightweight.
  • Some models can adapt to cut glass and ceramic tile.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

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).

Utility Vise

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

Step Ladder

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

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.

Platform Ladder

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