DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

Won’t a wood countertop be unsanitary?

Actually, wood is one of the more sanitary types of countertops. It has properties that resist bacteria build-up.

What are some advantages of polyurethane moldings over wood moldings?

Different products from different manufacturers will vary, so check manufacturer’s material for claims of product performance. Generally, polyurethane will not swell or shrink, will not rot, will not split when nailed, is lightweight and easy to install, and does not need sanding before painting.

What does “cladding”mean, when referring to a window?

Cladding is an exterior layer of vinyl or aluminum covering a wood frame. It is generally only on the side of the window that faces the outside. The cladding provides additional protection and weather resistance for the window frame.

Can I use staples to attach siding?

We do not recommend using staples.

How do I hide the seams between pieces of paneling?

Use a seam cover that snaps in between joints. Also use molding for trimming around windows, outside corners and along floors and ceilings.

Will grout get dirty quickly?

Not if you properly seal it during installation and regularly maintain it by cleaning up spills quickly.

Won’t stone or ceramic floors always be cold in the winter?

Stone tends to hold the room temperature, but you can buy floor-warming systems. These install underneath the tile and keep the floor warm.

What should I use to fasten the subfloor I just bought?

Use a construction adhesive to glue it to the joists, then use 8d common nails.

Why does a piece of wood have knots?

Knots mark the spot on a tree where there once was a branch, which has since been encased by the growth of the tree.

Why would I use aluminum?

It is less expensive than stainless, but they are softer and not as strong. They are used for some specific applications. For example, they are good underwater. In general, stainless is the most popular.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Encapsulated Insulation

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

Cold Process Adhesive

  • Also called lap cement roof adhesive.
  • Designed to form a water-resistant and waterproof bond with most coated roll roofing products.


  • Also known as wood fiber substrate.
  • Made from wood chips that are mechanically reduced to wood fibers and then bonded together into panels through heat and pressure.
  • Panels are thin, grainless, dense, uniformly textured, strong and bone-dry.
  • Used as an exterior siding, interior paneling, as a garage door panel, perforated boards, for furniture, toys, cabinets, floor underlayment and many other items.
  • Can be sawed, shaped, routed and drilled and will accept paint and varnish.
  • Not recommended for use in areas with high temperature or humidity because warping can occur.

Foundation Vent

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

Vinyl Flooring

  • Generally available in large, 12’ rolls in varying lengths, or in square tiles.
  • Available in a variety of patterns and colors.
  • Most floors have a no-wax surface, although most manufacturers recommend specially formulated floor finish to enhance or restore shine and provide added protection.
  • Quality depends on the thickness of the material. In general, urethane floors last longer than vinyl.
  • Installed by gluing to the subfloor with an adhesive made for the material.
  • The square tile type often has an adhesive backing that makes for easier installation.

Epoxy Patching Cement

  • Fortified with epoxy to make it one of the toughest masonry patchers available
  • Comes in a kit of emulsion, hardener and dry cement
  • Bonds to ceramic tile, glass and steel.
  • Not the ideal choice for minor patching jobs.

Corner Blocks

  • Installed at the corners where two runs of molding meet.
  • Makes installation easy, as installer doesn’t have to cut a miter joint.
  • Styles include rosettes and plinth blocks.


  • Attaches directly to pipe threads to reduce pipe size.
  • Female threaded.
  • Can refer to couplings, tees, or elbows.



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

Screen Spline

  • Inserted into grooves in screen frame after screen is tucked in to hold screen in place.
  • Tightens screen onto frame by pulling screen tight.
  • Available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses to fit different size screen channels.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Lamp Holder

  • Used to hold light sockets where design is not a concern. Often used in garages or basements, or as a temporary fixture.
  • One type has a pull chain to turn it on. The other, a keyless lampholder, does not have a chain. Another type has a socket, two receptacles and a pull chain that turns off the lamp but not the receptacles.
  • Typically is a round porcelain fixture with a socket with prewired leads ready for connecting to a circuit. It also has screw holes for mounting it to a box.
  • Another type is the Pigtail. It is merely a socket with wire leads and without a fixture. It is also used for temporary lighting or for testing.

Cartridge Fuse

  • Cartridges fuses for circuits above 60 amps are also known as knife-blade cartridges. They look like rifle cartridges with metal caps and blades sticking out of each end.
  • Cartridges fuses for circuits 60 amps or less are also known as ferrule contact or round cartridge fuses. They look like rifle cartridges with plain, capped ends.
  • Used in high-current applications, such as in the main service box and in clamp- or bar-type fuse boxes that serve electric ranges, water heaters, clothes dryers and air conditioners.
  • Unlike plug fuses, you cannot tell if the fuse is blown by merely looking at it.
  • Use a special pair of pliers known as fuse pullers to remove these fuses.

Specialty Switches

  • Rocker Switch operates the same as a standard switch, but instead of a toggle, it operates with a rocker action.
  • Delayed Action Switch keeps the circuit open for a few minutesafter the switch is turned off. A good use is in a garage where, after the user turns off the switch, it allows the light to remain on in time exit.
  • Photoelectric Switch operates with a photoelectric cell. It turns off during the day and turns on during the night.
  • Motion Switch turns on the light as you enter the room. Good for both convenience and security.
  • An Illuminated Switch has a small light that is on when the switch is off so it can be easily found; these are usually used at entrances to rooms and in hallways. Another version is the Pilot Light Switch.
  • An Outdoor Switch features a turning lever inside a weatherproof box cover with a toggle switch.
  • Voice-Activated Switch operates with a voice command.

Table Tap

  • Also known as a plug-in strip or plug-in outlet adapter.
  • Increases the number of outlets available at a single outlet.
  • One side plugs into an outlet and the other provides two to six pairs or outlets.
  • A smaller version is the cube tap, which is in the shape of a cube and provides two or three receptacles in the place of one.


  • Available in a variety of sizes and styles. Popular features include high-intensity, adjustable spot-to-flood beams with a simple twist of the wrist.
  • Mini-flashlights operate with AA or AAA cell batteries. Standard flashlights use two 6D cell batteries.
  • Flashlights with LEDs (light emitting diodes) will last much longer than standard incandescent bulbs. LEDs do not have a filament that will burn out. Instead, they use a semiconductor material. They’ve long been used in the electronic industry, and manufacturers are new using them in consumer flashlights.


  • Some models are battery operated and are wireless. They are easiest to install.
  • If not battery operated, they require AC step-down transformers to reduce household voltage to the proper operating voltage.
  • Standard doorbells operate at 10V or 16V.

Time Delay Fuse

  • Similar in appearance to a plug fuse.
  • Provides a minimum time delay for small household motors that cause an electrical surge when started. That surge would cause a regular fuse to blow needlessly.

Dimmer Switch

  • Controls the amount of current in a light circuit and allows for varying levels of light.
  • Usually may be installed in place of standard switches.
  • They are available in a variety of types, including rotary, toggle and slide.
  • Dimmers may also interfere with radios and TVs and cause the light bulb to hum. Some dimmers are manufactured with a filter that eases this problem.

Multiple Tap

  • Like the table tap, it plugs into an existing outlet to increase the number of outlets at a location.
  • It typically has four to six plugs.
  • Some models may contain circuit breakers or surge protectors, but may not be suitable for computer equipment.

Type S Fuse

  • Also known as Fustats® or Nontamperable
  • Similar in design and use to a plug fuse. However, it prevents anyone from replacing a lower-rated fuse with a higher one.
  • Has two parts: the fuse and the adapter. The adapter has a different diameter for each fuse ampere rating. Once the adapter of a particular size fuse has been inserted into the fuse socket, it cannot be removed. Only fuses with the same rating can be used in that socket.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

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.

The tubes in my fluorescent light are graying near the ends; does this mean they are wearing out?

Working tubes usually have a gray tinge on the ends, but dark gray or black is a sign that the tube is failing.

I have an older home that does not have ground fault interrupters. Can I install these myself?

Yes, you can replace your regular outlets with ground fault interrupters. If you do not want to rewire the outlet, you can use a portable model that is plugged into an existing outlet.

What is the difference between an extension cord rated for outdoor use and a standard one?

The outer coating of the insulation is weather and sunlight resistant.

I need to run some wire through my wall. Do you have any suggestions?

Instead of trying to feed the wire through, use a fish tape. This tool is a small wire on a real that is easier to feed through. Once you have fed it through the wall, attach the wire and pull the tape back through.

What type of switches will I need to turn a light on from two different locations?

You will need a three-way switch at each location. A three-way switch will have three terminal screws on it–two brass colored screws and one that is black (or dark in color).

How do I check the starter in the fluorescent fixture?

Older, delayed-start fluorescent lights flicker when they first light up. If this last more than a couple of seconds, make sure the starter is seated by pushing it in and turning clockwise. If the ends of the tube light up and the middle does not, the starter is bad. Remove it by turning counterclockwise.

What is an LB fitting?

LB stands for line box. It is often used at the point where you will begin pulling wire through the conduit. However, it is not a junction box and should not contain wire connections.

Do you have an extension cord for my window air conditioner?

Yes, you need to use a major appliance cord. A regular extension cord doesn’t have heavy enough wire to safely conduct the necessary current.

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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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Pry Bar

  • Smaller and flatter than a wrecking bar and not designed for heavy-duty prying.
  • Features beveled notches in each chisel-like end and ranges in size from 6″ to 21″.
  • Useful for removing nails with exposed heads and for prying paneling or molding without marring the surface.
  • One type of pry bar features an extra curve, which makes it useful for lifting and holding such things as drywall panels in place.
  • Double claw models provide equal force on push or pull.

Plastic Nut Basin Wrench

  • Used to reach and turn plastic mounting nuts on faucets, sprayers and ballcocks.
  • Notched ends self-center on 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-tab nuts.

Glass Paint Scraper

  • Used to scrape excess paint off windows.
  • Can accommodate either single- or double-edge razor blades.
  • The most popular type has a retractable blade that slides out of the handle and back in for safety purposes when not in use.

Drywall Corner Trowel

  • Is used in applying compound to both sides of a corner at one time.
  • Comes in both inside and outside corner models.
  • A flexible one-piece blade of stainless steel eliminates tape snagging.
  • The blade angle is set at 103° to give perfect 90° corners when flexed in use.

Nail/Tool Pouch

  • Comes in a variety of configurations for holding tools and fasteners.
  • Main pockets generally hold fasteners and smaller, individual compartments hold tools.
  • Generally constructed of leather or nylon.
  • Belt, which is sold separately, fits into slots in pouch.

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.

Dovetail Saw

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

Post Level

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

Digital Tape Measure

  • Similar to a conventional tape measure but with electronic features added, such as a digital readout to make measurement readings more precise and the ability to convert fractions to decimals or even metric equivalents.
  • Another useful feature is a function that compensates for the size of the tape case when taking inside measurements, such as a window frame or a door jamb.
  • Some models have a memory function which holds a measurement without having to write it down. Other models have a voice recorder to make it easy to keep track of multiple measurements.

Bench Plane

  • An adjustable tool used for trimming, beveling, fitting and shaping wood, and smoothing rough spots left by sawing and drilling.
  • Blades are positioned bevel side down at a 45-degree angle.
  • Models range in size from 9″ smooth planes to 24″ jointer planes.
  • Smooth planes are smaller (generally 9” to 10”) and lightweight and used for flattening and smoothing the face of boards and other all-around work.
  • Jack planes are longer (12″ to 17″) and heavier than smooth planes, have more cutting capacity and are used for smoothing and squaring rough lumber surfaces.
  • Jointer planes, the longest (approximately 22” to 24” long) and heaviest of planes, are used to shape edges of doors or long boards so two boards may be joined together to make a close fitting joint.
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FAQs (0)

Why does the hook on the end of my tape measure move slightly? Doesn’t that affect the final reading? Do I need to get a new one for my toolkit?

It is designed to slide the same amount as the thickness of the end of the hook. That way it can accurately measure distances when the tape is hooked to the end of an object (such as the end of a board) or when measuring between objects (such as the width of a door jamb). If it were fixed, one of these two measurements would be off by the thickness of the hook.

I need a hex key wrench, but I don’t know the size.

Since they are not expensive, an 18-piece all-purpose hex key wrench set is recommended.

What can I cut with a circular saw?

With the proper blade, it can cut wood, metal, plastic, fiberglass cement block, slate and brick.

What drill bits do you recommend for general use?

For drilling smaller holes in a variety of materials, choose a high-speed steel twist bit. These can drill holes from about 1/16 inch to ½ inch in wood, soft metal and other materials.

I want to cut some lightweight sheet metal, which hacksaw blade should I use?

Use a fine cut blade. On heavier metals, such as steel pipe, a coarser cut blade will be more efficient.

What can be used to produce a nice smooth surface when I finish furniture?

Using a fine steel wool between multiple coats will give you a smoother surface. Be sure to clean the surface with a tack cloth before painting each additional coat.

When buying a trimmer or edger, should I buy a gas-powered or electric model?

If you can reach every corner of your yard with a 150-foot extension cord, you should consider an electric model. They typically cost less, are quieter and require less maintenance. If you have a larger yard then a gas-powered model may be better.

How does the number on the shank of a drill bit relate to its size?

Bit diameters are usually marked by a single number—the numerator of a fraction. For example, an auger bit, which is marked by 16ths of an inch, with a number 8 would stand for 8/16″ or 1/2″. Twist bits are usually marked in the same manner by 64ths of an inch. Thus a No. 8 bit would stand for 8/64″ or 1/8″.

What are the quality differences between drop forged and cast metal hand tools?

During construction, drop forging removes more air bubbles. This means there are fewer weak spots.

What’s the best way to sharpen the head of my axe?

With a file, restoring the head to its original shape.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

I need a vise for general use on household projects. What type should I buy?

A standard bench vise will probably suit your needs. It is designed for light-duty applications and will handle a variety of tasks. All you need is a workbench or table to bolt it to.

What size adjustable wrench should I buy for general use?

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

What is a worm drive circular saw?

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

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

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

Can hacksaws cut other materials besides metal?

Yes, the fine teeth of a hacksaw can cut other materials too tough for wood saws, such as bricks.

Is sandpaper better for smoothing coats between coats than steel wool?

It can be just a matter of preference, but steel wool is normally recommended. You might also want to consider a finishing pad. They don’t shed or rust like steel wool, and they can be rinsed and reused. They’re available for wood, metal and stripping.

I need a tool to trim my evergreens.

Anvil pruning shears work well on light foliage. For heavier cutting, a lopping shear with more leverage will be needed. For other trees, a bypass shear provides a cleaner cut that those trees prefer.

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

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

Are there any power tools I should own?

A power drill is a must for general maintenance. A drill, a circular saw, and a saber saw can handle most household repair and carpentry jobs. Power sanders have also become popular.

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)


  • Also known as a force cup or a plumber’s friend.
  • Used to clear blockages in toilets sinks and tubs.
  • Combination plungers (usually black in color) consist of two cups, one inside the other.
  • Recommend combination plungers for clearing toilets.

Straight Edge Rake

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

Cat’s Paw

  • Tool used to pull nails when nail heads are buried beneath the wood’s surface.
  • Forked chisel end is hammered into wood surrounding nail head until the nail head is positioned between notches. It can then be pulled from below the wood surface.

Basin Wrench

  • Also known as a faucet wrench or a crowfoot faucet wrench.
  • One type has fixed jaws opening at right angles to the shaft handle. It is primarily used to remove supply nuts and hose coupling nuts on faucet spray attachments under worktables, sinks and lavatories.
  • The second type has spring tension pipe-gripping jaws that are reversible by flip-over on the end of drive shaft handle. It will grip pipe nipples, odd sized supply nuts and jam nuts in hard-to-reach spots.

Vinyl Patching Kit

  • Contains a patching material that forms a permanent patch over holes, tears, etc., in vinyl.
  • Some kits require heat, while other patching material cures in air and requires no heat.
  • Also included in these kits is an assortment of “graining paper,” used to reproduce any design in the vinyl.
  • With a backing behind the hole in the vinyl, patching material is brushed over the hole and proper graining paper is laid over the patch.
  • With material that requires heat, an iron is then pressed over the graining paper to apply the proper heat to the patching material, causing it to take on the pattern of the vinyl and to set properly.
  • An assortment of touch-up colors is available to blend the patch into the color of the vinyl.

Drywall Pole Sander

  • Is used for sanding drywall joints, especially ceilings and side walls without having to use a ladder or stilts.
  • Swiveling head design allows for excellent maneuverability and easy access into corners.
  • Some models feature a hammerhead tip to easily set drywall nails.
  • Sandpaper or sanding screens clamp to head.
  • Extension pole is often sold separately.

Brick Trowel

  • Punch that is not stuck by a hammer. It has a spring-actuated internal drive that pushes the attached punch point into the material to be center punched.
  • These punches are available in different sizes and with replaceable screw-on points.

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.”

Pull Saw

  • Is similar to most traditional saws except the teeth are designed to cut with a pulling motion.
  • Pull saws cut wood faster and with less effort because of the thinner and more flexible blade.
  • The saws feature teeth diamond-ground on three cutting edges.
  • Because of the flexibility of the blade and the minimal set to the teeth, the saws are excellent for flush cutting.
  • Mini pull saws that cut sharply on the pull stroke are used for precision carpentry.

Rotary Laser Level

  • Rotates 360º and projects a level reference point on all vertical surfaces within range
  • Most units come with either a self leveling or manual leveling  base as well as floor and wall mounts.
  • Generally accurate to 1/4 ” at 100’ for manual leveling units and 1/8” at 100’ for self-leveling units.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Drywall/Deck Screw

  • Use when installing drywall or decking material.
  • Coated to prevent rust.


Wall Driller Anchor

  • For light-duty use on drywall.
  • Fastener makes its own hole in the drywall.
  • Do not use overhead.

Proof Coil Chain

  • The most common all-purpose chain.
  • A welded chain, which means the individual link is welded to form a continuous loop.
  • Commonly used as a log chain, tow chain, guardrail chain and switch chain.
  • Not intended for use as a sling or overhead lifting chain.

Spring Pressure Rod

  • Holds the adjustable tension rod in place when it must be mounted inside the window casing or when screws cannot be used to hold brackets.
  • Sash rods are generally used to hold the top and bottom of curtains stationary and close to the window.

Cabinet Pull

  • Used on cabinet doors and drawers.
  • Backplates are decorative and provide additional support for hollow-core doors and drawers.
  • Basic consideration when choosing will be style.
  • When replacing an old pull, remember to make sure the new knob will use or cover the holes left by the old one. Use a backplate to cover the hole if replacing a knob with a pull.
  • Pulls are generally on 3” mounting centers.

Butt Hinge

  • Fits between the butt of the door and the frame.
  • Only the hinge pin is exposed on the inside of the door.
  • The most common type is the loose pin hinge that has a removable pin for easy removal of the door.

Box Nail

  • Lighter and smaller than common nails with a larger head.
  • Used for framing and applications where shifting is minimal, such as nailing subfloor to floor joists and attaching roof base to rafters.

Lag Screw

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


Molly Bolt

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

Polyester Rope

  • A twisted rope with strength similar to nylon.
  • Stretches less than nylon and has a poor shock load capacity.
  • Good resistance to abrasion and sunlight.
  • The top choice for general-purpose boating applications.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

Is nylon rope worth its extra cost?

Twisted nylon rope is the most versatile because of its strength. Additionally it has good shock resistance, which means sudden jerks are less likely to damage the rope or cause failure. It’s resistance to abrasion makes it durable where rubbing is likely to occur. It is resistant to most chemicals and will not rot or mold when wet. When stretched it tends to return to its original length, making it good for lifting and towing. However, it should not be attached to winches, bits, hooks or chains.

Are there screws that will not rust?

Brass, aluminum and stainless steal screws should meet your needs.

How do I install a molly bolt?

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

I need a screw to anchor a knob onto a drawer, what do you recommend?

If you do not have the knob to identify the size, it’s probably a 8-32 screw. It may not be the right one, but it’s the best guess that may keep you from making another trip.

How do I set finishing nails?

Use a nail set to sink the nail head into the molding. Then you can fill the hole with a spackling compound, sand it smooth and paint it.

What type of rope should I buy?

Working strength is the most important factor.

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

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

How do I install a toggle bolt?

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

Are folding steel or plastic sawhorses as durable as homemade wooden ones?

Depending on the construction of the homemade ones, they are probably more durable and can be conveniently folded and stored out of the way.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

How does a heat extractor help me conserve energy with my fireplace?

A heat extractor mounts on the stovepipe and extracts additional heat from flue gases beyond what normally comes from the stovepipe or the chimney. You can use it for either fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. As it extracts heat, it cools the flue’s gasses and could cause the flue to smoke, so it’s best to install an extractor with more capacity than is necessary for the size of the fireplace. The downside is that an extractor could work against the efficiency of a good wood-burning stove. As the flue gases cool, combustion is reduced and the stove gives off less heat.

Can I stack insulation to get a higher R-value?

Yes. For example, two R-19 batts can be stacked on each other to create R-38 insulation. You also can add loose-fill insulation on top of a bottom layer of batts.

My ceiling fan wobbles, what should I do?

If a wood blade is warped, it will wobble. Correct this problem by installing adhesive-backed weights to the blades. Operating at faster speeds may also cause humming or clicking noises with some models.

Can I burn coal in my wood stove?

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

How does a tube grate work?

A tube grate functions like a conventional grate or andiron in a fireplace. It is an energy saving device that pulls air into the bottom tube opening, moves it around and over the fire (warming the air as it goes) and then shoots it back into the room. It keeps the room’s air from escaping up the chimney, and when combined with glass doors, is an effective way of increasing the energy efficiency of a fireplace.

What does the R-value on insulation mean?

R refers to resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the effectiveness of the insulation. The R-value depends on the type of material, its thickness and density.

Do I need to open any other windows while using a window fan?

Opening other windows allows a way for the air in the room to vent. To cool one room, run the window fan on intake and open a second window to act as a vent. To cool several rooms, run the fan on exhaust and open the windows and connecting doors.

How can I make my fireplace more efficient?

Try adding one of the many accessories available that make fireplaces more efficient, including tube grates, heat extractors and glass enclosures.

How do I know if my attic is properly ventilated?

In general, the formula is based on the square footage of the attic. You should have one vent for every 150 square feet of attic floor space. The vents should be split between high and low vents. If you have a vapor barrier, you only need one vent for every 300 square feet.

Can I plug my air conditioner into any standard outlet?

Check the voltage rating of the unit. Units with 115 volts (having less than a 9,000 BTU capacity) will not overload average house wiring. For larger capacity units and those requiring 220V wiring (high BTU capacity), consult an electrician.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Electric Heater

  • Plugs directly into a wall unit.
  • One type uses black heat, where heating elements have the heating wire wound around a porcelain insulator.
  • Another type is the more popular instant heat that uses a ribbon element.
  • Some models have small fans to force heated air into the room.
  • Heating capacity is rated in BTUs. Wattage ratings of heaters can be converted to BTUs consumed per hour my multiplying the number of watts by 3.413 (the number of BTUs equaling one watt.)

Dial Thermostat

  • Controls the temperature in a room turning on or off the furnace or air-conditioner.
  • Temperature is set manually by a dial.
  • One type is low-voltage. It uses power from a transformer that converts 120-volt power into 24 volts.
  • Line-voltage thermostats are another type, and use the same power source as the units they control.

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.

Radiant Heater

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

Permanent Washable Filter

  • Consists of a flat panel of various woven synthetics.
  • Considered permanent because homeowners can rinse it free of particles and reuse it.
  • Should be rinsed every 30 days. Filter usually lasts 5-6 years.
  • Some brands have an anti-microbial agent that inhibits growth of mold, mildew, bacteria and fungi in the filter.
  • An electrostatic charge develops as air passes through the filter. The charge, however, varies with humidity and the furnace or A/C blowing cycles. This means some particles may fall off the filter, pass through it and re-enter the air stream.

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.

Baseboard Heater

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

Electret Filter

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

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.

Ceramic Heater

  • A convection-type heater.
  • Uses a ceramic disk heating element.
  • Ideal for spot heating.
  • Lightweight and easy to carry.
  • Safe alternative to other heating sources as they operate at temperatures below the combustion point of paper.
  • Includes a washable filter to reduce air pollutants.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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.

How long should a smoke detector last?

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

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.

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

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.

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate.

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.

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.

What is lock bumping?

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

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.

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Home Security Terms (35)

Home Area Alarm

  • Uses either ultrasonic waves or microwaves to detect motion. When it detects motion, it triggers an alarm.
  • Generally plugs into a standard electrical outlet, so they’re easy to install.
  • Ultrasonic detector waves only go as far as the wall of the room, while microwaves penetrate walls and windows.
  • Some ultrasonic alarms use a narrow sonic beam that must be bounced off a hard surface. Here, the intruder must break the beam to be detected.
  • Other ultrasonic alarms use a wide beam that fills the room and detects motion anywhere in the trap zone.
  • The most important consideration with this type of alarm is avoiding false alarms. These can be caused by air conditioners or drapery moving above a hot air register. Better systems have built in circuitry that does not respond to these types of signals.
  • Some systems have extra repeater alarms or satellites. These can be plugged in anywhere in the home to add extra noise and relay the warning to remote rooms.

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.

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.

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.

Home Perimeter Alarm

  • Some types use low-voltage wire, similar to stereo speaker wire, to connect magnetic window and door sensors to a control panel.
  • Other types use radio transmitters at each door and window sensors to trigger an alarm at the control panel.
  • Alarm sounds when the window or door opens.
  • Alarm systems designed for d-i-y installation are frequently battery powered, so ease in testing the batteries can be an important feature. Some systems sound a warning when the batteries are low.
  • Hard-wired systems may have a button on the control panel that checks the entire system.

Combination Lock

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

Night Latch

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

Latch Guard

  • Used on in-opening doors.
  • Reinforces the door and prevents spreading of the frame.
  • The standard 7” latch guard fits all backsets, deadbolts and key-in-knob locks.
  • The 12” latch guard also fits all double locks, mortise locks and access control locks.
  • Latch guards for out-opening doors protect the latch or bolt. Several sizes and types are available, ranging from 6” to 12”.

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.

Mortise Lock

  • Consists of a flat, rectangular box that fits into a recess in the door from its edge. Also includes two faceplates that include the knobs and keyholes.
  • Available in right- or left-handed styles.
  • Has a pin tumbler locking mechanism in a cylinder.
  • Latch operates from either side except when the outside knob is locked.
  • Deadbolt operates by a turn of the inside knob.
  • A key from the outside operates both the deadbolt and latchbolt.
  • Used on many types of doors, from heavy entrance doors to apartment buildings and residential doors.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

My gutters are letting out water at the ends. What can I do to fix it?

The endcap of the gutter is one of the most common places for leaks to develop. You can by a silicone based product specifically designed to seal gutters. It comes in a caulk-like tube and can be applied with a caulk gun.

Is there a way to keep leaves out of the gutter?

There are several different types of gutter covers that keeps leaves out of the gutter and makes them easier to maintain.

I have a good hose but it has a small break in the middle, can I patch this?

Cut out the bad section and connect the two lengths with a hose mender. Simply slide on the compression fitting and screw on the connector. There are also replacement male and female hose couplers that can replace damaged ends. The plastic ones are easier to use.

How should I trim?

Most people use a power trimmer that spins a nylon line.  Try to keep it at the same height as your mowed grass. Remember cutting grass too short can damage it.  And always remember to wear protective eyewear and heavy clothing on your legs.

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 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.

Can I repair my pump sprayer that has quit working?

Usually, this is the result of damaged seals in the pump. Most manufacturers sell a repair kit. In addition, the sprayer will not work if the tip is clogged and needs cleaning.

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.

What type of pump sprayer do you recommend?

For the homeowner, the plastic ones are often a good choice because they will not rust. Some of these have metal wands and tips, which are stronger, more durable and easier to clean.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)


  • Fast-growing seed, frequently used by itself or in mixtures.
  • Available as an annual or perennial. The annual quickly germinates for temporary lawns.
  • Good for slopes because of its quick germination.
  • Perennial ryegrass is ideal for lawns in the cool-climate, northern half of the U.S.


  • Diverts the direction of the downspout by 45 degrees.
  • A square elbow is available in two different styles.
  • A square shoe style elbow is used at the bottom of the downspout to help divert water away from the house.

Natural Organic Fertilizer

  • One of three common types of fertilizer, the other two are inorganic and synthetic organic.
  • Does not dissolve in water.
  • Converted to usable forms by microorganisms in the soil.
  • Helps to create proper physical growing conditions, but can add disease or weeds to the lawn.
  • Usually does not contain a complete mix of the essential nutrients, making it necessary to apply additional types of fertilizer.
  • Less concentrated than synthetic fertilizer.
  • Slow-acting release.

Plant Stake

  • Supports and gives extra protection to young plants.
  • One popular type is the tomato cage or tower that encloses the tomato plant and contains and gives it support, especially when it is heavy with tomatoes.

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.

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.

Sod Lifter

  • Blade is beveled for cutting in both directions.
  • Used for loosening and lifting sod.
  • Removes sod at the root level and saves it for transplanting.

Bow Saw

  • Used to cut dry or green limbs from trees.
  • Used on branches thicker than 1” and other tasks too large for lopping shears.
  • Blade tightens a tension lever.
  • Has a lightweight, tubular steel frame.

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.

Vegetable Seed

  • Sold in packages or in bulk.
  • Planting times and growing instructions will vary by plant. Read package instructions carefully.
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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.

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.

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.

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

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

What is the advantage of a natural-bristle brush?

Bristle has naturally split ends called flags, which help hold the paint in the brush so that it is released throughout the stroke instead of all at once.

How do I caulk baseboard and trim around window and doors before painting?

First, cut a small hole 1/8th of an inch from the tip of the spout at an angle. Don’t cut off too much of the tip. Then, most caulk guns come with a swiveling pin used to puncture the tube. Engage the ratcheting plunger and squeeze the handle. When finished, disengage the ratcheting plunger, and have a rag handy, as caulk will probably continue to ooze out of the tip.

Do I need to apply anything to the wall before papering?

You should apply wall sizing to all old or new walls. It prepares the surface and acts as a first coat. It makes a smooth surface and prevents paste from soaking into the wall.

What is the difference between a solvent and a thinner?

A thinner is generally used to thin a liquid finish while a solvent is used to dissolve an existing finish that has been cured.

Should I apply the deck stripper by spraying it on or with a roller?

If It’s a windy day, they you should use a roller to control overspray. However, if it’s a calm day with no wind, they you can probably apply it faster by spraying it on.

What type of brush works best with oil-based paint?

Natural bristles are best for most oil-based finishes including varnishes and stains. Their soft tips leave fewer brush marks.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Extension Ladder

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

Clear Coat

  • Clear acrylic protective finish for painted walls.
  • Particularly recommended for crackled walls and walls where sand tones have been applied.
  • Gives an ultra flat finish.

Paint Pail Shelf

  • Attaches to step ladders to provide a tray for paint cans.
  • Generally constructed of molded plastic shelf with aluminum arms.
  • Some models automatically close when step ladder is folded for storage.
  • Usually contains a built-in rag rack.

Wood Conditioner Sealer

  • Is used on softwoods to help tame wild grain patterns and to even up stain absorbency.
  • The sealer penetrates the wood, which allows a more even color appearance and grain pattern.

Radiator Brush

  • Also called hockey stick due to shape.
  • Used to paint hard-to-reach areas.
  • Sash positioned at 45-degree angle to long handle.

Paint Shield

  • Also known as a trim guard.
  • Used to mask off areas not to be painted.
  • Used primarily in corners where wall meets ceiling or where twowalls meet that are not painted the same color.

Venetian Plaster

  • Used to achieve a polished marble-like effect.
  • Gives the look and feel of natural stone.
  • Can be tinted and applied to any flat, smooth surface.
  • Surface must be primed or have a matte finish.

Ladder Tool Holder

  • Tool holder that drapes on both sides of the top of step ladders.
  • Contain separate pockets to hold different hand tools and fasteners.
  • One pocket generally snaps off to enable it to be used with extension ladders.

Grain Filler

  • Fills the open grain and pores on hardwoods like oak, ash and mahogany.
  • Designed to achieve a flat surface on work surface before top coating with a clear finish.

Stain Brush

  • A wider brush generally available in 4” to 6” widths.
  • Many types feature natural white China bristles for working with oil-based stains, sealers and wood toners.
  • Also available in synthetic filaments.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

The pull-out spray nozzle in my new faucet won’t retract back into the faucet, what’s causing this?

Perhaps the weight that retracts the spray hose fell off or is caught on something underneath the sink.

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.

What does O.D. and I.D. mean?

This refers to the diameter of a pipe. Some pipes are measured base on their outside diameter, or O.D. Others are measured by their interior diameter, or I.D.

Why can’t I just get a regular showerhead instead of one of those water saver types?

Federal law has set a standard on the flow rate of water from showerheads. However, many of the new showerheads mix air with water. The resulting shower is as satisfying as any shower, and youíll likely never know you were using a low-flow showerhead.

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.

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

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

Do you recommend a plastic pipe cleaners and primers?

These are applied to a pipe and fitting, before applying the solvent weld glue to ensure a strong bond. Their use is always a good idea, especially if it’s for a water supply line or the connection is going to be somewhere that will be difficult to get to in the future.

What is a pressure assist toilet?

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

I am getting no hot water from my gas water heater. What could be the cause of this?

The pilot light might be out, or you may have a faulty thermostat.

What is a compression fitting?

This type of fitting squeezes a brass or plastic ring around copper or plastic tubing.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Galvanized Pipe

  • Has zinc coating that prevents rust if not scratched.
  • Use primarily for carrying water or waste. Do not use for gas or steam.
  • Common water sizes are 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4” and 1”. Common waste sizes are 1-1/2”, 2” and 3”.
  • Often sold in pre-threaded standard lengths, or can be custom threaded.
  • Use only with similar galvanized pipe fittings, not with black pipe fittings.
  • Measured using the I.D. (inside diameter).


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



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.

Flush Handle

  • Activates the flush valve ball.
  • Usually sold in combination with the trip lever.
  • Attaches with a left-handed screw, which screws on in a counter-clockwise direction.

Handle Puller

  • Also known as a faucet handle puller.
  • Used to remove corroded or frozen handles without scarring the chrome.
  • Has two hook-like jaws with a center rod that turns.
  • Use penetrating oil to help loosen the handle before pulling.

Water Pump Pliers

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

Sill Cock

  • Is a faucet located on the outside wall of the house that easily hooks to garden hoses.
  • The best type is a frost-proof sill cock, made of heavy red brass, that looks and works like any ordinary faucet. However, water flow valves are located inside the building where it is warm.
  • The anti-siphon frost-proof sill cock employs integral back-siphon and back-flow devices. These serve to prevent potential back-siphonage, which, if unchecked, could compromise the safe potable water supply to the home. Hose-attached garden sprays and other pressurized canisters can potentially link a cross-connection if a pressure charge occurs when the frostproof is in the open position.
  • The anti-siphon frostproof sillcock allows for outside spigot usage in freezing climates. The closing member (seat washer) is located inside the heated building.


  • Connects two lengths of pipe.
  • Has female thread on both ends (for galvanized pipe) or no threads (for copper, PVC and other solvent-welded pipe).
  • A Reducer Coupling joins two different sizes of pipe.
  • An Adapter Coupling joins two different types of connection types, such as threaded and solvent weld.
  • A Repair Coupling, or mender coupling, has no center stop so two lengths of pipe can be fastened together. Use on unthreaded lengths of pipe.
  • A Fitting Trap Adapter adapts PVC to tubular traps used for sinks.

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.

Flush Valve Seat

  • Located at the bottom of the tank.
  • Surrounds the opening that lets water into the bowl.
  • Kept closed by a rubber flush ball or flapper.
  • The flush valve seat is attached to the Overflow Tube, which drains water back into the bowl if the water level goes above it. This is a good safety precaution if the inlet valve fails.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Rotary Tool

  • Often called a Dremel, after a manufacturer of a popular version of the tool.
  • Available in corded or cordless versions. Some have variable speed settings.
  • Small tool that is highly versatile and can be used with a variety of attachments.
  • Attachments can be used to sand, drill, grind, cut and carve on a small scale.
  • Bits used with these tools include a variety of grinders, sanders, cutters, routers, cleaners and polishers.

Miter Saw

  • Chop SawAlso known as a chopsaw.
  • Used for making repeated straight or miter cuts.
  • Uses a circular blade that is pivoted to the correct angle, then dropped onto the material, which is clamped stationary on a turntable.
  • The turntable has a large compass scale that is marked in degrees to show the degree of the cut.
  • The simplest miter saw available.

Plunge Router

  • Similar to a fixed-base router, but the motor is mounted on two posts and can be retracted from and lowered into the workpiece.
  • Required depth of cut can be set so it’s the same every time.
  • Versatile and good for use in joinery.
  • Plunge depth is the deepest cut that can be made by a router.

Router Bit

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

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.

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.

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.

Plate Joiner

  • Also called a biscuit joiner.
  • Used for making strong plate joints, or biscuit joints, that join separate pieces of wood together.
  • The tool is plunged into the workpiece to cut a slot that accepts various size biscuits. Most models come with different blades to create various slot sizes. The slots of one piece of wood are then aligned with the slots of the other peice being joined. These slots share the same biscuit.
  • Has top-mounted or side-mounted sliding switches and comes with a dust bag or an adapter for hook-up to a shop vacuum.
  • Good joiners will have adjustable fences for making a joint at a variety of angles.

Abrasive Cut-Off Wheel

  • Circular blade used for cutting ferrous metals, masonry, glazed materials and ceramic tile.
  • Must match the type of wheel to the type of material being cut.
  • Only use with saws that have an aluminum or magnesium guard.

Drill Bit Sharpener

  • Extends the life of drill bits and drills, since sharper bits put less strain on the drill.
  • Provides consistent sharpenings for a variety of drill bits, including standard, masonry, carbide, titanium nitride, cobalt and left-handed.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)


  • 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.

Corner Clamp

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


  • 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.

Handscrew Clamp

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


  • 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.

Pipe Clamp

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

Linseed Oil

  • Pure preservative available in boiled and raw formulations.
  • Boiled linseed oil has driers added to promote faster drying than raw linseed oil.
  • Offers superior penetration into wood surfaces and provides good UV protection.
  • Also improves the flow and gloss of exterior oil-based paint.
  • A classic finish for natural wood to seal and protect it.

One-Handed Bar Clamp

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

Sawhorse Brackets

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

Paste Wax

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