DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

Should I seal my asphalt driveway every year?

Sealing your driveway too frequently could cause a build-up of sealer that could split and peel, which should split and peel. Always let the sealer on your driveway start to wear and fade before applying more. This will signal that it’s time for another coat.

What should I use to insulate the top and sides of my garage door?

Aluminum and vinyl weather stripping is available for this. There is also a weather strip made specifically for garage door bottoms.

What’s the difference between roof cement and roof coating?

The cement has to be put on with a trowel, which the coating is brushed on.

What is kiln dried lumber?

Kiln drying is sending lumber through an oven to drive the moisture out of the wood. The alternative is air drying, which means the lumber is stacked outside until the moisture evaporates from the wood. Lumber used in homes must be dried before it is used. Otherwise, it will shrink and cause problems in the structure.

How deep should I bury the fence posts?

A good guide is to bury at least 1/3 the total length of the post in the ground. For posts that are on the end or that will support a gate, bury the post an additional 6”.

Is OSB stronger than plywood?

They are actually mostly interchangeable. Both are manufactured to the same performance standards.

How often should I deep clean my carpet?

You should deep clean every 12 to 18 months.

Should I protect my wood floor from furniture?

We recommend felt pads or some other type of protector to be placed between the furniture leg and the floor.

Is a suspended ceiling something I can install myself?

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

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Aluminum Screening

  • Resilient, rustproof, fire resistant and melt-proof.
  • Comes in three standard finishes: bright aluminum, charcoal and black.
  • The black finish offers the best outward visibility and is recommended for decks, patios, porches or other applications.
  • Standard mesh is 18×16 (the number or strands per square inch). It is small enough to screen out most insects.
  • Standard widths are 24” and 48”, with many manufacturers offering 54”, 60” and 72” as special order.

Picture Window

  • A fixed window.
  • Has no moving parts or sashes and does not open.
  • Sometimes used with another window type, such as an awning window.
  • Usually a fixed window available in various shapes, such as an oval, arch, ellipse, octagon or circle.

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.


  • Made from standard dimension lumber glued face to face.
  • Lengths are as long as 150’, using finger-jointed materials.
  • Frequently used as garage door headers and girders.
  • A recent development is a glulam that uses fiber-reinforced plastic in the lower part of the beam to create a lighter, stronger and less expensive timber.

Roll Insulation

  • Comes in continuous rolls that vary in width and thickness.
  • Usually installed between open ceiling joists and wall studs.
  • Has a vapor barrier that should be installed with the vapor barrier toward the interior or heated area. Mend torn vapor barriers with tape.
  • Available in R-values of R-11, R-13, R-19 and R-25. Thicknesses range from 3-1/2” to 8”.


  • Male threaded on one end with a smaller diameter female thread on the other.
  • Inserted inside a coupling to reduce the size of the pipe.
  • With a Reducer Bushing, any number of reductions can be made to reduce and couple to another size of pipe.
  • As Adapter Bushing connects different types of pipe, such as PVC to CPVC.

Soap Dish

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

Gable Vent

  • Designed to complement most brands of vinyl siding.
  • Installs before or after the siding.
  • Requires little maintenance.
  • Features open louvered joints and built-in screens to keep out bugs and birds.
  • Comes in a variety of shapes, including octagon, pentagon, round, square, half-round or rectangular.

Solid Wood Door

  • Made of a tempered hardboard, wood or particleboard with or without a veneer, and from several kinds of solid wood.
  • Ash, birch, mahogany, hemlock and pine are commonly used for solid doors.
  • Comes in standard widths for front and rear entrances. Narrower widths are sometimes used between house and garage and/or breezeway.
  • More fire resistant than hollow-core doors. Particleboard is more fire-resistant than natural wood and it resists warping because of its higher density.
  • Available pre-hung, which means the door is hinged in a framework that includes the header and side jambs of the door and the casing trim. The door may also be predrilled for the lockset.

Woodworkers’ Glue

  • Carpenters' GlueAlso called carpenter’s glue.
  • Has a faster grab than white glue (set time is usually within 15 minutes).
  • Is usually tinted an off-white or yellow.
  • Woodworkers’ glue is used in applications where better water resistance, heat resistance and ease of sanding are desired.
  • Aliphatic wood glue, a general-purpose adhesive, is also popular among people who are doing woodwork, including those building or repairing furniture.
  • Non toxic and non flammable.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Appliance Receptical

  • Used for heavy-duty plugs and appliances.
  • Contains vertical and slanted slots in various configurations.
  • Configurations are different, so make sure to bring the plug with you if you don’t know the exact configuration you need.


  • 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.

LB Fitting

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

Line Switch

  • Used to interrupt the flow of electricity on cords, most often for lamps and appliances.
  • A variety of styles are available, and they can operate with a toggle, rotary or push-button action.

Wall Plates

  • Also known as faceplates or covers.
  • A flat metal, plastic or wooden piece that covers the openings in the wall made by receptacles and switches.
  • The openings in the cover match the type and number or receptacles or switches being covered. Blank covers are also available.

Incandescent Bulbs

  • Produce light by passing current through a thin coil of wire called a filament. As the wire heats, it becomes white hot and emits visible light. Vacuum filled.
  • Use for general and task lighting around the house.
  • Wattage indicates the amount of electric power used by a bulb to produce light. Generally, the greater the wattage, the greater the light output. Some bulbs produce more light per watt than others.
  • Standard household bulbs have an average life of 750 to 1,000 hours, which can be lengthened or shortened by the treatment they receive. For example, a 120V bulb operating on a 125V circuit may produce more light but won’t last as long as one on a 120V circuit.
  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tags on fixtures designate the maximum allowable wattage. A mercury or fluorescent system is typically limited to a single bulb size.
  • Long-life bulbs may last longer than ordinary bulbs, because they have heavier filaments that do not burn out as quickly. However, these bulbs do not produce as much light as standard bulbs.
  • Manufacturers disclose average light output (in lumens) and average bulb life (in hours) on package labeling.
  • The filament vaporizes as a result of current flowing through it, and generally, the bulb “burns out.” Three-way bulbs lose two light levels when one filament burns out because two filaments are used in the bulb separately for two of the levels and together for the third.
  • Bulb designations denote size and shape. The figure following the bulb shape letter designation is the bulb’s maximum diameter in eighths of an inch. Thus, A-19 would mean an A-shaped bulb with a diameter of 19 x 1/8″, or 2-3/8″.
  • Most standard bulb envelopes are made of lime glass, but bulbs that must withstand greater heat are made of harder, heat-resistant glass. Hard-glass envelopes are used in many high-wattage bulbs and in bulbs recommended for outdoor use where there is danger of thermal shock from condensation.


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

Conduit Fasteners

  • Use to fasten conduit to a wall or other framing member.
  • Staples can be used to fasten conduit or bare cable.
  • Straps are another type. They can be either one-hole or two-hole.
  • Generally, staples are best used inside the house, straps are best used outside.


  • Turn on lights and appliances at specified intervals and times.
  • Available for indoor and outdoor applications.
  • Spring-wound timers for bath fans and spas have a manual on-off switch.

Alkaline Battery

  • Longest lasting all-purpose battery.
  • Used for high and continuous current drain applications.
  • Disposable and operates well in low temperatures.
  • Voltages range from 1.5V to 9V.
  • Lasts as many as five years on the shelf.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

I need to replace a lightswitch in my house. What should I get?

You need to know if it’s a single pole or a three-way. If the light can be controlled in more than one location, then it is a 3-way pole.

Should I just throw away my old recyclable batteries?

No, laws require that they be recycled. This includes Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion) and small sealed Lead (Pb) batteries. You can look for a battery recycling seal on the rechargeable batteries found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless telephones, laptop computers and camcorders.

How much energy do compact fluorescent light bulbs save?

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

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 easiest way to test an outlet?

Use a receptacle analyzer. Leave the power on, but make sure nothing is plugged into any outlet on the circuit, and turn off all switches on the circuit. Now, plug the analyzer into the outlet.  A series of lights will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly and working.

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

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

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

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

What is a time delay fuse?

Time delay fuses are used on circuits where appliance motors have initial surges of electrical power when the motor starts. This initial surge might blow a regular fuse.

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

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

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

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

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

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.


  • A window installed on a sloping roof. Also called a roof window.
  • Can be stationary or vented.
  • Sizes range from 18” to 60” wide to 18” to 60” long. Usually, there should be only one square foot of skylight for every 20 square feet of floor space.
  • Opening the window can be controlled by a manual crank,sometimes reached with a long pole, or by a remote electronic operation.
  • A tubular skylight is one type designed for rooms where a larger, standard skylight may not be practical. Easy to install, it features a one-piece flashing system to eliminate the possibility of leaks.
  • A self-flashing or curb-mounted roof window works best with asphalt or fiberglass shingles.

Laminated Flooring

  • Consists of thin layers of wood or paper products adhered to a resilient foam core.
  • Designed to look like wood, stone or marble.
  • A coating of aluminum oxide provides hardness for the flooring.
  • Easy to maintain and resists scratching, denting or staining.
  • A glueless, interlocking design offered by some manufacturers makes it easy to install.
  • Not recommended for bathrooms since it can swell when exposed to water.

Western Lumber

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

Rigid Insulation

  • Can be used on the interior or exterior of the house, or on basement walls.
  • Usually comes in board form in a variety of sizes ranging from 8” squares to 4’ x 12’ sheets.
  • Some types are made of fiberboard and are popular because of their durability and low cost. Fiberboard repels water, while the asphalt coating eliminates the need for building paper.
  • Another type is made of extruded polystyrene. It is very resistant to moisture and is most highly recommended for below-ground use.
  • Molded polystyrene board is another type that dissipates water well.
  • Another type is polyisocyanurate sheathing that is available with aluminum foil or glass fiber mat facers. This type has the highest R-value per inch of thickness of all insulation products.

Wye Bend

  • Also called a Y Bend.
  • Has three female openings. Two are straight in a line; the third is at a 45∫ angle.
  • A Reducing Wye has two openings of the same size and the third Y opening of a different size.
  • A Double Wye has four openings.

Three-Dimensional Asphalt Shingle

  • Also known as a laminated asphalt shingle, or architectural shingle.
  • An inorganic shingle.
  • Characterized by a more rugged texture than a standard three-tab shingle.
  • Weighs and costs more than standard shingles.
  • Made of two or more layers that are laminated to create the three-dimensional look, giving it the appearance closer to wood or slate roofing.

Roof Louver

  • Used for bathroom fan exhausts, kitchen duct outlets and attic ventilation.
  • Usually made of aluminum or plastic.
  • One type, wall louver, has louvered vanes and can be flush or recessed mounted.
  • Another type, the midget louver, helps contain moisture in sidewall construction or other areas.

Folding Door

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

Polyurethane Glue

  • Is a one-part adhesive offering the strength of an epoxy without mixing.
  • Generally requires 4 to 24 hours to fully cure, but it does bond to most materials.
  • Cures in the presence of moisture, so wetting one or both materials to be joined is required.
  • Good for a bond between either similar or dissimilar surfaces an is commonly used in woodworking.
  • Waterproof, sandable, paintable and stainable.
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FAQs (0)

Do I need to use glue on wood joints when using pocket screws?

While most manufacturers of pocket screw joinery kits say you don’t have to, it certainly can’t hurt.

Should my door swing into or out of the room?

Generally, exterior doors should swing into the building, while interior doors should swing into the room. Doors that swing out into traffic areas can be dangerous.

How big of a nail do I need for the plywood I bought?

The size of the nail is determined by the thickness of the panel and how it will be used. Generally, common or box nails may be used. For finish work, you may want to use casing nails instead of finish nails if you need a heavier nail.

Which spring fits my garage door?

You need to know the size of the door and the number of panels. Information on the replacement spring packaging will indicate which spring is needed.

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

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

Is there a less expensive alternative to buying a solid piece of hardwood?

Depending on how you are using it, you might try a piece of plywood with a hardwood veneer. That is a thin slice of hardwood bonded to a core of composite board, so you can still get the look of hardwood without the cost of a solid piece of wood.

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.

What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

Porcelain is made from a more dense clay and kiln fired at higher temperatures. This means porcelain has a higher scratch resistance, durability and stain resistance than ceramic. It is also more difficult to cut.

Do I need to remove the old vinyl floor before installing my new vinyl floor?

No. It will be easier to leave the old floor if you can. You will need to completely clean the old floor and fill in any low spots or embossed areas of the old floor. You can also cover the existing floor with a wood underlayment.

Can I glue new ceiling tile onto the old ceiling tile?

Do this only if the old tile is in good condition. Most often, old ceiling tile is deteriorating and will not provide an adequate surface for gluing.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

All my hand tools are in toolboxes and drawers scattered throughout the house. What’s the best storage method and where I can find them easily?

Installing pegboard on a garage wall is an excellent way to keep your tools in sight so you can easily get them when you need them. Some people even draw outlines around the tools with a permanent marker on the pegboard so they know when a tool is missing from its proper location.

What type of router do I use with my router table?

You can use either a fixed base or a plunge router with a table. The most common and easiest one to use is a fixed base. A plunge router may require a special attachment to use the plunge features with a table.

What is the difference between a two-cycle and a four cycle-engine?

With a two-cycle engine, you will have to mix oil with the gasoline. Four-stroke engines tend to be more efficient and usually require less maintenance.

What is the difference between a round-point and square-point shovel?

Round-point shovels are used for digging, while most square points are used for scooping.

What is a glaziers point and glazing compound?

Glaziers points are used to secure glass in a sash prior to adding glazing compound, which is a putty used to seal windows.

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 are the advantages of locking pliers?

They can turn many parts that no other tool can and they are especially suited for clamping onto small parts and gripping pipefittings. You can also use them when a nut or bolt head strips.  But be careful because you and deform some parts if you over tighten them.

What all-around circular saw do you recommend?

A 7¼ inch is the most popular size. It lets you cut to a depth of 2½ inches and to cut through a 2x piece of lumber even when the blade is set to 45 degrees.

Do I need more than one Phillips head screwdriver?

Two sizes will handle most screws.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Hole Saw

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

Power Sprayer

  • Powered by a gasoline or electric motor to assure greater application efficiency.
  • Tank is large enough to cover large areas with one filling.
  • Some models can be towed by garden tractors.
  • Used on shrubs, flowers, vegetables and trees.
  • Cordless electric models with 1- to 5-gallon tanks eliminate the work of pumping while spraying.

Cabinet Slotted-Tip Screwdriver

• Similar to standard slotted, but tip is straight and has no flare.

• For use with small screws and countersinking screws where regular tips with a flare would mar the wood or material on the side.


Box (Box-End) Wrench

  • Has enclosed head and provides more leverage by completely enclosing the nut.
  • Some are offset to provide knuckle room and clearance over obstructions.
  • Ranges in size from 4″ to 16″ long and is available with either 6- or 12-point rings.
  • Some models have ratcheting capabilities.


Finishing Hammer

  • Used for general carpentry, finishing and cabinet making.
  • Head size generally between 7 oz. and 16 oz.
  • Smooth striking face so errant strikes don’t leave marks on the wood.

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.

Bolt Cutters

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


Retractable Tape Measure

  • Ranges in blade length from 6′ to 35′, with 10’, 16′ and 25′ being common sizes.
  • The concave blade measuring rule varies in width from 1/4″ to 1-1/4″—wider tapes are easier to extend over longer distances without collapsing.
  • A spring mechanism contained in the housing automatically retracts the tape.
  • A locking mechanism locks the tape in place. Some models have buttons that slide to lock the blade, while others have levers and toggles that permit the tape to retract when squeezed.
  • Many have markings for laying out studs on 16″ centers or other specialized markings.

Circular Level

  • Circular in shape, this tool is used for leveling flat surfaces over a 360 degree plane, such as table tops and appliances.
  • Also called Bull’s Eye or Surface Level.
  • When bubble appears in center of circular vial, piece is level.


  • Is a thick-bladed saw with a stiff, reinforced back to provide the rigidity necessary in precision cutting.
  • It varies in length from 10″ to 30″ and is found in tooth counts from seven to 14 teeth per inch.
  • Used with miter boxes to cut miters.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wood Screw

  • Used to secure wood together.
  • Usually made of unhardened steel, stainless steel, aluminum or brass.
  • Steel screws can have a choice of several coatings: bright-finished, blued, or zinc-, cadmium- or chrome-plated.
  • Threads on this screw run from the point along three-fourths of the length and heads are slotted.


Closet Flange Bolt

  • Secures the toilet bolt base to the floor flange.

Common Nail

  • Used in general carpentry and wood framing.
  • Available in most sizes and finishes.
  • Use with harder woods.
  • Applications include house foundation, floor joists, rafters and internal studding.

Spring Hinge

  • Closes the door automatically.
  • Double acting types are commonly used on café doors that swing in both directions.

Friction Catch

  • Helps the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Operates by pressure of the catch on the strike.
  • Catch mounts on a doorframe, jamb or underside of a shelf while the strike mounts on the door so that upon closing, it is inserted into the catch.
  • Two common types are alligator and lever spring-action.

Swinging Drapery Crane

  • Adjusting positions permit it to swing clear and project outward to keep curtains clear of venetian blinds.
  • Also used to push curtains close to the wall, to lengthen or shorten to suit drapery width and to tilt out to allow easy window or trim washing.
  • Good for French doors or windows.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

Do I need to find a stud if I’m hanging something on my wall?

If possible, it’s a good idea. But with hollow wall anchors, you can place most wall hangings anywhere you want, between studs.

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.

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

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

Should I use a galvanized nail?

Galvanized nails resist rust, and you should use them whenever you are building a project that will be exposed to the elements. Aluminum nails are rustproof, but must be thicker to prevent them from bending.

I’ve broken the head off a bolt. Is there some way I can get it out?

You should use a bolt extractor kit. It has a tap and an insert with a left-hand thread so that it can be turned to remove the bolt.

I want to put some shelves in my garage, what kind should I buy?

It’s always a good idea to keep things off the floor if possible, so invest in some shelves and brackets that you can hang on the wall.

What products do you sell that will help childproof my home?

Child-resistant locks on cabinets, electrical outlet covers, additional smoke alarms and gun locks are some of the products you should consider.

What products do you sell that will help childproof my home?

Child resistant locks on cabinets, electrical outlet covers, additional smoke alarms and gun locks are some of the products you should consider.

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.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

What does it mean when a furnace filter is “electrostatically charged?”

This is when the media of the filter uses static electricity to attract and capture small airborne particles, which both positively and negatively charged.

Where in the room should I place a portable heater for best results?

Place heaters under a window to warm cold air as it enters the room through possible gaps around the window.

Why should I put a vent fan in my bathroom?

Bath fans help eliminate odors but also clear away steam that causes steamy mirrors and windows after bathing or showering. Walls damp with steam build-up can result in mold, mildew, wood rot and ruined insulation.

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.

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

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

Can I use an extension cord with my electric space heater?

It is best to plug your electric heater directly into a wall outlet. However, if you must use an extension cord, only use one that is heavy duty, meaning it has 14-gauge wire.

What does MERV stand for?

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It basically rates the filter’s ability to trap particles from the air. The higher the MERV number, the more efficient the filter.

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 is reversible. What setting should I use in the summer and what one should I use in the winter?

Use the down draft setting in the summer, and the updraft setting in the winter.

How large of a kerosene heater should I buy?

Kerosene heaters are rated by their BTU output. Approximately 28 BTUs/hour are required to maintain one square foot of space at 70°F. Multiply this figure by the total square footage in the room you want to heat and you will have the approximate BTU rating of the heater you should buy.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Box Wood Stove

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

Fireplace Set

  • A set containing the tools usually needed around a fire.
  • Contains a stand, fire poker, ash shovel and broom.
  • Available in many different styles for a variety of décor options.

Floor-Vent Humidifier

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

Fiberglass Filter

  • Designed to protect the heating and air conditioning system from large particles, heavy dust and lint.
  • Protects furnace from larger particles and lint that enter the HVAC system.
  • Most common type of filter.
  • Fibers are not dense or electrostatically charged, so they cannot attract and capture smaller-sized particles.
  • This type of filter should be changed at least once a month.
  • Most common size for all furnace/AC filters are 20”x 20”, 20”x 25”, 16”x 20”, 16”x 25” and 14”x 25″.


Airtight Wood Stove

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

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.)

Furnace-Mounted Humidifier

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

Pleated Filter

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

Pellet-Fed Wood Stove

  • Burns a processed wood pellet fed electronically into the stove’s combustion chamber.
  • The advantage of this type of stove is it has a steady and controlled fuel source.
  • Disadvantage is the electronic controls will not operate if the power is out.

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.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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

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

I have small children. Will this garage door opener stop if they get in the way?

Yes, since 1990 all garage doors are required to have an optical sensor and/or a door edge sensor that will stop or reverse the door.

I’ve bypassed the doorbell button, and the doorbell still did not work. What’s the most likely problem?

Check the transformer. You will have to find it. It might be in the attic, but it can be anywhere, you just need to trace the wire. If it makes a humming sound when the button is pushed, your problem is probably the chime. If it doesn’t make a sound, I would change the transformer to see if that’s the problem.

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

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

Will a door closer work on my heavy storm door?

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

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.

I have mis-drilled the hole for my doorknob. Is there anything I can do to cover this mistake?

One option is to use a brass door reinforcer. This product will also increase the strength of your door.

When my house was built, they did not install a doorbell. Is there an easy way to solve this?

Yes, there are wireless door chimes that are fairly easy to install.

Will any lock fit my door?

Most locks come in two sizes: 2-3/8” or 2-3/4” backset. This is how far the center of the hole is away from the edge of the door. You need to know this distance or purchase a lock that has an adjustable backset.

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Home Security Terms (35)


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

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.

Entry Lockset

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

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.

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.

Deadbolt Lock

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

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.

Ionization Fire Detector

  • Measures the changes in electric current caused by invisible particles ionized in the heat of combustion.
  • Transforms air inside the detector into a conductor of electric current. When smoke enters the detector and impedes the flow of current, the alarm sounds.
  • Responds particularly well to the smoke caused by a flaming fire.
  • Requires little power and is effectively powered by household batteries.
  • Slower to respond to a smoldering fire.
  • Detectors are required to emit a low warning when batteries are weak.

Keyless Entry System

  • For advanced home security and convenience.
  • Audio and visual indicators confirm the lockset is activated.
  • Uses a keypad on the door or a remote control to open the door.
  • Some models will sound an alarm after the incorrect code has been entered more than three consecutive times.
  • Anti-theft rolling code feature ensures the same code is never used twice.
  • Some systems are compatible with some garage door openers so the homeowner only needs one remote.

Photoelectric Fire Detector

  • Uses a small lamp adjusted to direct a narrow light beam across the detection chamber. Smoke entering the chamber scatters this light beam, causing it to hit a sensor and set off the alarm.
  • Usually more sensitive to smoke from a slow, smoldering fire than an ionization detector, but reacts less quickly to flaming fires.
  • Available in both battery-operated and plug-in versions.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

The squirrels keep chewing through the wood around the access hole in my birdhouse. How do I prevent this?

Add a second piece of wood over the access hole before drilling the hole. This will double the thickness around the hole, which will help keep predators out.

How can I make sure my potted plant is getting enough but not too much water?

Use a water meter or gauge to monitor water levels.

What are the advantages of water-soluble fertilizers?

These dry or liquid concentrates must be diluted in water before application. They are applied with a hose-end sprayer or a watering can. They are relatively expensive, but they are easy to apply and provide even feeding. They are easy to use, especially on container plants. There is no risk of burning a plant as long as you follow label directions for dilution, and the nutrients, in solution, are available to plant roots immediately. They are less practical than the solids for large-scale use because of their greater cost and because they must be reapplied more often (their nutrients in solution leach through the root zone more rapidly).

Do you have anything that can clear an outside area of flying insects?

There are electric insect foggers and for smaller areas there are outdoor foggers that come in an aerosol can.

How do I transplant flowers?

First, dig a hole a little larger than the plant’s rootball. Put your hand over the rootball and turn the container over. Now, you can gently pull off the container with your other hand. Set the rootball in the hole, cover with loose soil, press down firmly and water thoroughly.

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

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

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

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

What size pump sprayer should I buy?

The bigger the sprayer the longer you can use it without refilling it. The disadvantage is that when they are full they can be heavy. Liquids weigh about eight pounds per gallon.

How do I maintain my mower after each use?

After each mowing, wait until then engine cools and then use a hose to spray the clippings and grass debris that may be clinging to the underside of your mower. Some people recommend that you get your blade sharpened about once a month.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Cooking Grate

cooking grate

Cooking grates are used in grills. This is what the food is placed on so that it doesn’t fall into the fire/burners. Some grills have multiple shelving options for food that needs to be close to or away from the heat.

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.

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.

Push Hoe

  • Also called a floral hoe.
  • Used for weeding, cultivating and aerating.
  • Pushed rather than pulled into the ground.
  • Blade slides just below the surface to cut weeds.
  • Handle is attached to the rear of the blade at a shallow angle.

Watering Can

  • Available in a wide variety of styles in plastic and metal construction.
  • Effective for small lawn or garden areas.
  • Most portable watering device and easy to use indoors and in tight places.

Drop Spreader

  • Spreads precise seed and fertilizer spreading over smaller areas.
  • Dispenses material with the pull of a lever.
  • Takes longer than the broadcast spreader to complete a task, but offers more precision.
  • Typically spreads in an 18” to 22” path.
  • Includes flow settings to adjust for all sizes of seed and granules.
  • Hopper capacity varies with model.

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.

Organic Mulch

  • A ground cover that protects ground temperature, reduces evaporation, prevents erosion, controls weeds, attracts earthworms and enriches the soil.
  • Good mulch should allow water to pass through it quickly but not be easily washed away by the rain.
  • Keeps soil surface as much as 10° cooler than exposed soil.
  • Thick applications of mulch will stop weeds, but it will need to be refreshed every year.
  • Types include bark, pine nuggets, cypress, hardwood, peat moss and pine mulch.

Kentucky Bluegrass

  • Forms a good sod when grown alone and thrives when included in a mixture.
  • Slow to germinate and become established.
  • Does not tolerate dense shade.
  • Responds well to fertilization and high mowing.
  • Grows well in lawns in the cool-climate, Northern half of the U.S., except in areas with mild winters, such as the maritime Pacific Northwest.

Lawn Fencing

  • Offers homeowners inexpensive protection for shrubs, trees and flowerbeds.
  • Vinyl-coated fence withstands harsh weather and does not need painting or other maintenance. Available in green or white.
  • Plastic fence is available in a 2” square mesh design and a 1” diamond mesh.
  • Available in white and green. Will not rot, rust or corrode and has no sharp edges.
  • Galvanized fence is available in 2”x4” mesh.
  • Typical fence stands 36” to 48” high.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

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

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

I’m going to apply an oil-base stain to my deck. Do I need to strip the existing finish off first before applying the new stain?

If the existing finish was a water- or latex-base stain, then you should remove it before re-staining. If it is an oil-base finish, then you can probably skip the stripping step and just give a thorough washing before re-applying the stain.

How much of an area will a gallon of paint cover?

For many paints, a gallon will cover 400 square feet. However, the quality of the paint can affect how much it will cover. The label on the paint can usually provides some guidance.  In addition, there are a number of factors that affect how much paint you will need. These include the type of surface being covered, the color currently on the surface and the color being applied.

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.

Can I paint my aluminum siding

? Yes, it needs to be cleaned and rinsed well. Then, it needs to be scuffed up and primed with a special primer. It can then be painted with a premium acrylic latex house paint.

Where do I start when painting an interior wall?

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

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.

How do I recognize a good paint?

Paint has three components: the binder, the pigment and the liquid. The best paints contain a higher volume of solid materials. Pay close attention to the solid content. For example, a $13 gallon of paint with a solid content of 19 percent might cover about 200 square feet, while a $20 gallon of paint with 41 percent solid content will cover about twice that amount. The binder is the most important factor in the durability. Some paints also have additives to enhance their performance, such as mildewcide.

Should I buy a paint brush with angled bristles or cut square?

An angle-tipped brush allows you to put the tips of the bristles on the work at the natural angle that the brush is held. In addition, an angle-tipped brush puts slightly more bristle area on the work than a square-tipped brush of the same width.

Is there a good time to paint outside?

Always check the paint can for specific recommendations. But for general guidelines, you want the paint to dry evenly, so try to paint in the shade and when the temperature is between 60 degrees and below 90 degrees. Also, avoid windy days because they might make the paint dry too quickly or blow debris onto your wet paint.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wallpaper Primer

  • Helps to ensure an ideal surface before hanging wallpaper to resist peeling.
  • Prevents damage to drywall by binding and sealing surface.
  • Also blocks dark colors and patters from showing through paper.
  • Has superior bonding properties so there is no need for deglossing previously painted surfaces.
  • Generally comes in a water-based acrylic formulation.

Interior Paint

  • Is available in latex and oil-based formulations in different gloss levels such as flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss and high-gloss.
  • Interior latex paint is easily applied and can be thinned with water. Brushes and rollers can also be cleaned with water.
  • Latex paint is the most common and easiest type of paint to use.
  • Oil-based interior paint consists of a pigment that exists within a substance made of resins and thinners. When thinners evaporate, the resins form a hard coating—and the pigment provides the color.
  • The contents of oil-based paints make them harder to apply, although this same characteristic can also give them a heavier coverage on the first coat.
  • Oil-based paints have certain disadvantages, particularly the odor and the longer drying time (8 to 24 hours). Solvents, thinners or turpentine are also necessary for cleanup, and oil-based paints cannot be applied to moist surfaces.


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.

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.

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.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

I think my toilet may be leaking. What should I do?

The most likely cause is that your toilet’s flush valve is leaking through the flapper, letting water continue to drain from the tank down into the bowl. You can check this by pouring some food coloring or blue fabric softener into the tank. Let it sit for 10 minutes than check back to see if the color of the water is the bowl has changed. If so, start by making sure the flapper is seating properly, and replace it if necessary.

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

The easiest thing is to use a push fitting.

What is a gasket?

It is made of rubber, plastic or paper and is the component that seals the joints in fittings and valves. It is sometimes available in liquid form.

How do I adjust toilet water level?

To adjust the water level on a toilet with modern tank components, there is a lock ring or pinch clamp that allows you to raise or lower the float on the fill valve. On toilets with older fill valves, you can simply bend the float arm down to lower the water level or up to raise it.

What is the difference between PVC and CPVC plastic pipe?

CPVC can be used on hot and cold lines, while PVC is for cold water only. PVC is usually used as a drainpipe.

Is a trap necessary under the sink?

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

What does the flux do?

It cleans the surface prior to soldering. It prevents the oxidation of the metal. And it allows the solder to flow freely.

What is the correct size garbage disposer I should put under my sink?

If you are replacing an existing unit that has worked well for a number of years, the old size should work fine. Otherwise, a unit with a 1/3 horsepower motor will handle limited use once a day. A standard unit with a ½ horsepower motor will normally suffice for general use. Heavy-duty ¾ horsepower units and larger are designed for a large volume of garbage.

I think my flush valve is leaking, is there a way to fix this without removing the tank from the bowl?

Maybe. Start by checking the flapper, which is the rubber and plastic assembly piece that is attached to the chain. When the tank lever is pressed, the flapper is raised to let water flush from the tank into the bowl. Sometimes the flapper doesn’t seat properly and needs to be adjusted. Oftentimes, the flapper can be replaced without replacing the entire flush valve.

When it comes to plastic piping, Is ½-inch CPVC and ½-inch PVC the same size?

No. CPVC is measured by O.D., which makes its sizing similar to hard copper. PVC is measured by I.D., which makes its sizing similar to iron pipe.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Copper Pipe

  • Rigid copper pipe is good for new installation. Soft or flexible copper pipe is good for repair work since it can bend around obstacles without multiple cuts and joints.
  • Type K is heaviest, used in municipal, commercial, residential and underground installation; Type L is medium weight and is the most commonly used in residential water lines; Type M is hard and thin.
  • Recommended for light domestic water lines and not permitted in some city codes or for underground use.
  • Common sizes are 3/8”, 1/2 and 3/4”.
  • Refrigeration tube has moisture removed and ends sealed for better performance of refrigerants. Often used in heater connections but may corrode. For heater connections, use flexible brass or aluminum.
  • Larger sizes also used for DWV (drain-waste-vent) applications.

Sewer Tape

  • An alternative to the auger, but not as effective in difficult blockages.
  • A flat metal band with a hook on one end.

Pipe (Stillson) Wrench

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



  • Helps prevent oxidation and allows solder to flow freely.
  • Comes in both liquid and paste.
  • Necessary whenever sweating a joint.

Pressure Relief Valve

  • Used to protect water heaters or hot water storage tanks.
  • When the water pressure reaches a dangerous level, the valve opens and discharges water. Cold water then flows into the tank and stabilizes the water pressure.

Compression Faucet

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

Utility Pumps

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

PVC Pipe

  • PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride.
  • Used for carrying cold water, irrigation, as conduit and for DWV (drain-waste-vent) projects.
  • Rated by thickness and strength. Common ratings (thickest to thinnest) are Schedule 40 (most common), Class 315, Class 200 and Class 125 (generally used for irrigation).
  • Available in sizes from 1/2” to 2”. White in color.



  • Used to clear stopped-up drains by chemical action.
  • Most liquid drain cleaners are heavier than water and will seek out the stoppage, even if the sink, tub or bowl is full of water.
  • Cleaners are typically a combination of potassium hydroxide, which turns grease to soft soap, and thioglycolic acid, that dissolves hair. Others may contain sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid or lye.
  • Toxic liquids should carry warnings and must be used with caution.

PO Plug Wrench

  • Used to remove pop-up or pop-out (PO) plugs from the drain opening in the basin.
  • The four-way shape makes it useful for a variety of strainer types.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Hole Saw

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

Production Router

  • High horsepower router for heavy-duty work or hours of router table work.
  • Available in fixed base and plunge models.
  • Somewhat heavy and awkward for topside routing.
  • Adjustable speed is a common feature.

Plywood Blade

  • Circular blade used for cutting plywood.
  • Has small teeth to resist splintering and resist the abrasion of plywood glue.

Tile Saw

  • Wet SawAlso known as a wet saw.
  • Used for cutting tile and stone.
  • Uses a diamond-tipped circular saw blade cooled by a continuous stream of water contained in a reservoir.
  • Some saws operate similar to a radial arm saw, while others are set up like a table saw.

Tile Bit

  • Used for drilling ceramic tile and glass.
  • Has a ground tungsten carbide tip.
  • Best if used with a variable speed power drill at a low speed.

Narrow Belt Sander

  • Has a belt that is narrower than a typical belt sander, making it ideal for sanding in tight places.
  • Easy to maneuver.
  • With a bench stand accessory, it can mount on a table top and is good for sanding smaller pieces.


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

Laminate Trimmer

  • A lightweight mini router.
  • Designed for trimming thin plastic countertop materials, but also useful for small routing jobs.
  • Highly portable and can be used with one hand.

Dado Head Blade

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


  • Used to square up, resize or smooth wood in width or thickness. Best for larger flat surfaces.
  • Performs the job of a hand plane, but faster and better.
  • A variation is a planer-jointer, which performs additional operations such as tapering, beveling and grooving. The planer finishes edges.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)


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

Specialty Stationary Workbench

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

Attic Ladder

  • Folding ladder that pulls down from attic access hole to permit entry.
  • 3 sections unfold to rest on floor, then fold back up to store on top of pull-down access door. Generally made of wood or aluminum.
  • 90-degree wrap-around hinges allow legs to completely fold up when not in use.
  • Different models accommodate different floor-to-ceiling height ranges.
  • Steps are usually double riveted for extra durability.
  • Generally rated either at 250 lbs. or 300 lbs.

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.

Mobile Workbench

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

Articulated Ladder

  • Also called a combination ladder.
  • 3-position, multi-lock hinges offer many different arrangements and combinations to become a step ladder, an extension ladder, a stairway ladder (modified step ladder) or a scaffold.
  • No tools needed for conversion between ladder types.
  • Most models extend between 12’ and 16’ and carry either a 225 lb. or a 250 lb. duty rating.

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

Folding Workbench

  • Is a portable specialty bench that comes as a tabletop or folding bench.
  • The folding benches offer easy storage and a firm, broad base.
  • Many models come with a tabletop clamping device to secure work piece to the table and hold irregular pieces securely.

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″.

Folding Sawhorse

  • Made of either construction-grade tubular aluminum or steel or fabricated steel.
  • Most require a wooden cross-beam (Generally a 2×4 or 2×6) be added. With a metal cross-beam there is danger of ruining saw teeth.
  • Most steel models have adjustable legs that fold up into the unit for easy storage.
  • Plastic units generally fold flat for easy storage. Some also are equipped with a lower shelf.
  • Most non-adjustable units are between 24” and 27”, which is considered a comfortable working height.
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