DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

I don’t have a router and router table. Can I fasten the mirror directly to the back of the frame without recessing it into a rabbit?

Yes, you can use mirror clips fasted to the back of the frame. Just be sure to select the right size clips for the thickness of your mirror.

How do I measure for my replacement window?

Remember that windows that are custom built can’t be returned, so measure carefully. To measure the width, raise the lower sash and measure the jamb-to-jamb width in three places: near the top of the window, at the middle and close to the bottom. To measure the height, measure from the head jamb to the sloped sill to just past where it meets the inside window stool. Don’t assume all windows are the same size. Draw a sketch of your house and measure each window separately.

Should I use fiberglass or aluminum screening?

Aluminum screening is more durable. It’s also fireproof. However, fiberglass doesn’t dent. Fiberglass is also easier to work with, but it may need to be restretched after it has been installed.

Are long pieces of lumber that are made by gluing boards together as strong as solid pieces of timer?

Lumber that is glued or laminated together is tested by the manufacturer to ensure it will withstand a certain load. If you know what your load requirements are and buy a piece rated to withstand that load, then you can be sure the laminated lumber you buy is as strong as a single piece of timber. In fact, a laminated piece, especially in longer lengths, may be easier to find. Also, thick timbers are more difficult to dry properly, while laminated pieces are made from all kiln-dried material.

What is CDX plywood?

CDX is one of the less expensive plywood you can buy. C and D refer to the grading of the front and back sides. They are rough and not meant for places where appearance matters. The X means it is rated for exterior use. However, it is only meant for limited exterior use. For permanent exterior use, use a panel with an exterior rating.

If the wallboard in my basement was damaged during a flood, can I simply dry it out and keep it?

No. It needs to be replaced. Wallboard damaged by floodwater is a health hazard because there may be mud and contaminants dried up inside the board.

What’s the advantage of ceramic tile over vinyl in my kitchen?

Ceramic tile is easy to maintain and more durable than vinyl. It will also last longer, which means it is more cost effective over the long run. Also, it is more likely to increase the value of your home.

Can I install linoleum over a concrete slab or in the basement?

Linoleum must be protected from moisture in the subfloor. It is generally not recommended for concrete slabs or basement applications.

Can I install my ceiling tile the same day I purchase it?

Most manufacturers recommend you take the tile out of the package and let sit in the room where they will be installed for at least 24 hours so they can acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Swinging Door

  • Café DoorAlso known as a café door.
  • Hinged to attach to each side of the doorway and swing freely without a latch.
  • Features two or three panels and is available in wood, PVC vinyl or insulated steel or fiberglass.
  • Tends to be more secure and energy efficient than a sliding door and can be easily installed by the homeowner.

Latex Patching Cement

  • Used to patch cracks in concrete.
  • Can also be applied in layers as thin as 1/16” to make it useful for smoothing rough surfaces.
  • Comes as a powdered cement and latex liquid, which is mixed.

Slate Tile

  • Made of shale with a natural cleft finish.
  • Must be sealed after installation.

Treated Lumber

  • Lumber treated to resist weather, termites and fungus.
  • Treatment involves chemical preservatives forced deep into the cells in the wood under pressure.
  • Wood used for decks and other outdoor consumer use is generally treated with an inorganic chemical. In 2004, the EPA outlawed the use of arsenic as a method of treating wood. ACQ and copper azole are the current popular chemicals used.
  • Treated wood still absorbs water, and the treatment is not considered waterproof, but rather decay-proof.
  • Wood species typically used include Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, Hem-fir and Southern yellow pine.
  • Always wear respiratory protection when cutting treated lumber.

Pipe Insulation

  • For insulating water pipes from freezing in the winter. It also helps control heat loss when pipes carry hot water and controls condensation and dripping.
  • Available in preformed insulating tubes that fit over the pipe.
  • Another type comes in batt form, which can be wrapped around the pipe.

Drop Ear Elbow

  • Provides a rigid installation for mounting an elbow to a wall.
  • Usually used for installing a shower arm or washer hose valve.
  • Some variations include fittings that can transition from plastic to brass or copper.
  • Also known as a wing elbow.

Wood Shingle

  • Typically made of cedar, although composite wood shingles are available.
  • Flat shape and a smooth texture.
  • Usually 1/2” thick.
  • Wood shakes are similar, but have a rougher texture. They are usually 1/2” or 3/4” thick.
  • More difficult to install than asphalt shingles.
  • Features may include a fire-retardant coating, which only reduces, not eliminates, its flammability.

End Cap

  • Used to stop a run of gutter.

Patching Plaster

  • Is a fast-setting powder ready to use by adding water.
  • It dries hard to uniform, white color.
  • It repairs and covers large holes and deep cracks in plaster walls and ceilings.
  • Patching plaster may be drilled, sanded and painted and can be textured to match existing surface.

Plastic Resin Glue

  • Is powdered urea formaldehyde glue.
  • When mixed with water, it makes highly water-resistant bonds.
  • Frequently used for furniture repair, it is applied to clean, close-fitting surfaces and cured under pressure for at least 10 hours at 70° F.
  • The finished glue is non-toxic and impervious to most materials.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Incandescent Fixture

  • Styles vary widely, but the basic purpose is to hold an incandescent light bulb. Fixtures can be mounted on a stand, on the wall or on the ceiling.
  • The basic wall or ceiling fixture mounts onto an electrical box. The most common type of box contains a threaded stud (or threaded rod) that attaches to the fixture with a part called a hickey. Or, instead of a threaded stud, the fixture may use a crossbar hanger.
  • Various styles of lights can be used for four basic purposes: task lighting (to illuminate specific areas for activities such as reading or preparing food), ambient lighting (for general illumination of a room), accent lighting (focused, directional light generally on artwork or architectural features), and utility lighting (used to flood an area with light, often outdoors or in work areas).

Home Networking

  • Home networks connect multiple computers in the home, satellite dishes, cable TV, sophisticated audio systems and home.
  • The heart of these systems is the networking hub. Usually thought of in conjunction with computers, the home network hub differs in that it provides central control of computers, peripherals, phones, TVs and audio components. This is the unit where most of the wiring from different locations comes together to meet.
  • Most home networks use coaxial, Category 3 and Category 5 cable. Coaxial cable is used for TVs, VCRs and satellite equipment. Category 3 cable is used for telephones while Category 5 is used for telephone, fax and computer systems. Some cables combine different functions into one cable.
  • “Structured” wiring refers to a bundle of cables that runs from the networking hub to meet a home’s future information-carrying needs. This wire bundle may consist of some combination of Category 5 cables, fiber-optic lines, Category 3 cables and coaxial lines.
  • Jacks are used to terminate the cable. There are different jacks for telephones, computers, satellite, audio and video equipment. Many of these jacks and cable connectors require special tools for installation.
  • Patch cords are used to connect different computer and audio/video devices with one another or with a central networking device such as a hub.
  • Binding posts are used to connect bare speaker wire, while F-Connectors are used with coaxial cable.

Circuit Breaker

  • Two styles are available: Push button (less common) and toggle.
  • Breakers can be single, double or thin.
  • Contains a bi-metal strip that breaks the circuit when a current exceeds a predetermined rating.
  • A breaker indicates a broken circuit when the switch is in the mid-point, or tripped, position.
  • Reset the circuit breaker after correcting the overload problem. Switch it to the off position, then to the on position.
  • Another type of circuit breaker is a screw-in type that looks similar to a fuse, but has a button on the top. The button pops out when the circuit is broken.

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.

Voltage Tester

  • Also known as a test lamp, a circuit tester, a neon tester or a test light.
  • Consists of two insulated wire probes and a small neon light.
  • Designs vary widely.
  • Used to determine if there is electricity running through a circuit or if it is properly grounded.
  • Recommend as a basic tool for every toolbox.

Fluorescent Fixture

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

Extension Cord

  • Indoor extension cords come in two-wire cords in lengths from 6′ to 15′. White and brown are the basic colors.
  • Outdoor extension cords are used for outdoor power tools and exterior lighting. They come in 16/3, 14/3 and 12/3 wire, and the most common lengths are from 25′ to 100′. Heavy-duty extension cords should be used with high-wattage appliances.
  • Any UL-listed cord will carry a UL label near the female end. Many companies are now using an alternative method of labeling allowed by UL, which permits the UL markings to be molded into the cord ends. This ensures a permanent marking that cannot be provided with a label. It is important to check for this UL insignia, whether it is a label or a permanent marking. Non-listed cords can be similar in appearance to listed ones.
  • To be UL-listed for outdoor use, three-wire round cords must have connector and cap molded to the cord and a lip on the end of the connector to prevent misuse. Beginning in 1998, UL-listed outdoor cords began appearing with the “SJTW” marking on the cord, not “SJTW-A” as was previously used. For a period of time, either marking will be acceptable for outdoor use.
  • Grounding cords are available in both heavyweight and heavy-duty construction differing from standard cords, because they have three conductors instead of two and are equipped with a three-prong grounding plug and connector.
  • Step-saver cords have built-in pendant switches to control appliances and lamps across the room.
  • Wind-up reels keep tangled, foot-catching cords off the floor.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter

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

Multiple Outlet Strip

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

Continuity Tester

  • Used to determine if a wire or circuit can carry electricity from one end to the other.
  • Generally consists of two probes (one of them being an alligator clip) and an indicator light powered by a battery.
  • Can also be used to test cartridge fuses.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

Instead of using a grow lamp, will placing my plants under a regular fluorescent or incandescent lamp work?

It might, depending on the light. But it probably won’t be as effective. Different stages of plant growth require different light spectra. The initial growing stage requires a blue spectrum of light, whereas the later “flowering” stage is usually done with red–orange spectra. Manufacturers of grow light bulbs design them to product a specific light spectrum range and lumen output to create an ideal growing condition for starting plants.

Can I add additional outlets to an existing circuit?

You need to figure the current circuit load in watts to see if it can handle additional use. The National Electric Code is 20 percent less than maximum. This means a 15-amp circuit has a safe capacity of 1,440 amps. A 20-amp circuit limit is 1,920 amps, a 25-amp circuit’s limit is 2,400 amps and a 30-amp circuit has a safe limit of 2,880 watts.

My fluorescent fixture does not seem to be putting out as much light as it used to. Could the tube be failing?

If the entire tube is dim, it may simply need washing. Try removing it and wiping it with a damp cloth.

How do I connect a wire to the terminal on my light switch?

Bend a stripped wire 180 degrees by bending it over the tip of needle nose pliers. Wrap the wire clockwise around the screw so that it will stay in place as you tighten the screw. Don’t over tighten and make sure there is no insulation under the terminal.

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

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

What do the numbers mean on electrical wire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

French Door

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

Vinyl Patching Cement

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

Quarry Tile

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

Wall/Ceiling Junction

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

Felt Weather Strip

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

Countertop Lavatory

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


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

Spike & Ferrule

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

Plaster of Paris

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

Construction Adhesive

  • Also known as mastic, which is a general term for any thick adhesive.
  • Used in heavy-duty bonding and construction, mastics are usually applied with a caulking gun or trowel.
  • Reduces the need for screws, nails and other fasteners.
  • Flexible and waterproof qualities make them ideal for outdoor applications.
  • Can be used to join flooring and sub-flooring, paneling, drywall and roofing, molding, tile, masonry and concrete, metal and wood.
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FAQs (0)

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

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

What is the difference between latex and vinyl patching cement?

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

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

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

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

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

What is the difference between Exterior panels and Exposure 1 panels?

Exterior panels are fully waterproof and made to withstand exposure to the weather for its entire life. Exposure 1 panels have a waterproof bond as well but won’t hold up as well if exposed to the weather for a long period of time. They are designed for construction where a temporary exposure to the weather is necessary.

Does wallboard have an R value?

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

Is tile a project I can do myself?

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

How difficult is linoleum to maintain?

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

How do I cut ceiling tile?

Use a sharp utility knife.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What’s an auger bit used for in drilling?

It primarily used for cutting deep holes in all types of wood.

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

There are different types of blades for different types of cuts, but here are a few blades that will give you versatility. A 1/4” wide blade is a good, all-purpose blade. A 4-tpi 1/4” size is good for quick curved cuts, or try a 6-tpi 1/4” blade for slower speeds and smoother cuts. The 1/2” hook-tooth blade is best for long straight cuts. For joinery or tight cuts, use a 1/8”, 14-tpi blade.

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.

How do I remove paint from wood?

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

Can you recommend a tool that makes a good gift?

I would consider a cordless drill, a bench grinder, a palm sander, a level, a square, a chalkline or a new ladder.

What type of level should I buy?

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

How do I take care of my pruning tools?

Simply keep them clean and wipe them down with light oil. Oil their pivot points and blades with 3-in-1 oil and sharpen them if need be. Also remove any rust with Naval Jelly.

Can I drill a hole in concrete?

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

Do I need to buy both a crosscut and rip blade?

For general use, you can buy a combination blade that incorporates the features of both rip and crosscut blades.

I need to cut the carpet out of a room that I am remodeling. Is there a special type of utility knife designed for this?

Yes. A carpet knife is what you need. Its angled design allows you to access hard-to-reach places where a regular utility might not be able to reach.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Bow Head Garden Rake

  • Rake head is attached to the handle with a long, curved bows extending from each end of the head.
  • Handles are usually 48” to 54” long.
  • Used to break up and smooth soil after it has been spaded and cultivated.
  • Has sharp, curved steel teeth to pulverize dirt clods.
  • The straight back is good for leveling the soil for planting.

Locking Pliers

• Adjustable, vise-type locking pliers that can be locked on to a work piece and operate like a clamp.

• Features an adjustment screw that changes the jaw size to apply the correct clamping pressure.

• Available in various sizes and shapes: curved jaw puts pressure on any style nut or bolt head; curved jaw with wire cutter also allows user to cut wire; straight jaw provides maximum contact on flat, square or hex work; long nose provides easy access in hard-to-reach places; large jaw is used by plumbers, welders and mechanics working with large objects; and bent nose is for work in tight places.

• Some use a mechanism that allows one-handed release; others require two hands to disengage.

• Many locking pliers provide a wire-cutting function, some from a full range, others from a restricted range of jaw settings.


Spiral-Ratchet Screwdriver

  • Also called Yankee Screwdriver or Yankee Push Drill.
  • Drills and removes screws using a ratchet mechanism similar to a push-pull drill, with driving action provided by pushing straight down on the handle.
  • It has an adjustable chuck to permit interchanging different size driver tips and drill points.


Locking Wrench

  • Through a locking action, jaws can be locked in a holding position with pressure up to 1 ton.
  • Can also be used as hand vises, holding clamps, pipe wrenches and hand vise pliers.
  • Available with both curved and straight jaws.



  • Has rubber, plastic, wooden or rawhide head.
  • Used to drive chisels or hammer joints together.
  • Sizes are specified in head weight or diameter with the exception of wooden mallets, which are specified by head diameter only.
  • Comes in variety of shapes and sizes for specific tasks.
  • Carpentry mallet features angled head to reduce fatigue; shop mallet with octagonal head is used for flat strikes; rawhide mallet is used in furniture assembly.


Fixed-Blade Utility Knife

  • Blade locks between the halves of the knife to provide more blade stability than retractable models.
  • Handle generally unscrews or swivels open to permit blade changes.
  • Higher-end models have rubber grips and ergonomic designs for better gripping.
  • Unlike retractable knives, accepts larger or special-purpose blades that can’t retract into the handle.


Router Plane

  • Used to make dados or grooves in areas inaccessible to a regular plane.
  • A variety of blade styles are available.
  • Requires two-handed operation.
  • Can be adjusted to control size and depth of cut.


Dial Calipers

  • Tool used for measuring inside and outside diameters of cylinder-shaped objects, such as drill bits and pipe.
  • Dial readout provides accurate measurements in 1/64” or .01”.
  • Metric models are also available.
  • Other models include vernier calipers, which don’t have a dial and require the user to read from measurements on linear scale, and electronic digital calipers, which have a digital display readout.

Carpenter’s Hatchet

  • Also called a half hatchet.
  • For general use of felling and trimming trees or notching wood.
  • Other popular hatchet models include Hunter’s Hatchets, Broad Hatchets, and Camping Hatchets.

Plastic Pipe Saw

  • Designed to cut PVC and ABS plastic.
  • Can also cut wood and drywall.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)


  • A strip fastened to the floor beneath a door.
  • It usually covers the joint where two types of floor material meet.
  • Can be made of metal, aluminum or wood.
  • It may have a rubber strip in the center to aid in weatherproofing.
  • An astragal is a molding or strip that covers or closes the gap between the edges of a pair of doors. Some types overlap while others meet at the centerline of the gap.

Drawer Slide

  • The monorail type uses a single track under the center of the drawer with drawer rollers on the left and right side. It is easy to install because it requires minimum measuring and templates. It is low in cost and fits both new and old installations.
  • The side-mounting type uses four tracks, one attached to each side or bottom of the drawer and one on both the left and right sides of the cabinet. It has rollers on which the drawer rides.
  • Some types of slides are self-closing. They close when the drawer comes to within 4” to 5” of the back, regardless of the load or its position in the drawer.
  • Quality slides permit little side movement, prevent accidental drawer pullout, have high-quality rollers and are precision-made to close tolerances.

Cable Tie

  • One-piece bands with self-locking catches or heads on one end.
  • Available in different widths and lengths to accommodate various bundle diameter sizes.
  • Used on anything that needs to be tied up, tied down or held in place.
  • Natural, colored and fluorescent ties are used indoors while UV (sunlight resistant) black ties are used outdoors.
  • Mounting bases can be used with standard cable ties to fix wire bundles to support structures or other surfaces. Bases are adhesive-backed for quick anchoring and contain molded knockout screw holes for extra power.
  • Use cable tie tools to make the use of cable ties easier.

Clevis Hook

  • Attaches directly to a welded chain.
  • Used as a temporary chain connector.
  • Eliminates the need for an additional attachment or fitting.
  • The Slip Hook type looks like a large fishhook.
  • The Grab Hook type has a narrower opening.

Carriage Bolt

  • Has a square shoulder under the head that pulls into soft materials such as wood and prevents the bolt from turning while the nut is tightened.
  • Has coarse, partial threads and a smooth, rounded head.


Impact-Expansion Concrete Anchor

  • Diameter sizes range from 1/4” to 3/4” and lengths from 1-3/4” to 6”.
  • The drill size used should be the same as the anchor diameter.
  • Setting the anchor requires driving the center pin down to the top of the anchor, which expands the sides of the anchor against the walls of the hole.
  • The hole can be drilled through the item to be fastened without moving the fixture.
  • Anchor can be plated hardened steel or stainless steel.

Roofing Nail

  • Has large heads and diamond points.
  • Galvanized to resist corrosion.
  • Barbed shank for greater holding power.
  • Nails for a new roof are typically 7/8” long with 7/16” head.
  • Carefully choose size to match the thickness of the roofing.
  • Sealing roofing nails have a plastic or rubber washer under the nail head for watertight seal.

Screen Storm Door Hardware

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

Furniture Glide

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

Support Hardware

  • Includes metal plates and braces specifically designed for use as reinforcement in a variety of applications.
  • Available in an assortment of sizes, shapes and finishes.
  • Specific items include t-plates, corner braces, mending plates, triple corner braces and chair leg braces.
  • Can be packaged with or without mounting hardware.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

Will super glue work on all types of plastic?

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

My cabinets have handles that have holes that are 3-1/2” apart, but I am only finding new handles that fit holes 3” apart, what do you recommend?

Most pulls are generally on 3” mounting centers. You will need to drill new holes and look for pulls that are designed to cover the previous holes. There are also decorative plates that will cover the previous holes. Mount these plates under the new pulls.

Will a stick-on hook hold much weight?

They are really only designed for towels and other lightweight items.

Are there screws that will not rust?

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

When should I use a polyester rope?

Polyester twisted rope has strength similar to nylon, but at the expense of a poor shock load capacity. However, it has a good resistance to abrasion and sunshine. It’s a good choice for general-purpose boating applications.

What is the difference between a caulk and a sealant?

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

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

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

Why would I use brass screws?

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

I am building a swing. What type of chain do you recommend?

Passing link allows the links to pass each other easily, which helps prevent kinking and tangling?

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

How much space should there be between the stove and surrounding objects?

There should be a 36” clearance on all sides of the stove to prevent scorching or possible fire.

Does the tank size contribute to the efficiency of the humidifier?

No. Larger tank sizes merely mean you won’t have to refill them as often.

How often should I change my furnace filter?

Normal time periods are one month to three months.

What is the best type of vent system for my house?

Most builders agree that a ridge vent system is the most effective as well as the most cost-effective.

What is the difference between a stove with a catalytic combustor and a non-catalytic combustor?

A catalytic combustor stove lowers the temperature required to burn wood efficiently. The stove burns fuel slowly and also burns off smoke that would otherwise leave the chimney as wasted fuel. This type generally doesn’t need much cleaning. A non-catalytic combustor stove (a recirculating stove) uses a heavily insulated firebox that keeps the heat in and creates a more complete combustion. This type also has a secondary combustion chamber that burns off more gasses and soot.

Where should I place my humidifier for maximum efficiency?

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

What is the advantage of the higher priced air filters for furnaces?

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

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

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

How often should I clean the chimney for my fireplace?

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

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

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

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Wood Fireplace

  • Burns seasoned wood or manufactured wood logs to provide primary or secondary heat to a home.
  • Newer prefabricated fireplaces are more energy efficient than traditional masonry ones.
  • Must use a venting system. In a conventional, open-face fireplace, the chimney serves as the vent. The drawback is that it pulls warm air up the chimney and out of the house.
  • A prefabricated fireplace has an enclosed firebox made of a material that will hold some of the heat from the flue gases so more heat is radiated back into the room.
  • Fireplace systems will incorporate a damper in the flue, which can be closed when the fire is extinguished. Otherwise, the warm air will continue to flow out of the house through the draft that is created.

Vented Gas Heater

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

Floor Fan

  • Can be moved anywhere in the home to provide air movement that will cool and circulate air.
  • Sizes are generally 10” to 12” in diameter. They can be mounted in rectangular or round, hassock-type case.
  • A hassock fan throws air outward and upward in a 360° direction.
  • A rectangular fan will tile about 170° and may be used as a table fan, throwing air outward.
  • Typically has a speed-selection control, while some may run at a fixed speed.
  • One variation is the stand-mounted fan. This type can generally be easily tilted and may be used as an exhaust fan if placed near a window.

Gas Fireplace

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

Non-Vented Gas Heater

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

Oscillating Fan

  • Moves back and forth in an adjustable pattern to spread air over a larger area.
  • Oscillation function can generally be switched off with the turn of a knob.
  • May be used on the floor, a table or mounted on the wall.
  • Usually does not have as high an air delivery as floor fans.
  • Typically ranges in size from 8” to 16” in diameter.
  • Tile angle varies from about 50° to 90°.

Vented Gas Log

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

Kerosene Heater

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

Exhaust Fan

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

Vent Free Gas Log

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


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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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

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

My smoke detector beeped last night, but there was no smoke. What is wrong with it?

This is a warning signal that the batteries are low. If your alarm is more than 10 years old, you should consider replacing it, just to make sure that you have one that is in good working order.

What type of padlock holds up best in the weather?

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

How long should a smoke detector last?

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

What features make a padlock stronger?

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

Where should I keep a fire extinguisher in my home?

Don’t mount it too close to where a fire is likely to occur. For example, don’t keep it next to the stove. A good place is at the top of the stairs or near a workshop. In most cases, it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher for every 600 square feet of living space.

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

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

What is radon gas and how do I protect my family from it?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can collect in hazardous concentrations in areas like the basement. A radon detector in your basement will help keep your family safe.

What is a gunlock and how does it work?

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

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

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

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Home Security Terms (35)

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”.

Continuous Monitor Radon Detector

  • Plugs into a standard outlet.
  • Samples air continuously for radon and provides updated reading on the display.
  • Alarm sounds when the long-term average of radon level passes an acceptable level.
  • Alarm will be repeated until the radon level drops back to the accepted level.

Combination Lock

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

Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

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

Pin-Tumbler Padlock

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

Dry-Chemical Extinguisher

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

Tubular Cylinder Padlock

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

Foam Extinguisher

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

Cable Lock

  • Uses the combination of a lock and cable to lock and secure objects in a variety of applications.
  • Some models have a chain or cable permanently attached to a combination or keyed lock.
  • Chain or cable often has a protective plastic coating to prevent scratching.

Fire Safe

  • Protects valuables and documents exposed to fire.
  • According to UL, a fire safe should maintain an inside temperature below 350º for an hour or more.
  • The safe should also be resistant to rupture and explosion at these temperatures.
  • Some safes can be mounted in walls, floors and other areas.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

What time of year should I plant my container garden?

The same time of year that is recommended for planting the plants you choose outdoors.

How should I go about trimming my evergreens?

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 is the nitrogen needed for?

It’s the “up.” It promotes plant growth and greening, thus providing more foliage, color and density.

How much ground will lawn fertilizer cover?

Lawn needs are usually based on nitrogen needs and vary from 1 to 6 pounds needed per 1,000 square feet per year. Specific amounts depend on the type of grass. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn usually reduces this number by 1 pound.

I need to re-pot my houseplants. What soil should I use?

You need a good potting soil that allows for air movement, moisture retention and will not shrink away from the sides of the pot. Look for one that contains vermiculite, perlite and sphagnum peat.

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.

Is there any advantage of a metal leaf rake over a plastic leaf rake?

A metal rake usually has more spring and is better suited for large areas. It is easier to clean around flowerbeds, shrubs and bushes and does not rake up essential thatch in a lawn.

I notice there is quite a price range in hoses. What do I get for my money?

The less expensive hose is ½” and not reinforced. Medium-priced hoses are usually 5/8” and have some reinforcement in the walls. Higher-priced hoses have more reinforcement and ¾” hose is usually made with rubber.

How big of a hole should I dig when planting a tree?

Make the hole 6 inches wider than the diameter of the container it came in. Also don’t dig the hole any deeper than the depth of the container, measured from the top of the soil surface to the bottom of the container.

When is the best time to apply fertilizer?

Every 4-6 weeks beginning in February.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Gate Hardware

  • A variety of latches, pulls, hinges and locking bolts are designed specifically for use on gates.
  • Types of latches include sliding bolt locks, magnetic, thumb action or padlock.
  • Hinges are usually reversible for use on left or right-swinging gates.
  • They come in tee, strap and hook-and-strap configurations.
  • Anti-sag kits are available that eliminate gate sag.
  • Usually constructed of heavy-gauge steel or with a tough polymer housing that is rust-free.
  • Ornamental hardware is often finished in black. Other types may be zinc-coated.

Garden Spade

  • Has a square point blade usually about 7” wide and 12” long.
  • Has a D handle.
  • Some have a rolled shoulder on the top of the blade so the user can.

Bamboo Rake

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

Flat Hose

  • Lies flat until water pressure rounds it into a 5/8” hose.
  • Stores more easily and compactly than a conventional hose.
  • Must be completely extended before water will pass through and completely drained before storing.
  • Because it is drained after use, it is less susceptible to freezing and cracking and will not wear on edges.
  • Weight is one-third that of a conventional hose but delivers same amount of water.
  • One type is made with a polyurethane liner and a tightly woven polyester jacket. The liner is bonded to the jacket to reduce kinking and leaking. Another type has a construction similar to a conventional, reinforced vinyl hose.

Backflow Protector

  • An anti-siphoning device.
  • Prevents reverse flow of water and contaminants back into plumbing pipes through unprotected hoses.
  • Can be plastic or brass.
  • Fits between the threaded faucet and hose.
  • Most plumbing codes require that non-removable breakers be used.
  • Drain in winter to avoid freezing.

Long-Handled Trimmer

  • Used for a variety of cutting applications.
  • Has long handles to relieve crouching and allows user to stand while trimming grass.
  • Some models have a swivel head for more versatility.


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.

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.

Hedge Trimmer

  • Typically comes in electric or cordless models.
  • Uses two, double-sided reciprocating blades to trim shrubs and hedges. Some models may have single-sided blades.
  • Better models have vibration reduction features that ease the strain on the user.
  • Blade lengths can range from 20” to 30”.
  • Other features include two large ergonomic handles, a blade guard, a throttle starting lock that prevents accidental engagement of the blade and start/stop controls on the handle.

Floral Snip

  • For pruning, shaping and maintaining houseplants.
  • Usually operates with a scissor action.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Should I use a brush with synthetic or natural bristles?

As a general rule, you should use a synthetic bristle brush with latex paint and a natural bristle brush with oil-base paints. However, many synthetic bristle brushes can also be used with oil base paints.

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.

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.

I’m going to be painting a table that has a gloss finish. Do I need to prepare the surface?

You should use a liquid deglosser, which works without sanding and also produces a slight tack for better adhesion of the new finish.

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

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

What type of primer should I use on ceilings?

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

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

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

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

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

What is a tack cloth?

It’s a cloth that picks up and holds dirt, sand and other debris. You should use one on any surface before you apply a coat of paint or any other finish.

How do I pick the right paint brush material?

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

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Paint Conditioner

  • Can be added to either oil-based or latex paints for a variety of reasons—to keep edges wet longer, to prevent lapping, to allow the paint to cover better or to lessen drag on the paint applicator.
  • Conditioners also lessen paint clogging in spraying systems.
  • Some additives are designed to give latex some of the better qualities of oil-based paints.


Corner Pad

  • A corner pad is a paint pad shaped in a 90 degree angle to allow for easy painting of corners.

Patching Plaster

  • Is a fast-setting powder ready to use by adding water.
  • It dries hard to uniform, white color.
  • It repairs and covers large holes and deep cracks in plaster walls and ceilings.
  • Patching plaster may be drilled, sanded and painted and can be textured to match existing surface.

Natural Sea Sponge

  • Used with sponging technique to apply paint and glaze to the surface to give a mottled look.
  • Process begins with application of a coat of paint in a solid color. Once this coat is dry, the damp sponge is then used to add glaze in another color.
  • One line of sponges comes with a plastic handle that can be removed as well as a smaller trim sponge for corners.
  • Can also be used with a negative method, which involves applying a base coat, then a glaze coat. A sponge is then used to remove some of the glaze before it has a chance to dry, partially exposing the color of the base coat.

Paint Mixer

  • Propeller device used to mix paint.
  • Attaches to drills with either a ½” or 3/8” shaft, depending on model.
  • Also great for mixing sealers and other coatings.


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

Airless Paint Sprayer

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

Plaster of Paris

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

Rag Rolling Applicator

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

Masking Tape

  • Also called painter’s tape, it is a general-purpose, pressure-sensitive tape used to mask off areas not intended to be painted.
  • Commonly colored blue for painting applications.
  • All-purpose tapes are increasingly being replaced by tapes designed for specific tasks, such as specific tapes designed for baseboards and trim, glass, hard-to-stick surfaces, lacquer surfaces, brick and tile and delicate surfaces.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

I bought a new faucet with a built-in pull out spray nozzle, and now I have an extra hole in my sink where the pull-out spray used to be.

You can use this hole for a variety of handy accessories, such as a soap dispenser or for the dispenser of an under-sink water filtration system.

There is water seeping from around the base of my toilet. What do I need to do to solve this problem?

Your wax gasket is probably not working anymore. This is a simple problem to fix. You need to remove the toilet and install a new wax ring. While you have the toilet off you should go ahead and replace the bolts. Otherwise, it could be a crack in your toilet bowl.

What does it mean when a faucet is said to have 8-inch centers?

The faucet mounts with the fixture holes set 8 inches apart. It’s important that you buy the right size faucet to fit.

The water from my electric hot water tank is too hot. What could be the cause of this?

The thermostat may be set too high, or it may be faulty. It could also be a grounded heating element.

Why is water leaking from the base of my toilet?

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

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

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

Do I need all of those special wrenches? Can’t I just use a standard wrench or a pair of adjustable pliers?

The plumbing fittings these wrenches are designed for are usually difficult to access and the standard wrench or pliers will not fit into those tight spaces. Using the proper tool will save frustration and ensure a proper installation.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Black Iron Pipe

  • Not treated for rust resistance.
  • Used for carrying steam or gas.
  • Used only with black iron pipe fittings, not galvanized fittings.
  • Measured using the I.D. (inside diameter).

Pipe Clamp

  • Also known as a repair plate.
  • Used to repair small holes in pipes.
  • Consists of two concave pieces of metal and a rubber gasket. The clamp is tightened over the pipe with the gasket over the leak.
  • Easiest way to repair a leaky pipe.


  • Removes burrs from the inside of the pipe. Burrs are the flakes of metal or plastic on the outside and inside of the pipe after the pipe is cut.
  • Cone-shaped, with ratchet handles.
  • Cutting edges can be sharpened, but this is difficult and time-consuming and the small replacement cost usually makes it impractical.
  • Straight-fluted reamers have straight cutting edges. They can be used by hand or in a pipe rotating on a power drive unit.
  • Spiral-fluted reamers have spiral-shaped cutting edges. They cut more easily, save time and are often used by sheet metal workers to enlarge holes in sheet metal and conduit box outlets, as well as smoothing inside edges of pipe. They are for hand use only.

Pipe Joint Compound

  • Pipe DopeAlso known as pipe dope.
  • Thick oily paste brushed on pipe threads before joining.
  • Prevents leaks, corrosion and makes it easier to disassemble.

Flapper Valve Seat Ball

  • Also called a Flush Valve Seat Ball, this device sits on the flush valve seat and attaches to the trip lever with a chain, rod or guide arm.
  • When the outside handle on the toilet tank is pressed down, it raises a trip lever that pulls the flapper off its seat. Water inside the tank pours through the opening to flush the toilet bowl.
  • The valve stays closed with water pressure. However, once the trip lever lifts the device, it remains off the seat by floating on top of the water until the tank is empty. As the water level drops, the flapper gradually settles back into the opening, sealing it so the tank can refill for the next flush.
  • A new style design has replaced the older ball-style. It is connected to the float arm with a chain and eliminates many of the problems associated with wires, rods and guide arms.

Tub Shower Door

  • An attractive alternative to shower curtains.
  • Usually easy to install and require few tools.
  • Door mounts on a frame that is adjustable to all standard bathtubs.
  • Don’t forget the caulk.

Water Supply Tube

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

Soldered Fitting

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

PVC Cutter

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

Teflon Tape

  • Does the same job as pipe joint compound, but is easier to use.
  • Thin tape applied to pipe threads before joining.
  • Do not use on gas pipes.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Angle Drill

  • Has an angled head designed for tight fits and close-quarter drilling.
  • Available in 3/8” or 1/2” sizes.
  • Some models feature an angle attachment that rotates the drill into any position, while a side handle allows one-hand operation and easy control.



  • For picking up dirt, sawdust, metal shavings and other materials an ordinary vacuum cannot.
  • Wet/dry vacuums are designed for use anywhere and can suck up water as well as dirt.
  • Sizes range from 1 gal. to 50 gal., and motors can be 1 hp to 5 hp.
  • Many models incorporate a blower feature by attaching the hose to a separate blower port on the motor.
  • Newer designs include a backpack vacuum that is battery operated.

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.

Seam Roller

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

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.

Power Screwdriver

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



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

Compound Miter Saw

  • Uses a circular blade that is pivoted to the correct angle then dropped onto the material, which is clamped stationary on a plate.
  • In addition to a simple pivot action, the blade tilts to make compound cuts.
  • Good for cutting moldings and trim.
  • The turntable has a large compass scale that is marked in degrees to show the degree of the cut.
  • Most models tilt in only one direction, but better models tilt both to the left and to the right.

Twist Drill Bit

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

Sidewinder Circular Saw

  • Designed to make straight cuts on materials that are difficult to cut with a handsaw.
  • Can make cuts on a variety of materials, and different types of materials generally require different blades.
  • More compact than a worm drive saw. Has the motor mounted on the side of the blade.
  • Requires less maintenance than worm-drive saws and does not have an oil-filled crankcase.
  • The size of the saw tells you what is the largest size blade that you can use with it. Generally, blade sizes range from 5-1/2” to 10” in diameter. 5-1/2” and 7-1/4” are the most popular. The larger the blade, the thicker material it will cut.
  • Rated by amperage. Better tools have higher amp and rpm ratings.
  • Cordless models are popular, but offer less speed and power than corded models.
  • A popular feature is an ejector chute that directs dust away from the work and a tilt base that allows the user to cut a variety of angles.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Web Clamp

  • Also called band clamps, they apply even clamping pressure around irregular shapes or large objects to hold tight by means of a spring-loaded locking fixture.
  • Commonly used on cylinder-shapes and to hold chair legs while gluing.

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.

Hold-Down Clamp

  • Is the screw portion of a “C” clamp, designed to be secured onto any surface, with the screw used to apply clamping pressure.
  • Also available in locking models, similar to locking clamps.


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

Edging Clamp

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


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

Welding Clamp

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


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

Bench Vise

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


  • Is available in solid, liquid and aerosol form.
  • Used to remove dirt, oil and grease from basement and garage floors, driveways, patios and sidewalks.
  • Some formulations are made for concrete only and should not be used on blacktop surfaces.
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