DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

Besides a miter joint, is there another type of joint that I can use to make a wooden frame?

Yes. You can also use a butt joint with pocket screws or with biscuits.

How much room do I need for an eating table?

Allow 36” between the nearest obstruction and an eating table, so there is room to pull a chair away from the table.

What is the advantage of PVC molding?

It is rot-proof and easy to handle.

What are some signs my roof is getting old or has problems?

When inspecting your roof, check for cracked, warped or missing shingles. Also look for seams that are loose and flashing that has deteriorated. Look in the gutters for excessive granules that are coming loose from the roof. Also, of course, check inside for leaks.

How do I deal with corners when I’m installing wood siding?

For outside corners you can use preformed metal corners or a corner post. For inside corners use an inside corner made from wood stock.

Can I paint acoustical tiles?

You can paint the tiles, but you may void the manufacturer’s warranty and loose some of the sound absorption properties. To correctly paint acoustical tiles, you must be sure not to get the tiny holes on the surface of the tile clogged with paint.

How long before I can walk on my new vinyl floor?

Wait at least 24 hours before heavy traffic.

Is paperless drywall mold-proof?

Mold can grow anywhere there is moisture, air and a food source for it to grow on. It can grow on virtually any surface if the conditions are right. Paperless drywall panels eliminate the paper facing, which is a good food source for mold. These panels are more mold resistant than paper-faced drywall, but not mold proof.

What type of plywood should I use as a subfloor for the floor I’m installing?

Use plywood designed to be used as a subfloor. This kind is lightly sanded on one side and doesn’t have gaps or voids in the inner layers, making it sturdy enough to resist dents and punctures.

Why is it called a 2×4 if it is really on 1-1/2”x3-1/2”?

The piece of wood started out 2”x4”, but the process of drying and planning made it smaller. How much it shrinks depends on whether the lumber has been left green (undried) or has been dried.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Caulking Cord

  • Temporarily fills large gaps around windows.
  • Consists of soft, rope-like strands of weather strip with the consistency of modeling clay.
  • Easily applied by hand and remains pliable so it can be removed when the weather warms.
  • Paintable and will not harden or dry out.

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.

Clay Tile

  • A roofing material known for its durability, as it can last up to 50 years.
  • May be flat or rounded in shape, and may even have a glossy surface.
  • Can be made of clay or concrete.
  • Colors include reddish brown as well as blue and green.

Bathtub

  • The standard Drop-In tub installs within a tile or solid-surface surround within three walls of the bathroom, while the old-fashioned Clawfoot tubs are freestanding.
  • Standard size for tubs is 60″ wide, 30″ deep and 14″ high.
  • Whirlpool and deep tubs are designed for soaking and relaxation. These tubs can be separate or incorporate a shower combination.
  • Cast iron tubs are the most durable and do not stain or scratch easily.
  • Acrylic is a better insulating material so the water takes longer to cool, and its light weight and flexibility makes it a better choice for larger tubs.
  • Fiberglass tubs are easy to install, but are more apt to fade and scratch.
  • Tub and shower combinations are typically made of reinforced fiberglass with a polyester finish.

Casement Window

  • Has a single sash hinged at one side to swing open by means of a crank or lever.
  • Tends to be more weathertight than double-hung, single-hung or sliding windows.
  • Utilizes a cam-type lock to draw the sash tightly against the frame when closed.

Soffit & Fascia Panel

  • Soffit panels enclose the underside of an eave.
  • Fascia panels enclose the front of an eave.

Laminated Veneer Lumber

  • Known as LVL.
  • Engineered to span longer distances and support heavier loads than ordinary lumber.
  • Common applications include headers, beams, columns and posts.
  • Made from veneers glued up to 1-3/4” thick, then sawed to the required size.
  • Beams range from 5-1/2” to 18” deep, in lengths up to 66”.
  • Will not shrink, twist or split like ordinary dimension lumber.
  • This type of lumber may cup when exposed to wetting on one side.

Strap

  • Used to attach the gutter downspout to the side of the house.

Silicone Caulk

  • Is good for use around bathtubs and sinks because it resists mold and mildew.
  • It is water resistant and provides excellent adhesion to smooth surfaces, such as metal, glass and tile, but it does not adhere to masonry.
  • Remains flexible after curing and is not affected by UV radiation.
  • Paint will also not stick to most silicones and it is difficult to apply.
  • Does not adhere well to wood.
  • Non toxic.
  • Can be applied at nearly any temperature.
  • Must be cleaned up with solvents.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone

  • MEKFast evaporating clear, colorless solvent.
  • Has solvent characteristics and strengths similar to acetone but is water soluble.
  • Primarily used to thin lacquers and vinyl acetate and vinyl chloride copolymers.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Halogen Bulbs

  • Like incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs produce light by passing current through a coiled tungsten wire. The tungsten wire is enclosed in a small quartz or high-temperature glass tube, which is then filled with gases, including a halogen gas.
  • The advantages of tungsten halogen bulbs compared with standard incandescent bulbs include less loss of light over lamp life; smaller physical size for better directional light control; whiter, brighter light; more light per watt; and longer life.
  • Like incandescent bulbs, halogen lights have the advantage of instant-on light. They are easy to use with dimmers for energy savings.
  • Typical halogen lamps last 2,000 to 4,000 hours compared to 750 to 1,000 hours for incandescent lamps. Wattage levels for home use run from 5 watts to 500 watts.
  • More energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs. They generate up to 30 percent more light for the same electricity.
  • Halogen bulbs blacken much less than incandescent bulbs and stay brighter as they age. Because of their brilliant white light, they are excellent for use in displays.
  • Be careful not to touch the glass on halogen bulbs. This can degrade their lifespan and they can also be extremely hot within seconds of being turned on.

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).

Starter

  • A small silver-colored cylinder found mostly in older fluorescent lamps.
  • Allows the electrodes to heat up prior to the lamp starting.
  • When the lamp in an older fluorescent begins to flicker, both the tube and the starter should be replaced.
  • Starterless operation is achieved with instant-start and rapid-start ballast designs.

Thin-Wall Conduit

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

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.

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.

Drill Press

  • Used for boring holes in precise, repetitive cuts. With the appropriate accessories, the drill press can also shape, carve, sand, grind, buff and polish.
  • Consists of a base and a column rising upward to a head holding the motor and drill. A radial arm holds a worktable that adjusts vertically. A feed handle enables the user to direct the drill chuck up and down.
  • On a radial drill press, the head rotates 360º around the column and can drill at an angle or horizontally.

TV Wire and Accessories

  • Television lead-in wire connects the receiving set to the antenna. Good quality 300-ohm wire is used for both VHF and UHF receivers.
  • A TV set coupler is a loss-producing device for connecting two or more TV receivers to the same antenna. The loss introduced into the circuit is small, but can be critical in “fringe area” reception. In such areas, you should be aware of this small loss and to expect a slight reduction in signal strength at the receiver.
  • A lightning arrestor mounts on the outside of the house as close to the TV receiver as possible to protect the receiver against lightning damage. The lead-in wire is attached to proper contacts and the ground rod to ground connector. Lightning will jump the gap inside the arrestor and flow into the earth if the circuit is properly installed.

Heavy-Wall Conduit

  • Also known as rigid conduit.
  • Comes in the same sizes as EMT but has thicker walls.
  • Has threaded ends for connections.
  • Use for carrying wire outdoors and underground.

Lithium Battery

  • Holds power for eight to 10 years on the shelf.
  • Available in 9V.
  • Used for cameras, watches and other items used repeatedly over a long period of time.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

What are voltage testers?

It’s an inexpensive tool that tests for live current. It can save your life. To use a voltage tester, simply plug its leads into a receptacle, or, if the cover plate is off, touch them to the screw terminals of the device. If current is present, the tester will light.

Do all of the outlets in my kitchen need to have ground-fault circuit-interrupters?

No, if the first in the series is GFCI then all are protected.

I’m replacing a light switch. How do I know which wire should be attached to each screw on the new light switch?

If you are replacing an existing switch, make a diagram of how the wires were attached to the old switch before you remove them. Snap a picture with your camera phone or draw a diagram. Then replace them in the same position on the new switch.

Do I need special tape for wiring?

Yes, you should use electrical tape.

I think there is a short in a wire running to one of my rooms. Is there some way to test it to find out?

A continuity tester will let you know if there is a short. It is a tool that includes a battery so that it can supply a low-voltage current to devices and wires to see if there is a complete circuit.

How do I wire a lamp switch?

With lamp wiring, there is a ribbed side and a smooth side. Unscrew the light switch. Strip and twist your wire. The ribbed side will go to the brass side of the light terminal. The smooth side will go to the silver side. Wrap around the terminals and tighten it down.

What is a ground fault interrupter?

It’s a safety device that shuts off the power if a wire in an outlet develops a leak that could electrocute someone. This hazard is so serious that the National Electrical Code requires all new homes be equipped with them in the bathroom, kitchen, workroom, outdoor, basement, garage and swimming pool circuits.

How can you recognize a socket used for a 3-way lamp?

This socket will have a regular contact tab inside, which all sockets have, plus another raised contact point.

What R-value should I use?

The Department of Energy recommends R-values based on the type of fuel used and where you live. Generally, attics in homes heated by gas or oil in most southern locations should use R-19. For an electrically heated home in the same area, the recommendation is R-30. The minimum recommendation for homes in the coldest climates, regardless of heating method, is R-49.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Caulking Cord

  • Temporarily fills large gaps around windows.
  • Consists of soft, rope-like strands of weather strip with the consistency of modeling clay.
  • Easily applied by hand and remains pliable so it can be removed when the weather warms.
  • Paintable and will not harden or dry out.

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.

Clay Tile

  • A roofing material known for its durability, as it can last up to 50 years.
  • May be flat or rounded in shape, and may even have a glossy surface.
  • Can be made of clay or concrete.
  • Colors include reddish brown as well as blue and green.

Bathtub

  • The standard Drop-In tub installs within a tile or solid-surface surround within three walls of the bathroom, while the old-fashioned Clawfoot tubs are freestanding.
  • Standard size for tubs is 60″ wide, 30″ deep and 14″ high.
  • Whirlpool and deep tubs are designed for soaking and relaxation. These tubs can be separate or incorporate a shower combination.
  • Cast iron tubs are the most durable and do not stain or scratch easily.
  • Acrylic is a better insulating material so the water takes longer to cool, and its light weight and flexibility makes it a better choice for larger tubs.
  • Fiberglass tubs are easy to install, but are more apt to fade and scratch.
  • Tub and shower combinations are typically made of reinforced fiberglass with a polyester finish.

Casement Window

  • Has a single sash hinged at one side to swing open by means of a crank or lever.
  • Tends to be more weathertight than double-hung, single-hung or sliding windows.
  • Utilizes a cam-type lock to draw the sash tightly against the frame when closed.

Soffit & Fascia Panel

  • Soffit panels enclose the underside of an eave.
  • Fascia panels enclose the front of an eave.

Laminated Veneer Lumber

  • Known as LVL.
  • Engineered to span longer distances and support heavier loads than ordinary lumber.
  • Common applications include headers, beams, columns and posts.
  • Made from veneers glued up to 1-3/4” thick, then sawed to the required size.
  • Beams range from 5-1/2” to 18” deep, in lengths up to 66”.
  • Will not shrink, twist or split like ordinary dimension lumber.
  • This type of lumber may cup when exposed to wetting on one side.

Strap

  • Used to attach the gutter downspout to the side of the house.

Silicone Caulk

  • Is good for use around bathtubs and sinks because it resists mold and mildew.
  • It is water resistant and provides excellent adhesion to smooth surfaces, such as metal, glass and tile, but it does not adhere to masonry.
  • Remains flexible after curing and is not affected by UV radiation.
  • Paint will also not stick to most silicones and it is difficult to apply.
  • Does not adhere well to wood.
  • Non toxic.
  • Can be applied at nearly any temperature.
  • Must be cleaned up with solvents.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone

  • MEKFast evaporating clear, colorless solvent.
  • Has solvent characteristics and strengths similar to acetone but is water soluble.
  • Primarily used to thin lacquers and vinyl acetate and vinyl chloride copolymers.
View category→

FAQs (0)

Besides a miter joint, is there another type of joint that I can use to make a wooden frame?

Yes. You can also use a butt joint with pocket screws or with biscuits.

How much room do I need for an eating table?

Allow 36” between the nearest obstruction and an eating table, so there is room to pull a chair away from the table.

What is the advantage of PVC molding?

It is rot-proof and easy to handle.

What are some signs my roof is getting old or has problems?

When inspecting your roof, check for cracked, warped or missing shingles. Also look for seams that are loose and flashing that has deteriorated. Look in the gutters for excessive granules that are coming loose from the roof. Also, of course, check inside for leaks.

How do I deal with corners when I’m installing wood siding?

For outside corners you can use preformed metal corners or a corner post. For inside corners use an inside corner made from wood stock.

Can I paint acoustical tiles?

You can paint the tiles, but you may void the manufacturer’s warranty and loose some of the sound absorption properties. To correctly paint acoustical tiles, you must be sure not to get the tiny holes on the surface of the tile clogged with paint.

How long before I can walk on my new vinyl floor?

Wait at least 24 hours before heavy traffic.

Is paperless drywall mold-proof?

Mold can grow anywhere there is moisture, air and a food source for it to grow on. It can grow on virtually any surface if the conditions are right. Paperless drywall panels eliminate the paper facing, which is a good food source for mold. These panels are more mold resistant than paper-faced drywall, but not mold proof.

What type of plywood should I use as a subfloor for the floor I’m installing?

Use plywood designed to be used as a subfloor. This kind is lightly sanded on one side and doesn’t have gaps or voids in the inner layers, making it sturdy enough to resist dents and punctures.

Why is it called a 2×4 if it is really on 1-1/2”x3-1/2”?

The piece of wood started out 2”x4”, but the process of drying and planning made it smaller. How much it shrinks depends on whether the lumber has been left green (undried) or has been dried.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What should I look for when buying a saber saw?

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

I need to find the exact center of a circle. What’s the best square to use?

A framing square is the proper tool. Place the corner of the square anywhere on the circle’s edge. Then mark where the tongue and the blade intersect the edge of the circle and connect those two marks. Repeat the process at another point on the circle and the point where the two lines intersect is the exact center.

What factors are important when choosing a reciprocating saw?

Generally, the higher the amp the more cutting power. They range in size from about 4 amps to 11 amps. Other features include cordless options, orbital action that cuts more aggressively, adjustable shoe to change the depth of the cut and variable speeds.

Which type of sander do you recommend?

For the homeowner, I suggest a random orbit sander because it balances the two main functions of a sander. It removes stock quickly and still provides a quality finish.

Can I use a staple gun to install molding and trim?

Some staple guns handle round-crown as well as regular staples, while electric staple guns can handle brads for molding and trim work.

I’m adding an interior wall and I want to make sure the studs will be plumb. What’s the best way to do this?

You can layout the top plate of the wall (generally with studs spaced 16” on center) and then use a plumb bob to plumb down to layout the corresponding bottom plate. Then you can begin installing the studs.

When purchasing outdoor power equipment, what should I consider in a leaf blower?

It’s best to buy a blower that can be reversed and also used as a vac. This allows you to sweep up the leaves, and some models even have a mulching feature.

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

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

When my tool belt is loaded with tools and fasteners it becomes too heavy to wear all day. I need all of my tools handy, but is there anything that can help?

Strapping a pair of suspenders to your work belt can relieve some of the strain on your back by allowing your shoulders to carry some of the weight.

My crosscut saw doesn’t cut like it used to. What’s the best way to sharpen the blade?

With a taper file, which is a triangular shaped file specifically designed to sharpen saw teeth. Just be sure to follow the saw manufacturer’s recommendations for redressing the teeth and be sure the file size is the right size for the saw teeth you are sharpening.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

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.

Cotton Gloves

  • General-purpose glove for performing a variety of tasks around the home and garden.
  • Offers good comfort and breathability.
  • Quilted style is good for heavy, multi-purpose applications and added heat protection.
  • Chore gloves are for general purpose work.
  • Some gloves may be marketed for specific tasks, such as garden gloves with patterns or designs to attract certain types of buyers.
  • May be cotton or cotton/polyester blend, canvas, jersey or terrycloth. Often has a knit wrist.
  • Some styles may have PVC dots to improve gripping ability and durability.

Half-Round File

  • File that is flat on one side and round on the other.
  • Used for removing stock and rounding edges on curved metal pieces.
  • Can be used on concave, convex and flat surfaces, depending on side being used.

Aviation Snips

  • Also called compound leverage snips.
  • Available in right-handed, left-handed or straight models corresponding to the various directions of the cut.
  • Cuts easier because of double fulcrum, compound leverage action.

 

Smoothing Brush

  • Brush used to smooth out wallpaper after it is applied to wall.
  • Removes any air bubbles behind paper for a smooth finish.
  • Generally has polypropylene bristles.
  • One-piece handle.

Knapsack Sprayer

  • Carried on the user’s back.
  • Used mostly for commercial applications.
  • Made of either polyethylene or metal.
  • Operates similar to a compressed air sprayer, but can handle a larger capacity.
  • Steady pumping maintains a constant pressure, which produces a uniform discharge rate and spray pattern. Some models only require intermittent pumping.
  • Capacity ranges from 3-1/2 to 5 gallons.

Tuck Pointer

  • Also called a joint filler, these tools apply new mortar between old bricks.
  • They are usually 6-3/4″ long by 1/4″-1″ wide.
  • The best models are constructed in one piece.

Hammer Tacker

  • Also called a “slap tacker,” this tool resembles a hammer in design, with the stapling mechanism in the head and the staples stored in the handle.
  • The unit is used like a hammer and automatically drives a staple with each blow.
  • Commonly used by construction crews to install roll felt roofing paper under roofing materials.

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″.

Crosscut Saw

  • Designed for cutting across wood grain and produces a smoother cut than rip saws.
  • Has teeth shaped like knife points to crumble out wood between cuts.
  • The most commonly used crosscut saws are 10- to 12-point for fine work and 7- or 8-point for faster cutting. 10 teeth per inch is considered general purpose
  • Blade lengths range from 20″ to 28″, with 26″ the most popular.
  • Can also be used to cut plywood.
  • Best cutting angle for this saw is about 45º.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Nut

  • Screws onto the threaded end of a bolt to help tighten the bolt.
  • Most common are hex and square nuts, also called full nuts.
  • Wing and knurled nuts are used where frequent adjustment or disassembly is necessary.
  • The locknut type has a self-locking feature that allows it to be locked into position without additional lock washers, cotter pins or locking wire.

 

Expansion Shield

  • Also known as lead shield.
  • Used with lag and machine bolts.
  • As the bolt is tightened, the cone draws up through a slotted sleeve and expands against the interior of the drilled hole with great force.
  • Requires no caulking and is excellent for heavy holding of problem material such as cement, cinder blocks, hollow tile and other concrete mixes.
  • Requires a large hole. Use a power drill and masonry bit.
  • Use short lengths in good-grade concrete or where thickness limits the length. Use long lengths in poorer-grade concrete where extra anchorage is required.

Cold Shut

  • A permanent solution to linking two chains.
  • An open-ended link designed to be hammered shut.
  • Use one size larger than the proof coil chain with which it is to be used.
  • Do not use for securing loads.

Braided Cord

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

Stem Caster

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

Barn Door Hardware

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

Masonry Nail

  • Made of hardened and tempered steel.
  • Shank comes round, flat, fluted or square.
  • Often used to fasten framing parts such as sills, furring strips,window and door trim to masonry and concrete.

Washer

  • Small metal circles that provide a hard surface against which you tighten a screw.
  • It matches the size of the screw it is being used with.
  • Comes in flat, countersunk or flush shapes.

 

Drive Anchor

  • Made of high-strength spring steel or of aluminum with a stainless steel pin for use in hard materials.
  • Driven into a hole where it is compressed and forced against the walls of the hole.
  • Comes in three head styles: round, countersunk and stud. The stud type provides temporary attachment of items that must later be removed.

Repair Link

  • Used to temporarily link chain and couple light attachments.
  • Do not use for securing loads.
  • One type is the Lap Link.
  • Another type is the Quick Link, which is similar to the lap link, but not as strong.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What does open time mean?

Open time is the time it takes the glue or adhesive to start to set after it has been applied to the surface of the material.

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.

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.

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.

I’m installing some wire closet shelving as storage. Do I need to secure the brackets into wall studs?

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but it probably depends on the total weight that you’ll be placing on the shelves. See our video Wall Hanging Basics for more information.

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.

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.

Is it easy to install a closet rod?

Yes, you need to know the width of the closet, but most rods are expandable. However, it’s best if you hit the stud. That way you are sure that it will hold lots of weight.

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.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

What is the best product to weatherproof my door?

Many people prefer the doorjamb weather-strips. They work on metal with screws or wood with nails. Unlike the v-strips, foam strips or felt like these can’t fall off.

Which is better: a metal or a cast iron stove?

Both conduct heat identically well. As a general rule, though, the thicker the metal, the longer the stove will last.

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

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

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.

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

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

Is replacing my thermostat an easy project?

Yes, simply remove the old thermostat from the wall. Next, disconnect each one and mark it so you can keep track of where it was connected. Attach the new thermostat to the wall and attach the old wires.

What type of weatherstripping would you recommend for a double-hung window?

I would recommend a pile-type weatherstipping. It is designed to allow the sash to slide back and forth. It is usually installed at the top and bottom of a sliding window track.

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.

Will these higher-quality air filters last longer?

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

What R-value should I use?

The Department of Energy recommends R-values based on the type of fuel used and where you live. Generally, attics in homes heated by gas or oil in most southern locations should use R-19. For an electrically heated home in the same area, the recommendation is R-30. The minimum recommendation for homes in the coldest climates, regardless of heating method, is R-49.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Stove Paint

  • Uses to touch up or completely refinish a stove.
  • Specifically designed for wood- or coal-burning stoves and can withstand temperatures up to 1,200°F.
  • Common colors include green, brown, blue, maroon and black, in gegular and metallic finishes.
  • To maximize radiant heat from the stove, use a flat black paint. It will radiate 90-98 percent of radiant heat. Shiny metallic finishes are less efficient.

Evaporative Cooler

  • Sometimes called a swamp cooler.
  • Uses ice and cool water to cool and return moisture to the air.
  • Ice and cool water is mounted on top of the unit. As the ice melts, cool water flows over a wicking material. A fan mounted behind the wick creates a cool moist breeze.
  • Environmentally friendly as it uses little energy and contains no harmful chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Crack a few windows to prevent moisture build-up on inside walls when using an evaporative cooler.

Electrostatic Air Cleaner

  • Works best for whole-house filtration
  • Filter used consists of shredded polypropylene fleece that has been given a permanent electric charge to help attract and remove submicron-sized allergens.
  • Does not remove gas molecules from the air.

Fireplace Insert

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

Stovepipe

  • Used to connect the stove with the chimney. Never use in place of a chimney.
  • Should be 24-gauge metal or thicker (the smaller the number, the thicker the metal).
  • Should be as short as possible and turns kept to a minimum.
  • Inspect stovepipe regularly and replace every two or three years.

Dehumidifier

  • Removes excess moisture from the air by blowing humid air over cold evaporator coils in a refrigerator system.
  • Moisture collects in a pan, and the unit will automatically shut off when the pan is full.
  • A humidistat controlling the dehumidifier will respond to changes in moisture content and is necessary for efficient energy consumption.

UV Air Cleaner

  • Uses a HEPA filter as well as ultraviolet light rays to clean air.
  • Also acts as a germ killer to remove virus, mold and bacteria from the air.
  • Some units have a pre-filter as the first line of defense against larger particles. It is the less expensive filter and extends the life of the more expensive HEPA filter.

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.

 

Outdoor Fireplace

  • Portable, wood or wood-pellet burning heat source that can be used at home, on the patio or on the camping trip.
  • Some can also be used as a grill.
  • Some styles are enclosed and vent through the sides while others may include a chimney.
  • Another variation is the firepit, which is bowl-shaped.

Window-Mounted Air Conditioner

  • Cools, circulates, filters and dehumidifies the air.
  • Ranges in size from small units with a cooling capacity of 5,000 BTUs (enough to cool a small room) to capacities as high as 12,500 BTUs.
  • It is important that you choose the right size of air conditioner. An oversize unit will cool but leave a damp and clammy feeling because of high relative humidity. An undersized unit will not operate effectively on very hot days.
  • Select by BTU rating, not horsepower. BTU is the actual cooling capacity of the unit.
  • Determine the efficiency of the unit by dividing the watt rating into the BTU output. The unit must have an energy efficiency rating (EER) of at least 9.7 for models under 8,000 BTU/hr and 9.8 for larger models. The most efficient models have an EER of 11 and higher. Each model should have its EER clearly marked.
  • Most models should include window-mounting kits. Kits include sill brackets for extra support of the unit and side vents to ensure an airtight fit in the window.
  • Make sure the unit is designed for the type of window you have. Most are designed for double-hung windows, but some are made or casement windows or for in-wall installation.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

What kind of deadbolt should I use with my door?

There are two types of deadbolts: single cylinder and double cylinder. A single cylinder deadbolt must be opened with a key from the outside and a turn on the inside. If your door has a sidelight or a glass pane, I suggest a double cylinder deadbolt. With this type, an intruder can’t break the glass and reach in and unlock the bolt. This design does present a danger, however, in case of a fire, as a key has to be used to exit.

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.

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.

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.

Do I need a deadbolt?

These locks provide more security as the deadbolt latch is larger and protrudes farther into the door frame. It can also be keyed on both sides for additional security.

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.

Do you have multiple door locks that require only one key?

Some locks come in pairs that use the same key.

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.

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.

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Home Security Terms (35)

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.

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.

Alpha-Track Radon Detector

  • Detects radon, a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas formed wherever there is uranium, an element present throughout the crust of the earth. It poses little risk if it makes its way to open air, but if it seeps into a house, it can collect in hazardous concentrations.
  • This detector consists of a small sheet of plastic. Alpha particles that strike the plastic cause microscopic pockmarks.
  • After an exposure period, users mail the detector to a lab. The lab’s count of the pockmarks gives a direct measure of the mean radon concentration.
  • Another type uses activated-charcoal granules, which trap radon gas. After an exposure time, the container is resealed and shipped back to a lab for analysis.

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.

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.

Dummy Knob

  • Used only for decoration or applications that do not need a latch.
  • Has no latching mechanism and does not turn.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

  • Detects carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, deadly gas that poses a potentially deadly health risk to people.
  • Measures the amount of carbon monoxide over time and sounds an alarm before people would experience symptoms.
  • Operates on batteries or can be plugged in.
  • Some models provide a running digital readout of CO levels.
  • Hard-wired or plug-in models typically use some type of solid-state sensor, which purges itself and resamples the air periodically. That cycle increases the power demand.
  • Battery-powered detectors typically use a passive sensor. They will operate even in case of a power failure.
  • Available in combination units that have CO and smoke detectors in the same unit.

Privacy Lockset

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

Thermal Fire Detector

  • Used primarily by large commercial firms.
  • The alarm sounds when the temperature rises to a certain level.
  • Most are also triggered by a quick rise in temperature even if an extreme temperature is not reached.
  • Not as safe as other types of fire detectors as fire usually must be intense before the thermal unit will sound.

Passage Lockset

  • An interior lockset used inside the home in hallways or closets between rooms where privacy is not important.
  • Has two, non-locking knobs, one on each side of the door. Some models use levers instead of knobs.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

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.

Which pump should I buy for my water garden?

There are two factors that determine the pump you need. How high you want to raise the water and how fast you want the water to flow. Once these are known, we can look on a chart to see what pump you need. You can always go with a larger pump to get the height you want and restrict the hose with a clamp to slow down the speed.

I need a glove to work in chemicals.

Use a neoprene-treated glove. It is chemical resistant.

When do I apply insect controls?

These can be applied anytime there is a problem. However, a preventative application for surface insects should be made in late spring. The best time to attack insects below the surface are in late July and early August. This application should include watering the lawn before and after the application to ensure the insecticide gets down to the root zones where the grubs are active.

Can I spray my fruit trees from the ground?

Yes, a hose-end tree sprayer will do the job, but will often end up applying the chemical to other surrounding plants and the lawn. Consider using a ladder and a regular hose-end sprayer or pump sprayer.

How do I fix a leak in my gutter?

For some types of guttering, there are repair tapes that quickly and easily patch holes. Or, you can patch it using cement and a patch of the same material as the gutter. For larger holes, you may want to replace the entire section of gutter.

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

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

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 should a good potted plant fertilizer mixture contain?

Planting mixtures usually contain vermiculite, peat moss, fertilizer and a small amount of sterile soil.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

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.

 

Level Head Garden Rake

  • Has a level head set close to the handle.
  • 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.

Leaf Blower

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

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.

Handheld Spreader

  • A handheld version of the broadcast spreader.
  • Used to spread small amounts of fertilizer, grass seed or ice melt.
  • Since it does not have wheels, the spreader uses a hand-turned lever to spin the broadcast platform.
  • Includes flow setting to adjust for all sizes of seed and granules.
  • Hopper capacity varies with model.

Stationary Sprinkler

  • Lowest cost sprinkler available.
  • Effective for small lawn or garden areas.
  • Sprays water in a fixed pattern of holes in the top of the sprinkler.
  • Size, shape and pattern of these holes, as well as water pressure, determine the area covered.
  • Available in a variety of designs and hole patterns.

Weeding Hoe

  • Has a pointed blade for lifting out weeds.
  • May be single or double pronged.

Roofing Shovel

  • The straight edge style is used for removing tar and rolled roofing.
  • The notched edge style is used for removing shingles.
  • May have a D handle or long handle.

Landscape Snip

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

Leverage-Assisted Trimmer

  • Used for a variety of lawn and garden cutting applications.
  • Uses a cam located between the handles with an off-center pivot that increases the cutting efficiency.
  • Reduces the effort required to squeeze the handles.
  • Designed for one-handed use.
  • Has a safety lock or catch to hold blades together while not in use.

 

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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

What type of scraper should I use to remove the peeling paint on my exterior wood siding?

If you have a lot of scraping to do, opt for a larger one with a carbide blade. While these cost more, they will last longer and do a better job.

What is the difference between two paints?

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

What does the term gloss paint mean?

It refers to how shiny the paint is. Manufacturers use terms such as flat, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss to describe their paint, but there are no specific industry standards.

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

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

What is the difference between solid-color and semi-transparent stains?

Semi-transparent stains provide a color to the wood, but still allow the texture and natural grain to show through. Solid-color stains allow the texture to show, but not the grain.

Is there a way I can test my exterior paint to see if it contains lead?

Yes. There are several do-it-yourself test kits that are approved by the EPA. Go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/kits.htm for a listing of test kits that have been approved. Approved test kits generally come with verification cards, while many non-approved test kits don’t.

What type of paint is best for my project?

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

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

What is an oil-based paint?

These paints have resins and thinners in them that evaporate when the paint dries. This process forms a hard coating and provides heavier coverage on the first coat, effective penetration and excellent adhesion. They are particularly good for chalky surfaces and those that already have several layers of oil-based paint.

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

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

How many coats of varnish do I need to apply?

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

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Accelerator/Hardener

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

Tintable Glaze

  • Mixed with latex paint to create a translucent color that provides a multi-dimensional look.
  • Dries to the touch in between 10 and 30 minutes.

Stippling Brush

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

Brush and Roller Cleaner

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

Varnish

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

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.

 

Bucket Grid

  • Placed in bucket to remove excess paint from applicators before applying to surface.
  • Generally used with smaller rollers.
  • Similar to a wire screen or grid in construction.
  • Has a flexible hanger that fastens over bucket rim.

Graining Feather

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

Painter’s Putty

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

Wood Stain

  • Is available in oil-based, water-based and gel formulations.
  • The two major types of wood stains are semi-transparent and solid-color (opaque), where the essential difference between the two is that semi-transparent stains impart color, but the texture and the natural grain of the wood continues to show through; while on solid-color stains, the texture still shows through, but not the grain itself.
  • Interior stains, used for furniture and woodwork, come in either pigmented or dye categories. Both can have oil, synthetic or water bases. Pigmented stains color the wood with the same type of pigments used in paint. They range in color from almost clear to semi-transparent. They are easy to apply—usually brushed on or wiped on with a rag, then wiped off enough to control the depth of the stain. They leave no brush or lap marks if applied properly.
  • Exterior stain is used primarily on wood siding and shingles, decks, outdoor structures and furniture. It is also available in latex and oil-based formulas. Oil-based stains penetrate the wood, and they erode with weathering. Latex stains do not typically fade as rapidly.
  • Stains may or may not protect the wood; check manufacturers’ labels. An oil or polyurethane finish can be mixed with the stain, so the do-it-yourselfer can complete the staining and finishing job in one step.
  • Wood stain pens will hide minor scratches, nicks and chips on furniture and wood.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

I need to retrofit some plumbing lines. What are the advantages of choosing plastic (CPVC) pipe over copper?

First, it’s traditionally about half the price of copper. Second, it’s not affected by the pH conditions of water or soil. Copper can fail if water or soil conditions are too acidic. Drawbacks include that CPVC expands and contracts with temperature swings and the solvent welding process does emit VOCs as it cures.

How do I test my toilet flapper for leaks?

Test your toilet flapper by pouring a bit of food coloring into the tank, then check back in 15 minutes to see if the water in the bowl has changed color. If it has, then most likely your toilet flapper needs to be replaced. If this does not fix the leak, you may need to replace the entire flush valve. For more information on diagnosing a leaky toilet, watch our video “Why is My Toilet Leaking.” To learn how to change your entire flush valve, watch our video “Installing a Flush Valve.”

Can I hook a 1-¼ inch drainpipe to a 1 ½ J-bend trap?

Yes, use a reducing slip joint rubber or plastic washer.

What do the letters “K,” “L” and “M” on copper tubing mean?

Type K is the heaviest. Type L is medium weight and used most often for waterlines in homes. Type M is thinner and is used underground or for light domestic water lines if local codes allow.

How do I replace a damaged refill valve?

Turn off the toilet’s water supply valve, flush the toilet and sponge out any remaining water in the tank. The refill valve is usually removed by turning a nut that holds it in place. When the nut is off, the refill assembly can be lifted out. Install the new assembly by following the manufacture’s directions.

How can I make my cultured marble sink look shiny again?

Use a polishing compound. To fill in scratches or dents, use appliance wax or car wax.

What type of caulk should I use in my shower?

Silicone caulks are water resistant and provide excellent adhesion to smooth surfaces, such as metal, glass and tile. However, it does not adhere well to masonry and is paint resistant. It is also difficult to work with and smears must be cleaned up with paint thinner.

I’ve heard I need to open a shut-off valve (either a ball or a gate valve) before soldering it to a copper pipe. Why?

By opening the valve it prevents the washer inside the valve from getting damaged by excessive heat when soldering.

I think my kitchen drains are partially clogged, because the sink drains slowly. What do you recommend?

First, try using a plunger. Second, try using a liquid drain opener, but use caution and read directions. Third, you can remove the trap. Be careful if you have used a liquid drain opener because there may be some in the trap. Fourth, if the clog is beyond the trap, we have drain augers that extend from about 15 feet to about 50 feet.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Traps

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

Ball-Type Faucet

  • Also known as a washerless faucet.
  • A single-handle faucet that uses a ball with openings in it to control hot and cold water.
  • May leak either at the spigot or at the handle.
  • Leaks from the handle are usually caused by improper adjusting-ring tension. To stop the leak, adjust the tension.
  • Worn cam seals can also result in leaks at the handle.
  • Worn spring-loaded, soft rubber seal assemblies usually cause dripping from the spigot.

Insert Fitting

  • Sometimes used with flexible plastic pipe.
  • Inserted onto the pipe and compressed and sealed with an adjustable clamp.

Globe Valve

  • Used when a valve must be opened and closed frequently under high water pressure.
  • Used to control volume of flow. These valves have two chambers with a partition between them for passage of water that must change course several times from port to port.
  • Should not be used in water supply lines for occasional shut-off purposes.
  • An angle valve is similar to a globe valve, but has its ports at right angles. Install at a turn in piping to eliminate the necessity of an elbow (this is often preferred to using a globe valve and elbow).
  • An angle valve has greater water passage than a globe valve. Since there is only one change in direction of flow, there is less resistance.
  • A Connector Globe Valve uses a union fitting on one side.

Toilet Seats

  • Made of plastic or kiln-dried hardwood.
  • Hardware should be sturdy and non-rusting. Metal hardware should be solid brass with a quality finish.
  • Some toilet seats have “easy-on, easy-off” hinge posts that facilitate installation by the homeowner. These hinge posts also make it practical to remove the seat for thorough cleaning.

Emery Abrasive Cloth

  • Can also be used to clean the copper pipe before sweating a joint.

Flaring Tool

  • Use to flare the end of a pipe before joining it with a flared fitting.
  • The two flat bars of the tool (the yoke) clamp around the pipe at the appropriate sized hole. Then the cone-shape, powered by the drive screw, forces its way into the pipe and creates a flare.

Vinyl Tubing

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

Cartridge-Type Faucet

  • Also known as a washerless faucet.
  • Uses a rubber diaphragm or two metal, plastic or ceramic discs with holes that align to let the water flow or close to shut off the water flow. Ceramic plates are more difficult to damage than rubber seats, but hard water can sometimes cause problems with the ceramic cartridges, such as squeaking or sticking.
  • Single-handle faucets that use stainless steel ball design have just one moving part and are a durable alternative.
  • Reduces leakage problems that result from worn washers.
  • Easy to repair because most new models have the water-control mechanism housed in a replaceable cartridge.
  • Replacing a cartridge is an easy do-it-yourself project, compared to working on conventional faucets. Most faucets that offer this convenience are labeled “self-contained cartridge.”

Adapter Fitting

  • Any kind of fitting that helps connect two different types of tubing, such as copper and galvanized steel, or threaded and solvent weld, or two different sizes that are usually incompatible.
  • A dielectric fitting connects pipe of dissimilar metals (such as copper and galvanized metal) to prevent corrosion in the copper pipe.
  • Two main types, reducers and bushings, are used to convert from one size to another.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Hand Drilling Hammer

  • Has short handles and is used for pounding hardened nails into concrete or for using with tools that drive nails and pins into concrete or brick.
  • Only hammer to use with star drills, masonry nails, steel chisels and nail pullers.
  • Weighs between 2 lbs. and 4 lbs.
  • Larger striking surface, generous bevel and special heat-treating minimize chance of chipping the striking face.

 

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.

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.

Power Planer

  • Smooths and reduces the surface of wood to achieve a flat surface.
  • Operates with a pair of replaceable knives that can adjust to various depths.
  • Features include an edge fence for edge trimming.
  • Another feature on most models is a safety foot that prevents damaging a surface if the user sets down the tool before the cutter has stopped spinning. A safety foot drops down to raise the plate and keep the blade from cutting into the surface.

Drywall Hopper Gun

  • Pneumatic tool used for texturing and spraying joint compound on walls and ceilings. Generally has a multitude of spray settings and patterns for a variety of finishes.

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.

 

Air Compressors

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

Planer

  • 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.

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.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

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.

Tool Box

  • Is available in a variety of configurations and made from a variety of materials, with steel being the most popular.
  • Plastic toolboxes are available in a number of styles as well. Some are suited for light-duty use, while others are comparable to steel in quality.
  • The highest quality plastic boxes are constructed of polypropylene, and some models can hold up to 75 lbs. of tools.
  • Some carpenters and precision tool users use hardwood chests because the wood absorbs rust-producing condensation.
  • Carpenters’ toolboxes are specially designed so carpenters can carry hand saws and framing squares in the same box with other tools.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Extension Ladder

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

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.
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