DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Hose-End Sprayer

  • Plastic or glass container with a spray nozzle.
  • Attaches to the end of a hose.
  • Best for jobs such as foliage feeding or applying fertilizers, insecticides or fungicides to lawns or gardens where large volumes are needed.
  • Spray pattern is normally a wide fan for lawns.
  • Uses a special attachment to prevent drift when spraying herbicides.
  • Comes with an anti-siphon backflow protector to prevent harmful chemicals from backing up into the water supply.

Thin-Nose Pliers

• Also called bent-nose pliers, since the nose is bent at about an 80-degree angle so it can be used to grip and force wire through odd angles or reach around objects.

• Provide firm grip on fine work in tight places.

• Feature serrated jaws.

 

Push Drill

  • Operates by a push-pull movement using a spirally threaded shaft and chuck to hold the bit, similar to a push-pull screwdriver.
  • Generally has space in the handle for storing extra drill bits.

 

Masonry Chisel

  • Used when cutting masonry, such as concrete block and brick.
  • Some models available with teeth for cutting soft stone.
  • One variation is the star drill, used for making holes in masonry to anchor fasteners.

 

Auger

  • Also known as a snake.
  • Consists of a coiled spiral cable, usually 1/4î thick and of varying lengths.
  • The most basic type has a z-shaped handle used to crank the cable as it snakes through the drain.
  • Another type uses a funnel-shaped container to store the cable and then to spin it as it works its way through the drain.
  • Professionals use an auger attached to a drill or other device that spins the cable. Usually these versions can maneuver a much longer cable.

Combination Snips

  • More versatile than regular snips.
  • Used for straight and moderately irregular cuts in either direction.
  • Range in size from 7” to 16” in length.

 

Speed Square

  • A small triangle-shaped square with a flanged edge for butting against the edge of a work piece to draw 90-degree or 45-degree angles.
  • It has different angle measurements marked on its surface and edges.
  • Also used as a cutting fence for circular power saws.
  • Markings on diagonal edge correspond to layout dimensions for rafters and stairs.
  • Generally available in 7” and 12” sizes.

Torpedo Level

• Usually 9″ long and 1” wide, it is used for obtaining readings in close quarters where a typical carpenter’s level won’t fit.

• Because of its compact size, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, hobbyists and homeowners often choose torpedo levels.

• Enhancement features include magnetized models and models incorporating a battery-operated light for working in dark areas.

 

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.

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″.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Cam Action Sash Lock

  • Uses a cam action and a lever to tightly lock window sash and prevent them from being opened on the outside.
  • Available in a variety of metals including wrought or cast brass, bronze, aluminum and steel.

Furniture Leg

  • Available in two main types: splayed (for slanted usage) and straight.
  • Comes in materials such as wrought iron, unfinished wood and tubular steel.
  • Wide variety of styles available.
  • Lengths range from 4” to 28”.
  • Available for a variety of tables.

Polypropylene Rope

  • A twisted rope that is less expensive than other rope fibers, making it a good all-purpose rope.
  • Floats and is easy to produce in colors, making it good for water use.
  • Low melting point, so it is not a good choice for using on pulleys where friction may melt the outer jacket.
  • Resists rot and mildew.
  • Not as strong as polyester or nylon, but three times stronger than manila.

Hardware Cloth

  • Has numerous uses, including attic ventilation, foundation vents, security screens and protective panels for screen doors.
  • Available in galvanized steel or aluminum.
  • Typical meshes are 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 and 8×8. Common widths are from 24” to 48” in 100’ rolls.
  • Also available in plastic, where typical mesh sizes range from 1/8×1/8 to 1×1. Plastic has no sharp edges, will not rust, rot or corrode and is available in dark green and crystal colors.

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.

 

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.

Garage Door Opener

  • Consists of a motor unit that raises and lowers overhead doors upon command of a control unit.
  • There are three types of drive mechanisms: bicycle-type chain and sprocket, plastic strip and worm-screw drive.
  • The control unit may be either key or wireless operated. If key operated, the user must leave the car to unlock the door. Wireless versions may be operated via a transmitter that starts the opener motor.
  • A safety feature is a device that automatically reverses the descent of the door when it encounters resistance when closing. All residential garage door openers must incorporate an optical sensor that will prevent the door from closing if it senses an obstruction.
  • Economy models have a 1/4-hp motor and heavy-duty units have a 1/3- or 1/2-hp motor.

Café Rod

  • Used to hang curtains over both upper and lower window sashes.
  • Usually suspended from rings encircling the rods.
  • Decorative and available in a variety of finishes.
  • Sizes vary according to use and range from 3/8” to 1” in diameter, and 28” to 120” long.

Nylon Rope

  • A twisted rope that is the most versatile of all because of its strength.
  • Good shock resistance.
  • Good abrasion resistance.
  • Lasts five times longer than natural fibers.
  • Resists chemicals and will not rot or mold.
  • When stretched, has a tendency to return to its original shape.
  • Do not use on winches or bits or attached to hooks or chain.

Sheet Metal Screw

  • Fastens thin metal to thin metal.
  • Threaded its entire length.
  • Can have flat, oval, round or binding heads.
  • Typical lengths range from 1/8” to 2”.
  • Starting holes are either drilled or punched and should be slightly smaller than the screw diameter.

 

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Spray Paint

  • Is an aerosol-based product used for a variety of applications.
  • Spray paint is classified by the type of finish and length of wear.
  • Generic terms such as “enamel” and “lacquer” are used, but they also encompass a variety of film-forming resins with differing characteristics. Read labels and manufacturers’ literature for a description of actual features.
  • Latex-based spray paint is safe to use indoors or outdoors, resists scratches and cleans up easily with soap and water. It can be applied to wood, metal, wicker, clay, plaster and plastic materials.
  • There are three kinds of aerosol propellants: hydrocarbons (liquid propellants), carbon dioxide (a compressed gas) and dimethyl ether.
  • Hydrocarbons are effective as propellants because they turn to vapor as the product is used and then fill the void left by the decrease in product.
  • Carbon dioxide does not maintain a constant pressure, so it is best recommended where a coarse, wet spray is needed and where the distance to be sprayed is short.
  • Aerosols are effective and safe—as long as the product is used in well-ventilated areas. For most aerosols, instructions on the can make usage easy, but paint is different because the kinds and qualities vary greatly.

Shellac

  • Provides a fast, hard-drying, durable finish for furniture, woodwork, hardwood floors and other wood-finishing applications.
  • It also functions as a sealer and stain-killer on drywall, cured plaster and new wood. Shellac is widely compatible with other coatings, and it can be applied over old shellac, varnish or lacquer finishes that are adhering well.
  • Most shellac is sold in a 3-lb. cut, the consistency recommended for most uses. The 3-lb. cut can be thinned to a 1-lb. cut for applications such as wood sealer before staining by thinning one quart of shellac with three pints of alcohol.
  • For applications where water spotting may be a problem, shellacked surfaces can be protected with paste wax or varnish.
  • Shellac may be applied with a brush, foam brush or from a can. When brushing, flow on the shellac from a full brush—with minimum brushing—and do not re-brush areas, since the alcohol-based solvent of shellac dries quickly.
  • Cleans up with ammonia and warm water.

Lacquer Thinner

  • Is available in many grades and degrees of solvency and in several speeds of evaporation.
  • An excellent cleaner for brushes and spray guns where lacquer has been used.
  • Since it leaves no residue, lacquer thinner does not require cleaned brushes to be washed with soap and water.
  • Highly flammable solvent that should be used with extreme caution.

Glazing Paint

  • Interior latex paint that is ready to use, with no mixing of additional glazes required.
  • For use on walls, ceilings, furniture and crafts.
  • Available in a variety of effects, including metallic, distressed wood, lime wash, sand texture, etc.

Drop Cloth

  • Can be made of a variety of materials, but is usually made of plastic.
  • Heavy-duty, professional-quality canvas drop cloths range in weight from 4 oz. to 12 oz.
  • Also used to protect furniture, fixtures and floors when painting.
  • Available in a variety of sizes for hallways or larger, open areas.

Trim Brush

  • Also called a sash brush, it is generally available in 1” to 3” widths.
  • Available in natural bristles (generally used for applying oil-based coatings) and synthetic filaments (for water-based paints).
  • Used to paint trim and smaller, detailed work.
  • End of bristles or filaments (or edge) can be square (flat) or cut at an angle (angular) for cutting in delicate trim work. Tips can be “flagged,” or have split ends.
  • With square trim brushes, the end of the brush is trimmed flat or horizontal. With chisel trim, the end of the brush is cut to a dome-like shape, which increases taper and cutting-in properties.

Wood Preservatives Waterproofers

  • Water repellents minimize water damage on pressure-treated and untreated wood. Some also contain a mildewcide to control mold and mildew. Use water repellent formulated for immediate application to pressure-treated wood to avoid premature cracking, splitting, splintering and warping. Periodic re-applications help prevent water damage as wood ages.
  • Wood preservatives by themselves provide no protection against moisture or water. Water repellency must be formulated into the product. Mildewcides are also frequently formulated into preservatives.
  • Water-borne, water-repellent preservatives for wood offer lower environmental hazards and convenient water cleanup. They provide an alternative to conventional solvent-based, water-repellent preservatives while retaining effectiveness, rapid drying qualities and excellent paintability.
  • Wood toners are water repellents that add color to highlight wood grain. Although toners are not to be used as if they are stains, adding color to a water repellent gives wood the benefit of ultraviolet light protection.
  • Most toners on the market are designed for use on pressure-treated wood. Some repellents contain ingredients that cause water to bead.
  • Specialty waterproofers include a multi-surface formula that can be used on brick and concrete, an aerosol version that works well for small exterior projects, a fence protector, a leather and fabric protector and a sport waterproofer specially designed for use on outdoor fabric and sporting equipment.
  • Preservatives should be reapplied periodically.

Paint and Varnish Remover

  • Are formulated to dissolve or soften old finishes for easy removal on metal, masonry, wood and fiberglass surfaces.
  • Available in gel, semi-paste, aerosol and spray-on formulas.
  • Some formulations contain methylene chloride as the primary solvent, but due to health concerns, “safe” non-meth strippers are available that are non toxic and non flammable.
  • While non-meth strippers are safer to use, they take longer to act and are more expensive than their meth counterparts. However, they stay active longer, which means they can remove more paint layers in a single application.
  • Some strippers change color to signal completion of the process, and some removers are formulated so that no after wash or neutralizing is required.

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.

Sandpaper

  • Comes in five general types, including garnet, emery, aluminum oxide, silicon carbide and alumina zirconia. Of these, the first two are natural minerals or abrasives; the others are synthetic materials that are tougher and longer wearing than the natural abrasives.
  • All U.S.-manufactured sandpapers conform to the same numerical system for grading coarseness. The smaller the number, the coarser the grit.
  • Coarseness generally runs from 12 (extra coarse) to 1500 (ultra-fine). Grit finer than 600 is usually measured on the European FEPA scale, and identified with a “P” immediately before the number.
  • The back of each sandpaper sheet contains important labeling information, including product and lot number, abrasive type, grit size, whether it is open or closed coat and backing. The backing weight is rated by letter. “A” is the thinnest weight, while “C” and “D” are the best options for hand sanding of wood. “X” is effective for heavy-duty sanding.
  • Manufactured on a variety of backings, including paper, cloth and fiber.
  • Garnet is a reddish-brown natural abrasive. By special heat treatment, a tougher, sturdier grain is produced. Garnet is used almost exclusively in the woodworking field; it is not suitable for use on metal.
  • Emery is a black natural abrasive that can polish metal surfaces. Emery is typically used in conjunction with an oil lubricant.
  • Aluminum oxide is the most common general abrasive. It is a synthetic brown that is hard and long-wearing. It is used on wood, metal or painted surfaces and is well suited to finishing high-tensile materials such as steels and bronzes, as well as some hardwoods.
  • Silicon carbide is hard and sharp—effective in sanding low-tensile materials such as cast iron, aluminum, copper or plastic. It is also useful between coats of finish.
  • Alumina zirconia is harder than silicon carbide and tougher than aluminum oxide. It should be used for grinding and shaping metal and wood—not for polishing.
  • Sandpaper comes in two styles: open coat (OC) and closed coat. “Coat” refers to how densely the grain is adhered to the surface. “Closed coat” means 100 percent of the surface is covered with grain. Open-coat sandpaper has greater spacing between the grains, which prevents it from clogging up as quickly with sanding residue. Closed-coat sandpaper, however, fills more rapidly with the substance being sanded and must be discarded sooner.
  • Many styles available in sheets as well as sizes for various sanding power tools.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

My garage floor has cracks. Can I still use an epoxy finish, or is it primarily for relatively new floors?

You can use an epoxy floor finish on your garage, but you must first fill all the cracks using cement crack filler or a hydraulic cement patching compound and let it set completely before starting.

Can I paint over a wall where a faux finish has been applied?

Yes. Several coats of a latex paint should do the trick.

What is the advantage of a natural-bristle brush?

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

What should I use to thin shellac?

Denatured alcohol, which can also be used in many shellac based products?

What are the differences in paint gloss types?

Semi-gloss and higher are more durable and can be lightly scrubbed down if the walls get dirty. For large areas of wall, such as a hallway, flat or satin-based paint will better hide surface problem areas.

I have a painted concrete floor in my garage. Can I still apply an epoxy coating?

It depends on the shape it’s in. If it’s in good shape, you can forego the etching process, give it a good cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner and rough it up with a floor sander before apply the new epoxy finish. If it’ flaking, however, you’ll have to completely remove the old finish before applying a new one.

Other than walls, where are faux finishes generally used?

Faux finishing is quite popular on furniture, lamps, bowls—you name it.

What type of brush is best for rough surfaces?

A synthetic brush is your best choice, because the rough surface can quickly damage the flags on a natural-bristle brush.

What can I use to thin epoxy?

Use acetone, it will soften most paints and plastics so you must exercise caution when you are using it. Acetone is the active ingredient in many paint strippers.

What type of caulk should I use on trim before painting?

Use siliconized acrylic latex caulk. It tends to be more flexible and has better adhesion. This will prevent cracks later on.

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Power Tools Terms (84)

Rotary Tool

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

Carbide-Tipped Saw Blade

  • Circular blade used for working with plywood or hardwood.
  • Lasts up to 10 times longer than regular blades.
  • Do not use on masonry or material with nails.

Scroll Saw

  • Has a small, thin blade activated by a far-reaching arm that permits handling wide material.
  • Operated by an up-and-down motion of the blade at more than 1,000 cutting strokes per minute.
  • Cuts intricate patterns in wood, plywood, light metal and plastic.
  • Table can tilt for angled cuts.
  • Safe, inexpensive and lightweight.

Countersink Bits

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

Cordless Saws

  • Most portable of all saws. Cordless versions of circular, sabre and reciprocating saws are available. Very popular among both professionals and DIYers.
  • Operate off of a rechargeable battery, which is available in a wide range of voltages.
  • Used for finish work and the larger capacity batteries have sufficient power for large framing or carpentry jobs.
  • Usually feature an electronic brake to stop the brake instantly and avoid accidents.

Sanding Belt

  • Used with belt sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • Good quality belts should resist tearing and stretching.

Combination Blade

  • Most commonly used circular blade.
  • Used for cross-cutting, ripping and mitering in hardwood, softwood, veneer and plywood.
  • Does not leave a smooth finish.

Contractor Table Saw

  • More portable than a cabinet table saw, but bulky and originally intended for temporary use at a jobsite.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism is located under the table.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • Used for ripping large pieces of wood.
  • Power of the saw’s motor determines the thickness of material that can be cut and how efficiently the saw will perform.
  • To operate, the material is fed onto the blade, unlike the miter saw where the blade moves across the material.
  • Rip fence capacity is important for determining a saw’s quality. The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Typical sizes are 1-1/2 to 3 hp.

Auger Drill Bit

  • Most commonly used with a brace for drilling holes in wood.
  • Length varies from 7″ to 10″.
  • Dowel bits are short auger bits from 5″ long.
  • Long (ship) auger bits range from 12″ to 30″.

Sabre Saws

  • Jig SawAlso known as a jig saw.
  • Cuts with an up and down motion and is ideal for cutting curves and irregular lines.
  • Usually can cut through 1” hardwood and 1-1/2” softwood. More powerful models can cut up to 2-3/4” thick in wood and 3/4” in aluminum and some can cut thin steel.
  • Quality machines operate at approximately 3,000 strokes per minute.
  • Generally, better machines also have longer strokes, often 1”.
  • The scrolling feature on some saws allows the user to turn the blade by means of a knob on the top of the tool instead of turning the whole tool.
  • Good quality jigsaws will also have features on the base that allow them to cut at an angle. An antisplintering insert is a removable plastic piece that sits in front of the blade and reduces the splintering of the material.
  • Another quality feature is a blade guide. This is a disk that sits behind the blade and supports it, keeping it on a straight path and resisting deflection. It provides for a more accurate cut and helps prevent blade bending and breaking.
  • Better models have orbital action for more aggressive cutting.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Landscape Fixtures

  • Designed to accent or light steps and pathways. It also serves a decorative function and is relatively easy to install. Don’t install landscape lighting with extension cords, which are for temporary use only.
  • Mushroom lights, named for their sloped shades, are commonly used along pathways or in gardens. The bulb ranges from 5 watts to 60 watts, and light is reflected downward to give a soft illumination to the immediate area near the fixture. Opaque, tiered lens attachments shield light from the eyes and direct it downward.
  • Bollard lights are cylindrical in shape, with the faceted lens being part of that cylinder. The lens diffuses light in a 360° pattern to create a soft glow. Lens shields can limit lighting to a 180° range.
  • Globe lights have spherical lenses, so they cast light in all directions, providing subtle illumination that can cover a large area without glare. They are often used around outdoor living areas.
  • Deck lights are designed to fit under steps, benches and railings. They can be mounted in many other ways as well. Many other kinds of fixtures can be recessed into steps or planters to directly illuminate pathways.
  • Landscape boulders blend naturally into the environment and glow from within, casting illumination for pathways. The faux boulders contain low-voltage lamps and UL-listed components that are easy to wire, can be installed on their own system or added to an existing low-voltage system.

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.

Three-Way Switch

  • Controls power to lights and devices by turning off the hot side of the circuit.
  • Mounted in an electrical box.
  • Has three brass terminal screws.
  • Controls one circuit from two separate points. For example, a light that can be turned on in either the house or garage.
  • It may also include a green grounding screw.

Grounding Adapter

  • It allows you to use a plug with three prongs in a receptacle that has only two slots.
  • Cube-shaped plastic or rubber.
  • Has a small U-shaped piece that is to be attached to the screw in the middle of the receptacle.

Wire Nuts

  • Used to connect the bare ends of two wires inside a box. At least two are required at every circuit connection.
  • Available in a variety of sizes and colors.
  • Connects wires with a twisting action.

Outdoor Fixtures

  • Primarily serve a security function, but there are a wide variety of systems, including: high–intensity discharge (HID) systems for mercury, metal halide and high–pressure sodium light sources; incandescent and tungsten halogen fixtures; low-voltage lighting systems; and incandescent or halogen PAR spotlights and floodlights.
  • HID lighting provides considerably greater illumination than other lighting commonly available. Its cost is also higher, although operating costs for lumens output is generally less.
  • Lumens are the measurement of light output.
  • Fixtures to be used outdoors must seal moisture and dust from wiring and switches. Fixtures with photocells provide automatic activation from dusk to dawn.
  • Spotlights or floodlights are used for security. They can also be used with a colored lend as decorative lighting. Weatherproof sockets are essential because the fixture is often mounted on the ground and pointed upward. Only install when the ground is completely dry.
  • Motion lights use sensors that activate the light when they detect heat and motion up to 40 feet away. They can attach to a power pack and mount on walls or fences 6 to 8 feet above the ground.

Plastic Conduit

  • Easy to use.
  • Use inside and outside.
  • Best for burying underground as it will not corrode with water.

Four-Way Switch

  • Controls power to lights and devices by turning off the hot side of the circuit.
  • Mounted in an electrical box.
  • Has four brass terminal screws.
  • It may also include a green grounding screw.
  • Used in connection with three-way switches to control one circuit from three or more points.

Wall Box

  • Used for housing switches and receptacles.
  • Made of metal or plastic and have the capability to be mounted to a wall or stud.
  • The holes in the side of the box where the conduit enters the box are called knockouts. In metal boxes, conduit can also be secured to the holes.
  • Four-Inch Square and Shallow boxes are other types only 1-1/2“ or 2”deep for places too shallow to mount a standard box.
  • Handy box is surface mounted and has rounded corners for safety.
  • Drywall box has expandable arms and can be mounted on drywall.
  • Plastic box is best for new installation and often has a nail built-in for quick attachment to the stud.
  • Gem box is a commonly made box, usually 2” wide, 3”high and 2-1/2” deep and made of metal. Deeper boxes are available.

Fuse Puller

  • Used to remove cartridge-type fuses.
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Building Materials FAQ's (273)

What is the difference between drywall joint compound and spackling?

Drywall joint compound is lighter in consistency and is used for joining drywall seams and bedding drywall seam tape. Spackling is used to patch nail holes and cracks in drywall and plaster.

How do I clean my wood floor?

Use a quality, solvent-based wood floor and cleaner and wax. Do not use water.

How do you measure galvanized pipe?

You measure it by the I.D. (inside diameter)

Is there a quick way to fill a crack in my cement block foundation?

One of the easiest ways is to use expanding foam.

I need some pine boards for a woodworking project. What moisture content is a typical board and how is it dried?

Most quality domestic lumber is kiln dried to a moisture content of 6 percent to 8 percent.

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.

What do I use to install tile backer board?

There are screws made especially for that purpose. You can use galvanized roofing nails, rust-resistant drywall screws or bugle-head deck screws.

Does engineered flooring have any advantages over solid wood?

Engineered is better suited for use in a basement because it is less subject to changes in temperature and humidity.

What’s the difference between thinset mortar and latex-modified thinset mortar?

The latex additive in the mortar adds strength and moisture resistance to the mortar mix. You may want to use this type, for example, if you are tiling a shower stall.

What do I use to cut the paneling?

Use a fine-tooth panel saw.

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Hardware FAQ's (78)

How many nails should I purchase?

You will need about 2-1/2 lbs. of roofing nails for each square of shingles.

What is the advantage of a cement coated nail?

Friction heat from driving the nail softens the cement coating and causes the nail to adhere to wood more firmly.

What is the meaning of USS and SAE as it pertains to bolts?

USS are coarse threads, while SAE refers to fine threads.

I want to hang a picture without a stud support. What type of anchor should I use?

The different types of hollow wall anchors are rated to hold different weights. In general, expanding plastic sleeve anchors can usually only hold up to 20 lbs. Molly bolts are usually rated to hold up to 50 lbs., while toggle bolts can hold up to 100 lbs. Keep in mind, however, that even toggle bolts can’t support as much weight as a fastener driven into a wall stud or solid wood blocking in the wall.

What type of nail should I use?

Use hot-dipped galvanized roofing nails, either 11- or 12- gauge with a 3/8” diameter head. Or, follow the shingle manufacturer’s recommendation for the type of nail you should use.

How do I hang a picture?

The best method is to use a picture-hanging kit designed for the weight of your picture. In most cases, it’s best to double hook it so that all the weight is not suspended in one area.

What is the difference between a common nail and a smooth box nail?

The common nail is thicker even though they have the same length.

What is a lag bolt?

It is basically a large wood screw (with a pointed tip) and a hex head.

I need to repair a loose railing that is anchored in cement.

To repair the hole in the cement where the anchor is, use a special anchoring cement that is quick setting and is stronger than concrete.

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Home Security FAQ's (38)

What is the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt?

A single-cylinder is key operated from the outside while a double cylinder is key operated on both sides. They both have their advantages.

What is the best type of fire extinguisher to have in my kitchen and my garage?

A dry-chemical extinguisher marked general-purpose or multi-purpose is best for home use.

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate

What are the different types of smoke detectors?

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

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

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

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

What’s the difference between a ionization and a photoelectric smoke detector and where should they be used?

A photoelectric fire alarm is designed to detect a smoldering fire more quickly than an ionization smoke detector will. It should be used in rooms where there is a lot a carpet and upholstery, such in in living rooms, family rooms and bedrooms. Ionization smoke detectors are designed to detect flaming fires, that are more likely to start in kitchens and garages.

What kind of security system do I need to protect my doors and windows?

A perimeter system protects the doors and windows while an area alarm has a motion detector that protects entire rooms.

My doorbell doesn’t work; do you know what’s wrong with it?

There are three components to the doorbell, the button, the transformer and the bell itself. First, look for any loose wires throughout the system. If all the wires are connected, test the doorbell button by removing it and touching the two wires together. If this makes the doorbell work, you have a bad button that it easily replaced.

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

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

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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Woodworking Vise

  • Has jaws made of wooden pads to hold work piece securely in place without marring surface of work piece.
  • Generally mounted to the side of a workbench
  • Some woodworking vises have a fast-acting screw arrangement for the rapid positioning of the movable jaw prior to clamping.
  • Smaller vises have continuous screws and are light and easy to clamp on a workbench or sawhorse.

Rust Remover

  • Cuts through and dissolves rust from metal surfaces to form a metal shield that can be painted.
  • In jellied form, it clings well to vertical surfaces.
  • When brushed on, the rust dissolves quickly.
  • These products are extremely harsh on the skin; protective gloves should be worn.
  • The solution is applied with a stiff brush or aerosol spray and allowed to dry for 12 to 24 hours, depending on humidity (check manufacturer labeling and literature).

Utility Vise

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

Step Ladder

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

Tool Box

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

Platform Ladder

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

Miter Box

  • Used to help cut exact angles for wood trim and rafters.
  • Better models provide a mechanism for a backsaw.
  • They are made of plastic, hardwood or aluminum.
  • Some boxes feature magnetic mount guides. The magnets grasp and hold the saw to the miter box saw guide or hold the saw blade to the plane of the saw guide.

Tool Chest

  • Stores tools as well as parts, screws, nuts, bolts and other small pieces.
  • Available in a variety of drawer configurations, with four- and six-drawer configurations being the most popular.
  • Many tool chests also come with casters or wheels for portability.

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.

C-Clamp

  • The most common type of clamp—consists of a C-shaped frame, made of either forged steel or cast iron, into which an adjustable screw is assembled to change the jaw opening.
  • The size of a C-clamp is measured by its jaw capacity—the dimension of the largest object the frame can accommodate with the screw fully extended. Most range in jaw capacity from 2” to 10”.
  • Also important is depth of throat, the distance from the center line of the screw to the inside edge of the frame. C-clamps range from 3/4″ to 14″.
  • Most have a sliding cross-pin handle or a wing nut that is used to tighten the screw.
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FAQs (0)

What is the difference between drywall joint compound and spackling?

Drywall joint compound is lighter in consistency and is used for joining drywall seams and bedding drywall seam tape. Spackling is used to patch nail holes and cracks in drywall and plaster.

How do I clean my wood floor?

Use a quality, solvent-based wood floor and cleaner and wax. Do not use water.

How do you measure galvanized pipe?

You measure it by the I.D. (inside diameter)

Is there a quick way to fill a crack in my cement block foundation?

One of the easiest ways is to use expanding foam.

I need some pine boards for a woodworking project. What moisture content is a typical board and how is it dried?

Most quality domestic lumber is kiln dried to a moisture content of 6 percent to 8 percent.

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.

What do I use to install tile backer board?

There are screws made especially for that purpose. You can use galvanized roofing nails, rust-resistant drywall screws or bugle-head deck screws.

Does engineered flooring have any advantages over solid wood?

Engineered is better suited for use in a basement because it is less subject to changes in temperature and humidity.

What’s the difference between thinset mortar and latex-modified thinset mortar?

The latex additive in the mortar adds strength and moisture resistance to the mortar mix. You may want to use this type, for example, if you are tiling a shower stall.

What do I use to cut the paneling?

Use a fine-tooth panel saw.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

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.

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

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

I’m buying outdoor power tools. Are cordless electric hedge trimmers a good choice?

For general use they are more than adequate, but most only offer run times of less than one hour and some corded models are more heavy duty.

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

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

What’s the difference between a putty knife and a paint scraper?

They both look the same? Scrapers are too stiff for the efficient application of compounds. Putty knives are to flexible for scraping.

What do the teeth per inch numbers mean on sawblades?

The numbers indicate the number of points per inch on a saw blade.

My door is rubbing the frame at the top, what do you recommend?

You can shave off the top with a block plane, which is often the right tool, when you need to trim wood but not enough to use a saw. Block planes come in a variety of sizes to fit the job.

Isn’t a belt sander the best choice for removing a lot of material?

Yes, they work quickly, but I don’t recommend them for do-it-yourselfers because you have to be very careful. One mistake can ruin the piece you are working on.

My saber saw blades seem to dull quickly, is this normal?

That’s common, but make sure you are using the right blade for the material you are cutting—wood, tile or metal.

I need to cut a lot of 2x material for a project I’m working on. What type of square should I use?

A speed square is probably your best option. It has a flange on one side that buts up to the edge of the board to allow making square marks. It can also be used as a guide for your circular saw.

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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

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

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

How often should I aerate my lawn?

It depends on what type of soil and grass you have. Aerate clay soil twice a year and sandy soil once a year. Spring and fall are the best times for this project.

What are special purpose fertilizers?

Some fertilizers are designed for certain uses or types of plants such as citrus food, rose food or azalea food. For example, the azalea fertilizer has been specifically formulated to acidify the planting medium. Packaging of other fertilizers for specific types of plants is often based more on marketing then reliable research. Pick the least expensive product that supplies the correct amount of needed nutrients.

How do I plant grass seed?

Start with top-quality grass seed. Work the soil up a little with a rake. If you are over-seeding consider using a slicing machine. Evenly sowing larger areas by hand is difficult, so use a spreader. Cover the seeds by raking a little soil over them. Fertilize and mulch only if it’s on a hillside. Use very little mulch. Water, water water.

Is there anything I need to do to winterize a young tree in my yard?

Some people recommend that you use a wrap to help prevent damage from a frost.

I need a tool to trim my evergreens.

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

Can I repair my pump sprayer that has quit working?

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

Will this pesticide work on bugs other than the ones mentioned on the can?

I don’t have the education to fully understand the specific chemicals used in these products, so I am not certified to make those types of recommendations.  It’s best to find a pesticide that is specifically designed for your current needs.

What are some problem areas in the guttering system that I should be aware of?

Check for high spots where water might not flow or low spots in the gutter where water might collect. Correct that problem by either installing additional spikes and ferrules or by bending the hanger that supports the gutter. Fix leaks or holes in the gutter by patching or replacing a section of the gutter.

How do I keep the water from pooling beneath my downspouts? Do I need to adjust the position my gutters?

There are several products designed to help carry water away from the foundation. The first is a splash block which sits directly under your downspout elbow to help carry the water that extra couple of feet away from the house. The other product is a downspout extender which is generally four-feet long. If after using these products the water is still pooling under your downspouts, you probably need to check the grade of your foundation, which is how much the land slopes away from your house.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Double-Hung Window

  • Has a two-sash system
  • Each sash slides vertically in a channel common frame.
  • It opens from the top and bottom.
  • A popular variation is the single-hung window that has a sash that slides vertically. The second sash remains stationary.

Hydraulic Cement

  • Used to plug running leaks in masonry surfaces.
  • Stops water leaks under pressure and can be used under water.
  • Fast setting.
  • Used inside or outside, above or below the ground.

Oriented Standboard

  • Known as OSB.
  • A structural-use panel used for roof sheathing, subfloors, underlayment, single-layer floors, exterior siding and wall sheathing.
  • Composed of elongated, thin strands of wood that are bonded with resin under intense heat and pressure.
  • A uniform panel free of knotholes that holds nails and screws securely.
  • Available in 4’ x 8’ panels in thicknesses of 3/8”, 7/16”, 15/32”, 19/32” and 23/32”.
  • Three grades are available: sheathing, single floor and siding.

Top of Paneling

  • When paneling goes only part way up the wall, it is called wainscot.
  • The raw edge at the top is finished with this piece of molding.
  • Several styles are available, including wainscot cap, ply cap or Dado cap.

Vinyl Gasket Weather Strip

  • Weather stripping that cushions as it seals.
  • Can be used in places with warping or irregularities.

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.

Plastic Roof Cement

  • A trowel-grade, general-use sealing compound.
  • Makes flashings, seams or patches in roofs and gutters water-repellent.

Corner Post

  • Outside corner posts provide a more finished appearance at the outside corner of adjoined walls.
  • Inside corner posts provide a more finished appearance at the inside corner of adjoined walls.

Toluene

  • High solvency thinner for oil based paint, lacquers, varnish and adhesives.
  • Also used to thin certain primers and topcoats.
  • Soluble in alcohol and insoluble in water.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Also used to clean tools and equipment.

Polyurethane Foam

  • Used for a variety of jobs, most often around electrical outputs, pipe penetrations and large voids or openings where the elements can infiltrate a structure.
  • It expands to fill gaps, holes and voids and is good for insulation purposes.
  • It is easy to apply, cures quickly, is paintable and offers good adhesion.
  • Available in different expansion rate formulas.
View category→

Building Materials Terms (161)

Double-Hung Window

  • Has a two-sash system
  • Each sash slides vertically in a channel common frame.
  • It opens from the top and bottom.
  • A popular variation is the single-hung window that has a sash that slides vertically. The second sash remains stationary.

Hydraulic Cement

  • Used to plug running leaks in masonry surfaces.
  • Stops water leaks under pressure and can be used under water.
  • Fast setting.
  • Used inside or outside, above or below the ground.

Oriented Standboard

  • Known as OSB.
  • A structural-use panel used for roof sheathing, subfloors, underlayment, single-layer floors, exterior siding and wall sheathing.
  • Composed of elongated, thin strands of wood that are bonded with resin under intense heat and pressure.
  • A uniform panel free of knotholes that holds nails and screws securely.
  • Available in 4’ x 8’ panels in thicknesses of 3/8”, 7/16”, 15/32”, 19/32” and 23/32”.
  • Three grades are available: sheathing, single floor and siding.

Top of Paneling

  • When paneling goes only part way up the wall, it is called wainscot.
  • The raw edge at the top is finished with this piece of molding.
  • Several styles are available, including wainscot cap, ply cap or Dado cap.

Vinyl Gasket Weather Strip

  • Weather stripping that cushions as it seals.
  • Can be used in places with warping or irregularities.

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.

Plastic Roof Cement

  • A trowel-grade, general-use sealing compound.
  • Makes flashings, seams or patches in roofs and gutters water-repellent.

Corner Post

  • Outside corner posts provide a more finished appearance at the outside corner of adjoined walls.
  • Inside corner posts provide a more finished appearance at the inside corner of adjoined walls.

Toluene

  • High solvency thinner for oil based paint, lacquers, varnish and adhesives.
  • Also used to thin certain primers and topcoats.
  • Soluble in alcohol and insoluble in water.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Also used to clean tools and equipment.

Polyurethane Foam

  • Used for a variety of jobs, most often around electrical outputs, pipe penetrations and large voids or openings where the elements can infiltrate a structure.
  • It expands to fill gaps, holes and voids and is good for insulation purposes.
  • It is easy to apply, cures quickly, is paintable and offers good adhesion.
  • Available in different expansion rate formulas.
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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Chimney Cleaner

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

Ultrasonic Humidifier

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

HEPA Air Cleaner

  • Passes air through a filter to remove pollen, dust and other airborne allergens.
  • Uses a high-efficiency-particulate-arresting  (HEPA) filter.
  • Often used in medicine, atomic energy and semiconductors because of their superior air-cleaning ability.
  • Can trap as much as 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger.
  • Designed to trap allergy-causing pollen and mold spores, as well as filter out smoke and dust mites.

Grate

  • Holds burning logs off the hearth.
  • Prevents logs from rolling forward.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.

Evaporative Humidifier

  • Uses a wick and high-volume air to return moisture to the air.
  • The wick is a honeycomb arrangement of cellulose paper with a large surface area.
  • Operates by partially submerging the wick in the water while a fan forces air to pass through the upper exposed area, distributing absorbed water into the air.
  • Wicks will need replacing.
  • This type uses little energy and is easy to clean. Some units can be noisy.

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.

Andiron

  • The andiron is a pair of metal bars with decorative front shafts that hold the logs.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.

Warm-Mist Device

  • Uses a heating element to restore moisture to the air.
  • The water surrounding the heating element is brought to near boiling and a fan cools and distributes the moistened air, which is slightly warmer than room air.
  • This type can be used with tap water and will not cause white dust.
  • Can be noisy and consumes more energy than other types.

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.

What kind of caulk should I use around window frames?

Latex caulks are good for filling these kinds of gaps. They clean up with water and most are paintable. However, they must be applied in temperatures of more than 40 degrees.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Anvil Pruning Shears

  • Has a straight edge blade that cuts against a soft metal anvil.
  • Good for cutting dead wood.
  • Lighter than bypass pruning shears and easier to sharpen.
  • Usually used for stems less than 3/4” in diameter.

Snow Shovel

  • One variation is the snow pusher.
  • Scoop specifically designed for removing snow.
  • Available in metal and poly blades.
  • Features include ribbed steel blades and a reinforced blade for increased durability.
  • Some have contoured handles to help user avoid back strain.

Spike-Type Aerator

  • Cuts through hard soil to loosen and break up the dirt several inches below the surface so air and moisture can promote deep root growth.
  • Has spiked wheels that allow scrap-free transport across hard surfaces.

Pistol Nozzle

  • Gun-type hose spray accessory constructed of metal or plastic.
  • Many have adjustable spray patterns from a fine mist to a solid stream to full flow by squeezing the handle or by turning an adjusting screw or using a multi-position clip.
  • Some models have a dial control for different spray patterns.

Trailer Cart

  • Pulls behind garden tractors and riding mowers.
  • They typically have a dumping mechanism located on the trailer towing bar or tongue. Dump by pulling a rope, releasing the body from the tongue.
  • Smaller capacity types hold 4 to 7 cu. ft.
  • Larger carts can hold from 8 to 17 cu. ft.

Gutter Leaf Guard

  • Placed over the top of the gutter.
  • Used to keep leaves out of the gutter while letting rainwater in.
  • A variety of styles are available from different manufacturers.

Sphagnum Peat Moss

  • Adds body to sandy soil to help with water retention and also loosens and aerates densely packed soil with high clay content.
  • Consists of the remains of a spongy type of northern moss called sphagnum.
  • Reduces leaching of soil nutrients.
  • Adds organic material to soil.
  • Available in compressed bales from 6 cu. ft. down to 1 cu. ft.
  • Also available in smaller packages for use in flowerpots and in planter boxes that must be soaked before using.

Pelletized Fertilizer

  • In the form of semi-rigid pellets or capsules.
  • This type does not ensure a steady release of nutrients unless slow-release sources are included in the pellets.

Lawn Mower

  • Usually gasoline powered. Electric and cordless models are available for smaller lawns.
  • Cuts grass with a flat blade that rotates at the speed of the engine.
  • The self-propelled type has an operator-controlled, wheel-drive engagement handle to control forward power.
  • The side-discharge type discharges grass clippings to the right side of the mowing path.
  • The rear-discharge type discharges grass clippings to the rear of the mowing path.
  • Available with an attachable lawn bag to gather lawn clippings.
  • The mulching type is designed to cut and recut grass clippings into fine particles that will fall back, unseen, into the turf.

Lopping Shears

  • Has long handles and tempered steel blades.
  • Used to cut through heavy underbrush and branches up to 3” thick.
  • Available in anvil or bypass styles.
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Plumbing Terms (100)

Pop-Up Drain

  • Also known as a P.O. drain.
  • Controls the mechanism in a lavatory sink with a plug that can open or close the drain.

Flared Fitting

  • Operates the same as a compression fitting, but one end of the pipe is flared.
  • Used in refrigeration, small appliances and oil heating.

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.

Gate Valve

  • Uses a sliding wedge to move across the waterway, in either a rising or non-rising action.
  • Used to completely shut off or open a waterway. Does not control the volume of flow.
  • In some models, either opening of a gate valve may face the pressure side of the line, while in others, an arrow indicates the direction of water flow.
  • Because they allow the complete passage of water, use on supply lines that are in constant use.
  • A Connector Gate Valve uses a union fitting on one side.

Toilet Water Supply

  • Connects water supply to toilet.
  • Flexible types are easiest to install.

Tankless Water Heater

  • Can operate on either gas or electricity.
  • Tankless water heaters are small heating units that are hooked into plumbing lines and heat water only as needed. They do not store water, but heat it as it moves through the unit.
  • Larger tankless heaters are installed at the point where water enters the house; smaller units are installed at the point where water is used and require more than one in a house. Some operate on house current, others on gas.
  • Some of the larger units require different size plumbing lines and different size flue vents than do tank-type heaters.
  • If gas-fueled, the heater must be properly vented; if electric, it may need to be wired with two units in series which may not be practical for existing home wiring. Larger units require a 220V or 240V line. Smaller units will operate on standard 110V lines.
  • Tankless heaters are more expensive than tank types. However, they do produce savings in annual energy consumption and cost.
  • Although tankless heaters will deliver continuous hot water, they are limited in quantity. The central units cannot support hot water demands from several points at the same time; obviously, the smaller units will heat water delivered only at the points where they are installed.
  • Because of the high initial cost and the fact that American consumers are not used to the limitations these heaters place on the availability of hot water, their recommended use is to supplement existing tank-type heaters or in summer homes or locations where demand for hot water is light.

Plunger

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

Insert Fitting

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

Propane Torch

  • Used to heat joints in copper pipe so solder can melt.
  • Also use to heat corroded fittings to loosen them.
  • Attaches to a cylinder containing the gas.

Boiler Drain Valve

  • A horizontal faucet with male hose threads on the outlet side and either male or female IPS threads on the inlet side.
  • Originally designed to drain water from a boiler, hence the name.
  • Today, theyíre usually used for laundry machine hookups.
  • Newer models of laundry valves have a single lever that controls the hot and cold water supply.
View category→

Home Security Terms (35)

U-Bar Lock

  • Provides maximum protection for bicycles, gates, etc.
  • Hardened steel shanks resist cutting.
  • Available in combination lock or keyed lock versions.

Fire Safety Ladder

  • Used to escape from an upper story window.
  • Comes in varying lengths, but most are sold for second-story rooms.
  • Features include tangle-free designs, compactness and strength ratings of the lines and footsteps.

Gun Lock

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

Passage Lockset

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

Trailer Lock

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

Privacy Lockset

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

Surface-Mounted Deadbolt

  • Squarish in shape and mounted on the surface of the inside of the door.
  • The bolt may be turned with a key or a turn knob.
  • Instead of sliding into the door frame, the bolt slides into a surface-mounted strike.

Home Intrusion Alarm

  • Wide variety of types available. Selection will depend on what you want to accomplish. Some feel a loud alarm at the point of entry will scare away the intruder. Others prefer a remote alarm located in a bedroom that will alert only the homeowner. Others prefer an outside alarm that will alert neighbors. Other kinds will sound an alarm and are connected directly to monitoring systems that will alert the police.
  • Simple alarms may consist of a door-locking device with a buzzer attached. When the device is tampered with or the door opened, the alarm sounds.
  • Many intrusion alarms are more elaborate and have twocomponents. A perimeter alarm detects intrusion at points of entry, such as door and windows. An area alarm detects motion inside a room.

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.

Handleset

  • Usually an entry set that combines a lockset with a deadbolt, the deadbolt is located just above the knob or handle. Can be a one- or two-piece unit.
  • Available with both single- and double-cylinder deadbolts. Styles of locksets also will vary widely.
  • Available in a variety of styles and finishes.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

How do I seal connections I make with plastic conduit?

Use PVC cement found in the plumbing department.

What is the advantage of a halogen bulb?

It provides brighter, cleaner light. However, they consume lots of electricity and they get very hot. You should ensure that it stays away from draperies, bedding, clothing, and hanging plants.

Why do some appliances and tools only have two prongs and no grounding prong?

These products are “double-insulated” and do not need the added protection of a grounding plug. You can plug them into ungrounded outlets and still be protected.

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

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

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

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

What is an LB fitting?

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

Do I need to buy a special bulb for my garage door opener?

It’s best to use a rough service bulb.

Is it easy to replace a faulty plug?

Yes, start by snipping off the original plug. Slide the cord into the new plug, strip the wires and connect them to the proper terminals. For lamps and small appliances there are quick connect plugs. The snipped wire is inserted and a small lever is closed which holds the wire and pierces the wire to make the connection.

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.

What is BX cable?

This is a trade name for an armored cable that wraps the wires in a flexible metal sheathing.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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

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

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

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

How can I stop an air draft around the light switch and receptacles?

A foam seal is available to go behind the switch or receptacle plate.

How can I make my fireplace more efficient?

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

Can I plug my air conditioner into any standard outlet?

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

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.

How does a tube grate work?

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

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

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

How do I know if my attic is properly ventilated?

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

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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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

If I’m soldering a copper pipe fitting onto an existing water line, do I have to remove all the water from the pipe first?

Yes. You must first remove all existing water in the line before soldering. Water cools the pipe, which doesn’t allow it to heat up to the proper soldering temperature. A propylene torch can help with this because it burns hotter. The best measure to take is to remove all water from the pipe before soldering. Stuff a ball of white bread (Wonder Bread works great) into the pipe to stop water. Then, after you soldering the fitting and turn the water back on, purge the line of the bread through the nearest exterior hose bib. Plumbers have used this trick for years.

Can the plastic pipe fittings be removed after they have been glued?

No, they are permanently joined and cannot be taken apart.

How do I test to see if water is leaking from the tank into the bowl?

After flushing the toilet, let it refill. Now put a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the color appears in the bowl after a few minutes, there is a leak.

I just refinished my basement and I want to ensure that it doesn’t flood. Do you have any advice?

You can buy a sump pump that has a battery back up. There are also high-water alarms.

Is ½” CPVC and ½” PVC the same size?

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

How do I join fittings to plastic pipe?

Use a solvent welding glue, which softens the pipe and fittings so they can melt together.

What is the purpose of a pressure relief valve on a water heater?

This is a safety device that will open in case of high pressure or temperature.

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.

Why is the torch hard to light?

The valve may be open to far. Open the valve just slightly so the rush of gas doesnít blow out the flame

Can I test to see if the leak is coming from the refill or the flush valve?

Yes. Shut off the water supply to the toilet. Mark the water level on the inside of the tank with a pencil. Check the water level in 10 or 20 minutes. If the water has fallen, you know the flush valve is leaking.

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