DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

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

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

How much countertop space should I have beside the sink?

Experts recommend having 36” on either side of the sink, with 24” as the bare minimum.

What’s the difference between shoe molding and quarter-round?

Quarter-round molding is a full quarter circle and the sides are the same length. Shoe molding, on the other hand, does not have an even length on both sides.

Is EPDM and rubber roofing the same thing?

EPDM is a type of rubber roofing that is the most common and easiest for the do-it-yourselfer to use. Rubber roofing is a generic term that can refer to a variety of membrane roofing materials.

Can I paint my vinyl siding?

You may be able to paint vinyl, but check with the manufacturer. Painting may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Can I use existing lighting over my ceiling tile?

Yes, but you will have to temporarily remove the fixture to install the tile.

Can I cut vinyl with a standard utility knife?

Yes, but a vinyl tile cutter you can rent is easier. Also, if you are cutting with a knife, change blades frequently to keep them sharp. A dull blade can tear the vinyl.

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.

Are their any special instructions for storing glulams on the jobsite?

Sunlight can discolor beams, so wrap them in an opaque covering, and keep them off the ground to prevent contact with moisture. In some cases, beams may be wrapped individually. Where appearance is important, you can unwrap beams after installation to avoid damage.

I’m going to add a wall in one of the rooms of my house, what grade of board should I use.

If the wall won’t be carrying any weight above it, you can use a light framing 2×4. The other option is a stud, which can be used for load bearing walls.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Vinyl Gasket Weather Strip

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

Storm Door

  • Provides extra security to the exterior door and protects against weather and stops drafts through door openings.
  • Made of solid wood or has a wood or foam hollow core inside an exterior skin of metal, aluminum or vinyl.
  • Glass should be tempered to safety glass, while fiberglass screens offer durability and do not rust.
  • Available in a variety of colors.
  • Self-storing models store the windows and the screen at the same time, with many models allowing ventilation at the top or bottom.
  • Interchangeable models have the glass and screen removable to allow ventilation through the entire opening.
  • Common styles are full view, full lite, crossbuck, traditional and security.

Wood Shingle

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

Garbage Disposal

  • Uses a high-speed rotating table powered by a sealed motor, it flings kitchen waste against a stationary shredder, cutter or grinder.
  • This action, together with a full flow of cold running water that must be used while the disposal is operating, reduces the garbage to fine particles and flushes them down the drain to the sewage system.
  • Fits standard 3-1/2″ to 4″ sink drain openings and are installed under the sink drain.
  • Cold water congeals grease and prevents it from coating the drain line. Hard particles, such as bone and eggshell, actually scour the drain line as they whirl down and help keep it clean.
  • One type is the Continuous-Feed disposals. Garbage can be fed while the machine is in operation. These disposals are controlled by a wall switch and operated with a continuous flow of cold water.
  • A flexible splashguard at the disposal opening stops backsplash and helps to catch non-food items that may accidentally fall into the opening.
  • Batch-Feed disposals grind or pulverize food waste one load at a time. The hopper is filled and cold water added. When the cover is put in place, the unit begins operating. Some models have a magnetic switch control in the cover; others require a locking turn of the cover to activate the unit. No other switch is necessary. The safer design of batch-feed disposals makes them more attractive to homeowners with children.
  • A sealed motor requiring an electrical hook-up powers most garbage disposals.
  • The typical disposal has an overload switch that shuts off the motor if something is jammed.
  • Disposals will grind most garbage–from the sink and the dishwasher–but they are not intended for glass, crockery, leather, metal, newspaper, paper cartons, rubber or plastic.

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.

Drop Ear Elbow

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

Pine Shelving

  • Lumber 1” thick and of varying widths and lengths.
  • Most consumer inventories range from 1” x 1” to 1” x 12”, up to 12’ long.
  • From 1” x 1” to 1” x 6”, increments increase by 1”. Then, lengths increase in 2” increments from 1” x 8” to 1” x 10” and 1” x 12”.
  • Most consumer sales will be in 4’ and 6’ lengths.
  • No. 4 grade pine is commonly called “garage shelving”. Many consumers use it for basements and garages where looks are not important.

Splash Block

  • Diverts water away from the foundation of the house.
  • Only works if the grade of soil is already pitched away from the house’s foundation.

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.


  • 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.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Fluorescent Bulbs

  • Current flows through an atmosphere of inert gas and mercury vapor, producing ultraviolet energy that is invisible to the human eye. A phosphor coating on the inside of the tube transforms the ultraviolet energy into visible light.
  • Fluorescent bulbs can vary from straight tubes 6″ to 96″ long to U-shaped tubes and circular tubes. Wattages for home use range from 4 to 75 watts.
  • Tubes also come in a variety of diameters. Several common types are available in reduced-wattage versions that consume 15 percent to 20 percent less energy. The most common tube is the 1-1/2″ used in most bulbs from 15″ to 96″ long. The smallest diameter is 1/2″, used in low-wattage twin tube designs. The largest is 2-1/8″ used for some high-wattage, non-residential installations.
  • Produce up to 105 lumens per watt, compared with a 100-watt, type A incandescent, which produces around 18 lumens per watt.
  • Features include a long lamp life, relatively low brightness and low heat content and glare, compared with incandescent lamps.
  • Fluorescents work well for area lighting, especially in kitchen, bath and task areas.
  • Available in many shades of white and colors. Color is determined by the type of phosphor used in the bulb. Soft white fluorescent bulbs are recommended for living areas, baths and kitchens since they offer good color rendering. Warm white bulbs are good for living areas, although not in areas where color discrimination is important. Cool white bulbs are used for work areas.
  • Use a ballast. Dim only with special equipment that is relatively expensive. Standard household fluorescents are also sensitive to temperature, and therefore work best indoors. High-output fluorescents are for outdoor use and commercial application.
  • Ballasts have sound ratings— “A” is the quietest; “C” is the loudest. Often noise made by fluorescent fixtures can be reduced by replacing the ballast.
  • Electrical connections to the bulbs are made to the bases at each end. The most common is the two-pin base, designated miniature bi-pin for small diameter bulbs, medium bi-pin for average size bulbs and the mogul bi-pin for industrial bulbs. Single-pin bases are used for instant start bulbs, and recessed double contact bases are used on rapid–start bulbs longer than 48″.

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.


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

GFCI Receptacle

  • Stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.
  • Also known as a GFI or ground fault interrupter
  • Used to protect against ground faults, which occur when a person comes into contact with a live electrical wire. This may be caused by worn insulation on a wire or by operating a faulty appliance or power tool.
  • The GFCI interrupts power quickly enough to help prevent a lethal dose of electricity.
  • To turn the GFCI back on after it trips, push the reset button located in the middle of the switch.
  • They can be installed as a receptacle or at the main power panel.

Plug Body

  • Adapts a light socket for use as a single outlet.

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).


  • 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.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

My new light fixture is rated for 60W bulbs. Is it OK to use 75W bulbs if I want the room to be brighter?

No. This could cause a serious fire hazard, as the bulbs could get too hot and melt parts of the fixture and even catch on fire.

Do four-foot fluorescent fixtures come in different wattages?

Yes, the most common are 25-, 34- and 40- watt bulbs.

How much energy do compact fluorescent light bulbs save?

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

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

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

What does gauge mean?

Wires have size numbers that express their diameter. These are even numbers from 0 to 18, and smaller numbers indicate larger diameters that can carry more power.

What is Underwriters Laboratories?

It is a non-profit organization that tests and approves electrical products. Look for “UL” labels of approval to help ensure appliances are safe.

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.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

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.

Ionizer Air Cleaner

  • Use an ionizer to clean air by charging molecules of air, which helps make indoor air more refreshing.
  • Ionizer technology in an air cleaner can also reduce static electricity and improve the filter’s efficiency.

Vented Gas Log

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

Vegetable Seed

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

Hedge Trimmer

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

Reed-Sedge Peat

  • Also known as Michigan-type peat.
  • Has similar characteristics and soil benefits to Sphangnum Peat Moss.
  • Includes the remains of a variety of swamp plants such as sedge grasses and reeds.
  • A velvety dark brown product that does not need extensive soaking.
  • Available in 25- and 50-lb. bags as well as smaller quantities.
  • Not a plant food. Fertilizers must still be added.

Contractor Wheelbarrow

  • Typically has a 5 to 10 cu. ft. capacity.
  • Tray has a deep front for added capacity and extra bracing.
  • Legs and bracing are made from heavy-gauge steel.
  • Wheel is typically 16” pneumatic.
  • A wide rim bead around the trough adds reinforcement for heavy loads such as cement and bricks.
  • Some models may offer knobby tires for added traction and longer wear.

Hose Mender

  • Used to mend or connect hose.
  • Metal clincher couplings have metal cleats around a brass insert.
  • Can be used on rubber or plastic hoses. To install, push the hose over the insert and pound down the cleats with a hammer or crimp with pliers to hold the hose.
  • For plastic hoses, use a compression fitting with a threaded collar as it is less likely to puncture the outer covering.
  • Plastic menders include a barbed tubular insert and clam shell-shaped clamps used on either plastic or rubber hose.


  • Breaks up clods left by spading or aerating.
  • Has one, three or four sharp curved tines or prongs.
  • A rotary cultivator with sharp spurs is best for heavier work.
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FAQs (0)

What should I look for when buying a lawnmower?

For a mulching or self-propelled mower, you need plenty of horsepower so look for one that has a 5 to 6 horsepower engine.

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.

How do insecticides work?

There are basically two types: systemic and non-systemic. The systemic is absorbed by the plant and makes it poisonous. The non-systemic provides a coating on the outside of the plant.

Do you have a grass and weed killer that can be safely used around a flowerbed?

There are many brands, but they will all harm flowers. You can try to shield the plants from overspray, but the best way is to simply pull the weeds.

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.

How often should I give my grill a thorough scrubbing?

Be sure to do it at the beginning of the grilling season. Then, it depends on how often you use it. Three times a year is probably adequate.

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.

What tools make up a basic gardening set?

A basic gardening tool set would include a spading fork, a garden hoe, a watering can, a round-ended shovel, a bow-head garden rake and a pair of garden shears.

I can still see the seams where I patched a hole in the drywall. How do I get rid of it?

It might take several applications to get it right, sanding smooth between each one. Also be sure you are feathering out the seams well beyond the patch, which will help hide the patch and the seams.

Is there a good time to paint outside?

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

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

My saber saw blades seem to dull quickly. What should I use?

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

I want to hang some shelves but first I want to make sure I don’t hit any electrical wiring buried in the wall with my anchors. What’s the best way to do this?

By using a stud finder with a built-in AC current detector, you can trace hot wiring behind walls to make sure you drill in the right place.

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.

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 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.

How do I know if my level is accurate?

To check it, place it on a level surface, then flip it over. Both readings should be identical.

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.

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 want to hide the nail head in some molding that I am installing.

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

What are the differences in the various types of files?

Differences are primarily denoted by the type of teeth the file has. A single cut denotes a single row of chisel-cut teeth. These files are used on saw teeth and metals where a good finish is required. A double cut file is used primarily on metals where rapid stock removal is necessary and a rough cut is permissible. It has two rows of chisel-cut teeth. A curved-tooth cut features teeth that are milled in an arc. This cut is used on flat surfaces of soft metals for rapid stock removal and a fairly good finish. File teeth are further divided into four groups: coarse, bastard, second and smooth. Coarse and bastard cuts are used on heavy work, while second and smooth cuts are used for finishing or more exacting work.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Rip Hammer

  • Also known as a Rip Hammer
  • Used mainly by professionals for ripping apart wooden components and demolition work.
  • Should be used only with non-hardened, common or finishing nails.
  • Choose weights from 20 to 32 oz. for framing and ripping.
  • Available with milled or waffled faces to grip the nail head and reduce the effect of glancing blows and flying nails.


Leather Gloves

  • May be solid leather for heavy-duty applications or have a leather palm.
  • Durable and long lasting glove. Handles a wide variety of applications.
  • Construction materials include cowskin, pigskin, goatskin and deerskin.
  • Driving gloves offer dexterity when operating equipment.
  • Welding gloves offer protection from heat and sparks in welding applications.
  • Gunn pattern leather palm gloves offer protection from rough objects, sparks and for cushioning blows.
  • Clute pattern leather palm gloves offer the best economy in leather protection.

Taper File

  • Triangular shaped single-cut file generally used to sharpen gullets between saw teeth.
  • Also called a taper saw or a triangular file.
  • Generally 6” in length with a tapered body.

Offset Snips

  • Have offset handles to keep hands above work.
  • Cut easier because of compound leverage.
  • Designed especially for long, inside cuts and are available for right or left cutting direction. However, both models will make straight cuts as well.

Wallpaper Paste

  • Enables wallpaper to adhere to wall.
  • Water soluble, so cleans up with soap and water.
  • Special formulas designed for boarders where vinyl to vinyl adhesion is needed.
  • Some have tinting agent that ensures complete coverage.
  • Be sure to check the kind of paper before you buy paste. Some coverings require wheat paste, while others use liquid vinyl adhesive or a vinyl paste.

Slide Pump Sprayer

  • Operates by a two-handed, telescopic plunger action that draws the spray material from an open container and discharges it through an adjustable nozzle.
  • Develops pressure up to 150 lbs. and nozzles adjust for spray patterns up to 25’ or 30’.
  • Pump has continuous or intermittent action.

Concrete Edger

  • Tool that produces a radius at the edge of a concrete slab to minimize chipping.

Desk Stapler

  • Common household and office tool used to staple paper and other lightweight materials together.

Handscrew Clamp

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


  • Is a fine-toothed saw designed to cut metal or plastic. Hacksaws consist of a blade held in a steel frame with relatively high tension to hold the blade rigidly straight. High-tension models (with tension to 32,000 p.s.i.) are also available.
  • Blades come in coarse-, medium (18 tpi), fine (24 teeth per inch and very fine-toothed (32 tpi). Regular or standard blades are used for general-purpose cutting; high-speed or bi-metal blades for cutting hard, extra-tough steel.
  • Most models can be adjusted to hold various blade lengths. Some have both horizontal and vertical positions for blades. Others provide blade storage.
  • A close-quarter (or utility) hacksaw holds and positions a hacksaw blade so it can be used effectively in narrow spaces and slots.
  • Replacement blades include rod saw blades capable of cutting through most hard materials—spring and stainless steel, chain, brick, glass and tile.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Cotter Pin

  • Versatile fastening device.
  • Made of ferrous and nonferrous wire.
  • Comes in various diameters and lengths ranging from 1/32” x 1/2” to 1/4” to 18”.
  • Inserts into a hole in a bolt, shaft or similar part. An eye on one end prevents the pin from going through while prongs at the other end are bent back to lock the pin in place.


Insulated Staples

  • Used to mount cable to studs or other framing members.
  • There are different sizes, so make sure you are recommending the correct one.

Load Binder

  • Provides more control in binding and releasing two chains.
  • Has two hooks, each of which attaches to a chain. The user uses the central lever to tighten the chains and secure the load.
  • Can be either a ratchet type or a lever type, which determines how the chain is tightened.

Sisal Rope

  • A twisted rope that can be used where it is likely to be discarded after each use and where strength is not important.
  • Do not use where personal safety or valuable property is involved.
  • Good resistance to sunlight and stretches little.
  • Polypropylene has largely displaced sisal in low-cost usage.

Plate 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.
  • If casters are to be used on furniture, consider the occupied weight of the piece rather than the furniture weight alone.
  • Designed to be attached to the furniture with screws or bolts.

Casement Operator

  • Limits and controls the swing of an unlatched casement.
  • Consists of a lever and a handle crank. Cranking the handle opens the window.
  • Certain models allow the casement to be opened outward without removing the screen.

Roofing Nail

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


  • 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.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

Will super glue work on all types of plastic?

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

What does a lock washer do?

It helps to tighten the grip of the nut. If the screw needs to maintain lots of torque or if it’s going to vibrate, you should consider using a lock washer.

How long of a nail should I use?

If the board you are fastening to another is not going to bear weight, it should be a half inch longer than the board is thick. If it is going to bear weight, it should be 2-1/2 times the thickness of the material to be fastened.

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

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

In my apartment, I share a walk-in closet. What’s the best way to share this space?

While you’re sharing the closet, the best way to keep the peace in the closet is to keep everything separate. Each of you should get one of the long walls, then you can decided how to divide up any of the remaining short sections.

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.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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 often should I clean the chimney for my fireplace?

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

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

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

Where should I place my humidifier for maximum efficiency?

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

What is the 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.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Box Wood Stove

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

Furnace-Mounted Humidifier

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

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.

Oil-Filled Heater

  • A convection-type heater that contains a factory sealed oil reservoir that never needs changing or replenishing.
  • A tubular heating element heats oil, which in turn heats the exterior of the heater.
  • Slow heating, but ale to provide uniform temperatures through out the space being heated.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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

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

Can locks be rekeyed so that more than one uses the same key?

Locksmiths can also re-key existing or new locks to the same key. However, they have to be the same brand and use the same key blank.

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

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

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.

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Home Security Terms (35)

Dry-Chemical Extinguisher

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

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.


  • Consists of a metal hinge and an anchoring bolt so locks can be secured to gates, sheds and garages.
  • Conceals the mounting screws when the lock is in place.
  • Insert a padlock through the ring and lock to secure the hasp.
  • Another type is the hasplock, which has a padlock attached to it, which makes it impossible to lose the padlock when the hasp is open.

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.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

How often should I sharpen my mower blade?

Once a month if it receives a lot of use. Otherwise, once or twice a year.

My mower won’t start. What’s most likely the problem?

Some of the common reasons mowers won’t start include the following:

1. It’s out of gas.

2. It’s flooded. Let it sit for an hour or two or overnight
until the strong gas smell goes away, then try again.

3. It needs a new spark plug. Check the tip of the plug for
corrosion and rust and replace it if necessary.

4. The fuel is stale. Replace with fresh fuel.

Is there a fertilizer that I can use on my gardens that last a long time?

There are time released fertilizers that can last several months.

I need a glove to work in the yard.

If you are using tools or equipment such as a rake, ax, shovel, lawn mower or string trimmer, you should consider a leather glove. It will offer comfort and protection, while a standard canvas or cloth glove can be your choice if all you want to do is keep your hands clean.

How can I keep rabbits out of my garden?

There is a galvanized fence that is 28” high.

Do you have a grass and weed killer that can be safely used around a flowerbed?

There are many brands, but they will all harm flowers. You can try to shield the plants from overspray, but the best way is to simply pull the weeds.

How much of a slope should my gutters have?

Allow a fall of about 1-1/4” for each 20’ of guttering.

What ingredients are in container potting soil?

Potting soil is a mix of several ingredients, including peat moss, compost perlite and vermiculite. Some compost also contains fertilizer, which generally last for 8 to 12 weeks.

How long will it take to replant flowers?

If the soil is well prepared, you can plant a flat of 36 flowers in about 30 minutes.

Is one thick coat of blacktop sealer just as good if not better than two thin coats?

No. In fact, two thin coats are always better. Thick coats lead to problems such as tracking, cracking and discoloration.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Hand Edger

  • Used for edging thick sod around walks, flowerbeds, trees and shrubs.
  • Has a long handle with a sharp, high-carbon steel blade.


Bow Head Garden Rake

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

Lawn Tractor

  • The riding mower, or lawn tractor, cuts grass, but some types can also tow garden carts.
  • Engines may be 13 to 25 hp.
  • Heavy-duty garden tractors have the additional ability to use ground-engaging implements such as tillers, plows, snow throwers, etc.
  • Some models have two or three side-by-side blades that widen the cutting path. Cutting widths can be as wide as 50”.
  • Features may include automatic transmission, cruise control, reverse cutting, adjustable deck heights, the ability to turn on a tight radius, an hours meter and a cast iron front axle.

Rubber Mulch

  • Made from non-toxic, environmentally friendly, recycled materials that can be used indoors or outdoors.
  • Like organic mulch, it inhibits weed growth while retaining soil moisture.
  • Natural shape allows airflow into the ground.
  • Looks like organic mulch but doesn’t rot, dissolve into the ground, wash away from rain or loose its color as easily as regular mulch.
  • Available in a variety of colors.

Lawn Sweeper

  • Features a cylindrical drum outfitted with rows of bristles that use a rotary sweeping action to pick up leaves, rocks and grass clippings.
  • More efficient than raking and works better on dry and level lawns.
  • A canvas container, usually 6 to 7 cu. ft. capacity, holds collected debris.

Oscillating Sprinklers

  • Sprays multiple streams of water out of openings in a spray tube that oscillates back and forth, watering a rectangular pattern.
  • Used for watering medium to large areas.
  • Traditional designs use curved aluminum tubes.
  • Other designs use corrosion-free, molded straight tubes with jets set at progressive angles.
  • Pattern adjustments are usually full sweep, left, right or center.
  • Place more water at the end of the spray pattern than in the middle.
  • Some models have built-in timers for automatic shutoff.

Scuffle Hoe

  • Cuts with both edges of its sharp, steel blade and works in both the push and pull motions.
  • Blade shifts back and forth to keep the angle right in either direction.

Ditching Spade

  • For digging and clearing trenches.
  • Has a pointed square blade.
  • Best for use in heavy soil or rocky surfaces.
  • The top of the blade may have a turned lip called the foot pedal.

Hedge Shear

  • Used to shape ornamental shrubs and clip soft, young growth.
  • Blades are typically 8” to 10” long.
  • Some types have a serrated edge.
  • Some types have notched positions for bulk cuts.
  • Do not use in place of lopping shears or hand shears.

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.


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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Is there any way to easily separate a joint where an epoxy has been used?

Although it is not easy, it can be done. Apply an oven cleaner, such as Easy-Off, to the bond and let it sit for 10 to 15 minuets. The epoxy will eventually start to soften and can then be pried apart with a stiff putty knife.

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.

Where should I use a flat paint?

These are also called matte finishes and they are good for walls and ceilings in lower-traffic areas.

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

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

What should I use to thin shellac?

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

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.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)


  • Ensures better and longer-lasting results when applied before any type of paint.
  • Primers and stain-killing primer-sealers are designed to seal porous surfaces, block out stains, promote adhesion of the topcoat and hide unwanted colors.
  • Improves adhesion, prevents stains on the surface from bleeding through the finish paint and seals porous surfaces.
  • Priming the surface also saves paint and prevents paint resins from soaking unevenly into the substrate.
  • Water-based primer-sealers bind moderately chalky surfaces and offer good adhesion to glossy surfaces and metals. They are almost odorless and clean up with soap and water.
  • Oil-based primer-sealers can be used on both interior and exterior surfaces. They work well for nicotine stains and cedar bleed. They give off a low odor and clean up with mineral spirits (paint thinner).
  • Acrylic block fillers should be used to prime concrete block.
  • Stain-killing primer-sealers are oil-based, water-based or shellac-based. They prime virtually anything that needs painting, including metal, masonry, wood, drywall and previously painted surfaces. They are typically white-pigmented and can be tinted to match the color of the topcoat to reduce the amount of finish paint needed for the job.
  • Shellac-based primer-sealers are ideal for interior woodwork and spot-priming knots on exterior wood. They are best for sealing off troublesome stains from water leaks, mildew and fire damage. They also seal off odors from smoke and pets. Clean up requires alcohol or a 1:3 solution of household ammonia in water.

Masking Machine

  • Offers automatic tape alignment for applying masking tape to film or paper.
  • Useful when masking off large areas.
  • Contains blade for easy tearing of tape end.
  • Many different types and styles available.

Graining Comb

  • Tool used to achieve striated effect, which involves covering a wall with regular paint, applying a glaze and then running the comb through the glaze to remove glaze.
  • Combing tends to darken the color of the wall and it can be done in any direction.
  • Cross-hatching is when the wall is combed once straight down and once horizontally.

Mineral Spirits

  • Also known as paint thinner.
  • A petroleum distillate solvent frequently used in the manufacturing and thinning of oil-based paints.
  • Odorless mineral spirits have been refined to remove some odorous components.
  • Excellent paint thinner and for cleaning brushes or rollers after painting.


  • Comes in water-based and oil-based formulations.
  • Recommended for interior use on floors and many times wood furniture because of its excellent protection.
  • Polyurethane stains are better used for interior applications for water-resistance and hard use, but do produce a rather plastic appearance. For a more natural-looking gloss, use an Alkyd for furniture and indoor architectural trim and doors.
  • It is generally not recommended for outdoor use because it will yellow and crack when exposed to ultraviolet light—unless ultraviolet light absorbers are added.


  • 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.


  • 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.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

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

The easiest thing is to use a push fitting.

What type of plunger should I use to unclog my toilet?

The best type of plunger to buy is one that includes a flange around the bottom. This allows the plunger to create a better seal inside the toilet. For more information on the best products to clear your toilet, watch our video “Unclogging a Toilet.”

I’m not getting enough hot water from my electric water heater. What could be the cause of this?

The temperature control may be set too low. Otherwise its probably a faulty heating element or thermostat, which can be replaced.

How should I cut plastic pipe?

Any fine tooth saw will work, but make sure you remove any burs.

What do I need to do to repair my leaking faucet?

Is it leaking from the handle or out the spout? Most faucets are washer-type, and if these are leaking from the spout, you will have to replace the washer. If the seat is corroded, you will have to dress it or replace it. If it is leaking from the handle, you may need to replace the O-rings, tighten the packing nut or replace the packing. If a disk faucet is leaking, you will need to replace the O-ring. If it is leaking from the spout, you will need to replace the disk assembly. For ball-type faucet leaks, you may need to replace the cam assembly, the seat assembly and the ball.

How do I remove hard water stains from my stainless steel sink?

Try cleaning it with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol.

How close to the copper fitting do you need to hold the flame to get bring it up to soldering temperature?

The inner blue cone within the flame is the hottest part of the flame and should always touch the copper. When the copper starts to turn iridescent in color and gets a shiny appearance, gently touch the tip of the solder to the joint. I should melt and run into the joint.

Are there different kinds of latex caulk?

Yes. For example, vinyl latex is good for small cracks. Acrylic latex is a little more flexible and lasts longer up to 10 or 15 years. Siliconized acrlic latex should not be confused with a pure silicone caulk, but it is a medium-performance caulk that provides some water resistance and lasts up to 25 years or more.

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.”

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Tub Drain

  • Bath DrainUses an overflow opening to control draining in a tub.
  • The Spring type consists of an assembly controlled by a lever that moves a pop-up plug up and down. It is easiest to install, especially in retrofits.
  • The Weight type consists of an assembly that controls a weight that lifts up or down out of the drain hole. It is also controlled by a lever.

Compression Faucet

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

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.

Stop & Waste Valve

  • Has a small opening on the non-pressure side to allow drainage when it is in cut-off position. Helps prevent freezing of water lines in winter.
  • Also known as a bleeder valve or drainable valve.
  • Comes in threaded, sweat, flare and slip joint ends. The latter two are municipal and emergency valves.
  • Flat head or socket head are common residential types have a socket head that takes a 3/8″ key rod.

Bowl Gasket

  • Wax RingAlso known as a wax ring.
  • Seals the joint between the toilet bowl and the drain piping in the floor.
  • Some types have a plastic ring inside to add protection.
  • For a better seal, use two rings, one on top of the other.

Epoxy Repair

  • Repairs small leaks in pipes.
  • A two-part material that looks like clay.
  • Just before using, break off a piece and mix together by rubbing between your fingers.

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.


  • 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.
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Power Tools Terms (84)


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

Sanding Belt

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

Benchtop Table Saw

  • Most portable and lightweight table saw.
  • Used for ripping wood.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism are located under the table.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Most models use a 10” saw blade.

Forstner Bit

  • Used for drilling flat bottom holes in wood. Helps avoid the danger of the bit wandering.
  • Available in sizes ranging from 3/8” to 2” and larger.
  • Great for drilling holes in cabinet doors with concealed hinges.

Step Bits

  • Has a graduated design so that various sized holes can be cut without changing bits.
  • Designed for use with power drills and has self-starting tips eliminating the need for center punching. Can be used on all materials, but especially designed for use on metals.


  • Can use gasoline or electric power.
  • Chips and sheds branches up to 3” in diameter into small pieces that can be used as organic mulch.
  • Uses a bag to collect chipped materials.
  • Most types allow the user to rake leaves directly into the machine or feed branches into the top. Some models offer both a drop-in hopper and a dedicated chipper chute.

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.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Folding Sawhorse

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

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.

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.

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.
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