DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

Should I seal my asphalt driveway every year?

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

How much space should I leave for a walkway when planning a kitchen?

The general rule is to leave at least 42” between the front edge of the counter top to the nearest table or island.

Do I need a special door jamb to hang a bifold door?

You can use a standard door jamb, if you wish, and mount the track on the face of the jamb. A better option may be to use a jamb specially designed for a bifold jamb. This jamb has the bifold door track hardware hidden in the jamb so it’s not exposed.

Can dirt and debris buildup hurt my roof?

Yes. Dirt and debris such as limbs, leaves or pine straw can hold moisture that can cause mildew and damage to the roof.

What is back priming?

It means priming the backside of the siding. You should also prime the cut edges so the wood is completely sealed from moisture.

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

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

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

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

What is Type C gypsum board?

Type C gypsum board meets all of the requirements of Type X board, but it includes additional properties to enhance its fire resistance.

What type of saw blade should I use to cut plywood?

You can buy a plywood blade, specially designed with teeth to cut plywood.

What chemical is used to treat pressure treated wood?

Previously, pressure treated wood was treated with a chemical called CCA preservative, which was banned for residential uses in the U.S. at the end of 2003. ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) is replacing CCA in most of the country (where Southern Pine is used) except the far west, where CA (copper azole) is more common (Hem-Fir and SPF are the most common species treated).

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Building Materials Terms (161)

V-Type Weather Strip

  • Once the door is closed, the open ends of the V shape close together, with one end of the V touching the door and the other adhered to the door.
  • Forms an airtight seal.
  • Spring-metal tension strips are more difficult to install than adhesive-backed tension strips made of vinyl, but are the best permanent type.

Swinging Door

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

Metal Roofing

  • Steel panels designed to cover the roof in place of shingles.
  • Designed with either exposed or hidden fasteners.
  • Metal roofing can be coated with zinc or a mixture of zinc and aluminum for rust prevention. The best steel panels are manufactured with zinc.

Tub Surround

  • Attaches to drywall, plaster or most any solid surface.
  • Comes in three or more pieces that snap or caulk together for a leak-free fit.
  • Inexpensive alternative to tile and good solution for keeping bathroom walls around the shower easy to clean.
  • Don’t forget the caulk!

Awning Window

  • Has a single sash hinged at the top.
  • Opens at the bottom with a hand-turned crank.
  • More durable than casement windows.
  • One type is the basement utility window that is made with a block frame for easy installation in a masonry wall.
  • Another type is the ranch unit, which has the window framed in a brick mold for installation in garages, cottages and utility buildings.
  • Another type is the hopper window, where the window is hinged at the bottom.


  • Used to trim out the ends of siding panels where they meet a door or window.
  • Also used to cover cut edges of panels around windows and under the eaves.

Wall/Ceiling Junction

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

Spike & Ferrule

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

Siliconized Acrylic Caulk

  • Combines silicone with acrylic latex formulas for improved water resistance.
  • This medium-performance, water-based caulk can withstand greater movement than acrylic latex.
  • Can be used for interior or exterior with good adhesion, even to glass and ceramic tile.
  • It also comes in a variety of colors as well as clear formulas.
  • It applies easily (though best applied in temperatures above 40° F), is non-flammable, paintable, mildew-resistant and cleans with water.
  • It endures moderate temperature changes, with a life expectancy of about 25-35 years.


  • Fast acting thinner, cleaner and remover for resins, inks, adhesives and contact cement.
  • Also used for thinning and cleaning fiberglass.
  • A heavy degreaser, it can be used as a metal cleaner prior to painting.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Incandescent Bulbs

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

Drill Press

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

TV Wire and Accessories

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

Heavy-Wall Conduit

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

Lithium Battery

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

Fuse Puller

  • Used to remove cartridge-type fuses.

Fluorescent Fixture

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


  • Different than cable. Cable refers to two or more wires or conductors grouped together in a jacket.
  • Copper or tinned copper is the most common conductor in home wiring because it has minimum resistance at reasonable cost.
  • Wire is grouped by gauge number, running from 0000 to No. 40. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire. For home use, the most common gauges are between 10 and 20.
  • Larger wire carries more current. Forcing too much current through a wire will cause it to overheat and trip a breaker.
  • Wire is also characterized by letters that correspond to the insulation type and electrical capacity.
  • Grounding wire provides a path of least resistance from the frame or case of an appliance to the ground to guard against electric shocks. Both two- and three-conductor cables can carry grounding wires.

Plastic Conduit

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

Heavy-Duty Battery

  • Short life and best used for low-drain applications such as remote controls and wall clocks.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

How do I wire a lamp switch?

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

What is a ground fault interrupter?

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

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

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

What R-value should I use?

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

Do you have something I can use to insulate and repair cords and wire with?

You can use heat-shrink tubing. It’s designed to fit something half its size in diameter.

Do all the sockets in my house need to be a GFI?

Only the first one in the series needs to be a GFI (ground fault interrupter).

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.

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

It’s best to use a rough service bulb.

What is a ground fault (circuit) interrupter?

An electrical device that shuts off the power in case of a short.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Crackle Paste

  • Also called aging glaze.
  • Used to create rustic, antique designs that resemble the look of cracked oil varnish.
  • Can be applied over any painted surface, including furniture, woodwork, trim, lamps and decorative accessories.
  • Sometimes comes in a three-part system, with base coat, top coat and either light or dark enhancer.

Ladder Mitts

  • Are attached to the top rails of extension ladders to prevent marring of the surface the ladder is leaning on.
  • Generally made of tear-resistant and weather resistant urethane foam.

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.

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.

Laundry Faucet

  • Mounts either on laundry tubs or on the wall above the tub. Most fiberglass tubs require a ledge faucet with 4″ centers.
  • Sometimes furnished with a standard 3-3/4″ hose thread outlet on the spout. Most codes require the use of a vacuum breaker attachment if the outlet contains threads to prevent water contamination.

Threaded Fitting

  • Most commonly used in steel fittings, but some plastic and copper fittings will be threaded.
  • Uses pipe dope or Teflon tape on the threads when joining to prevent leaks and corrosion.
  • If the threads are on the interior, the fitting is female. If the threads are on the exterior, the fitting is male.
  • IPS means Iron Pipe Size, and also refers to threaded pipe.
  • MIP means Male Iron Pipe size. It refers to a male threading that will fit an IPS pipe.
  • FIP means Female Iron Pipe size. It refers to a female threading that will fit an IPS pipe.

Pipe Cleaner

  • Use in conjunction with pipe solvent and primer.
  • Removes surface dirt and grease from plastic pipe.

Float Ball

  • Part of the Ballcock.
  • When the water level raises it, it shuts off the valve that lets water into the tank.
  • Made of plastic or copper.
  • Should be replaced if it develops cracks or corrodes and let water inside.

Tub Shower Door

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

Septic Tank

  • A large watertight settling tank that holds sewage while it decomposes by bacterial action.
  • Made of asphalt coated steel, redwood, concrete, concrete block, clay tile or brick.
  • Tanks must be sized to suit the house. Twobedroom homes need minimum 750gallon tanks, according to the U.S. Public Health Service. Threebedroom homes need 900gallon tanks and fourbedroom homes require 1,000gallon tanks. Garbage disposers, washing machines and dishwashers are figured in this estimate.
  • Household sewage flows into the septic tank anddecomposes. Sludge collects on the bottom of the tank and liquid effluent flows out to a distribution system. The distribution system is a series of underground disposal lines that radiate outward from a central distribution point; the effluent seeps into the earth.
  • Sludge remaining in the tank must be cleaned out periodically to prevent this layer from building up enough to cause clogging of disposal lines or household sewer lines.
  • Under ordinary use, the tank may need cleaning at two to four-year intervals, but most experts recommend that the sludge level be inspected every 12 to 18 months. Inspect by opening a special manhole cover or trapdoor located at or near ground level.
  • Septic tank cleaners dissolve sludge through enzyme activators that regenerate the natural bacterial activity of decomposition for which the tanks were designed. These natural bacterial activators continue from the tank into the drain and tile field.
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FAQs (0)

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.

How often should I change my furnace filter?

Normal time periods are one month to three months.

Why do I need both soffit vents and a ridge vent?

A properly balanced vent system consists of two types of vents. Intake vents are placed along the soffit to allow fresh air into the attic. Exhaust vents are installed in the upper third of the roof to allow attic air to escape. With a properly vented system, the air in the attic should completely change every six minutes.

How should I clean my washable filter?

Spray gently with warm water in the opposite direction of the airflow. Do not use the full stream of a garden hose. Too much pressure can push holes in the filter and void the warranty. Some manufacturers suggest using a household detergent; refer to the package to verify. Do not use ammonia-based products. Make sure the filter is completely dry before reinstalling.

What is the benefit of a humidifier?

A humidifier can make a house more comfortable during the winter months. Cold air holds little moisture. When it enters the house and is warmed, the air in the house becomes dry. Humidifiers restore moisture to the air and can make the house feel warmer, allowing you to use less heat and thus save energy.

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

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

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What is a saber saw?

It’s a portable jigsaw that can perform many tasks, such as cutting curves and holes. However, it can’t handle heavy jobs. Some models have orbital blade action for a more aggressive cut. Another feature some people like is blower that keeps the cutting line visible and sawdust free.

What square should I use to calculate an existing angle that I want to duplicate?

This is what a sliding bevel T-sqaure is designed for. You don’t have to calculate the angle, using this tool you can just copy and transfer it to the piece you’re working on.

Can I use my circular saw to cut masonry?

Use an abrasive wheel looks like a thin grinding wheel. It can also be used to cut fiberglass and light metal.

What types of power sanders are there?

The four most common are belt sanders, finish sanders, orbital sanders and random orbital sander.

The staples I am using do not go far enough into the wood, what do you recommend?

Your stapler does not have enough power to drive the staple into the hard surface. If you can, use a shorter staple or you will have to use a more powerful tool.

I need to buy chisel for a woodworking job. What size do you recommend?

You can handle most of your needs with a ¼ inch model and one larger one—either a ¾ inch or inch.

What’s a better choice in edgers: electric or gas?

Since all gas-powered equipment is noisy, some people prefer the electric models. The cordless models have run times of about one hour, which is generally sufficient for homeowners.

What are some features to look for on a good planer?

Convenient features on a planer include a dust hood to collect dust, reversible knives that are often inexpensive and disposable, infeed rollers to grab stock and help feed it through the machine and preset depth stops to make it easier to set to a desired thickness.

I need a tool box that will hold a basic set of tools … nothing too fancy. What type should I buy?

Tool boxes come in a variety of sizes and configurations. However, it sounds like you just need a basic plastic tool box to store a few tools and some fasteners. I would recommend a 19” model with one lift-out tray.

I need a file to sharpen my lawnmower blade. What kind should I buy?

A flat file will work well. Just be sure to sharpen (redress) the blade using the existing angle or bevel of the mower blade. Also, try to remove as little metal as possible to make the blade last longer.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Tack Hammer

  • Used for furniture upholstery and to drive small nails and tacks.
  • Features a magnetic face used to hold small tacks. The other face is used to drive them.

String Knit Gloves

  • Used for general purpose work applications.
  • Provides cut and abrasion resistance.
  • Some styles are coated with a polymer to provide added protection or to provide a better grip.
  • May be constructed of cotton, a cotton/polyester blend, synthetic fibers and high-performance fibers.

Round File

  • Also called a rat-tail file.
  • Cylinder shaped tool used to remove stock from round holes in order to make them larger or smoother.
  • Also used to remove burrs from the inside of pipe.

Duckbill Snips

  • Also called circular snips.
  • Feature long nose design.
  • Used for cutting tight circles or other curved designs in either direction.

Wallpaper Activator Adhesive

  • Ready-to-use product that promotes adhesion and acts as a wetting agent.
  • Gives excellent slip for matching patterns.
  • Helps prevent seam pops.
  • Eliminates water trays.

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.

Grout Float

  • Used to push grout into spaces between tile.
  • Consists of a handle with a thick foam rubber pad that is generally ¼” thick.

Staple Gun

  • Also called manual power staplers, this tool shoots a variety of staples (and many times brad nails) with a one-hand lever operation.
  • Good for a variety of jobs requiring material to be held with one hand and fastened with the other, such as lining closets, installing insulation, tacking ceiling tile or fastening roofing paper.
  • One new design features a handle that is squeezed toward the front instead of the rear, making it easier to use and control.
  • Other models are designed to fasten a variety of materials, such as different types of wire, including telephone wire, heavy-duty wire and insulated wire, etc.
  • Electric and cordless staple guns are also available. They have the same uses as the hand-operated guns but the staples are ejected automatically with the pull of a trigger.

One-Handed Bar Clamp

  • These are bar clamps designed with a pistol grip to allow the user to tighten or loosen the clamp instead of screwing it.
  • Can be adjusted by using just one hand on a trigger switch.
  • Perhaps the most significant innovation to come about recently in the area of clamps.
  • Available in jaw openings from 6″ to 50″ and a variety of sizes

Rip Saw

  • Has large, chisel-shaped teeth, usually 5-1/2 teeth per inch, and is made to cut with the wood grain.
  • Blade lengths measure from 24″ to 28″. • Teeth are cross-filed to ensure that the chisel point is set square to the direction of cutting for best performance.
  • This saw is best held at a 60º angle to the surface of the board being cut. The ripping action of the saw produces a coarse, ragged cut that makes the saw unsatisfactory for finish work.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)


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


Drive Anchor

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

Repair Link

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

Support Hardware

  • Includes metal plates and braces specifically designed for use as reinforcement in a variety of applications.
  • Available in an assortment of sizes, shapes and finishes.
  • Specific items include t-plates, corner braces, mending plates, triple corner braces and chair leg braces.
  • Can be packaged with or without mounting hardware.

Furniture Glide

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

Screen Storm Door Hardware

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

Flooring Nail

  • Screw-shanked.
  • Used for laying tongue-and-groove hardwood flooring.

Threaded Rod

  • Rod with continuous thread from one end to the other.
  • Available in different diameters.
  • Used where extra-long bolts are required.
  • Can be bent to make U-bolts, eye bolts and J-bolts.


Lag Screw Shield

  • Used inside drilled holes to provide anchors in the hole for lag bolts as they are wrenched into the shield.
  • As the screw enters the shield, the shield expands and grips the interior.
  • Horizontal fins prevent the shield from turning in the hole while tapered ribs ease insertion and ensure against slips.

Clevis Hook

  • Attaches directly to a welded chain.
  • Used as a temporary chain connector.
  • Eliminates the need for an additional attachment or fitting.
  • The Slip Hook type looks like a large fishhook.
  • The Grab Hook type has a narrower opening.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

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

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

What do I use to hang a plant?

For small to medium size hangings, there are kits that include a toggle and a decorative hook. These often have screws so that you do not have to use the toggle if you install it directly into a joist. For larger things, you may have to buy a large hook and toggle separately.

Is it easy to install a closet rod?

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

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

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

What type of stud finder should I buy?

There are two different types, including electronic and magnetic stud finders. Electronic stud finders measure the capacitance in the wall, which is the amount of electrical charge that ma material is able to absorb. This measurement is higher when an electronic stud finder is moved over the wall where a stud is located. Magnetic stud finders, on the other hand, are powerful rare earth magnets that detect a metal screw or nail fastened to the stud. They’re easy to use and they never need batteries, but they are only as accurate as the screw or nail fasted to the stud.

What is a lag bolt?

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

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.

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.

I have a hole in my screen. Can I repair it or do I need to replace it?

You can patch small holes—those ¼” and 3/8”—with a small amount of household cement. This glue patch will be next to invisible. Larger holes up to about 3 inches in diameter in aluminum screen can usually be easily patched. A patch should go at least ½” to 1” larger all around the hole. These are either kits or just pieces of screen. Unravel a number of strands and then weave the strands through the screening and bend them tight. Plastic patches need a touch of household cement on the ends of the strands after they have been woven through.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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

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

Is replacing my thermostat an easy project?

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

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

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

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

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

Will these higher-quality air filters last longer?

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

What R-value should I use?

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

How do I know how much loose-fill insulation to buy to insulate my atttic?

First measure the attic floor area, and then divide that by 1,000. For example, if the dimensions are 30’ x 40’, or 1,200 square feet, you divide that number by 1,000 and get 1.2. The label on the bag of insulation will tell you how many bags you need to cover 1,000 square feet. Multiply that number by 1.2.

Why should I use distilled water with my humidifier?

Certain types of humidifiers such as the ultrasonic humidifier should be used with distilled water. If not, the humidifier could leave a sticky, white dust around the house. It could also contribute to elevated levels of bacteria residue and mold particles in the air.

How often should I change my furnace filter?

Normal time periods are one month to three months.

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

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

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)


  • 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.

UV Air Cleaner

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

Vent Free Gas Log

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


Outdoor Fireplace

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

Window-Mounted Air Conditioner

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

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.

Gas Stove

  • Ideal for those with little space to store wood or with the time to maintain a wood stove. Also better for heating smaller areas.
  • Uses natural gas so it is a reliable heat source when the power goes out.
  • Flame height and heat intensity is easily adjustable.
  • The direct vent type is ideal for homes without an existing chimney.

Portable Air Conditioner

  • Used to cool a small space, usually 400 to 450 square feet.
  • Mounted on wheels for easy movement from room to room.
  • Contains both the hot and cold side of the air conditioner in one unit. Is not permanently installed, but must be connected to some place like a window where the hot air can be vented. Most models contain window-venting kits that are easy to install and easily moved from one window to another.
  • May be either single or dual vent. Dual vent models circulate clean air back into the room and generally cool more quickly than single vent models.
  • Drip models have a tray that will need to be emptied every 24-48 hours. No-drip models may cost more but do not produce any excess moisture.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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

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

Do I need a deadbolt?

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

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

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

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

Some locks come in pairs that use the same key.

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

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

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

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

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

An ionization fire alarm is designed to detect a smoldering fire more quickly than a photoelectric 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.

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.

Where should I install carbon monoxide detectors in the home?

The safest recommendation is to put one in every room, but most people are not willing to do this. The simplest rule is to mount one between the bedrooms and the rest of the house, but closer to the bedrooms. If there is more than one sleeping area, each should have its own alarm. In multi-level homes, install one on each level, and if possible have them interconnected so any one unit will sound the alarm throughout the house. The basement ceiling, near the steps, is a good location for extra protection.

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Home Security Terms (35)

Alpha-Track Radon Detector

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

Entry Lockset

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

Continuous Monitor Radon Detector

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

Dummy Knob

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

Carbon Monoxide Detector

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

Privacy Lockset

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

Thermal Fire Detector

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

Passage Lockset

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

Photoelectric Fire Detector

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

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.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

What is the best type of gutter cover to install?

There are many different types that perform well, and others that don’t perform well at all. Eventually, debris will get into the gutter. So the best type of gutter cover is probably one that can easily be removed for periodic removal of debris.

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.

Are lawnmower blades specific to particular mowers?

Yes, you need to know the brand, width of the cut and whether it is a mulching mower. Some blades come with adapter kits that allow them to be used on different brands.

Wasps have built a nest on our patio. How can I get rid of them?

There are sprays that have a range of 20’ so that you can stand far away and still be effective. Some sprays leave a foam so that returning pests will also be killed.

When should I apply fertilizers to plants and trees?

Don’t apply liquid fertilizer at the same time you plant. Some root hairs will break, and the fertilizer will burn them. Wait 2 to 3 weeks after planting before you fertilize. In general, apply fertilizers to plants at the beginning of the growing season. For deciduous trees fertilize when leaves appear; and for evergreens, when it turns cold. Shrubs do not require much fertilizing.

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

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

How close should bulbs be planted together?

Groups of bulbs make a much nicer show. To create greater color impact in the garden, plant clusters of same-color flowers together in blocks or “bouquets.” Generally, larger bulbs should be planted 3 to 6 inches apart, smaller bulbs 1 to 2 inches apart.

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

Use a water meter or gauge to monitor water levels.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Leverage-Assisted Trimmer

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


Landscape Rake

  • Has a wide head braced with brackets attached to the handle.
  • Used for spreading dirt, gravel and sand.

Chain Saw

  • Usually gasoline powered, but electric and cordless models are also available.
  • Has an endless chain of cutting teeth that moves at high engine speeds.
  • For cutting and trimming trees and shrubs.
  • Blades sizes typically range from 12” to 36” long.
  • Engines are typically two-cycle, requiring a blend of oil and gas.
  • Standard features on many models include chain brakes forincreased operator safety, a blade guard and automatic oilers.
  • Other features may include carrying cases and large, cushioned anti-vibration handles to reduce the strain on the user.

Compost Bin

  • A bin used to make compost.
  • Comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. Should use at least a 27 cu. ft. in size to ensure it retains enough heat to spur the compost development.
  • Compost is the process of converting waste material into a type of synthetic manure.
  • Compost may contain leaves, grass clippings, prunings, straw, spoiled hay, coffee grounds, eggshells, paper and wood ash that decompose through bacterial action.
  • Due to its fertilizing value, compost can be spread on the lawn in the fall or on the garden at any time during the growing season.

Drop Spreader

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

Watering Can

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

Push Hoe

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

Drain Spade

  • Also called a tilling spade.
  • Used for digging ditches.
  • The top of the blade may have a turned lip called the foot pedal.
  • May have a D handle or long handle.

Floral Snip

  • For pruning, shaping and maintaining houseplants.
  • Usually operates with a scissor action.

Cooking Grate

cooking grate

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

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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

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

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

What type of paint is best for my project?

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

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

What is an oil-based paint?

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

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

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

How many coats of varnish do I need to apply?

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

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.

Can I paint my aluminum siding

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

How do I recognize a good paint?

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

What is the difference between a wood stain and a varnish?

A wood stain is used to change the appearance of the wood, such as to bring out the definition in the wood grain or match the look of another species of wood. 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. Varnish, which may be water- or oil-based, provides a clear, transparent coating that is durable and hard. Varnishes also come in a variety of shines from flat to high gloss, and they may be water or oil based.

Should I use a natural bristle brush with a latex paint?

No. Just remember that humid weather can make someone’s hair turn frizzy. Water-based paints do the same thing to natural-bristle brushes, so you will want to use a synthetic brush with latex paint.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Paint Conditioner

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


Bucket Grid

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

Graining Feather

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

Painter’s Putty

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

Wood Stain

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

Aluminum Paint

  • Is a paint with aluminum blended with a resin base.
  • For interior and exterior use on heated surfaces, such as ovens, barbecue grills, mufflers and other surfaces that are exposed to high heat.
  • It works equally well on almost any surface and may be brushed or sprayed. Colors become more intense with age.
  • Aluminum paint can be used on all interior and exterior metal or wood surfaces, or applied to metal flashing, gutters, downspouts, tools, tool sheds, patio furniture, pipes, mailboxes, fences, etc.
  • Do not apply aluminum paint during freezing temperatures; paint should dry at least overnight before recoating.


Tack Cloth

  • A varnish-impregnated, open-mesh cloth that picks up and holds loose dirt, lint, sand and other foreign particles adhering to wood, metal, plaster and other surfaces.
  • Used to clean surfaces immediately before applying each coat and between sanding.

Rag Rolling Applicator

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

Plaster of Paris

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

Airless Paint Sprayer

  • Used when painting large areas with the same color or painting intricate surfaces such as furniture or grillwork where other tools will not reach all surfaces.
  • Airless sprayers eject paint at high pressure. An electric airless paint system consists of a paint container, high-pressure pump, motor, handle and housing and pressure regulator. Extension nozzles, longer suction tubes, extra nozzles and viscosity measuring cups are optional accessories.
  • Choice of spraying tip depends on paint consistency, but generally the thinner the paint, the smaller the tip needed. Paint consistency also governs pump pressure. Thinner materials such as stains, lacquers, enamels and sealers require less pressure than heavier materials such as house and wall paint.
  • Paints that have been formulated for brush or roller application may be too thick for spraying. They should be tested first and thinned if necessary.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

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

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

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

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

In the long run, which is better—chrome drain parts or plastic?

Plastic will usually last much longer than chrome, but you have to be careful because it can be affected by some harsh chemicals in drain cleaners.

Can the fittings be removed after they have been glued?

No. They are permanently joined and cannot be taken apart.

How do I adjust toilet water level?

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

What is a gasket?

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

What does the flux do?

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

Why won’t the torch stay lit while upside down?

In some torches, the liquid propane in an upside down tank works its way through the torch and blows out the flame. To avoid this, use a pressure regulated torch.

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.

What is an anti-siphon toilet fill valve?

The anti-siphon protection prevents the toilet tank water from getting into your home water supply system.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Vinyl Tubing

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

Cartridge-Type Faucet

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

Adapter Fitting

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

Pressure Relief Valve

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

Massaging Showerhead

  • Uses water pressure forced through a diverting valve to create one or more pulsating water actions.
  • In most cases, users can vary the amount of pulsing pressure or force to their liking.
  • Available in hand-held or permanently mounted models. While all offer massaging action of one or more kinds, they can all be easily converted to conventional shower action.

Plumber’s Putty

  • Used on sink rims, drain plugs and faucets before installation.
  • Ensures a good seal.

Water Supply Tube

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


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


  • Is closed on one end and fits over end of pipe run to seal a run of pipe or a fitting.
  • Either has female threads (for galvanized pipe) or no threads (for copper, PVC and other solvent welded pipe).

Toilet Water Supply

  • Connects water supply to toilet.
  • Flexible types are easiest to install.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Power Screwdriver

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


Air Compressors

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


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

Narrow Belt Sander

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


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

Angle Drill

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


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.


  • Used to smooth the edges of wood and help remove warps.
  • Can cut flat surfaces.
  • Size is determined by length of the tool’s knives. Most common size is 6”.
  • Often combined with a planer.

Masonry Bit

  • Also known as a carbide-tipped bit.
  • Used in electric drills, drill presses or hand drills for drilling holes in brick, tile, cement, marble and other soft masonry materials.
  • Some versions have a titanium nitride-coated tip.
  • Feature two machined in spiral threads, one for each cutting edge, to provide passageways for all dust and cuttings from the bottom of the hole.
  • Diameters of carbide tips are the same as the full diameter of the body.

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.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Folding Workbench

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

Bench Vise

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

Attic Ladder

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

Welding Clamp

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

Articulated Ladder

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

Edging Clamp

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

Extension Ladder

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

Hold-Down Clamp

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

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.

Web Clamp

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