DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

Can I place hot dishes directly on stone countertops?

No. Even a stone like granite can crack from a strong heat source. Use trivets or mats under hot pans or dishes.

How do I insulate the top and side of my garage door?

Aluminum and vinyl weather stripping is available for this. There is also a weather strip made specifically for garage door bottoms.

How do I know I’m getting an energy efficient window?

Look on the label for a rating by the National Fenestration Rating Council. It will rate the energy efficiency of each model of window.

What do I use to cut fiber cement siding?

Use a saw blade specially designed for cutting fiber-cement. Or, use shears and a score-and-snap method.

How do I estimate how much paneling I need?

Measure the distance around the room and divide by 4. This assumes you have 8’ ceilings and are buying 4×8 sheets.

I just need a small amount of grout for a repair. Do I have to buy a whole new bag of grout?

Gout is also available pre-mixed in a caulking-type tube. Manufacturers have colors that are very close to the standard grout colors.

How do I clean slate?

Frequent sweeping is always the first defense. For best results, use cleaners specifically made for slate and similar tiles. Never use abrasive cleaners or scouring pads.

Can I substitute screws for nails when fastening drywall to the studs?

Yes, as long as the spacing of the fasteners is the same, and the length, head diameter and shank are the same.

Is there a less expensive alternative to buying a solid piece of hardwood?

Depending on how you are using it, you might try a piece of plywood with a hardwood veneer. That is a thin slice of hardwood bonded to a core of composite board, so you can still get the look of hardwood without the cost of a solid piece of wood.

What is the difference between concrete mix and sand mix?

Concrete mix has gravel in it, which makes it stronger and more durable. Sand mix is used mainly for patching or where you want a particularly smooth finish.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Foam Insulation

  • Comes in a liquid spray form that quickly foams and hardens.
  • May have a higher insulating value than blown-in materials, but is more expensive and still subject to shrinking.
  • For use only on closed, properly vented exterior wall cavities. It should be sealed from exposure to the interior with vapor- and fume-resistant paints.
  • Also suited for sealing cracks around windows, doors and constructions seams.
  • Best for professional installation.

Solid Wood Door

  • Made of a tempered hardboard, wood or particleboard with or without a veneer, and from several kinds of solid wood.
  • Ash, birch, mahogany, hemlock and pine are commonly used for solid doors.
  • Comes in standard widths for front and rear entrances. Narrower widths are sometimes used between house and garage and/or breezeway.
  • More fire resistant than hollow-core doors. Particleboard is more fire-resistant than natural wood and it resists warping because of its higher density.
  • Available pre-hung, which means the door is hinged in a framework that includes the header and side jambs of the door and the casing trim. The door may also be predrilled for the lockset.


  • Composed of thin OSB or plywood web that is bonded to the top and bottom flanges of lumber or LVL.
  • Typically 9-1/4” to 30” deep and up to 60’ long.
  • Used as a structural component in roof and floor systems.
  • Some come with pre-drilled knockouts for easier plumbing and electrical installation.

Gable Vent

  • Designed to complement most brands of vinyl siding.
  • Installs before or after the siding.
  • Requires little maintenance.
  • Features open louvered joints and built-in screens to keep out bugs and birds.
  • Comes in a variety of shapes, including octagon, pentagon, round, square, half-round or rectangular.


  • Usually constructed of nylon. Polyester, wool, acrylic and polypropylene are also used.
  • Styles include level loop pile (Berber), multi-level loop pile, cut and loop pile, cut pile and sisal.
  • Quality of carpet depends on the density of construction (the denser the better) and the twist, or how many fibers have been intertwined to make the yarn (the tighter the twist, the better the carpet).
  • Use with carpet padding to extend the life of the carpet.
  • Installation products will include tack strips, a sharp razor-type knife, a chalk line and a straight edge.
  • Usually comes in 12’ widths.

Latex Patching Cement

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

Ceramic Tile

  • More durable and easier to maintain than vinyl or wood flooring.
  • Glazed tile is made of clay that has been single fired at a high temperature, a process that makes color and shape permanent and a surface that is resistant to stains, burns and scratches.
  • Comes with a durability rating from 1 to 4+. Class 1 is the least durable, while 4+ is intended for commercial applications with heavy traffic.
  • Available in a variety of colors and patterns.
  • Comes in sizes 12” x 12”, and accent pieces can be 2”x 2”, 4” x 4” or 6” x 6”.

Wye Bend

  • Also called a Y Bend.
  • Has three female openings. Two are straight in a line; the third is at a 45∫ angle.
  • A Reducing Wye has two openings of the same size and the third Y opening of a different size.
  • A Double Wye has four openings.

Contact Cement

  • Can be used on many surfaces, but the joints it makes may come apart under a heavy load.
  • Good to bond laminates to countertops and cabinets, or to glue plastic foam, hardboard or metal to wood.
  • Instant adhesion makes contact cement difficult to use. It bonds immediately without clamping and resists water, temperature extremes and fungi.
  • Contact cement is most effective when one or both surfaces are porous or semi-porous.
  • Contains solvents that should be allowed to flash off before assembly. Non-flammable versions are available.

Window Film

  • Plastic used as window film can be used to reduce heat, prevent heat loss to lower heating and cooling costs and to reduce fade and glare.
  • Can block up to 98 percent of UV radiation and about 80 percent of normal heat gain.
  • Film made of polyester is coated with water-activated or pressure-sensitive adhesive on one side and with a scratch-resistant coating on the other side.
  • Dyed films absorb heat and give a tinted appearance.
  • Metallic films can be clear or reflective. Use this type on double-glazed windows.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Continuity Tester

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

Trouble Lights

  • Have a strict standard for safety. All lamps with metal guards must be permanently grounded to the guard. Some lamps have plastic guards that solve the grounding problem, reduce heat build-up and prevent scratching of painted surfaces.
  • Some models do not have built-in cords. These models attach to a user’s extension cord and are easy to store and convenient to use.
  • In all cases, handles must be tightly fitted to the cage and meet crush-resistance testing and heat-factor requirements.

Three-Way Switch

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

Wire Channels

  • Use to fasten conduit to a wall or other framing member.
  • Staples can be used to fasten conduit or bare cable.
  • Straps are another type. They can be either one-hole or two-hole.
  • Generally, staples are best used inside the house, straps are best used outside.


  • Provides localized light for specific activities such as reading, writing, sewing and food preparation.
  • The light should cover the entire task area and be located so shadows are reduced to a minimum.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles.

Voltage Tester

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

Range and Dryer Cords

  • Range and dryer cords are free-end types, commonly called “pigtails,” attached directly to the appliance. Free ends are fitted with cable terminals that connect to screw terminals of the appliance to assure positive connections. A metal clamp attached to the cable serves as a strain relief at the point where the cable enters an appliance and a cord protector.
  • Heavy-duty attachment plugs for ranges and dryers are much larger than standard attachment plugs. Most are “L” shaped with a power cord feeding out the side of the plug.
  • Sizes range from 30 to 50 amps for dryers and ranges. The different amperage attachment plugs are not interchangeable because of a difference in their configuration.
  • A recent change in the National Electrical Code requires new range and dryer receptacle installations to be 3-pole, 4-wire grounding receptacles. The neutral (grounded circuit conductor) can no longer be used to ground the frames of electrical ranges and dryers.

Four-Way Switch

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

Plug Fuse

  • Also known as Edison base fuse, plug-in fuse or glass fuse.
  • A safety device that breaks an electrical circuit when it is overloaded.
  • The most commonly used fuse. Available in 5- to 30-amp sizes.
  • It has a threaded base like a light bulb and a small window to view a metal linkage. Electricity flows through the linkage. When the circuit is overloaded, the linkage melts and turns black, cutting off the flow of electricity through it. The fuse then must be replaced.

Low Voltage Lights

  • Safe for many outdoor lighting applications. Because of the low voltage, users will not receive an electric shock even if they touch the bare wires or cut a buried cable with a garden tool. Consequently, these systems are harmless to children and pets and do not require cables to be buried.
  • A power pack is the heart of the low-voltage system and should be located outdoors by installing a weatherproof outlet cover to keep snow and rain out. Power packs typically range from 88-watt capacity up to 900-watt capacity.
  • May be one of several types. Bayonet base lamps feature a copper base that twists into the fixture socket, while the wedge base lamp plugs into the socket. Halogen lamps provide the most energy efficiency.
  • Remote photo control automatically turns lights on at dark and off during daylight hours.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

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

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

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

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

Will a rechargeable battery ever wear out?

Yes, different brands will last longer than others will. Generally, batteries that are more expensive will last longer, but the savings of the longer life offset their initial expense.

How large of a cord should I use when wiring an appliance?

Use cords with 16-guage wire for appliances pulling less than 15 amps and 12-guage wire for appliances pulling up to 20 amps?

If there is a short in the line, where should I look for it?

Search for loose taped wire; also look for worn fabric insulation on old wires and check any terminals have multiple wires since one of the wires may have slipped off.

I need a circuit breaker, but I don’t have it with me. Are they all the same?

No, it’s best if you bring in the old breaker and match it up. If you know the name of the brand of service box, we could also match it that way. Of course, you can make a guess and if you are right, you can save a trip back.

Do you have a light switch that I can use to replace one in my house?

Yes, but is it a single pole or is it a three-way switch. A three-way switch is one that is used when a light is controlled by more than one switch.

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

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

My dimmer switch feels warm. Is that safe?

It is normal for a dimmer to get warm during operation, and they have a built-in heat sink for that very reason. Always be sure the load on the switch does not exceed its rating.

What is BX cable?

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

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Fiberglass Repair Kit

  • Contains fiberglass fabric for patching and waterproofing.
  • It remains flexible after application, preventing reappearance of the same crack.
  • Kits includes fiberglass tape and oil-based mastic.
  • After the tape is applied over the crack, the mastic is brushed over the tape.
  • The edges are then feathered to blend with the surface being repaired.
  • Recommended for repairing rain gutters, roofing, interior walls and wood surfaces.

Drywall Hand Sander

  • Used for hand sanding drywall joints.
  • Generally accepts ½ sheet of sandpaper or sanding screens.
  • Some models come equipped with a 6” flexible hose adapter that can be connected to a shop vacuum to suction drywall dust during sanding.

Pointing Trowel

  • Used by bricklayers for pointing up their work.
  • Pointing and margin trowels are used for patch work and for cleaning other tools.
  • High-quality pointing and margin trowels are forged in one piece and constructed the same as a brick trowel.
  • The length of pointing trowels may be from 4-1/2″ to 7″. Best sellers are the 5″ and 6″ lengths.
  • A 5″ x 2″ is the most popular margin trowel size.

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.

Plywood Saw

  • Is specially designed for sawing plywood, veneers, laminates and moldings.
  • The blade, which cuts on the push stroke, is curved downward at the end to allow user to start cuts in the center of a board.
  • Not designed for cutting solid wood.
  • Standard saw lengths are 12″-13″, generally with 14 teeth per inch.

Laser Plumb Line

  • A self-leveling device that projects a vertical laser line onto any surface
  • The laser line is always visible because it is not covered up with a pencil mark and it is not affected by wind like a plumb bob.

Folding Rule

  • Measuring device consisting of 6″ to 8″ hardwood, steel or aluminum lengths connected by spring joints that unfold for measuring distances.
  • Some models include an extension slide for measuring closed-in areas such as doorways and window frames where a regular folding rule will not work. The rule is unfolded as far as possible, then the slide is extended and its measurement added to the overall measurement for a total measurement reading.
  • Different models are designed for specific measuring needs of masons, engineers, carpenters and plumbers.

Trim Plane

  • Smaller plane, generally 3-1/2: long.
  • Ideal for light detail work, including model work and sculpture.


Hex Key Wrench

  • Hex-key wrenches are short, L-shaped tools designed to turn bolts or screws with hexagonal heads.
  • They generally come in sets of different sized wrenches.


Offset Screwdriver

  • Designed for removing and inserting screws in places where it is impossible to use a straight shank screwdriver.
  • Available in two- or four-blade varieties, with one end slotted and one end Phillips
  • Some models available with reversible ratcheting mechanism to turn screw tip and magnetized tips to guide screws into holes or otherwise inaccessible areas.
  • Others have split-points that can be expanded in width to fill the screw slot and hold screws when guiding into inaccessible areas. A spring clamp that fits over the screw head, holding the bit in the slot, serves a similar purpose.


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FAQs (0)

What’s the advantage of a carbide-tipped circular saw blade?

The cutting edges are made from extra-hard carbide steel that will last up to 20 times longer and are good for cutting materials of different hardnesses.

What type of drill bit should I use for cutting a large hole for a new door lock?

For larger holes use a hole saw. They range in size from about 1 inch to 4 inches. They have a pilot bit and a saw-toothed circular rim.

What type of handsaw blade should I use to cut paneling?

Use an 11-point blade—with a fine cut—so that the wood will not splinter when it is cut.

I’m buying outdoor power tools. Which is better: an electric or gas leaf blower?

A gas blower provides mobility and is more powerful.

What do the teeth-per-inch numbers mean on sawblades?

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

What does the amp rating mean on power tools?

Generally, more amps translate into more power for electric tools.

Are folding steel or plastic sawhorses as durable as homemade wooden ones?

Depending on the construction of the homemade ones, they are probably more durable and can be conveniently folded and stored out of the way.

What weight hammer should I buy?

Buy the heaviest hammer that you can control, because the heavier the hammer the easier it will drive nails. However, the heavier the hammer, the harder it is to hit nails on the head and the more quickly your arm muscles will become fatigued.

What Type of Ladder Should I Buy?

The major points to consider when selecting a ladder are:

  • The kind of activity involved—The intended activity will make the choice obvious. For example, a stepladder would be the choice to paint interior walls and ceilings, while an extension ladder usually is needed to paint outside. If the job involves more effort than usual, or will require more time on the ladder, you should probably by a platform ladder instead of a stepladder.
  • The demands of the application— All ladders are designed to hold a certain weight. Therefore, ladders are matched or “job-rated” to the physical demands of the application. For instance, a ladder used daily on a construction site obviously should have a sturdier construction than the ladder used a few times a year around the house. The most important factor is the rated load capacity—the aggregate working weight of the user, his clothing and his tools. For that reason, the duty rating is described in terms of pounds. (See Pro Corner for more information.) Every ladder’s duty rating is color-coded. A label in the appropriate color is prominently displayed on the side rail. Look for the proper duty ratings to match the highest level of use.
  • The height the ladder must reach so the climber may work from a safe position—Stepladders should be high enough for the user not to have to stand above the second step from the top. (The first step from the top carries a label warning the user not to stand there.) On extension ladders, the user should stand no more than four rungs from the top, which should extend 3’ above the work surface. The base of the ladder should be one-fourth the distance from the top support of the ladder to its bottom support.
  • The basic material from which the ladder is made—The most common materials for ladders are wood, aluminum and fiberglass.
  • Wood ladders are non-conductive when clean and dry. They also offer a natural, firm grip for the worker’s feet and hands. However, wood ladders are heavy.
  • Fiberglass ladders offer a favorable blend of the more desirable qualities of wood and aluminum. It’s non-conductive (like dry, clean wood) but made of sturdy modern materials (like aluminum). If you are planning to use the ladder in a variety of circumstances, a fiberglass ladder is the best choice.
  • Aluminum ladders are lightweight, provide excellent strength and offer reliable performance. Aluminum ladders are corrosion-resistant and require little if any maintenance. They conduct electricity, however, so they should never be used when working near electrical lines.


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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What drilling bits do you recommend for general use?

For drilling smaller holes in a variety of materials, choose a high-speed steel twist bit. These can drill holes from about 1/16 inch to ½ inch in wood, soft metal and other materials.

Is there an easy way to move my refrigerator so I can clean behind it?

Yes, an appliance roller can be slipped under it. You can even leave it there.

What are other features that I should look for on a circular saw?

How easy it is to see where the blade is cutting, is it easy to change the blade, will it cut bevels, can you use a vacuum attachment and can you attach a rib fence guide.

Can I drill a hole in concrete?

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

Does the number of points on a blade also apply to hacksaws?

Yes the higher the number of points, the finer the cut.

How do I tell which steel wool is finer?

The smaller the number, the finer the steel wool.

What is an outdoor edger?

These tools provide a vertical cut into the soil, to create a clean line between a lawn and a flowerbed, driveway, sidewalk or some other structure. The fastest models are powered models. A non-powered edging tool looks like a shovel with a small blade shaped like a half moon. You can push the blade in with your foot so that it slices off a thin piece of turf, leaving a clean, straight edge of soil along the edge of the lawn.

What’s the difference between PSA sandpaper and hook-and-loop sandpaper?

PSA has a sticky back and is good to be used on large jobs that are likely to wear out the sandpaper. Hook-and-loop paper uses a fuzzy backing that sticks to the bottom of a sander. It can be pulled off and reused before the abrasive on the paper wears out.

Can you recommend a tool that makes a good gift?

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

The handle of my axe is split. Can I replace the handle without buying a new axe, and if so, what type of handle should I replace it with?

Replacing the handle of an axe is quite common. However, you need to replace it with a handle of the same size and quality as the original.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)


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


Shrub Rake

  • Used to rake around small plants and shrubs.
  • The flexible tines may have a straight or rounded edge.

Pin Punch

  • Used for driving or removing bushings, pins and keys that have been loosened.
  • Also called a drive pin punch.
  • Shaft has a long taper to the tip, which is flat.

Chain Pipe Wrench

  • Offers easy handling in close quarters on round, square or irregular shapes without crushing the object.
  • Consists of a forged-steel handle attached to a length of heavy sprocket chain. The chain wraps around a length of pipe and engages the sprockets in notches on the back of the handle. Sharp teeth on the face of the handle bite into pipe while the chain holds the pipe against the teeth to prevent slipping.
  • Turns pipe in either direction and can be used like a ratchet wrench. The handle can be loosened, shifted and turned again without removing the chain from around the pipe.

Heat Gun

  • Aids in removal of paint and varnish, as well as flooring, adhesives and frozen nuts and bolts.
  • Either comes in one setting (generally 750 degrees F or variable heat settings ranging from 200 degrees F to 1,100 degrees F.
  • Higher heat settings are for removing paint and varnish.
  • Lower heat settings are for removing flooring, adhesives and bending or molding plastics.
  • Resembles a hair dryer.


  • Used with either a 3/8” or 1/2 ” drill for mixing drywall mud.
  • Has blades attached to a shaft that is inserted into power drill.
  • Shaft lengths generally range between 16” and 28”.

Concrete Trowel

  • Also called a finishing trowel, this tool is used to compact and finish the surface of the concrete to the required smoothness.
  • Concrete trowels are narrower and longer than plastering trowels.
  • The blade is slightly convex.
  • Blades range in width from 3″-5″ and in length from 11″-20″. Most popular sizes are 14″ x 4″ and 16″ x 4″.

Woodworking Vise

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

Retractable Saw

  • Comes in a variety of designs and is engineered for the blades to either retract or fold back into a plastic or wooden handle.
  • Also called a folding saw.
  • Some models have combination features, such as utility knives, on end opposite saw blade.

Single-Bit Axe

  • Most popular style of axe, the single-bit axe is used to fell, trim or prune trees, to split or cut wood.
  • The easiest and safest axe for inexperienced woodcutters to use because it only has one cutting edge.
  • The other end of the head, the poll, forms a hammer for driving wooden or plastic stakes. It should never be used to strike splitting wedges, steel posts, stone or any hard object.
  • Handles for single-bit axes are curved to help increase leverage. Axe handles are made of hickory and range from 20″ to 36″ long. The most common is 36″.
  • Common head patterns include Michigan, Dayton, Kentucky, Connecticut and New Jersey.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)


  • Used to tighten wire or for bracing doors.
  • Consists of a barrel-shaped metal device with a threaded rod inserted into each end.
  • Rods have eyes at both ends, or some types have a hook on one end and an eye on the other.


Self-Tapping Concrete Screw

  • Hardened steel screws designed to cut threads in pre-drilled holes.
  • Holes can be drilled through the item to be fastened without moving the fixture.
  • Head styles are Phillips, flat or hex-washer.
  • Used in poured concrete, concrete block or masonry.
  • Pull-out resistance of concrete screws is much greater than in plastic screw anchors because they bite directly into the concrete.

Twist Link Welded Chain

  • Has links twisted at uniform angles. The slight twist in the links tends to make the chain more flexible and prevents the entire chain from twisting and knotting during use.
  • One type is the coil chain, which has long lengths.
  • Another type is machine chain, which has shorter links than the coil chain.

Drapery Accessories

  • Rings must be 1/4” larger in diameter than the rod for free movement. Some have eyelets for insertion of a drapery hook.
  • Ring Clips are oval or round. When pressed on the sides, the prongs open. When pressure is released, the prongs grasp the top of the drapery.
  • The Slip-On Hook fits over a rod or into an eyelet on the rod. The drapery heading fits between the two close-facing shanks on the opposite side of the hook.
  • The Pin-On Hook works the same way except that the drapery heading is hooked into the sharp pin, which is opposite to the side that hangs on the rod.
  • The Pleater Hook is used with pleater tape sewn to the drapery heading. Three or four prongs, or shanks, form pleats when the heading is placed onto the shanks.
  • Swagholders make decorative window treatments with ordinary fabric by draping and forming poufs, rosettes, bishop’s sleeves and festoons.
  • Fasteners for draperies include hollow wall screw anchors, toggles and plastic anchors. These work well in drywall, plaster walls, concrete blocks and other masonry materials.

Roller Spring Catch

  • Helps the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Available in single and double roller types.
  • Features quiet operation, easy installation, long life and easy adaptability to many door and frame designs.

Strap Hinge

  • Specifically designed for surface applications.
  • Provides greater support for wide doors.
  • Since they may be exposed, they are available in ornamental style.

Casing Nail

  • Similar in appearance to a finishing nail, but is thicker and has a flat head.
  • Used to secure case molding.

Power Driver Fastener

  • Designed specifically for use with power equipment.
  • Several types are available. One type is a pneumatic fastener where nails, screws or staples are collated in strips or coils that are loaded into a pneumatic gun that drives them into the material.
  • Another type is the powder-actuated fastener, where the fastener is driven into the material, usually metal or concrete, by a small explosion, similar to the way a firearm works.


Plastic Screw Anchor

  • Use with wood or sheet metal screws.
  • Insert into a pre-drilled hole. User drives the screw through the anchor into the wall.
  • Sizes range from 3/4” to 1-3/8” long.
  • Another type of plastic anchor functions like a toggle fastener with sizes from 3/4” to 3-1/2”.
  • Another type pops open and locks into place before the screw is inserted.

Straight Link Welded Chain

  • Available in many gauges and link sizes.
  • Has high strength and is popular for general use.
  • One type is the coil chain, which has long lengths.
  • Another type is machine chain, which has shorter links than the coil chain.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

I have a tarp that I want to tie down. What should I use?

The easiest way is to use a grommet tool and grommets.

Why would I use brass screws?

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

Do you have a caster that works better on a bed?

Yes, a special bed caster has a wide wheel, which makes it easier to roll. Casters come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different weights.

What are some common uses for sealants?

Sealants are used to seal or close cracks or joints between sills and foundations; where siding joins window and door trim; openings around external electrical outlets, electrical and telephone cables; dryer vents; kitchen, attic and bathroom vents; flashings; skylights; other cracks and openings that leak water into homes or that leak heated air and energy out.

When should I use a polyester rope?

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

What do the numbers—such as 8-32—mean on a machine screw?

The first number is the diameter. The bigger the number the bigger the screw. The second number is the number of threads per inch.

Will a stick-on hook hold much weight?

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

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

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

What is the difference between a caulk and a sealant?

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

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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)

Glass Enclosure

  • Improves fireplace performance by controlling air intake, making the wood burn more slowly and retaining more heat in the firebox. Additionally, the fireplace pulls less warm air from the house.
  • Allows user to leave the fire unattended.
  • Allows a clear view of the fire while keeping smoke and sparks out of the room.
  • Most have a built-in draft at the base to direct air to the bottom of the fireplace opening. This allows the user to easily start and control the fire.
  • Mounts securely against the face of the fireplace and overlaps the opening.

Exhaust Fan

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

Warm-Mist Device

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

Fireplace Set

  • A set containing the tools usually needed around a fire.
  • Contains a stand, fire poker, ash shovel and broom.
  • Available in many different styles for a variety of décor options.

Digital Thermostat

  • Controls the temperature in a room turning on or off the furnace or air-conditioner.
  • Temperature is set electronically.
  • A popular type is a programmable thermostat that allows the use to preset temperatures for different times of the day.
  • A popular replacement for dial thermostats because they use the same wiring.

Evaporative Humidifier

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

Electric Heater

  • Plugs directly into a wall unit.
  • One type uses black heat, where heating elements have the heating wire wound around a porcelain insulator.
  • Another type is the more popular instant heat that uses a ribbon element.
  • Some models have small fans to force heated air into the room.
  • Heating capacity is rated in BTUs. Wattage ratings of heaters can be converted to BTUs consumed per hour my multiplying the number of watts by 3.413 (the number of BTUs equaling one watt.)

Dial Thermostat

  • Controls the temperature in a room turning on or off the furnace or air-conditioner.
  • Temperature is set manually by a dial.
  • One type is low-voltage. It uses power from a transformer that converts 120-volt power into 24 volts.
  • Line-voltage thermostats are another type, and use the same power source as the units they control.

Ultrasonic Humidifier

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

Radiant Heater

  • Directs infrared heat to the objects or people to be warmed.
  • For short periods of time, these heaters are more energy-efficient than convection heaters.
  • Usually has a wattage rating of 1,500.
  • The heating element is encased in quartz or a metal sheath and has a reflector panel behind it to direct the heat.
  • The quartz rods will periodically need to be replaced.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

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

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

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate

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

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

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

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

How long should a smoke detector last?

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

What is a gunlock and how does it work?

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

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

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

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

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate.

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Home Security Terms (35)

Home Intrusion Alarm

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

U-Bar Lock

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

Keyless Entry System

  • For advanced home security and convenience.
  • Audio and visual indicators confirm the lockset is activated.
  • Uses a keypad on the door or a remote control to open the door.
  • Some models will sound an alarm after the incorrect code has been entered more than three consecutive times.
  • Anti-theft rolling code feature ensures the same code is never used twice.
  • Some systems are compatible with some garage door openers so the homeowner only needs one remote.

Cable Lock

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

Home Area Alarm

  • Uses either ultrasonic waves or microwaves to detect motion. When it detects motion, it triggers an alarm.
  • Generally plugs into a standard electrical outlet, so they’re easy to install.
  • Ultrasonic detector waves only go as far as the wall of the room, while microwaves penetrate walls and windows.
  • Some ultrasonic alarms use a narrow sonic beam that must be bounced off a hard surface. Here, the intruder must break the beam to be detected.
  • Other ultrasonic alarms use a wide beam that fills the room and detects motion anywhere in the trap zone.
  • The most important consideration with this type of alarm is avoiding false alarms. These can be caused by air conditioners or drapery moving above a hot air register. Better systems have built in circuitry that does not respond to these types of signals.
  • Some systems have extra repeater alarms or satellites. These can be plugged in anywhere in the home to add extra noise and relay the warning to remote rooms.

Tubular Cylinder Padlock

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

Fire Safety Ladder

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

Pin-Tumbler Padlock

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

Home Perimeter Alarm

  • Some types use low-voltage wire, similar to stereo speaker wire, to connect magnetic window and door sensors to a control panel.
  • Other types use radio transmitters at each door and window sensors to trigger an alarm at the control panel.
  • Alarm sounds when the window or door opens.
  • Alarm systems designed for d-i-y installation are frequently battery powered, so ease in testing the batteries can be an important feature. Some systems sound a warning when the batteries are low.
  • Hard-wired systems may have a button on the control panel that checks the entire system.

Combination Lock

  • User must dial a combination to open the lock.
  • Hardened solid steel alloys make better locks and shackles.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

I have a sloped driveway. Should I buy a sealer with more sand content for extra traction?

Sealers with more sand contain less coal tar emulsion, which is what actually seals your driveway. Since most sealers are rubberized, they will aid in traction without having to sacrifice the products’ actual sealing capabilities.

What do the three numbers on a bag of fertilizer mean?

They represent the percentages of plant nutrients by weight. Just remember “up, down and all around.” The first number represents the nitrogen, the second represents the phosphorus and the last one represents the potassium. These numbers are always expressed in the same order.

  • What is the nitrogen needed for? It’s the up. It promotes plant growth and greening thus providing more foliage, color and density.
  • What does the phosphorous do? This is the “down” number. It stimulates cell building and root growth, and is particularly beneficial in helping seedlings, flowers and vegetables to develop.
  • What does the potassium do? It assists plants in forming starches and proteins thus promoting plant hardiness, disease resistance and a tolerance to drought and cold. It’s the “all-around” number.

I have a large area to water, but I don’t want to be bothered with moving the sprinkler

. Use a traveling sprinkler, it moves under its own power along a track of hose and has an automatic shutoff feature.

When buying a trimmer or edger, should I buy a gas-powered or electric model?

If you can reach every corner of your yard with a 150-foot extension cord, you should consider an electric model. They typically cost less, are quieter and require less maintenance. If you have a larger yard then a gas-powered model may be better.

How do I plant grass seed?

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

What are special purpose fertilizers?

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

What do I use to cut branches more than ¾”?

Loppers are used on small trees and bushes up to 2 inches in diameter. They are essentially oversized pruners and are also available in compound models. For larger branches, you will need a saw. These come in a variety of styles. Essentially, you need to pick one that will allow you to get at the branches.

What annual maintenance needs to be done on my mower?

If you are going to store your mower for the winter, disconnect the spark plug and drain the fuel from the tank. Then, reconnect the spark plug and run the engine until it runs out of gas. This keeps aging fuel from going bad inside the engine. In the spring, change the oil in the mower if you have a four-stroke engine. In addition, replace the spark plug, the fuel filter and air filter.

What does vermiculite do for the soil?

It lightens and loosens heavy soil for root aeration. It guards against soil compaction.

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

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

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)


  • Good for shady areas.
  • Has finer blades than Kentucky bluegrass.
  • Usually the dominant seed found in mixes for shade.
  • Red fescue is well adapted to drought soils in both shady and sunny areas.
  • Tall fescue is coarse, but good for areas that need tough grass.

Inorganic Fertilizer

  • Dissolves in water to become readily available to plants.
  • Contains ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate.
  • Causes fast growth for a few weeks, but can also cause foliage burn if improperly applied.
  • May contain some synthetic organics, too.

Dry Fertilizer

  • Combines nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
  • With some types, there is a danger of burning the lawn if applied too heavily or not watered immediately.
  • Spreads with a lawn spreader.

Lawn Insect Control

  • Controls a variety of insects that destroy healthy lawn turf.
  • The active ingredient in some pesticides will remain active for months, eliminating the need for multiple applications.
  • Some products can be sprayed on while others are incorporated into a fertilizer in granular form.
  • Insects attacking lawns can be all shapes, colors and sizes, but they generally fall into two categories: surface-active (above ground) and soil active (below ground).
  • Examples of surface-active bugs are webworms, cutworms, army worms andchinch bugs.
  • Sod webworms damage lawns throughout the entire growing season by eating grass blades. Small moths flying in zigzag patterns across the lawn are a good indication these bugs are present.
  • Chinch bugs damage lawns when temperatures rise above 80°F. They attack grass stems and suck out plant juices. Lawns usually have to be reseeded.
  • Grubs are an example of soil active insects. They feed on grass roots, killing the grass in patches. White grubs become active when the soil warms up and they destroy lawns from late spring to early fall.
  • Many insects do not pose problems to lawns. Before you decide to use a pesticide, determine that the number of pests and potential damage and environmental impact justify the use of a pesticide.


Lawn Cart

  • Also called a utility cart.
  • Carries bulky material such as mulch, shrubs or fertilizer around the yard.
  • Can be made of metal, poly plastic or wood and has two wheels.
  • Has a V or hopper-shaped bottom and a front spout for easy dumping.
  • Typical capacity is 3 to 4 cu. ft.
  • Features may include deep tool trays to keep tools organized and tool clips on the side for hanging garden tools.

Hose Hanger

  • Provides compact and efficient hose storage.
  • Mounts easily to the side of a house or garage.
  • Hose is simply draped over hanger brackets for easy storage.

Bulb Planter

  • Used to plant or transplant flower bulbs or small plants.
  • The user twists the tool back and forth into the ground while pushing it into the ground. When desired depth is reached, remove the tool from the soil. It will pull up a core of earth with it.


  • Large knife-like tool used for chopping and clearing thick brush and for heavy pruning tasks.
  • Usually has a hardwood handle with a hardened steel blade.

Wire Fencing

  • Wires are welded together.
  • Can be taken down, rerolled and reused.
  • Stronger than woven fencing.
  • Used for fencing off children’s play areas, for protecting shrubs and young trees and for storing leaves for mulch.
  • Available as galvanized or vinyl-coated in heavy 14-gauge 2”x1” or 12-1/2-gauge 4”x2” mesh.
  • Typically sold in 50’ rolls, 36” or 48” high.


Kentucky Bluegrass

  • Forms a good sod when grown alone and thrives when included in a mixture.
  • Slow to germinate and become established.
  • Does not tolerate dense shade.
  • Responds well to fertilization and high mowing.
  • Grows well in lawns in the cool-climate, Northern half of the U.S., except in areas with mild winters, such as the maritime Pacific Northwest.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

The inside of my grill needs painting. What type of paint should I use?

If you need to touch up the paint on the non-porcelain surfaces of your grill, such as the endcaps or the cook box, use a high heat-resistant Barbecue Black or Fireplace Black spray paint that is rated up to 700 degrees F. First wash the surface and use some fine sandpaper to rough up any bare spots. Then be sure to mask off and cover the porcelain hood so you don’t get paint on it. For the cook box, first cover any other parts of the grill with paper or cardboard, then use the spray to touch them up.

What tools do I need to remove old wallpaper?

A wallpaper remover, a 3” wallpaper stripping tool, a bucket and a sponge. You can also buy a tool that will score the paper before you apply the remover.

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

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

I have textured ceilings. What nap of roller cover should I use?

It depends on how textured the ceiling is. If it’s slightly textured, a 3/8-inch or a ½-inch nap roller cover should work well. If it’s heavily textures, you might need a 5/8-inch or a ¾-inch nap.

Can I use the same brush for both latex and oil-based paint?

Yes, but you must make sure you clean them extremely well. It’s best if you just buy two sets of brushes. One for latex and one for oil-based paints.

Do I need to prime my ceiling before painting it?

While it’s always a good idea to prime before painting, unless you ceiling has stains, you probably don’t need to because it doesn’t take the abuse and get as dirty as walls typically do.

Should I use a primer?

In most cases, you need a primer if the surface has never been painted before. If you are repainting something, you will need a primer if the old paint is worn down and the surface is exposed.

How much glaze will I need for an average room?

It depends, but generally one quart of tinted paint to six quarts of glaze is common. When using acrylic glaze, the ratio increases to one quart of tinted paint to eight quarts of glaze.

How often do I need to stain my deck?

It’s a good idea to reapply stain once a year on wooden decks, especially if the deck is located in full sun most of the time. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are one of the most harmful environmental factors for wooden decks. UV rays destroy the lignin in wood that holds cellulose fibers together. This causes the fibers to eventually wear away. Better quality deck stains have UV inhibitors that either reflect or absorb the sun’s damaging rays.

Water is the other environmental factor that destroys wooden decks over time. When not protected properly, wooden deck boards absorb water and expand and shrink across the width of the deck boards, especially at the ends of the boards. Quality deck stains contain penetrating finishes to slow the water absorption process.

What type of brush is best for rough surfaces?

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

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Interior Paint

  • Is available in latex and oil-based formulations in different gloss levels such as flat, satin, eggshell, semi-gloss and high-gloss.
  • Interior latex paint is easily applied and can be thinned with water. Brushes and rollers can also be cleaned with water.
  • Latex paint is the most common and easiest type of paint to use.
  • Oil-based interior paint consists of a pigment that exists within a substance made of resins and thinners. When thinners evaporate, the resins form a hard coating—and the pigment provides the color.
  • The contents of oil-based paints make them harder to apply, although this same characteristic can also give them a heavier coverage on the first coat.
  • Oil-based paints have certain disadvantages, particularly the odor and the longer drying time (8 to 24 hours). Solvents, thinners or turpentine are also necessary for cleanup, and oil-based paints cannot be applied to moist surfaces.


Coloring Tint

  • Tint used to change color of glazes when faux finishing.
  • Available in a variety of colors.
  • Generally comes in 12 oz or 1 oz. bottles and tubes.

Ladder Levelers

  • Can be mounted to one or both legs of a ladder to allow it to remain level on uneven surfaces.
  • Consists of two swivel shoes that adjust between 3-1/2” and 8-1/2” (depending on the model) so that one leg can stand on the ground and one can stand on an elevated surface, such as a step.

Paint and Varnish Scraper

  • Also called a wood scraper.
  • Removes old finishes and smooths the surface with its sharp cutting blade.
  • Often used with paint strippers and other chemical removers
  • Can either have a fixed blade like a putty knife (generally called a wall scraper) or a replaceable blade.
  • Sizes range from the 1″ blade—primarily used for small, hard-to-reach areas—to a 5″ blade.
  • Replaceable blades are usually made from tempered, high-carbon steel. Some have carbide or even diamond-honed blades for greater cutting ability and durability.
  • Contour scrapers can accommodate a variety of blades for removing materials on rounded surfaces and in grooves.

Paint Roller

  • A tool consisting of a handle with an extension socket on the end to allow the user to add an extension pole and a frame that holds the roller cover.
  • Great for speed of application.
  • Standard wall rollers are 7″ to 12″ wide.
  • Some rollers have shields incorporated into the structure of the tool to combat spatter and drizzle.
  • Smaller rollers, called trim rollers or mini rollers work well on woodwork and other small areas that cannot be painted with standard rollers. They are available in many different sizes and shapes, depending on the area for which they are designed.
  • An advanced roller is the paint stick, which pumps paint straight from the handle or the can to the wall, where it can be rolled on with the attached roller. The advantage is that the user does not have to deal with drips or messy trays.

Spray Paint

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

Sculpture Paint

  • Thick paste material for creating raised designs.
  • Commonly used with stencils.
  • Porous nature accepts additional glaze well and can be blended with glaze to created tinted designs.
  • Can be used on walls, furniture, cabinets and crafts.

Ladder Paint Tray

  • Similar to paint tray for step ladders but designed for extension ladders.
  • Can fit on aluminum or fiberglass extension ladders with round or flat rungs.

Heavy Duty Scraper

  • Is used to scrape old wallpaper off walls and peeling paint from work surfaces.
  • Blade is removable for replacement and is secured with screws.
  • Angled head offers enhanced leverage.
  • Many now come with ergonomic rubber grip handles for enhanced comfort.

Foam Brush

  • Foam brushes have handles like regular brushes, but a foam pad replaces the bristles.
  • Considered disposable because they are inexpensive, but most are durable enough to be cleaned and reused.
  • Ideal for clear finishes, however, most brands are not recommended for use with lacquer or shellac, which have chemical formulas that destroy the foam.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

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

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

There is water leaking from my water heater. What could be the cause of this?

The pressure relief valve could be leaking. Try operating the valve to see if it will stop. It also might need tightening. A gasket around the heating element may need replaced, or the tank could be rusted out, which requires a new hot water heater.

What is the proper way to join galvanized to copper pipe?

You should use a dielectric union. This will prevent electrolysis from occurring, which deteriorates the copper tubing.

How do I know the correct size of sump pump to install?

If this is a replacement, and the previous one served well for a number of years, you can simply install the same size. If the old one seemed to run too often, you may want to get a slightly larger pump so it doesn’t have to work so hard. If this is for a new installation, 1/3 horsepower will normally handle occasional water flow, while a ½ horsepower will be needed if there is daily water flow.

What are the working parts of a toilet?

The refill valve, the flush valve and the trip lever.

I need to install a new water heater. What type of fitting will I need to connect the unit to my plumbing?

You need a union that is a compression fitting that can be tightened or disconnected later.

How do I solder copper tubing?

Clean the inside of the fitting, clean the outside of the tubing, apply acid flux, heat the fitting and apply the solder.

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

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

Can I attach metal fittings and plastic fittings?

Yes, there are transition fittings that make this possible.

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Plumbing Terms (100)


  • CPVC stands for Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride.
  • Used for both hot and cold water supply or chemical distribution systems.
  • Good for temperatures at 200° F in pressure systems and non-pressure systems.
  • Requires special solvent cement that is different from cement used for other types of plastic solvents. Most solvents will indicate this on the can.

Water Softener

  •  Help remove minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron) that cause “hard” water.
  • Quality water softeners have either fiberglass linings or steel tanks that have double coatings of epoxy for guaranteed rustproofing.
  • Fiberglass tanks prevent electrolytic action that causes excessive rust and corrosion because there is no metal-to-metal contact.
  • When water enters the home, it is directed into the water softener. Water passes over a mineral bed, with minerals holding the lime and magnesium present in the water.
  • Chemicals in the water softener unit must be regenerated, cleaned or replaced. The regeneration process happens by reversing the flow of water through the softener tank and adding sodium chloride or potassium chloride. The reversed water flow quickly flushes accumulated minerals from the chemical.
  • Quality water softeners have solid brass and copper valves and bearings. Iron or steel parts are seldom used in a quality softener because salt can cause rust.

PVC Cutter

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

Shutoff Valve

  • Used to shut on or off the water to a water supply tube.
  • Generally used underneath sinks and toilets.
  • Also known as a speedy, angle stop, water supply valve, cutoff valve, lavatory straight valve or stop.
  • Made of metal or plastic in either a straight or 90∫ configuration.
  • Fairly easy to install.

Gate Valve

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

Propane Fuel

  • Attaches to a propane torch.
  • Propane comes in bright blue tanks and MAPP welding gas comes in yellow tanks.
  • Propane is generally used to heat copper for flaring. However, sometimes there is water in the line that needs to be evaporated so the pipe will heat enough to sweat a joint. Use MAPP gas, but use caution as too much heat can melt the pipe.

PVC Pipe

  • PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride.
  • Used for carrying cold water, irrigation, as conduit and for DWV (drain-waste-vent) projects.
  • Rated by thickness and strength. Common ratings (thickest to thinnest) are Schedule 40 (most common), Class 315, Class 200 and Class 125 (generally used for irrigation).
  • Available in sizes from 1/2” to 2”. White in color.


Compression Fitting

  • Achieves a watertight seal by tightening a nut, which compresses a ring onto the pipe.
  • Avoids threading, gluing or soldering a pipe connection.
  • Used with water supply tubes or other unthreaded ends of pipe.
  • Can also be used to connect two different types of pipe, such as plastic and copper.
  • Can be removed and reinstalled or retightened.

Tubing Cutter

  • Primarily used to cut copper pipe.
  • Easier to use than an ordinary hacksaw, and it makes a cleaner cut.
  • Has a single cutting wheel and two rollers that make smooth right-angle cuts.
  • Some have a triangular blade-type reamer that folds out of the way when not in use.
  • Sized to cut material with outside diameters ranging from 1/8″ through 4-1/2″.
  • Major points of wear are rollers, wheels and pins on which they are mounted. When cutter wheels are worn out, they should be replaced; sharpening them is not advisable.
  • Separate cutting wheels for plastic pipe are also available.

Standard Toilet

  • Made of vitreous china and finished with a high-gloss glaze.
  • Designed to be durable and sanitary.
  • White and almond are most common colors.
  • Federal law mandates that all new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to old models that used 3.5 gallons or more.
  • Gravity-fed toilets operate with a conventional flush, where water draining from the tank is released into the bowl and its weight and gravity pull waste down the drain.
  • Pressure-assisted units use pressure built up within the water supply to increase the force of the flush. These tend to be noisier than gravity-fed models, but the bowl empties quickly (within 4 seconds). The larger water seal surface results in fewer stains. Since the trapway on pressure-assisted models has fewer bends, it is less likely to clog than a gravity-fed system.
  • A third type of toilet uses a pump to assist the flushing operation with increased pressure. Some models are even designed to flush automatically when the seat lid is closed. Dual flushers feature a lever that uses 1.6 gallons for solid waste removal and 1.1 gallons for liquid waste.
  • The rough-in is the distance from the finished wall to the center of the sewer outlet. Standard rough-ins are 10″, 12″ or 14″.
  • Another style is the one-piece toilet.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Twist Drill Bit

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

Reciprocating Saw Blade

  • Carbon steel blade used for soft woods and plastics. Do not use for material with nails.
  • Carbon-tipped blades are best for nail-free wood, nonferrous metal, plastic and fiberglass.
  • High speed steel blade is used for most metals, plastics and fiberglass. Blades are brittle and easily broken.
  • Bimetal blades combine carbon steel and high speed steel. They last as much as three times longer than other blades.

Fixed Base Router

  • Used for beading, routing, grooving, fluting and many types of decorative carving that could take hours to do by hand. Achieve different shapes of cuts by using different shaped bits.
  • Has a motor that raises and lowers with a rack and pinion and a bit that protrudes at a set depth.
  • Most economical type of router and highly portable.
  • Standard and light-duty routers have 1/3 to 1/2 hp motors; commercial heavy-duty routers are 3/4 hp and higher.


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

Beam Saw

  • A circular saw with a high capacity, usually with blades 10” and larger. Can cut through 4” material.
  • Used for cutting heavy timbers or for crosscutting or mitering angles on large, thick stock.

Profile Sander

  • Used for sanding details and profiles, not general sanding tasks.
  • The head can accept a variety of attachments for a variety of tasks.
  • Good for sanding moldings, shaped wood edges and panels.

Beam-Saw Attachment

  • An attachment for a circular saw that looks like a chain saw and gives the standard circular saw a 12” cutting capacity.
  • Used to rip, crosscut or notch heavy girders or planks.

Edge Cutting Guide

  • Attaches to a jigsaw.
  • Used as a guide to making straight cuts.
  • Some models come with a pivot knob that guides the saw in a circular cut.

Router Table

  • A table built to accommodate a router mounted underneath.
  • Provides a smooth surface for routing, and a fence for guiding the material.
  • Another version is a horizontal table that holds the router horizontally.

Worm Drive Circular Saw

  • Designed to make straight cuts on materials that are difficult to cut with a handsaw.
  • Can make cuts on a variety of materials, and different types of materials generally require different blades.
  • The motor is inline with the handle and at a right angle to the blade arbor. It also has an oil-filled crankcase.
  • The worm gear style of power transmission means this saw has plenty of torque, which keeps it from stalling in wet or pinched lumber.
  • Quieter operation than sidewinder saws, but heavier, usually 14 to 19 lbs.
  • It has better sightlines than a sidewinder style saw
  • Most common blade size is 7-1/4”. Also available are 6-1/2” and 8-1/4” blades.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Rust Remover

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

Utility Vise

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


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

Woodworking Vise

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


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

Corner Clamp

  • Designed to hold miter or butt joints at a 90º angle.
  • They can be used for gluing picture frames, cabinets, molding and trim.


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

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.


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

Pipe Clamp

  • Can be mounted to standard threaded or unthreaded pipe to clamp boards together while gluing.
  • Clamping can be performed from one end or both, and jaws can be positioned at the ends or anywhere along the pipe.
  • Pipe clamps can also be quickly converted from a clamp to a spreader.
  • A hardened steel set screw holds the head firmly on the pipe, but is easily loosened. The 3/4″ size has a crank handle, and depth from screw center to pipe is 11/16″. The 1/2″ size has a crosspin handle, with depth from screw center to pipe of 7/8″.
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