DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

How is cultured marble different from marble?

Cultured marble is made up of dust from natural marble. It is mixed with a liquid polyester resin for a product that is actually easier to care for than marble.

How do I care for my laminate floor?

A laminate floor can be vacuumed of cleaned with a damp mop.

What is polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a clear, hard finish that protects wood surfaces.

Should I use a special type of fastener for wood I’ll be using outside?

For exterior wood applications, I recommend a corrosion-resistant fastener, such as stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized steel.

How do I cut composite decking?

Use the same tools you would use for a wood deck. It cuts, drills and nails just like wood. You will want to use a carbide blade on your saw.

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

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

How do I measure how large the room is?

Multiply the length of the room by its width.

What is the advantage of wood over carpet?

Wood maintains its value longer than carpet. It is also easier to maintain.

Can I use vinegar and water to clean tile?

Most tile experts don’t recommend this combination, as it may permanently damage the color of the grout and damage the tile.

How do I attach tileboard?

Do not use nails. Use an adhesive specially designed for attaching paneling to a wall or furring strips.

View category→

Building Materials Terms (161)

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.

Carpet

  • 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.

Particleboard

  • A hard, dense composition board made of very small particles of wood bonded together with resin under intense heat and pressure.
  • Comes in various thicknesses from 3/8” to 3/4” and in panels 4’ x 8’; 10’ and 12’lengths are also available.
  • Often used in non-structural applications such as interior construction in closets and as an underlayment because it does not warp.
  • Should be cut with a carbide blade.
  • May swell if it gets wet.

Corner Blocks

  • Installed at the corners where two runs of molding meet.
  • Makes installation easy, as installer doesn’t have to cut a miter joint.
  • Styles include rosettes and plinth blocks.

Door Sweep

  • Seals the bottom of an exterior door, preventing drafts, water, noise, light and insects.
  • Usually made of aluminum extrusions with vinyl flaps.
  • Screws into the lower part of the door.
  • Some types lift automatically when the door is raised.
  • Another type is an aluminum extrusion with a rain-drip flange to prevent the flow of water off a door from collecting on a threshold and flowing under a door.
  • Another type is an adhesive-backed plastic door sweep.

Shower Stall

  • Some units come in one piece, mainly for new construction or major remodels.
  • Some units come in multiple pieces that snap or caulk together to be a leak free.
  • Easy to clean and some manufacturers claim they will not chip, crack or peel.
  • Don’t forget caulk.

Ridge Vent

  • Vents exhaust from the attic and extends the life of the roof.
  • Typical widths are 9” and 12”.
  • Helps keep the attic cool and reduces air conditioning costs.
  • Helps prevent ice dams.
  • Shingle-over ridge vents incorporate shingles that match the roof and are nailed over the vent.
  • Pre-drilled holes make installation easy.
  • Most types feature baffles because ridge vents without baffles can allow wind and moisture to enter the attic.

J-Channel

  • 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.

Xylol (Xylene)

  • XyleneMedium evaporating, clear, colorless aromatic hydrocarbon solvent for thinning varnishes and rubber.

Synthetic Rubber Caulk

  • A relative newcomer to the caulk category, synthetic rubber caulk is perhaps the most flexible product on the market.
  • Cures clear and is ideal for exterior joints that typically expand and contract.
  • Can be applied in adverse weather conditions (wet and cold).
  • Stretches easily without breaking and recovers easily.
  • Great for use on roofs, wood siding and joints that frequently show movement.
  • Can be painted with latex paint.
  • Due to higher VOC content, can’t be used indoors in some parts of the country, although manufacturers have introduced low VOC formulations to the marketplace.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

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.

Greenfield Conduit

  • Also known as flex conduit.
  • A hollow spiral metal jacket that resembles BX cable.
  • Use for installing wiring in the home.

Specialty Switches

  • Rocker Switch operates the same as a standard switch, but instead of a toggle, it operates with a rocker action.
  • Delayed Action Switch keeps the circuit open for a few minutesafter the switch is turned off. A good use is in a garage where, after the user turns off the switch, it allows the light to remain on in time exit.
  • Photoelectric Switch operates with a photoelectric cell. It turns off during the day and turns on during the night.
  • Motion Switch turns on the light as you enter the room. Good for both convenience and security.
  • An Illuminated Switch has a small light that is on when the switch is off so it can be easily found; these are usually used at entrances to rooms and in hallways. Another version is the Pilot Light Switch.
  • An Outdoor Switch features a turning lever inside a weatherproof box cover with a toggle switch.
  • Voice-Activated Switch operates with a voice command.

Ceiling Box

  • Also known as a junction box or splice box.
  • Used to anchor ceiling fixtures and serves as a junction box where wires can meet and run to other areas of the room.
  • They are either 4” octagonal or round shaped, and either 1-1/2” or 2-1/8” deep.
  • They also may include adjustable mounting hangers that attach to rafters in the ceiling and allow the box to be placed anywhere between.
  • Hangers also provide the short nipple or threaded rod that secures lighting fixtures.

Range Hood

  • Comes in many styles and is used to draw grease, heat, steam, smoke, odor and hazardous gasses away from the stove and out of the kitchen.
  • A complete system consists of a hood, a blower system and ducting.
  • Downdraft models are built into the stove of surrounding counter and are less efficient than updraft hoods.
  • Updraft hoods hang above the cooktop and easily vent air outdoors.
  • An island range hood is used for stoves that are part of cabinet islands. They are suspended from the ceiling.

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.

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.

Conduit Connectors

  • Used to connect lengths of conduit.
  • Can make straight or bent connections.
  • Conduit can also be bent to a 90º curve using a conduit bender.

Dimmer Switch

  • Controls the amount of current in a light circuit and allows for varying levels of light.
  • Usually may be installed in place of standard switches.
  • They are available in a variety of types, including rotary, toggle and slide.
  • Dimmers may also interfere with radios and TVs and cause the light bulb to hum. Some dimmers are manufactured with a filter that eases this problem.

Weatherproof Box

  • Also known as an outdoor box.
  • Used for exterior switches or receptacles.
  • Thicker than interior boxes and has a rubber gasket between the cover and the box to keep out water.
  • Covers are screw-on or snap-on.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

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.

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 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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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

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

How do I test a switch to see if it is working?

Use a continuity tester. First, shut of the electricity going to the switch and remove it. Touch the tester leads to both of the switch’s terminals. If the switch is working properly, the tester will light up when the switch is on and go out when the switch is turned off.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

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.

Carpet

  • 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.

Particleboard

  • A hard, dense composition board made of very small particles of wood bonded together with resin under intense heat and pressure.
  • Comes in various thicknesses from 3/8” to 3/4” and in panels 4’ x 8’; 10’ and 12’lengths are also available.
  • Often used in non-structural applications such as interior construction in closets and as an underlayment because it does not warp.
  • Should be cut with a carbide blade.
  • May swell if it gets wet.

Corner Blocks

  • Installed at the corners where two runs of molding meet.
  • Makes installation easy, as installer doesn’t have to cut a miter joint.
  • Styles include rosettes and plinth blocks.

Door Sweep

  • Seals the bottom of an exterior door, preventing drafts, water, noise, light and insects.
  • Usually made of aluminum extrusions with vinyl flaps.
  • Screws into the lower part of the door.
  • Some types lift automatically when the door is raised.
  • Another type is an aluminum extrusion with a rain-drip flange to prevent the flow of water off a door from collecting on a threshold and flowing under a door.
  • Another type is an adhesive-backed plastic door sweep.

Shower Stall

  • Some units come in one piece, mainly for new construction or major remodels.
  • Some units come in multiple pieces that snap or caulk together to be a leak free.
  • Easy to clean and some manufacturers claim they will not chip, crack or peel.
  • Don’t forget caulk.

Ridge Vent

  • Vents exhaust from the attic and extends the life of the roof.
  • Typical widths are 9” and 12”.
  • Helps keep the attic cool and reduces air conditioning costs.
  • Helps prevent ice dams.
  • Shingle-over ridge vents incorporate shingles that match the roof and are nailed over the vent.
  • Pre-drilled holes make installation easy.
  • Most types feature baffles because ridge vents without baffles can allow wind and moisture to enter the attic.

J-Channel

  • 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.

Xylol (Xylene)

  • XyleneMedium evaporating, clear, colorless aromatic hydrocarbon solvent for thinning varnishes and rubber.

Synthetic Rubber Caulk

  • A relative newcomer to the caulk category, synthetic rubber caulk is perhaps the most flexible product on the market.
  • Cures clear and is ideal for exterior joints that typically expand and contract.
  • Can be applied in adverse weather conditions (wet and cold).
  • Stretches easily without breaking and recovers easily.
  • Great for use on roofs, wood siding and joints that frequently show movement.
  • Can be painted with latex paint.
  • Due to higher VOC content, can’t be used indoors in some parts of the country, although manufacturers have introduced low VOC formulations to the marketplace.
View category→

FAQs (0)

How is cultured marble different from marble?

Cultured marble is made up of dust from natural marble. It is mixed with a liquid polyester resin for a product that is actually easier to care for than marble.

How do I care for my laminate floor?

A laminate floor can be vacuumed of cleaned with a damp mop.

What is polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a clear, hard finish that protects wood surfaces.

Should I use a special type of fastener for wood I’ll be using outside?

For exterior wood applications, I recommend a corrosion-resistant fastener, such as stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized steel.

How do I cut composite decking?

Use the same tools you would use for a wood deck. It cuts, drills and nails just like wood. You will want to use a carbide blade on your saw.

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

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

How do I measure how large the room is?

Multiply the length of the room by its width.

What is the advantage of wood over carpet?

Wood maintains its value longer than carpet. It is also easier to maintain.

Can I use vinegar and water to clean tile?

Most tile experts don’t recommend this combination, as it may permanently damage the color of the grout and damage the tile.

How do I attach tileboard?

Do not use nails. Use an adhesive specially designed for attaching paneling to a wall or furring strips.

View category→

Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

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.

What do you recommend for eliminating mice in the house?

There are a variety of traps or you can use pellets that you can place in the area.

Should I buy a long-handle or short-handle shovel?

Limited space of a job may require a short handle. However, a long handle supplies more leverage and allows you to work in a more upright position. As a result, a long-handled shovel is usually a better choice.

How do I tell which steel wool is finer?

The smaller the number, the finer the steel wool.

What’s the difference between a rip hammer and a curved claw hammer?

A hammer with a curved claw provides leverage for pulling nails. A rip (straight claw) hammer is often the choice of professionals because it is usually a slightly heftier tool that is used to rip apart wood that has been nailed together.

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.

What type of pliers should I buy for general use?

10-inch set of adjustable pliers may look big, but they are a good choice for general all around use.

What is the difference between an orbital sander and a random orbital sander?

An orbital sander moves only in a circular motion, while the random orbital sander also moves back and forth. As a result of the two separate motions, it leaves less of a swirl pattern on the wood.

I need a hex key wrench, but I don’t know the size?

Since they are not expensive, I would recommend an 18-piece all-purpose hex key wrench set.

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.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Slide Pump Sprayer

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

Wire Strippers

• Used for general-purpose wire cutting and stripping insulation from wire.

• Feature adjustable stops to remove wire insulation without damaging conductors.

• Feature pre-cut holes to cut different wire gauges.
Plier-style nose permits pulling and looping of wire.

 

Awl

  • Used to make screw-starting holes for drilling, screwing or nailing when lightly tapped by palm of hand or with hammer or soft-face mallet.
  • Also used for scribing or scoring along a straight edge to produce a sawing or layout line on wood or soft metal.
  • gimlet is a variation of the awl with threads like a screw on the tip.

 

Nail Hammer

  • Used for general carpentry, household chores and nail pulling.
  • Should be used only with non-hardened, common or finishing nails.
  • Curved claw offers leverage in removing nails and can also cradle a 2×4.
  • Choose 16 or 20 oz. weights for general carpentry; choose 7, 10 and 13 oz. weights for fine cabinetry or light-duty driving.
  • Available with smooth or waffled (serrated) faces. Milled face is for finishing jobs while waffled face provides more control when hammering large nails into lumber. Some claw hammers feature a side notch on the head for easier pulling of small nails and fasteners.

 

Strap Wrench

  • Recommended for working with brass, aluminum, lead, soft metal or plastic pipe because it grips pipe without teeth and does not damage the surface.
  • Consists of a fabric strap, attached to a loop ring that is fastened in the curved head of a straight forged bar or handle. It is then pulled around the pipe, back through the loop and over the head.
  • When the wrench is pulled tight, the strap grips the pipe.

Aviation Snips

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

 

Folding Square

  • Square that conveniently folds for easy storage.
  • Locking mechanism locks tool securely for use.
  • Angle markings from 0 to 60 degrees.
  • Often used in tiling projects.
  • Generally available in sizes ranging from 12”x12” to 48”x48”.

Plumb Bob

  • A small, tapered, pointed weight suspended from string or cord used to measure true vertical plumb or depth.
  • Commonly used in construction and framing.
  • Many chalk line reels can also be used as plumb bobs, hanging the tool from its string.

Compass or Keyhole Saw

  • Cuts curved or straight-sided holes.
  • Saw blades are narrow, tapered nearly to a point to fit into most spaces.
  • Blades come in three or four styles that can be changed to fit the job.
  • Some models have induction-hardened teeth for longer life without sharpening.
  • Keyhole saws are small compass saws with finer teeth that can cut metal.
  • Turret head keyhole blades can be rotated and locked in several positions for easier cutting in tight, awkward spots.

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.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Cabinet Hinge

  • The four basic cabinet door designs that determine the type of hinge required are: flush-mounted, lipped/inset, flush-overlay or reverse bevel.
  • For flush-mounted doors, use a full-mortise butt or full-surface hinge, an ornamental strap hinge or a concealed hinge.
  • For lipped doors, use semi-concealed cabinet hinges so the hinge leaf attached to the cabinet frame is exposed and the hinge leaf attached to the door is concealed. A surface hinge for this kind of cabinet door must be offset to match the outside of the door.
  • For flush-overlay doors, use a pivot hinge mortised into the top and bottom of the door. Also use a butt hinge or a semi-concealed hinge.
  • For reverse bevel doors, use a hinge that features a slant on the door wing that is compatible with the profile of the cabinet door.
  • Some hinges have a self-closing feature that closes the door automatically from about a 10° opening. These operate on a spring-loaded cam and are made from heavy-gauge steel.

Traverse Rod

  • Allows opening and closing of drapes with a downward pull on a cord.
  • Usually used with heavy drapes.
  • Can be wall-mounted or attached to the ceiling.
  • Draperies close from each side of the window to meet in the center.
  • One-way draw rods draw the drape fully to the left or fully to the right. They are usually used with patio doors or corner windows.
  • Made of two telescoping track sections, adjustable to desired length.
  • Six sizes cover windows up to 312” wide in the following ranges: 28” to 48”, 48” to 84”, 66” to 120”, 84” to 156”, 156” to 216” and 216” to 312”.
  • One variation of a traverse rod allows the drapes to be drawn completely clear of the window at the sides, giving the effect of a wider window.
  • Another type holds a curtain rod in front of the traverse rod and supports a full-width balance.
  • One type holds a sheer curtain behind the traversing draperies.

Polyester Rope

  • A twisted rope with strength similar to nylon.
  • Stretches less than nylon and has a poor shock load capacity.
  • Good resistance to abrasion and sunlight.
  • The top choice for general-purpose boating applications.

Machine Screw

  • Can have round, oval, flat and fillister heads.
  • Intended to be screwed into pre-threaded holes in metal.
  • May look like a bolt, but user drives it with a screwdriver instead of a wrench.
  • Comes in coarse (24 threads per inch) and fine (32 threads per inch) sizes.
  • They are sized according to diameter, thread and length. Example: a 6-32×3/4 means the screw has a 6-gauge diameter with 32 threads per inch and is 3/4” long.
  • The round head type is most commonly used. The flat head type is used when the top must be flush with the surface.
  • Oval heads are used in countersunk holes. Fillister heads are used in counter-bored holes.

 

Rivet

  • Securely fastens something that can be reached from just one side.
  • The multi-grip type expands to fill over-sized and irregular holes and self-adjusts for misaligned holes.
  • Used in metal, plastic and composite materials.
  • Ideal for installing gutters and drop ceilings or repairing large appliances.
  • Available in 1/8”, 3/32”, 3/16” and 1/4” diameters.
  • Can have dome, countersunk and large flange head styles.

 

Duplex Nail

  • Has a double head to allow for easy removal in temporary construction applications.
  • Used for concrete forming and scaffolding.

Pivot Hinge

  • Mounts at the top and bottom of the door leaving a small wafer of metal exposed.
  • Commonly used on furniture doors or where doors are intended to be inconspicuous.

Cabinet Knob

  • Used on cabinet doors and drawers.
  • Basic consideration in choosing a knob will be style.
  • Backplates are decorative and provide additional support for hollow-core doors and drawers.
  • When replacing an old knob, remember to make sure the new knob will use or cover the holes left by the old one. Use a backplate to cover the second hole if replacing a pull with a knob.
  • Most knobs use one #8 screw for mounting.

Wood Pole Rod

  • Used with rings for pleated draperies and with high headers.
  • Can have a stained, painted or natural finish.
  • Usually available in 7/8”, 1-3/8” and 2” diameters.
  • Extra-wide rods are available in 4-1/2” and 2-1/2” sizes and are inserted into fabric headings of 5” or 3”, providing a stationary look.
  • These can be used for valances or for a combination with two or three rods to give a cornice look.

Twine

  • Made by twisting yarns together to make a single, continuous strand.
  • Low cost rope.
  • Not recommended for reuse.
  • Use for wrapping a roast, tying packages or establishing a line in the garden.
  • The more plies, the stronger the twine. A 16-ply #8 thread cotton twine is twice as strong as an 8-ply #8 thread twine.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

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

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

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.

Should I use a finishing nail?

These are mostly for interior work when you would countersink the head and cover the nail hole.

I have a bolt that is not threading in properly. Can I fix this?

Yes, a thread repair kit allows you to retap it, put in an insert and rebuild it.

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.

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.

Are the shelf support brackets used on RTA furniture all the same size?

No. The most common size is 5mm, but there are many variations. If you can’t find the right size, it may be easier to just drill the holes out a little larger to a size bracket that you can find.

How long of a nail should I use?

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

What does a lock washer do?

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

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.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

How does a tube grate work?

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

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

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

How do I know if my attic is properly ventilated?

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

What R-value should I use?

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

How does a heat extractor help me conserve energy with my fireplace?

A heat extractor mounts on the stovepipe and extracts additional heat from flue gases beyond what normally comes from the stovepipe or the chimney. You can use it for either fireplaces or wood-burning stoves. As it extracts heat, it cools the flue’s gasses and could cause the flue to smoke, so it’s best to install an extractor with more capacity than is necessary for the size of the fireplace. The downside is that an extractor could work against the efficiency of a good wood-burning stove. As the flue gases cool, combustion is reduced and the stove gives off less heat.

My ceiling fan wobbles, what should I do?

If a wood blade is warped, it will wobble. Correct this problem by installing adhesive-backed weights to the blades. Operating at faster speeds may also cause humming or clicking noises with some models.

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.

What does it mean when a furnace filter is “electrostatically charged?”

This is when the media of the filter uses static electricity to attract and capture small airborne particles, which both positively and negatively charged.

Where in the room should I place a portable heater for best results?

Place heaters under a window to warm cold air as it enters the room through possible gaps around the window.

Why should I put a vent fan in my bathroom?

Bath fans help eliminate odors but also clear away steam that causes steamy mirrors and windows after bathing or showering. Walls damp with steam build-up can result in mold, mildew, wood rot and ruined insulation.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Andiron

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

Warm-Mist Device

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

UV Air Cleaner

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

What kind of caulk should I use around window frames?

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

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.

Impeller Humidifier

  • Sprays droplets of water into the air.
  • An inexpensive type of humidifier.
  • Must be used with distilled water or with demineralizing tablets in the water.

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.

Box Wood Stove

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

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.

Floor-Vent Humidifier

  • Replaces standard floor vent registers.
  • Provides humidity for individual rooms without the need for a plug-in humidifier.
  • Uses a water chamber where homeowners can add water, which then passes through a wick filter and into the air when the furnace cycles on.
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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 will I need to cut a hole for a doorknob?

You’ll need a hole saw sized for the door handle you are installing and a space bit to bore the hole for the dead latch. The most common size hole for the handle is 2-1/8” diameter, and the most common hole size for the deadlatch is 1” in diameter.

Will a door closer work on my heavy storm door?

A traditional screen door closer may not be strong enough. However, they make heavy-duty ones that will work. They also have the advantage of staying open automatically if they are opened all the way. Some newer doors have two closures—one on top and one on bottom.

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Home Security Terms (35)

Trailer Lock

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

Privacy Lockset

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

Surface-Mounted Deadbolt

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

Home Intrusion Alarm

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

Dummy Knob

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

Handleset

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

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.

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.

Mortise Lock

  • Consists of a flat, rectangular box that fits into a recess in the door from its edge. Also includes two faceplates that include the knobs and keyholes.
  • Available in right- or left-handed styles.
  • Has a pin tumbler locking mechanism in a cylinder.
  • Latch operates from either side except when the outside knob is locked.
  • Deadbolt operates by a turn of the inside knob.
  • A key from the outside operates both the deadbolt and latchbolt.
  • Used on many types of doors, from heavy entrance doors to apartment buildings and residential doors.

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.
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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 are some of the various sizes of wheelbarrows?

For general use around the yard, there are 3-cubic-foot and 4-cubic-foot models. The heavy-duty 6-cubic-foot model is designed for commercial use.

What are the advantages of the granular pellets?

They are usually less expensive than their organic counterparts. They can be applied by simply spreading them around plants or using a spreader to apply them to a lawn.

I used a shade-tolerant grass seed in a shady area, but the seeding won’t grow. What’s going on?

Make sure you keep this area well watered, and do not cut it as short as the rest of the lawn. In addition, rake the leaves in the winter. If you still have a problem, you may have to trim the branches on a tree that is blocking the light or cover the area with mulch.

When should I plant flower bulbs?

Planting times vary, but as a general rule, earlier in the fall is better than later. Bulbs need to establish strong root systems, before the frosts of winter set in and the bulbs enter a new cycle in preparation for spring blooming. Remember to plant bulbs in an area that drains well and water newly planted bulbs to help those roots get going.

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 are compound pruners?

These use mechanical action so the tool does more of the work. It requires less effort and force.

Which pump should I buy for my water garden?

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

What type of grass seed should I use for a bare spot?

There are many types of grass for different regions of the country. But the things to consider include—is the area shaded or sunny and how much foot traffic the area gets.

Should I use a special type of soil or add any fertilizer when backfilling the hole around the root ball?

You should always backfill the hole with the same soil you dug out of the hole to begin with. However, it’s a good idea to add some plant food fertilizer and some root stimulator to avoid transplant shock. Be sure to carefully read and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Tree Pruner

  • Pruning shears or a pruning saw is attached to a long pole that will accept extensions or operates with a telescoping action.
  • Some models have a rope and pulley configuration where the user pulls the rope to instigate the cutting action.
  • Typical pole length is 6 to 12 feet, but some reach up to 20’.
  • Used for high work or where a ladder cannot be used.

Auger

  • Used to burrow into soft ground to create holes for setting posts, footings or for planting trees or shrubs.
  • Some models have an adjustable yoke that can be locked into position or changed to drill different sized holes.
  • Operates by turning in a downward motion.
  • Has a T handle for easier turning.
  • Common sizes are 6”, 8” and 10”.

Cultivator

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

Hose Mender

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

Contractor Wheelbarrow

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

Double-Bit Axe

  • Performs the same function as single-bit axe, but has two cutting edges—one on each end of the head.
  • Generally used by professional lumbermen.
  • Double-bit axes have straight handles because the handle must be symmetrical with the double-edge head.
  • Common head patterns include Western, Michigan, Swamping and Reversible.

Humus

  • A brown or black organic substance consisting of decayed vegetable matter that provides nutrients for plants and improves the water retention of soil.

Vegetable Seed

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

Snow Blower

  • Gasoline or electric powered.
  • A single-stage blower uses a rotating, rubber tipped auger to pick up snow from driveways and sidewalks and throw it either forward or through a chute in a single motion.
  • Do not use a single-stage blower on gravel driveways, as the blower could pick up and sling stones.
  • A two-stage blower can be used on gravel and is best for large areas or deep snow. This blower operates by first picking up snow with a slow turning metal auger, then slinging it out a chute from a fast-spinning impeller. These types are usually self-propelled.
  • Desirable features include easy chute and deflector adjustment, headlights and folding handles for easy storage.
  • Choose the model based on the typical amount of snow in your area. For areas with 12” to 18” of snow, recommend a two-stage model with 7 to 9 hp. For areas with moderate accumulations, recommend a 5.5 to 8 hp machine. For a smooth surfaces and light snowfall, recommend a single-stage blower.
  • Clearing paths for two-stage blowers range from 21” to 31”.

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.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Do the paint flakes that you shake on when the garage floor epoxy is still wet help with slip resistance?

A little, but they are mostly designed to hide imperfections and offer a custom look.

Should I apply a protective coating over a faux finish?

While it isn’t mandatory, it will enhance the durability. Just be sure to let the glaze dry for two days before coating.

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.

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

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

I have stains on my wall that keep bleeding through the paint surface. How do I prevent this?

You need to prime the area first with a shellac-base primer. The resins in shellac –base primers seal out stains so they can’t bleed back through.

What spray tip is best to use with my pressure washer when cleaning exterior siding?

Choose a tip that won’t damage the siding. A 15-degree tip is a good choice.

Once I mix the epoxy base with the hardener, when can I start painting the floor?

It varies by manufacturer, but some of the more common products require a 30 minute set up time minimum before using. They, you have 2½ hours to use it or the product must be discarded.

What is meant by “open” time when using glazes?

Open time refers to the time it takes for the glaze to begin setting up. This is generally the amount of time you have to reach your desired effect. Most of the time you have up to 15 minutes, depending on the product you’re using. However, be sure to read the directions carefully to make sure. You can also mix Floetrol to the glaze to extend the open time.

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.

Can I paint the vinyl siding on my house?

Some experts don’t recommend painting vinyl siding because it expands and contracts. Some siding manufacturers void their warranties if the siding is painted. However, if you decide to paint it, make sure that you clean it well with a strong cleanser such as TSP. Make sure it is also rinsed off. Don’t use a primer and use a premium 100 percent acrylic latex paint that is a light shade to prevent the siding from warping.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Paint Brush

  • Also called a flattening brush.
  • Generally comes in 3” to 5” widths.
  • Used for painting larger surfaces, such as ceilings, floors, chimneys, etc.
  • Available in natural bristles (generally used for applying oil-based coatings) and synthetic filaments (for water-based paints).

Lacquer

  • Is available in clear or colored formulations and has a fast-drying finish.
  • Work fast with lacquers. Also you may try a 50/50 mixture of lacquer and lacquer thinner (each preferably made by the same manufacturer) to slow drying time.
  • Lacquers should be applied only to new wood or over previously lacquered surfaces. They cannot be used over old paint or varnish; the solvents will lift old finishes.
  • Lacquers are available in clear or colors. They are usually difficult to apply by brush. However, some manufacturers do offer specially formulated versions that apply more easily with a brush.
  • Lacquer thinners are required to clean tools.

Wallpaper Removers

  • A liquid spray-on solution that uses enzymes to break down the paste and destroy its adhesive strength.
  • Also available in a water-based gel formulations that can be applied with a brush or roller.

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.

Sanding Sponge

  • A sponge coated with or made of an abrasive agent.
  • Lasts longer than sandpaper and can take the form of the item being sanded.
  • Great for sanding drywall joint compound or spackling.
  • Available in a variety of sizes and shapes for specific sanding applications.
  • Generally is coated on each side as well as edges.
  • Can be used in wet and dry sanding applications.
  • Simply wash clean for reuse.

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.

Varnish & Enamel Brush

  • Commonly used by professional painters for applying a wide variety of paints and stains.
  • Known for holding and delivering more paint than other types of brushes.
  • Some have satin-edge finishes on bristles for enhanced performance.
  • Recommended for both interior and exterior painting.
  • Available in natural bristles (generally used for applying oil-based coatings) and synthetic filaments (for water-based paints).

Wood Hardener

  • Formulated to strengthen and reinforce decayed or rotting wood.
  • Is a liquid consolidating agent that seeps deep into soft, deteriorated wood fibers, then hardens it to restore strength and some structural integrity.
  • Depending on the strength required, the formula can be water-based, solvent-based or two-part epoxy.

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.

Venetian Plaster

  • Used to achieve a polished marble-like effect.
  • Gives the look and feel of natural stone.
  • Can be tinted and applied to any flat, smooth surface.
  • Surface must be primed or have a matte finish.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

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

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

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.

Why is water constantly running into my toilet?

If the refill valve is leaking, the tank overfills and the excess water runs into the overflow pipe and into the bowl.

I have a problem with the plumbing in my house making groaning and honking sounds. What causes this?

It could be that you have lost your “air cushion.” To get it back, turn the water supply off at the main valve. Turn on all the faucets around your home. Then turn on the main valve again and shut off each faucet. This should take care of the problem.

Are there different kinds of latex caulk?

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

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 can I use to make sure my water pipe does not freeze?

Heat tapes have a thermostat on them so they know when to turn on and off. Simply wrap the pipe and plug them in.

What spray tip is best to use with my pressure washer when cleaning exterior siding?

Choose a tip that won’t damage the siding. A 15-degree tip is a good choice.

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

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

Can you repair a leaky valve?

Gate valves can sometimes be repaired by tightening the outside hex nut or by removing the hex nut and adding stem packing.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Auger

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

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.

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.

Ball Valve

  • Uses a large lever to turn a ball that closes or opens the flow of water with one quick quarter turn.
  • Are the standard for natural and LP gas, replacing the older plug valves that were traditionally used as gas valves.
  • Available in either metal or plastic, threaded or non-threaded types.
  • Ball valves with double-stem seals provide greater durability.

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.”

Sump Pump

  • Used to discharge ground water that accumulates around a basement that is below the water line. The basement should have a drain tile around it to collect ground water and convey it to the sump in the basement.
  • A Submersible type pump is a motor and pump sealed in one unit that rests in the sump pit.
  • A Pedestal pump sits in the water, but the motor is mounted on a column above the water. They are available in automatic or manual models, either gravity-fed or self-priming operation.
  • Pump capacity is rated by gallons-per-hour pumped as well as ìliftî pressure generatedóhow high the liquid is to be pumped.Submersible Sewage and Effluent pumps are for continuous use in moving large volumes of water containing solids.
  • Some pumps have battery backup, and a combination electric and battery-powered sump pump is now available.

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.

Closet Auger

  • Also known as a toilet auger.
  • Used for clearing toilets. Better than a regular auger because it is more rigid.
  • Consists of a short cable with a crank.
  • The handle is covered with a rubber sleeve to protect the porcelain in a toilet bowl.

Flexible Fitting

  • Short lengths of flexible and soft plastic that is very flexible and forgiving.
  • Generally used for drain fittings in repair applications or to tie into existing drainage systems.
  • Fits over an existing pipe and tightens with a clamp.

Solder

  • Used to sweat a copper fitting.
  • Forms a bond between fitting and pipe.
  • Use lead-free solder if used on potable water lines.
  • Most common type is 95-5 tin-antimony solder. The first number is the percentage of tin in the solder. The more tin, the more workable the solder.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

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.

Abrasive Cut-Off Wheel

  • Circular blade used for cutting ferrous metals, masonry, glazed materials and ceramic tile.
  • Must match the type of wheel to the type of material being cut.
  • Only use with saws that have an aluminum or magnesium guard.

Cabinet Table Saw

  • A professional-grade table saw where the saw motor is housed in a cabinet.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism are located under the table.
  • Used for ripping large pieces of wood.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • A heavier, bulkier machine reduces vibration from the saw.
  • Power of the saw’s motor determines the thickness of material that can be cut and how efficiently the saw will perform.
  • To operate, the material is fed onto the blade, unlike the miter saw where the blade moves across the material.
  • The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut. Best used for permanent placement in a workshop.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Sizes can range from 2 to 5 hp.

Expansion Bits

  • Takes the place of many larger bits.
  • It is adjusted by moving the cutting blade in or out by a geared dial or by a lockscrew to vary the size of the hole.

Bayonet Saw

  • Operates similar to a sabre saw.
  • Some models have a worm gear and a large blade orbit to make it suitable for metals, plastics, thin wood and laminate.

Abrasive Attachments

There are a wide variety of attachments for drills that can be used for shaping or finishing metal. Others can be used for sanding and cleaning a variety of materials.

Buffers polish metal or furniture.

Abrasive discs can be used for grinding or sanding.

Wire wheels remove rust and paint, and some types can clean concrete, asphalt and plaster.

Disc and drum rasps quickly complete coarse sanding jobs.

Plunge Router

  • Similar to a fixed-base router, but the motor is mounted on two posts and can be retracted from and lowered into the workpiece.
  • Required depth of cut can be set so it’s the same every time.
  • Versatile and good for use in joinery.
  • Plunge depth is the deepest cut that can be made by a router.

Diamond Blade

  • Circular steel disc with a diamond-bearing edge.
  • Used to cut tile, marble, slate, quarry tile, granite, stone, limestone and porcelain tile.
  • Can have either a segmented, continuous rim or turbo rim configuration.

Benchtop Table Saw

  • Most portable and lightweight table saw.
  • Used for ripping wood.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism are located under the table.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • Power of the saw’s motor determines the thickness of material that can be cut and how efficiently the saw will perform.
  • To operate, the material is fed onto the blade, unlike the miter saw where the blade moves across the material.
  • The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Most models use a 10” saw blade.

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.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Tool Box

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

Platform Ladder

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

Miter Box

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

Tool Chest

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

Extension Ladder

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

C-Clamp

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

Specialty Stationary Workbench

  • Comes with a variety of drawers, holes and pegs for tool storage.
  • Some models are equipped with vises to hold work firmly in place.
  • These units are generally expensive and can’t be easily moved around the shop.

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.

Bar Clamp

  • Has a clamping device built on a flat bar, which is usually made of steel.
  • The length of the bar determines the capacity of the clamp, which is the dimension of the largest object that can be accommodated between its clamping jaws.
  • “Reach” is the distance from the edge of the bar to the end of the clamping jaws.
  • Screw pressure applies the final clamping load.
  • Bar clamps are used for clamping large objects, making them popular with woodworkers and hobbyists.

Mobile Workbench

  • Enables user to position a workbench wherever it is needed in the workshop.
  • Some models feature adjustable leveling feet, adjustable height, detachable casters, latching doors, drawers, hooks for hanging tools, dust collection ports, quick-change tool set-up, lock-down hardware and corner tops.
  • They can hold large and small tools, and some models are designed to serve as a shop bench, router station or clamping station.
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