DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

I am installing some door casing and want to make sure the miters are tight. What’s the best way to do this?

By installing biscuits (with a biscuit jointer) to glue the miters together and then using a corner clamp to hold the two pieces firmly in place until the glue dries. After the glue dries, the casing can be installed as a single unit.

What is the “work triangle?”

This is a concept used for designing the most efficient kitchen. The National Kitchen and Bath Association says it is an imaginary straight line drawn from the center of the sink to the center of the cooktop to the center of the refrigerator and back to the sink.

What is the advantage of a swinging patio door over a sliding one?

A swinging door is more energy efficient because the weatherstripping can be sealed much tighter than on a sliding door. Also, a swinging door can be latched with a deadbolt.

What’s the difference between a roofing nail and a shingle nail?

A roofing nail has a large head for holding down asphalt roofing, which is typically asphalt shingles. The large head helps reduce “tear through.” A shingle nail is just a 3d galvanized box nail used to fasten wood shingles.

How do I finish or treat wood siding.

Most wood siding can be stained or painted, or finished with a clear coat to let the natural grain show through.

Can ceiling tile be installed in the bathroom?

Some kinds can. Some manufacturers have ceiling tile with a feature that protects against humidity.

Is tile a project I can do myself?

Many do-it-yourselfers have had great success installing their own tile.

Does wallboard have an R value?

Yes. Generally, 3/8” board is 0.32, 1/2” board is 0.45 and 5/8” board is 0.56.

Is there a plywood I can use for fence panels, instead of buying lots of individual slats?

You can use Siding plywood. It is often used for siding a house.

What is kiln dried lumber?

Kiln drying is sending lumber through an oven to drive the moisture out of the wood. The alternative is air drying, which means the lumber is stacked outside until the moisture evaporates from the wood. Lumber used in homes must be dried before it is used. Otherwise, it will shrink and cause problems in the structure.

View category→

Building Materials Terms (161)

Reflective Foil Insulation

  • Radiant BarrierOne type is made of foil and poly to trap air between the sheets of foil, generally using bubble pack.
  • A second type expands when installed between stud spaces. The resistance to heat flow depends on the heat flow direction. This type of insulation is most effective in reducing downward heat flow.
  • Comes in long rolls of various widths.
  • May be used in conjunction with many different building materials and cut to fit any shape.
  • Typically installed between roof rafters, floor joists or wall studs.
  • When a single reflective surface is used alone and faces an open space such as an attic, then it is called a radiant barrier.

Fiberglass Door

  • Easy to maintain and requires less time to refinish.
  • Will not rot, crack or split.
  • Comes in a variety of styles including sidelights, transoms and glass.

Door Shoe

  • Made of extruded aluminum and vinyl.
  • Attached to the bottom of a door to help form a seal between the door and the threshold.
  • Used primarily in conjunction with a smooth top aluminum threshold to form a proper seal.
  • More durable and provides a better weather seal than a door sweep.

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.

Blacktop Sealer

  • Used to maintain outdoor asphalt surfaces.
  • The ultraviolet rays of the sun damage the asphalt binder used as the paving material. The sealer protects asphalt against oil, tar and gasoline and keeps water from settling in pores.
  • Apply at 70°F or higher and require 24 to 48 hours to dry before use.
  • The coal tar type of sealer needs to be resurfaced yearly and may contain hazardous chemicals.
  • The acrylic sealer type is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

Premixed Concrete

  • Contains all the elements needed to mix concrete except water.
  • Generally comes in 40-, 60- or 80-lb. bags.
  • Typically used for minor concrete repairs or projects such as setting a post or replacing a section of a sidewalk.

Top of Paneling

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


  • Connects a pipe to a wall, floor or any flat surface.
  • Flanges are threaded onto pipe and tightened. Four screw holes allow the flange rim to attach to a flat surface.
  • A Closet Flange is made to connect toilets to drain and vent systems.
  • Another type is the Offset Closet Flange that is used when the drain pipe has been incorrectly positioned.
  • The adjustable ring on some closet flanges allows for easier toilet alignment.

Silicone Rubber Adhesive

  • Ideal for strong, flexible joints on wood, dissimilar surfaces such as metal, rubber, glass, ceramics, brick, wood and polystyrene foam.

Drywall Joint Compound

  • Is used in drywall construction as a bedding compound for the joint tape and to finish seams between drywall.
  • It is available in powder or ready-mixed form and comes in quarts, gallons and 5-gallon pails. Some ready-mixed types may also be used as texture paint.
  • One pound is sufficient for four lineal yards of joint surfaces.
View category→

Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Wire Nuts

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

Track Lighting

  • A system of movable lights wired to a metal track that makes a great accent lighting choice for living rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms.
  • Available in many colors, sizes and shapes, is easy to install and flexible since the lights can be moved around and repositioned.


  • Refers to a collection of two or more strands of wire or conductors.
  • Basically, cable has a “hot” line to carry the current and a “neutral” line to complete the loop. They often have a third wire as that acts as a grounding wire.
  • Classified according to the number of wires it contains and their size or gauge.
  • All cables are marked with a series of letters followed by a number, a dash and another number. The letters indicate the type of insulation (cord, wire and insulation). The first number indicates the resistance of the wires in the cable, and the number following the dash indicates the number of individual conductors in the cable.
  • If the designator “G” follows the series it means that the cable is also equipped with a non-current-carrying ground wire. Hence, the designator USE 12-3/G indicates an underground cable containing three separately insulated wires capable of carrying 20 amps of current plus a grounding wire.
  • The most common jackets are NM-B (Non-Metallic Building Indoor), UF-B (Underground Feed) and BX, which is flexible metallic cable.
  • Two-conductor cable contains one black wire and one white wire. The black wire is always the “hot” wire and must be fused. The white is always neutral and must never be fused. When current bridges the gap from the 110V hot wire to the neutral, it results in a 110V input to the appliance.
  • Three-conductor cable contains a red wire in addition to black and white. The black and red wires are “hot,” carrying 110V each, and both must be fused. The white remains neutral. This three-wire circuit is increasingly common in home wiring; it accommodates major 220V appliances, such as ranges and air conditioners.
  • BX cable is armored metallic cable. It consists of two or three insulated wires individually wrapped in spiral layers of paper. The steel casing acts as a ground wire. There is also a bond wire included in the casing that acts as a ground if the casing breaks.
  • Romex® cable is a flat, beige thermoplastic jacket surrounding two or three wires. Each wire is wrapped in insulation and a spiral paper tape. Type NM means it can be used indoors. Type NMC means it can be used indoors or outdoors. Type UF means it is suitable for use underground outdoors.

Greenfield Conduit

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

Rechargeable Battery

  • A commonly used type is the nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery.
  • Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are another alternative, and they outlast NiCd batteries by up to 40 percent.
  • Rechargeable batteries will lose their charge if not used for an extended period of time (30 to 60 days).

Electrical Tape

  • Most common type is plastic, usually 3/4” wide.
  • Handy for many uses. In electrical work, it is used to cover bare wires after they have been exposed.

Can Light

  • Also known as recessed lights.
  • Provides ambient lighting.
  • Ideal for rooms with low ceilings and can be used to supplement existing light in kitchens and bathrooms.

Home Networking

  • Home networks connect multiple computers in the home, satellite dishes, cable TV, sophisticated audio systems and home.
  • The heart of these systems is the networking hub. Usually thought of in conjunction with computers, the home network hub differs in that it provides central control of computers, peripherals, phones, TVs and audio components. This is the unit where most of the wiring from different locations comes together to meet.
  • Most home networks use coaxial, Category 3 and Category 5 cable. Coaxial cable is used for TVs, VCRs and satellite equipment. Category 3 cable is used for telephones while Category 5 is used for telephone, fax and computer systems. Some cables combine different functions into one cable.
  • “Structured” wiring refers to a bundle of cables that runs from the networking hub to meet a home’s future information-carrying needs. This wire bundle may consist of some combination of Category 5 cables, fiber-optic lines, Category 3 cables and coaxial lines.
  • Jacks are used to terminate the cable. There are different jacks for telephones, computers, satellite, audio and video equipment. Many of these jacks and cable connectors require special tools for installation.
  • Patch cords are used to connect different computer and audio/video devices with one another or with a central networking device such as a hub.
  • Binding posts are used to connect bare speaker wire, while F-Connectors are used with coaxial cable.

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.


  • The opposite of a plug. It has slots or openings on the inside designed to receive male receptacles or plugs.
  • Technically known as a female receptacle.
  • Larger appliances have special configurations (often called NEMA configurations). The configuration of the slots must match the configuration of the prongs on the plug.
View category→

Electrical FAQ's (92)

What do the colors of the plastic insulation mean on wires?

They are designed to indicate their use, but be careful, because they are not always hooked correctly. Hot wires, those carrying current at full voltage, are usually black, red or white with black marks. Neutral wires are usually with or gray. Ground wires are usually either green or bare copper.

Is it easy to replace a faulty plug?

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

Do I need a special lamp for this droplight?

I recommend a rough service bulb. These heavy-duty bulbs will take rougher treatment and water droplets.

Is it okay to use an extension cord with a fuse on it rather than a surge protector for my computer?

No, a surge protector has components that trip before a spike in electricity damages your electronic equipment.

What is the easiest way to test an outlet?

Use a receptacle analyzer. Leave the power on, but make sure nothing is plugged into any outlet on the circuit, and turn off all switches on the circuit. Now, plug the analyzer into the outlet.  A series of lights will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly and working.

I have some slots left on my circuit breaker box that do not have breakers in them. Can I add more circuits?

You need to see how many amps your box is rated for and then look at the existing circuits to see how many total amps are already being used. If you have not reached the maximum, it’s possible to add more, but its best to have a professional do the work inside the box unless you have the specific knowledge.

What tool should I use to strip the plastic sheathing off wire?

A combination wire stripper tool has openings that fit different sizes of wire. When a wire is put into the correct one and pulled it will remove the covering without damaging the wire.

The dryer plug will not fit the receptacle in our new house. How can I remedy this?

In most new homes, there should be four-prong dryer and range receptacles. If you have a three prong power cord, you will need to change it.

Should I just throw away my old recyclable batteries?

No, laws require that they be recycled. This includes Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion) and small sealed Lead (Pb) batteries. You can look for a battery recycling seal on the rechargeable batteries found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless telephones, laptop computers and camcorders.

How does a voltage tester work?

A non-contact voltage tester measures the difference in electrostatic charge between the person holding the tester and the tip. If you hold it near an energized cable it will sound or flash (or both). These devices, however, do have limitations, including detecting ghost voltage (or phantom voltage), which has bled over from a nearby energized cable or device. Contact testers (or continuity testers, as they are called) have probes that are inserted into the slots in a receptacle. They can also test for correct grounding to make sure the receptacle is wired correctly. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using these products.

View category→

Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Felt Weather Strip

  • Least expensive type of weather stripping, but also has the shortest life.
  • Installs by gluing, nailing or stapling to the frame or molding around doors so the door will close snugly and quietly against it.
  • A good choice when appearance is no concern.
  • Available in a variety of widths, thicknesses and quality.
  • Reinforced felt weather strip is sturdier and designed to last longer.

Bifold Door

  • A door that comes in two sections.
  • Each section is hinged to its side of the doorway with a single fold down the center of each. When closed, they meet in the middle of the doorway.
  • Usually designed for an extra-wide doorway between rooms and on closets.
  • Constructed of metal, wood or composite wood. It can also feature decorative glass or mirrored glass for decorative effect.
  • Louvered bifold doors are an assembly of slats—or sometimes a combination of panels and slats—that slope downward to permit ventilation while preserving privacy.

Three-Dimensional Asphalt Shingle

  • Also known as a laminated asphalt shingle, or architectural shingle.
  • An inorganic shingle.
  • Characterized by a more rugged texture than a standard three-tab shingle.
  • Weighs and costs more than standard shingles.
  • Made of two or more layers that are laminated to create the three-dimensional look, giving it the appearance closer to wood or slate roofing.

Towel Bar/Towel Ring

  • Often sold in a style that matches other bathroom accessories, and some manufacturers will match them to light fixtures.
  • Mount on the wall or shower door.
  • Fancier models are stand alone and heated.
  • Sold in a variety of finishes.

Picture Window

  • A fixed window.
  • Has no moving parts or sashes and does not open.
  • Sometimes used with another window type, such as an awning window.
  • Usually a fixed window available in various shapes, such as an oval, arch, ellipse, octagon or circle.


  • A window installed on a sloping roof. Also called a roof window.
  • Can be stationary or vented.
  • Sizes range from 18” to 60” wide to 18” to 60” long. Usually, there should be only one square foot of skylight for every 20 square feet of floor space.
  • Opening the window can be controlled by a manual crank,sometimes reached with a long pole, or by a remote electronic operation.
  • A tubular skylight is one type designed for rooms where a larger, standard skylight may not be practical. Easy to install, it features a one-piece flashing system to eliminate the possibility of leaks.
  • A self-flashing or curb-mounted roof window works best with asphalt or fiberglass shingles.

Corner Bead

  • Used to protect and decorate the outside corners of an interior wall.
  • An alternative to clear plastic corners


  • Changes the direction of a run of gutter.
  • An outside mitre is used for an inside turn of a gutter.
  • An inside mitre is used for an outside turn of a gutter.

Construction Adhesive

  • Also known as mastic, which is a general term for any thick adhesive.
  • Used in heavy-duty bonding and construction, mastics are usually applied with a caulking gun or trowel.
  • Reduces the need for screws, nails and other fasteners.
  • Flexible and waterproof qualities make them ideal for outdoor applications.
  • Can be used to join flooring and sub-flooring, paneling, drywall and roofing, molding, tile, masonry and concrete, metal and wood.

Plaster of Paris

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

FAQs (0)

I want a countertop that has a sink molded in with no seams to caulk or get dirty.

The solid surface countertop has this type of sink and is very easy to keep clean.

What’s the best way to insulate around the air conditioner?

There is a special type of air conditioner weather strip. It consists of a rectangular polyfoam that press-fits between the top frame or lower sash and upper pane. It seals off the air spaces between the window and the air conditioner.

How many hinges do I need for my door?

Use three butt hinges for doors up to 3 feet wide, and four hinges for wider doors. You’ll also want four hinges for doors taller than 7 feet tall.

Can I paint aluminum siding?

You can paint aluminum siding. Be sure to prep it properly by sanding with a fine-grit paper and clean it. Replace dented siding or repair with filler made for metal. Also prime any bare aluminum using a metal primer.

What kind of nails should I use to install paneling?

Use panel nails that are ringshank and are color matched to the paneling you are installing. Use 1” nails if you are attaching the paneling directly to the studs. Use 1-1/2” if you are attaching the paneling through a solid backing such as drywall.

Why is there a haze on the tile after I’ve set the grout?

The haze over the tile is grout residue. You can remove it with a scouring pad and water.

What’s the advantage of ceramic tile over vinyl in my kitchen?

Ceramic tile is easy to maintain and more durable than vinyl. It will also last longer, which means it is more cost effective over the long run. Also, it is more likely to increase the value of your home.

What is the difference between regular and Type X wallboard?

To be a type X wallboard, the board must be made by adding noncombustible fibers with the gypsum. The fibers help the board to be more fire resistant during exposure to fire. To achieve a type X rating, the board must meet certain criteria for fire resistance.

What is CDX plywood?

CDX is one of the less expensive plywood you can buy. C and D refer to the grading of the front and back sides. They are rough and not meant for places where appearance matters. The X means it is rated for exterior use. However, it is only meant for limited exterior use. For permanent exterior use, use a panel with an exterior rating.

What is SPF wood?

SPF stands for Spruce-Pine-Fir. An SPF wood can be either of these species, which share similar characteristics, including high strength, lightweight and durability. They can be used for a variety of purposes, such as home building, trusses or home projects.

View category→

Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

What’s an auger bit used for in drilling?

It primarily used for cutting deep holes in all types of wood.

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

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

I need to make an accurate cut with a circular saw, but it’s difficult to keep straight.

You can get more accurate cuts by using a guide or fence that help you stay on the right path.

How do I choose a cordless power drill?

For occasional around-the-house chores, a lightweight 9.6V model is a cost-effective choice.  It will drive about 50 screws between charges. For light remodeling projects, a 12.0V model will drive about 150 screws. For heavy duty jobs such as drilling in metal or major remodeling, consider a 14.0V drill. An 18.0V model is usually only needed by professionals requiring high torque.

Are staples interchangeable with different staplers?

No the brand of staples should match the brand of stapler.

What can I use to clean my deck?

You can use one of the deck brightener products that are on the market, or you can use TSP (trisodium phosphate). You can also use a power washer if you are careful not to mar the wood.

How big of a snow blower do I need?

Most consumers buy a single-stage model, which has a rubber paddle that reaches to the ground. People with driveways that are wider than two cars may want to consider a two-stage model. These can throw snow farther, because they have an intake and an impeller that throws the snow. However, these do not always clean all the way to the surface of the drive.

Does it matter what kind of blade I buy for my bandsaw?

There are different types of blades for different types of cuts, but here are a few blades that will give you versatility. A 1/4” wide blade is a good, all-purpose blade. A 4-tpi 1/4” size is good for quick curved cuts, or try a 6-tpi 1/4” blade for slower speeds and smoother cuts. The 1/2” hook-tooth blade is best for long straight cuts. For joinery or tight cuts, use a 1/8”, 14-tpi blade.

Why do snips come in right- and left-handed models?

The different types of snips are used to make cuts in different directions.

What’s the difference between a file and a rasp?

A file is generally used to smooth metal, where a rasp is specifically designed for shaping wood.

View category→

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Shingler’s Hammer

  • Drives roofing nails, assures proper shingle spacing, trims composition and fiberglass shingles.
  • Typically includes slotted, replaceable cutting blade.


Level Head Garden Rake

  • Has a level head set close to the handle.
  • Used to break up and smooth soil after it has been spaded and cultivated.
  • Has sharp, curved steel teeth to pulverize dirt clods.
  • The straight back is good for leveling the soil for planting.

Starter Punch

• Used to make a starter mark that can be enlarged with a pin punch.

• Generally ranges in length from 4” to 7”.


Star (Torx®) Tip Screwdriver

  • Designed for use with star head screws and bolts to reduce slippage.
  • Tips have six lobular drive surfaces to provide additional contact surface with the screw head.
  • Vertical sides transmit torque perpendicularly to the driven element so there is no slipping or cam-out.

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.

Mud Pan

  • Pan for holding drywall joint compound in hand during application process.
  • Generally 12” in length with tapered sides for easily applying joint compound onto taping knife.
  • Plastic models generally have a replaceable scraping bar for cleaning excess joint compound from taping knives and trowels.
  • Galvanized steel models feature watertight seams and sheared sides.

Tiling Trowel

  • Used for spreading mortar on substrate before laying tile.
  • Includes models that make both square and “V” notches.
  • Notch sizes range from 1/8” to ¼”.

Angle Vise

  • Contains marked adjustments to permit clamping at different angles.
  • Can also be adjusted to a flat position and used as a regular vise.
  • Can be locked into any position with a thumb screw, and bolts can be tightened for permanent positioning.

Plastic Pipe Saw

  • Designed to cut PVC and ABS plastic.
  • Can also cut wood and drywall.

Carpenter’s Hatchet

  • Also called a half hatchet.
  • For general use of felling and trimming trees or notching wood.
  • Other popular hatchet models include Hunter’s Hatchets, Broad Hatchets, and Camping Hatchets.
View category→

Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Machine Bolt

  • Comes with regular, square, hex, button or countersunk heads.
  • Square heads fasten joints and materials where bolt requirements are not too severe.
  • Button heads work best where smooth surfaces are necessary.
  • Use countersunk heads for flush surfaces.


Sleeve Anchor

  • Has a steel sleeve on the shank, split at the bottom so it can expand.
  • The bolt has a cone-shaped plug at the base and a nut at the top.
  • When the user places the anchor in the hole and tightens the nut, it draws the bolt upward, pulling the plug into the sleeve and expanding it against the hole.

Plumber’s Chain

  • A weldless, stamped, flat link chain.
  • Used to attach plumbing fixtures and for general utility purposes.

Picture Hanger

  • Nail Hangers consist of a piece of metal with a hook on the lower end of a twist and loop that forms a nail hole. Depending on the size, this type will hold from 10 lbs. to 100 lbs.
  • Adhesive Hanger is a piece of flat metal with cuts or serrations along either edge that attaches to the back of a picture frame. The strip will stick to any clean, flat surface like glass, wood or metal. For light-duty use only.
  • Adjustable Hanger is a piece of flat metal with cuts or “serrations” along either edge that attaches to the back of a picture frame. Serrations allow for adjustment. For light-duty use only.
  • Utility Hanger is a hook that has an eye drilled into the flat upper piece for nailing or screwing to the wall. For light to medium use.
  • Hook Anchor is made of polypropylene and can be used in hollow or solid walls. For light to medium use. It will hold mirrors and pictures.
  • Hardwall Hanger is a plastic hook with case-hardened pins that can drive into brick or concrete walls to hold light- to medium-weight mirrors and pictures.
  • Flush Mount Hanger has two pieces of formed metal. One piece mounts to the picture and the other to the wall. These pieces interlock to create a high-load system.

Touch Catch

  • Helps the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Also called a push catch.
  • Mounts inside the cabinet and needs no knobs or pulls.
  • User operates by simply pushing on the door, the catch releases and the door springs open.

Door Plates

  • Kick plates protect the bottom of the door from scuffing.
  • Push plates provide a non-marring surface where the user can push the door open.
  • Pull plates provide a handle to open doors.
  • Adds a decorative touch to doors.
  • Available in a variety of materials, including brass, stainless steel and anodized aluminum.

Drywall Nail

  • Ring-shanked nail used for attaching sheets of drywall gypsum board to interior wood wall studs.
  • Flat, slightly countersunk head permits driving just below the surface, forming a depression that can be covered with drywall joint compound or spackling.

Stove Bolt

  • Used to hold light metals or wood.
  • Heads can be flat, oval or round.
  • Heads are slotted for a screwdriver.
  • Usually supplied with a nut and is intended for use with a nut.


Wedge Anchor

  • Has a shank similar to a sleeve anchor—a solid shank, threaded at the top and with a cone-shaped plug at the bottom.
  • Shank is grooved on opposite sides.
  • As the nut on top is tightened, the washer pushes the rectangular shank down and spreads the wedges over the plug.

Double Loop Wire Chain

  • Made of light-gauge wire with the links formed by knotting or tying the wire to the desired link size.
  • One of the most popular chains because of its versatility.
  • Commonly used for dog runners, swing sets, playground uses and padlocks.
View category→

Hardware FAQ's (78)

I am building a swing. What type of chain do you recommend?

Passing link allows the links to pass each other easily, which helps prevent kinking and tangling?

What are the advantages of a carriage bolt?

The square shoulder, sunk into wood, prevents the bolt from turning and the round head gives a smoother finish.

What kind of anchor should I use to attach machinery to a concrete floor?

Use a heavy expansion anchor such as a sleeve or wedge anchor.

What can I use to tighten up a sagging clothesline?

A turnbuckle installed at one end permits you to tighten the line to the desired tautness.

How many nails should I purchase?

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

How strong should the chain be I buy?

Chains are all rated to their working loads. Welded chains have links that are welded to form a continuous loop, and are the strongest. Weldless chains are formed by bending, twisting or knotting the metal to form individual loops. They are recommended for light work only.

What do the marks on the head of a bolt mean?

They represent the hardness of the bolt. No marks indicates the least hard, three marks is medium hardness and bolts with six marks are the hardest.

What kind of anchor should I use if I’m attaching conduit to a foundation wall?

Use either hammer anchors or a concrete/masonry screw.

What fixture can I use which will enable me to hang a picture straight?

For lightweight pictures, a saw-toothed hanger on picture frames will permit you to adjust the picture on the nail.

What do I need to know to buy the right type of caulk?

The type of caulk you use will depend on the following factors:

  • Where it will be applied?
  • What type of surfaces will be bonded or caulked?
  • How much stress or movement will the joint be subject to?
View category→

Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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.

How do I clean my air cleaner?

Remove the intake grill and wash with warm, soapy water. Do not place in a dishwasher. Make sure it is dry before returning it to the unit. Dust the outlet grille; do not clean it with water.

How large of a humidifier should I buy?

There are three main sizes of humidifiers. The portable type, or tabletop style, is intended to service a single room. The console humidifiers can output from six to 13 gallons of water per day, enough for several rooms. An in-duct humidifier can be installed in a forced-air heating system.

What is the advantage of the higher priced air filters for furnaces?

They take out smaller particulates that are circulating in the air.

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

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

How should I clean my washable filter?

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

What is the benefit of a humidifier?

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

How do I attach insulation between floor joists?

Insulation must be installed with the vapor barrier facing up. This means the paper flanges cannot be used. Use insulation supports (thin metal rods) to support the insulation. You can also attach a string in a lace pattern across the bottom of the joists.

View category→

Heating & Cooling Terms (56)


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

Floor Fan

  • Can be moved anywhere in the home to provide air movement that will cool and circulate air.
  • Sizes are generally 10” to 12” in diameter. They can be mounted in rectangular or round, hassock-type case.
  • A hassock fan throws air outward and upward in a 360° direction.
  • A rectangular fan will tile about 170° and may be used as a table fan, throwing air outward.
  • Typically has a speed-selection control, while some may run at a fixed speed.
  • One variation is the stand-mounted fan. This type can generally be easily tilted and may be used as an exhaust fan if placed near a window.

Pleated Filter

  • A low-cost alternative to fiberglass filters, designed to protect the home’s HVAC system from dust.
  • Made of a dense and efficient cotton/polyester material.
  • The pleated design provides greater surface area to capture more particles than fiberglass filters.
  • Smaller sized particles can pass through the filter because fibers are not eletrostatically charge and the media must be woven with spaces between fibers to allow adequate airflow.
  • This type of filter should be changed every 90 days.


  • 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.

Oscillating Fan

  • Moves back and forth in an adjustable pattern to spread air over a larger area.
  • Oscillation function can generally be switched off with the turn of a knob.
  • May be used on the floor, a table or mounted on the wall.
  • Usually does not have as high an air delivery as floor fans.
  • Typically ranges in size from 8” to 16” in diameter.
  • Tile angle varies from about 50° to 90°.

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.

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.
View category→

Home Security FAQ's (38)

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

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

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

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.

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

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

Where should I install carbon monoxide detectors in the home?

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

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 are the different types of smoke detectors?

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

What 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.

Where should I keep a fire extinguisher in my home?

Don’t mount it too close to where a fire is likely to occur. For example, don’t keep it next to the stove. A good place is at the top of the stairs or near a workshop. In most cases, it’s a good idea to have a fire extinguisher for every 600 square feet of living space.

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.

View category→

Home Security Terms (35)

Photoelectric Fire Detector

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

Trailer Lock

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

Ionization Fire Detector

  • Measures the changes in electric current caused by invisible particles ionized in the heat of combustion.
  • Transforms air inside the detector into a conductor of electric current. When smoke enters the detector and impedes the flow of current, the alarm sounds.
  • Responds particularly well to the smoke caused by a flaming fire.
  • Requires little power and is effectively powered by household batteries.
  • Slower to respond to a smoldering fire.
  • Detectors are required to emit a low warning when batteries are weak.

Gun Lock

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

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.
View category→

Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

When do I apply a pre-emergent herbicide?

These are applied in late winter or early spring before seeds begin to germinate.

What’s the difference between a 2- and 4-cycle engine?

With a two-cycle engine, you will have to mix oil with the gasoline. Two-cycle engines tend to be more efficient and usually require less maintenance, but only if properly maintained. However, they are also known for producing more pollution.

How much of this chemical should I use?

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, because overuse can often lead to poor results. For example, too much fertilizer can damage your lawn.

Are there tree trimmers you can use from the ground?

Yes, pole tree trimmers typically extend 12’ to 20’. Shears with a pulley and rope can cut about a 1” diameter branch, and saws are used on branches up to about 6”. For these and larger branches you may want to consider a chain saw.

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.

When should I dethatch my lawn?

Dethatch after thatch on the ground has built up past 1/2 inch. Some thatch on the ground is useful as it acts as insulation, holding in moisture and keeping out high heat. Too much thatch can prevent moisture, air and nutrients from reaching the soil. It also encourages pests and lawn disease.

How long does it take before my plants are ready to be transplanted outdoors?

It depends on when you started your seeds. It’s usually takes about 6 to 8 weeks before plants are hearty enough to be transplanted outside. Just make sure it’s late enough in the spring that there isn’t any chance of frost.

How do I compost?

Compost converts waste material into a fertilizer. Bins should be almost 30 cubic feet to ensure it retains enough heat to spur composting. Choose a location for your bin that is partially shaded. A pile can contain leaves, grass clippings, prunings, straw, spoiled hay, coffee grounds, eggshells, paper and wood ash. Remember you should add equal parts of green material (nitrogen) like fresh grass clippings and food scraps to one part brown (carbon) such as leaves. Keep it as wet as a wrung-out sponge and aerate your pile by stirring it once a week. You can layer in manure, garden soil and commercial fertilizer to speed bacterial action. You should have finished compost in about three months.

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.

View category→

Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Centipede Grass

  • Good in moderate shade and infertile soil.
  • Has few insect or disease problems.
  • A good lawn for hot areas.

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.

Pelletized Fertilizer

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

Household Pesticides

  • Kill or repel pests that could come inside the home.
  • Improper application can have harmful effects on families and pets.
  • One popular type is the spray or fogger. These penetrate the cracks and crevices inside the house where insects nest. Users will need to leave the house for a period of time while the chemical works.
  • When using foggers, read the warning labels regarding use around open flames. The pilot lights on gas furnaces and appliances will ignite the insecticide if it reaches a high enough concentration in the home.
  • Pest repellents keep insects and rodents from entering the home. Common examples are sprays that repel dogs and wild animals from gardens and flowerbeds, or spray-on mosquito repellents that can be used on skin or clothing.
  • Pest traps will kill or confine rodents or insects. Common examples are the mousetrap and the roach trap. Traps incorporate some type of bait.
  • Poisons are ingested directly into the pest. Keep in mind they can also be harmful to household pets or small children.
  • Be sure to read the pesticide package carefully and follow all instructions.

Trailer Cart

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

Pistol Nozzle

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

Spike-Type Aerator

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

Long Handle Square Shovel

  • Square blade is made of steel and is forged or hot-formed to the front strap as a single unit.
  • Best used for scooping and removing materials.
  • Broader blade has a higher holding capacity.
  • The top of the blade may have a turned lip called the foot pedal.

Diamond Weave Fencing

  • Extra-strong fencing with close mesh spacing.
  • Used often in public areas because it is more expensive than ordinary fencing but lasts longer.
  • Similar in appearance to chain link fence.
  • Can be vinyl-coated or galvanized.
  • Typically available in 50’ rolls 36” or 48” high.

Bermuda Grass

  • Spreads by fast-growing surface runners during warm periods.
  • Becomes brown and dormant from first frost until late spring.
  • Not recommended for northern areas.
View category→

Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

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.

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.

How much of an area will a gallon of paint cover?

For many paints, a gallon will cover 400 square feet. However, the quality of the paint can affect how much it will cover. The label on the paint can usually provides some guidance.  In addition, there are a number of factors that affect how much paint you will need. These include the type of surface being covered, the color currently on the surface and the color being applied.

What’s the best way to apply varnish?

The best type of room is one that is not too humid and is about 70 to 75 degrees. To protect against debris from getting onto the finished piece, the room should be free from dust. You might even consider mopping the room or covering the floor with paper. Make sure that the surface to be varnished is clean, dry and free of any finishes.Try to have the piece horizontal. In addition, to mix the varnish, stir it. Don’t shake it, because air bubbles can get into your finished piece.

What are the quality features in a good roller?

Good roller frames have a compression-type cage, which is also convenient, because their covers can be removed quickly and easily. Also, look for a handle that has a threaded end so you can use an extension pole for painting floors and ceilings.

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.

What is a tack cloth?

It’s a cloth that picks up and holds dirt, sand and other debris. You should use one on any surface before you apply a coat of paint or any other finish.

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 clean my roller cover or throw it away?

It depends. When used with latex paint, roller covers can be easily cleaned and reused. First, use the curved part of a 5-in-1 tool to scrape out as much paint from the roller as possible. Then, use the same tool to wash out the paint using a sink or bucket until the water runs clean. Put the roller cover back on the roller handle and spin as much moisture out as possible. Then put it back in its plastic sleeve. If used with oil-base paint, go ahead and discard it.

Should I use a different type of roller cover for oil-based paint and latex paint?

Yes, just as you would with a paint brush. Natural fiber roller covers made with mohair or a blend of polyester and lamb’s wool are usually recommended for oil-based paints, varnish and stains. Synthetic fiber roller covers, on the other hand, are most often recommended for applying latex paints.

View category→

Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Epoxy Paint

  • Is primarily for bare or previously finished wood and concrete floors. It penetrates rapidly and can be applied with a brush or mop.
  • Adheres to most surfaces and is especially good for doors, cabinets, trim and furniture—any interior wood surface where a clear-gloss, easy-to-clean finish is desired.
  • Resists detergent, oil and alkali, but may lose gloss and chalk under exposure to sun and weather.
  • Epoxy finishes are formulated in one- or two-part systems.
  • Two-part epoxies come in kits containing equal size cans and contents are mixed; they are more chemical- and abrasion- resistant than one-component epoxies.


Paintbrush Comb

  • Used to clean paint and other coatings out of paintbrushes.
  • Simply run comb through paint brush filaments while running under warm water or while soaking in solvent-based cleaners for oil-based paints.

Natural Sea Sponge

  • Used with sponging technique to apply paint and glaze to the surface to give a mottled look.
  • Process begins with application of a coat of paint in a solid color. Once this coat is dry, the damp sponge is then used to add glaze in another color.
  • One line of sponges comes with a plastic handle that can be removed as well as a smaller trim sponge for corners.
  • Can also be used with a negative method, which involves applying a base coat, then a glaze coat. A sponge is then used to remove some of the glaze before it has a chance to dry, partially exposing the color of the base coat.

Patching Plaster

  • Is a fast-setting powder ready to use by adding water.
  • It dries hard to uniform, white color.
  • It repairs and covers large holes and deep cracks in plaster walls and ceilings.
  • Patching plaster may be drilled, sanded and painted and can be textured to match existing surface.

Corner Pad

  • A corner pad is a paint pad shaped in a 90 degree angle to allow for easy painting of corners.

Enamel Paint

  • Is a type of oil-based or water-based paint with superior adhesion qualities.
  • Used in both exterior and interior applications.
  • Provides a resilient durable finish that can last for years.



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

Ladder Jacks

  • Convert a pair of extension ladders into a working platform.
  • Ladder jacks can accommodate 12”, 14” and 20” wide planks, depending on the model, and can be attached to either 2 or 3 rungs.
  • Clamp secures platform to ladder jacks and ties supporting ladders together to help secure entire ladder jack system.
  • Can be mounted to either side of an extension ladder.

Spackling Compound

  • Is used for patching cracked plaster, filling nail holes, repairing wallboard and smoothing surface imperfections on unprimed wood.
  • Lightweight vinyl spackling is the easiest to use—it resists shrinking, cracking and sagging and requires little sanding.
  • One type of spackling changes color when optimum drying time is achieved. It goes on pink and turns white when dry to signal time for sanding and painting.
  • While some are formulated specifically for either interior or exterior applications, many can be used in either situation.
  • Available in 8 oz., pint, quart and gallon buckets as well as 6 oz. tubes.

Paint Pad

  • Lies flat on the surface, allowing the user to avoid spattering.
  • Most pads are made of mohair or foam and can apply either latex or oil-based paints.
  • Some models have guide wheels or trim tabs that guarantee a straight line at the point of intersection.
  • Paint pads are also an excellent way to apply waterproof coating to a deck or fence. Attached to a long handle, they eliminate bending and stooping and can be washed and re-used.
View category→

Plumbing FAQ's (121)

My garbage disposal smells bad. What can I do?

There are garbage disposer cleaners that will eliminate this smell, or a home remedy is to grind up citrus peels in the disposer, which will also eliminate the smell.

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.

Do I need plumbers putty underneath my faucet?

This is a good idea to keep moisture from getting under the faucet and into the cabinet below.

What is a check valve?

A check valve keeps water from returning to the sump pit or crawl space after the pump shuts off.

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

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

How do I join PVC fittings to PVC pipe?

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

I have heat tape on my water line. What type of pipe wrap should I use over the heat tape?

Use fiberglass. Don’t use foam wrap, because the heat could melt it.

Can you have a garbage disposal if you have a septic system?

Yes, in fact, many manufacturers make models specifically for homes with septic systems.

View category→

Plumbing Terms (100)

Black Iron Pipe

  • Not treated for rust resistance.
  • Used for carrying steam or gas.
  • Used only with black iron pipe fittings, not galvanized fittings.
  • Measured using the I.D. (inside diameter).

Sewer Tape

  • An alternative to the auger, but not as effective in difficult blockages.
  • A flat metal band with a hook on one end.

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.

Boiler Drain Valve

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

Tank Water Heater

  • Can operate on either gas or electricity.
  • Copper-, stone- and glass-lined water heaters perform better than unlined aluminum or galvanized steel heaters.
  • A stainless steel alloy called HWT is designed to resist corrosion as well as the lined models.
  • Unlined galvanized steel tanks perform least well, but they are the least expensive and may prove satisfactory in localities where the water supply does not have adverse effects on equipment.
  • To stop tank corrosion, a magnesium-coated metal rod is available. It is hung inside the tank 3″ or 4″ away from the bottom. Because the magnesium paper eventually will be eaten away, the rod should be inspected from time to time and replaced when necessary.
  • Better-grade, non-metallic gas water heaters are also popular.
  • The tanks, although more expensive than metal models, are light, easy to install and corrosion-proof.
  • Advise homeowners to partially drain their water heater once or twice a year to remove the accumulation of sediment, which can affect operation.

Copper Fitting Cleaning Brush

  • Use to clean copper fittings before soldering.

PEX Pipe

  • PEX stands for crosslinked polyethylene.
  • Chief advantage is its flexibility and strength. It can make turns around corners without couplings.
  • In a PEX plumbing system, a separate line is run from the main water supply to each fixture in a set up much like a circuit breaker box.
  • Used for carrying hot and cold water.
  • Excellent chemical resistance to acids and alkalis, but do not use for fuel oil, gasoline or kerosene systems.
  • Do not weld with solvents. Join with heat fusion, flare, crimp ring or compression fittings.

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.

Pipe (Stillson) Wrench

  • Used to grasp pipes and other curved surfaces. Solid housings and hardened steel jaws provide excellent bite and grip.
  • Has two serrated jaws, one adjustable and the other fixed and slightly offset.
  • The Straight pattern is standard.
  • The End-pattern style has jaws slightly offset and is handy for working in restricted spaces or close to walls.
  • The Offset style has jaws at 90∫ to the handle and is also handy for tight spots.
  • The jaws will leave marks on the pipe, so itís best to avoid using them on coated pipe, such as galvanized pipe.
  • Some pipe wrenches have aluminum handles for lighter weight.


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.
View category→

Power Tools Terms (84)

Hammer Drill

  • Used to drill quickly through concrete, stone, block and brick.
  • While the drill turns, the drill vibrates the chuck back and forth or side-to-side to help the bit chip the material while it is drilling.
  • Many models have a mode selector, allowing the operator to choose rotation only, like a conventional drill, and hammer drill, which combines the drill and hammer action. Better models might offer a hammer only option for chisel and scraper attachments.
  • Do not confuse with a rotary hammer, which can accommodate core bits up to 6” in diameter. These tools have unique bit drive and retention methods rather than the conventional geared chuck.
  • Manufacturers will measure speed by rpm (revolutions per minute), and the hammer action by bpm (blows per minute).



  • Available in different types according to the type of application, such as roofing, drywall, concrete, finish and framing.
  • Framing nailers can use stick nails or coil nails. Nail sizes range from 1-1/2” to 3-1/2”.
  • Roofing nailers can be used to fasten asphalt and fiberglass shingles, siding or insulation board.
  • Finish nailers can be used to install molding, trim, paneling, door and window casings and cabinets.
  • Brad nailers are for firing brads, which is a tapered nail with a small head or a slight side projection instead of a head. They range in size from 5/8” to 2”.
  • Palm nailers are for work in tight spaces. Instead of firing nails, it operates like a pneumatic hammer to drive conventional nails with a repetitive series of blows.
  • Available in pneumatic, electric and cordless versions.


  • Used to cut and grind metal, concrete and masonry, for sharpening all tools, cutting into corners and tight spots, polishing, buffing and wire brushing.
  • Consists of a motor powering one or two grinding wheels, often mounted on a workbench.

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.

Rip Fence

  • Provides a guide for a circular saw that allows it to rip large sheets of plywood.
  • Usually made to fit a specific brand and model of saw.

Cordless Drill

  • Operates with a rechargeable battery, with sizes ranging from 9.6 volts to 24 volts.
  • Most portable drill and popular among DIYers and professionals alike.
  • Lower-voltage drills cannot handle more heavy-duty drilling jobs.
  • An important feature is an adjustable clutch. This lets the user select the degree of force applied to the drill. This helps prevent the motor from stalling and overheating, which can damage the battery.


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.


  • Used for wood turning applications to create spindles, miniatures, bowls and plates.
  • Consists of a track or bed, headstock, tailstock and a tool support or rest.
  • The tool locks in a piece of wood, with the headstock turning the piece and the tailstock supporting the other end.
  • Different types of tools shape the wood as it is spinning.

Auger Drill Bit

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

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.
View category→

Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Platform Ladder

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

Web Clamp

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

Step Ladder

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

Spring Clamp

  • Similar to a clothes pin, this clamp consists of two metal jaws to which clamping pressure is applied by use of a steel spring.
  • They are designed for use with thin materials.
  • Spring clamps are versatile enough for home, hobby or professional use indoors or outdoors, holding round or odd-shaped objects.
  • They typically come with 1″, 2″ or 3″ jaw openings.

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.
View category→