DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

I need some joist hangers. Do you have any recommendations?

The most important factor is to make sure you are buying the right joist hanger that fits the dimension of lumber are you using.

What’s the best way to sand drywall without getting dust all over my house?

A hand sander that can be connected to a shop vacuum is probably your best bet. In addition, be sure to put up plastic sheeting on doorways to seal off the area being sanded from the rest of the house. And don’t forget to close registers and seal off heat returns to keep dust from entering the home’s duct work and HVAC system.

Can I install a hardwood floor over a concrete slab?

Generally, you should not install a solid wood floor over a concrete slab. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you want to install one over a slab, you first need to install a vapor barrier and a wooden subfloor on top of the slab. For best results, try an engineered floor over a concrete slab.

Do I need to use glue on wood joints when using pocket screws?

While most manufacturers of pocket screw joinery kits say you don’t have to, it certainly can’t hurt.

What tools do I need to replace a screen?

You’ll need a utility knife, a screen installation tool.

Should I protect my wood floor from furniture?

We recommend felt pads or some other type of protector to be placed between the furniture leg and the floor.

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

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

Are there any advantages to a laminate countertop?

A laminate countertop is inexpensive and resists stains. They are also very easy to install.

What is the difference between the door sill and the threshold?

The door sill is part of the frame structure of the door and sits under the door jamb. The threshold sits on top of the sill and performs the duty of making the door weathertight.

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Bronze Screening

  • Offers a nostalgic look for accenting old homes.
  • Made of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc.
  • Screen weathers to a dark finish.

Batt Insulation

  • Sold in either pre-cut or perforated into shorter lengths.
  • Use is similar to roll insulation, but best for use where there are many cross beams or other obstructions.
  • Available in R-values of R-11, R-13, R-15, R-19, R-21, R-22, R-30 and R-38. Thicknesses range from 3-1/2” to 12”.
  • Batts installed in wall should not be compressed to fit. Also, do not stuff behind wires. Rather, cut to fit around them.

Plastic Roof Cement

  • A trowel-grade, general-use sealing compound.
  • Makes flashings, seams or patches in roofs and gutters water-repellent.

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.

Dryer Vent

  • Provides an exhaust for the dryer.
  • Most models feature flaps or louvers that remain closed when not in use.
  • Available in a kit that includes the vent, ductwork and dryer attachment.

Hardwood Flooring

  • Available in planks or parquet tiles.
  • Some types install with nails, others with glue.
  • Popular types of wood are oak, maple, beech, birch and pecan.
  • Has tongue and groove joints for a tight installation.

Anchoring Cement

  • Used for setting bolts, handrails or anything to be set in concrete.
  • Develops a strength greater than concrete.

Treated Lumber

  • Lumber treated to resist weather, termites and fungus.
  • Treatment involves chemical preservatives forced deep into the cells in the wood under pressure.
  • Wood used for decks and other outdoor consumer use is generally treated with an inorganic chemical. In 2004, the EPA outlawed the use of arsenic as a method of treating wood. ACQ and copper azole are the current popular chemicals used.
  • Treated wood still absorbs water, and the treatment is not considered waterproof, but rather decay-proof.
  • Wood species typically used include Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, Hem-fir and Southern yellow pine.
  • Always wear respiratory protection when cutting treated lumber.

Bushing

  • Male threaded on one end with a smaller diameter female thread on the other.
  • Inserted inside a coupling to reduce the size of the pipe.
  • With a Reducer Bushing, any number of reductions can be made to reduce and couple to another size of pipe.
  • As Adapter Bushing connects different types of pipe, such as PVC to CPVC.

Instant-Setting Glue

  • Super GlueAlso called Super Glue (cyanoacrylates), this glue creates a strong, instant bond with a small amount of glue.
  • Regular cyanoacrylates will bond almost all non-porous materials such as ceramic, some plastics, rubber, metal or synthetics.
  • Comes in gel form.
  • Should be handled with extreme care and kept off of skin.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Doorbell

  • Some models are battery operated and are wireless. They are easiest to install.
  • If not battery operated, they require AC step-down transformers to reduce household voltage to the proper operating voltage.
  • Standard doorbells operate at 10V or 16V.

Time Delay Fuse

  • Similar in appearance to a plug fuse.
  • Provides a minimum time delay for small household motors that cause an electrical surge when started. That surge would cause a regular fuse to blow needlessly.

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.

Multiple Tap

  • Like the table tap, it plugs into an existing outlet to increase the number of outlets at a location.
  • It typically has four to six plugs.
  • Some models may contain circuit breakers or surge protectors, but may not be suitable for computer equipment.

Type S Fuse

  • Also known as Fustats® or Nontamperable
  • Similar in design and use to a plug fuse. However, it prevents anyone from replacing a lower-rated fuse with a higher one.
  • Has two parts: the fuse and the adapter. The adapter has a different diameter for each fuse ampere rating. Once the adapter of a particular size fuse has been inserted into the fuse socket, it cannot be removed. Only fuses with the same rating can be used in that socket.

Wall Plates

  • Also known as faceplates or covers.
  • A flat metal, plastic or wooden piece that covers the openings in the wall made by receptacles and switches.
  • The openings in the cover match the type and number or receptacles or switches being covered. Blank covers are also available.

Circuit Breaker

  • Two styles are available: Push button (less common) and toggle.
  • Breakers can be single, double or thin.
  • Contains a bi-metal strip that breaks the circuit when a current exceeds a predetermined rating.
  • A breaker indicates a broken circuit when the switch is in the mid-point, or tripped, position.
  • Reset the circuit breaker after correcting the overload problem. Switch it to the off position, then to the on position.
  • Another type of circuit breaker is a screw-in type that looks similar to a fuse, but has a button on the top. The button pops out when the circuit is broken.

Line Switch

  • Used to interrupt the flow of electricity on cords, most often for lamps and appliances.
  • A variety of styles are available, and they can operate with a toggle, rotary or push-button action.

Multiple Outlet Strip

  • Also known as a surge suppressor or a power strip.
  • Achieves the same purpose of a tap, but has a cord that plugs into an outlet and a strip of outlets contained in a metal or plastic box.
  • Better models have built-in surge protectors that protect electronic equipment from sudden surges of electricity.
  • A surge protector does not protect against a lightning strike.

Appliance Receptical

  • Used for heavy-duty plugs and appliances.
  • Contains vertical and slanted slots in various configurations.
  • Configurations are different, so make sure to bring the plug with you if you don’t know the exact configuration you need.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

What type of switches will I need to turn a light on from two different locations?

You will need a three-way switch at each location. A three-way switch will have three terminal screws on it–two brass colored screws and one that is black (or dark in color).

How do I check the starter in the fluorescent fixture?

Older, delayed-start fluorescent lights flicker when they first light up. If this last more than a couple of seconds, make sure the starter is seated by pushing it in and turning clockwise. If the ends of the tube light up and the middle does not, the starter is bad. Remove it by turning counterclockwise.

What is an LB fitting?

LB stands for line box. It is often used at the point where you will begin pulling wire through the conduit. However, it is not a junction box and should not contain wire connections.

Do you have an extension cord for my window air conditioner?

Yes, you need to use a major appliance cord. A regular extension cord doesn’t have heavy enough wire to safely conduct the necessary current.

What is a transformer?

It’s a device that changes the voltage. In most home usage, it reduces the voltage for use on low-voltage equipment, such as thermostats, doorbells and low-voltage outdoor lighting.

What type of switches will I need to turn a light on from three different locations?

Two of the locations will use a three-way switch and the other location will need a four-way switch.

How do I know the size ballast I need for a fluorescent fixture?

You need to know how many bulbs there are and how long they are. However, make sure you check the starter before you change the ballast. In fact, you may want to replace the whole fixture.

Can I bury electrical cable directly under the ground without conduit?

Always check local codes. But generally, UF cable (underground feeder and branch-circuit cable) may be buried without conduit. It is rated for dry, damp, wet or corrosive locations. Do not embed it in concrete. NM (or nonmetallic-sheathed cable) should not be buried due to damage from moisture.

I am running an underground cable in my lawn, what should I use to connect the wires?

You can use waterproof wire nuts if you do not have a waterproof box.

I need to replace a lightswitch in my house. What should I get?

You need to know if it’s a single pole or a three-way. If the light can be controlled in more than one location, then it is a 3-way pole.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Bronze Screening

  • Offers a nostalgic look for accenting old homes.
  • Made of 90 percent copper and 10 percent zinc.
  • Screen weathers to a dark finish.

Lamp Holder

  • Used to hold light sockets where design is not a concern. Often used in garages or basements, or as a temporary fixture.
  • One type has a pull chain to turn it on. The other, a keyless lampholder, does not have a chain. Another type has a socket, two receptacles and a pull chain that turns off the lamp but not the receptacles.
  • Typically is a round porcelain fixture with a socket with prewired leads ready for connecting to a circuit. It also has screw holes for mounting it to a box.
  • Another type is the Pigtail. It is merely a socket with wire leads and without a fixture. It is also used for temporary lighting or for testing.

Time Delay Fuse

  • Similar in appearance to a plug fuse.
  • Provides a minimum time delay for small household motors that cause an electrical surge when started. That surge would cause a regular fuse to blow needlessly.

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.

Multiple Tap

  • Like the table tap, it plugs into an existing outlet to increase the number of outlets at a location.
  • It typically has four to six plugs.
  • Some models may contain circuit breakers or surge protectors, but may not be suitable for computer equipment.

Type S Fuse

  • Also known as Fustats® or Nontamperable
  • Similar in design and use to a plug fuse. However, it prevents anyone from replacing a lower-rated fuse with a higher one.
  • Has two parts: the fuse and the adapter. The adapter has a different diameter for each fuse ampere rating. Once the adapter of a particular size fuse has been inserted into the fuse socket, it cannot be removed. Only fuses with the same rating can be used in that socket.

Sanding Disc

  • Most often used with disc sanders and random orbit sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • One style is PSA. PSA stands for pressure sensitive adhesive, so sandpapers of this type have a sticky backing. Generally, this type is used for sanding jobs where you will use the sandpaper until it is worn out. Not for tasks where you will be changing sandpaper frequently.
  • Another style is hook and loop, which attaches to the sander like Velcro. It is removable and good for jobs that require frequent changing of the sandpaper.
  • Holes in the sandpaper enable dust extraction to reduce buildup of dust on the abrasive.

File Cleaner

  • Also called a file card, this tool contains a brush used to clean out file grooves.
  • Generally used on finer cut files to remove sawdust and metal particles.

Wrecking Bar

  • Also known as ripping bars or crowbars, these tools are used in construction, demolition and where pulling nails, ripping wood and similar tasks are done.
  • Those with curved ends are also known as gooseneck bars.
  • Because of their length, usually 24″ or 30″, they have more leverage than hammers, enabling them to pull much larger and longer nails.

Spud Wrench

  • A generic name for many types of wrenches that have large, flat-sided jaws.
  • Good for general purpose plumbing use.
  • The Adjustable type is an all-purpose model with notched jaws ideal for various sizes of nuts. It is the handiest and most common.
  • The Fixed type works with large spud nuts under kitchen sinks.
  • The 4-in-1 is similar to the fixed type and is use for turning locknuts on the toilet tank, basket strainers and spuds.
  • The Closet type is designed for toilet tanks and bowls.
  • The Internal type holds the sink strainer basket in place while you tighten the locknut below. It can also remove or install closet spuds, pop-up plugs, and strainers.
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FAQs (0)

I need some joist hangers. Do you have any recommendations?

The most important factor is to make sure you are buying the right joist hanger that fits the dimension of lumber are you using.

What’s the best way to sand drywall without getting dust all over my house?

A hand sander that can be connected to a shop vacuum is probably your best bet. In addition, be sure to put up plastic sheeting on doorways to seal off the area being sanded from the rest of the house. And don’t forget to close registers and seal off heat returns to keep dust from entering the home’s duct work and HVAC system.

Can I install a hardwood floor over a concrete slab?

Generally, you should not install a solid wood floor over a concrete slab. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you want to install one over a slab, you first need to install a vapor barrier and a wooden subfloor on top of the slab. For best results, try an engineered floor over a concrete slab.

Do I need to use glue on wood joints when using pocket screws?

While most manufacturers of pocket screw joinery kits say you don’t have to, it certainly can’t hurt.

What tools do I need to replace a screen?

You’ll need a utility knife, a screen installation tool.

Should I protect my wood floor from furniture?

We recommend felt pads or some other type of protector to be placed between the furniture leg and the floor.

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

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

I need a vise for general use on household projects. What type should I buy?

A standard bench vise will probably suit your needs. It is designed for light-duty applications and will handle a variety of tasks. All you need is a workbench or table to bolt it to.

What size adjustable wrench should I buy for general use?

When it comes to gripping, bigger is generally better. If you are going to get just one I recommend a larger one: either 10-inch or 14-inch.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

Should I use snips to cut wire?

No. Snips are only designed to cut sheet metal. When cutting wire, always use wire cutters.

What is the difference between a round-point and square-point shovel?

Round-point shovels are used for digging, while most square points are used for scooping.

I want a vise that I can take with me to use on different job sites. What do you recommend?

A clamp vise is an excellent choice. You can clamp it to most tabletops or even sawhorses and take it with you wherever you need it.

I’ve been told that using a pair of pliers on the shank of the screwdriver can help loosen fasteners that are stuck. Is this true?

No. Pliers are prone to slip, even on square shank screwdrivers. It is OK to use a wrench, but only on square-shank screwdrivers.

How do you recognize a quality circular saw?

Look for amperage and types of bearings—top quality saws pull 12 or 13 amps and run on ball bearings. Lower quality saws use roller or sleeve bearings and are rated about 9 or 10 amps. While plastic housings are not a sign of inferior quality, make sure the saw has extruded or cast metal base plates. Stamped metal plates can warp.

What type of drill do you recommend for do-it-yourself projects?

Most consumers use a 3/8-inch model that reverses, has variable speed and has a keyless chuck. You should get one that draws at least 3.5 amps.

Are more teeth per inch better when buying a crosscut hand saw?

Fewer teeth work more quickly, but provide a coarser cut with rough edges. Saws with more teeth work more slowly, but provide a finer cut.

What does a number such as 120 on sandpaper mean?

These numbers stand for the number of particles per square inch. The higher the number the finer the sandpaper.

I am trying to decide which is better for me—a gas or electric chain saw.

Gas chain saws can be used anywhere and are more powerful. Plus, they come in larger bar sizes. Electric chain saws must stay within the limits of an extension cord.

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.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Post Level

  • Used to set and plumb posts and columns
  • Attaches to post and displays level in two directions.
  • Also available in magnetic models for positioning waste lines in plumbing applications.

Digital Tape Measure

  • Similar to a conventional tape measure but with electronic features added, such as a digital readout to make measurement readings more precise and the ability to convert fractions to decimals or even metric equivalents.
  • Another useful feature is a function that compensates for the size of the tape case when taking inside measurements, such as a window frame or a door jamb.
  • Some models have a memory function which holds a measurement without having to write it down. Other models have a voice recorder to make it easy to keep track of multiple measurements.

Bench Plane

  • An adjustable tool used for trimming, beveling, fitting and shaping wood, and smoothing rough spots left by sawing and drilling.
  • Blades are positioned bevel side down at a 45-degree angle.
  • Models range in size from 9″ smooth planes to 24″ jointer planes.
  • Smooth planes are smaller (generally 9” to 10”) and lightweight and used for flattening and smoothing the face of boards and other all-around work.
  • Jack planes are longer (12″ to 17″) and heavier than smooth planes, have more cutting capacity and are used for smoothing and squaring rough lumber surfaces.
  • Jointer planes, the longest (approximately 22” to 24” long) and heaviest of planes, are used to shape edges of doors or long boards so two boards may be joined together to make a close fitting joint.

Pipe (Stillson) Wrench

  • Screws pipes into elbows or other threaded devices.
  • Jaws actually bite into the surface to hold it for turning.
  • They should never be used on plated pipe installations because they will badly mar the finish.
  • Aluminum pipe wrenches are popular among professionals because of their lighter weight, but they are more expensive.

Clutch-Head Screwdriver

  • Tips have four points of contact.
  • It locks into the screw head when turned counter-clock-wise.
  • The driver is unlocked by turning it in the opposite direction.
  • Because of the many contact points, the tip will not damage the screw head under high torque situations.

 

Crimping Pliers

• Used for crimping sheet metal or metal duct work.

• Used in HVAC work to reduce one end of a metal pipe, gutter or duct so two pieces of the same size will fit together.

• May have a straight or angled head.

 

Fuse Puller

  • Used to remove cartridge-type fuses.

Sharpening Stone

  • Available in diamondoiled and dry models, these tools are used to sharpen various blades of cutting tools.
  • Diamond whetstones sharpen using the diamond dust from the stone.
  • Oil stones must be oiled to avoid accumulation of the metal particles from the tools being sharpened. To oil the stone, put a drop or two or lightweight household oil on the stone before each use. Also, new stones should be soaked in a bath of oil for several days before use.
  • Flat whetstones are the most common type of oil stones with both a smooth side and a coarse side for various sharpening requirements.
  • Drystones wear out much faster than oil stones because the stone’s surface crumbles away when sharpening.
  • Be sure to study manufacturer literature to recommend proper stones for different types of blades.

Pry Bar

  • Smaller and flatter than a wrecking bar and not designed for heavy-duty prying.
  • Features beveled notches in each chisel-like end and ranges in size from 6″ to 21″.
  • Useful for removing nails with exposed heads and for prying paneling or molding without marring the surface.
  • One type of pry bar features an extra curve, which makes it useful for lifting and holding such things as drywall panels in place.
  • Double claw models provide equal force on push or pull.

Plastic Nut Basin Wrench

  • Used to reach and turn plastic mounting nuts on faucets, sprayers and ballcocks.
  • Notched ends self-center on 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-tab nuts.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Lag Screw

  • Lag BoltAlso called a lag bolt.
  • Similar to wood screws but stronger.
  • Used when ordinary screws are too short or too lightweight and when increased gripping power is needed.
  • Used for wrenching into wood surfaces or for inserting into lag shields in masonry.
  • Has a hex head.

 

Molly Bolt

  • Also known as an expansion bolt.
  • Consists of a screw in a metal sleeve.
  • When the sleeve is inserted into a pre-drilled hole and the screw is turned, the sleeve spreads.
  • Screw can be removed and inserted in the fixture to be mounted and replaced.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dowel Screw

  • Threaded on both ends.
  • Used for assembling pieces of furniture end to end.

 

Toggle Bolt

  • Used where the back of the wall is inaccessible.
  • Works on a spring principle. The holding arms open after the screw and holder are inserted into the hole, gripping the wall as the screw is tightened.
  • Select bolts according to the thickness of the diameters from 1/8” to 1/2”.
  • Fixture to be mounted must be assembled with screw and holder before inserting it into the wall.

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.

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.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What type of rope should I buy?

Working strength is the most important factor.

Should I use a sheet metal screw or a wood screw?

The main difference is that a sheet metal screw has threads along its entire length. A wood screw has threads along about two-thirds of its length and costs a little less.

How do I install a toggle bolt?

Drill proper size hole and insert bolt. Don’t forget that you have to insert bolt through the item you are fastening to the wall. Collapse the toggle and push bolt through the hole until the toggle springs open. Now, tighten the bolt to complete the anchoring.

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.

I’m going to nail a small piece of wood to something. What should I use?

You can use small nails—called brads—but to help prevent the wood from splitting, you should pre-drill the holes.

Is a toggle bolt a good choice for anchoring something to my wall?

No. Toggle bolts are designed for hanging things from a ceiling, where weight is distributed across the toggle. For a wall, it’s best to use one of the newer kinds of plastic anchors. One has a self-drilling head that can be driven either with a screwdriver or a power tool.

Do you have a screw for an electrical outlet cover?

In most cases they are a 6 – 32.

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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.

What does the R-value on insulation mean?

R refers to resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the effectiveness of the insulation. The R-value depends on the type of material, its thickness and density.

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 can I make my fireplace more efficient?

Try adding one of the many accessories available that make fireplaces more efficient, including tube grates, heat extractors and glass enclosures.

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.

Can I plug my air conditioner into any standard outlet?

Check the voltage rating of the unit. Units with 115 volts (having less than a 9,000 BTU capacity) will not overload average house wiring. For larger capacity units and those requiring 220V wiring (high BTU capacity), consult an electrician.

Which is more energy-efficient: vented or non-vented gas logs?

Vented gas logs are less fuel efficient than non-vented logs. Vented logs operate somewhere between 60,000 to 90,000 BTUs and lose heat because they require the chimney damper to remain open.

My ceiling fan is reversible. What setting should I use in the summer and what one should I use in the winter?

Use the down draft setting in the summer, and the updraft setting in the winter.

How do I know how large of an air conditioner I need?

The BTU rating of the air conditioner gives you its capacity. To find what BTU rating you need, multiple the square feet of the room by 25, adding 1,000 for every window and 400 for each occupant. Example: A room measures 12’ x 15’ with two windows and two occupants. The formula works out to 180 sq. ft. x 25 = 4,500 + 2,000 for the windows + 800 for the occupants = 7,300, or a 7,000 – 8,000 BTU air conditioner.

What is the best type of vent system for my house?

Most builders agree that a ridge vent system is the most effective as well as the most cost-effective.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

Radiant Heater

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

Permanent Washable Filter

  • Consists of a flat panel of various woven synthetics.
  • Considered permanent because homeowners can rinse it free of particles and reuse it.
  • Should be rinsed every 30 days. Filter usually lasts 5-6 years.
  • Some brands have an anti-microbial agent that inhibits growth of mold, mildew, bacteria and fungi in the filter.
  • An electrostatic charge develops as air passes through the filter. The charge, however, varies with humidity and the furnace or A/C blowing cycles. This means some particles may fall off the filter, pass through it and re-enter the air stream.

Duct Insulation

  • Insulates ductwork to minimize heat loss and improve efficiency.
  • Available either as self-stick vinyl foam with aluminum foil backing or in handy rolls of 1-1/4” thick fiberglass combined with aluminum foil.

Baseboard Heater

  • A convection-type heater.
  • The heating elements are completely enclosed, so they are safe for use around small children, but they do not give off as much heat as other types of heaters.
  • Has protective grills removable for easy cleaning.
  • Available with or without a thermostat.

Electret Filter

  • More expensive than other types of filters, but also removes more particles than other types of filters. Also helps protect the heating and cooling system mechanical parts from dust, which helps extend its life.
  • Electrostatically charged. Contains “sites” that carry a permanent electrostatic charge. Sites attract and capture sub-micron-sized particles, as well as larger particles.
  • Captures large airborne allergens like household dust, pollen and mold spores.
  • Also captures microscopic allergens like pet dander, smoke and smog. Some manufacturers produce models that can capture bacteria and particles that can carry viruses.
  • Disposable. Should be changed every three months.

Duct Fan

  • Boosts the flow of air from the central heating system to areas in a house that are hard to heat or cool.
  • Overcomes the added resistance in long duct runs.
  • The prop fan type fits inside the duct.
  • The squirrel cage type fan has the motor mounted outside of the duct.
  • Most models vent about 200 cubic feet per minute in 6” to 8” diameter ducts.
  • Wired in series with the central furnace blower or operated by an auxiliary thermostat.

Ceramic Heater

  • A convection-type heater.
  • Uses a ceramic disk heating element.
  • Ideal for spot heating.
  • Lightweight and easy to carry.
  • Safe alternative to other heating sources as they operate at temperatures below the combustion point of paper.
  • Includes a washable filter to reduce air pollutants.

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.

Kerosene Heater

  • Uses a wick rather than a pressure-fed fuel system.
  • Standard features include an automatic shut-off device to extinguish the flame if the heating unit is bumped or jarred, grills or guards to keep hands away from the surface and push-button battery-powered lighting devices.
  • Some areas do not allow the use of this type of heater. Check with local government agencies.
  • Only use K-1 clear kerosene fuel. Yellow or colored fuel will smoke, smell and hamper wick operation.

Pellet-Fed Wood Stove

  • Burns a processed wood pellet fed electronically into the stove’s combustion chamber.
  • The advantage of this type of stove is it has a steady and controlled fuel source.
  • Disadvantage is the electronic controls will not operate if the power is out.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

What is a gunlock and how does it work?

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

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

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

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

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate.

What features make a padlock stronger?

The high-security padlocks often have cases that provide a collar around most of the shackle. That makes it harder to get bolt cutters on them.

What is the best type of fire extinguisher to have in my kitchen and my garage?

A dry-chemical extinguisher marked general-purpose or multi-purpose is best for home use.

What is lock bumping?

Lock bumping is a lock picking technique for opening a pin tumbler lock using a specially-crafted bump key. One bump key will work for all locks of the same type.

What type of padlock holds up best in the weather?

While brass padlocks will hold up better in the weather than standard ones, most people are happier with the plastic weatherproof casing. Obviously, the brass ones provide a decorative option.

Do you have a hinge that will fit my door?

The best option is to bring the old hinge in. But as a standard, an exterior door uses a hinge that is 4 inches long with four holes on each side. An interior door usually has a hinge that is 3-1/2 inches long and has three holes on each side.

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.

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Home Security Terms (35)

Fire Safety Ladder

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

Pin-Tumbler Padlock

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

Home Perimeter Alarm

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

Combination Lock

  • User must dial a combination to open the lock.
  • Hardened solid steel alloys make better locks and shackles.

Night Latch

  • Installed on the inside surface of the door.
  • Has an automatic locking feature. The large, spring loaded latch automatically locks whenever the door is closed.
  • For light security and usually used in combination with another lock.

Latch Guard

  • Used on in-opening doors.
  • Reinforces the door and prevents spreading of the frame.
  • The standard 7” latch guard fits all backsets, deadbolts and key-in-knob locks.
  • The 12” latch guard also fits all double locks, mortise locks and access control locks.
  • Latch guards for out-opening doors protect the latch or bolt. Several sizes and types are available, ranging from 6” to 12”.

Fire Safe

  • Protects valuables and documents exposed to fire.
  • According to UL, a fire safe should maintain an inside temperature below 350º for an hour or more.
  • The safe should also be resistant to rupture and explosion at these temperatures.
  • Some safes can be mounted in walls, floors and other areas.

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.

Strike

  • The metal plate the latch slides into on the doorjamb or frame.
  • All new locksets come with strikes, but some homeowners may want to replace them with high-security strikes or replace damaged ones.
  • Adjustable strikes are available that provide 1/4” adjustment to allow for door and frame warpage.

Foam Extinguisher

  • Extinguishes Class A and B fires.
  • Class A fires are the most common type. They involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and many plastics.
  • Not effective on flammable liquids or gases escaping under pressure.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

What are some problem areas in the guttering system that I should be aware of?

Check for high spots where water might not flow or low spots in the gutter where water might collect. Correct that problem by either installing additional spikes and ferrules or by bending the hanger that supports the gutter. Fix leaks or holes in the gutter by patching or replacing a section of the gutter.

What is an impulse sprinkler and what are its advantages?

It will water a large area, with minimum evaporation.

I am trying to decide which is better for me—a gas or electric chain saw.

Gas chain saws can be used anywhere and are more powerful. Plus, they come in larger bar sizes. Electric chain saws must stay within the limits of an extension cord.

I want to fertilize my lawn and prevent crabgrass, but I just spread grass seeding on my lawn. What should I use?

There is a product specially formulated as a pre-emergent that prevents crabgrass but allows grass seed to germinate.

What does the potassium do?

It assists plants in forming starches and proteins, thus promoting plant hardiness, disease resistance and a tolerance to drought and cold. It’s the “all-around” number.

How do I plant a tree?

For best results, choose at least a five-foot-tall tree. Select a site with enough room for roots and branches to reach full size, and don’t forget to avoid overhead and underground utilities. Prepare the area by loosening the soil three to five times the diameter of the root ball. Dig a hole in the middle and set the root ball even with the ground level. Then, water the soil. If the tree will not stand up in the wind, stake it down. Spread a 2” or 3” layer of mulch on prepared area, but do not put any mulch within 6” of the tree trunk.

Click here for our detailed video on how to plant a tree.

how do i plant a tree

What can I use to keep outdoor faucets from freezing?

Install a frost-free lawn faucet that is angled down to drain. For existing faucets, you can use an insulating cover.

What is an annual?

These plants last one season and die out.

How can I tell when the compost is ready to use?

It will look like rich, organic soil, without any large clumps in it. To test if it’s ready, plant a few grass seeds in a small pot using some of the compost, and if the seeds sprout in a couple days, it’s ready.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Vegetable Seed

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

Downspout

  • Attaches to the gutter to carry water down the side of the house.
  • Rainfall capacity of a guttering system is largely dependent on the size and number of downspouts rather than strictly gutter size.
  • Downspouts are usually rectangular in shape and come in 10’ lengths.
  • Popular sizes of downspouts are 2”x3”, 3”x4” and 4”x5”.

Premium Potting Soil

  • Includes perlite and vermiculite, which aid in water drainage and aeration.
  • Features a wetting agent that provides more uniform water distribution in the soil.
  • Some mixes contain fertilizer in either water-soluble or slow-release granular form.

Plant Hardware

  • Used in conjunction with pots or other plant containers.
  • Different types can include hooks and brackets in a wide variety of styles and finishes, including vinyl-coated and rustproof items.
  • Other features include rotating hooks or swivel brackets.

Backflow Protector

  • An anti-siphoning device.
  • Prevents reverse flow of water and contaminants back into plumbing pipes through unprotected hoses.
  • Can be plastic or brass.
  • Fits between the threaded faucet and hose.
  • Most plumbing codes require that non-removable breakers be used.
  • Drain in winter to avoid freezing.

Flat Hose

  • Lies flat until water pressure rounds it into a 5/8” hose.
  • Stores more easily and compactly than a conventional hose.
  • Must be completely extended before water will pass through and completely drained before storing.
  • Because it is drained after use, it is less susceptible to freezing and cracking and will not wear on edges.
  • Weight is one-third that of a conventional hose but delivers same amount of water.
  • One type is made with a polyurethane liner and a tightly woven polyester jacket. The liner is bonded to the jacket to reduce kinking and leaking. Another type has a construction similar to a conventional, reinforced vinyl hose.

Post Hole Digger

  • Used to dig into the ground to create holes for setting posts, footings or for planting trees or shrubs in all soil types.
  • The user plunges the tool into the ground with the handles together. The user then pulls the handles apart which brings the blades together to remove the soil.
  • Heavy-duty models have sharp steel blades riveted to a heavy steel frame.
  • Light-duty models are made with blade and handle socket rolled from one piece of metal.
  • Typical spread point ranges from 5-1/2” to 6-1/4”.

Pruning Saw

  • Used to cut dry or green limbs from trees.
  • Used on branches thicker than 1” and other tasks too large for lopping shears.
  • Some models fold for easier storage.
  • Some models have pistol grips handles for better leverage.

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.

Flower Seed

  • Sold in packages or in bulk.
  • Planting times and growing instructions will vary by plant. Read package instructions carefully.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

How do I caulk baseboard and trim around window and doors before painting?

First, cut a small hole 1/8th of an inch from the tip of the spout at an angle. Don’t cut off too much of the tip. Then, most caulk guns come with a swiveling pin used to puncture the tube. Engage the ratcheting plunger and squeeze the handle. When finished, disengage the ratcheting plunger, and have a rag handy, as caulk will probably continue to ooze out of the tip.

Do I need to apply anything to the wall before papering?

You should apply wall sizing to all old or new walls. It prepares the surface and acts as a first coat. It makes a smooth surface and prevents paste from soaking into the wall.

What is the difference between a solvent and a thinner?

A thinner is generally used to thin a liquid finish while a solvent is used to dissolve an existing finish that has been cured.

Should I apply the deck stripper by spraying it on or with a roller?

If It’s a windy day, they you should use a roller to control overspray. However, if it’s a calm day with no wind, they you can probably apply it faster by spraying it on.

What type of brush works best with oil-based paint?

Natural bristles are best for most oil-based finishes including varnishes and stains. Their soft tips leave fewer brush marks.

What type of masking tape should I use before painting?

Use tape that is designated as painters tape. This tape is usually blue or green in color. It is designed to provide excellent masking capabilities, yet it won’t mar the surface when peeled off, even after several weeks.

How long will I have to wait between coats of paint?

While drying times can vary based on factors such as humidity, plan on waiting about four hours when you are using latex paint. If you are using oil-based paint, you will probably need to wait up to 24 hours.

My house has plaster walls. Is there something specifically designed to patch cracks in plaster walls as opposed to drywall?

Yes. Patching plaster is designed specifically for patching plaster walls. Like spackling, it may be sanded and painted and can be textured to match the existing surface.

I’m going to apply an oil-base stain to my deck. Do I need to strip the existing finish off first before applying the new stain?

If the existing finish was a water- or latex-base stain, then you should remove it before re-staining. If it is an oil-base finish, then you can probably skip the stripping step and just give a thorough washing before re-applying the stain.

What do I use if I want to stain something that has already been stained before?

Because of their excellent adhesion properties, latex stains are often recommended for surfaces that were previously stained or painted with oil-based products.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Paint Shield

  • Also known as a trim guard.
  • Used to mask off areas not to be painted.
  • Used primarily in corners where wall meets ceiling or where twowalls meet that are not painted the same color.

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.

Ladder Tool Holder

  • Tool holder that drapes on both sides of the top of step ladders.
  • Contain separate pockets to hold different hand tools and fasteners.
  • One pocket generally snaps off to enable it to be used with extension ladders.

Grain Filler

  • Fills the open grain and pores on hardwoods like oak, ash and mahogany.
  • Designed to achieve a flat surface on work surface before top coating with a clear finish.

Stain Brush

  • A wider brush generally available in 4” to 6” widths.
  • Many types feature natural white China bristles for working with oil-based stains, sealers and wood toners.
  • Also available in synthetic filaments.

Masking Tape

  • Also called painter’s tape, it is a general-purpose, pressure-sensitive tape used to mask off areas not intended to be painted.
  • Commonly colored blue for painting applications.
  • All-purpose tapes are increasingly being replaced by tapes designed for specific tasks, such as specific tapes designed for baseboards and trim, glass, hard-to-stick surfaces, lacquer surfaces, brick and tile and delicate surfaces.

Crackle Paste

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

Ladder Mitts

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

Wood 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.

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).
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

What is a pressure assist toilet?

It is a type of flush mechanism that uses both water and compressed air to flush the toilet, which helps eliminate clogs by flushing waster further than a gravity fed system.

I am getting no hot water from my gas water heater. What could be the cause of this?

The pilot light might be out, or you may have a faulty thermostat.

What is a compression fitting?

This type of fitting squeezes a brass or plastic ring around copper or plastic tubing.

What is the purpose of an aerator on a faucet?

An aerator diffuses the water to prevent splashing.

There is water seeping from around the base of my toilet. What do I need to do to solve this problem?

Your wax gasket is probably not working anymore. This is a simple problem to fix. You need to remove the toilet and install a new wax ring. While you have the toilet off you should go ahead and replace the bolts. Otherwise, it could be a crack in your toilet bowl.

Can I replace my sink with a larger one?

Yes, if you have laminate countertops and if there is enough room in the cabinet under your existing sink to accommodate the larger sink. You’ll need to cut a larger hole in the counter with a saber saw to accommodate the new sink, which should come with a template for sizing the hole properly. If you have a solid surface countertop, then it’s best to call a professional.

Which is better for sealing—Teflon™ tape or thread joint compound?

They do the same job, but Teflon™ tape is easier to work with and makes a cleaner joint.

My toilet is constantly running causing ripples in the bowl. What’s wrong?

Either the float on the fill valve is stuck or it is set too high, causing water to overflow from the tank into the bowl through the overflow tube. Check the float on the fill valve to make sure it isn’t getting stuck on anything. Next, check for mineral build-up on the body of the fill valve, which may be causing the float to stick. This can be removed with steel wool or fine grit sandpaper.

Are all electric hot water heater elements the same?

Three are three types—screw in, bolt in and clamp in. The also have different wattage ratings and can work on either 120 or 240 voltage.

Do you measure the diameter of hard copper and the same as soft copper?

No, you measure hard coppers with I.D. (inside diameter). You measure soft coppers by their O.D. (outside diameters).

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Sill Cock

  • Is a faucet located on the outside wall of the house that easily hooks to garden hoses.
  • The best type is a frost-proof sill cock, made of heavy red brass, that looks and works like any ordinary faucet. However, water flow valves are located inside the building where it is warm.
  • The anti-siphon frost-proof sill cock employs integral back-siphon and back-flow devices. These serve to prevent potential back-siphonage, which, if unchecked, could compromise the safe potable water supply to the home. Hose-attached garden sprays and other pressurized canisters can potentially link a cross-connection if a pressure charge occurs when the frostproof is in the open position.
  • The anti-siphon frostproof sillcock allows for outside spigot usage in freezing climates. The closing member (seat washer) is located inside the heated building.

Coupling

  • Connects two lengths of pipe.
  • Has female thread on both ends (for galvanized pipe) or no threads (for copper, PVC and other solvent-welded pipe).
  • A Reducer Coupling joins two different sizes of pipe.
  • An Adapter Coupling joins two different types of connection types, such as threaded and solvent weld.
  • A Repair Coupling, or mender coupling, has no center stop so two lengths of pipe can be fastened together. Use on unthreaded lengths of pipe.
  • A Fitting Trap Adapter adapts PVC to tubular traps used for sinks.

Teflon Tape

  • Does the same job as pipe joint compound, but is easier to use.
  • Thin tape applied to pipe threads before joining.
  • Do not use on gas pipes.

Flush Valve Seat

  • Located at the bottom of the tank.
  • Surrounds the opening that lets water into the bowl.
  • Kept closed by a rubber flush ball or flapper.
  • The flush valve seat is attached to the Overflow Tube, which drains water back into the bowl if the water level goes above it. This is a good safety precaution if the inlet valve fails.

Homewater Systems

  • Consists of a pump, a pressure tank and switch.
  • The tank will supply water between the cut-on and cut-off pressure setting on the pump, usually 20-40 psi. While 20-40 lbs. pressure is adequate, 30-50 lbs. or 40-60 lbs. is best for home supplies. Since the tank supplies small amounts of water, the pump does not have to turn on each time a faucet is used.
  • Pumps are shallow-well or deep-well. Shallow-well pumps are installed at well depths of 25′ or less. Where deep-well pumps can be used in water depths of 300′ or greater, depending on altitude.
  • Horsepower rating determines pump size. Pumps used in theaverage home are 1/3-, 1/2-, 3/4- or 1-hp. When choosing a pump, find the required capacity by counting the number of faucets in the home (count tub faucets as two) and multiplying by 60. This is the number of gallons-per-hour the pump should supply from the well. Always allow for additional appliances that use water or for appliances you may add in the future.
  • Home water-system pumps are usually centrifugal or jet. This type builds a centrifugal force, which lifts the water.
  • Older homes may have a piston pump. A piston pump builds pressure that pulls water up through the casing.
  • There are several important terms to know when selling a pump:
    Well-sized. The inside diameter of the well indicates proper size pump, ejector, cylinder or drop pipe (pipe that is lowered into well casing to transport the water) and foot valve (located at the bottom of the drop pipe to keep water from flowing backward into the well).
  • Pumping level. The vertical distance in feet from pump to water level while the pump is operating. If pump is installed away from the well and is on higher ground, this elevation must also be included.
  • Most wells draw down (water level goes down inside the well as water is pumped into the home) so this must not be confused with standing water level.
  • Average discharge pressure: The usual average discharge pressure is 30 lbs., halfway between the 20-40 lb. switch setting of most water systems. When the tank is installed away from the pump at a higher level or when house or yard fixtures are above the pump and tank, a greater pressure is needed and a larger pump must be used.
  • Capacity required: This is the discharge capacity of the pump in gallons per hour necessary for satisfactory service. The pump should have enough capacity so that it does not need to work more than the equivalent of two hours a day in intermittent service.
  • Well points: These are used to drive wells in soil that is soft and primarily free of rock and where water is known to be close to the surface. Points are screwed onto the end of pipe to be lowered into the ground; then the point and pipe are driven into the ground with a sledgehammer or mallet. Well points have strainer baskets on the ends that sift out dirt and small stones.

PO Plug Wrench

  • Used to remove pop-up or pop-out (PO) plugs from the drain opening in the basin.
  • The four-way shape makes it useful for a variety of strainer types.

Laundry Faucet

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

Pipe Clamp

  • Also known as a repair plate.
  • Used to repair small holes in pipes.
  • Consists of two concave pieces of metal and a rubber gasket. The clamp is tightened over the pipe with the gasket over the leak.
  • Easiest way to repair a leaky pipe.

Pipe Solvent

  • Glue used to weld together two pieces of plastic pipe.
  • There are different types of solvent for PVC and CPVC.
  • Also available are one-step solvents that combine primer and solvent into one.

Flapper Valve Seat Ball

  • Also called a Flush Valve Seat Ball, this device sits on the flush valve seat and attaches to the trip lever with a chain, rod or guide arm.
  • When the outside handle on the toilet tank is pressed down, it raises a trip lever that pulls the flapper off its seat. Water inside the tank pours through the opening to flush the toilet bowl.
  • The valve stays closed with water pressure. However, once the trip lever lifts the device, it remains off the seat by floating on top of the water until the tank is empty. As the water level drops, the flapper gradually settles back into the opening, sealing it so the tank can refill for the next flush.
  • A new style design has replaced the older ball-style. It is connected to the float arm with a chain and eliminates many of the problems associated with wires, rods and guide arms.
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Power Tools Terms (84)

Detail Sander

  • Used for sanding detail work and in tight spots.
  • Easy to handle.
  • Can accept a variety of attachments for particular applications.
  • Some models have orbital action sanding, while others use a pivot drive that moves the pad in a small arc.

Sliding Compound Miter Saw

  • Uses a circular blade that is pivoted and/or tilted to the correct angle, then dropped onto the material, which is clamped stationary on a plate.
  • Also has a sliding action that allows it to cut wider material than a standard miter saw.
  • Good for cutting complex trim and moldings.
  • Most models tilt in only one direction, but better models tilts both to the left and to the right.

Plate Joiner

  • Also called a biscuit joiner.
  • Used for making strong plate joints, or biscuit joints, that join separate pieces of wood together.
  • The tool is plunged into the workpiece to cut a slot that accepts various size biscuits. Most models come with different blades to create various slot sizes. The slots of one piece of wood are then aligned with the slots of the other peice being joined. These slots share the same biscuit.
  • Has top-mounted or side-mounted sliding switches and comes with a dust bag or an adapter for hook-up to a shop vacuum.
  • Good joiners will have adjustable fences for making a joint at a variety of angles.

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.

Drill Bit Sharpener

  • Extends the life of drill bits and drills, since sharper bits put less strain on the drill.
  • Provides consistent sharpenings for a variety of drill bits, including standard, masonry, carbide, titanium nitride, cobalt and left-handed.

Palm Sander

  • Also known as a finish sander.
  • Sandpaper attaches to a rectangular pad on the bottom of the sander. The motor moves the pad in small, circular orbits.
  • Easy to handle.
  • Can use regular sandpaper, and measures its size by the portion of a standard 9”x11” sheet of sandpaper it uses. A 1/4 size uses a 1/4 of a regular sheet, a 1/3 uses a 1/3 sheet and a 1/2 uses a 1/2 sheet.
  • The holes on the bottom of the sander help to remove the dust from the material as you are sanding.
  • Some models have a sandpaper piercing plate that allows you to transform a standard sheet of sandpaper into one with holes designed to fit on the bottom of the sander.
  • Good for sanding corners and finish work. However, it may leave some scratches as is sands both with and against the grain.
  • Some models incorporate a triangular pad extension for sanding in tight corners.

Floor Band Saw

  • Has a band or loop-like blade that comes in various widths and strengths for different cutting purposes.
  • Mounts on the floor and usually has wheels sized from 12” to 36” in the industrial models.
  • For sawing heavier and thicker materials.
  • Some models have tables that can be tilted for angled cutting.
  • Sanding attachments and sanding loops are available for sanding on irregular or curved surfaces.

Rotary Cutting Tool

  • Uses a blade that looks similar to a drill bit. It rotates and cuts through material without the ripping motion of the sabre or jigsaw blade.
  • Allows user to plunge directly into the center of material and eliminates the need for pilot holes.
  • Can cut material up to 1” thick.
  • Many different bits are available for cutting in a variety of materials.
  • Lightweight and easy to control. The spinning motion of the blade reduces the ripping, binding and potential jumping of the tool.
  • Typically used to cut sink openings in countertops, for cutting and replacing ceramic wall tiles and cutting openings in drywall.

Plywood Blade

  • Circular blade used for cutting plywood.
  • Has small teeth to resist splintering and resist the abrasion of plywood glue.

Chuck Key

  • A small T- or L-shaped tool used to tighten and loosen the chuck on electric drills and drill presses.
  • Available in various sizes, as well as universal models.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Alcohol

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

Handscrew Clamp

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

Turpentine

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

Pipe Clamp

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

Linseed Oil

  • Pure preservative available in boiled and raw formulations.
  • Boiled linseed oil has driers added to promote faster drying than raw linseed oil.
  • Offers superior penetration into wood surfaces and provides good UV protection.
  • Also improves the flow and gloss of exterior oil-based paint.
  • A classic finish for natural wood to seal and protect it.

One-Handed Bar Clamp

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

Sawhorse Brackets

  • Generally made of steel or high-impact polystyrene and convert dimensional lumber into a sturdy wooden sawhorse.
  • Brackets allow user to construct a sawhorse of any height and length.
  • Brackets are generally secured to wood with screws, nails or wing nuts. Other types provide flanged nail holes for easy nail removal with a claw hammer.
  • Selling features include ease of assembly since miter cuts are not necessary and sturdiness and convenient storage since most brackets allow legs to fold together.

Paste Wax

  • Protects and adds luster to any stained or finished wood surface.
  • Many formulations contain carnauba for enhanced durability.
  • Commonly used on hardwood floors and fine wood furniture and even marble surfaces.
  • Dries quickly and doesn’t cause surface to become slippery.

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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