DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Drywall Saw

  • Resembles a kitchen knife in design and is used to cut drywall and plasterboard in the same fashion as a keyhole saw, such as for sawing holes for electric outlets and switchplates.
  • The saw is self-starting with a sharp point for plunge cuts.
  • It may also have induction teeth for longer life without sharpening.

Hand Sprayer

  • One type produces a fine, floating spray suited for controlling insects.
  • Another type produces a wetter, heavier spray for treating exposed surfaces where insects feed, lodge or crawl.
  • Another model, a plant mister, produces mist for indoor plants.
  • Features intermittent, continuous or hydraulic pressure pumping action.

Standard Slotted-Tip Screwdriver

• For driving and removing standard, slotted screws

• Slots generally range in size from 1/6” to 1/4”.

• Tip is flared at shoulder of blade so it is wider than the driver bar.

• Blades should not taper too sharply from the tip, because an improperly tapered tip has a tendency to rise out of the screw slot.

• Can have a square or round shank.


Open-End Wrench

  • Provides gripping power on two sides of the head with another side open so the wrench can be placed on a nut, which might not be accessible to a closed or box wrench.
  • Has different size openings on each end and should fit the nut exactly to prevent mutilating the nut edges.
  • Some types, called flare nut wrenches, are flared to fit hex fittings and flare nuts.
  • Generally available in sets.


Rip Hammer

  • Also known as a Rip Hammer
  • Used mainly by professionals for ripping apart wooden components and demolition work.
  • Should be used only with non-hardened, common or finishing nails.
  • Choose weights from 20 to 32 oz. for framing and ripping.
  • Available with milled or waffled faces to grip the nail head and reduce the effect of glancing blows and flying nails.


Basin Wrench

  • Also known as a faucet wrench or a crowfoot faucet wrench.
  • One type has fixed jaws opening at right angles to the shaft handle. It is primarily used to remove supply nuts and hose coupling nuts on faucet spray attachments under worktables, sinks and lavatories.
  • The second type has spring tension pipe-gripping jaws that are reversible by flip-over on the end of drive shaft handle. It will grip pipe nipples, odd sized supply nuts and jam nuts in hard-to-reach spots.

Offset Snips

  • Have offset handles to keep hands above work.
  • Cut easier because of compound leverage.
  • Designed especially for long, inside cuts and are available for right or left cutting direction. However, both models will make straight cuts as well.

Tape Reel

  • Typically 100′ long and designed to measure long distances.
  • Tape is contained in durable case and is generally rewound by a crank on the side of the case, with a small hook on the end for hooking onto objects to be measured.
  • Common tool of builders for measuring foundations.

Line Level

  • Used for checking level over distances, such as when installing a patio, floor or a suspended ceiling, and when there is no flat surface available.
  • Generally attached to a string stretched between two points, allowing the user to make an accurate height comparison between the two points.

Coping Saw

  • Used for cutting irregular shapes, curves and intricate decorative patterns.
  • Name comes from saw’s usefulness in coping back the joints of molding when fitting two pieces together.
  • Saw consists of a thin blade and a C-shaped steel tension frame.
  • The removable blade is typically 6-1/2″ long.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Pivot Hinge

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

Cabinet Knob

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

Wood Pole Rod

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


  • 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.

Set Screw

  • Prevents bolts from loosening due to vibration.
  • The thumb screw type can be tightened by hand.
  • Headless set screws are tightened with a screwdriver.
  • Square head set screws are tightened with a wrench.
  • Socket set screws are tightened with a hex wrench.


Insulated Staples

  • Used to mount cable to studs or other framing members.
  • There are different sizes, so make sure you are recommending the correct one.

Casing Nail

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

Butt Hinge

  • Fits between the butt of the door and the frame.
  • Only the hinge pin is exposed on the inside of the door.
  • The most common type is the loose pin hinge that has a removable pin for easy removal of the door.

Cabinet Pull

  • Used on cabinet doors and drawers.
  • Backplates are decorative and provide additional support for hollow-core doors and drawers.
  • Basic consideration when choosing will be style.
  • When replacing an old pull, remember to make sure the new knob will use or cover the holes left by the old one. Use a backplate to cover the hole if replacing a knob with a pull.
  • Pulls are generally on 3” mounting centers.

Spring Pressure Rod

  • Holds the adjustable tension rod in place when it must be mounted inside the window casing or when screws cannot be used to hold brackets.
  • Sash rods are generally used to hold the top and bottom of curtains stationary and close to the window.
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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Extension Ladder

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

Varnish & Enamel Brush

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

Wood Hardener

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

Ladder Mitts

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

Venetian Plaster

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

Sanding Screen

  • Special sanding device used for sanding drywall and plaster.
  • This abrasive screen cloth is durable and more resistant to fill from drywall compound and plaster.
  • Generally comes is 4”x11” sheets in 220 grit.


  • Used For scraping debris off of floors, sidewalks or hard surfaces.
  • Good for removing ice.
  • Has a flat, steel blade.

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.

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.

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.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I paint the vinyl siding on my house?

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

Can I avoid scraping the peeling paint off the exterior of my home by using a pressure washer before painting?

It is not advisable. Pressure washers should only be used for removing dirt, mildew and algae that can lead to premature paint failure. Flaking paint should only be removed by scraping and sanding.

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.

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 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.

Can I paint my aluminum siding

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

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Power Tools Terms (84)

Abrasive Attachments

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

Buffers polish metal or furniture.

Abrasive discs can be used for grinding or sanding.

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

Disc and drum rasps quickly complete coarse sanding jobs.

Plunge Router

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

Diamond Blade

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

Benchtop Table Saw

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

Masonry Bit

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

Reciprocating Saw

  • Commonly used for demolition, framing and rough-in work. Good for cutting in tight quarters.
  • Used on a variety of materials, depending on the type of blade used. Some blades can cut through wood and metal, which is ideal when cutting through wood that might have nails in it.
  • Uses a straight blade that operates with a back and forth motion. Some saws may have an orbital action, and some models may let you choose between orbital and linear action. A third option is a swing action, which offers a smoother and faster cutting action.
  • Blade action usually goes to about 2,000 strokes per minute, but some pro models go higher.

Hole Saw

  • Cup-shaped blade with a bit in the middle, called a mandrel.
  • Used for cutting holes in wood, plastic, plaster and light metals.
  • Available in a range of diameters.

Production Router

  • High horsepower router for heavy-duty work or hours of router table work.
  • Available in fixed base and plunge models.
  • Somewhat heavy and awkward for topside routing.
  • Adjustable speed is a common feature.

Plywood Blade

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

Tile Saw

  • Wet SawAlso known as a wet saw.
  • Used for cutting tile and stone.
  • Uses a diamond-tipped circular saw blade cooled by a continuous stream of water contained in a reservoir.
  • Some saws operate similar to a radial arm saw, while others are set up like a table saw.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Extension Ladder

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

Trouble Lights

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

Conduit Connectors

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

Dimmer Switch

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

Weatherproof Box

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

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.


  • Available in a variety of sizes and styles. Popular features include high-intensity, adjustable spot-to-flood beams with a simple twist of the wrist.
  • Mini-flashlights operate with AA or AAA cell batteries. Standard flashlights use two 6D cell batteries.
  • Flashlights with LEDs (light emitting diodes) will last much longer than standard incandescent bulbs. LEDs do not have a filament that will burn out. Instead, they use a semiconductor material. They’ve long been used in the electronic industry, and manufacturers are new using them in consumer flashlights.

LB Fitting

  • Connects at a 90º angle.
  • Has thick gaskets to make it impervious to moisture.
  • Generally, an LB fitting is placed outside at the point where the conduit leaves the house.
  • This fitting should not be used to make wire connections.

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.

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.
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Building Materials FAQ's (273)

How often should I seal my asphalt driveway?

Depending on the product you use and the number of coats you apply, every 2 to 4 years should be adequate.

How do I clean cultured marble?

Do not use abrasive cleaners. Use an all-purpose disinfectant cleaner and a soft cloth. Keep the marble wet while working on it. Never use steel wool, powdered cleaners, metal scrapers or scrub pads on marble.

How do I seal unglazed or natural tile.

There is a specially made sealer that you can apply with a brush or roller after the tile is installed.

I have some loose shingles. Is there anything I can do to prevent leaks without replacing those shingles?

Fibred plastic roof cement, which comes in caulk tubes, quarts, gallons and 5-gallons, can be used to seal down shingles and seal flashings.

How do I maintain my redwood deck?

Redwood is stronger than other woods, so you can let it weather naturally and it is less likely to warp or split. It will weather to a natural gray color. To enhance the color of the wood and provide additional protection, use a finish that has a water repellent, a mildewcide and UV protection.

What other materials do I need for building my fence?

In addition to the lumber, you’ll need non-corrosive nails, a post-hole digger or auger, a shovel, a level, a roll or mason’s twine, a hammer and tape measure. You’ll also need some cement for securing the posts in the hole.

How can I tell how much span the I-Joist will handle?

Use a span table for rated I-Joists.

What is the rating mean on the carpet?

The rating refers to the amount of foot traffic the carpet is made to withstand.

Can I install a hardwood floor in the kitchen?

Kitchens are a popular place for hardwoods, and they require minimal maintenance.

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.

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Hardware FAQ's (78)

What type of stud finder should I buy?

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

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

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

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

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

How long of a nail should I use?

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

What does a lock washer do?

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

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

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

How do I set finishing nails?

Use a nail set to sink the nail head into the molding. Then you can fill the hole with a spackling compound, sand it smooth and paint it.

I had shelf support brackets that bent because there was too much weight on it. Are there stronger ones?

Yes, there are heavier ones and some have angled pieces to support the top, which will almost triple its strength.

Should I use a galvanized nail?

Galvanized nails resist rust, and you should use them whenever you are building a project that will be exposed to the elements. Aluminum nails are rustproof, but must be thicker to prevent them from bending.

I’ve broken the head off a bolt. Is there some way I can get it out?

You should use a bolt extractor kit. It has a tap and an insert with a left-hand thread so that it can be turned to remove the bolt.

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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will I need to cut a hole for a doorknob?

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

Will a door closer work on my heavy storm door?

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

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.

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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Miter Box

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

Tool Chest

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

Extension Ladder

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


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

Specialty Stationary Workbench

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

Attic Ladder

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

Bar Clamp

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

Mobile Workbench

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

Articulated Ladder

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

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
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FAQs (0)

What can I use to thin epoxy?

Use acetone, it will soften most paints and plastics so you must exercise caution when you are using it. Acetone is the active ingredient in many paint strippers.

What type of caulk should I use on trim before painting?

Use siliconized acrylic latex caulk. It tends to be more flexible and has better adhesion. This will prevent cracks later on.

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

It’s best to use a rough service bulb.

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.

I think there is a short in a wire running to one of my rooms. Is there some way to test it to find out?

A continuity tester will let you know if there is a short. It is a tool that includes a battery so that it can supply a low-voltage current to devices and wires to see if there is a complete circuit.

What is BX cable?

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

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 large of a kerosene heater should I buy?

Kerosene heaters are rated by their BTU output. Approximately 28 BTUs/hour are required to maintain one square foot of space at 70°F. Multiply this figure by the total square footage in the room you want to heat and you will have the approximate BTU rating of the heater you should buy.

How do I change the air filter in my furnace?

The filter generally is located as close to the blower unit as possible. It will be between the incoming ductwork and the blower. Furnaces may have a slot with a flap that closes over it. Slide the old filter out and slide the new one in the same way.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

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.

What is the difference between a professional power tool and a consumer tool?

A pro tool is designed to withstand heavier workloads and as a result they have more power. They also have motors that are able to withstand use for a long period of time without burning up the motor.

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 are the advantages of shovels with curved handles?

These are called back savers, because they allow you to work without bending over.

Which is better wood or fiberglass handles on hammers?

Some people say the wood provides a better feel and absorbs shocks. While wood is durable, fiberglass is stronger.

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

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

I need a pair of pliers that I can use in tight quarters.

Use a pair of needle nose pliers, which are good for this task as well as gripping small items, precision work, cutting wire, bending wire to wrap a terminal. The jaws and cutting blades meet evenly. If you hold them up to the light, you should not be able to see any diagonal chinks of light coming though.

I have accidentally gouged some wood with my random orbital sander.

It’s best to put the sander onto the surface before you start it. In addition, when using an orbital sander, don’t press down too hard on the tool. Let its weight do the work.

Do I need to worry about what size straight-slot screwdriver to buy?

A screwdriver is most effective when the width of the head of the driver matches the width of the slot in the head of the screw. If you are going to buy just one of each, I recommend a number two Phillips head and a quarter-inch flat blade. However, I recommend that you get at least two sizes of each. In fact, you should really have a complete set of screwdrivers in your workshop to match the variety of jobs that occur around the house.

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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

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

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

How big of an access hole should I drill in my birdhouse?

It varies depending on what type of bird you’re trying to attract, but a good average size is
1½-inch diameter.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders?

A drop spreader allows for precise applications, such as along flower beds, where you might not want to distribute seed or fertilizer. But it typically takes a little longer and requires you to make sure that you do not put too much or too little in one area. Broadcast spreaders are quicker and require less precision.

What are time-released granular pellets?

These controlled-release fertilizers provide consistent feeding for three to nine months depending on the product. The fertilizer granules are coated with a permeable substance. With each watering, a bit of fertilizer diffuses through the coating and into the soil. Advantages include the need for fewer applications and less of a chance of burning the plant. However, they do not provide as quick a boost and they cost more.

How do I rid my lawn of moles?

You must first get rid of the food source—grubs, sod webworms and some beetles. Then you can use either a toxic cartridge that “smokes” their holes or a toxic pellet that you place in the burrows.

How close should bulbs be planted together?

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

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 do I use to cut branches more than ¾”?

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

How can I make sure my pump sprayer and my hose end sprayer lasts a long time?

The best thing to do is to always clean it out after every use. You should run water mixed with a mild soap through the sprayer tip.

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

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

  • What is the nitrogen needed for? It’s the up. It promotes plant growth and greening thus providing more foliage, color and density.
  • What does the phosphorous do? This is the “down” number. It stimulates cell building and root growth, and is particularly beneficial in helping seedlings, flowers and vegetables to develop.
  • What does the potassium do? It assists plants in forming starches and proteins thus promoting plant hardiness, disease resistance and a tolerance to drought and cold. It’s the “all-around” number.
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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Hedge Trimmer

  • Typically comes in electric or cordless models.
  • Uses two, double-sided reciprocating blades to trim shrubs and hedges. Some models may have single-sided blades.
  • Better models have vibration reduction features that ease the strain on the user.
  • Blade lengths can range from 20” to 30”.
  • Other features include two large ergonomic handles, a blade guard, a throttle starting lock that prevents accidental engagement of the blade and start/stop controls on the handle.


  • Japan DrierAlso known as Japan drier.
  • Increases the gloss and hardness of oil-based paint.
  • Also decreases dry time by as much as 30 percent.
  • Generally mix 8 oz. per gallon of paint.
  • Not for use water-based paints.

Airless Paint Sprayer

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

Brush and Roller Cleaner

  • Restores hard brushes and washes away oil and latex paints as well as varnish.
  • Reduces cleaning effort and helps applicators last longer.
  • Most formulations will not harm either natural or nylon bristle brushes, but they can harm synthetic bristles. Synthetic brushes should be cleaned in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Safer to use and less odor than paint thinner.
  • Can also be used to remove paint from hands.

Stippling Brush

  • Brush used to create stippling effect which is a faux technique that gives an aged look to new surfaces.
  • Stippling involves using the brush to paint criss-cross patterns using glaze over a base coat. The brush bristles are then used to dab on glaze to achieve the desired look.

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.

Vinyl Tubing

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

Compression Fitting

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

Seat Dresser

  • Also known as a faucet seat reamer or valve seat-grinding tool.
  • Used to smooth a faucet seat. Seats may not operate properly if they collect corrosion or calcium deposits or become rough with wear.
  • Inexpensive ones often have 1/2″ and 5/8″ cutters.

Gate Valve

  • Uses a sliding wedge to move across the waterway, in either a rising or non-rising action.
  • Used to completely shut off or open a waterway. Does not control the volume of flow.
  • In some models, either opening of a gate valve may face the pressure side of the line, while in others, an arrow indicates the direction of water flow.
  • Because they allow the complete passage of water, use on supply lines that are in constant use.
  • A Connector Gate Valve uses a union fitting on one side.
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Building Materials Terms (161)

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.

Bow and Bay Window

  • A bay window is made of three windows: one large unit in the middle and two flanking windows that are usually placed at 30- to 45-degree angles.
  • A bow window is made of four or more windows that, all together, form a shape that curves outward. It looks like a bay window, but is free of sharp angles.

Carpet Padding

  • Installed underneath the carpet.
  • Prolongs the life of the carpet and adds to comfort.
  • Usually made from felted cushion, urethane, foam rubber or sponge rubber.
  • Weight, density and thickness vary by type and the amount of traffic in the area to be carpeted.
  • Typically available in 36”, 54”, 72”, 108” and 144” widths.

Laminated Veneer Lumber

  • Known as LVL.
  • Engineered to span longer distances and support heavier loads than ordinary lumber.
  • Common applications include headers, beams, columns and posts.
  • Made from veneers glued up to 1-3/4” thick, then sawed to the required size.
  • Beams range from 5-1/2” to 18” deep, in lengths up to 66”.
  • Will not shrink, twist or split like ordinary dimension lumber.
  • This type of lumber may cup when exposed to wetting on one side.

Loose-Fill Insulation

  • Comes compacted in bags and is poured or blown into walls and between joists of the attic floor.
  • Good for retrofitting insulation into previously uninsulated homes.
  • Each bag is labeled according to federal specifications for both mineral wool and cellulose. Left column lists the R-value, second column tells how many bags are needed to cover 1,000 square feet of attic floor area, the third column gives the minimum thickness after completing the job.
  • Some manufacturers have two columns on thickness for loose-fill and cellulose insulation. The second of these is labeled “settled density”. This is important since cellulose settles quickly.
  • Types include fiberglass rock wool and cellulose. Cellulose is made from waste paper that has been treated to be fire retardant. It is also less likely to cause skin irritation.

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.

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.

Soffit Vent

  • An air intake on the soffit or eave.
  • Helps balance the flow of air into the attic from the ridge vent.
  • Usually made of either aluminum or PVC.
  • Reversible soffit vents can be flush or recessed mounted.

Hollow-Core Wood Door

  • Has wooden or cardboard ribs inside for stability.
  • Primarily used as interior doors, as they will warp or disintegrate from weather.
  • Size is usually 1-3/8” to 1-3/4” thick, and usually 30”, 32″ or 36” wide.
  • Common height is 80”.

White Glue

  • Also known as polyvinyl acetate (PVA).
  • A non-waterproof adhesive used mostly for interior woodworking jobs where a waterproof joint is not required.
  • Usually packaged in plastic squeeze bottles, these inexpensive, milky-white glues dry clear and are fast setting.
  • Bonds paper, fabric, cardboard, cork and leather, as well as wood.
  • Can withstand a moderate amount of strain and cleans up easily with soap and water.
  • Non toxic and non flammable.
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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

What kind of caulk should I use around window frames?

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

Glass Enclosure

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

Impeller Humidifier

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

Ionizer Air Cleaner

  • Use an ionizer to clean air by charging molecules of air, which helps make indoor air more refreshing.
  • Ionizer technology in an air cleaner can also reduce static electricity and improve the filter’s efficiency.

Box Wood Stove

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

Fireplace Set

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

Floor-Vent Humidifier

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

Fiberglass Filter

  • Designed to protect the heating and air conditioning system from large particles, heavy dust and lint.
  • Protects furnace from larger particles and lint that enter the HVAC system.
  • Most common type of filter.
  • Fibers are not dense or electrostatically charged, so they cannot attract and capture smaller-sized particles.
  • This type of filter should be changed at least once a month.
  • Most common size for all furnace/AC filters are 20”x 20”, 20”x 25”, 16”x 20”, 16”x 25” and 14”x 25″.


Airtight Wood Stove

  • Has a sealed firebox and a tight-fitting door
  • An air intake damper allows air to circulate around the firebox and controls the rate of fuel consumed. It can be manually or thermostatically controlled.
  • Provides slow-burning heat for a long period of time with little attention.
  • Prone to heavy creosote buildup in the chimney and pipes because it is slow burning.

Electric Heater

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

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

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.

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.

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”.

Garden Hoe

  • Prepares soil for planting.
  • Also used for weeding.
  • Typical blade width is 6”.

Hose Connector

  • Used to link garden hose and watering devices to the home water source, to connect sections of hose and to provide linkage for sprinkling devices.
  • Usually made of plastic or brass.
  • Some have a built-in shutoff valve.
  • A Y connector is another type that attaches to the water supply to control two hoses at the same time.

Broadcast Spreader

  • Also called a rotary spreader.
  • Quick, efficient way to spread seed, fertilizer, weed and pest control or ice melt.
  • Has a hopper on a metal cart. The broadcast platform turns as the wheels move across the yard.
  • Used for larger lawns.
  • Feathers the spread of seed, eliminating sharply defined edges of spread.
  • Best for use in lawns that do not have flower beds or gardens in the middle, since it spreads material in all directions.
  • Includes flow setting to adjust for all sizes of seed and granules.
  • Hopper capacity varies with model.

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.

Compost Bin

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


  • Fast-growing seed, frequently used by itself or in mixtures.
  • Available as an annual or perennial. The annual quickly germinates for temporary lawns.
  • Good for slopes because of its quick germination.
  • Perennial ryegrass is ideal for lawns in the cool-climate, northern half of the U.S.

Cooking Grate

cooking grate

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

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Plumbing Terms (100)

Water Softener

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

Closet Auger

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

Flexible Fitting

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


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

Globe Valve

  • Used when a valve must be opened and closed frequently under high water pressure.
  • Used to control volume of flow. These valves have two chambers with a partition between them for passage of water that must change course several times from port to port.
  • Should not be used in water supply lines for occasional shut-off purposes.
  • An angle valve is similar to a globe valve, but has its ports at right angles. Install at a turn in piping to eliminate the necessity of an elbow (this is often preferred to using a globe valve and elbow).
  • An angle valve has greater water passage than a globe valve. Since there is only one change in direction of flow, there is less resistance.
  • A Connector Globe Valve uses a union fitting on one side.

Ball-Type Faucet

  • Also known as a washerless faucet.
  • A single-handle faucet that uses a ball with openings in it to control hot and cold water.
  • May leak either at the spigot or at the handle.
  • Leaks from the handle are usually caused by improper adjusting-ring tension. To stop the leak, adjust the tension.
  • Worn cam seals can also result in leaks at the handle.
  • Worn spring-loaded, soft rubber seal assemblies usually cause dripping from the spigot.

All-Purpose Pumps

  • Lightweight pumps used to clear flooded basements, drain low spots after a heavy rain, etc. Used by farmers, boaters and campers as well as homeowners.
  • One type operates off a 12V battery and can be attached to a car, truck, tractor or boat battery.
  • Another type uses a standard 115V house current.
  • Most units pump from 250-500 gallons per hour and are selfpriming and easy to operate.

Copper Pipe

  • Rigid copper pipe is good for new installation. Soft or flexible copper pipe is good for repair work since it can bend around obstacles without multiple cuts and joints.
  • Type K is heaviest, used in municipal, commercial, residential and underground installation; Type L is medium weight and is the most commonly used in residential water lines; Type M is hard and thin.
  • Recommended for light domestic water lines and not permitted in some city codes or for underground use.
  • Common sizes are 3/8”, 1/2 and 3/4”.
  • Refrigeration tube has moisture removed and ends sealed for better performance of refrigerants. Often used in heater connections but may corrode. For heater connections, use flexible brass or aluminum.
  • Larger sizes also used for DWV (drain-waste-vent) applications.

Sewer Tape

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

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.


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Home Security Terms (35)

Surface-Mounted Deadbolt

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

Home Intrusion Alarm

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

Dummy Knob

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


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

Home Perimeter Alarm

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

Entry Lockset

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

Mortise Lock

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

Home Area Alarm

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

Deadbolt Lock

  • Provides maximum security on a door.
  • Called “dead” because there are no springs to operate the bolt. It is only operated manually with a key or a thumb turn from the inside.
  • The bolt locks the door to the frame and helps prevent someone from prying the door open.
  • The throw is the length the bolt is extended from the lock housing.The industry standard is a 1” throw.
  • Locks are designed to fit specific size holes and backsets. Backset refers to the distance between the edge of the door and the center of the handle.
  • A single-cylinder deadbolt is operated with a key from the outside and with a turn button on the inside. It is used mostly with solid metal or wood doors.
  • A double-cylinder deadbolt is operated with a key on both the inside and outside. It is best used on a door with glass in or around them as the style prevents someone from breaking the glass, reaching in and unlocking the door.
  • Double-cylinder deadbolts can pose a danger during an emergency. If the key is missing or not readily available, people could be trapped inside a locked house. In some areas, codes may not permit this style of deadbolt.

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.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

What R-value should I use?

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

Will a rechargeable battery ever wear out?

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

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

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

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

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

What is Underwriters Laboratories?

It is a non-profit organization that tests and approves electrical products. Look for “UL” labels of approval to help ensure appliances are safe.

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.

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 much energy do compact fluorescent light bulbs save?

Most estimates are 70%, which means that over the life of the bulb you can save as much as $100.

I have an older home that does not have ground fault interrupters. Can I install these myself?

Yes, you can replace your regular outlets with ground fault interrupters. If you do not want to rewire the outlet, you can use a portable model that is plugged into an existing outlet.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

What R-value should I use?

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

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

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

My ceiling fan wobbles, what should I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should I put a vent fan in my bathroom?

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

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.

I’ve balanced the blade, but my ceiling fan continues to wobble on the high setting. How can I fix it?

The fan is probably wobbling because the electrical box that it’s attached to isn’t secured tightly to the house’s framing members. You need to take the fan down and re-install it after securing the electrical box to a 2-by-4 brace fastened securely to the ceiling joists.

Can I use an extension cord with my electric space heater?

It is best to plug your electric heater directly into a wall outlet. However, if you must use an extension cord, only use one that is heavy duty, meaning it has 14-gauge wire.

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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

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

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

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

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

Can you repair a leaky valve?

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

How high should the water level in the toilet tank be?

It needs to be high enough for complete flushes, but it should be below the top of the overflow pipe. The tank should have a colored or molded water level mark. The rule of thumb is to set the water level about ¾” below the top of the overflow pipe.

What is a supply valve?

This is valve is under the sink or beside the toilet and shuts off the water to the faucet or toilet.

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

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

What kind of solder do I use on a water line?

Health codes require lead-free solder.

I have a water pipe in an unheated garage, how can I protect it from freezing?

Wrap the pipe with a heat tape, which comes in different lengths.

I think my toilet may be leaking. What should I do?

The most likely cause is that your toilet’s flush valve is leaking through the flapper, letting water continue to drain from the tank down into the bowl. You can check this by pouring some food coloring or blue fabric softener into the tank. Let it sit for 10 minutes than check back to see if the color of the water is the bowl has changed. If so, start by making sure the flapper is seating properly, and replace it if necessary.

What can I use to join plastic (CPVC) to copper?

The easiest thing is to use a push fitting.

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