DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's (273)

I want to give my finished garage floor more traction. Is there a way to add traction?

You can still use the epoxy finish, you’ll just need to apply two coats. In between the first and the second coat, you can add a non-skid material, such as sand, by applying it to the first coat while it is still wet using a hand-held broadcast spreader. Then, when it is dry, apply the second coat of epoxy finish.

Can I just lay down the new shingles over the old ones?

You can put asphalt shingles over an existing roof. However, if there is more than three layers of old roofing on the structure, they must be removed completely before applying new shingles.

I want to make a pegboard to hang tools in my workshop, what kind of wood do I need?

Use a perforated board. If you are planning to hang heavy items, I suggest a 1/4” panel.

What is causing the ends of my deck boards to crack?

Excessive cracking at the ends of wooden deck boards is a sign that too much water is being absorbed into the ends of the board (also known as end grain), where water absorbs more rapidly into the wood. When staining a wooden deck, be sure to fully coat the ends of the board.

What chemical is used to treat pressure treated wood?

Previously, pressure treated wood was treated with a chemical called CCA preservative, which was banned for residential uses in the U.S. at the end of 2003. ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) is replacing CCA in most of the country (where Southern Pine is used) except the far west, where CA (copper azole) is more common (Hem-Fir and SPF are the most common species treated).

How strong is vinyl fence?

Farmers use vinyl fence to safely contain cattle and horses. High-quality fences have a better tensile strength than wood.

What is the benefit of using an engineered product over solid timber?

Engineered lumber may be available in longer lengths and is more uniform than solid timber; it doesn’t have knots, warping or cupping. Since it is engineered, it is designed for certain loads and stresses. It also uses less wood fiber than solid timber and makes better use of our resources.

Does new carpet smell?

New carpet may give off a smell after it’s installed. Give the area good ventilation and the smell should be gone within 48 to 72 hours. Look for the CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute) label on the back of the carpet. This means it has been tested for chemical emissions and emits low levels of chemicals.

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.

Can ceiling tile be installed in the bathroom?

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

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Building Materials Terms (161)

Fiberglass Screening

  • Rustproof, corrosion proof and flame retardant.
  • Available in a variety of colors and meshes, with silver gray and charcoal and 18×16 mesh being the most popular.
  • A fine-woven 20×20 mesh is used primarily in coastal areas where very tiny flying insects are a problem.
  • Large areas such as a pool enclosure may use a 18×14 mesh.
  • Standard widths are 24” and 48”, with many manufacturers offering 54”, 60” and 72” as special order.

Glider Window

  • Slides horizontally to open.
  • Durable, since the sash is fully supported in the frame.
  • The nail-on frame style uses nailing flanges and is used mainly in new construction.
  • The block frame style is used either as a replacement window or in block construction.

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.


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

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.


  • Attaches directly to pipe threads to reduce pipe size.
  • Female threaded.
  • Can refer to couplings, tees, or elbows.


Grab Bar

  • Installed for safety around tubs to help prevent falls.
  • Also used as a handrail to help anyone who may have trouble sitting down or standing up.
  • Never use a towel rod in place of a grab bar.
  • Never install diagonally, as a person’s hand might slide if footing isn’t secure.

Power Ventilator

  • Turbine vents that consist of a turbine mounted on a sheet metal cylinder.
  • Installed like roof line vents along the face of the roof.
  • When the wind blows, it spins the turbine, which in turn draws air up out of the attic.
  • Their effectiveness depends on whether the wind is blowing or not.

Steel Door

  • Typically galvanized steel facing with polystyrene, polyurethane, wood or particleboard cores.
  • Offers more insulation, durability, fire-resistance and security than wood doors.
  • The steel exterior provides structural strength and eliminates cracking and warping.
  • Usually used as exterior doors.

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)

Incandescent Bulbs

  • Produce light by passing current through a thin coil of wire called a filament. As the wire heats, it becomes white hot and emits visible light. Vacuum filled.
  • Use for general and task lighting around the house.
  • Wattage indicates the amount of electric power used by a bulb to produce light. Generally, the greater the wattage, the greater the light output. Some bulbs produce more light per watt than others.
  • Standard household bulbs have an average life of 750 to 1,000 hours, which can be lengthened or shortened by the treatment they receive. For example, a 120V bulb operating on a 125V circuit may produce more light but won’t last as long as one on a 120V circuit.
  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tags on fixtures designate the maximum allowable wattage. A mercury or fluorescent system is typically limited to a single bulb size.
  • Long-life bulbs may last longer than ordinary bulbs, because they have heavier filaments that do not burn out as quickly. However, these bulbs do not produce as much light as standard bulbs.
  • Manufacturers disclose average light output (in lumens) and average bulb life (in hours) on package labeling.
  • The filament vaporizes as a result of current flowing through it, and generally, the bulb “burns out.” Three-way bulbs lose two light levels when one filament burns out because two filaments are used in the bulb separately for two of the levels and together for the third.
  • Bulb designations denote size and shape. The figure following the bulb shape letter designation is the bulb’s maximum diameter in eighths of an inch. Thus, A-19 would mean an A-shaped bulb with a diameter of 19 x 1/8″, or 2-3/8″.
  • Most standard bulb envelopes are made of lime glass, but bulbs that must withstand greater heat are made of harder, heat-resistant glass. Hard-glass envelopes are used in many high-wattage bulbs and in bulbs recommended for outdoor use where there is danger of thermal shock from condensation.


  • Fluorescent lamps require special auxiliary equipment to provide reliable starting and to assure proper electrical operation. The principle function of the ballast is to hold operating current within proper limits and to provide enough voltage to start the lamp.
  • Instant-start ballasts provide sufficient voltage to start fluorescent lamps without preheating and are commonly used with single-pin lamps and some special lamp types.
  • Rapid-start ballasts heat the cathodes continuously from a low-voltage transformer within the ballast. This is the most common type of ballast in use today for 40-watt lamps and for all lamps that use recessed double-contact bases.
  • Reduced wattage lamps operate on most existing ballasts, which can reduce wattage 14 to 20 percent. In addition, new ballasts developed to minimize the wattage consumed by the ballast itself further reduce electrical consumption.

Conduit Fasteners

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


  • Turn on lights and appliances at specified intervals and times.
  • Available for indoor and outdoor applications.
  • Spring-wound timers for bath fans and spas have a manual on-off switch.

Alkaline Battery

  • Longest lasting all-purpose battery.
  • Used for high and continuous current drain applications.
  • Disposable and operates well in low temperatures.
  • Voltages range from 1.5V to 9V.
  • Lasts as many as five years on the shelf.

Halogen Bulbs

  • Like incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs produce light by passing current through a coiled tungsten wire. The tungsten wire is enclosed in a small quartz or high-temperature glass tube, which is then filled with gases, including a halogen gas.
  • The advantages of tungsten halogen bulbs compared with standard incandescent bulbs include less loss of light over lamp life; smaller physical size for better directional light control; whiter, brighter light; more light per watt; and longer life.
  • Like incandescent bulbs, halogen lights have the advantage of instant-on light. They are easy to use with dimmers for energy savings.
  • Typical halogen lamps last 2,000 to 4,000 hours compared to 750 to 1,000 hours for incandescent lamps. Wattage levels for home use run from 5 watts to 500 watts.
  • More energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs. They generate up to 30 percent more light for the same electricity.
  • Halogen bulbs blacken much less than incandescent bulbs and stay brighter as they age. Because of their brilliant white light, they are excellent for use in displays.
  • Be careful not to touch the glass on halogen bulbs. This can degrade their lifespan and they can also be extremely hot within seconds of being turned on.


  • A small silver-colored cylinder found mostly in older fluorescent lamps.
  • Allows the electrodes to heat up prior to the lamp starting.
  • When the lamp in an older fluorescent begins to flicker, both the tube and the starter should be replaced.
  • Starterless operation is achieved with instant-start and rapid-start ballast designs.

Wire Channels

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


  • Taps the electrical circuit to provide power at a given location.
  • Available in flush- or surface-mounted designs.
  • A single- or double-wipe contact refers to the area of the inserted prong where the contact is made.

Lithium Battery

  • Holds power for eight to 10 years on the shelf.
  • Available in 9V.
  • Used for cameras, watches and other items used repeatedly over a long period of time.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

How can I tell if a socket or switch has a current?

The best way is with a voltage tester. If it blinks, then power is still flowing through the circuit.

What is a time delay fuse?

Time delay fuses are used on circuits where appliance motors have initial surges of electrical power when the motor starts. This initial surge might blow a regular fuse.

How do I troubleshoot a fluorescent fixture that doesn’t light?

It’s probably not the bulb, because they rarely go bad all at once. Wiggle the tube to make sure it is seated. Replace any damaged lamp holders. Replace the starter. Check the switch and outlet box to make sure it is getting power.

I need to install a receptacle for my kitchen range. Is it okay to use one designed for a dryer?

No, they may look similar, but they have different features. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s label to ensure you are buying one that is rated for the proper amperage.

Which color of wire nut do I need?

Check the package, it will tell you what size and how many wires each color of nut will hold.

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

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

My new light fixture is rated for 60W bulbs. Is it OK to use 75W bulbs if I want the room to be brighter?

No. This could cause a serious fire hazard, as the bulbs could get too hot and melt parts of the fixture and even catch on fire.

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

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

What’s making the tubes in my fluorescent light flicker?

Wiggle the tubes to make sure they are properly seated. Replace any tubes that are dark or have damaged pins. Replace the starter if there is one.

Is there a special receptacle I should install outside?

Yes, we have a special box with a cover designed to protect. In addition, the receptacle should also have ground-fault circuit-interrupt protection.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Solar Screen

  • Used in place of regular insect screening and blocks out most of the sun’s heat while serving as an insect barrier.
  • Available in aluminum material or as fiberglass ribbed-weave mesh.
  • Helps save energy; aluminum screens can reduce incoming heat by as much as 87 percent and fiberglass solar screen can reduce incoming heat by 70 percent.
  • Available in the same widths and colors as regular screen.

Gypsum Wallboard

  • Consists of a core of gypsum plaster covered with two sheets of heavy paper.
  • Panels are 4’ wide and range in length from 6’ to 16’.
  • Boards 1/4” thick are normally used for recovering old walls and ceilings.
  • Boards 3/8” thick are used in two-ply construction.
  • Boards 1/2” and 5/8” are used in single-ply new work. 5/6” boards provide better fire resistance and sound control.
  • Benefits include low cost and ease of installation. The plain-papered face provides an excellent surface for paint or wallpaper.
  • The edges are typically made with a slight taper, which allows for a filled and tapered joint.
  • Greenboard is a type of gypsum wallboard that has a water-resistant (not waterproof) facing and is used in bathrooms and areas that will be exposed to water or steam.

Ceramic Tile

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


  • Most redwood sold is heartwood and sapwood grade. Each type comes in several grades, from a fine finish appearance to a rougher, less attractive finish.
  • Heartwood contains natural barriers to termites and decay and is suited for applications that come into contact with the ground.
  • Sapwood contains cream-colored streaks. It should not be used in contact with the ground.
  • Architectural redwood is the strongest redwood. It is normally kiln-dried and used for structural and finish applications.
  • Garden redwood comprises lower grades that are not kiln-dried and are commonly used for decks, fences and other outdoor garden uses.

Foam Insulation

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


  • A three-part fitting that connects any standard size pipe where it may be necessary to disconnectt later, such as on a water heater.
  • Connects to male threaded ends.
  • Also known as a ground joint union.
  • A Transition Union joins different types of tubing, such as CPVC to brass.

Roll Roofing

  • Less expensive than shingles.
  • Used on lower-slope roofs or as a supplement to shingles.
  • Comes with either a smooth or mineral-covered surface on a heavy felt base that has been saturated with asphalt and then coated on both sides with more asphalt.
  • Easy to install.
  • A typical roll roofing, known as 90-lb. granule-coated, will cover 100 square feet.
  • A 45-lb. smooth roofing, without granules, will also cover 100 square feet.
  • A properly applied roll roofing should last from 10 to 20 years.

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.

Bifold Door

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

Contact Cement

  • Can be used on many surfaces, but the joints it makes may come apart under a heavy load.
  • Good to bond laminates to countertops and cabinets, or to glue plastic foam, hardboard or metal to wood.
  • Instant adhesion makes contact cement difficult to use. It bonds immediately without clamping and resists water, temperature extremes and fungi.
  • Contact cement is most effective when one or both surfaces are porous or semi-porous.
  • Contains solvents that should be allowed to flash off before assembly. Non-flammable versions are available.
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FAQs (0)

What type of joinery method is best for mitered corners?

When gluing miters using biscuits, you need a way to clamp the joint until the glue dries. While there are a variety of miter clamps available, the pocket hole joinery method doesn’t require screws, and it’s a very solid joint.

What is the benefit of a storm door?

Storm doors provide extra security and provide another layer of protection against weather. They also can stop drafts through door openings.

Is it better to glue or nail paneling?

Either way is effective. For the best installation, I recommend a combination of both glue and nails.

Can I leave my window partially open and still have it locked?

Yes, window locks can be mounted on a track which permits windows to be opened a desired distance.

I’m going to add a wall in one of the rooms of my house, what grade of board should I use.

If the wall won’t be carrying any weight above it, you can use a light framing 2×4. The other option is a stud, which can be used for load bearing walls.

Why is there so much color variation among different pieces of hardwood?

Hardwood trees take many years to mature and each one develops its own character markings. Sapwood (wood taken from the outer edge of the tree) and heartwood (wood taken closer to the core of the tree) often have color variations. The color of the wood also shows the effects of various minerals the tree may have absorbed as it grew.

I’m installing subfloor and want to be sure the joists and subfloor are protected against moisture.

Besides making sure you take care of any drainage problems, provide adequate ventilation to the basement and use a ground cover vapor retarder in the crawl space.

Won’t stone or ceramic floors always be cold in the winter?

Stone tends to hold the room temperature, but you can buy floor-warming systems. These install underneath the tile and keep the floor warm.

How long before I can walk on my new vinyl floor?

Wait at least 24 hours before heavy traffic.

Can I paint acoustical tiles?

You can paint the tiles, but you may void the manufacturer’s warranty and loose some of the sound absorption properties. To correctly paint acoustical tiles, you must be sure not to get the tiny holes on the surface of the tile clogged with paint.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

Why does the hook on the end of my tape measure move slightly? Doesn’t that affect the final reading? Do I need to get a new one for my toolkit?

It is designed to slide the same amount as the thickness of the end of the hook. That way it can accurately measure distances when the tape is hooked to the end of an object (such as the end of a board) or when measuring between objects (such as the width of a door jamb). If it were fixed, one of these two measurements would be off by the thickness of the hook.

How does a biscuit joiner work?

A biscuit joiner uses a special horizontal blade that plunges into a piece of wood to create a slot for a biscuit. A biscuit is a football-shaped piece of compressed wood that helps join together two pieces of wood. To use a biscuit joiner, align the joiner on the piece of wood and push the handle forward. Make a similar cut in the second piece of wood at the place where the two will adjoin.

What should I look for when buying a lawn mower?

For a mulching or self-propelled mower, you need plenty of horsepower so look for one that has a 5 to 6 horsepower engine.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of anvil and bypass pruners?

Anvils provide one blade that is pushed up against a flat surface. These are less expensive and are good on dried wood. Some experts also believe evergreens also prefer this type of cut. Bypass pruners allow you to cut larger branches (up to about ¾”).

I need a good stepladder. What should I consider?

Wood stepladders are sturdy and the least expensive, but they are heavy. Aluminum stepladders are lightweight but more expensive than wood stepladders. Fiberglass stepladders combine strength and lightweight and are the most expensive.

Why is there is quite a range in prices for claw hammers?

The higher priced hammers have sturdier handles and better steel in their heads. These hammers will perform better and last longer.

Can hacksaws cut other materials besides metal?

Yes, the fine teeth of a hacksaw can cut other materials too tough for wood saws, such as bricks.

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.

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.

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.

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Hand Tools Terms (241)

Screening Tool

  • Used when installing door or window screening.
  • Has a cylindrical handle and bladed wheels on each end.
  • One end is tapered at the edge to help push the screening and spline into the proper slot of the frame.

Plunger Duster

  • Ideal for pest control or for use on flowers or roses.
  • Capacity ranges from 1/4 to 1 lb. for home use and up to 3 lbs. for commercial use.
  • Discharges on the forward stroke of the plunger.
  • Volume of dust discharged and range or carry is controlled by the size of pump and speed of pumping.

Phillips® Tip Screwdriver


  • Used on cross-slotted screw heads with modified U-shaped slots of uniform width.
  • Sizes range from 0 to 4, with 0 being the smallest.
  • Similar tip configurations include Frearson tips that have cross slots that are V-shaped slots with tapered sides, and Pizidriv® with additional, smaller slots at 45-degree angles to the main cross slots.


Combination Wrench

  • Has a box and an open end on opposite sides of the same wrench. Both ends are usually the same size.
  • Used for working on machinery and is the most popular of all fixed-end wrench styles.
  • Also available is a reversible ratcheting combination wrench that allows the user to quickly tighten nuts and bolts without lifting the wrench off and repositioning it after each rotation.


Tack Hammer

  • Used for furniture upholstery and to drive small nails and tacks.
  • Features a magnetic face used to hold small tacks. The other face is used to drive them.

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.

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.

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.

Angel Level

  • Locates angles and pitches (slopes) from 0 to 90 degrees.
  • Commonly used when installing drain lines to check for proper fall of pipe.
  • Generally reads slope or pitch with inches per foot rise scale.

Bow Saw

  • Consists of a tubular steel frame and a saw blade for fast cutting of all woods.
  • The bow saw’s frame is important, since the thin blade, usually 3/4″ wide, must be held under high tension for fast cutting.
  • Advantages of this general-purpose saw are its all-around utility and light weight.
  • Some bow saws are designed to hold hacksaw blades as well as standard bow saw blades. These multi-purpose saws can be used to cut wood, metal or plastic.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Spring Hinge

  • Closes the door automatically.
  • Double acting types are commonly used on café doors that swing in both directions.

Friction Catch

  • Helps the cabinet door stay shut.
  • Operates by pressure of the catch on the strike.
  • Catch mounts on a doorframe, jamb or underside of a shelf while the strike mounts on the door so that upon closing, it is inserted into the catch.
  • Two common types are alligator and lever spring-action.

Swinging Drapery Crane

  • Adjusting positions permit it to swing clear and project outward to keep curtains clear of venetian blinds.
  • Also used to push curtains close to the wall, to lengthen or shorten to suit drapery width and to tilt out to allow easy window or trim washing.
  • Good for French doors or windows.

Straight Link Welded Chain

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

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.

Capped Nail

  • Has a plastic or metal flat cap at the head.
  • Used for installing foam insulation to exterior surfaces.
  • Some types are made for hammering into masonry.

Strap Hinge

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

Roller Spring Catch

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

Drapery Accessories

  • Rings must be 1/4” larger in diameter than the rod for free movement. Some have eyelets for insertion of a drapery hook.
  • Ring Clips are oval or round. When pressed on the sides, the prongs open. When pressure is released, the prongs grasp the top of the drapery.
  • The Slip-On Hook fits over a rod or into an eyelet on the rod. The drapery heading fits between the two close-facing shanks on the opposite side of the hook.
  • The Pin-On Hook works the same way except that the drapery heading is hooked into the sharp pin, which is opposite to the side that hangs on the rod.
  • The Pleater Hook is used with pleater tape sewn to the drapery heading. Three or four prongs, or shanks, form pleats when the heading is placed onto the shanks.
  • Swagholders make decorative window treatments with ordinary fabric by draping and forming poufs, rosettes, bishop’s sleeves and festoons.
  • Fasteners for draperies include hollow wall screw anchors, toggles and plastic anchors. These work well in drywall, plaster walls, concrete blocks and other masonry materials.
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Hardware FAQ's (78)

I want to put some shelves in my garage, what kind should I buy?

It’s always a good idea to keep things off the floor if possible, so invest in some shelves and brackets that you can hang on the wall.

What products do you sell that will help childproof my home?

Child-resistant locks on cabinets, electrical outlet covers, additional smoke alarms and gun locks are some of the products you should consider.

What products do you sell that will help childproof my home?

Child resistant locks on cabinets, electrical outlet covers, additional smoke alarms and gun locks are some of the products you should consider.

What do I use to hang a plant?

For small to medium size hangings, there are kits that include a toggle and a decorative hook. These often have screws so that you do not have to use the toggle if you install it directly into a joist. For larger things, you may have to buy a large hook and toggle separately.

What type of storage tote should I buy to store my clothes to store in my apartment?

Buy one that is clear or somewhat clear so you can see the content of what’s inside. This will help you easily locate that special sweater this fall.

Will this handle fit my sliding glass door?

I’m sorry, there are too many manufacturers and styles to know which one fits your door. The best thing to do is take the one you think looks the closest. It may not work, but if it does it will save you a trip back. Otherwise, it’s best to bring in your old handle to make sure we can match it up.

What can I use to anchor a drapery rod on drywall?

A plastic anchor will support a lighter rod. Rods supporting heavier weights will need a molly wall grip.

Are there nails that match my walnut paneling?

Yes, paneling nails come in a variety of colors.

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

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.

What does MERV stand for?

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. It basically rates the filter’s ability to trap particles from the air. The higher the MERV number, the more efficient the filter.

Can I stack insulation to get a higher R-value?

Yes. For example, two R-19 batts can be stacked on each other to create R-38 insulation. You also can add loose-fill insulation on top of a bottom layer of batts.

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.

I already have some loose-fill insulation in my attic. How do I know if I need more?

Generally, if you have less than 9” of insulation on the attic floor, it needs more.

Which is better: a metal or a cast iron stove?

Both conduct heat identically well. As a general rule, though, the thicker the metal, the longer the stove will last.

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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)

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.)

Furnace-Mounted Humidifier

  • Forces dry air from the furnace through a saturated foam element or plate.
  • Connected to the water supply so it is refilled automatically.
  • Another type sprays a fine mist of water into the heated air.
  • Uses an automatic reset humidistat to adjust moisture output to compensate for weather changes.

Pleated Filter

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

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.

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.

Evaporative Cooler

  • Sometimes called a swamp cooler.
  • Uses ice and cool water to cool and return moisture to the air.
  • Ice and cool water is mounted on top of the unit. As the ice melts, cool water flows over a wicking material. A fan mounted behind the wick creates a cool moist breeze.
  • Environmentally friendly as it uses little energy and contains no harmful chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Crack a few windows to prevent moisture build-up on inside walls when using an evaporative cooler.

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.

Gas Stove

  • Ideal for those with little space to store wood or with the time to maintain a wood stove. Also better for heating smaller areas.
  • Uses natural gas so it is a reliable heat source when the power goes out.
  • Flame height and heat intensity is easily adjustable.
  • The direct vent type is ideal for homes without an existing chimney.

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.
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Home Security FAQ's (38)

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.

I have mis-drilled the hole for my doorknob. Is there anything I can do to cover this mistake?

One option is to use a brass door reinforcer. This product will also increase the strength of your door.

When my house was built, they did not install a doorbell. Is there an easy way to solve this?

Yes, there are wireless door chimes that are fairly easy to install.

Will any lock fit my door?

Most locks come in two sizes: 2-3/8” or 2-3/4” backset. This is how far the center of the hole is away from the edge of the door. You need to know this distance or purchase a lock that has an adjustable backset.

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

What kind of deadbolt should I use with my door?

There are two types of deadbolts: single cylinder and double cylinder. A single cylinder deadbolt must be opened with a key from the outside and a turn on the inside. If your door has a sidelight or a glass pane, I suggest a double cylinder deadbolt. With this type, an intruder can’t break the glass and reach in and unlock the bolt. This design does present a danger, however, in case of a fire, as a key has to be used to exit.

Do I need a deadbolt?

These locks provide more security as the deadbolt latch is larger and protrudes farther into the door frame. It can also be keyed on both sides for additional security.

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Home Security Terms (35)

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.

Ionization Fire Detector

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

Keyless Entry System

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

Photoelectric Fire Detector

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


  • Consists of a metal hinge and an anchoring bolt so locks can be secured to gates, sheds and garages.
  • Conceals the mounting screws when the lock is in place.
  • Insert a padlock through the ring and lock to secure the hasp.
  • Another type is the hasplock, which has a padlock attached to it, which makes it impossible to lose the padlock when the hasp is open.

Thermal Fire Detector

  • Used primarily by large commercial firms.
  • The alarm sounds when the temperature rises to a certain level.
  • Most are also triggered by a quick rise in temperature even if an extreme temperature is not reached.
  • Not as safe as other types of fire detectors as fire usually must be intense before the thermal unit will sound.

Barrel Bolt

  • A sliding lock mechanism used to provide security for average weight doors and windows.
  • Is surface mounted where the bolt slides into a catch on the other side of the door.
  • Available in decorative finishes and with surface or universal strikes.
  • Some have spring action to hold the bolt in place, and some are lockable.
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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

My mower won’t start. What’s most likely the problem?

Some of the common reasons mowers won’t start include the following:
1. It’s out of gas.

2. It’s flooded. Let it sit for an hour or two or overnight
until the strong gas smell goes away, then try again.

3. It needs a new spark plug. Check the tip of the plug for
corrosion and rust and replace it if necessary.

4. The fuel is stale. Replace with fresh fuel.

What is the difference between annual, perennial weeds and biennial weeds?

Annual weeds, such as crabgrass, germinate from seeds each spring. After maturing, they drop seeds before dying. These are the seeds that germinate the following year. Perennial weeds, such as dandelions, do not die at the end of growing season. They may lay dormant in the winter, but will become noticeable in the spring. There are also biennial weeds, such as thistle, which grow vegetation in the first year and then flower and die the second year.

What should a good potted plant fertilizer mixture contain?

Planting mixtures usually contain vermiculite, peat moss, fertilizer and a small amount of sterile soil.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of organic fertilizers?

The word “organic” simply means that the nutrients contained in the product are derived from a once-living organism. Most are high in just one of the three major nutrients and low in the other two. Their major advantage is adding bulk to the soil. Except for manure, the organics generally release their nutrients over a fairly long period. However, the potential drawback is that they may not release enough of their principal nutrient at a time to give a plant what it needs for best growth. Because they depend on soil organisms to break them down, most organic fertilizers are effective only when the soil is moist and warm.

How long will it take to replant flowers?

If the soil is well prepared, you can plant a flat of 36 flowers in about 30 minutes.

Are lawnmower blades specific to particular mowers?

Yes, you need to know the brand, width of the cut and whether it is a mulching mower. Some blades come with adapter kits that allow them to be used on different brands.

When should I prune?

Typically, it’s best to do this trimming when the plant is dormant before it is budding.

I am not having success with my garden or my lawn, what do you think the problem might be?

The three factors to consider are water, light and soil. You already know if it is getting enough light and water, but I recommend that you buy a simple soil tester to let you know what your soil’s strengths and weaknesses are.

How often should I sharpen my mower blade?

Once a month if it receives a lot of use. Otherwise, once or twice a year.

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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Lawn Fencing

  • Offers homeowners inexpensive protection for shrubs, trees and flowerbeds.
  • Vinyl-coated fence withstands harsh weather and does not need painting or other maintenance. Available in green or white.
  • Plastic fence is available in a 2” square mesh design and a 1” diamond mesh.
  • Available in white and green. Will not rot, rust or corrode and has no sharp edges.
  • Galvanized fence is available in 2”x4” mesh.
  • Typical fence stands 36” to 48” high.

Weed Cutter

  • May also be called a swing blade or weed whip.
  • For cutting tall grass and weeds.
  • Operates with a swinging motion.
  • Has a double-edged, serrated blade for cutting on the forward and return swing.

Straight Edge Rake

  • Used to pull leaves and debris toward the user.
  • Also used to gather up heavy trash such as sticks and stones.

Weeding Hoe

  • Has a pointed blade for lifting out weeds.
  • May be single or double pronged.

Stationary Sprinkler

  • Lowest cost sprinkler available.
  • Effective for small lawn or garden areas.
  • Sprays water in a fixed pattern of holes in the top of the sprinkler.
  • Size, shape and pattern of these holes, as well as water pressure, determine the area covered.
  • Available in a variety of designs and hole patterns.

Handheld Spreader

  • A handheld version of the broadcast spreader.
  • Used to spread small amounts of fertilizer, grass seed or ice melt.
  • Since it does not have wheels, the spreader uses a hand-turned lever to spin the broadcast platform.
  • Includes flow setting to adjust for all sizes of seed and granules.
  • Hopper capacity varies with model.

Unsupported Gloves

  • Good for applications requiring dexterity and mild chemical resistance, or disposable gloves.
  • Thin gauges offer a better sense of touch while a heavy gauge offers more protection.
  • May be constructed of latex, nitrile, neoprene, vinyl, polyethylene or blends.
  • Some styles are lined.

Rubber Mulch

  • Made from non-toxic, environmentally friendly, recycled materials that can be used indoors or outdoors.
  • Like organic mulch, it inhibits weed growth while retaining soil moisture.
  • Natural shape allows airflow into the ground.
  • Looks like organic mulch but doesn’t rot, dissolve into the ground, wash away from rain or loose its color as easily as regular mulch.
  • Available in a variety of colors.


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

Wire Fencing

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


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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

Where do I start when painting an interior wall?

Use an angled brush to trim the perimeter of the room and around door and window frames.

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.

How do I recognize a good paint?

Paint has three components: the binder, the pigment and the liquid. The best paints contain a higher volume of solid materials. Pay close attention to the solid content. For example, a $13 gallon of paint with a solid content of 19 percent might cover about 200 square feet, while a $20 gallon of paint with 41 percent solid content will cover about twice that amount. The binder is the most important factor in the durability. Some paints also have additives to enhance their performance, such as mildewcide.

Should I buy a paint brush with angled bristles or cut square?

An angle-tipped brush allows you to put the tips of the bristles on the work at the natural angle that the brush is held. In addition, an angle-tipped brush puts slightly more bristle area on the work than a square-tipped brush of the same width.

Is there a good time to paint outside?

Always check the paint can for specific recommendations. But for general guidelines, you want the paint to dry evenly, so try to paint in the shade and when the temperature is between 60 degrees and below 90 degrees. Also, avoid windy days because they might make the paint dry too quickly or blow debris onto your wet paint.

Should I clean my roller cover or throw it away?

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

What’s the difference between transparent, semi-transparent and solid stains?

The difference lies in the amount of pigment in each. Transparent stains, although they appear clear, have some pigment in them for UV protection. Semi-transparent stains have more pigment, but still allow some of the wood grain to show through. Solid stains are basically like paint. They hide most of the wood’s character, but they offer the best protection from moisture and UV rays.

What is an oil-based paint?

These paints have resins and thinners in them that evaporate when the paint dries. This process forms a hard coating and provides heavier coverage on the first coat, effective penetration and excellent adhesion. They are particularly good for chalky surfaces and those that already have several layers of oil-based paint.

How wide of a brush should I use?

The best answer is whatever you feel comfortable with. A bigger brush holds more paint and applies it more quickly, but it is also harder to control.

Is there a way I can test my exterior paint to see if it contains lead?

Yes. There are several do-it-yourself test kits that are approved by the EPA. Go to for a listing of test kits that have been approved. Approved test kits generally come with verification cards, while many non-approved test kits don’t.

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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Interior Paint

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


Radiator Brush

  • Also called hockey stick due to shape.
  • Used to paint hard-to-reach areas.
  • Sash positioned at 45-degree angle to long handle.

Wood Conditioner Sealer

  • Is used on softwoods to help tame wild grain patterns and to even up stain absorbency.
  • The sealer penetrates the wood, which allows a more even color appearance and grain pattern.

Paint Pail Shelf

  • Attaches to step ladders to provide a tray for paint cans.
  • Generally constructed of molded plastic shelf with aluminum arms.
  • Some models automatically close when step ladder is folded for storage.
  • Usually contains a built-in rag rack.

Sculpture Paint

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

Exterior Paint

  • Like interior paint, exterior paint is available in both latex and oil-based formulations—both of which are designed to withstand wear and exposure to severe weather conditions.
  • The advantage of exterior latex paint is that it films on exterior wood allowing moisture to evaporate through the film, which helps reduce blistering.
  • The disadvantages of exterior latex paint, especially of some lower-quality products, are poorer adhesion to badly weathered or chalking surfaces and, in some cases, less effective hiding qualities.
  • The best qualities of oil-based paints are their effective penetration of the surface and excellent adhesion. Oil-based paints have advantages over latex paints in that they adhere better to chalky surfaces and they provide better results for anyone repainting a surface that already has several layers of oil-based paint.
  • Trim paints are chosen to contrast with house color. They dry quickly to a hard finish; they are primarily for use on window frames, shutters and railings. Trim paints are not recommended for large surfaces.
  • Flat finishes, which mark easily, should not be used on doors, door frames or other areas that are exposed to wear. Satin or gloss paints are recommended for these areas.
  • Major problems associated with house paints are generally due to:
    • failure to follow manufacturer’s directions
    • excessive moisture
    • painting wet surfaces
    • painting during inclement weather
    • failure to use proper primer coat
    • failure to clean the surface completely.
  • Any of these conditions can cause blistering, peeling, early fading or similar problems.

Foam Brush

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

Heavy Duty Scraper

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

Ladder Paint Tray

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

Coloring Tint

  • Tint used to change color of glazes when faux finishing.
  • Available in a variety of colors.
  • Generally comes in 12 oz or 1 oz. bottles and tubes.
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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

I think my flush valve is leaking, is there a way to fix this without removing the tank from the bowl?

Maybe. Start by checking the flapper, which is the rubber and plastic assembly piece that is attached to the chain. When the tank lever is pressed, the flapper is raised to let water flush from the tank into the bowl. Sometimes the flapper doesn’t seat properly and needs to be adjusted. Oftentimes, the flapper can be replaced without replacing the entire flush valve.

When it comes to plastic piping, Is ½-inch CPVC and ½-inch PVC the same size?

No. CPVC is measured by O.D., which makes its sizing similar to hard copper. PVC is measured by I.D., which makes its sizing similar to iron pipe.

How can I make my cultured marble sink look shiny again?

Use a polishing compound. To fill in scratches or dents, use appliance wax or car wax.

How do I replace a damaged refill valve?

Turn off the toilet’s water supply valve, flush the toilet and sponge out any remaining water in the tank. The refill valve is usually removed by turning a nut that holds it in place. When the nut is off, the refill assembly can be lifted out. Install the new assembly by following the manufacture’s directions.

Can the fittings be removed after they have been glued?

No. They are permanently joined and cannot be taken apart.

What diameter trap do I need for my kitchen sink?

These are almost always 1 ½ inches. The 1 ¼ inch traps are for bathroom lavatories.

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

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

Can 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.

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.

There is dripping along some of my pipes. Does this indicate a leak?

Not necessarily. Warm, moist air condenses when it strikes cold pipes. To prevent this condensation, wrap the pipes in insulation.

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Plumbing Terms (100)

PVC Pipe

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



  • Used to clear stopped-up drains by chemical action.
  • Most liquid drain cleaners are heavier than water and will seek out the stoppage, even if the sink, tub or bowl is full of water.
  • Cleaners are typically a combination of potassium hydroxide, which turns grease to soft soap, and thioglycolic acid, that dissolves hair. Others may contain sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid or lye.
  • Toxic liquids should carry warnings and must be used with caution.

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.

Flux Brush

  • Used to apply flux to a pipe.
  • About 6″ long.

Stop & Waste Valve

  • Has a small opening on the non-pressure side to allow drainage when it is in cut-off position. Helps prevent freezing of water lines in winter.
  • Also known as a bleeder valve or drainable valve.
  • Comes in threaded, sweat, flare and slip joint ends. The latter two are municipal and emergency valves.
  • Flat head or socket head are common residential types have a socket head that takes a 3/8″ key rod.

Disc-Type Faucet

  • A washerless faucet.
  • Water is controlled by openings in the two discs. When the discs are rotated to align, the water flows. When the discs are misaligned, the water shuts off.
  • May have one or two handles.
  • Fix by replacing the O-rings or, better yet, replace the whole disc.

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.


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


  • Is closed on one end and fits over end of pipe run to seal a run of pipe or a fitting.
  • Either has female threads (for galvanized pipe) or no threads (for copper, PVC and other solvent welded pipe).

Water Pump Pliers

  • Also called expanding jawed pliers.
  • Larger sizes can be used as a quick opening pipe wrench.
  • Used to loosen sink strainer jam nuts or grip flush valve jam nuts.
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Power Tools Terms (84)


  • Used for jobs where great force is required such as breaking up concrete or driving heavy spikes.
  • Feature long handles from 14” to 36” and heavy heads weighing from 2 lbs. to 20 lbs.
  • Double-face sledgehammers feature two identical faces.
  • Single-face sledgehammers have one flat face for striking and one wedge-shaped face for splitting wood.

Laminate Trimmer

  • A lightweight mini router.
  • Designed for trimming thin plastic countertop materials, but also useful for small routing jobs.
  • Highly portable and can be used with one hand.

Dado Head Blade

  • Consists of two kinds of blades in one assembly: two small and thicker-than-normal circular blades on the outside and blades called cutters on the inside.
  • Use to cut grooves or slots across boards.
  • Used on a table saw.
  • An alternative type is an adjustable dado, which consists of a single blade.


  • Used to square up, resize or smooth wood in width or thickness. Best for larger flat surfaces.
  • Performs the job of a hand plane, but faster and better.
  • A variation is a planer-jointer, which performs additional operations such as tapering, beveling and grooving. The planer finishes edges.

Step Bits

  • Has a graduated design so that various sized holes can be cut without changing bits.
  • Designed for use with power drills and has self-starting tips eliminating the need for center punching. Can be used on all materials, but especially designed for use on metals.

Disc Sander

  • Used mostly for metal sanding or grinding, but also capable of removing stock in plastics, wood or concrete when used with the proper accessory stone, disc or wheel.
  • Aggressively removes stock but leaves scratches in the material.
  • Available in two styles: the angle head where the disc runs parallel to the motor, and the vertical style where the disc runs in a plane perpendicular to the motor.
  • Polishers are another variation of this sander, but they operate at much lower speeds than the sander. A sander should not be used for polishing as the high speed could burn the paint.

Hand Drilling Hammer

  • Has short handles and is used for pounding hardened nails into concrete or for using with tools that drive nails and pins into concrete or brick.
  • Only hammer to use with star drills, masonry nails, steel chisels and nail pullers.
  • Weighs between 2 lbs. and 4 lbs.
  • Larger striking surface, generous bevel and special heat-treating minimize chance of chipping the striking face.


Router Bit

  • Attaches to a router to create a variety of shapes and cuts.
  • Use carbide bits for cutting laminates and harder composite materials.
  • Use high speed steel bits for general purpose cutting in wood and aluminum.
  • Generally grouped into three types: grooving bits, edging bits and specialty bits.
  • The standard d-i-y bit uses a 1/4” shank.
  • Available in an anti-kick-back or chip-limiting design that helps protect the piece of work where the router is being used by preventing the bit from lurching forward and biting into the material.

Sabre Saw Blade

  • A carbon steel blade used for cutting most woods and some plastics.
  • The high-speed steel blade is used for cutting metal, fiberglass and abrasives and thin plastics.


  • Used to smooth the edges of wood and help remove warps.
  • Can cut flat surfaces.
  • Size is determined by length of the tool’s knives. Most common size is 6”.
  • Often combined with a planer.
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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

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

Folding Workbench

  • Is a portable specialty bench that comes as a tabletop or folding bench.
  • The folding benches offer easy storage and a firm, broad base.
  • Many models come with a tabletop clamping device to secure work piece to the table and hold irregular pieces securely.

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″.

Folding Sawhorse

  • Made of either construction-grade tubular aluminum or steel or fabricated steel.
  • Most require a wooden cross-beam (Generally a 2×4 or 2×6) be added. With a metal cross-beam there is danger of ruining saw teeth.
  • Most steel models have adjustable legs that fold up into the unit for easy storage.
  • Plastic units generally fold flat for easy storage. Some also are equipped with a lower shelf.
  • Most non-adjustable units are between 24” and 27”, which is considered a comfortable working height.

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.

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.

Corner Clamp

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