DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Building Materials FAQ's

How do I clean up engine oil or grease from my driveway?

Use a driveway cleaner formulated especially for that purpose.

Can I install hinges or plane off the edge of a steel door?

Yes. Most steel entry doors use wood frames so it’s easier to install the hinges or to plane down the edges so they fit in a doorframe.

I don’t have a router and router table. Can I fasten the mirror directly to the back of the frame without recessing it into a rabbit?

Yes, you can use mirror clips fasted to the back of the frame. Just be sure to select the right size clips for the thickness of your mirror.

Besides a miter joint, is there another type of joint that I can use to make a wooden frame?

Yes. You can also use a butt joint with pocket screws or with biscuits.

Should I seal my asphalt driveway every year?

Sealing your driveway too frequently could cause a build-up of sealer that could split and peel, which should split and peel. Always let the sealer on your driveway start to wear and fade before applying more. This will signal that it’s time for another coat.

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.

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

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

How do I clean a solid surface countertop?

Clean up is easy. Use soap and water.

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

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

Can I place hot dishes directly on my solid surface countertop?

No. A strong, localized heat source can scorch or crack a solid surface countertop. Use trivets or mats under hot pans or dishes.

Can I place hot dishes directly on stone countertops?

No. Even a stone like granite can crack from a strong heat source. Use trivets or mats under hot pans or dishes.

How often do I need to reseal my granite countertop?

Check the product you use to seal it. You’ll need to reseal the countertop every five years, but some products may need to be reapplied every two years.

Won’t a wood countertop be unsanitary?

Actually, wood is one of the more sanitary types of countertops. It has properties that resist bacteria build-up.

Are there any advantages to a laminate countertop?

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

I don’t have a dishwasher and hadn’t planned on getting one, so why should I include it in my plan?

Even if you don’t plan to have a dishwasher, you may want to include a 24” base cabinet beside the sink. You can always use the cabinet space. More importantly, if you decide to sell the house and make the kitchen more appealing to the buyer, you can remove the 24” cabinet and insert a dishwasher without reconfiguring the entire kitchen.

Do I need countertop space beside the built-in oven?

Yes, and experts recommend you have 18”, with a bare minimum of 15”.

How much countertop space should I have beside the range?

Experts recommend having 24”, with a bare minimum of 15”.

How much countertop space should I have beside the refrigerator?

Experts recommend having 18”, with 15” as the bare minimum. This should be located on the latch side.

How much countertop space should I have beside the sink?

Experts recommend having 36” on either side of the sink, with 24” as the bare minimum.

How much room do I need for an eating table?

Allow 36” between the nearest obstruction and an eating table, so there is room to pull a chair away from the table.

How much space should I leave for a walkway when planning a kitchen?

The general rule is to leave at least 42” between the front edge of the counter top to the nearest table or island.

How big should the work triangle be?

Each leg of the triangle should be between 4 and 9 feet long, with the total of length not more than 26 feet.

What is the “work triangle?”

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

How do I get foam insulation off my hands?

Before it cures, use an acetone or fingernail polish remover. If the foam cures, a solvent won’t do any good. The insulation won’t harm your skin and will fall off in a couple of days. Or, you can try a pumice soap and warm water. However, always read caution statements on the back of the can and use gloves to avoid contact with skin.

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

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

Can I use expanding foam to insulate walls?

We don’t recommend it. Expanding foam products are created to fill small cracks and voids and require ventilation to cure. Larger gaps may require special techniques to cure properly. Also, you shouldn’t use expanding foam behind tub surrounds.

How do I insulate the top and side of my garage door?

Aluminum and vinyl weather stripping is available for this. There is also a weather strip made specifically for garage door bottoms.

Are there other options besides brick trim for trimming the doorway of my home?

There are a variety of other trim options that can add a lot of detail to the entranceway. Options include caps or headers over the door, pilasters, plinths, sidelights and transoms. Also, many of the types of trim, such as crown molding and cove molding, that are used inside can be used outside as well.

What are some advantages of polyurethane moldings over wood moldings?

Different products from different manufacturers will vary, so check manufacturer’s material for claims of product performance. Generally, polyurethane will not swell or shrink, will not rot, will not split when nailed, is lightweight and easy to install, and does not need sanding before painting.

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

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

I’ve heard you should let molding sit a couple of days before installing. Why?

It is advisable to climatize your moldings by letting them sit for 48 hours in the room where they will be installed. Wood moldings, and even MDF and manufactured products, can absorb moisture from many sources, including the places where they are stored. If they’re not allowed to dry out to the climate of the room, they will shrink after they’re installed, resulting in gaps at the joints.

What does it mean to cope a joint?

To cope a joint means to shape the end of the molding so it fits the profile of the adjoining piece of molding, which can be cut at a 90-degree angle and butted flush into the corner.

How wide of a molding should I buy for my home?

It all depends on personal preference. As a rule, wider moldings make a room look smaller. You may want to avoid wide moldings unless you have large rooms. If you want wide moldings, you can make your own profile by combining several different styles together.

I want to put molding around a curved window in my house. Can I get molding that is curved?

You might want to try a cellular PVC molding that is flexible enough to be run around curved openings, like your windows.

What’s the difference between shoe molding and quarter-round?

Quarter-round molding is a full quarter circle and the sides are the same length. Shoe molding, on the other hand, does not have an even length on both sides.

What is the advantage of PVC molding?

It is rot-proof and easy to handle.

Do I need a special door jamb to hang a bifold door?

You can use a standard door jamb, if you wish, and mount the track on the face of the jamb. A better option may be to use a jamb specially designed for a bifold jamb. This jamb has the bifold door track hardware hidden in the jamb so it’s not exposed.

Does a fiberglass door have any advantages over a steel door?

A fiberglass door won’t dent, while a steel door might. The fiberglass door can also better simulate a wood grain appearance.

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

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

Are there advantages of a wood frame over aluminum on a sliding patio door?

Wood is stronger and a better natural insulator.

How many hinges do I need for my door?

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

Are there building code regulations on the windows I buy?

Windows must meet two safety guidelines: wind load and human impact. Standard factory-built windows meet most wind load requirements. Always check with local codes to make sure the windows you buy comply.

How do I know I’m getting an energy efficient window?

Look on the label for a rating by the National Fenestration Rating Council. It will rate the energy efficiency of each model of window.

What are some signals I need new windows?

Air leaking around the windows; windows don’t open easily and are painted or nailed shut, which could prevent a safe escape during a fire; or the sash and other parts are rotting or deteriorating.

What does “cladding”mean, when referring to a window?

Cladding is an exterior layer of vinyl or aluminum covering a wood frame. It is generally only on the side of the window that faces the outside. The cladding provides additional protection and weather resistance for the window frame.

What makes a window more energy efficient?

A number of factors affect energy efficiency, including how the frame is built, the type of glass used, the type of low-emissivity coating on the glass and the weather stripping.

Why is there condensation on the inside of the window?

Condensation indicates that there is higher humidity inside the room than outside. Having too much moisture collecting on the inside of the window can cause deterioration and even mold. Correct the problem by using a ceiling fan to keep air circulating; by using exhaust fans in rooms with high humidity; and by using a dehumidifier.

How thick of an EPDM rubber roof do I need?

For most applications, a 40 or 45 mil roll is sufficient. Use a thicker 60 or 90 mil if the roof will be in an area where you need good puncture resistance, such as an area where tree limbs may fall.

Can I install an EPDM rubber roof over an existing roof?

You cannot install an EPDM rubber roof directly over asphalt, tar, shingles or felt paper. Install on 5/8” plywood or OSB. You can install it over existing roofing only if you first place the plywood or OSB decking over the existing roof. Oils in the asphalt and tar roofing will cause problems in the EPDM.

Can I use an asphalt roof patching material to patch a hole in a rubber roof?

No. Asphalt is not compatible with rubber roofing. Patch according to the manufacturers specifications.

Is EPDM and rubber roofing the same thing?

EPDM is a type of rubber roofing that is the most common and easiest for the do-it-yourselfer to use. Rubber roofing is a generic term that can refer to a variety of membrane roofing materials.

What are some signs my roof is getting old or has problems?

When inspecting your roof, check for cracked, warped or missing shingles. Also look for seams that are loose and flashing that has deteriorated. Look in the gutters for excessive granules that are coming loose from the roof. Also, of course, check inside for leaks.

Can dirt and debris buildup hurt my roof?

Yes. Dirt and debris such as limbs, leaves or pine straw can hold moisture that can cause mildew and damage to the roof.

What is a “square” in roofing terms?

A square is 100 square feet of shingles on a roof. Shingles are typically sold in bundles and will tell you how many bundles it takes to make a square.

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

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

Why are the shingles I just installed already blowing off the roof?

One possible cause is that the shingles were laid in the fall or winter and the self-sealing tab never had the opportunity to properly seal. This doesn’t always happen, but can. A possible solution is to put asphalt adhesive in a caulking gun and tack down the tabs, one by one.

Can I paint aluminum siding?

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

Do I have to tear off my existing siding before installing steel siding?

You don’t have to tear off existing siding. You do, however, need to make sure that the existing siding will hold nails and is stable.

What do I use to cut fiber cement siding?

Use a saw blade specially designed for cutting fiber-cement. Or, use shears and a score-and-snap method.

How do I fasten fiber cement siding?

Use corrosion resistant nails, either stainless steel or galvanized. You can also use galvanized screws.

Can I use staples to attach siding?

We do not recommend using staples.

What are the advantages of vinyl siding?

The biggest advantage is ease of maintenance. Vinyl does not rot, mold or need painting. Better quality vinyl siding incorporates insulation to raise the energy efficiency of your home.

Can I use a power washer to clean vinyl siding?

If you use a power washer, hold the washer straight or at eye level so it can clean most effectively. Do not point the power washer upward, as water may collect behind the siding.

Do I need any special tools for installing vinyl?

Yes. You’ll need a nail hole punch for punching slots in cut panels, a snaplock punch for dimpling panels where they will be pressed into the utility trim and an unlocking tool for separating panels.

Is thickness of siding the best determiner of quality?

The thickness of the siding is important when considering what siding to buy, but it isn’t the only factor that determines quality siding. Other factors such as nailing hem design, design of the locking mechanism and UV inhibitors all contribute to the overall quality of the panel.

How do I clean my vinyl siding?

Use a soft-bristled, long-handled brush. You can even use one attached to a garden hose. If needed, use a general purpose cleaner for ordinary dirt.

Can I paint my vinyl siding?

You may be able to paint vinyl, but check with the manufacturer. Painting may void the manufacturer’s warranty.

How do I deal with corners when I’m installing wood siding?

For outside corners you can use preformed metal corners or a corner post. For inside corners use an inside corner made from wood stock.

What is back priming?

It means priming the backside of the siding. You should also prime the cut edges so the wood is completely sealed from moisture.

What kind of nail should I use to install wood siding?

Use a stainless steel nail, a high tensile strength aluminum nail or a hot-dipped galvanized nail. The nail should have a ring-threaded or spiral-threaded shank for improved holding power.

How do I finish or treat wood siding.

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

What is the advantage of wood siding over other types of exterior sidings?

Wood acts as a natural insulator. It also can add dimensional stability to the structure.

What kind of nails should I use to install paneling?

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

How do I attach tileboard?

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

How do I estimate how much paneling I need?

Measure the distance around the room and divide by 4. This assumes you have 8’ ceilings and are buying 4×8 sheets.

What do I use to cut the paneling?

Use a fine-tooth panel saw.

How do I hide the seams between pieces of paneling?

Use a seam cover that snaps in between joints. Also use molding for trimming around windows, outside corners and along floors and ceilings.

Can I install paneling over a brick or concrete surface?

First you will need to install furring strips over the masonry surface. Then, attach the paneling to the furring strips.

How do I cut ceiling tile?

Use a sharp utility knife.

Do I need to insulate behind the drop ceiling?

If the ceiling is between floors of a building, there is no need to insulate because there is a natural flow of heat from one floor to another. If you do decide to insulate, make sure the insulation batts are resting on the grid system, not on the ceiling panels and that there is some air space between the panel and the insulation.

Can I install my ceiling tile the same day I purchase it?

Most manufacturers recommend you take the tile out of the package and let sit in the room where they will be installed for at least 24 hours so they can acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity.

How do I clean ceiling tile?

Do not soak acoustic tiles with water. Instead, use a damp sponge with a mild liquid detergent solution. Lightly wipe the surface of the panel. If the panel is badly stained, you should replace it.

Can I use existing lighting over my ceiling tile?

Yes, but you will have to temporarily remove the fixture to install the tile.

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.

Can I glue new ceiling tile onto the old ceiling tile?

Do this only if the old tile is in good condition. Most often, old ceiling tile is deteriorating and will not provide an adequate surface for gluing.

Can I install ceiling tile over any existing ceiling?

The existing ceiling must be in sound condition. Ceilings can be drywall, plaster, popcorn surfaces or open joists. A suspended ceiling may be installed anywhere there is a place to support the wire hangers.

Can ceiling tile be installed in the bathroom?

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

Is a suspended ceiling something I can install myself?

Yes. Installing a suspended ceiling is a relatively easy project that requires few special tools.

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.

Can I use vinegar and water to clean tile?

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

I just need a small amount of grout for a repair. Do I have to buy a whole new bag of grout?

Gout is also available pre-mixed in a caulking-type tube. Manufacturers have colors that are very close to the standard grout colors.

What’s the difference between thinset mortar and latex-modified thinset mortar?

The latex additive in the mortar adds strength and moisture resistance to the mortar mix. You may want to use this type, for example, if you are tiling a shower stall.

Will grout get dirty quickly?

Not if you properly seal it during installation and regularly maintain it by cleaning up spills quickly.

What color should the grout be?

Choose grout color based on your design preference. For a uniform, blended look, use a color that complements the tile color. For a more dramatic, grid effect, chose a different color.

Isn’t cork soft and won’t it be damaged by heavy furniture or foot traffic?

After it’s been compressed, cork will return to its original shape. It’s also dense enough to withstand heavy foot traffic. A protective finish further protects it and makes it easy to maintain. We still recommend placing protective pads under furniture.

How difficult is linoleum to maintain?

It cleans with water and a mild detergent. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for resealing when necessary.

Can I install linoleum over a concrete slab or in the basement?

Linoleum must be protected from moisture in the subfloor. It is generally not recommended for concrete slabs or basement applications.

How do I cut the vinyl to fit around doorjambs or decorative trim?

Use a backsaw to trim off the bottom of the doorframe. Cut off just enough so that the tile will slide underneath.

Can I cut vinyl with a standard utility knife?

Yes, but a vinyl tile cutter you can rent is easier. Also, if you are cutting with a knife, change blades frequently to keep them sharp. A dull blade can tear the vinyl.

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

Wait at least 24 hours before heavy traffic.

Do I need to remove the old vinyl floor before installing my new vinyl floor?

No. It will be easier to leave the old floor if you can. You will need to completely clean the old floor and fill in any low spots or embossed areas of the old floor. You can also cover the existing floor with a wood underlayment.

After installing my new vinyl tile floor, how long should I wait to clean it?

Wait one week after installation before washing your new floor.

Is tile a project I can do myself?

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

Will ceramic tiles resist acids?

Glazed ceramic tiles are highly resistant to acids (except hydrofluoric) and other corrosive substances.

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

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

What’s the difference between floor tile and wall tile?

Floor tile is 1/2” to 3/4” thick. Wall tile is thinner than floor tile and is not intended to be as heavy-duty as floor tile.

How do I clean slate?

Frequent sweeping is always the first defense. For best results, use cleaners specifically made for slate and similar tiles. Never use abrasive cleaners or scouring pads.

What is the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

Porcelain is made from a more dense clay and kiln fired at higher temperatures. This means porcelain has a higher scratch resistance, durability and stain resistance than ceramic. It is also more difficult to cut.

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.

My carpet has started to buckle after it was installed.

Buckling can be caused by improper installation, high humidity, using the wrong cushion or by moving heavy furniture. To correct the problem, remove all furniture from the room and have the carpet power stretched.

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.

How often should I deep clean my carpet?

You should deep clean every 12 to 18 months.

How do I measure how large the room is?

Multiply the length of the room by its width.

What is the rating mean on the carpet?

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

What do I use to install tile backer board?

There are screws made especially for that purpose. You can use galvanized roofing nails, rust-resistant drywall screws or bugle-head deck screws.

Is paperless drywall mold-proof?

Mold can grow anywhere there is moisture, air and a food source for it to grow on. It can grow on virtually any surface if the conditions are right. Paperless drywall panels eliminate the paper facing, which is a good food source for mold. These panels are more mold resistant than paper-faced drywall, but not mold proof.

What is Type C gypsum board?

Type C gypsum board meets all of the requirements of Type X board, but it includes additional properties to enhance its fire resistance.

What is the fire resistance rating?

Drywall is not fire proof, but the fire resistance rating is the length of time a wall can withstand fire and serve as a barrier and keep it from spreading.

Does wallboard have an R value?

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

If the wallboard in my basement was damaged during a flood, can I simply dry it out and keep it?

No. It needs to be replaced. Wallboard damaged by floodwater is a health hazard because there may be mud and contaminants dried up inside the board.

What is the difference between regular and Type X wallboard?

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

Isn’t a thicker pad for the carpet always better?

Not necessarily. Bedrooms and other area with less foot traffic can use a thicker pad. But heavy traffic areas require a thinner, firmer padding.

Can I substitute screws for nails when fastening drywall to the studs?

Yes, as long as the spacing of the fasteners is the same, and the length, head diameter and shank are the same.

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.

What should I use to fasten the subfloor I just bought?

Use a construction adhesive to glue it to the joists, then use 8d common nails.

Will OSB expand and contract like plywood?

OSB has a tendency to expand and contract, although manufacturers have come out with better resins that have made them more and more stable. When installing OSB as a subflooring or roof decking, space the panels 1/4” apart.

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.

Is OSB stronger than plywood?

They are actually mostly interchangeable. Both are manufactured to the same performance standards.

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

Use a span table for rated I-Joists.

What is the advantage of using glulam beams?

Glulam beams can span long distances and they are much stronger than dimensional lumber. Glulam can also be engineered to meet specific construction requirements. They can also be left exposed as an architectural effect.

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

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

What type of plywood should I use as a subfloor for the floor I’m installing?

Use plywood designed to be used as a subfloor. This kind is lightly sanded on one side and doesn’t have gaps or voids in the inner layers, making it sturdy enough to resist dents and punctures.

What type of saw blade should I use to cut plywood?

You can buy a plywood blade, specially designed with teeth to cut plywood.

How do I keep plywood from splintering or chipping when I cut it?

First of all, you’ll want to use a blade designed for cutting plywood, usually with small teeth. If you are using a handheld circular saw, place the good face, the face you want to be seen, downward. If you are using a table saw, place the good face upward. This way, the only splintering occurs on the unseen face.

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

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

What is the difference between Exterior panels and Exposure 1 panels?

Exterior panels are fully waterproof and made to withstand exposure to the weather for its entire life. Exposure 1 panels have a waterproof bond as well but won’t hold up as well if exposed to the weather for a long period of time. They are designed for construction where a temporary exposure to the weather is necessary.

What is CDX plywood?

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

What’s the difference between hardwood and a softwood?

The biological answer is that hardwoods produce seeds with some sort of covering, such as a fruit or a nut. Softwoods produce seeds with no covering—they fall to the ground. Hardwoods tend to be more dense, but the hardness or density of the wood is not the means of classification. (Balsa wood, the lightest of all woods, is considered a hardwood). But in the lumberyard, structural lumber is softwood because it is easy to work with and the least expensive. Hardwood is more expensive and is used mainly as a finishing material.

Is there a less expensive alternative to buying a solid piece of hardwood?

Depending on how you are using it, you might try a piece of plywood with a hardwood veneer. That is a thin slice of hardwood bonded to a core of composite board, so you can still get the look of hardwood without the cost of a solid piece of wood.

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.

Why does a piece of wood have knots?

Knots mark the spot on a tree where there once was a branch, which has since been encased by the growth of the tree.

I need some pine boards for a woodworking project. What moisture content is a typical board and how is it dried?

Most quality domestic lumber is kiln dried to a moisture content of 6 percent to 8 percent.

What does 5/4 mean?

Most boards are sold using the quarter (1/4) system, where four 1/4” increments make up an inch. Therefore “4/4 rough” equals 1” thick, 5/4 equals 1-1/4” thick, 8/4 equals 2” thick, etc.

How much is a board foot?

A board foot is a basic unit of measurement for lumber equal to 144 cubic inches. To calculate board feet, multiply the length in inches by width in inches by thickness and divide by 144 inches. For example, if you have a 1” thick board that is 96” long and 6” wide, then the calculation would be  96 x 6 x 1=576. When you divide 576 by 144 you get 4.

Can I buy more paneling that matches this piece I already have in my house?

If the design is a standard pattern, it has a number and is easy to reorder. We’ll check the WWPA’s “Standard Product Pattern” booklet.

Why is this 2×4 so much more expensive than these other 2x4s?

The quality is very different between the two. One is a Stud grade piece of lumber and the other is Utility grade. The Utility grade is much lower quality and shouldn’t be used for construction in load bearing walls.

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 it called a 2×4 if it is really on 1-1/2”x3-1/2”?

The piece of wood started out 2”x4”, but the process of drying and planning made it smaller. How much it shrinks depends on whether the lumber has been left green (undried) or has been dried.

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 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 is kiln dried lumber?

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

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

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

What is SPF wood?

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

Is there a quick way to fill a crack in my cement block foundation?

One of the easiest ways is to use expanding foam.

What is the difference between concrete mix and sand mix?

Concrete mix has gravel in it, which makes it stronger and more durable. Sand mix is used mainly for patching or where you want a particularly smooth finish.

Should I use 3 mil visqueen or 4 mil visqueen?

The 4 mil is thicker, which makes it more durable. The 3 mil is not as good, but if it’s for a short one-time use, it is a little less expensive. For example, it could be used as a disposable drop cloth.

Why would I use aluminum?

It is less expensive than stainless, but they are softer and not as strong. They are used for some specific applications. For example, they are good underwater. In general, stainless is the most popular.

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

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

What’s the difference between roof cement and roof coating?

The cement has to be put on with a trowel, which the coating is brushed on.

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 you measure galvanized pipe?

You measure it by the I.D. (inside diameter)

How do you measure black pipe?

Using I.D. (inside diameter)

How do I cut vinyl molding?

You can saw and nail vinyl molding just like wood.

How do I determine how much molding to buy?

Measure the length of the area requiring molding. Round off the number to the next full foot. If you determine you need 33’ of molding, you should buy at least 34’. If you are going to be cutting a lot of miter joints, remember that those cuts create waste. Add 10 percent of the total length to the amount you purchase.

What kind of finish do you recommend for my redwood fence?

You have several different options. I recommend a product with a water repellent and a mildewcide. There are clear finishes and stains available that protect against water and mildew as well as enhance the look of the wood. You can also paint redwood

Do I still need to paint or treat my treated wood?

No wood is so naturally resistant to the weather as to make it maintanance-free. You should use protective finishes like water repellents to avoid damage from water and sunlight. You can also stain and paint treated wood.

What type of nails should I use with redwood?

Use top quality, hot-dipped galvanized, aluminum alloy or stainless steel fasteners. These will not rust, corrode or discolor the wood or lose their holding power by rusting away.

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.

How big of a nail do I need for the plywood I bought?

The size of the nail is determined by the thickness of the panel and how it will be used. Generally, common or box nails may be used. For finish work, you may want to use casing nails instead of finish nails if you need a heavier nail.

How should I finish plywood that I’ve used on the outside of my house?

The best recommendation is to prime and paint it. Be sure to paint the edges that are exposed as well. Or, you can finish it with a semi-transparent or opaque stain.

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.

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.

How do I care for my laminate floor?

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

How do I figure out how much carpet I need?

Multiply the room’s length in feet by its width, and then divide by 9 to get square yardage. Then, add 10 percent to that figure to account for odd shapes in the room.

How do I measure for my replacement window?

Remember that windows that are custom built can’t be returned, so measure carefully. To measure the width, raise the lower sash and measure the jamb-to-jamb width in three places: near the top of the window, at the middle and close to the bottom. To measure the height, measure from the head jamb to the sloped sill to just past where it meets the inside window stool. Don’t assume all windows are the same size. Draw a sketch of your house and measure each window separately.

Can I install my own replacement windows?

Installing replacement windows is a task that most do-it-yourselfers can handle.

What’s the difference between the different types of patio doors I can buy?

Patio doors with aluminum frames are the least expensive, but also the least durable and least energy efficient. Vinyl is mid-range for both price and quality. Wood is the best.

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.

Should my door swing into or out of the room?

Generally, exterior doors should swing into the building, while interior doors should swing into the room. Doors that swing out into traffic areas can be dangerous.

How much of a slope should my gutters have?

Allow a fall of about 1-1/4” for each 20’ of guttering.

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.

How do I clean my stainless steel sink?

Use a stainless steel cleaner and a nonabrasive cloth or sponge. Do not use cleaners containing chloride or abrasive pads or steel wool.

How is cultured marble different from marble?

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

How do I 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.

What type of patching material should I use to repair cracks in my wall?

A lightweight spackling compound is a good choice. It resists shrinking, cracking and sagging and it requires little sanding. Some formulas even turn color (from pink to white) to signal when the spackling is dry enough to sand and paint.

What is the difference between drywall joint compound and spackling?

Drywall joint compound is lighter in consistency and is used for joining drywall seams and bedding drywall seam tape. Spackling is used to patch nail holes and cracks in drywall and plaster.

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

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

I’m getting ready to finish the drywall I just installed. What type of drywall taping knives will I need?

You will need several different sizes corresponding to the different coats that are required for a smooth finish. For the first taping course, you will probably need a 5” or 6” knife, followed with an 8” or 10” knife for applying the second and third coats.

Do I need to paint my steel door?

Steel doors usually come pre-primed from the factory. It is a good idea to either paint or stain the door so it will not begin to rust.

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.

How do I determine how many shingles I need?

Measure the length and width of each area of the roof. For each area of the roof, multiply the length times the width. Divide the total square footage by 100 and purchase that many squares of shingles. Add 10 percent additional for cutting, waste, the starter course and for future repairs.

How can I tell if my deck boards need replaced before I refinish it?

If there are signs on rotting and you can poke a hole through the wood with a screwdriver, you’ll want to replace those boards with new ones of the same size and material.

What do I look for in a quality cabinet?

There are many construction factors that go into a quality cabinet. One good way to judge the quality of a cabinet is to look at the drawer construction. Better drawers will have solid-wood boxes with dovetail joint construction. The slide hardware will be invisible, full-extension, under-mounted ball-bearing guides.

Can insulation reduce sound?

Yes. Insulation can be a sound barrier for a quieter interior of the home. It can be used to prevent sound transmission through exterior and interior walls. Check the labeling on the product, as some manufacturers have products with better sound insulation qualities.

Isn’t a vapor barrier and housewrap the same thing?

No. A vapor barrier prevents moisture from passing through and helps prevent it from getting inside the walls. It should be used on the inside of the house. Housewrap allows moisture that may be inside the wall cavity to escape. It should be used on the outside of the house.

Is there a type of insulation that won’t irritate my skin?

Cellulose insulation is made of shredded waste paper. It generally doesn’t cause irritation. Also, you can try encapsulated insulation.

Why is a vapor barrier important?

A vapor barrier prevents condensation. Condensation occurs when warm air from the inside of the house meets the cold air on the exterior of the house during the winter. The vapor barrier prevents condensation that results from those differing temperatures. Otherwise, condensation builds up in the wall cavity and causes wood to rot and allows mold and mildew to grow over time.

How high should the handrail be?

Always check with local codes. Generally, it’s between 30” and 34” from a line measured across the nosing faces of the tread.

I’m going to be carpeting my stair, but have to replace a few of the rises. What kind of board should I use?

A common board to use for this is a 1×8 #2 or #3 pine. You may need to cut it down to size.

Aren’t clay tile roofs expensive?

They are economical if you consider their long life, typically 50 years or longer. You may replace an asphalt roof several times during the lifespan of a clay roof.

What is the difference between an architectural door and a residential door?

An architectural door is custom manufactured to meet certain specifications from a builder or architect for a specific project. They are generally used in commercial applications and are also often larger than residential doors. Residential doors are standard doors used for homes and townhouses.

I’m considering a clay roof, but don’t care for the Spanish tile look on my home. Is there anything else available?

Yes. Clay and concrete tile manufacturers offer many options of style and color of tiles.

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 I install a hardwood floor in the kitchen?

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

What is the advantage of wood over carpet?

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

How do I maintain my wood floor?

Most manufacturers recommend you dust mop regularly and use special wood care products. Do not damp mop.

Does engineered flooring have any advantages over solid wood?

Engineered is better suited for use in a basement because it is less subject to changes in temperature and humidity.

Can I have my hardwood floor installed the same day it is delivered?

No. A solid hardwood floor should sit in the room where it will be installed at least four days before it is installed. This allows the wood to adjust to the temperature and relative humidity of the room. Engineered wood takes less time to acclimate.

What’s the difference between a laminate and an engineered floor?

An engineered floor contains a top layer of real wood attached to layers of plywood or a durable, medium density fiberboard. Laminate flooring contains no real wood and only composite materials with a print that simulates the appearance of wood.

How do I cut composite decking?

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

What type of lumber should I use for a garage door header?

A garage door has a predictable load and span, and constructing one out of stock dimension lumber can be difficult. Try a laminated stock intended for use as a garage door header.

Are there differences in the types of treated lumber I can buy?

The difference you need to be concerned about is what kind of use it’s qualified for. The grade stamp will indicate whether it is rated for Ground Contact, Above Ground Use or Below Ground Use.

Are long pieces of lumber that are made by gluing boards together as strong as solid pieces of timer?

Lumber that is glued or laminated together is tested by the manufacturer to ensure it will withstand a certain load. If you know what your load requirements are and buy a piece rated to withstand that load, then you can be sure the laminated lumber you buy is as strong as a single piece of timber. In fact, a laminated piece, especially in longer lengths, may be easier to find. Also, thick timbers are more difficult to dry properly, while laminated pieces are made from all kiln-dried material.

Should I use fiberglass or aluminum screening?

Aluminum screening is more durable. It’s also fireproof. However, fiberglass doesn’t dent. Fiberglass is also easier to work with, but it may need to be restretched after it has been installed.

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 are the advantages of using a wood shingle on my roof?

Besides the beauty of natural wood, a wooden shake or shingle is a renewable resource and is highly durable in extreme weather such as hail, high wind and earthquakes.

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 type of wood should I use to build my birdhouse?

Use a naturally weather resistant wood such as cedar or redwood.

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

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

I want to build my deck out of wood that is naturally weather-resistant. What should I use?

Use either red cedar, white cedar or redwood. All of these are proven to be both decay and insect-resistant.

How do I clean my wood cabinets?

Check the manufacturer material for cleaning recommendations. Generally, do not use oily polishes, detergents or glass cleaners on wood finishes. For high gloss finishes, never use a wax finish. Use a good furniture brand polish, and if there is a soiled area, use a damp cloth and mild dish soap. Rinse the area with a damp cloth and dry with a clean cloth.

I don’t want to completely replace all of my cabinets, but would like to give them a facelift. What are my options?

You can try refacing the cabinets by replacing the front of the cabinet with new doors and facings. Or, you can apply a new finish or paint to the existing doors and facings.

My run of cabinets is going to end with just a little space to spare between the last cabinet and the wall. What do I do about that space?

You can buy a narrow filler to fill in that gap. The wood is stained and finished to match the other cabinets you will be buying.

What kind of wood do I need for a stair tread?

You can buy hardwood pieces especially made as stair treads if you plan on having the stair parts exposed and finished nicely. If the stair will be covered with carpet or in a place such as in a basement, you can use 2x10s or 2x12s. Make sure you use the correct width your stair requires, according to the rise and run calculations.

What is a pre-hung door?

A pre-hung door is installed in the frame at the factory. Doing this simplifies installation and saves time. It also makes it easier for a do-it-yourselfer to complete the project.

What size hinges should I buy?

Use 4”x4” hinges for 1-3/4” doors and 3-1/2” x 3-1/2” hinges for 1-3/8” doors.

What do I need to install an interior door?

You should have a hammer, saw, drill, measuring tape, 24” level, 6’ straight edge, plane, screwdriver, utility knife and blade. You will also need hinges and a drill and bits for cutting out the lockset.

What type of door should I use on a closet?

Louver doors are popular for closets because they provide ventilation. Bypassing and bifold doors are also popular because they don’t interfere with traffic flow and don’t take up much space.

What is the fire rating on a door?

The fire rating is the length of time a door can resist the spread of a fire.

What does “handing” refer to on a door?

Handing is how a door opens. Generally, you want a door to open toward a wall if one is nearby and away from the traffic flow. Imagine yourself standing in front of the door, outside the room or building. If the door swings in and opens to the left, it’s a left hand swing. If the door swings out, it is a left hand reverse. If you’re standing in front of the door and it swings to the right, it’s a right hand swing. If the door swings out and opens to the right, it’s a reverse right hand swing.

How do I fix a door that is sticking or that doesn’t seem to fit into the doorframe?

See if you can determine where the door is sticking. First, make sure the screws on the hinges are tight. Most likely, you may need to use a plane to shave down one of the edges so the door will fit.

Is there a type of glass that can help insulate against noise?

Yes. Laminated glass is particularly effective in reducing noise

What’s the benefit of tinted glass?

Tinting provides additional shading from sunlight and warm temperatures. If you choose tinted glass, you can choose from a variety of tones and thicknesses.

Can I make my own screen frame?

Yes. Screens are easy to make using screen stock. Cut the pieces to length to fit the window and connect using corner connectors. Then cover the frame using screening. Items you’ll need for the project include screen stock, screen, corner connectors, spline, screen installation tool, hacksaw, measuring tape and utility knife.

What tools do I need to replace a screen?

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

What type of weatherstripping would you recommend for a casement or utility window?

You might try a bulb-type weatherstripping, usually a foam-filled vinyl. Another popular type is a leaf- or fin-type weatherstripping that is V-shaped and fits onto the jamb on the sash side of the stop.

What is the difference between plate glass and sheet glass?

Plate glass is generally used for large picture windows. It provides a clear view without distortion. It is usually 3/16” thick. Sheet glass is the most common glass. It is usually about 3/32” for single strength glass. Other thicknesses are available.

Can I repair a hole in a screen?

Yes, there is a kit you can buy that makes it easy to repair small holes or tears in the screen.

What is safety glass?

Safety glass helps cut down on injuries from people falling against glass. Tempered glass is a type of safety glass. It shatters into small pieces rather than shards, reducing the chance of injury.

Does a tile roof have a good insulation value?

The combination of the roof tiles, decking and the air space under and between the tiles makes roof tiles good insulators.

How do I check the condition of my clay tile roof?

Using binoculars, check for missing, cracked or slipped tiles and missing mortar. Be sure to check the ridge, horizontal row, valleys and any place the roof changes direction.

I can see I have a few cracked tiles on my roof. Can I just replace those tiles instead of replacing the entire roof?

Usually the best choice is to replace tiles. Clay tiles last a very long time and it is likely that most of the roof is in good condition. A clay tile roof is also expensive to replace. An experienced roofer can replace individual clay tiles.

Can I walk on my metal roof?

Generally yes, you can walk on a metal roof. But like walking on any roof, be careful.

What is the advantage of a steel roof?

A steel roof does not support the growth of moss, mildew or fungus. They are also lightweight and can withstand severe weather. They also last longer than some types of roofing.

What kind of nails do I use with a steel panel roof?

The most common nail to use is a nail with a washer that seals the hole from leaking. This is used because, unlike shingles, the nail on a steel panel roof is exposed.

Why are some metal roofs called “standing seam”?

A standing seam roof is one where the seam between sheets is raised to be above the sheet, and therefore is less likely to leak.

Will an aluminum or steel roof attract lightning?

Aluminum or steel roofs do not attract lightning. However, if the roof were struck by lightning, it would safely dissipate the charge throughout the structure. These roofs are also fire resistant, so it will actually help prevent the house from catching fire if the house were struck by lightning.

Won’t an aluminum or steel roof be noisy in the rain?

Not necessarily. Aluminum shingles should be installed over a solid deck, and the insulation in the attic as well as any insulation between the decking and the shingles will help deaden the sound.

Do I need to put some kind of finish on my wooden shingle roof?

There are several different kinds of products you can put on your wood shingle or shake roof. Depending on the look you want, you can use transparent, semi-transparent or bleaching oil penetrating stain; a solid color stain; or a paint. Check with the manufacturer’s instructions first to review finishing recommendations.

Is a shake and a shingle the same thing?

No, there is a difference. A shingle is sawn and thinner at the butt than a shake. A shake is split on one or both sides.

Should I protect my wood floor from furniture?

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

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 can I use to clean my wood fence?

Use a product designed for the purpose. Ordinary household cleaners may contain bleach, which breaks down the fibers in the wood and can also damage surrounding greenery.

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 deep should I bury the fence posts?

A good guide is to bury at least 1/3 the total length of the post in the ground. For posts that are on the end or that will support a gate, bury the post an additional 6”.

What kind of nails should I use for my deck?

Use non-corrosive nails, such as stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized. Ring- or spiral-shanked nails provide better holding capacity.

Is it dangerous to cut treated wood?

You can cut treated wood safely if you follow a few safety precautions. First, wear a mask to prevent inhaling the dust and use gloves to prevent splinters. Also wear eye protection to protect from particles flying into your eye. Then, dispose of the dust in the trash; do not burn scraps or sawdust. Always cut in a well-ventilated area. Thoroughly wash hands and face before eating or smoking to avoid accidental ingestion of the dust.

How can I square up my wooden screen door? It is rubbing on the sill.

A screen door turnbuckle, applied diagonally, will raise the sagging edge.

How do I know which latch fits my storm door?

If you are going to use existing holes, you need to know the spacing of the holes, or there is an adjustable one available.

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.

Which spring fits my garage door?

You need to know the size of the door and the number of panels. Information on the replacement spring packaging will indicate which spring is needed.

Can I replace the spring on my garage door?

There are two types of systems—tension and non-tension. Tension springs have the spring in the center and a large iron roller in the middle. Because is there is so much torque, most people hire a professional to work on these. The other type has the springs on the side of the door.

What is polyurethane?

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

How do I clean my wood floor?

Use a quality, solvent-based wood floor and cleaner and wax. Do not use water.

What’s the purpose of sealing an asphalt driveway?

Sealing the driveway protects the asphalt from sun, moisture and grease that can damage the asphalt underneath.

How do I repair a crack in my basement?

You can use hydraulic cement to stop active leaks in the basement that are larger than 1/4”. Form the mixture into a ball-shape, press it into the crack and hold until it hardens, usually less than five minutes.

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

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

What is the difference between latex and vinyl patching cement?

One difference is in the way they are mixed. Vinyl mixes use a cement-like powder activated by adding water. Latex cement has a powder mixed with a polymer liquid. No water is added.

What should I use to insulate the top and sides of my garage door?

Aluminum and vinyl weather stripping is available for this. There is also a weather strip made specifically for garage door bottoms.

How can I remove the molding from my wall without damaging either the drywall or the molding?

A pry bar is more efficient than a claw hammer, and its smooth base keeps it from damaging the wall.