DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hardware FAQ's

What type of stud finder should I buy?

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

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

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

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 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.

In my apartment, I share a walk-in closet. What’s the best way to share this space?

While you’re sharing the closet, the best way to keep the peace in the closet is to keep everything separate. Each of you should get one of the long walls, then you can decided how to divide up any of the remaining short sections.

I’m installing some wire closet shelving as storage. Do I need to secure the brackets into wall studs?

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but it probably depends on the total weight that you’ll be placing on the shelves. See our video Wall Hanging Basics for more information.

What does open time mean?

Open time is the time it takes the glue or adhesive to start to set after it has been applied to the surface of the material.

How long will a bottle or tube of glue last?

If it has been bottled tightly and kept in a normal temperate environment, it should last up to one year.

Will super glue work on all types of plastic?

No. Certain plastics like polyethylene or polypropylene have a coating that can prevent the two surfaces from bonding properly. You need to use a glue with an activator as well as an adhesive. The activator will “prime” the surface and provide a better bonding surface.

What is the difference between a caulk and a sealant?

Although “caulk” and “sealant” are often used interchangeably, a sealant is generally a high-performance caulk. A product that meets or exceeds the requirements of American Society of Testing Materials (ASTM) Specification C-920 is considered a sealant because of its high-performance characteristics, such as durability both inside and outside and during inclement conditions. If there are no specifications on the label—or if the label says the product meets requirements of ASTM Specification C-834—it is considered a caulk.

What are some common uses for sealants?

Sealants are used to seal or close cracks or joints between sills and foundations; where siding joins window and door trim; openings around external electrical outlets, electrical and telephone cables; dryer vents; kitchen, attic and bathroom vents; flashings; skylights; other cracks and openings that leak water into homes or that leak heated air and energy out.

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

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

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

What Type of Ladder Should I Buy?

The major points to consider when selecting a ladder are:

  • The kind of activity involved—The intended activity will make the choice obvious. For example, a stepladder would be the choice to paint interior walls and ceilings, while an extension ladder usually is needed to paint outside. If the job involves more effort than usual, or will require more time on the ladder, you should probably by a platform ladder instead of a stepladder.
  • The demands of the application— All ladders are designed to hold a certain weight. Therefore, ladders are matched or “job-rated” to the physical demands of the application. For instance, a ladder used daily on a construction site obviously should have a sturdier construction than the ladder used a few times a year around the house. The most important factor is the rated load capacity—the aggregate working weight of the user, his clothing and his tools. For that reason, the duty rating is described in terms of pounds. (See Pro Corner for more information.) Every ladder’s duty rating is color-coded. A label in the appropriate color is prominently displayed on the side rail. Look for the proper duty ratings to match the highest level of use.
  • The height the ladder must reach so the climber may work from a safe position—Stepladders should be high enough for the user not to have to stand above the second step from the top. (The first step from the top carries a label warning the user not to stand there.) On extension ladders, the user should stand no more than four rungs from the top, which should extend 3’ above the work surface. The base of the ladder should be one-fourth the distance from the top support of the ladder to its bottom support.
  • The basic material from which the ladder is made—The most common materials for ladders are wood, aluminum and fiberglass.
  • Wood ladders are non-conductive when clean and dry. They also offer a natural, firm grip for the worker’s feet and hands. However, wood ladders are heavy.
  • Fiberglass ladders offer a favorable blend of the more desirable qualities of wood and aluminum. It’s non-conductive (like dry, clean wood) but made of sturdy modern materials (like aluminum). If you are planning to use the ladder in a variety of circumstances, a fiberglass ladder is the best choice.
  • Aluminum ladders are lightweight, provide excellent strength and offer reliable performance. Aluminum ladders are corrosion-resistant and require little if any maintenance. They conduct electricity, however, so they should never be used when working near electrical lines.


How many nails should I purchase?

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

What type of nail should I use?

Use hot-dipped galvanized roofing nails, either 11- or 12- gauge with a 3/8” diameter head. Or, follow the shingle manufacturer’s recommendation for the type of nail you should use.

I need to repair a loose railing that is anchored in cement.

To repair the hole in the cement where the anchor is, use a special anchoring cement that is quick setting and is stronger than concrete.

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

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

How do I set finishing nails?

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

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.

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.

I have a hole in my screen. Can I repair it or do I need to replace it?

You can patch small holes—those ¼” and 3/8”—with a small amount of household cement. This glue patch will be next to invisible. Larger holes up to about 3 inches in diameter in aluminum screen can usually be easily patched. A patch should go at least ½” to 1” larger all around the hole. These are either kits or just pieces of screen. Unravel a number of strands and then weave the strands through the screening and bend them tight. Plastic patches need a touch of household cement on the ends of the strands after they have been woven through.

I need a screw to anchor a knob onto a drawer, what do you recommend?

If you do not have the knob to identify the size, it’s probably a 8-32 screw. It may not be the right one, but it’s the best guess that may keep you from making another trip.

My cabinets have handles that have holes that are 3-1/2” apart, but I am only finding new handles that fit holes 3” apart, what do you recommend?

Most pulls are generally on 3” mounting centers. You will need to drill new holes and look for pulls that are designed to cover the previous holes. There are also decorative plates that will cover the previous holes. Mount these plates under the new pulls.

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

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

Do you have a caster that works better on a bed?

Yes, a special bed caster has a wide wheel, which makes it easier to roll. Casters come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different weights.

What can I use to tighten up a sagging clothesline?

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

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.

How do I hang a picture?

The best method is to use a picture-hanging kit designed for the weight of your picture. In most cases, it’s best to double hook it so that all the weight is not suspended in one area.

Is it easy to install a closet rod?

Yes, you need to know the width of the closet, but most rods are expandable. However, it’s best if you hit the stud. That way you are sure that it will hold lots of weight.

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

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

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

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

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 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.

How do I install a molly bolt?

Drill the proper size hole to insert the molly. Turn the screw head until you feel the molly expand and grip the drywall. Next, remove the screw for intended use. A drive-in type is available which eliminates the need for drilling a hole.

How do I install a toggle bolt?

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

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

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

How can I anchor something to concrete?

A newer anchor has a drill bit built into the end of a screw so that it can be driven directly into the concrete.

Will a stick-on hook hold much weight?

They are really only designed for towels and other lightweight items.

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

Use either hammer anchors or a concrete/masonry screw.

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

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

Which is a bigger nail—No. 6 or No. 8?

No. 8 – the bigger the number the bigger the nail.

What is the advantage of a cement coated nail?

Friction heat from driving the nail softens the cement coating and causes the nail to adhere to wood more firmly.

What is the difference between a common nail and a smooth box nail?

The common nail is thicker even though they have the same length.

Should I use a finishing nail?

These are mostly for interior work when you would countersink the head and cover the nail hole.

How long of a nail should I use?

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

Should I use a galvanized nail?

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

Are there nails that match my walnut paneling?

Yes, paneling nails come in a variety of colors.

Is there a nail I can use that is less likely to split my wood?

Pointless nails protect against wood splitting, because they cut through fibers rather than following the grain of the wood.

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

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

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

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

What do the numbers—such as 8-32—mean on a machine screw?

The first number is the diameter. The bigger the number the bigger the screw. The second number is the number of threads per inch.

Are there screws that will not rust?

Brass, aluminum and stainless steal screws should meet your needs.

Why would I use brass screws?

Brass is softer than and not as strong as stainless, and its main use is when you want the decorative look of brass.

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

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

What are the advantages of a carriage bolt?

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

Even with a lock washer, I continue losing the nut off my mower.

Use a lock nut with a nylon insert. This arrangement will not vibrate loose as readily.

What is the meaning of USS and SAE as it pertains to bolts?

USS are coarse threads, while SAE refers to fine threads.

What is a lag bolt?

It is basically a large wood screw (with a pointed tip) and a hex head.

I have a bolt that is not threading in properly. Can I fix this?

Yes, a thread repair kit allows you to retap it, put in an insert and rebuild it.

What does a lock washer do?

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

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

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

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.

Do you have a screw for an electrical outlet cover?

In most cases they are a 6 – 32.

I need to replace this bolt on my car engine, what bolt do I use?

Automotive bolts are usually a fine thread.

What type of rope should I buy?

Working strength is the most important factor.

Is nylon rope worth its extra cost?

Twisted nylon rope is the most versatile because of its strength. Additionally it has good shock resistance, which means sudden jerks are less likely to damage the rope or cause failure. It’s resistance to abrasion makes it durable where rubbing is likely to occur. It is resistant to most chemicals and will not rot or mold when wet. When stretched it tends to return to its original length, making it good for lifting and towing. However, it should not be attached to winches, bits, hooks or chains.

When should I use a polyester rope?

Polyester twisted rope has strength similar to nylon, but at the expense of a poor shock load capacity. However, it has a good resistance to abrasion and sunshine. It’s a good choice for general-purpose boating applications.

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

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

How strong should the chain be I buy?

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

I have a tarp that I want to tie down. What should I use?

The easiest way is to use a grommet tool and grommets.

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

No marks is the least hard.
Three marks is a medium hardness.
Six marks is the hardest bolt.

I want to hang a picture without a stud support. What type of anchor should I use?

The different types of hollow wall anchors are rated to hold different weights. In general, expanding plastic sleeve anchors can usually only hold up to 20 lbs. Molly bolts are usually rated to hold up to 50 lbs., while toggle bolts can hold up to 100 lbs. Keep in mind, however, that even toggle bolts can’t support as much weight as a fastener driven into a wall stud or solid wood blocking in the wall.