DIY Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Tools Terms (241)

Knapsack Sprayer

  • Carried on the user’s back.
  • Used mostly for commercial applications.
  • Made of either polyethylene or metal.
  • Operates similar to a compressed air sprayer, but can handle a larger capacity.
  • Steady pumping maintains a constant pressure, which produces a uniform discharge rate and spray pattern. Some models only require intermittent pumping.
  • Capacity ranges from 3-1/2 to 5 gallons.

Tongue-and-Groove Pliers

• Features multiple size adjustments.

• Good for gripping and applying limited torque to round, square, flat and hexagonal objects.

• Jaws may be straight, smooth or curved.

• Sizes generally range from 4-1/2” to 20-1/4” in length.

• Widely used by plumbers, electricians and other professionals.


Hand Drill

  • Also called an eggbeater drill, the drilling action comes from turning a hand crank on the side of a drill frame.
  • Features adjustable drill chuck to permit easy changing of drill bits ranging in size from 1/16″ to 1/2″.
  • Usually has drill bit storage in handle.
  • Generally used for precise drilling in fine woodworking applications.


Floor Chisel

  • Designed to remove flooring material
  • Larger head design, generally 3”, increases striking area.
  • Some models available with a target guard to protect against mishits.


Chain Pipe Wrench

  • Offers easy handling in close quarters on round, square or irregular shapes without crushing the object.
  • Consists of a forged-steel handle attached to a length of heavy sprocket chain. The chain wraps around a length of pipe and engages the sprockets in notches on the back of the handle. Sharp teeth on the face of the handle bite into pipe while the chain holds the pipe against the teeth to prevent slipping.
  • Turns pipe in either direction and can be used like a ratchet wrench. The handle can be loosened, shifted and turned again without removing the chain from around the pipe.

Duckbill Snips

  • Also called circular snips.
  • Feature long nose design.
  • Used for cutting tight circles or other curved designs in either direction.

Drywall Square

  • Useful tool for measuring and marking 4’x8’ sheets of drywall, plywood and other 4’x8’ building materials.
  • Often used as a guide to score drywall.
  • Some models available with adjustable bevel for marking and scoring angles.

Laser Level

  • Also called laser chalk lines, they are used to level and provide reference lines for hanging pictures, tile work, etc.
  • New features for electronic levels include having preset angles commonly used in construction, a self-leveling feature, and offering a graphical display that tells the user the direction and extent to rotate toward level or plumb.
  • Accessories include a variety of mounting devices such as clamps and magnetic mounts that make setup and use easier and more convenient.


  • Is a fine-toothed saw designed to cut metal or plastic. Hacksaws consist of a blade held in a steel frame with relatively high tension to hold the blade rigidly straight. High-tension models (with tension to 32,000 p.s.i.) are also available.
  • Blades come in coarse-, medium (18 tpi), fine (24 teeth per inch and very fine-toothed (32 tpi). Regular or standard blades are used for general-purpose cutting; high-speed or bi-metal blades for cutting hard, extra-tough steel.
  • Most models can be adjusted to hold various blade lengths. Some have both horizontal and vertical positions for blades. Others provide blade storage.
  • A close-quarter (or utility) hacksaw holds and positions a hacksaw blade so it can be used effectively in narrow spaces and slots.
  • Replacement blades include rod saw blades capable of cutting through most hard materials—spring and stainless steel, chain, brick, glass and tile.

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.
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Hardware & Fasteners Terms (109)

Garage Door Opener

  • Consists of a motor unit that raises and lowers overhead doors upon command of a control unit.
  • There are three types of drive mechanisms: bicycle-type chain and sprocket, plastic strip and worm-screw drive.
  • The control unit may be either key or wireless operated. If key operated, the user must leave the car to unlock the door. Wireless versions may be operated via a transmitter that starts the opener motor.
  • A safety feature is a device that automatically reverses the descent of the door when it encounters resistance when closing. All residential garage door openers must incorporate an optical sensor that will prevent the door from closing if it senses an obstruction.
  • Economy models have a 1/4-hp motor and heavy-duty units have a 1/3- or 1/2-hp motor.

Café Rod

  • Used to hang curtains over both upper and lower window sashes.
  • Usually suspended from rings encircling the rods.
  • Decorative and available in a variety of finishes.
  • Sizes vary according to use and range from 3/8” to 1” in diameter, and 28” to 120” long.

Nylon Rope

  • A twisted rope that is the most versatile of all because of its strength.
  • Good shock resistance.
  • Good abrasion resistance.
  • Lasts five times longer than natural fibers.
  • Resists chemicals and will not rot or mold.
  • When stretched, has a tendency to return to its original shape.
  • Do not use on winches or bits or attached to hooks or chain.

Sheet Metal Screw

  • Fastens thin metal to thin metal.
  • Threaded its entire length.
  • Can have flat, oval, round or binding heads.
  • Typical lengths range from 1/8” to 2”.
  • Starting holes are either drilled or punched and should be slightly smaller than the screw diameter.


Cotter Pin

  • Versatile fastening device.
  • Made of ferrous and nonferrous wire.
  • Comes in various diameters and lengths ranging from 1/32” x 1/2” to 1/4” to 18”.
  • Inserts into a hole in a bolt, shaft or similar part. An eye on one end prevents the pin from going through while prongs at the other end are bent back to lock the pin in place.


Box Nail

  • Lighter and smaller than common nails with a larger head.
  • Used for framing and applications where shifting is minimal, such as nailing subfloor to floor joists and attaching roof base to rafters.

Cabinet Hinge

  • The four basic cabinet door designs that determine the type of hinge required are: flush-mounted, lipped/inset, flush-overlay or reverse bevel.
  • For flush-mounted doors, use a full-mortise butt or full-surface hinge, an ornamental strap hinge or a concealed hinge.
  • For lipped doors, use semi-concealed cabinet hinges so the hinge leaf attached to the cabinet frame is exposed and the hinge leaf attached to the door is concealed. A surface hinge for this kind of cabinet door must be offset to match the outside of the door.
  • For flush-overlay doors, use a pivot hinge mortised into the top and bottom of the door. Also use a butt hinge or a semi-concealed hinge.
  • For reverse bevel doors, use a hinge that features a slant on the door wing that is compatible with the profile of the cabinet door.
  • Some hinges have a self-closing feature that closes the door automatically from about a 10° opening. These operate on a spring-loaded cam and are made from heavy-gauge steel.

Traverse Rod

  • Allows opening and closing of drapes with a downward pull on a cord.
  • Usually used with heavy drapes.
  • Can be wall-mounted or attached to the ceiling.
  • Draperies close from each side of the window to meet in the center.
  • One-way draw rods draw the drape fully to the left or fully to the right. They are usually used with patio doors or corner windows.
  • Made of two telescoping track sections, adjustable to desired length.
  • Six sizes cover windows up to 312” wide in the following ranges: 28” to 48”, 48” to 84”, 66” to 120”, 84” to 156”, 156” to 216” and 216” to 312”.
  • One variation of a traverse rod allows the drapes to be drawn completely clear of the window at the sides, giving the effect of a wider window.
  • Another type holds a curtain rod in front of the traverse rod and supports a full-width balance.
  • One type holds a sheer curtain behind the traversing draperies.

Polyester Rope

  • A twisted rope with strength similar to nylon.
  • Stretches less than nylon and has a poor shock load capacity.
  • Good resistance to abrasion and sunlight.
  • The top choice for general-purpose boating applications.

Machine Screw

  • Can have round, oval, flat and fillister heads.
  • Intended to be screwed into pre-threaded holes in metal.
  • May look like a bolt, but user drives it with a screwdriver instead of a wrench.
  • Comes in coarse (24 threads per inch) and fine (32 threads per inch) sizes.
  • They are sized according to diameter, thread and length. Example: a 6-32×3/4 means the screw has a 6-gauge diameter with 32 threads per inch and is 3/4” long.
  • The round head type is most commonly used. The flat head type is used when the top must be flush with the surface.
  • Oval heads are used in countersunk holes. Fillister heads are used in counter-bored holes.


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Paint & Decorating Terms (82)

Trim Brush

  • Also called a sash brush, it is generally available in 1” to 3” widths.
  • Available in natural bristles (generally used for applying oil-based coatings) and synthetic filaments (for water-based paints).
  • Used to paint trim and smaller, detailed work.
  • End of bristles or filaments (or edge) can be square (flat) or cut at an angle (angular) for cutting in delicate trim work. Tips can be “flagged,” or have split ends.
  • With square trim brushes, the end of the brush is trimmed flat or horizontal. With chisel trim, the end of the brush is cut to a dome-like shape, which increases taper and cutting-in properties.

Wood Preservatives Waterproofers

  • Water repellents minimize water damage on pressure-treated and untreated wood. Some also contain a mildewcide to control mold and mildew. Use water repellent formulated for immediate application to pressure-treated wood to avoid premature cracking, splitting, splintering and warping. Periodic re-applications help prevent water damage as wood ages.
  • Wood preservatives by themselves provide no protection against moisture or water. Water repellency must be formulated into the product. Mildewcides are also frequently formulated into preservatives.
  • Water-borne, water-repellent preservatives for wood offer lower environmental hazards and convenient water cleanup. They provide an alternative to conventional solvent-based, water-repellent preservatives while retaining effectiveness, rapid drying qualities and excellent paintability.
  • Wood toners are water repellents that add color to highlight wood grain. Although toners are not to be used as if they are stains, adding color to a water repellent gives wood the benefit of ultraviolet light protection.
  • Most toners on the market are designed for use on pressure-treated wood. Some repellents contain ingredients that cause water to bead.
  • Specialty waterproofers include a multi-surface formula that can be used on brick and concrete, an aerosol version that works well for small exterior projects, a fence protector, a leather and fabric protector and a sport waterproofer specially designed for use on outdoor fabric and sporting equipment.
  • Preservatives should be reapplied periodically.

Paint and Varnish Remover

  • Are formulated to dissolve or soften old finishes for easy removal on metal, masonry, wood and fiberglass surfaces.
  • Available in gel, semi-paste, aerosol and spray-on formulas.
  • Some formulations contain methylene chloride as the primary solvent, but due to health concerns, “safe” non-meth strippers are available that are non toxic and non flammable.
  • While non-meth strippers are safer to use, they take longer to act and are more expensive than their meth counterparts. However, they stay active longer, which means they can remove more paint layers in a single application.
  • Some strippers change color to signal completion of the process, and some removers are formulated so that no after wash or neutralizing is required.

Tintable Glaze

  • Mixed with latex paint to create a translucent color that provides a multi-dimensional look.
  • Dries to the touch in between 10 and 30 minutes.


  • Comes in five general types, including garnet, emery, aluminum oxide, silicon carbide and alumina zirconia. Of these, the first two are natural minerals or abrasives; the others are synthetic materials that are tougher and longer wearing than the natural abrasives.
  • All U.S.-manufactured sandpapers conform to the same numerical system for grading coarseness. The smaller the number, the coarser the grit.
  • Coarseness generally runs from 12 (extra coarse) to 1500 (ultra-fine). Grit finer than 600 is usually measured on the European FEPA scale, and identified with a “P” immediately before the number.
  • The back of each sandpaper sheet contains important labeling information, including product and lot number, abrasive type, grit size, whether it is open or closed coat and backing. The backing weight is rated by letter. “A” is the thinnest weight, while “C” and “D” are the best options for hand sanding of wood. “X” is effective for heavy-duty sanding.
  • Manufactured on a variety of backings, including paper, cloth and fiber.
  • Garnet is a reddish-brown natural abrasive. By special heat treatment, a tougher, sturdier grain is produced. Garnet is used almost exclusively in the woodworking field; it is not suitable for use on metal.
  • Emery is a black natural abrasive that can polish metal surfaces. Emery is typically used in conjunction with an oil lubricant.
  • Aluminum oxide is the most common general abrasive. It is a synthetic brown that is hard and long-wearing. It is used on wood, metal or painted surfaces and is well suited to finishing high-tensile materials such as steels and bronzes, as well as some hardwoods.
  • Silicon carbide is hard and sharp—effective in sanding low-tensile materials such as cast iron, aluminum, copper or plastic. It is also useful between coats of finish.
  • Alumina zirconia is harder than silicon carbide and tougher than aluminum oxide. It should be used for grinding and shaping metal and wood—not for polishing.
  • Sandpaper comes in two styles: open coat (OC) and closed coat. “Coat” refers to how densely the grain is adhered to the surface. “Closed coat” means 100 percent of the surface is covered with grain. Open-coat sandpaper has greater spacing between the grains, which prevents it from clogging up as quickly with sanding residue. Closed-coat sandpaper, however, fills more rapidly with the substance being sanded and must be discarded sooner.
  • Many styles available in sheets as well as sizes for various sanding power tools.

Paint Brush

  • Also called a flattening brush.
  • Generally comes in 3” to 5” widths.
  • Used for painting larger surfaces, such as ceilings, floors, chimneys, etc.
  • Available in natural bristles (generally used for applying oil-based coatings) and synthetic filaments (for water-based paints).


  • Is available in clear or colored formulations and has a fast-drying finish.
  • Work fast with lacquers. Also you may try a 50/50 mixture of lacquer and lacquer thinner (each preferably made by the same manufacturer) to slow drying time.
  • Lacquers should be applied only to new wood or over previously lacquered surfaces. They cannot be used over old paint or varnish; the solvents will lift old finishes.
  • Lacquers are available in clear or colors. They are usually difficult to apply by brush. However, some manufacturers do offer specially formulated versions that apply more easily with a brush.
  • Lacquer thinners are required to clean tools.

Wallpaper Removers

  • A liquid spray-on solution that uses enzymes to break down the paste and destroy its adhesive strength.
  • Also available in a water-based gel formulations that can be applied with a brush or roller.

Crackle Paste

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

Sanding Sponge

  • A sponge coated with or made of an abrasive agent.
  • Lasts longer than sandpaper and can take the form of the item being sanded.
  • Great for sanding drywall joint compound or spackling.
  • Available in a variety of sizes and shapes for specific sanding applications.
  • Generally is coated on each side as well as edges.
  • Can be used in wet and dry sanding applications.
  • Simply wash clean for reuse.
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Paint & Decorating FAQ's (80)

I have a painted concrete floor in my garage. Can I still apply an epoxy coating?

It depends on the shape it’s in. If it’s in good shape, you can forego the etching process, give it a good cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner and rough it up with a floor sander before apply the new epoxy finish. If it’ flaking, however, you’ll have to completely remove the old finish before applying a new one.

Other than walls, where are faux finishes generally used?

Faux finishing is quite popular on furniture, lamps, bowls—you name it.

What type of brush is best for rough surfaces?

A synthetic brush is your best choice, because the rough surface can quickly damage the flags on a natural-bristle brush.

What can I use to thin epoxy?

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

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

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

Do the paint flakes that you shake on when the garage floor epoxy is still wet help with slip resistance?

A little, but they are mostly designed to hide imperfections and offer a custom look.

Should I apply a protective coating over a faux finish?

While it isn’t mandatory, it will enhance the durability. Just be sure to let the glaze dry for two days before coating.

Can I use the same brush for both latex and oil-based paint?

Yes, but you must make sure you clean them extremely well. It’s best if you just buy two sets of brushes. One for latex and one for oil-based paints.

What is the difference between solid-color and semi-transparent stains?

Semi-transparent stains provide a color to the wood, but still allow the texture and natural grain to show through. Solid-color stains allow the texture to show, but not the grain.

I have stains on my wall that keep bleeding through the paint surface. How do I prevent this?

You need to prime the area first with a shellac-base primer. The resins in shellac –base primers seal out stains so they can’t bleed back through.

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Power Tools Terms (84)

Sanding Belt

  • Used with belt sanders.
  • Available in a variety of grits and weights.
  • Good quality belts should resist tearing and stretching.

Combination Blade

  • Most commonly used circular blade.
  • Used for cross-cutting, ripping and mitering in hardwood, softwood, veneer and plywood.
  • Does not leave a smooth finish.

Contractor Table Saw

  • More portable than a cabinet table saw, but bulky and originally intended for temporary use at a jobsite.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism is located under the table.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • Used for ripping large pieces of wood.
  • Power of the saw’s motor determines the thickness of material that can be cut and how efficiently the saw will perform.
  • To operate, the material is fed onto the blade, unlike the miter saw where the blade moves across the material.
  • Rip fence capacity is important for determining a saw’s quality. The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Typical sizes are 1-1/2 to 3 hp.

Auger Drill Bit

  • Most commonly used with a brace for drilling holes in wood.
  • Length varies from 7″ to 10″.
  • Dowel bits are short auger bits from 5″ long.
  • Long (ship) auger bits range from 12″ to 30″.

Sabre Saws

  • Jig SawAlso known as a jig saw.
  • Cuts with an up and down motion and is ideal for cutting curves and irregular lines.
  • Usually can cut through 1” hardwood and 1-1/2” softwood. More powerful models can cut up to 2-3/4” thick in wood and 3/4” in aluminum and some can cut thin steel.
  • Quality machines operate at approximately 3,000 strokes per minute.
  • Generally, better machines also have longer strokes, often 1”.
  • The scrolling feature on some saws allows the user to turn the blade by means of a knob on the top of the tool instead of turning the whole tool.
  • Good quality jigsaws will also have features on the base that allow them to cut at an angle. An antisplintering insert is a removable plastic piece that sits in front of the blade and reduces the splintering of the material.
  • Another quality feature is a blade guide. This is a disk that sits behind the blade and supports it, keeping it on a straight path and resisting deflection. It provides for a more accurate cut and helps prevent blade bending and breaking.
  • Better models have orbital action for more aggressive cutting.

Fixed Base Router

  • Used for beading, routing, grooving, fluting and many types of decorative carving that could take hours to do by hand. Achieve different shapes of cuts by using different shaped bits.
  • Has a motor that raises and lowers with a rack and pinion and a bit that protrudes at a set depth.
  • Most economical type of router and highly portable.
  • Standard and light-duty routers have 1/3 to 1/2 hp motors; commercial heavy-duty routers are 3/4 hp and higher.

Abrasive Cut-Off Wheel

  • Circular blade used for cutting ferrous metals, masonry, glazed materials and ceramic tile.
  • Must match the type of wheel to the type of material being cut.
  • Only use with saws that have an aluminum or magnesium guard.

Cabinet Table Saw

  • A professional-grade table saw where the saw motor is housed in a cabinet.
  • Has a circular saw blade extending up through a slot on a flat table. Motor and drive mechanism are located under the table.
  • Used for ripping large pieces of wood.
  • Blade can be raised, lowered or tilted depending on the cut needed.
  • A heavier, bulkier machine reduces vibration from the saw.
  • Power of the saw’s motor determines the thickness of material that can be cut and how efficiently the saw will perform.
  • To operate, the material is fed onto the blade, unlike the miter saw where the blade moves across the material.
  • The rip fence mounts on the table and adjusts to guide the material being cut. Best used for permanent placement in a workshop.
  • A common accessory is a miter gauge that allows angled cuts.
  • Sizes can range from 2 to 5 hp.

Expansion Bits

  • Takes the place of many larger bits.
  • It is adjusted by moving the cutting blade in or out by a geared dial or by a lockscrew to vary the size of the hole.

Bayonet Saw

  • Operates similar to a sabre saw.
  • Some models have a worm gear and a large blade orbit to make it suitable for metals, plastics, thin wood and laminate.
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Electrical & Lighting Terms (80)

Outdoor Fixtures

  • Primarily serve a security function, but there are a wide variety of systems, including: high–intensity discharge (HID) systems for mercury, metal halide and high–pressure sodium light sources; incandescent and tungsten halogen fixtures; low-voltage lighting systems; and incandescent or halogen PAR spotlights and floodlights.
  • HID lighting provides considerably greater illumination than other lighting commonly available. Its cost is also higher, although operating costs for lumens output is generally less.
  • Lumens are the measurement of light output.
  • Fixtures to be used outdoors must seal moisture and dust from wiring and switches. Fixtures with photocells provide automatic activation from dusk to dawn.
  • Spotlights or floodlights are used for security. They can also be used with a colored lend as decorative lighting. Weatherproof sockets are essential because the fixture is often mounted on the ground and pointed upward. Only install when the ground is completely dry.
  • Motion lights use sensors that activate the light when they detect heat and motion up to 40 feet away. They can attach to a power pack and mount on walls or fences 6 to 8 feet above the ground.

Plastic Conduit

  • Easy to use.
  • Use inside and outside.
  • Best for burying underground as it will not corrode with water.

Four-Way Switch

  • Controls power to lights and devices by turning off the hot side of the circuit.
  • Mounted in an electrical box.
  • Has four brass terminal screws.
  • It may also include a green grounding screw.
  • Used in connection with three-way switches to control one circuit from three or more points.

Wall Box

  • Used for housing switches and receptacles.
  • Made of metal or plastic and have the capability to be mounted to a wall or stud.
  • The holes in the side of the box where the conduit enters the box are called knockouts. In metal boxes, conduit can also be secured to the holes.
  • Four-Inch Square and Shallow boxes are other types only 1-1/2“ or 2”deep for places too shallow to mount a standard box.
  • Handy box is surface mounted and has rounded corners for safety.
  • Drywall box has expandable arms and can be mounted on drywall.
  • Plastic box is best for new installation and often has a nail built-in for quick attachment to the stud.
  • Gem box is a commonly made box, usually 2” wide, 3”high and 2-1/2” deep and made of metal. Deeper boxes are available.

Fuse Puller

  • Used to remove cartridge-type fuses.

Low Voltage Lights

  • Safe for many outdoor lighting applications. Because of the low voltage, users will not receive an electric shock even if they touch the bare wires or cut a buried cable with a garden tool. Consequently, these systems are harmless to children and pets and do not require cables to be buried.
  • A power pack is the heart of the low-voltage system and should be located outdoors by installing a weatherproof outlet cover to keep snow and rain out. Power packs typically range from 88-watt capacity up to 900-watt capacity.
  • May be one of several types. Bayonet base lamps feature a copper base that twists into the fixture socket, while the wedge base lamp plugs into the socket. Halogen lamps provide the most energy efficiency.
  • Remote photo control automatically turns lights on at dark and off during daylight hours.

Greenfield Conduit

  • Also known as flex conduit.
  • A hollow spiral metal jacket that resembles BX cable.
  • Use for installing wiring in the home.

Specialty Switches

  • Rocker Switch operates the same as a standard switch, but instead of a toggle, it operates with a rocker action.
  • Delayed Action Switch keeps the circuit open for a few minutesafter the switch is turned off. A good use is in a garage where, after the user turns off the switch, it allows the light to remain on in time exit.
  • Photoelectric Switch operates with a photoelectric cell. It turns off during the day and turns on during the night.
  • Motion Switch turns on the light as you enter the room. Good for both convenience and security.
  • An Illuminated Switch has a small light that is on when the switch is off so it can be easily found; these are usually used at entrances to rooms and in hallways. Another version is the Pilot Light Switch.
  • An Outdoor Switch features a turning lever inside a weatherproof box cover with a toggle switch.
  • Voice-Activated Switch operates with a voice command.

Ceiling Box

  • Also known as a junction box or splice box.
  • Used to anchor ceiling fixtures and serves as a junction box where wires can meet and run to other areas of the room.
  • They are either 4” octagonal or round shaped, and either 1-1/2” or 2-1/8” deep.
  • They also may include adjustable mounting hangers that attach to rafters in the ceiling and allow the box to be placed anywhere between.
  • Hangers also provide the short nipple or threaded rod that secures lighting fixtures.

Range Hood

  • Comes in many styles and is used to draw grease, heat, steam, smoke, odor and hazardous gasses away from the stove and out of the kitchen.
  • A complete system consists of a hood, a blower system and ducting.
  • Downdraft models are built into the stove of surrounding counter and are less efficient than updraft hoods.
  • Updraft hoods hang above the cooktop and easily vent air outdoors.
  • An island range hood is used for stoves that are part of cabinet islands. They are suspended from the ceiling.
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Building Materials FAQ's (273)

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 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 you measure black pipe?

Using I.D. (inside diameter)

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.

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.

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.

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.

How do I maintain my wood floor?

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

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 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.

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Hardware FAQ's (78)

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.

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.

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.

What is a lag bolt?

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

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.

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.

Should I use a finishing nail?

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

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 type of stud finder should I buy?

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

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

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

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Home Security FAQ's (38)

Is there a product that makes installing a strikeplate easier?

Yes, there is an adjustable strikeplate

What are the different types of smoke detectors?

Thermal smoke detectors detect heat only. Ionization smoke detectors respond particularly well to smoke caused by flaming fires. Photoelectric smoke detectors detect smoldering fires but react slowly to flaming fires.

What can I do to add security to my door?

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

My dusk to dawn light doesn’t go off and remains on all day. Do I need to replace it?

First find the sensor and see if it is being obscured by something. If not, you can probably just replace this sensor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Storage & Workshop Terms (35)

Utility Vise

  • Similar to a bench vise.
  • Generally has jaws ranging in length from 3″ to 6″.
  • Better models feature swivel bases so the vise may be turned to the best angle for each particular job.
  • Some utility vises either have cast-in pipe jaws or permit special curved-face pipe jaws to be inserted between the regular jaws to add versatility.

Step Ladder

  • A self-supporting device used for climbing that consists of two rectangular frames hinged at the top with one side containing the rungs for climbing.
  • Non-adjustable in length and folds closed for storage.
  • Available in increments from 2’ to 12’ in height.
  • Steps are flat and riveted and are generally 3” or more in width.
  • Most models include a top plastic platform on top for storing tools or loose fasteners.
  • Available in wood, fiberglass and aluminum construction in various duty (weight) ratings, with fiberglass considered the best construction of the three.
  • Quality classifications include consumer (household), commercial (mechanic) and industrial grades

Tool Box

  • Is available in a variety of configurations and made from a variety of materials, with steel being the most popular.
  • Plastic toolboxes are available in a number of styles as well. Some are suited for light-duty use, while others are comparable to steel in quality.
  • The highest quality plastic boxes are constructed of polypropylene, and some models can hold up to 75 lbs. of tools.
  • Some carpenters and precision tool users use hardwood chests because the wood absorbs rust-producing condensation.
  • Carpenters’ toolboxes are specially designed so carpenters can carry hand saws and framing squares in the same box with other tools.

Platform Ladder

  • A type of aluminum stepladder with three steps for ordinary household climbing tasks.
  • Some models feature extra wide non-slip treads for comfort during long periods of use.
  • Common step heights include 10”, 20” and 30”.
  • Most have a 200 lb. duty rating.
  • Most have a platform above the steps for resting tools and materials and a high handrail.
  • Folds easily for convenient storage.

Miter Box

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

Tool Chest

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

Extension Ladder

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


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

Specialty Stationary Workbench

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

Attic Ladder

  • Folding ladder that pulls down from attic access hole to permit entry.
  • 3 sections unfold to rest on floor, then fold back up to store on top of pull-down access door. Generally made of wood or aluminum.
  • 90-degree wrap-around hinges allow legs to completely fold up when not in use.
  • Different models accommodate different floor-to-ceiling height ranges.
  • Steps are usually double riveted for extra durability.
  • Generally rated either at 250 lbs. or 300 lbs.
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FAQs (0)

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.

Do you have a screw for an electrical outlet cover?

In most cases they are a 6 – 32.

Do you have multiple door locks that require only one key?

Some locks come in pairs that use the same key.

Do you have a hinge that will fit my door?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When should I apply fertilizers to plants and trees?

Don’t apply liquid fertilizer at the same time you plant. Some root hairs will break, and the fertilizer will burn them. Wait 2 to 3 weeks after planting before you fertilize. In general, apply fertilizers to plants at the beginning of the growing season. For deciduous trees fertilize when leaves appear; and for evergreens, when it turns cold. Shrubs do not require much fertilizing.

How can I keep rabbits out of my garden?

There is a galvanized fence that is 28” high.

What is an annual?

These plants last one season and die out.

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Hand & Power Tools FAQ's (185)

How does the number on the shank of a drill bit relate to its size?

Bit diameters are usually marked by a single number—the numerator of a fraction. For example, an auger bit, which is marked by 16ths of an inch, with a number 8 would stand for 8/16″ or 1/2″. Twist bits are usually marked in the same manner by 64ths of an inch. Thus a No. 8 bit would stand for 8/64″ or 1/8″.

I have roaches in a basement room. What do you recommend?

There are both room foggers and roach bait.

On long-handled tools, such as a shovel, what is the advantage of the more expensive one?

The higher-priced shovels have a sturdier construction and have better materials. For example, the composite handles are less likely to break.

What can be used to produce a nice smooth surface when I finish furniture?

Using a fine steel wool between multiple coats will give you a smoother surface. Be sure to clean the surface with a tack cloth before painting each additional coat.

What weight hammer should I buy?

Buy the heaviest hammer that you can control, because the heavier the hammer the easier it will drive nails. However, the heavier the hammer, the harder it is to hit nails on the head and the more quickly your arm muscles will become fatigued.

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

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

I need to plane a piece of plywood. What type of plane should I use?

When using a plane on plywood, be sure to use a double-edged disposable blade. The adhesive in plywood will quickly dull a regular cutting iron.

What are the advantages of a finish sander?

Rather than orbiting, it moves the sandpaper back and forth and should be used where it is absolutely necessary that the sandpaper move in a single direction. These often use square sheets of sandpaper, which also makes it easier to get into corners.

Is there a small power saw that is good for lighter work?

Yes, there are 3½ inch saws that are designed for trim work. However, they are also good for people who don’t want to handle a large saw. They can be used to cut everything from lattice to a 2×4.

What are all the markings on my framing square used for?

They consist of rafter tables, which are used to figure lengths and cuts of rafters, and the Essex Board Measure table, which shows board measurements of almost all sizes of boards and timbers.

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Lawn & Garden FAQ's (154)

How do I keep the water from pooling beneath my downspouts? Do I need to adjust the position my gutters?

There are several products designed to help carry water away from the foundation. The first is a splash block which sits directly under your downspout elbow to help carry the water that extra couple of feet away from the house. The other product is a downspout extender which is generally four-feet long. If after using these products the water is still pooling under your downspouts, you probably need to check the grade of your foundation, which is how much the land slopes away from your house.

What are the advantages of a synthetic fertilizer?

They’re faster acting than organic, making them a good choice for aiding plants in severe distress from nutrient deficiencies. These fertilizers, which come as dry, granular pellets or water-soluble products, also provide even, consistent feeding.

How short should I cut my grass?

About 2” or 3”, but never more than about 1/3 of its length.

How do I compost?

Compost converts waste material into a fertilizer. Bins should be almost 30 cubic feet to ensure it retains enough heat to spur composting. Choose a location for your bin that is partially shaded. A pile can contain leaves, grass clippings, prunings, straw, spoiled hay, coffee grounds, eggshells, paper and wood ash. Remember you should add equal parts of green material (nitrogen) like fresh grass clippings and food scraps to one part brown (carbon) such as leaves. Keep it as wet as a wrung-out sponge and aerate your pile by stirring it once a week. You can layer in manure, garden soil and commercial fertilizer to speed bacterial action. You should have finished compost in about three months.

Is there a power tool that I can use to trim evergreens with?

Yes, there are electric hedge trimmers. They come in different sizes. The larger units are more powerful, but do not buy a model that is too heavy for you to handle.

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”).

Is there a fertilizer that I can use on my gardens that last a long time?

There are time released fertilizers that can last several months.

Is there a way to keep leaves out of the gutter?

There are several different types of gutter covers that keeps leaves out of the gutter and makes them easier to maintain.

I have a sloped driveway. Should I buy a sealer with more sand content for extra traction?

Sealers with more sand contain less coal tar emulsion, which is what actually seals your driveway. Since most sealers are rubberized, they will aid in traction without having to sacrifice the products’ actual sealing capabilities.

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Encyclopedia-Terms (0)

Café Rod

  • Used to hang curtains over both upper and lower window sashes.
  • Usually suspended from rings encircling the rods.
  • Decorative and available in a variety of finishes.
  • Sizes vary according to use and range from 3/8” to 1” in diameter, and 28” to 120” long.

Nylon Rope

  • A twisted rope that is the most versatile of all because of its strength.
  • Good shock resistance.
  • Good abrasion resistance.
  • Lasts five times longer than natural fibers.
  • Resists chemicals and will not rot or mold.
  • When stretched, has a tendency to return to its original shape.
  • Do not use on winches or bits or attached to hooks or chain.

Sheet Metal Screw

  • Fastens thin metal to thin metal.
  • Threaded its entire length.
  • Can have flat, oval, round or binding heads.
  • Typical lengths range from 1/8” to 2”.
  • Starting holes are either drilled or punched and should be slightly smaller than the screw diameter.


Cotter Pin

  • Versatile fastening device.
  • Made of ferrous and nonferrous wire.
  • Comes in various diameters and lengths ranging from 1/32” x 1/2” to 1/4” to 18”.
  • Inserts into a hole in a bolt, shaft or similar part. An eye on one end prevents the pin from going through while prongs at the other end are bent back to lock the pin in place.


Box Nail

  • Lighter and smaller than common nails with a larger head.
  • Used for framing and applications where shifting is minimal, such as nailing subfloor to floor joists and attaching roof base to rafters.

Box Wood Stove

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

Fireplace Set

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

Floor-Vent Humidifier

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

Fiberglass Filter

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


Landscape Snip

  • Used in the garden or as a household tool.
  • Can cut through many types of material.
  • Has a serrated blade.
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Building Materials Terms (161)

Casement Window

  • Has a single sash hinged at one side to swing open by means of a crank or lever.
  • Tends to be more weathertight than double-hung, single-hung or sliding windows.
  • Utilizes a cam-type lock to draw the sash tightly against the frame when closed.

Blacktop Sealer

  • Used to maintain outdoor asphalt surfaces.
  • The ultraviolet rays of the sun damage the asphalt binder used as the paving material. The sealer protects asphalt against oil, tar and gasoline and keeps water from settling in pores.
  • Apply at 70°F or higher and require 24 to 48 hours to dry before use.
  • The coal tar type of sealer needs to be resurfaced yearly and may contain hazardous chemicals.
  • The acrylic sealer type is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.


  • Also known as wood fiber substrate.
  • Made from wood chips that are mechanically reduced to wood fibers and then bonded together into panels through heat and pressure.
  • Panels are thin, grainless, dense, uniformly textured, strong and bone-dry.
  • Used as an exterior siding, interior paneling, as a garage door panel, perforated boards, for furniture, toys, cabinets, floor underlayment and many other items.
  • Can be sawed, shaped, routed and drilled and will accept paint and varnish.
  • Not recommended for use in areas with high temperature or humidity because warping can occur.


  • Used to conceal joints when plywood panels or boards meet.
  • Many plywood panels are v-grooved and hide the joint. If they’re not, use this trim.

Door Jamb Weather Strip

  • Used to seal the sides and top of a door to shut out drafts and insects.
  • Available in a variety of forms, including roll-formed and extruded aluminum with vinyl bulbs or flaps.

Tub Surround

  • Attaches to drywall, plaster or most any solid surface.
  • Comes in three or more pieces that snap or caulk together for a leak-free fit.
  • Inexpensive alternative to tile and good solution for keeping bathroom walls around the shower easy to clean.
  • Don’t forget the caulk!

Cold Process Adhesive

  • Also called lap cement roof adhesive.
  • Designed to form a water-resistant and waterproof bond with most coated roll roofing products.

Soffit & Fascia Panel

  • Soffit panels enclose the underside of an eave.
  • Fascia panels enclose the front of an eave.

Naphtha (VM & P)

  • Fast evaporating, clear, colorless solvent.
  • Used primarily to thin oil paints, varnishes and enamels for spray applications where mineral spirits drying time is too slow.

Butyl Rubber Sealants

  • Are solvent-based, with a life expectancy of two to 10 years.
  • Butyl rubber is good for sealing out water in lap joints, such as gutters. It is also a good choice for metals and masonry, as well as outside for chimneys.
  • Probably the best waterproofing sealant for below-grade applications, such as foundations.
  • Stringy, difficult to apply and slow curing, they are most efficient when applied to openings between similar surfaces.
  • Not recommended for openings wider or deeper than 1/4″ or in 90° corners.
  • These sealants offer low to moderate movement capabilities.
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Heating & Cooling Terms (56)


  • Holds burning logs off the hearth.
  • Prevents logs from rolling forward.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.

Evaporative Humidifier

  • Uses a wick and high-volume air to return moisture to the air.
  • The wick is a honeycomb arrangement of cellulose paper with a large surface area.
  • Operates by partially submerging the wick in the water while a fan forces air to pass through the upper exposed area, distributing absorbed water into the air.
  • Wicks will need replacing.
  • This type uses little energy and is easy to clean. Some units can be noisy.

Electrostatic Air Cleaner

  • Works best for whole-house filtration
  • Filter used consists of shredded polypropylene fleece that has been given a permanent electric charge to help attract and remove submicron-sized allergens.
  • Does not remove gas molecules from the air.


  • The andiron is a pair of metal bars with decorative front shafts that hold the logs.
  • Using a grate and andiron allow air to circulate and feed the fire, while ashes fall away from burning logs.

Warm-Mist Device

  • Uses a heating element to restore moisture to the air.
  • The water surrounding the heating element is brought to near boiling and a fan cools and distributes the moistened air, which is slightly warmer than room air.
  • This type can be used with tap water and will not cause white dust.
  • Can be noisy and consumes more energy than other types.

UV Air Cleaner

  • Uses a HEPA filter as well as ultraviolet light rays to clean air.
  • Also acts as a germ killer to remove virus, mold and bacteria from the air.
  • Some units have a pre-filter as the first line of defense against larger particles. It is the less expensive filter and extends the life of the more expensive HEPA filter.

What kind of caulk should I use around window frames?

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

Glass Enclosure

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

Impeller Humidifier

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

Ionizer Air Cleaner

  • Use an ionizer to clean air by charging molecules of air, which helps make indoor air more refreshing.
  • Ionizer technology in an air cleaner can also reduce static electricity and improve the filter’s efficiency.
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Lawn and Garden Terms (144)

Lopping Shears

  • Has long handles and tempered steel blades.
  • Used to cut through heavy underbrush and branches up to 3” thick.
  • Available in anvil or bypass styles.


  • Has a blade at a right angle to the handle.
  • Available with long or short handles.
  • Different models are available for cultivating, planting and picking.

Spading Fork

  • Used to dig and aerate soil.
  • Has straight tines.

Straight Nozzle

  • Usually constructed of brass, diecast zinc or plastic.
  • Better models use an o-ring to seal off the waterflow, protect the inside adjustment threads and allow for smoother and easier spray adjustment.


  • Light-duty models typically have a 3 to 4 cu. ft. capacity.
  • Medium-duty models typically have a 4 to 6 cu. ft. capacity.
  • A rollbar in front of the wheel contacts the ground to make dumping heavy loads easier.
  • Tray may be made of aluminum, steel or heavy plastic. Handles are either hardwood or metal.
  • Features a semi-rounded front for easy dumping.
  • Wheels may be solid rubber or pneumatic (inflatable). Inflatable tires are apt to puncture.

Single-Bit Axe

  • Most popular style of axe, the single-bit axe is used to fell, trim or prune trees, to split or cut wood.
  • The easiest and safest axe for inexperienced woodcutters to use because it only has one cutting edge.
  • The other end of the head, the poll, forms a hammer for driving wooden or plastic stakes. It should never be used to strike splitting wedges, steel posts, stone or any hard object.
  • Handles for single-bit axes are curved to help increase leverage. Axe handles are made of hickory and range from 20″ to 36″ long. The most common is 36″.
  • Common head patterns include Michigan, Dayton, Kentucky, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Reed-Sedge Peat

  • Also known as Michigan-type peat.
  • Has similar characteristics and soil benefits to Sphangnum Peat Moss.
  • Includes the remains of a variety of swamp plants such as sedge grasses and reeds.
  • A velvety dark brown product that does not need extensive soaking.
  • Available in 25- and 50-lb. bags as well as smaller quantities.
  • Not a plant food. Fertilizers must still be added.

Flower Seed

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

Lawn Tractor

  • The riding mower, or lawn tractor, cuts grass, but some types can also tow garden carts.
  • Engines may be 13 to 25 hp.
  • Heavy-duty garden tractors have the additional ability to use ground-engaging implements such as tillers, plows, snow throwers, etc.
  • Some models have two or three side-by-side blades that widen the cutting path. Cutting widths can be as wide as 50”.
  • Features may include automatic transmission, cruise control, reverse cutting, adjustable deck heights, the ability to turn on a tight radius, an hours meter and a cast iron front axle.

Tree Pruner

  • Pruning shears or a pruning saw is attached to a long pole that will accept extensions or operates with a telescoping action.
  • Some models have a rope and pulley configuration where the user pulls the rope to instigate the cutting action.
  • Typical pole length is 6 to 12 feet, but some reach up to 20’.
  • Used for high work or where a ladder cannot be used.
View category→

Plumbing Terms (100)


  • Also known as a force cup or a plumber’s friend.
  • Used to clear blockages in toilets sinks and tubs.
  • Combination plungers (usually black in color) consist of two cups, one inside the other.
  • Recommend combination plungers for clearing toilets.

Insert Fitting

  • Sometimes used with flexible plastic pipe.
  • Inserted onto the pipe and compressed and sealed with an adjustable clamp.

Propane Torch

  • Used to heat joints in copper pipe so solder can melt.
  • Also use to heat corroded fittings to loosen them.
  • Attaches to a cylinder containing the gas.

Boiler Drain Valve

  • A horizontal faucet with male hose threads on the outlet side and either male or female IPS threads on the inlet side.
  • Originally designed to drain water from a boiler, hence the name.
  • Today, theyíre usually used for laundry machine hookups.
  • Newer models of laundry valves have a single lever that controls the hot and cold water supply.

Toilet Seats

  • Made of plastic or kiln-dried hardwood.
  • Hardware should be sturdy and non-rusting. Metal hardware should be solid brass with a quality finish.
  • Some toilet seats have “easy-on, easy-off” hinge posts that facilitate installation by the homeowner. These hinge posts also make it practical to remove the seat for thorough cleaning.

Water Filter

  • Used to remove bacteria and/or chemicals suspended in water to improve its taste and smell. Filters either install under the sink or at the point where the water supply enters the building (whole-house filters). Others mount on the faucet or countertop.
  • The basic types of water filtration devices are activated-carbon filters, reverse osmosis, distillation and aeration.
  • Activated-carbon filters are the least expensive water filtration devices. They can remove impurities and improve water taste and odor, but do not eliminate dissolved minerals or bacteria. One solution is to combine a carbon filter with a chlorination system.
  • Reverse-osmosis systems take out dissolved lead, mercury,cadmium and other heavy metals that are present in the water, but will not eliminate microorganisms. They are also relatively expensive.
  • Distillation removes most impurities in the water system. Distillers work slowly and must be cleaned regularly.
  • Aeration reduces, but does not necessarily eliminate, the levels of iron, chlorine and other gases in the water. It works best when combined with other treatment forms.
  • Some filters feature cartridges that can be cleaned and reused several times before replacement.
  • Filters based on ceramic technology will remove up to 100 percent of bacteria as well as chemicals, tastes and odors. Some have proven effective in removing such contaminants as algae, chlorine and detergents found in many urban water supplies.
  • Another under-sink model even reduces levels of MTBE, a gasoline additive that contaminates some wells and municipal water systems.
  • Always study information about the specific filters that you are selling.


  • Also known as a snake.
  • Consists of a coiled spiral cable, usually 1/4î thick and of varying lengths.
  • The most basic type has a z-shaped handle used to crank the cable as it snakes through the drain.
  • Another type uses a funnel-shaped container to store the cable and then to spin it as it works its way through the drain.
  • Professionals use an auger attached to a drill or other device that spins the cable. Usually these versions can maneuver a much longer cable.

Adapter Fitting

  • Any kind of fitting that helps connect two different types of tubing, such as copper and galvanized steel, or threaded and solvent weld, or two different sizes that are usually incompatible.
  • A dielectric fitting connects pipe of dissimilar metals (such as copper and galvanized metal) to prevent corrosion in the copper pipe.
  • Two main types, reducers and bushings, are used to convert from one size to another.

Propane Fuel

  • Attaches to a propane torch.
  • Propane comes in bright blue tanks and MAPP welding gas comes in yellow tanks.
  • Propane is generally used to heat copper for flaring. However, sometimes there is water in the line that needs to be evaporated so the pipe will heat enough to sweat a joint. Use MAPP gas, but use caution as too much heat can melt the pipe.

Ball Valve

  • Uses a large lever to turn a ball that closes or opens the flow of water with one quick quarter turn.
  • Are the standard for natural and LP gas, replacing the older plug valves that were traditionally used as gas valves.
  • Available in either metal or plastic, threaded or non-threaded types.
  • Ball valves with double-stem seals provide greater durability.
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Home Security Terms (35)

Gun Lock

  • Fits over the trigger housing of guns to prevent firing of the weapon.
  • Some models have a sound alarm to warn that the gun is being tampered with.
  • Some have tamper-evident devices to alert owners that the gun has been disturbed.
  • Some models can lock multiple guns at once.

Passage Lockset

  • An interior lockset used inside the home in hallways or closets between rooms where privacy is not important.
  • Has two, non-locking knobs, one on each side of the door. Some models use levers instead of knobs.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.

Trailer Lock

  • Used to secure standing trailers by rendering the towing device inoperable.
  • Locks cover or fill the coupler socket so it cannot be mounted on a ball.

Privacy Lockset

  • An interior lockset.
  • Designed for privacy rather than for security.
  • Has a locking button on the inside knob but no key device on the outside knob.
  • Can be either a knob or a lever.
  • In an emergency, the lock can be opened from the outside by inserting a narrow object through the small hole in the outside knob and either depressing or turning the locking mechanism inside, depending on the type of lock.
  • Available in a wide variety of styles and finishes.

Surface-Mounted Deadbolt

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

Home Intrusion Alarm

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

Dummy Knob

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


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

Home Perimeter Alarm

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

Entry Lockset

  • Two doorknobs that can be locked from both the inside and the outside.
  • One type locks from the inside by turning or depressing a small button, while a key must unlock the outside knob.
  • Some models must be locked with a key on both the inside and outside.
  • In other models, only the inside knob can lock or unlock both sides of the set.
  • A medium security entrance-door lock.
  • A quality feature on entry locksets is a deadlatch.
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Electrical FAQ's (92)

What is an LB fitting?

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

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

It’s best to use a rough service bulb.

Is it easy to replace a faulty plug?

Yes, start by snipping off the original plug. Slide the cord into the new plug, strip the wires and connect them to the proper terminals. For lamps and small appliances there are quick connect plugs. The snipped wire is inserted and a small lever is closed which holds the wire and pierces the wire to make the connection.

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

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

What is BX cable?

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

My dimmer switch feels warm. Is that safe?

It is normal for a dimmer to get warm during operation, and they have a built-in heat sink for that very reason. Always be sure the load on the switch does not exceed its rating.

How can you recognize a socket used for a 3-way lamp?

This socket will have a regular contact tab inside, which all sockets have, plus another raised contact point.

What is a ground fault interrupter?

It’s a safety device that shuts off the power if a wire in an outlet develops a leak that could electrocute someone. This hazard is so serious that the National Electrical Code requires all new homes be equipped with them in the bathroom, kitchen, workroom, outdoor, basement, garage and swimming pool circuits.

If there is a short in the line, where should I look for it?

Search for loose taped wire; also look for worn fabric insulation on old wires and check any terminals have multiple wires since one of the wires may have slipped off.

How large of a cord should I use when wiring an appliance?

Use cords with 16-guage wire for appliances pulling less than 15 amps and 12-guage wire for appliances pulling up to 20 amps?

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Heating & Cooling FAQ's (61)

How can I make my fireplace more efficient?

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

Can I plug my air conditioner into any standard outlet?

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

Is replacing my thermostat an easy project?

Yes, simply remove the old thermostat from the wall. Next, disconnect each one and mark it so you can keep track of where it was connected. Attach the new thermostat to the wall and attach the old wires.

How does a tube grate work?

A tube grate functions like a conventional grate or andiron in a fireplace. It is an energy saving device that pulls air into the bottom tube opening, moves it around and over the fire (warming the air as it goes) and then shoots it back into the room. It keeps the room’s air from escaping up the chimney, and when combined with glass doors, is an effective way of increasing the energy efficiency of a fireplace.

Do I need to open any other windows while using a window fan?

Opening other windows allows a way for the air in the room to vent. To cool one room, run the window fan on intake and open a second window to act as a vent. To cool several rooms, run the fan on exhaust and open the windows and connecting doors.

How do I know if my attic is properly ventilated?

In general, the formula is based on the square footage of the attic. You should have one vent for every 150 square feet of attic floor space. The vents should be split between high and low vents. If you have a vapor barrier, you only need one vent for every 300 square feet.

What R-value should I use?

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

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

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

My ceiling fan wobbles, what should I do?

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

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

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

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Plumbing FAQ's (121)

I’ve heard I need to open a shut-off valve (either a ball or a gate valve) before soldering it to a copper pipe. Why?

By opening the valve it prevents the washer inside the valve from getting damaged by excessive heat when soldering.

Why is the torch hard to light?

The valve may be open to far. Open the valve just slightly so the rush of gas doesnít blow out the flame

Can I test to see if the leak is coming from the refill or the flush valve?

Yes. Shut off the water supply to the toilet. Mark the water level on the inside of the tank with a pencil. Check the water level in 10 or 20 minutes. If the water has fallen, you know the flush valve is leaking.

What is a check valve?

A check valve keeps water from returning to the sump pit or crawl space after the pump shuts off.

What type of caulk should I use in my shower?

Silicone caulks are water resistant and provide excellent adhesion to smooth surfaces, such as metal, glass and tile. However, it does not adhere well to masonry and is paint resistant. It is also difficult to work with and smears must be cleaned up with paint thinner.

Do you recommend a plastic pipe cleaners and primers?

These are applied to a pipe and fitting, before applying the solvent weld glue to ensure a strong bond. Their use is always a good idea, especially if it’s for a water supply line or the connection is going to be somewhere that will be difficult to get to in the future.

How close to the copper fitting do you need to hold the flame to get bring it up to soldering temperature?

The inner blue cone within the flame is the hottest part of the flame and should always touch the copper. When the copper starts to turn iridescent in color and gets a shiny appearance, gently touch the tip of the solder to the joint. I should melt and run into the joint.

Why won’t the torch stay lit while upside down?

In some torches, the liquid propane in an upside down tank works its way through the torch and blows out the flame. To avoid this, use a pressure regulated torch.

Why is water constantly running into my toilet?

If the refill valve is leaking, the tank overfills and the excess water runs into the overflow pipe and into the bowl.

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