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37
votes
1answer
12k views

What on earth is this small wall-mounted computer?

I live in a rented apartment, and there is this little plastic box on the wall that I had been ignoring. Here is what it looks like: There are no markings or holes on the casing. I got curious and ...
37
votes
8answers
97k views

Should I use steel or wood studs for basement exterior walls?

Related: When should you use metal studs? I'm planning on finishing my basement. (assuming all water issues are resolved) I'll be putting up a water barrier (tar paper) on all exterior walls, ...
37
votes
5answers
24k views

If a light bulb is dead, does it still consume electricity if the switch is in ON?

It's been a week since a light bulb in the bathroom died. I'm wondering if the bulb is dead, does it still consume electricity if the switch is in ON? The light is completely dead, no light ...
37
votes
2answers
5k views

Is there a proper name for this kind of toothed disk?

I'm building a piece of furniture with an adjustable part and would like to use a toothed disk similar in concept to the examples show below. Before having it custom made, I am searching for a ...
37
votes
2answers
121k views

What does “1 Gang”, “2 Gang”, and so forth mean when talking about electrical boxes?

What does a "1 Gang" mean when talking about electrical boxes? Example: CARLON 1-Gang Metal Adjustable Electrical Box (Lowes.com)
37
votes
7answers
167k views

Why does this receptacle have the ground tied to the neutral?

I was replacing some outlets in my house with tamper-resistant ones, and came across one where the white and ground were wired together, as seen in this picture. Why? Is that okay or appropriate ...
37
votes
3answers
280k views

How should I rewire a miswired 3-way switch?

I have a 3 way switch that was wired incorrectly when the switches were replaced with a different color switch. Is there a methodical way for me to identify which wires represent which piece of the ...
37
votes
7answers
52k views

How do I run ethernet cable through a wall cavity?

I want to install an ethernet jack in an interior wall of one room. I'd like to run the cable up through the wall cavity (so it is hidden) into the crawl space and back down another wall to another ...
37
votes
3answers
6k views

Why do gas water heater exhausts have an air gap before the chimney?

Every conventional (i.e., non-direct-vent) gas water heater I have seen has a roughly 1" vertical gap between its exhaust port and the exhaust vent (or "chimney"). See photo below. What function does ...
37
votes
7answers
92k views

Are push in connectors up to code?

Just came across a neat product at the local hardware store, but I wonder if they are up to code and safe to use. They are a wire nut that allows you to simply push the wires in, instead of twisting ...
36
votes
11answers
13k views

How do I secure my house against intruders?

What are some suggestions for securing your house from an intruder? Right now we have a GE Simon XT alarm system, but it doesn't cover breaking a window. We put some PVC pipes in the tracks of the ...
35
votes
8answers
8k views

How best can I discover what is up with my electrical bill?

This might be subjective, I don't know. However, it's a serious problem for me. My electrical bill is outrageous. It's three times as large as my next-door neighbor, and four or five times the size of ...
35
votes
10answers
137k views

How to avoid wires when drilling into the wall?

I have to anchor a bookcase to a wall to prevent it from tipping over. When drilling into the wall, how do I make sure I can avoid drilling into the wires behind the wall? I have bought a Stud ...
35
votes
1answer
163k views

What are the guidelines for holes in joists?

I've been unable to find a good reference for the size/amount/location of holes I can drill through joists. This is mostly in order to pass cabling or pipes through the joist crosswise. Also, what ...
34
votes
4answers
19k views

Is there a way to safely have exposed electrical wires?

We have a dumpster on our property for another home project and are hoping to take advantage of this by disposing of some bathroom lights and a ceiling fan. However, we do not currently have a ...
34
votes
10answers
7k views

Need to understand my home electrical meter to see why bill is so high and/or if neighbor is on same meter

I would like to know how to understand my digital home electrical meter. This picture shows what my home meter CURRENTLY reads. I intend to unplug everything in my tiny apartment in order to get ...
34
votes
11answers
13k views

Is this cracking foundation under a jack post a problem that requires repair?

I am buying an already-built new home. I find this in the basement. The builder says it's okay, but I am really concerned. Is this really a big issue? What steps would be required to repair it? This ...
34
votes
11answers
7k views

Home electronics break daily and wiring is OK. Any ideas?

We have a very old house, circa 1850-1900. It seems that as often as every week we have had to replace an electronic device. In the past six months, we have had to in total, replace: 1 washing ...
34
votes
18answers
30k views

How do I ensure the bathroom door stays open unless someone is inside?

When my windows are open, the wind can slam the bathroom door shut. I don't want this to happen when my cat is in the doorway (dead cat), or inside the bathroom with no one home (locked in with ...
34
votes
4answers
11k views

What kind of IKEA screw is this?

This is a screw on the side of an IKEA drawer. On line videos say turn it left or right to level the front of the door. Instructions are to use a Phillips screwdriver. It's not a Phillips head and the ...
34
votes
3answers
5k views

Why is my voltage dropping with load and why is current flowing on my ground wire?

I am not an electrician, but I've been researching a lot recently to try and figure out why my system is behaving so strangely. Main problem: Lights flickering, sometimes quite severely, and ...
34
votes
9answers
177k views

Can I run CAT5/6 cables parallel to electrical cables?

I am building a new house and am planning to hardwire network cables into each room. Can I run CAT5/6 cables parallel to electrical wires without introducing any general safety issues or losing much ...
34
votes
6answers
180k views

How do I wrap pipe threads with teflon tape?

When wrapping pipe threads with teflon tape (thread seal tape), what is the direction and recommended number of times to wrap the tape around the threads? Any other recommendations or tip/tricks when ...
34
votes
3answers
348k views

Why do my LED lights stay on, even when the switch is off?

I have two LED lamps in my corridor, and when I switch them off, they keep emitting light (not very strong, but it's annoying at night). What can it be? How can I fix it?
34
votes
4answers
48k views

How do I fix a “water hammer” problem?

When I shut off a water faucet or right after the toilet tank refills after flushing, I hear a vibrating sound in my pipes. It last between one and two seconds. On the interwebs, I found out that it'...
33
votes
5answers
16k views

Why does my home's power fade and surge when I plug things in?

I live in Texas. I ran 300 ft of aluminum electric direct-bury 4-4-2 from the pole on street to my new home. The pole is metered and yes, I had my utility's blessing to do so. Everything worked ...
33
votes
7answers
7k views

Are there skilled professionals who will supervise unskilled DIY labor?

As somebody who is interested in improving my home, learning things and acquiring tools, I would like to know if there is an existing market for professionals advising and supervising DIY projects. ...
33
votes
22answers
67k views

What is the best way to seal caulk tube?

What are some effective ways of sealing an opened tube of caulk so that the contents do not dry out? In the past I've used a large nail and some tape, but that doesn't seem to last for more than a few ...
33
votes
10answers
10k views

Is it worth spending extra to get a nicer circular saw?

I'm doing some small projects such as building a workbench, and I don't have a saw to cut plywood with. I've got a 12" compound miter saw, so I don't currently need a circular saw for anything other ...
33
votes
5answers
23k views

Why are carpenters' pencils flat?

My assumption is that it's so they don't roll away. But if a carpenter spends the majority of his/her day working on a flat surface, a regular pencil wouldn't seem to have the tendency to get away ...
33
votes
9answers
80k views

How should I go about installing a 12 volt DC residential circuit?

I have a couple deep cycle batteries that trickle charge from a solar panel, for emergency use. Right now the only way I get useful power from them is to use a 12VDC -> 120VAC inverter, e.g. the type ...
33
votes
2answers
3k views

How do I find and dispose of the dead animal that's presumably in my ceiling?

We're trying to track the origin of a very putrid smell in our condominium. We have a loft type home, which means two floors with a drywall ceiling between the first and second floor. I first noticed ...
32
votes
5answers
8k views

Is it a problem that my bathtub drains directly into the wall?

Here is what I see inside the hole My landlord said is ok. But I think water going directly to wall can't be a good idea. My question is how bad is it? Needs fixing right away? If needs fixing, how ...
32
votes
10answers
9k views

How do I stop a creek from eroding my steep embankment?

Behind my house there is a very steep bank/slope that leads down to a decent-sized, slow moving creek about 10 - 12 ft wide. Unfortunately it meanders right behind my property at the base of this ...
32
votes
3answers
19k views

When doing electrical work, what do I use to check wires are safe?

If I am thinking of replacing a light switch, a light-fitting, a socket/outlet or doing other work with household wiring where there may be 120 Volts or 240 volts present ... There is already a ...
32
votes
5answers
34k views

Why does this pipe feeding a hot water heater dip down like this?

This is a cold water pipe just in front of the hot water heater it is feeding. Why is it shaped that way? What is its function?
32
votes
12answers
274k views

How much weight can screws in drywall hold?

I've always had the question of how much weight can a single screw into a drywall withstand? For instance, I would like to do things like this: It's hung with 5 screws. The whole thing weighs ...
32
votes
4answers
340k views

How do you know when and where it is safe to drill into a wall?

Lots of home projects involve cutting or drilling through walls (everything from nails, screws, or hooks to mount things to cutting through drywall and drilling through studs to run wire). In general,...
31
votes
12answers
7k views

How do I make around-the-room shelves for a seriously skewed room?

I've been given the Christmas task of setting up an HO model train and rails around a child's room, so I researched a bit and found a shelf train would be the thing. So I go to measure the room in ...
31
votes
13answers
13k views

Is there a technique to make a shower mirror fog-free?

We want to install a permanent mirror in a new shower, but hope to find a permanent way to prevent it from fogging up. I have seen gooseneck mirrors that hook up to the showerhead itself so as to run ...
30
votes
6answers
11k views

What do you call the fastener that's like a metal zip tie with a screw?

I assure you that this is not the beginning of a fastener-related standup routine. While working out at the gym, I saw a fastener that looks like a metal zip tie, with a screw to tighten it. Two ...
30
votes
9answers
7k views

What is a NON-self-tapping screw? What does self-tapping mean, really?

Someone on the site suggested that I use "self-tapping screws", and gave me a link to the Wikipedia page about them. So, I went there, saw the definition: A self-tapping screw is a screw that can ...
30
votes
11answers
6k views

Should I tilt my DIY self-standing bookshelf backwards to prevent it falling down?

Context I intend to build a self-standing bookshelf using 18mm-thick, CNC-router-cut plywood. The bookshelf is made of nested planks, and entirely fits a 35cm-deep recess in my wall. Following ...
30
votes
12answers
6k views

What are the “must do” tasks before winter hits?

I've had my furnace serviced in time for winter, but what other things should I consider doing before the snow and the ice come?
30
votes
14answers
149k views

What are cheap ways to build strong shelves with a large span?

I have removed several old and moisture damaged built in storage units from my house. I would like to replace them with shelving. There are a number of different sized gaps (width and depth to fill). ...
30
votes
8answers
62k views

How do I wire an old house with Cat6?

I have a older home (build in the 50's) with 1/2" dry wall and then plaster on top. I would like to run Cat6 cable through most of the house (living room, kitchen, entertainment room,etc). So, I'm ...
30
votes
3answers
10k views

Why am I getting an electric shock from the water in my hot tub?

I have noticed that when I touch the water of my Hot Tub when I am grounded (barefoot standing outside of tub) I am getting a very small electric shock. Using a multimeter it is reading 2Vac between ...
30
votes
1answer
8k views

Metal spike with heavy metal cord found in front lawn

While raking my front lawn I came across this metal stake in the ground, wrapped in a thick metal wire/cord. I could not pull the stake up. I dug around and found the wire, pulling up on it and it ...
30
votes
10answers
69k views

Why are “Wire Nuts” not used in the UK?

I have never seen a wire nut used in the UK, but they seem to be very common in the USA, why?
30
votes
4answers
5k views

How to future-proof a long cable run

I'm starting on a project that will involve digging a long (roughly 150-200 meter) trench from my house down to the road. The trench itself will be a considerable expense and so while the ground is ...

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