Q. As a woman who just bought her first home, what would you suggest I buy for tools to do fix-ups and repairs on my own just to have in the house?
LISA, in Hotton’s chat room
A. Anyone’s first house is a monumental undertaking, and the right tools are a girl’s best friend, so I will begin with this: Don’t fall for those pink ladies’ kits they sell. That pink color is a chauvinistic ploy to waste your money on cheap or underweight tools.
Start with the basics:
1. A 16-ounce hammer, wood- or steel-shanked. Anything lighter will never drive a 16 penny nail.
2. A set of various-size slot screwdrivers and another set of Phillips head (shaped like a star) drivers. You want a variety of sizes to make sure the driver fits the screw. A bad fit can strip the slot and star from a screw very quickly.
3. A hacksaw for cutting metal, and nails that never yield to pulling.
4. Regular pliers and needle-nosed pliers.
5. A saw or two; one small handsaw for little jobs, and a Japanese saw, my favorite, with a long handle (not a pistol grip) that might feel uncomfortable but is really not. Such a saw has teeth on both sides of the blade, which is flexible enough to cut something flush from a wood floor or other surface without damaging the surface.
6. Various prying tools: A cat’s paw nail puller. A flat bar, small but versatile. A pinch bar, a 2-foot-long monster that can pry a house off its foundation — almost.
7. Nail set, for countersinking nails.
8. Safety items: Light canvas gloves (for comfort, mostly). And plastic goggles, especially when working with power tools.
9. A square for measuring and marking material for cutting. One, called the Speedy square, is triangular and easily used.
10. Caulking gun, to hold cartridges of caulking, adhesives, and other stuff that comes oozing out of the nozzle.
11. Fasteners, including many kinds of nails, and screws, too. Buy only what you need. Also, buy hot zinc dipped galvanized nails; they hold much better than the bright, ungalvanized nails. When you buy screws, specify solid brass. They won’t rust.
12. Various-width chisels. Be careful with all hand and power tools. A sharp chisel can cut flesh quickly and deeply.
13. Sandpaper. Various grades, ranging from fine to coarse. You will learn by experience what grade to use.
Enjoy your projects. I’ve enjoyed my projects for 54 years, and haven’t stopped yet.
Q. Help! Carpenter ants invaded my front porch. What can you tell me about them? How can I get rid of them.
TED STRAUSS, Albany, N.Y. by mail
A. Do you know they are carpenters? Call an exterminator who can identify them. Carpenter ants nest in the wood, and you can usually locate them by noticing piles of dirty sawdust on the floor and elsewhere around the nest, where the ants have shoveled out. When the professional locates the nest, he should destroy it and all the ants within, and you or he can repair the damage done to the porch. The ants usually nest in damp, punky wood that has gotten wet from a hidden leak. With new, sound wood in place, preferably pressure-treated wood, chances are good that they will not be back, but vigilance is the price to pay for freedom from the ants.
Spraying anticide around the outside perimeter of the house might help keep them away, but indiscriminate spraying will usually not work very well. A yearly maintenance program of spraying carefully outside can keep them away longer. As usual, never spray any insecticide indoors, except perhaps to kill the ants in the nest. Also, fumigating the house, which requires the family leaving it for several days, will also work.