Installing a faucet or another plumbing fixture can be tricky if the installer uses old methods -- such as rigid copper pipes -- to bring water to the fixture from the shut-off valves.
But faucet replacement and several other plumbing projects often undertaken by do-it-yourselfers can be greatly simplified by using flexible connectors that can be installed without the cutting, soldering or alignment problems that can occur with rigid pipes.
The connectors, sometimes called risers, also work with new toilet tanks, water heaters and dishwashers.
Several types of flexible connectors are available, and many home centers and hardware stores have a selection. They commonly are made of polybutylene plastic, nylon-reinforced polymer or steel-reinforced polymer. All can be used with either hot or cold water.
A 12-inch polybutylene connector generally costs less than $2, about one-fourth the typical price of the steel-reinforced type and half the cost of nylon reinforcement. Reinforced connectors are stronger and more attractive, however. The reinforcing shell is braided.
The connectors are available in several lengths, generally starting at 12 inches. Fluidmaster Inc., a leading manufacturer of polymer connectors reinforced with stainless steel (called No-Burst), makes three lengths of connectors for each of three fixtures: faucets, toilets and water heaters.
Always measure the length of the connector needed before shopping, and buy a one that is a bit long.
Also determine the size and type of connections on the shut-off valve and the fixture. Faucets, toilets and water heaters generally have a standard-size connection. For example, toilets have a 7/8 -inch thread at the tank connection, and a connector made for toilets should fit.
But the connection at the valve, or water supply, can be any of several sizes. If in doubt, measure the diameter of the existing thread, or measure the diameter of the existing connector pipe and nut at the valve end, and consult with the dealer before buying. Better still, remove the old connector and take it along when shopping.
Polybutylene tubes are sold with a threaded fitting attached to one end. If necessary, the plain end is easily cut with a sharp knife. A compression fitting -- threaded nut and a plastic sleeve -- is slipped over the plain end.
Reinforced polymer connectors are sold with fittings attached to both ends. Flexible connectors include installation instructions, and these should be followed carefully to avoid over-tightening the fittings, leaks and other problems.
Flexible gas-line connectors are available for appliances such as stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers.
Wood finishing is a popular but often misunderstood subject among do-it-yourselfers. A new book and videotape is an excellent way to learn about finishes and their proper use.
"The Woodfinishing Book," by Michael Dresdner ($24.95 softcover, Taunton Press), is a thorough guide, well-illustrated with photographs and drawings. All types of clear finishes and stains, water-based and solvent-based, are covered (paint is not included). There also are chapters on refinishing, preparing wood, repairing damage and tools.
Among the useful charts in the book are a poster-size, pull-out Guide to Choosing a Wood Finish that classifies brush-on, wipe-on and spray-on finishes and lists their properties.
A 40-minute tape, "The Wood Finishing Video" ($34.95 in VHS or Beta) features Mr. Dresdner and several other expert finishers and shows examples of each application method (wipe, brush and spray).
Both are sold at some bookstores and home centers or can be ordered by calling (800) 888-8286.
Readers' questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, c/o The Baltimore Sun, Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101.