Glossary of Terms

Building Terms – For Homeowners

Even if you don’t know them all, every homeowner should have quick access to these building terms. Many parts of the home have mysterious and sometimes confusing names. Use this glossary for help.

Contractors and tradespeople like to throw fancy words around when describing their work or when trying to make a sale. So it’s good that you know what these terms mean and not be fooled.

Also, when it comes to researching, buying, ordering or repairing your home, you need to know the right name for the right part.

This is a “living” list and will change and be added to all the time. If you can’t find a certain term here, kindly let me know and I will get you the definition. I’ll also add it to this list and give you credit for the request. Some of these terms link back to articles used in this site.

  • AC
    Asphalt concrete paving. A rolled oil-based, sand and gravel material used for driveway and parking area surfaces.
  • Aerator
    A removable screen on the spout of the faucet to soften the flow of the water and filter out stray sand and sediment particles. Learn More
  • AFCI
    An electrical device called an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. It senses arcing in an electical circuit and shuts it down in order to prevent fire risks. Learn More
  • Air conditioner
    A system used to chill warm air and distribute it through the home in order to reduce the temperature.
  • Air gap
     A plumbing vent designed to prevent water from back flowing into the potable water stream and causing contamination. Commonly used with dishwashers.
  • Ampere or Amp 
    The flow rate of electricity through the electrical wiring.
  • Anchor bolts
    Bolts that extend up through mudsill from the foundation to secure the mudsill in place.
  • Angle stop
    Water shut-off valve(s) located beneath sinks or adjacent to toilets and other fixtures that allow the water supply to be turned off for repair or maintenance of the fixture.
  • Anode rod
    A sacrificial aluminum or magnesium rod used to prevent rusting. Used primarily on the interior of water heater tanks to extend the life of the water heater by approximately 5 years.
  • Apron
    1) the trim just below a sill applied to the wall surface, 2) a hardened surface area adjoining the garage openings.
  • Aquifer
    A natural subterranean body of water.
  • Arbor
    An arched open framework over a walkway.
  • As per code
    A collection of legal requirements for buildings designed to protect the safety, health, and general welfare of people who work and live in them.
  • Asbestos
    A common, pervasive hazardous mineral fiber found in many older buildings. Used in construction until the 1960’s to insulate and protect flammable building materials from hot objects. Also found in many drywall ceilings and plasters made before the 1970’s.
  • Ash dump
    Small door at the bottom of the firebox interior of older wood burning fireplaces to push the ashes out.  A cleanout door was located on the exterior at the back of the fireplace in order to collect the ashes for disposal.
  • Astragal
    Trim board that is attached to the active side of a French door or double window. It acts as a stop, a weatherstripping mount, prevents air/water entry and is a cosmetic trim.
  • Attic

    The attic is a space above the living area between the roof framing and the ceiling framing. Tends to become overheated in summer. 

    Learn More
  • Awning
    An exterior mounted framework over a door or window to provide shade or protection from weather.
  • Awning window
    A window that swings upward to open.
  • Back splash
    A trim material spanning across the back of the countertop and up the wall.
  • Backflow preventer
    Plumbing device which allows water to flow in only one direction.
  • Balcony
    An upper level platform attached to an exterior wall and extending outward to form a space accessible from a window or door.
  • Baluster
    Spaced vertical supports for railings.
  • Balustrade
    Any row of balusters
  • Barrel vault
    A continuous arched roof or ceiling structure so named because of its appearance similar to a barrel on its side.
  • Base boards
    Wood or rubber trim strip along the base of the wall extending above the floor.
  • Basement
    A space below a structure excavated into the ground.
  • Basin wrench
    A special long-handled wrench for working on faucets mounted behind sinks and lavatories.
  • Basket strainer
    Larger diameter kitchen sink stopper made of slotted metal to prevent clogging material from entering the drain.
  • Bathroom
    A room with a toilet, a sink, and a tub and/or shower is considered a FULL bathroom. A room with toilet and sink only is considered a half-bath or wash room.
  • Battens
    Wood nailing strips used to attach roofing tiles to the structure.
  • Bay window
    A window system that extends out past the wall line forming a larger interior space.
  • Beam
    Horizontal structural support member
  • Bedroom
    A room typically for sleeping. It must be a minimum of 70 square feet, have one wall at least 7’ long, have a minimum ceiling height of 7’ over at least 50% of the space, it must have two means of egress (entry and exit) one is typically a door from the interior of the home and the other a window. To qualify as an egress point the window must be a minimum 20”x24” and between 24”- 44” off the floor. A bedroom does not require a closet by definition although most real estate markets demand that.
  • Bi-pass doors
    Rolling closet door panels that slide on tracks to open and close.
  • Bird’s mouth
    A descriptive name for the cut made in a roof rafter so that it sits properly supported atop the exterior wall framing.
  • Biscuit joint
    A trim and cabinet joining technique to strengthen the connection between wood members.
  • Board and batt
    An exterior siding method using vertical boards or panels with trim boards (batts) nailed over the joints.
  • Bollard
    A steel post or pipe filled with concrete and embedded into the ground to protect sensitive areas from damage.
  • Bond wire
    Electrical grounding wire attached to both the water inlet and outlet of a tank-type water heater.
  • Braided hose
    Flexible connector hoses for water that are manufactured with a woven protective metal mesh exterior.
  • Breaker panel
    A metal wall panel containing circuit breakers.
  • BTU
    Abbreviation for British Thermal Unit, a standard unit for measuring heat gain or loss.
  • Bulkhead
    A horizontal or inclined door providing access to a cellar.
  • Bull’s eye
    Circular or oval shaped windows.
  • Burners
    The heating elements of a cooktop, oven, stove, furnace, boiler   or water heater.
  • Burrito system
    A linear subsurface interceptor drain system consisting of a perforated drain pipe at the bottom of a trench, surrounded by drain rock and the entire assembly completely wrapped with filter fabric.
  • Butt
    Alternative term for door hinge.
  • Buttery
    Historically a buttery is a room where the beer is stored. The name derives from the butt or mug used for drinking beer. Has nothing to do with butter-(sorry!) for that see dairy below.
  • Buttress
    A support for a large expanse of wall surface
  • Cabinet pull
    A handle or knob used to open a cabinet door or drawer.
  • Cantilever
    Any structural member or construction extending unsupported at one end.
  • Cartridges:
     A container used for holding plumbing filters or other material.
  • Casement window
    A window that cranks or swings open to the side.
  • Casin
    The wall trim around a door or window
  • Casita
    A small shaded enclosure adjacent to a pool.
  • Catch basin
    Receptor or reservoir in the ground that receives surface water runoff or drainage.
  • Caulking
    A flexible, adhesive substance used to fill gaps between surfaces or materials.
  • Centering
     The temporary framework or falsework necessary for the support of individual stones or masonry when constructing an arch span.
  • Central vacuum
    A build-in vacuum system consisting of a powerful motor and filter connected to piping permanently installed in the framing of the home.
  • Ceramic tile
     Heat fired clay tile.   
  • Cesspool
    A lined excavation in the ground that receives the discharge of a sewer drainage system.
  • Chair rail
    A trim piece, usually wood that runs across the walls at about the height of the back of a chair. Used originally to protect the wall.
  • Chandelier
    Ceiling mounted hanging light fixture containing several light sources or bulbs.
  • Chandlery
    Historically this is a room devoted to the making and storage of candles. Prior to the invention of light bulbs, candles provided most of the available light for people after sunset. The cost of candles was enormous. For large estates the entire process of managing lighting and the making and provision of candles was the responsibility of a chandler.
  • Charring
    An ancient method of preserving wood by burning or charring the surface layer. This renders the treated layer unfit for attack by micro organisms and insects.
  • Chase
    An enclosed passageway in a structure for ducts, piping, wire or conduit.
  • Cheeks
    The inward angled sides of the chimney firebox.
  • Chimney cap
    A decorative termination for the flue atop the chimney.
  • Chimney effect
    The movement of air through a structure from the lower floors to the upper floors by the natural convection of heat rising.
  • Circuit breaker
     An electrical device located in a distribution panel used for discontinuing current to electrical circuits, receptacles, fixtures, switches, appliances etc. Used mainly to protect the circuit from overload.
  • Clerestory window
    Windows placed high on the wall for light
  • CO detector
    A detection alarm to alert occupants of the presence of carbon monoxide in the living area.
  • Column
    A vertical structural support member
  • Compressor
    The externally located part of the air conditioning system used to remove heat from the cooling system.
  • Conclusion
    A project conclusion strategy includes a user guide, homeowner training, punch list, maintenance plan and budget.
  • Condensation
    Moisture that accumulates in a building caused by warm moist air coming into contact with cold surfaces, frequently on the surface of glass or tiles or other uninsulated surfaces.
  • Conduction
    Heat transfer by means of molecular agitation within a structure.
  • Conductor head
    A decorative rain collector box placed below a scupper to direct rainwater to a downspout.
  • Conductors
    These are the high voltage wires distributing electricity from the main panels to the lights, switches and outlets.
  • Conduit
    In electrical work, a channel that carries wires for protection and safety. Other types of conduit are EMT or RIGID.
  • Confined space
    Any space in the home that has access for inspections and repairs but is unfit for human occupation. Examples are crawlspaces and attics.
  • Control joint
    A joint or groove made in a concrete surface to attempt to minimize and control the location and direction of inevitable cracking.
  • Convection oven
    An appliance made to circulate hot air within the confines of the oven cavity to create more even temperatures and faster cooking time.
  • Coping
     Tile, brick or concrete edging or wall cap treatment.
  • Corbel
    A support or brace for a rafter or other roof projection.
  • Corner bead
    Metal angle metal attached to the vulnerable outside corners of drywall junctions prior to finishing to protect them from impact and create attractive crisp edges.
  • Cornice
    The part of a roof that projects out from the wall.
  • Corrosion
    Decay, deterioration or oxidation of a substance, usually metal.
  • Course
     A row of masonry units. Brick, block, stone etc.
  • Court
    A safe, enclosed space or assembly for decisions, contests, games or leisure activity 
  • Cover plate
     A hard cleanable surface surrounding an electrical switch or outlet to protect the wall from damage or finger prints.
  • Cowboy/cowgirl
     Any person engaged in the lifestyle of professionally handling, caring for, riding, managing or competing with, horses, cattle and livestock.
  • Crawl space
    An unfinished space below a building between the ground and the floor framing.
  • Creosote
     Carbon deposits left in stovepipes and chimneys from condensed wood smoke.
  • Cricket
     A sloped metal area on the roof usually behind a chimney or wall to ensure the proper runoff of water.
  • Cripple stud
    A short stud adjacent to the King stud and directly under the ends of a door or window header.
  • Crown molding
    Trim material placed at the junction of the ceiling and wall.
  • Culvert
     A passage for water below ground level.
  • Cupola
     An vented box structure elevated above the roof ridge to create a chimney affect for moving air by convection up from the ground and out the roof.
  • Dairy
    A room devoted to the storage or processing of milk, butter, cheese or other milk products.
  • Damper
    A movable plate that regulates the draft of a stove, fireplace, or furnace. Also used in furnace distribution ducts to regulate and balance flow to the heat register.
  • Dead bolt
    Solid, throw-bolt type lock mechanism with no spring action.
  • Deck
    A level unobstructed surface.
  • Defensible space
    The area 100’ from any structure in a Wildland/Urban interface area.
  • Degree
    A unit of temperature measurement either in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
  • Demand water heater
    A water heater that heats and distributes hot water “on demand” without the use of a tank to store the hot water.
  • Dew point
    The temperature at which moisture in the air condenses into liquid water.
  • DG
     An abbreviated name for decomposed granite material used for walkways, patios and driveways.
  • Dimmer switch
     An electrical switch that can regulate the voltage being delivered. Used for varying the intensity of lighting.
  • Dip tube
    A water pipe, usually plastic, that delivers cold water to the bottom of a tank-type water heater.
  • Disposal
     An appliance attached to the kitchen sink drain that grinds up food waste prior to washing down the drain.
  • Door butts
  • Door stop
     A device that properly aligns and seals a closed door into position or prevents an open door from damaging the wall.
  • Doorjamb
     A wood frame surrounding a door.
  • Doorknob
     Device turned by hand to unlatch and open a door.
  • Dormer
    A structure projecting from a sloped roof, usually with a window.
  • Dovetail joints
     A strong and accurate method of joining wood together at the corners of cabinets and drawers.
  • Downdraft vent
    An appliance used to extract steam and cooking smoke by sucking the air down through filters and ducts from the surface of the cooktop to the exterior of the structure.
  • Downspout
    A pipe, usually metal or plastic used to carry water from the roof gutters to the ground or drainage system.
  • Drip edge
    Metal flashing attached to the lower edges of the roof sheathing to protect it from water blowing back under the roofing.
  • Drip pan
    A reservoir device placed under appliances or wet areas to prevent damage to floors and finishes from accidental leakage.
  • Dry rot
    A fungus infestation caused by trapped moisture that destroys wood.
  • Dry well
    A pit that is designed to contain drainage water until it can be absorbed into the soil.
  • Dryvit
    Trade name for an exterior siding system similar to stucco in appearance but consisting of foam sheets covered in a fiberglass mesh and coated with a textured/granulated coating to emulate stucco.
  • Drywall
  • Ducts
     Tubes and channels used to move or distribute air from heating, cooling or exhaust systems.
  • Easement
    The right to use land owned by another, such as a utility company’s right-of-way.
  • Eave
     That part of a roof that projects over an exterior wall.
  • Eave vents
     Screened openings in the eaves to allow fresh air to circulate    through the attic.
  • Efflorescence
    A white powdery deposit of minerals and salts left on the surface of concrete and masonry by evaporated moisture.
  • Effluent
    Treated sewage broken down to liquid form.
  • Egress
     A means or place of going out; exit.
  • Elbow
    An L-shaped pipe fitting.
  • Electrical mast
    Pipe protruding from the roof where the main service wires from the utility pole attach to the house.
  • Electrician
    A skilled professional licensed to install and repair electrical systems.
  • Electrostatic
    A type of air filter that employs a charge of stationary electricity to attract passing dust particles from the air.
  • Embers
    Small windborne sparks and firebrands generated by wildfires.
  • Energy disperser
     An arrangement of rock or gravel placed below the outfall of a drain system to prevent erosion of the surrounding ground.
  • Enfilade
    An uninterrupted sight line occurring through a series of open doors in perfect alignment.
  • Escutcheon
     The trim around plumbing pipes where they pass through a wall surface.
  • Expansion joint
    A soft joint separating large sections of concrete or stucco surfaces to minimize damage from expansion and contraction of the material.
  • FAU
    Forced air unit AKA a central heating furnace consisting of a burner, blower, filter, flue and combustion air ducts.
  • Fencing
    A barrier structure placed to separate exterior spaces.
  • Fenestration
     Exterior glass surfaces.
  • Fir escaping
     Landscape planning, design, plant selections, irrigation and hardscaping to reduce the potential for fire hazard.
  • Flapper valve
     A floppy rubber diaphram used to control the flushing of a toilet.
  • Flashing
     Metal or other impervious material used to prevent water from entering at building joints.
  • Float valve
     The water fill-valve in the toilet tank controlled by a float shut-off.
  • Flow restrictor
    These are devices installed into faucets and shower heads by    the manufacturers to limit flow rates in order to save water. These are legislated by some state governments.
  • Flue
    The opening in a chimney through which smoke passes.
  • Fluoride
    A chemical added in minute amounts to municipal drinking    water to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Footing
    The bottom portion of a structure’s foundation that rests upon undisturbed soil.
  • Formwork
    Temporary assembled materials, usually made of wood or metal that create a shaped enclosure for the placement of plastic or semi-liquid concrete.
  • Foundation
    A permanent solid stone or concrete base for a structure.
  • Foundation vents
    Screened openings around the perimeter of the foundation to allow fresh air to circulate in the crawlspace.
  • FRB
    Fiberglas Reinforced Plastic material used to make sheets of water resistant wall paneling.
  • Fresh air exchanger
    A device used to provide fresh air into a highly sealed living space with minimal loss of energy. See HRV.
  • Furring strips
    Thin strips of wood or other material used to level or straighten finish surfaces.
  • Fuse
     A device located in an electrical circuit that will fail in the event the circuit is overloaded and shut the circuit off. These have mostly been replaced now by circuit breakers.
  • Gable
     The flat exterior wall portion of the end of a building that extends upward to the peak of the roof.
  • Gablet
     Small gables occurring over dormers.
  • Garage door release
    An emergency release mechanism to disconnect the door from the drive motor for manual operation of the door.
  • Gate
     A operable passageway in a fence.
  • GFCI
    Ground fault circuit interrupter; a quick tripping circuit breaker that stops the flow of electricity within 1/40 second of sensing a short or current leak. Designed for use in areas where there is potential risk of shock such as outdoors, around kitchen and bathroom sinks and in carports/garages. GFCI’s are required by the building code and retrofitting is optional.
  • Girder
    A primary structural beam onto which floor or ceiling joists are supported.
  • Glazer
    A skilled technician trained to work with glass.
  • Glazing
    Individual panes of window or door glass usually held in place with stops or putty
  • Graphite
     Lubricant for use on locks and other delicate mechanism.
  • Ground
     A conducting connection between an electric circuit or equipment and the earth or some other grounded body.
  • Grout
    A thin cement mortar material used for leveling and filling masonry and tile joint applications.
  • Gutter protection
    Filter devices attached to rain gutters to prevent leaves and debris from entering the gutter, downspout and drain system   
  • Gypsum board
    A sheet of material made of gypsum also called sheetrock or drywall. Used in place of interior plaster in modern construction.
  • Hall
    A space enclosed by walls and a roof. Historically the largest room in a structure. Homes were either built around a courtyard (open unroofed areas) in warm, temperate climates, or totally enclosed halls in colder, rainy climates.
  • Hand sprayer
    A hose with a handheld wand for shower or faucet.
  • Hard Water
    Water with 7 grains or more of dissolved solids per gallon.
  • Hardware
    Common term referring to any metal connectors or hard-wearing trim used in the structure. Finish hardware examples would be hinges, locks, latches, pulls, knobs etc. Rough examples are nails, bolts, staples, straps, nuts, bolts and washers.
  • Hatch
    A passageway for access to the crawlspace or attic.
  • Hay trolley
    A rail and pulley system that ran the length of the underside of the roof peak and extended to the exterior of most barns. It was used to lift and distribute hay to the interior of the barn hay loft.
  • Hayhood
    The protruding roof area at one end of the upper gable of a barn roof.
  • Hayloft
    An open attic area at the roof peak of a barn to store hay.
  • Header
    A horizontal structural framing support spanning over doors and window openings.
  • Hearth
     Fire resistant area that projects out from in front of the floor of the fireplace.
  • Heat balancing
    Adjustment of the delivery of warm air throughout a structure to achieve an even heat temperature across all rooms.
  • Heat exchanger
    An apparatus used to transfer heat from an isolated source to an end use.
  • Heel
     The portion of the “birds mouth” rafter cut that rests on the top plate of the wall framing.
  • HEPA filters
     High-efficiency particle arrestor, these are special air filters for removing very small particles from the air.
  • Hinge
    A simple mechanism, usually metal, that allows a door or window to swing or rotate open.
  • Hip
    The angled part of the roof where one plane meets another. Hips usually extend from ridge to lower edge of the roof.
  • Hold downs
    Special heavy metal anchors used to secure the structure to the foundation at key locations.
  • Home
    An assembly of materials that enclose a weatherproof space for human living.
  • HRV
    A heat recovery ventilator exchanges stale interior air with fresh exterior air while “recovering” most of the heat from the stale air prior to its being exhausted.
  • I-joist
    A stable, engineered, and fabricated joist material especially well-suited for flat planes and long spans.
  • Ignitor
    These are electronic devices used to induce heat or a spark on demand to ignite a natural gas or propane burner.
  • IGU
    Insulated glazing units AKA dual pane glass, are glass panels constructed from two sheets of glass with an air space between to provide an insulation barrier.
  • Incandescent lighting
     Light fixtures utilizing filament bulb light sources as opposed to LED’s
  • Induction cooktop
     A highly energy efficient appliance that generates heat by creating an oscillating magnetic field within a ferrite (iron or steel) cooking vessel or a special pad that then transfers heat to a non-ferrite vessel.
  • Inglenook
    A built-in sitting area adjacent to the structure of the fireplace.
  • Insulating batts
    Long strips of insulation material, premanufactured to specific widths to fit between wall studs, ceiling joists or rafters.
  • Insulating foam
    Expanding foam insulation material sprayed directly onto the framing.
  • Insulation
    Any material used to prevent thermal migration from outside to the inside of a structure. Insulation values are measured in R-values with higher being better.
  • Interceptor drain
     See Burrito drain
  • Island
    An assembly of cabinets with a countertop in the center of the kitchen.
  • Jacks
     Waterproof penetrations through the roof for plumbing vents and electrical masts.
  • Jetty
     An area where a structures upper floor extends out past and slightly cantilevers out over the lower floor exterior walls.
  • Joist
     A horizontal structural member that supports the floor or ceiling system.
  • Joystick
    Hand grip used to control movement of an object.
  • Junction box
     A metal box required by building code to contain splices in wires.
  • KD
    Lumber grade meaning Kiln Dried to reduce shrinkage in the field after installation. Post kiln drying, lumber should have a moisture content between 6-10%.
  • Kick plate
    A metal trim plate mounted to the bottom door rail to protect it from shoe marks and damage.
  • King stud
    The structural stud on either side of the door or window header.
  • Knob and tube
     Older obsolete electric wiring where insulated wires are supported with porcelain knobs and tubes when passing through wood construction members.
  • Ladder fuels
     Low dead branches, grasses, shrubs, plants and other combustible which could act to spread fire from the ground to the upper canopy of trees.
  • Ladders
    A portable climbing tool to allow human access to high places.
  • Larder
    Historically, this was the place, usually a small cool room where animal fat, grease, bacon was kept and processed.
  • Latch
    A simple mechanism used to hold a gate, door or window closed. Some can be equipped with locks.
  • Latex
    A milky, often sticky fluid extruded by cut plants that coagulates on contact with air. Synthesized for use in paints, coatings and caulks that can be emulsified and cleaned up with water.
  • Lavatory
     A bathroom sink
  • Leach field
     A large saturation area where the liquids from a septic tank are returned to, and absorbed by, the ground. Usually designed in pairs that can be rotated from time to time.
  • Leaded windows
     Windows constructed of smaller pieces of glass held together with a lead or metal came material. AKA stained glass or Tiffany glass.   
  • Leathering
     A term used to describe the texturing of stone countertops.
  • LED
     Light emitting diodes are next-generation, low-power, long-life replacements for filament light bulbs.
  • Ledger
     Horizontal structural member through-bolted to a flat surface to support joists, rafters or trellis members.
  • Lights
    Individual panes of glass in a door or window.
  • Line set
     A bundle of pipes and wires used to move air conditioner coolant to/from the compressor on the exterior and the air handler on the interior of the structure.
  • Linoleum
     A durable, attractive and eco-friendly flooring material made from layers of linseed oil and crushed cork applied to a canvas backing. Once obsolete it is making a resurgence.
  • Lot
     The total area of owned property surrounding a building site.
  • Louver
     An opening obstructed by horizontally angled slats that deflect the weather.
  • Low water cutoff
     A shut off valve that turns off a boiler or water heater with low   water.
  • Main Service Panel
     The main electrical panel with meter attached
  • Maintenance
     The act of preventing deterioration and avoiding breakdowns in a building system.
  • Manifold
     A closely arranged series of plumbing or irrigation pipes and valves leading from a main source pipe.
  • Mantle
     Decorative area or shelf directly above the fireplace opening.
  • Mildew
     A specific type of mold that appears on the surfaces of moist organic areas under certain ideal conditions.
  • Mission Critical
    A life sustaining or protective feature without which collateral damage will be sustained.
  • Mixing valve
     Valve on single handled plumbing fixtures that mixes hot and cold water to the proper temperature for use.
  • Moisture barrier
     An impermeable layer beneath a floor that prevents moisture from migrating to the surface.
  • Mold
     A deep penetrating fungus that grows under moist humid conditions.
  • Mud sill
     The wood member placed directly on top of the foundation wall in wood frame construction.
  • Mud tunnel
     Tubes made of dirt used by termites to travel from the ground to the wood structure.
  • Mullion
     An internal vertical structural member of a window or door.
  • Muntin
    A panel or pane divider in a window or door.
  • Muriatic acid
     Used to clean mortar and grout from masonry surfaces.
  • Nail pop
    A bump or flaw in the surface of drywall created by a nail head.
  • Newel post
     The main handrail termination post for a stairway.
  • Nosing
     The leading edge of a stair tread
  • Outfall
     The exposed or daylight end of a drainage system where the collected water spills out.
  • Outlet
    An electrical receptacle for connecting an electrical device or cord.
  • P-trap
    The curved drain pipe located directly under a sink.
  • Parapet
    Walls build around a flat roof to create a cosmetic affect.
  • Particle board
    A heavy and dense wood sheet product made from compressing and gluing sawdust together.
  • Passivation
     The process of treating the surface of stainless steel to clean, polish and to make it less reactive to corrosive elements in the environment. Also know as pickling. Passivation, is a treatment method to protect the metal from corroding through—making the material “passive” to the surrounding environment. Passivation actually and counterintuitively encourages corrosion to occur on the surface, creating a thin layer of a new, non-reactive chemical. This top layer stays tightly bound to the metal
  • Patio
    An outdoor entertaining space
  • Pavers
     Brick, concrete or stone blocks like cobblestones when placed together form a solid but porous surface for patios, walks and driveways.
  • Pendant lights
    Light fixtures that hang down individually from a mount on the ceiling
  • Pergola
    A framework over a walkway or patio to support vegetation and create a shaded area beneath.
  • Perimeter drain
     A system of drains used to divert water away from a building foundation.
  • Pickets
     Individual boards on a low front fence usually spaced apart.
  • Pickling
    The process of treating the surface of stainless steel to clean, polish and to make it less reactive to corrosive elements in the environment. Also know as passivation.
  • Piers
     A cylindrical foundation component used to extend and support the foundation down to deeper more structurally sound soil or bedrock.
  • Pilasters
    Vertical support column usually attached to the surface of a wall.
  • Pilot light
    A constantly burning small flame used to ignite large burners of furnaces or hot water heating devices in older equipment. These have been made obsolete as newer appliances are now equipped with energy saving ignitors.
  • Pipe fitting
     Assembling piping together to form a plumbing system.
  • Plaster
     A hard cement-based material used for interior wall surface finishes.
  • Plastic laminate
     A counter top material made from layers of laminated plastic. A trade name is Formica.
  • Plenum
    An air chamber from which conditioned air is distributed to the individual room ducts.
  • Plumber
    A licensed professional contractor trained to install and repair plumbing systems.
  • Plumbing
    The piping, drain and fixture system used to deliver and remove potable and waste water from your home.
  • Plywood
     A strong wood sheet product made from thin layers of wood built-up and glued together.
  • Pocket door
    An interior door that slides into the wall cavity rather than swinging out into the space.
  • Pointing
    A method of repairing mortar joints in masonry construction.
  • Porcelain
    Considered the finest of the ceramic potteries and made by   firing at 2200 to 2600 degrees F.
  • Porch
    A covered area outside of an exterior door for protection from the weather.
  • Powder-post beetles
     Wood destroying insects that turn wood into a fine powdery residue.
  • Pressure regulator
    A plumbing device usually mounted on the main line that limits incoming water pressure
  • Pressure treated wood
     Wood members treated to resist rot with a chemical preservative under pressure.
  • Pump
    A mechanical device used to move liquid through a system of    pipes.
  • Punch list
    A to do list of items needing repair.
  • Quoin
    The interlocking corner stones at the intersection of two a masonry exterior walls.
  • Rabbet
    A joinery groove cut in a board to receive another piece of wood.
  • Radiator
    A device used to transfer heat to the air.
  • Radon
    Naturally occurring toxic gas in the earth that is caused by the radioactive decay of the element radium.
  • Rafter
    Roof framing members.
  • Rafter tail
    That portion of the rafter that extends past the exterior wall.
  • Rail
    A handrail or the horizontal portion of a window or door panel.
  • Railing
     The handrail and protective barrier for a stair or elevated patio or deck.
  • Rain chains
     Decorative lengths of chain used to replace downspouts.
  • Rain cups
     Similar to rain chains but with cups instead of chain links designed to catch and control the flow of the water.
  • Rain gutters
    Channels at the lower edge of the roof used to catch rain runoff and direct it to the downspouts.
  • Rake
     The angle or slope of an incline or to remove mortar from a masonry joint.
  • Range
     A combination appliance consisting of cooktop and lower oven.
  • Rasp
     An extremely course file used to shape and quickly remove material from a piece of wood
  • Raze
     To demolish or remove.
  • Re-circulator system
    A system of a small pump and water lines that keep hot water immediately available to the various fixtures.
  • Rebar
     Steel used to reinforce structural concrete.
  • Receptacle
     An outlet for connecting an electrical device or cord.
  • Rectory
    The dwelling of an Anglican rector
  • Reflected plan
    A building plan that portrays the view looking upward from floor to ceiling.
  • Register
    Heating/cooling system outflow grills located in each room or space for the distribution of heated or cooled air.
  • Relief valve
     Also known as a TP Relief Valve (temperature and pressure relief valve) used to relieve pressure on the interior of water heaters to protect them from exploding.
  • Repointing
    The repair process of removing damaged mortar from between masonry units and replacing it with new mortar. (not to be confused with tuckpointing which is an installation aesthetic and not a repair.)
  • Resaw
     The process of ripping a board lengthwise on edge.
  • Resilient floor
    Generic term for vinyl sheet flooring
  • Return Grill
     Heating/cooling system intake grills used to remove air from a space to be moved and conditioned through the system and returned to the space through the registers.
  • Reverse Osmosis
    A process of forcing water through a membrane in order to block or remove some dissolved and larger impurities.
  • Ridge
    The uppermost horizontal line of the roof.
  • Ridge vent
     A vented opening along the ridge of the roof to allow circulating air to pass out through the roof.
  • Rim joist
     A perimeter horizontal board attached to and running across the ends of the joist array, usually with blocking in between the   joists.
  • Riser
     The vertical portion or back of the stair step.
  • Romex
     Electrical cables that have multiple conductors protected by a non-metallic coating or sheath.
  • Roof felt
    Bituminous asphalt impregnated felt sheathing is used under the primary roofing material to provide a separation barrier and second layer of water resistance.
  • Roof pitch
    The slope of a roof stated in rise over run ie. 4:12 = 4” vertical for every 12” horizontal.
  • Root barrier
    A professionally installed system to prevent invasive tree roots from damaging site or structure.
  • Rope
    A flexible material made of fibers or strands woven into long lengths. Rope is possibly the oldest and most utilized of all building materials. It is used as a construction material, as a tool or both.
  • Running water
    Water in motion passing through the plumbing piping system.
  • Sash weights
    Counter weights connected to the operable sashes of double hung windows to make them easier to move.
  • Saucery
    This was an area of the kitchen where the preparation of sauces was conducted in larger estates. Sauces were often family secrets and the recipe’s were unwritten and highly guarded by a trusted servant of the kitchen called a saucerer.
  • Scaffolding
     A supportive temporary work structure used during the construction or repair process to provide a safe platform from which to work.
  • Schluter strips
    Trademarked line of products used for edging, terminations and joints between tiled surfaces and other materials.
  • Sconces
    Wall mounted light fixtures
  • Scullery
    A historical term for a small room traditionally devoted to the cutting up and preparation of certain foods, washing of dishes and sometime the laundering of clothing
  • Scupper
    A penetration through a parapet wall to allow water to escape.
  • Scutcheon
     An area or reveal creating a shadowbox effect where a door or window is setback deeply from the face of the wall surface.
  • Scuttle
     An attic access hatch with hinged, upward swinging cover.
  • Sediment trap
    A short vertical length of gas pipe located on the main gas line before the appliance used to catch loose particles. Also known as drip tee, dirt leg.
  • Sediments
     Solid particles like sand moving in suspension through water lines.
  • Seepage
     Slow water leaks occurring in piping or through basement walls.
  • Seismic valve
     An automatic gas shut off valve triggered by seismic events.
  • Self-cleaning oven
    An oven capable of generating temperatures high enough to burn away spills leaving only ash behind. These appliances are equipped with safety locks to prevent accidentally opening them at high temperatures.
  • Septic tank
     A watertight collection vault that receives sewage from the plumbing drains and uses natural bacteria to biologically break it down into liquid form.
  • Setbacks
     Dimensions set by the planning or building department to determine the distance any construction must be from the property line.
  • Sewage ejector
     A system to pump wastewater and sewage from an area where gravity removal is impossible.
  • Sewer clean out
    A cap on the sewer line that allows access for observation, cleaning or maintenance.
  • Shakes
     Hand split cedar roofing.
  • Sheathing
    The structural covering of boards or wallboards, placed over exterior studding or rafters of a structure.
  • Sheetrock
    See gypsum board
  • Ship lap
    A type of horizontal exterior siding where the layers of material overlap similar in appearance to a wood ship.
  • Shoring
     Construction elements used to provide protective, temporary bracing to support the work efforts until they are completed.
  • Shoulders
     The wider structural exterior portion of the fireplace just below the chimney.
  • Shower pan
    Waterproofing system beneath the shower finishes that prevents leaks.
  • Shutters
    Storm shutters are moveable exterior barriers that can be swung over windows to provide shade or storm protection.
  • Side lite
    A glazed panel adjacent to an entry door.   
  • Sill
     The exterior trim across the bottom edge of windows that protrudes out beyond the wall surface.
  • Simpson connectors
    A trademarked line of structural metal connectors used for framing.
  • Site
     The area of land on which the home is positioned.
  • Skip sheathing
     A method of roof sheathing where a lath of spaced boards are nailed across the rafters and to which is attached the roof shingles. This allows air to circulate below the shingles preventing premature deterioration.
  • Skylight
    Roof mounted window that allows light into the living space below.
  • Slab
    A flat layer of concrete approximately 4” thick.
  • Sleepers
     Strips of pressure treated wood laid over concrete to provide nailing for installation of floor framing.
  • Smoke detector
    A sensor device to detect smoke in the living and sleeping areas of the home and alert the occupants.
  • Smooth wall
    A type of drywall finish where the wall is completely smooth.
  • Snake
    A plumbing tool used to clear clogged drains.
  • Soffit
     The underside of a roof overhang or eave.
  • Soft-close hardware
    Cabinet hinges and slides designed to close softly without slamming.
  • Soldering
     The joining of copper pipe together with fittings.
  • Solvent
    Any liquid agent used to dissolve another material.
  • Spackle
    Paste or putty-like material used to patch small holes in drywall surfaces.
  • Spark arrestor
    A screen device placed on top of a chimney to catch embers. It is strongly recommended if the home has a wood shake roof or is located in a fire prone area.
  • Spicery
    Historically this is the room where some of the most valuable assets of the household were kept. The spices. This was usually a secure area and attended to by a trusted head spicer. Coffees, teas, salt, pepper and other exotic spices brought from around the world at great cost were kept in the spidery. 
  • Splash block
    A hard surfaced sloped area below a downspout used to prevent erosion and direct rainwater away from the foundation of the structure.
  • Splashes or backsplash
     This is a vertical water resistant plane running up the wall at the back of the countertop. It is used to protect the wall from splashing water.
  • Spout
    The fitting that directs and delivers water into a fixture for use.
  • Squeegee
    A tool to remove water from the surface of glass during the cleaning process. Keep one handy for big shower enclosures.
  • Standing seam roof
    Metal roof where the joints between the panels are made with a short, vertical, overlapping seam connection.
  • Stewardship
    The long-term careful and responsible management and care of something important.
  • Stockyard
    A holding pen for cattle on the way to market.
  • Stool
     The horizontal bottom part of a window opening that extends into the interior living space.
  • Stoppers
     The devices at the bottom of tubs and sinks that prevent water from escaping.
  • Strike plate
     A piece of hardware metal mounted to the door jamb for the door latch or plunger to rub against while closing so as to not damage the wood.
  • Stringer
    The key structural element of a stair with notches cut into it to form the steps and risers.  
  • Stucco
     A cement plaster used for the finish siding on exterior surfaces of buildings.
  • Studs
    Wood or metal framing members used to assemble walls.
  • Sump pump
    A small electric pump used to remove water.
  • Swale
    A shallow depression in the soil to channel surface water.
  • Switch
     An electrical device mounted on the wall to turn a light or appliance on and off.
  • Syphon
    A tube that when completely filled with water has the ability to move fluid uphill against the will of gravity without the use of mechanical pumping. Used extensively in toilets to empty the bowl after use.
  • T/P relief valve
     The emergency temperature and pressure relief valve on a water heater tank.
  • T/S
    Trouble Shoot
  • Tack strip
    A narrow board with short angled spikes mounted to the   subfloor next to the wall in order to hold carpeting tight to   the wall
  • Termites
     Wood destroying insects the size and appearance of winged ants.
  • T&G
     Tongue and groove is a strong method of joining parts together through interlocking them with a groove and tab milled into the material.
  • The Trades
    A term used to describe the various types of building skills required for construction.
  • Thermostat
    A control device for monitoring and controlling the interior    room temperature by cycling the heating/cooling system on or off.
  • Threshold
    The portion of an exterior door frame that you must step over and that seals the bottom edge of the door to prevent air and debris from blowing into the space
  • Toe kick
    The space at the bottom of base cabinets that recedes back from the front surface.
  • Toenail
    A technique of fastening structural members together by driving a nail from an angle.
  • Transom window
     A fixed or awning window placed above a door.
  • Tread
    The flat part of the stair used as a step.
  • Tree-way switch
    An electrical wiring technique that allows a fixture to be   controlled from more than one switch location.
  • Trellis
    See pergola
  • Truss
    A triangular shaped structural assembly for spanning large spaces or distances. Commonly used for roof framing.
  • Tuckpointing
    The addition of a second color (usually contrasting) or texture to an existing mortar joint. This can give the appearance of very thin, hairline type joints. Not to be confused with repointing (see above).
  • Underlayment
    A thin layer of board material placed over the subfloor prior to the installation of any resilient or linoleum flooring.
  • Utility sink
    A large sink used for heavier purposes and cleaning usually located in laundry areas or garages.
  • Valley
    The inside angle formed by the junction of two sloping sides of a roof.
  • Vanity
     A bathroom make-up or sink cabinet
  • Vapor barrier
     Material used to retard the flow of moist air into wall cavities to prevent condensation.
  • Veneer
     A vertical siding finish layer applied to a structural support system. This can be virtually any material wood, brick, stone etc.
  • Ventilation
     The means by which circulating air is introduced or removed from a structure.
  • Wainscot
    A finish treatment to the walls that runs from the floor to the chair rail height about half way up.
  • Wall coverings
     Papers, fabrics, paneling and other finish treatments applied to the surface of the interior walls.
  • Wall plates
     Top and bottom horizontal framing members to which wall studs are attached. Once wall sections are in place a third top plate is installed spanning over the others to straighten and strengthen the stud wall assemblies.
  • Warm floors
     A heating system based upon warming of the floor surface which then radiates into the spaces above.
  • Washlet
    A toilet seat system trademarked by Toto that includes a bidet and drying feature.
  • Waste lines
    These are the drain pipes that carry away used water from the home.
  • Water tests
    The scientific examination of water samples for the presence of hazardous substances.
  • Waterhammer
    Banging sounds in water pipes, frequently heard when turning off flowing water.
  • Waterline
     These are the small connector lines used to supply fixtures with water from the angle stops. These can be decorative if exposed.
  • Waterpipe
    These are the main water pipes running throughout the structure.
  • Wax ring
     A circular gasket made of thick wax used to seal the bottom of the toilet to the sewer drain pipe.
  • Weather-stripping
    Material used to prevent the passage of air around doors and windows.
  • Weep holes
    Small openings that allow water to escape from an enclosed area.
  • Wet-pipe
    A term used in plumbing to describe the constant state of a water carrying system. Used frequently to describe the piping for pressurized fire sprinkler systems. 
  • Widow’s peak
    See hay hood. Extended peak at one gable end of a barn.
  • Widow’s watch
    An enclosed rooftop platform which created an improved view.
  • Window sash
    The moveable window framework holding the glass.
  • Window walls
    Exterior glass barriers that incorporate entire wall sections.
  • Wine refrigerator
     A refrigerator-like appliance with one or more zones designed to maintain a constant temperature for storing wines.
  • Wood putty
    A paste-like material used to fill nail holes in trim.
  • Wood stain
    Stains are suspended in a liquid vehicle and applied to wood surfaces in order to darken or enhance the appearance. Depending on the wood, stains do not typically penetrate deeply into the material and require a protective film or finish coat.
  • World view
    Your mental model of reality. Comprehensive ideas & attitudes about the world, yourself, and your life. Beliefs and personally customized theories about the world and how it works which is your de facto truth regardless of any connection to actual truth. 
  • WUI
     Wildland/Urban Interface, areas where human habitation and wildland coexist.
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