Glossary of Building 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.
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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.
Air conditioner: A system used to chill warm air and distribute it through the home in order to reduce the temperature.
Ampere or Amp: The flow rate of electricity through the electrical wiring.
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.
Aquifer: A natural subterranean body of water.
Arbor: An arched open framework over a walkway.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Backflow preventer: Plumbing device which allows water to flow in only one direction.
Back splash: A trim material spanning across the back of the countertop and up the wall.
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.
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.
Battens: Wood nailing strips used to attach roofing tiles to the structure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Burners: The heating elements of a cooktop, oven, stove, furnace, boiler or water heater.
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.
Cheeks: The inward angled sides of the chimney firebox.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Conduction: Heat transfer by means of molecular agitation within a structure.
Control joint: A joint or groove made in a concrete surface to attempt to minimize and control the location and direction of inevitable cracking.
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
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.
Crown molding: Trim material placed at the junction of the ceiling and wall.
Culvert: A passage for water below ground level.
DG: An abbreviated name for decomposed granite material used for walkways, patios and driveways.
Dairy: A room devoted to the storage or processing of milk, butter, cheese or other milk products.
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.
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.
Dormer: A structure projecting from a sloped roof, usually with a window.
Door butts: Hinges
Doorjamb: A wood frame surrounding a door.
Door stop: A device that properly aligns and seals a closed door into position or prevents an open door from damaging the wall.
Doorknob: Device turned by hand to unlatch and open a door.
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 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.
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: See gypsum board
Dry well: A pit that is designed to contain drainage water until it can be absorbed into the soil.
Ducts: Tubes and channels used to move or distribute air from heating, cooling or exhaust systems.
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.
Easement: The right to use land owned by another, such as a utility company’s right-of-way.
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.
Electrician: A skilled professional licensed to install and repair electrical systems.
Electrical mast: Pipe protruding from the roof where the main service wires from the utility pole attach to the house.
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.
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.
Fascia: A horizontal board nailed across the ends of the rafters at the lowest ends. It is part of the outer edge of a cornice.
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.
Fluoride: A chemical added in minute amounts to municipal drinking water to help prevent tooth decay.
Flue: The opening in a chimney through which smoke passes.
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.
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.
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.
Glazing: Individual panes of window or door glass usually held in place with stops or putty
Glazer: A skilled technician trained to work with glass.
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.
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.
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.
Hard Water: Water with 7 grains or more of dissolved solids per gallon.
Hatch: A passageway for access to the crawlspace or attic.
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.
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.
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.
Ignitor: These are electronic devices used to induce heat or a spark on demand to ignite a natural gas or propane burner.
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.
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.
Insulating foam: Expanding foam insulation material sprayed directly onto the framing.
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.
Joystick: Hand grip used to control movement of an object.
Joist: A horizontal structural member that supports the floor or ceiling system.
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.
Ladders: A portable climbing tool to allow human access to high places.
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.
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
LED: Light emitting diodes are next-generation, low-power, long-life replacements for filament light bulbs.
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.
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.
Lights: Individual panes of glass in a door or window.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Patio: An outdoor entertaining space
P-trap: The curved drain pipe located directly under a sink.
Particle board: A heavy and dense wood sheet product made from compressing and gluing sawdust together.
Parapet: Walls build around a flat roof to create a cosmetic affect.
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, creating a natural seal that blocks the elements from corroding subsequent layers of the metal. A metal is passivated when the surface is covered with a tightly bound layer of corrosion. This layer may build naturally over time, but manufacturers can also actively induce it. New metal products require the treatment to ensure the surface is ready for exposure.
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
Perimeter drain: A system of drains used to divert water away from a building foundation.
Pergola: A framework over a walkway or patio to support vegetation and create a shaded area beneath.
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.
Plastic laminate: A counter top material made from layers of laminated plastic. A trade name is Formica.
Plaster: A hard cement-based material used for interior wall surface finishes.
Plenum: An air chamber from which conditioned air is distributed to the individual room ducts.
Plumbing: The piping, drain and fixture system used to deliver and remove potable and waste water from your home.
Plumber: A licensed professional contractor trained to install and repair plumbing systems.
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.
Porch: A covered area outside of an exterior door for protection from the weather.
Porcelain: Considered the finest of the ceramic potteries and made by firing at 2200 to 2600 degrees F.
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.
Punch list: A to do list of items needing repair.
Pump: A mechanical device used to move liquid through a system of pipes.
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.
Radon: Naturally occurring toxic gas in the earth that is caused by the radioactive decay of the element radium.
Radiator:A device used to transfer heat to the air.
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.
Rebar: Steel used to reinforce structural concrete.
Receptacle: An outlet for connecting an electrical device or cord.
Re-circulator system: A system of a small pump and water lines that keep hot water immediately available to the various fixtures.
Rectory: The dwelling of an Anglican rector
Register: Heating/cooling system outflow grills located in each room or space for the distribution of heated or cooled air.
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.)
Reflected plan:A building plan that portrays the view looking upward from floor to ceiling.
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.
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.
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.
Root barrier: A professionally installed system to prevent invasive tree roots from damaging site or structure.
Roof pitch: The slope of a roof stated in rise over run ie. 4:12 = 4” vertical for every 12” horizontal.
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.
Sediments: Solid particles like sand moving in suspension through water lines.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Site: The area of land on which the home is positioned.
Simpson connectors: A trademarked line of structural metal connectors used for framing.
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.
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.
Shower pan: Waterproofing system beneath the shower finishes that prevents leaks.
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.
Soffit: The underside of a roof overhang or eave.
Soft-close hardware: Cabinet hinges and slides designed to close softly without slamming.
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.
Soldering: The joining of copper pipe together with fittings.
Solvent: Any liquid agent used to dissolve another material.
Snake: A plumbing tool used to clear clogged drains.
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&G: Tongue and groove is a strong method of joining parts together through interlocking them with a groove and tab milled into the material.
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.
Thermostat: A control device for monitoring and controlling the interior room temperature by cycling the heating/cooling system on or off.
The Trades: A term used to describe the various types of building skills required for construction.
Tree-way switch: An electrical wiring technique that allows a fixture to be controlled from more than one switch location.
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
T/P relief valve: The emergency temperature and pressure relief valve on a water heater tank.
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.
Trellis: See pergola
Truss: A triangular shaped structural assembly for spanning large spaces or distances. Commonly used for roof framing.
T/S: Trouble Shoot
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.
Vapor barrier: An air impermeable layer under a floor area that prevents moisture and air from passing through to the surface.
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.
Waterhammer: Banging sounds in water pipes, frequently heard when turning off flowing water.
Waterpipe: These are the main water pipes running throughout the structure.
Waterline: These are the small connector lines used to supply fixtures with water from the angle stops. These can be decorative if exposed.
Water tests: The scientific examination of water samples for the presence of hazardous substances.
Waste lines: These are the drain pipes that carry away used water from the home.
Wax ring: A circular gasket made of thick wax used to seal the bottom of the toilet to the sewer drain pipe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.