The Most Trusted and Experienced Home Inspection Team in Central Ohio

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of TermsThe Most Trusted and Experienced Home Inspection Team in Central Ohio

Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

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Air-dried lumber: Lumber that has been piled in yards or sheds for any length of time.

Air Duct: Pipes that carry warm and cold air to rooms and back to the climate control system.

Airway: A space between roof insulation and roof boards to allow movement of air.

Alligatoring: Coarse checking pattern characterized by a slipping of the new paint coating over the old coating to the extent that the
old coating can be seen through the fissures.

Anchor bolts: Bolts to secure a wooden sill plate to concrete or masonry floor or wall.

Apron: The flat member of the inside trim of a window placed against the wall immediately beneath the stool.

Areaway: An open subsurface space adjacent to a building used to admit light or air or as a means of access to a basement.

Asphalt: Most native asphalt is a residue from evaporated petroleum. It is insoluble in water but soluble in gave. Line when
heated. Used widely in building for waterproofing roof coverings of many types, exterior wall coverings, flooring tile, and the like.

Astragal: A molding, attached to one of a pair of swinging doors, against which the other door strikes.

Attic ventilators: In houses, screened opening provided to ventilate an attic space. They are located in the soffit area as inlet
ventilators and in the gable end or along the ridge as outlet ventilators. They
can also consist of power-driven fans used as an exhaust system. (See also Louver.)


Backhand: A simple molding sometimes used around the
outer edge of plain rectangular casing as a decorative feature.

Backfill: The replacement of excavated earth into a
trench around and against a basement foundation.

Baffle: Cardboard or other stiff paper product
installed in the attic at the point where a wooden roof rafter passes over the
exterior wall. Its purpose is to maintain a clear area for the air to pass from
a soffit vent into the attic space.

Balustrade: A railing made up of balusters, top rail, and
sometimes bottom rail, used on the edge of stairs, teal conies, and porches.

Barge board: A decorative board covering the projecting
rafter (fly rafter) of the gable end. At the cornice, this member is a facie

Base or baseboard: A board placed against the wall around a
room next to the floor to finish properly between floor and plaster.

Base molding: Molding used to trim the upper edge of interior

Base shoe: Molding used next to the floor on interior base
board. Sometimes called a carpet strip.

Batt: Insulation in the form of a blanket, rather
than loose balusters. Usually small vertical members in a railing used between
a top rail and the stair treads or a bottom rail.

Batten: Narrow strips of wood used to cover joints or as
decorative vertical members over plywood or wide boards.

Batter board: One of a pair of horizontal boards nailed to
posts set at the corners of an excavation, used to indicate the desired level,
also as a fastening for stretched strings to indicate outlines of foundation

Bay window: Any window space projecting outward from the
walls of a building, either square or polygonal in plan.

Beam: A structural member transversely supporting a

Bearing partition: A partition that supports any vertical
load in addition to its own weight.

Bearing wall: A wall that supports any vertical load in addition
to its own weight.

Bed molding: A molding in an angle, as between the
overhanging cornice, or eaves, of a building and the side walls.

Blind-nailing: Nailing in such a way that the nail heads
are not visible on the face of the work—usually at the tongue of matched

Blind stop: A rectangular molding, usually 3/4 by
1-3/8 inches or more in width, used in the assembly of a window frame. Serves
as a stop for storm and screen or combination windows and to resist air

Blisters: A defect in metal on or near the surface,
resulting from the expansion of gas in the subsurface zone. Very small blisters
may be called “pinheads” or “pepper blisters”.

Blue stain: A bluish or grayish discoloration of the
sapwood caused the growth of certain mold like fungi on the surface and in the
interior of a piece, made possible by the same conditions that favor the growth
of other fungi.

Boiled linseed oil: Linseed oil in which
enough lead, manganese or cobalt salts have been incorporated to make the oil
harden more rapidly when spread in thin coatings.

Bolster: A short horizontal timber or steel beam on top
of a column to support and decrease the span of beams or girders.

Boston ridge: A method of applying asphalt or wood shingles
at the ridge or at the hips of a roof as a finish.

Bottom plate: The 2-inch thick wooden members that lay on the
subfloor upon which the vertical studs are installed. Also called the “sole

Brace: An inclined piece of framing lumber applied to
wall or floor to stifle the structure. Often used on walls as temporary bracing
until framing has been completed.

Brick veneer: A facing of brick laid against and fastened to
sheathing of a frame wall or tile wall construction.

Bridging: Small wood or metal members that are inserted
in a diagonal position between the floor joists at mid-span to act both as
tension and compression members for the purpose of bracing the joists and
spreading the action of loads.

Buck: Used in reference to rough frame opening
members. Door bucks used in reference to metal door frame.

Built-up roof: Roofing composed of three to five layers of
asphalt felt laminated with coal tar, pitch, or asphalt. The top is finished
with crushed slag or gravel. Generally used on flat or low-pitched roofs.

Building paper: Heavy paper used to damp-proof walls or

Built-up roof: A roofing material applied to sealed,
waterproof layers where there is only a slight slope to the roof.

Butt joint: The junction where the ends of two timbers or
other members meet in a square-cut joint.


Cantilever: A projecting beam or joist, not supported at
one end, used to support an extension of a structure.

Cant strip: A triangular shaped piece of lumber used at the
junction of a flat deck and a wall to prevent cracking of the roofing which is
applied over it.

Cap: The upper member of a column, pilaster, door
cornice, molding, and the like.

Casement frames and sash: Frames of wood or metal
enclosing part or the entire sash, which may be opened by means of hinges
affixed to the vertical edges.

Casing: Molding of various widths and thicknesses used
to trim door and window openings at the jambs.

Ceiling joist: A joist that carries the ceiling beneath
it but not the floor over it. Normally the ceiling is carried on the underside
of floor joists, but to improve the noise insulation between floors, the
ceiling joists may be separate.

Cement, Keene’s: A white finish plaster that produces an
extremely durable wall. Because of its density, it excels for use in bathrooms
and kitchens and is also used extensively for the finish coat in auditoriums,
public buildings, and other places where walls may be subjected to unusually
hard wear or abuse.

Chair rail: Wooden molding on a wall at the height of a
chair back.

Chase: An enclosed opening through a floor and/or
ceiling to install pipes, ductwork or electrical lines.

Checking: Fissures that appear with age in many exterior
paint coatings, at first superficial, but which in time may penetrate entirely
through the coating.

Checkrails: Meeting rails sufficiently thicker than a
window to fill the opening between the top and bottom sash made by the parting
stop in the frame of double-hung windows. They are usually beveled.

Chimney cap: Concrete or metal covering over and above the
chimney opening to prevent rain from entering the chimney.

Circuit breaker: Safety devices that open or break an
electrical circuit automatically when it is overloaded.

Clapboard: A long, thin board, thicker on one edge, used
for overlapping exterior siding.

Collar beam: Nominal 1- or 2-inch-thick members connecting
opposite roof rafters. They serve to stiffen the roof structure.

Collar tie: Horizontal member tying a pair of rafters

Column: In architecture: A perpendicular supporting
member, circular or rectangular in section, usually consisting of a base,
shaft, and capital. In engineering: A vertical structural compression member
which supports loads acting in the direction of its longitudinal axis.

Combination doors or windows: Combination doors or
windows used over regular openings. They provide winter insulation and summer
protection and often have self storing or removable glass and screen inserts.
This eliminates the need for handling a different unit each season.

Concrete plain: Concrete either without reinforcement,
or reinforced only for shrinkage or temperature changes.

Condensation: In a building: Beads or drops of water (and
frequently frost in extremely cold weather) that accumulate on the inside of
the exterior covering of a building when warm, moisture-laden air from the
interior reaches a point where the temperature no longer permits the air to
sustain the moisture it holds. Use of louvers or attic ventilators will reduce
moisture condensation in attics. A vapor barrier under the gypsum lath or dry
wall on exposed walls will reduce condensation in them.

Conduit, electrical: A pipe, usually metal,
in which wire is installed.

Construction, dry-wall: A type of construction
in which the interior wall finish is applied in a dry condition, generally in
the form of sheet materials or wood paneling as contrasted to plaster.

Construction, frame: A type of construction
in which the structural parts are wood or depend upon a wood frame for support.
In codes, if masonry veneer is applied to the exterior walls, the
classification of this type of construction is usually unchanged.

Coped joint: See Scribing.

Corbel: A horizontal projection from a wall, forming a
ledge or supporting the structure above it, usually built with masonry.

Corbel out: To build out one or more courses of brick or
stone from the face of a wall, to form a support for timbers.

Corner bead: A strip of formed sheet metal, sometimes
combined with a strip of metal lath, placed on corners before plastering to
reinforce them. Also, a strip of wood finish three-quarters-round or angular
placed over a plastered corner for protection.

Corner boards: Used as trim for the external corners of a
house or other frame structure against which the ends of the siding are

Corner braces: Diagonal braces at the corners of frame
structure to stiffen and strengthen the wall.

Cut-in brace: Nominal 2-inch-thick members, usually 2 by 4’s,
cut in between each stud diagonally.

Cornerite: Metal-mesh lath cut into strips and bent to a
right angle. Used in interior corners of walls and ceilings on lath to prevent
cracks in plastering.

Cornice: Overhang of a pitched roof at the cave line,
usually consisting of a facie board, a soffit for a closed cornice, and appropriate

Cornice return: That portion of the cornice that returns
on the gable end of a house.

Counter-flashing: A flashing usually used on chimneys at
the roofline to cover shingle flashing and to prevent moisture entry.

Cove molding: A molding with a concave face used as trim or
to finish interior corners.

Course: A horizontal row of bricks, concrete block or
other masonry materials.

Crawl space: A shallow, unfinished space beneath the first
floor of a house that has no basement, used to visually inspect and to access
pipes and ducts.

Creosote: A yellowish to greenish-brown oily liquid
containing phenols and creosols, obtained from coal tar and used as a wood
preservative and disinfectant.

Cricket: A small drainage-diverting roof structure of single
or double slope placed at the junction of larger surfaces that meet at an
angle, such as above a chimney.

Cripples: Cut-off framing members above and below windows.

Cross-bridging: Diagonal bracing between adjacent floor
joists, placed near the center of the joist span to prevent joists from

Crown molding: A molding used on cornice or wherever an
interior angle is to be covered.


Dado: A rectangular groove across the width of a board
or plank. In interior decoration, a special type of wall treatment.

Decay: Disintegration of wood or other substance
through the action of fungi.

Deck paint: Enamel with a high degree of resistance to
mechanical wear, designed for use on such surfaces as porch floors.

Delamination: Separation of the plies in a panel due to
failure of the adhesive. Usually caused by excessive moisture.

Density: The mass of substance in a unit volume. When
expressed in the metric system, it is numerically equal to the specific gravity
of the same substance.

Depressions: An area that is sunk below its surroundings; a

Door buck: The rough frame of a door.

Dew point: Temperature at which a vapor begins to deposit
as a liquid. Applies especially to water in the atmosphere.

Dimension: See lumber dimension.

Direct nailing: To nail perpendicular to the initial
surface or to the junction of the pieces joined. Also termed “face nailing”.

Doorjamb, interior: The surrounding case into which and out
of which a door closes and opens. It consists of two upright pieces, called
side jambs, and a horizontal head jamb.

Dormer: An opening in a sloping roof, the framing of
which projects out to form a vertical wall suitable for windows or other

Double-glazing: An insulating windowpane formed of two
thicknesses of glass with a sealed air space between them.

Double Hung windows: Windows with an upper
and lower sash, each supported by springs.

Downspout: A pipe, usually of metal, for carrying
rainwater from roof gutters.

Dressed and matched (tongued and grooved): Boards or planks
machined in such a matter that there is a groove on one edge and a
corresponding tongue on the other.

Drier paint: Usually oil-soluble soaps of such metals as
lead manganese or cobalt, which, in small proportions, hasten the oxidation and
hardening (drying) of the drying oils in paints.

Drip: (a) A member of a cornice or other horizontal
exterior finish course that has a projection beyond the other parts for
throwing off water. (b) A groove in the underside of a sill or drip cap to
cause water to drop off on the outer edge instead of drawing back and running
down the face of the building.

Drip cap: A molding placed on the exterior top side of a
door or window frame to cause water to drip beyond the outside of the frame.

Drywall: Interior covering material, such as gypsum
board or plywood, which is applied in large sheets or panels.

Ducts: In a house, usually round or rectangular metal
pipes for distributing warm air from the heating plant to rooms, or air from a
conditioning device or as cold air returns. Ducts are also made of asbestos and
composition materials.


Eaves: The overhanging extension of a roof beyond the
walls of a house.

Efflorescence: Crystalline deposit appearing on cement or
brick surfaces due to the evaporation of water containing soluble salts. The
salts left behind on the wall surface have a crystal-like appearance.

Expansion joint: A bituminous fiber strip used to
separate blocks or units of concrete to prevent cracking due to expansion as a
result of temperature changes. Also used on concrete slabs.


Facia, fascia: A flat board, band, or face used sometimes by
itself but usually in combination with moldings. Often located at the outer
face of the cornice.

Felt paper: Tar paper, installed under roof shingles.
Usually 15 or 30 lbs.

Filler (wood): A heavily pigmented preparation used for fining
and leveling off the pores in open-pored woods.

Fill-type insulation: Loose insulating
material that is applied by hand or blown into wall spaces mechanically.

Fire-resistive: In the absence of a specific ruling by
the authority having jurisdiction, applies to materials for construction not
combustible in the temperatures of ordinary fires and that will withstand such
fires without serious impairment of their usefulness for at least 1 hour.

Fire retardant chemical: A chemical or preparation
of chemicals used to reduce flammability or to retard spread of flame.

Fire stop: A solid, tight closure of a concealed space,
placed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through such a space. In a frame
wall, this will usually consist of 2 by 4 cross blocking between studs.

Fishplate: A wood or plywood piece used to fasten the ends
of two members together at a butt joint with nails or bolts. Sometimes used at
the junction of opposite rafters near the ridge line.

Flagstone (flagging or flags): Flat stones, from 1 to
4 inches thick, used for rustic walks, steps, floors, and the like.

Flashing: Sheet metal or other material used in roof and
wall construction to protect a building from water seepage.

Flat paint: An interior paint that contains a high proportion
of pigment and dries to a flat or lusterless finish.

Floor joists: Framing pieces that typically rest on outer
foundation walls and Interior beams or girders.

Flue: The space or passage in a chimney through which
smoke, gas, or fumes ascend. Each passage is called a flue, which together with
any others and the surrounding masonry make up the chimney.

Flue lining: Fire clay or terra-cotta pipe, round or square,
usually made in all ordinary flue sizes and in 2-foot lengths, used for the
inner lining of chimneys with the brick or masonry work around the outside.
Flue lining in chimneys runs from about a foot below the flue connection to the
top of the chimney.

Fly rafters: End rafters of the gable overhang supported by
roof sheathing and lookouts.

Footing: The concrete base upon which a foundation

Foundation: Lower parts of walls upon which a structure is
built. Foundation walls of masonry or concrete usually are below ground level.

Framing, balloon: A system of framing a building in which
all vertical structural elements of the bearing walls and partitions consist of
single pieces extending from the top of the foundation sin plate to the
roof-plate and to which all floor joists are fastened.

Framing, platform: A system of framing a building in which
floor joists of each story rest on the top plates of the story below or on the
foundation sill for the first story, and the bearing walls and partitions rest
on the sub-floor of each story.

Frieze: In house construction a horizontal member
connecting the top of the siding with the soffit of the cornice.

Frostline: The depth of frost penetration in soil. This
depth varies in different parts of the country. Footings should be placed below
this depth to prevent movement.

Furring: Strips of wood or metal applied to a wall or
other surface to even it and normally to serve as a fastening base for finish


Gable: An end wall of a building housing a
triangular-shaped upper portion formed by a sloping roof on either side of a
ridge. The triangular part of a wall beneath the inverted “V” of the
roof line.

Gable end: An end wall having a gable.

Gambrel roof: A roof with two pitches, designed to provide
more space on upper floors. The roof is steeper on its lower slope and flatter
toward the ridge.

Glazing: The process of installing glass, which commonly
is secured with glazier`s points and glazing compound.

Gloss enamel: A finishing material made of varnish and
sufficient pigments to provide opacity and color, but little or no pigment of
low opacity. Such enamel forms a hard coating with maximum smoothness of
surface and a high degree of gloss.

Girder: A large or principal beam of wood or steel in a
framed floor supporting the joists which carry the flooring boards. It supports
the weight of a floor or partition.

Grade line/grading: The point at which the foundation wall
rests against the ground.

Grain: The direction, size, arrangement, appearance,
or quality of the fibers in wood.

Grain, edge (vertical): Edge-grain lumber has
been sawed parallel to the pith of the log and approximately at right angles to
the growth rings; i.e., the rings form an angle of 45° or more with the surface
of the piece.

Grain, flat: Flat-grain lumber has been sawed parallel to
the pith of the log and approximately tangent to the growth rings, i.e., the
rings form an angle of less than 45° with the surface of the piece.

Grain, quarter sawn: Another term for edge

Grounds: Guides used around openings and at the
floor-line to strike off plaster. They can consist of narrow strips of wood or
of wide sub-jambs at interior doorways. They provide a level plaster line for
installation of casing and other trim.

Ground fault, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter
: An ultra sensitive plug designed to shut off all electric current. Used in
bathrooms, kitchens, exterior waterproof outlets, garage outlets, and “wet
areas”. Has a small reset button on the plug.

Grout: Mortar made of such consistency (by adding
water) that it will just flow into the joints and cavities of the masonry work
and fill them solid.

Gusset: A flat wood, plywood, or similar type member
used to provide a connection at intersection of wood members. Most commonly
used at joints of wood trusses. They are fastened by nails, screws, bolts, or

Gutter or nave trough: A shallow channel or
conduit of metal or wood set below and along the eaves of a house to catch and
carry off rainwater from the roof.

Gypsum plaster: Gypsum formulated to be used with the
addition of sand and water for base-coat plaster.


Headers: Double wood pieces supporting joists in a floor,
or double wood members placed on edge over windows and doors to transfer the
weight of the roof and floor to studs.

Hearth: The inner or outer floor of a fireplace usually
made of brick, tile, or stone.

Heartwood: The wood extending from the pith to the sapwood,
the cells of which no longer participate in the life processes of the tree.

Heel: The end of a rafter that rests on a wall plate.

Hip: The external angle formed by the meeting of two
sloping sides of a roof.

Hip roof: Roofs that slant upward on three of four sides.

Hose bib: An exterior water faucet.

Humidifier: A device designed to increase the humidity
within a room or a house by means of the discharge of water vapor. They may
consist of individual room size units or larger units attached to the heating
plant to condition the entire house.


I-beam: A steel beam with a cross section resembling
the letter I. It is used for long spans as basement beams or over wide wall
openings, such as a double garage door, when wall and roof loads are imposed on
the opening.

INR (Impact Noise Rating): A single figure rating
which provides an estimate of the impact sound insulating performance of a
floor-ceiling assembly.

Insulation board, rigid: A structural building
board made of coarse wood or cane fiber in 1/2- and 25/32-inch thickness. It
can be obtained in various size sheets, in various densities, and with several

Insulation, thermal: Any material high in
resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceiling, or
floors of a structure, will reduce the rate of heat flow.

Interior finish: Material used to cover the interior
framed areas, or materials of walls and ceilings.


Jack rafter: A rafter that spans the distance from the wall
plate to a hip or from a valley to a ridge.

Jack stud: Studs that are used to support the heavier
framing at both sides of a door, window, or other opening.

Jamb: The side and head lining of a doorway, window,
or other opening.

Joint: The space between the adjacent surfaces of two
members or components joined and held together by nails, glue, cement, mortar,
or other means.

Joint cement: A powder that is usually mixed with water and
used for joint treatment in gypsum-wallboard finish. Often called

Joist: One of a series of parallel beams, usually 2
inches in thickness, used to support floor and ceiling loads, and supported in
turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls.


Kiln dried lumber: Lumber that has been kiln dried often to
a moisture content of 6 to 12 percent. Common varieties of softwood lumber,
such as framing lumber, are dried to somewhat higher moisture content.

King post: The middle post of a truss.

Knot: In lumber, the portion of a branch or limb of a
tree that appears on the edge or face of the piece.


Lag or Coach screws: Large, heavy screws used
where great strength is required, as in heavy framing, or when attaching
ironwork to wood.

Landing: A platform between flights of stairs or at the
termination of a flight of stairs.

Lath: A building material of wood, metal, gypsum, or
insulating board that is fastened to the frame of a building to act as a
plaster base.

Lattice: A framework of crossed wood or metal strips.

Leader: See Downspout.

Ledger strip: A strip of lumber nailed along the bottom of
the side of a girder on which joists rest.

Let-in brace: Nominal 1 inch-thick boards applied into
notched studs diagonally.

Light: Space in a window sash for a single pane of

Lintel: A horizontal structural member that supports
the load over an opening such as a door or window.

Load-bearing wall: A strong wall capable of supporting

Lookout: A short wood bracket or cantilever to support
an overhang portion of a roof or the like, usually concealed from view.

Louver: An opening with a series of horizontal slats arranged
as to permit ventilation but to exclude rain, sunlight, or vision. See also
“attic ventilators”.

Lumber: Lumber is the product of the sawmill and
planing mill not further manufactured other than by sawing, resawing, and
passing lengthwise through a standard planing machine, crosscutting to length,
and matching.

Lumber, boards: Yard lumber less than 2 inches thick and
2 or more inches wide.

Lumber, dimension: Yard lumber from 2 inches to, but not
including, 5 inches thick and 2 or more inches wide. Includes joists, rafters,
studs, plank, and small timbers.

Lumber, dressed size: The dimension of lumber
after shrinking from green dimension and after machining to size or pattern.

Lumber, matched: Lumber that is dressed and shaped on one
edge in a grooved pattern and on the other in a tongued pattern.

Lumber, shiplap: Lumber that is edge-dressed to make a
close rabbeted or lapped joint.

Lumber, timbers: Yard lumber 5 or more inches in least
dimension. Includes beams, stringers, posts, caps, sills, girders, and purlins.

Lumber, yard: Lumber of those grades, sizes, and patterns
which are generally intended for ordinary construction, such as framework and
rough coverage of houses.


Mantel: The shelf above a fireplace. Also used in
referring to the decorative trim around a fireplace opening.

Masonry: Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete
block, gypsum block, or other similar building units or materials or a
combination of the same, bonded together with mortar to form a wall, pier,
buttress, or similar mass.

Mastic: A pasty material used as a cement (as for
setting tile) or a protective coating (as for thermal insulation or

Metal lath: Sheets of metal that are slit and drawn out to
form openings. Used as a plaster base for walls and ceilings and as reinforcing
over other forms of plaster base.

Millwork: Generally all building materials made of
finished wood and manufactured in millwork plants and planing mills are
included under the term “millwork.” It includes such items as inside
and outside doors, window and doorframes, blinds, porch-work, mantels, panel
work, stairways, moldings, and interior trim. It normally does not include
flooring, ceiling, or siding.

Miter joint: The joint of two pieces at an angle that
bisects the joining angle. For example, the miter joint at the side and head
casing at a door opening is made at a 45° angle.

Moisture barrier: Treated paper or metal that retards or
bars water vapor, used to keep moisture from passing into walls or floors.

Moisture content of wood: Weight of the water
contained in the wood, usually expressed as a percentage of the weight of the
kiln-dried wood.

Molding: A wood strip having a coned or projecting
surface used for decorative purposes.

Mortise: A slot cut into a board, plank, or timber,
usually edgewise, to receive tenon of another board, plank, or timber to form a

Mullion: A vertical bar or divider in the frame between
windows, doors, or other openings.

Muntin: A small member which divides the glass or
openings of sash or doors.


Natural finish: A transparent finish which does not
seriously alter the original color or grain of the natural wood. Natural
finishes are usually provided by sealers, oils, varnishes, water-repellent
preservatives, and other similar materials.

Newel: A post to which the end of a stair railing or
balustrade is fastened. Also, any post to which a railing or balustrade is

Nonbearing wall: A wall supporting no load other than its
own weight.

Nosing: The projecting edge of a molding or drip.
Usually applied to the projecting molding on the edge of a stair tread.

Notch: A crosswise rabbet at the end of a board.


O. C., on center: The measurement of spacing for studs,
rafters, joists, and the like in a building from the center of one member to
the center of the next.

O. G. or ogee: A molding with a profile in the form of a
letter S; having the outline of a reversed curve.

Open seams: A circuit which is energized by not allowing
useful current to flow.

Outrigger: Extension of a rafter beyond the wall line.
Usually a smaller member nailed to a larger rafter to form a cornice or roof


Paint: A combination of pigments with suitable
thinners or oils to provide decorative and protective coatings.

Panel in house construction: A thin flat piece of
wood, plywood, or similar material framed by stiles and rails as in a door or
fitted into grooves of thicker material with molded edges for decorative wall

Paper, building: A general term for papers, felts, and
similar sheet materials used in buildings without reference to their properties
or uses.

Paper, sheathing: A building material, generally paper or
felt, used in wall and roof construction as a protection against the passage of
air and sometimes moisture.

Parging: A rough coat of mortar applied over a masonry
wall as protection or finish. It may also serve as a base for an asphalt
waterproofing compound below grade.

Parting stop, parting strip: A small wood piece used
in the side and head jambs of double-hung windows to separate upper and lower

Partition: A wall that subdivides spaces within any story
of a building.

Penny: As applied to nails, it originally indicated
the price per hundred. The term now series as a measure of nail length and is
abbreviated by the letter “d”.

Perimeter drainage tile: A drainage system that
goes around the perimeter of a property and collects and diverts ground water
away from the foundation.

Perm: A measure of water vapor movement through a
material (grains per square foot per hour per inch of mercury difference in
vapor pressure).

Pier: A column of masonry, usually rectangular in
horizontal cross section, used to support other structural members.

Pigment: A powdered solid in suitable degree of
subdivision for use in paint or enamel.

Pilaster: A projection of the foundation wall used to
support a floor girder or stiffen the wall.

Pitch: The incline slope of a roof or the ratio of the
total rise to the total width of a house, i.e., an 8-foot rise and 24-foot
width is a one-third pitch roof. Roof slope is expressed in the inches of rise
per foot of run.

Pitch pocket: An opening extending parallel to the annual
rings of growth that usually contains, or has contained, either solid or liquid

Plaster grounds: Strips of wood used as guides or strike
off edges around window and door openings and at base of walls.

Plasterboard (see dry wall): Gypsum board, used in
place of plaster.

Plate, sill: A horizontal member anchored to a masonry wall.

Plate, sole: Bottom horizontal member of a frame wall.

Plate, top: Top horizontal member of a frame wall
supporting ceiling joists, rafters, or other members.

Plenum: A chamber that serves as an air distribution
area for heating or cooling systems. Generally placed between a false ceiling
and the actual ceiling.

Plough: To cut a lengthwise groove in a board or plank.

Plumb: Exactly perpendicular; vertical.

Plumbing stack: A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the

Ply: A term to denote the number of thicknesses or
layers of roofing felt, veneer in plywood, or layers in built-up materials, in
any finished piece of such material.

Plywood: A piece of wood made of three or more layers of
veneer joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at
right angles. Almost always an odd number of plies are used to provide balanced

Pores: Wood cells of comparatively large diameter that
have open ends and are set one above the other to form continuous tubes. The
openings of the vessels on the surface of a piece of wood are referred to as

Power roof vent: A vent that includes a fan to speed up
air flow.

Prefabrication: Construction of components, such as
walls, trusses or doors, before delivery to the building site.

Preservative: Any substance that, for a reasonable length of time,
will prevent the action of wood-destroying fungi, borers of various kinds, and
similar destructive agents when the wood has been properly coated or
impregnated with it.

Primer: The first coat of paint in a paint job that
consists of two or more coats; also the paint used for such a first coat.

Putty: A type of cement usually made of whiting and
boiled linseed oil, beaten or kneaded to the consistency of dough, and used in
sealing glass in sash, filling small holes and crevices in wood, and for
similar purposes.

Pyrolysis: Decomposition or transformation of a compound
caused by heat.


Quarter round: A small molding that has the cross section of a
quarter circle.


Rabbet: A rectangular longitudinal groove cut in the
corner edge of a board or plank.

Radiant heating: A method of heating, usually consisting
of a forced hot water system with pipes placed in the floor, wall, or ceiling;
or with electrically heated panels.

Rafter: One of a series of structural members of a roof
designed to support roof loads. The rafters of a flat roof are sometimes called
roof joists.

Rafter, hip: A rafter that forms the intersection of an
external roof angle.

Rafter, valley: A rafter that forms the intersection of
an internal roof angle. The valley rafter is normally made of double
2-inch-thick members.

Rail: Cross members of panel doors or of a sash. Also
the upper and lower members of a balustrade or staircase extending from one
vertical support, such as a post, to another.

Rake: Trim members that run parallel to the roof
slope and form the finish between the wall and a gable roof extension.

Raw linseed oil: The crude product processed from flaxseed
and usually without much subsequent treatment.

Reflective insulation: Sheet material with one
or both sun faces of comparatively low heat emissivity, such as aluminum foil.
When used in building construction the surfaces face air spaces, reducing the
radiation across the air space.

Reinforcing: Steel rods or metal fabric placed in concrete
slabs, beams, or columns to increase their strength.

Relative humidity: The amount of water vapor in the
atmosphere, expressed as a percentage of the maximum quantity that could be
present at a given temperature. (The actual amount of water vapor that can be
held in space increases with the temperature.)

Resorcinol Glue: A glue that is high in both wet and dry
strength and resistant to high temperatures. It is used for gluing lumber or
assembly joints that must withstand severe service conditions.

Retaining walls: A structure that holds back a slope and
prevents erosion.

Ribbon, Girt: Normally a 1- by 4-inch board let into the
studs horizontally to support ceiling or second-floor joists.

Ridge: The horizontal line at the junction of the top
edges of two sloping roof surfaces.

Ridge board: The board placed on edge at the ridge of the
roof into which the upper ends of the rafters are fastened.

Rise: In stairs, the vertical height of a step or
flight of stairs.

Riser: Each of the vertical boards closing the spaces
between the treads of stairways.

Rolled roofing: Roofing material, composed of fiber and
satin rated with asphalt that is supplied in 36-inch wide rolls with 108 square
feet of material. Weights are generally 45 to 90 pounds per roll.

Roof sheathing: The boards or sheet material fastened to
the roof rafters on which the shingle or other roof covering is laid.

Rubber-emulsion paint: Paint, the vehicle of
which consists of rubber or synthetic rubber dispersed in fine droplets in

Run: In stairs, the net width of a step or the
horizontal distance covered by a flight of stairs.


Saddle: Two sloping surfaces meeting in a horizontal
ridge, used between the back side of a chimney, or other vertical surface, and
a sloping roof.

Sand float finish: Lime mixed with sand, resulting in a
textured finish.

Sapwood: The outer zone of wood, next to the bark. In
the living tree it contains some living cells (the heartwood contains none), as
well as dead and dying cells. In most species, it is lighter colored than the
heartwood. In all species, it is lacking in decay resistance.

Sash: The movable part of a window. The frame into
which panes of glass are set in a window or door.

Sash balance: A device usually operated by a spring or
tensioned weather-stripping designed to counterbalance double-hung window sash.

Saturated felt: A felt which is impregnated with tar or

Scratch coat: The first coat of plaster, which is scratched
to form a bond for the second coat.

Screed: A small strip of wood, usually the thickness of
the plaster coat, used as a guide for plastering.

Scribing: Fitting woodwork to an irregular surface. In
moldings, cutting the end of one piece to fit the molded face of the other at
an interior angle to replace a miter joint.

Scuttle hole: A small opening either to the attic or to the
crawl space.

Sealer: A finishing material, either clear or
pigmented, that is usually applied directly over uncoated wood for the purpose
of sealing the surface.

Seasoning: Removing moisture from green wood in order to
improve its serviceability.

Semi-gloss paint or enamel: A paint or enamel made
so that its coating, when dry, has some luster but is not very glossy.

Septic tank: Holding tank for sewage solids used to break
them down into smaller particles before they flow into a drain field and
eventually gets absorbed into the ground.

Shake: A thick hand-split shingle, re-sawed to form
two shakes; usually edge-grained.

Sheathing: The structural covering, usually wood boards or
plywood, used over studs or rafters of a structure. Structural building board
is normally wed only as wall sheathing.

Sheathing paper: See Paper, sheathing.

Sheet metal work: All components of a house employing
sheet metal, such as flashing, gutters, and downspouts.

Shellac: A transparent coating made by dissolving lac, a
resinous secretion of the lac bug (a scale insect that thrives in tropical
countries, especially India), in alcohol.

Shim: A thin tapered piece of wood used for leveling
a building element.

Shingles: Roof covering of asphalt, asbestos, wood, tile,
slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths, and thicknesses.

Shingles, siding: Various kinds of shingles, such as wood
shingles or shakes and non-wood shingles that are used over sheathing for
exterior sidewall covering of a structure.

Shiplap: See Lumber, shiplap.

Shutter: Usually lightweight louvered or flush wood or
non-wood frames in the form of doors located at each side of a window. Some are
made to close over the window for protection; others are fastened to the wall
as a decorative device.

Siding: The finish covering of the outside wall of a frame
building, whether made of horizontal weatherboards, vertical boards with
battens, shingles, or other material.

Slope: The incline angle of a roof surface, given as a
ratio of the rise (in inches) to the run (in feet).

Siding, bevel (lap siding): Wedge-shaped boards
used as horizontal siding in a lapped pattern. This siding varies in butt
thickness from ½ to ¾ inch and in widths up to 12 inches. Normally used over
some type of sheathing.

Siding, Dolly Varden: Beveled wood siding
which is rabbeted on the bottom edge.

Siding, drop: Usually ¾ inch thick and 6 and 8 inches wide
with tongued-and-grooved or shiplap edges. Often used as siding without
sheathing in secondary buildings.

Sill: The lowest member of the frame of a structure,
resting on the foundation and supporting the floor joists or the uprights of
the wall.

Slab: A concrete floor placed directly on an earth or
a gravel base usually approximately 4 inches thick.

Sleeper: A strip of wood laid over a concrete floor to
which a finished wood floor is nailed or glued.

Soffit: The area below the eaves and overhangs. The
underside where the roof overhangs the walls. Usually the underside of an
overhanging cornice.

Soil cover (ground cover): A light covering of
plastic film, roll roofing, or similar material used over the soil in crawl
spaces of buildings to minimize moisture permeation of the area.

Soil stack: A general term for the vertical main of a
system of soil, wastes, or vent piping.

Sole, sole plate: See Plate, sole.

Solid bridging: A solid member placed between adjacent
floor joists near the center of the span to prevent joists from twisting.

Spalling: Cracking or flaking that develops on a concrete

Span: The distance between structural supports such
as walls, columns, piers, beams, girders, and trusses.

Spark arrester: Wire screen secured to the top of an
incinerator to confine sparks and other products of burning.

Splash block: A small masonry block laid with the top close
to the ground surface to receive roof drainage from downspouts and to carry it
away from the building.

Square: A unit of measure usually applied to roofing
material. Sidewall coverings are sometimes packed to cover 100 square feet and
are sold on that basis.

Stain, shingle: A form of oil paint, very thin in
consistency, intended for coloring wood with rough surfaces, such as shingles,
without forming a coating of significant thickness or gloss.

Stair carriage: Supporting member for stair treads.
Usually a 2-inch plank notched to receive the treads; sometimes called a
“rough horse.”

Stair landing: See Landing.

Stair rise: See Rise.

Stile: An upright framing member in a panel door.

Stool: A flat molding fitted over the window sill
between jambs and contacting the bottom rail of the lower sash.

Storm sash, storm window: An extra window usually
placed outside of an existing one, as additional protection against cold

Story: That part of a building between any floor and
the floor or roof next above.

Strip flooring: Wood flooring consisting of narrow,
matched strips.

String, stringer: A timber or other support for cross
members in floors or ceilings. In stairs, the support on which the stair treads
rest; also stringboard.

Stucco: Most commonly refers to an outside plaster made
with Portland cement as its base.

Stud: One of a series of slender wood or metal
vertical structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and
partitions. (Plural: studs or studding.)

Sub-floor: Boards or plywood laid on joists over which a
finish floor is to be laid.

Sump pit: Pit or large plastic bucket/barrel inside the
home designed to collect ground water from a perimeter drain system.

Sump pump: A submersible pump in a sump pit that pumps any
excess ground water to the outside of the home.

Suspended ceiling: A ceiling system supported by hanging it
from the overhead structural framing.

Swale: A wide, shallow depression in the ground to
form a channel for water drainage.


Tail beam: A relatively short beam or joist supported in a
wall on one end and by a header at the other.

Termites: Insects that superficially resemble ants in
size, general appearance, and habit of living in colonies; hence, they are
frequently called “white ants.” Subterranean termites establish themselves
in buildings not by being carried in with lumber, but by entering from ground
nests after the building has been constructed. If unmolested, they eat out the
woodwork, leaving a shell of sound wood to conceal their activities, and damage
may proceed so far as to cause collapse of parts of a structure before

Termite shield: A shield, usually of non-corrosive
metal, placed in or on a foundation wall or other mass of masonry or around
pipes to prevent passage of termites.

Terneplate: Sheet iron or steel coated with an alloy of
lead and tin.

Thinner: Chemical liquid used to thin, clean and remove

Threshold: A strip of wood or metal with beveled edges
used over the finish floor and the sill of exterior doors.

Tile field: Open-joint drain tiles laid to distribute
septic tank effluent over an absorption area, or to provide subsoil drainage in
wet areas.

Toe-nailing: To drive a nail at a slant with the initial
surface in order to permit it to penetrate into a second member.

Tongued and grooved: See Dressed and

Top plate: Top horizontal member of a frame wall
supporting ceiling joists, rafters, or other members.

Trap: A bend in a water pipe to hold water so gases
will not escape from the plumbing system into the house.

Tread: The horizontal board in a stairway on which the
foot is placed.

Trim: The finish materials in a building, such as
moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim) or at the floor and
ceiling of rooms (baseboard, cornice, and other moldings).

Trimmer: A beam or joist to which a header is nailed in.

Truss: A frame or jointed structure designed to act as
a beam of long span, while each member is usually subjected to longitudinal
stress only, either tension or compression.

Turpentine: A volatile oil used as a thinner in paint and
as a solvent in varnishes.


Undercoat: A coating applied prior to the finishing or top
coats of a paint job. It may be the first of two or the second of three coats.
In some usage of the word it may become synonymous with priming coat.

Underlayment: A material placed under finish coverings, such
as flooring, or shingles, to provide a smooth, even surface for applying the


Valley: The internal angle formed by the junction of
two sloping sides of a roof.

Vapor barrier: Material, such as paper, metal or paint which
is used in the interior of a house to prevent vapor from passing into the
outside walls.

Varnish: A thickened preparation of drying oil or drying
oil and resin suitable for spreading on surfaces to form continuous,
transparent coatings, or for mixing with pigments to make enamels.

Vehicle: The liquid portion of a finishing material; it
consists of the binder (nonvolatile) and volatile thinners.

Veneer: Thin sheets of wood made by rotary cutting or
slicing of a log.

Vent: A pipe or duct which allows flow of air as an
inlet or outlet.

Vermiculite: A mineral closely related to mica, with the
faculty of expanding on heating to form lightweight material with insulation
quality. Used as bulk insulation and also as aggregate in insulating and
acoustical plaster and in insulating concrete floors.

Volatile thinner: A liquid that evaporates readily and is
used to thin or reduce the consistency of finishes without altering the
relative volumes of pigment and nonvolatile vehicles.


Wainscoting: The lower three or four feet of an interior
wall, when lined with paneling, tile or other material different from the rest
of the wall.

Wall sheathing: Sheets of plywood, gypsum board or other
material nailed to the outside face of studs as a base for exterior siding.

Wane: Bark, or lack of wood from any cause, on edge
or corner of a piece of wood.

Water-repellent preservative: A liquid designed to
penetrate into wood and impart water repellency and a moderate preservative
protection. It is used for millwork, such as sash and frames, and is usually
applied by dipping.

Weather stripping: Metal, wood, plastic or other material
installed around door and window openings to prevent air infiltration.

Weather-strip: Narrower or jamb-width sections of thin metal
or other material to prevent infiltration of air and moisture around windows
and doors. Compression weather stripping prevents air infiltration, provides
tension, and acts as a counter balance.

Weep hole: Small holes provided in the sill section of a
sash to allow water or condensation to escape, and that might otherwise
accumulate in a window sill; drainage opening in retaining wall; openings
placed in mortar joints of brick or block facing material at the level of
flashing to permit the escape of moisture.

Window Muntin: A small member which divides the glass or
openings of sash or doors

Wood rays: Strips of cells extending radically within a
tree and varying in height from a few cells in some species to 4 inches or more
in oak. The rays serve primarily to store food and to transport it horizontally
in the tree.



Yard of Concrete: One cubic yard of concrete is 3` X 3` X
3` in volume, or 27 cubic feet. One cubic yard of concrete will pour 80 square
feet of 3 ½” sidewalk or basement/garage floor.

Yoke: The location where a home`s water meter is
sometimes installed between two copper pipes, and located in the water meter
pit in the yard.


Z-bar flashing: Bent, galvanized metal flashing that is
installed above a horizontal trim board of an exterior window, door, or brick
run. It prevents water from getting behind the trim/brick and into the home.

Zone: The section of a building that is served by one
heating or cooling loop because it has noticeably distinct heating or cooling
needs. Also, the section of property that will be watered from a lawn sprinkler

Zone valve: A device usually placed near the heater or
cooler, which controls the flow of water or steam to parts of the building; it
is controlled by a zone thermostat.

Zoning: A governmental process and specification which
limits the use of a property e.g. single family use, commercial, industrial
use, etc. Zoning laws may limit where you can locate a structure.

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