GLOSSARY OF CONSTRUCTION TERMS

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Removable panel that allows access to plumbing or electrical connections, such as below a platform tub.
Ceiling made up of materials that absorb sound to reduce the transfer of noise in a building.
Materials that are mixed into concrete to somehow change the nature of the mix, such as color or a curing accelerator used in cold weather.
Clay soil used to create bricks that are sun-dried and used for constructing walls.
Gravel, stones, shells or other solid materials that are added to the concrete mix for strength or aesthetic purposes.
Measurement of the level of contamination of air in the building due to buildup of chemicals and odors from building materials and occupants.
Material used to eliminate the passage of air and moisture through walls, floors and ceilings, most commonly a layer of polyethylene plastic installed behind the drywall or below a concrete slab.
Treaded metal bolts that are installed in the concrete at the top of a foundation used to secure the wood plates that connect to floors and walls.
Rating given by the American Plywood Association that established the correct use of panel materials such as plywood and waferboard.
Interior trim molding applied below a window stool.
Individual who designs and oversees building construction, usually used to refer to someone who is registered and licensed by the American Institute of Architects.
Metal door that opens in the bottom of a fireplace to allow ashes to be “dumped” to a hollow ash pit below.
Roofing material made up of a mineral fiber mat that is impregnated with asphalt for waterproofing and covered with a decorative aggregate material.
Narrow wood molding usually installed vertically between double doors.
Horizontal angle used in surveying to layout the boundaries of a parcel of land relative to the directions of the compass.
Separate, outermost trim piece that is used outside the casing around an interior window or door opening. This is a traditional colonial detail.
Material such as dirt or gravel used to fill in the open area around a foundation, also the act of filing in this area.
Material applied to the vertical area above a sink or countertop to protect the wall finish from moisture.
Treated cardboard or light plastic pieces installed between rafters directly below the roof sheathing to maintain an airspace for ventilation above the ceiling insulation.
Framing method where exterior studs run continuously from the sill plate at the foundation to the top wall plate at the eaves of the roof, very seldom used today.
One of the vertical components repeated underneath a stair or porch railing.
Stair or porch railing.
Upside-down U-shaped design used at a vaulted ceiling.
The interior molding installed at the bottom of a wall.
Another term used to describe the baseboard.
Strip of molding installed along the bottom of the baseboard, used most often in areas with hardwood, ceramic tile or marble floors.
Thin strips of wood applied over seams in wider boards, usually in a vertical application to create board and batten siding.
Insulation material manufactured in varying widths and thickness to allow for easy installations between rafters and studs, also called blankets.
Three-sided, angled window configuration that projects from the walls of a building.
Large piece of built up lumber, timber, metal, stone or other structural material installed horizontally in a building to support structural loads.
Wall supporting loads from above, including joists, rafters or other walls.
An exterior trim board installed horizontally directly below the soffit area.
Siding material that is triangular in shape and installed horizontally with each piece overlapping the piece below.
Architectural drawings created for the purpose of securing bids or cost estimates from contractors and suppliers.
Nail installed so that the head of the nail is covered by another piece of finish material and therefore not visible after completion.
Short lengths of wood installed perpendicular to studs, joists and rafters to provide additional structural strength or to provide support for the installation of hardware during the finish.
Vertical wood siding consisting of wide boards placed side-by-side with narrow batten strips that cover the joints.
Heating system that uses boilers to heat water that is then pumped through pipes and radiators to heat the air.
Survey that establishes the corners of a property and often includes stakes and ribbons to clearly identify property lines.
Full-thick brick that is used as the exterior finish on a wood frame building.
Solid or crisscrossed boards used between joists to add additional strength to a floor system.
Layer of coarse plaster applied beneath the finish coat in interior plaster work or exterior stucco.
Placement of the building on the site relative to the weather, sunlight, views or other considerations.
Series of documents and approvals issued by various government offices that are required prior the start of construction.
Various combinations and methods of utilizing materials and labor, often using factory-built components, to create a building, such as panelized or modular construction.
Combination of sheet materials, adhesives, waterproofing membranes and sometimes aggregates to create a roofing system, most often used on flat or low slope roofs.
Another term used for interior soffits built above wall cabinets or vanity areas.
Finish material applied to an edge such as a countertop or step.
Type of caulk used to ensure waterproof seams between building materials.
“Computer-aided-drafting” systems used by builders and designers to create architectural drawings.
Beam or section of floor that extends beyond the wall below.
Opening between rooms without a door that is trimmed with wood jambs and casing, considered an upgrade from a drywall-wrapped opening.
Window hinged along one vertical side that opens and closes similar to a door.
The molding installed around a door or window opening.
Ceiling with 2 sides sloping towards the center of the room.
Reddish-brown wood that is used as exterior siding and roofing due to its ability to resist decay and rot in exposed conditions.
Material made by grinding limestone and clay to a fine powder, usually mixed with water and sand to make mortar or by adding aggregates to make concrete.
Durable, but brittle tiles used for walls, floors and roofs that are created from clay heated to very high temperatures.
Valve used in a pipe that carries fluids to allow movement of the fluid in only one direction.
Usually refers to wood products that are treated with chemicals to resist decay or to slow fire damage.
Vertical structure or flue that allows the passage of smoke and gases from a furnace or fireplace into the air safely above a roof.
Metal or masonry material used at the top of a chimney or flue to prevent water from leaking into the chimney structure.
Material applied to another material to change its appearance or ability to resist wear or decay, such as in vinyl or aluminum clad doors and windows.
Narrow, beveled boards applied overlapping horizontally as exterior siding, also called bevel or lap siding.
Roofing or floor tiles created by heating natural clay materials, also sometimes used to describe drainage pipes or “drain tiles” made of this material.
Opening that allows access to pipes, drain lines or an ash dump for cleaning.
Vertical wall that rises above a section of roof with windows installed to bring natural light into a building.
Valley construction where shingles are overlapped at the center of the valley.
Horizontal framing member installed above the ceiling joists between rafters to strengthen the roof system.
Vertical component of a structure, usually made of wood, concreate or metal, used to support loads above or for aesthetic purposes.
Building material created by mixing cement, sand, gravel, water and other admixtures that is poured in place wet and then through a chemical reaction, cures or hardens to a solid.
Small cuts or joints troweled into the surface of a concrete slab in a decorative pattern to attempt to “control” the direction of cracks that appear over time.
Metal or plastic piece applied where drywall meets at a right angle to provide a rigid, straight line behind the joint compound.
Diagonal lengths of wood or metal applied at the corners of exterior walls behind the sheathing to provide structural reinforcement.
Horizontal moldings that project from the face of a wall to create a crown or cap.
Molding with a concave curve used for various trim purposes.
A foundation system that raises a wood floor several feet above grade, providing a low space beneath the floor for access to mechanicals.
Oily, brownish liquid from coal tar that is applied to wood to act as a preservative.
Small, gable roof-shaped structure that is installed above a chimney to divert rainwater around the chimney.
Short studs installed below a window sill or above a header to provide backing for the wall finish material.
Molding typically used at the intersection of a wall and a ceiling. Simpler crowns are single strips of wood molded in a decorative shape. More ornate crown moldings are built-up or several separate molding pieces.
Small structure, usually rectangular with a peaked roof, built on top of the roof of a building, sometimes for ventilation, sometimes for decorative purposes.
French drain installed at an elevation above the leach field area of a septic system to collect surface water before it runs over the leach field and carries effluent to neighboring properties.
Calculations made to determine the proper amount of soil to excavate from a basement and the corresponding placement of soil around the basement on the finished site.
Adjustable metal plate in the flue of a furnace, fireplace or ductwork to control the flow of air or exhaust.
Lock installed above the handset with a solid bolt for additional security.
Engineering calculation that measure the average weight of the structural components in a floor or roof system.
Molding that consists of repeated tooth-like blocks usually applied below an overhang or as a component of a built-up crown molding.
Electrical panel that distributes electricity from the main to various circuits throughout the building, typically holds banks of circuit breakers.
Smaller structure made up of three walls, a window and a roof that projects through the main roof of a building.
Assembly of two panels of glass with a narrow air space between them installed in a door or a window to provide increased energy efficiency over a single-pane design.
Window with both an upper and lower sash that can be slid vertically to open and close.
Term used to describe perforated plastic or clay pipes installed below grade to collect water in the soil and carry it away to a storm sewer or surface runoff.
Thin metal flashing applied to the edges of the roof sheathing to direct rain water down to the gutters or siding.
False ceiling stalled below an existing ceiling, often used to hide exposed pipes or ductwork.
Paper-covered gypsum board used for the finish interior wall surface. Joints are concealed with paper tape and plaster-like joint compound.
Manufactured in galvanized metal, fiberglass board and flexible plastic, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air from heating and air-conditioning systems, and to vent exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
Lowest edge of a roof, typically above an exterior wall.
White, powdery substance that sometimes appears on brick walls.
Describes architectural drawings that provide a representation of a vertical surface such as the exterior of a building.
Process of using heavy earth-moving equipment to dig areas for foundations and other site work.
Joint constructed in concrete slabs filled with a flexible, compressible material to allow for the expansion and contraction of the concrete relative to changes in temperature.
Describes the finished exterior of a building or architectural drawing that shows these finished exterior views.
Brick applied to create a finish over a structural wall or chimney.
Collectively describes the various finish materials and trims that occur along the edges of a roof.
Material typically used in a loose or batt configuration for insulation purposes.
Heavy fabric sheet installed below base stone in a driveway or over the gravel around a foundation to minimize contamination from fine soil and mud.
Process of installing interior doors, cabinets, moldings and finish hardware.
Fine nails with small heads used to apply finish moldings and trim materials.
Opening inside of a fireplace, lined with fire brick, where the fire burns.
Light-colored brick used inside the firebox.
Rating established for building materials that represents their performance during a fire, required for certain materials by building codes.
Horizontal framing installed between studs to minimize the possibility that fire can pass quickly up the wall cavities.
Glazing installed in a door or window without a moveable sash.
Materials used to eliminate the passage of water at roof areas, sidewalls, windows and doors, usually made of metal.
Uninterrupted series of steps between floors or between a floor and a landing.
Geographic area designated by the Army Corps of Engineers as being potentially subject to flooding at some time in the future.
Horizontal framing members, usually 2×8’s or 2×10’s, used to create the structural framework of a floor.
Terra cotta or metal lining for a chimney or furnace vent.
Vertical decorative grooves in a column typically used at fireplaces or entry doors.
Structural component at the base of the foundation that transfers the loads of the building to the soil below. Footings (or footers) are usually constructed of concrete poured directly on stable, bearing soils.
System of plenums and ductwork where fans move conditioned air through a building.
Wood, plastic or metal assembled to support wet concrete before it cures.
Combination of components below grade, including footings, basement walls, crawl space walls, columns, piers, pilings, etc., that supports the structure.
Term applied to the process and materials used to create the rough structure of the building.
Trench filled with gravel with some form of drain pipes installed at the bottom to collect surface water away from a building.
Wood strips applied to provide either an air space or to provide a nailing material for the installation of sidings and finishes over concrete, block, or foam materials.
Vertical, triangular-shaped area of wall that occurs where the ridge of a roof meets the end of the structure.
Triangular-shaped roof that results when two sloping roof planes meet along a horizontal edge.
Metal coated with rust-resistant zinc.
Ridged roof with dual slopes on each side of the ridge, the lower slope being of a higher pitch.
Term used to describe various types and combinations of glass used in a window, door or skylight.
Short for “glue-laminated,” describes structural components, most often beams, made up of pieces of dimension lumber glued together.
Mortar-like material, usually colored, used to fill space between floor and wall tiles.
White material used in the productions of plaster, joint compounds and drywall which is sometimes referred to as gypsum board.
Structural component that carries loads across an opening, typically constructed of standard lumber, laminated wood products or steel.
Horizontal, non-flammable finish surface installed at the front of the fireplace below the firebox opening.
Device that utilizes a compressor system to heat and cool a building.
Roof shape that results from triangular roof surfaces that slope upward, away from the eaves.
Door used most often at interior locations constructed with a relatively thin layer of veneer on each face and a lightly reinforced hollow core.
Exterior water faucet.
Fabric like materials that are wrapped around the exterior sheathing of a building to eliminate air infiltration while still allowing moisture to escape from the wall cavity, can significantly reduce energy costs.
Various types of metal anchors and connectors that are used to securely connect structural components in a building to increase resistance to damage from storms and wind.
Moisture in the soil that builds up, creating pressure against foundation walls.
Movement or leaking of air through the exterior shell of a building, often measure in “air changes” which represent the complete replacement of interior, conditioned air with air from outside the structure.
Various types of exterior sheathing materials that are designed to reduce energy loss.
Stud at each side of an opening that is cut short to support the header above.
Finish material applied around the inside of a door or window opening.
Horizontal framing members that support a floor or ceiling joists, headers and beams.
Low wall in an attic or half-story space.
Sometimes called a “micro-lam,” structural components, usually used as beams or headers, made up of thin veneer layers much the same as plywood.
Exterior siding applied horizontally and “lapped” over the board below such as clapboard siding.
Material installed as a backing material for plaster, stucco and sometimes tile installation, lath is usually a metal mesh, bust sometimes rough wood strips or gypsum board.
Used interchangeably with the term “header,” a lintel is a horizontal component that carries loads from above across an opening, such as a steel angle in brick work.
Engineering term that describes changeable loads in a structure, usually calculated on a square foot basis, such as loads from people, snow, or winds.
Various types and combinations of glazing that utilize glass, reflective films, suspended films and gas injected in the space between the glass to reduce energy loss.
Roof shape with two slopes on each side, the upper slope being a very flat pitch, and the lower slope, which often covers the side wall of the upper floor area, being a very steep pitch.
Shelf assembly, usually with a crown mold below it, that is constructed above a door, window, or most commonly, a fireplace opening.
Plywood panels constructed with special waterproof adhesives to allow material to stand up to extremely wet applications.
Any construction that involves the use of stone, brick or block materials such as exterior veneer, foundations, or fireplaces.
Term used to describe the trades or work involved in the installation of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems.
Refers to a door constructed with a thin metal skin, usually embossed with decorative panels, over a core of insulating foam.
Metal mesh material that is attached to walls, floors and ceilings as base for plaster, mortar for stone work or thinset for tile and marble installation.
Joints in lumber or moldings where diagonals are cut to fit the pieces around an angle such as at the corners of windows and doors.
The construction of a building using sections that are built in a factory and then assembled together in the field to complete the structure. Modules usually include finished interior and exterior components as well as mechanicals that are spliced where modules meet.
Various materials that are used to bond masonry materials together such as brick and stone, normally a mixture of cement, sand and water.
Rectangular hole cut into wood that receives a tenon from another piece to make a connection, used in furniture and post and beam framing.
Vertical strips that separate panes of glass in a door or window, also used to describe removable grills or grids to create the appearance of separate panes.
Post that supports a hand rail at the landing or starting step of a staircase.
Used to describe various sizes of lumber typically used in construction, although actual dimensions are different, i.e. a 2×4 is actually 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2.”
Projecting edge that trims a step.
Stair construction that uses no riser between treads for an open appearance.
Exterior soffit construction where no finish material is installed to cover the overhang area, leaving the tails of the rafters exposed.
Staircase construction where stair treads extend with a nosing over the decorative stringer, balusters are then installed directly into the treads.
Valley construction at the roof where shingles are cute back at each side of the valley to expose the metal flashing material.
Waferboard type panel that uses longer wafers or strands, that are oriented to the length of the panel, creating a directional panel that offers more strength than conventional waferboard.
Small metal clips installed at the edges of roof sheathing panels between roof trusses to eliminate misalignment of the edges and provide an expansion space.
Building construction system that utilizes panels, or wall sections, that are assembled in a factory for quicker, more accurate assembly in the field.
Term used to describe materials manufacture in 4×8 and 4×9 sizes such as plywood, waferboard, oriented strand board and particle board.
Panel material constructed from fine wood particles, like sawdust, and glue, typically used as a structural backing material for laminate cabinets and countertops.
Building design that maximized heat absorption from the sun without active or powered systems.
Ornamental triangular trim assembly or gable typically used above doors and windows and as decorative elements at the front of buildings.
Masonry or concrete column used to support a floor or porch.
Rectangular column, most often structural, that projects slightly from a wall.
Vertical structural component buried below a building as foundational support, usually pressure treated wood posts, steel columns or concrete.
Slope of a roof, usually described as a ratio between rise and run.
Mixture of lime or cement with sand and water that is applied in a wet paste and then dries hard as a finished for walls and ceilings.
Parcel of land, or a drawing showing dimensions and details of a parcel or group of parcels.
Horizontal framing members at the top and bottom of a wall. Plate height is often used to refer to the ceiling height of a room.
Most popular system of frame construction, first floor platform is constructed, ten walls are built on this, then second floor platform followed by second floor walls, differs from balloon framing.
Square block used as a trim at the base of a column or a casing.
Structural panel material constructed of thin layers, or veneers, of wood glued together, typically with alternating grain direction between layers.
Covered area attached to a building, open to the outside on at least one side.
Exterior area covered by roof that allows vehicles to drive through or park under, allows people to enter or exit vehicle protected from the rain.
Concrete slab construction used in areas with extreme expansive soils, involves the installation of metal cables at opposite directions in the slab which are then put in tension to eliminate cracking and separation due to soil movement.
Building construction that uses concrete components for walls, floor and roof structure that are pre-cast in sections in a factory.
Structural components assembled in a factory used for floor and roof construction that utilize lumber or steel along with bracing and steel connector plates.
Architectural drawings used for the purpose of establishing the general design of a building before detailed, or working drawings are finalized, usually used to determine preliminary cost estimates and secure owners approval for final design.
Lumber and plywood that is treated with a chemical preservative for exterior or extreme moisture conditions, most commonly used in residential construction for exterior decks and sill plates at grade.
Various types of sheet materials used around a foundation to protect waterproofing membranes from damage, often also provide additional insulation to the foundation.
Common plastic material (poly-vinyl-chloride) used for drain pipes such as footer drains and waste lines.
Machine-made, unglazed tile often used for floors.
Decorative square or rectangular-shaped blocks that project slightly at the corners of a building, commonly made of stone, brick, or stucco.
Measure of the resistance of a material to the passage of energy – the higher the R-value, the greater the insulating capability of the material.
Structural components that create the shape of a roof, typically cut and assembled piece-by-piece on site.
Flat concrete foundation elevated with concrete blocks or poured walls filled with compacted dirt before pouring the slab.
Edge of the roof that runs along the slope.
Short for “reinforcing bar.” Steel rod used to strengthen concrete and support connections between slabs and other parts of the structure.
Slit cut into masonry material, such as a chimney, to allow the installation of flashing.
Horizontal line created at the juncture of two sloping roof planes.
Framing member running along the ridge of the roof. Rafters are nailed to this component.
Shingles installed as finish course at the ridge.
Vent system installed along the ridge of the roof to provide ventilation for the roof area.
Vertical distance measured from the base of a stairway to the top, from tread to tread, or from the eave of a roof to the ridge.
Vertical finish surface of a stair between two treads.
Similar to a skylight, but with an opening sash.
Preliminary stage of installation of plumbing, HVAC, electrical wiring, etc. prior to the application of finish surfaces and materials.
Opening that must be framed in a wall to allow for the installation and shimming of a door, window or other components.
Horizontal distance covered by a stair or roof.
Framework that holds the panes of glass in a window, which moves in a window that opens.
Mathematical relationship between one thing and another, such between the architectural drawings and the actual structure itself.
Roof truss that creates a cathedral ceiling with an interior slope.
Wall-mounted light fixture.
Architectural drawing that provides a view of the structure or a component as a vertical slice.
“Seasonal energy efficiency ratio” used to rate the efficiency of cooling equipment.
Hand-split wood shingles of varying thickness with an irregular surface.
Various building materials applied to floors, walls, and roofs that create the surface for application of finish materials.
Roof shape with only a single slope, usually attached to the side of a structure.
A brand of drywall manufactured by U.S. Gypsum, commonly used to describe the material.
Slim, beveled piece of wood used to fill small spaces in framing and trim, such as around windows and doors.
Thin, usually rectangular pieces of material, such as wood, slate or asphalt roofing, overlapped to create a weatherproof layer over a roof or a side wall.
Shape milled into the edge of material, such as wood siding, that allows an edge to overlap another.
See “base shoe.”
Horizontal member at the base of windows or the lowest member of the framework of a wall, sometimes called the mudsill.
Piece of lumber applied over the top edge of a foundation used to secure floor framing above.
Window that resembles a double-hung, but only the lower sash is operable.
Wood member resting on a concrete slab, used to support and raise a finished floor.
Underside of an overhang at the eaves of a roof or the ceiling bulkhead constructed above cabinets or vanity areas.
Measurement of the ability of a soil to support structural loads from a structure.
System of pipes, usually PVC, used to carry water and sewage from the fixtures to the sewer or septic.
Main vertical plumbing pipe that collects drainage and waste materials from sinks, toilets, tubs and showers.
Fiberglas insulation type material used to deaden the transfer of sound through areas of a building.
Horizontal distance between bearing points supporting rafters, trusses and joints.
Flat material, usually concrete or wood, placed on grade below a downspout to direct water away from the building.
Term used to describe the quantity of roofing or siding material needed to cover 100 square feet.
Act of measuring and driving stakes in the ground to indicate the location of a building, driveway, septic system or other improvement prior to excavation and construction.
Another term used to describe metal door.
Vertical framing members of a paneled door.
Interior trim sometimes installed at the sill of a window that creates a narrow shelf.
Boards at the side of stairs that slope up the wall at an angle.
Plaster, made with Portland cement, sand and water that is sometimes used as an exterior finish, synthetic stucco, also known as EIFS, is more commonly used in residential and commercial construction today.
Vertical framing components of a wall, usually a 2×4 spaced 16 inches on center.
First lay of sheathing applied over the joists in a double-layer floor construction.
American Plywood Association designation for a single-layer, glued floor system.
Pump installed below grade, usually in a basement, to pump ground water up and away from a building.
See “dropped ceiling.”
Reddish-brown, fired clay often used for flowerpots, floor tiles, and ad ornaments.
Paved outdoor area, sometimes raised.
Mortar-like setting material used for the installation of ceramic tile and marble.
Nail driven at an angle to the framing member.
Shape milled into the edge of board that allows for an overlapping connection, as in T&G flooring.
Survey that measures the relative elevations or grades on a site, typically based on the relationship to mean sea level.
Window installed above other windows or doors.
U-shaped bend in a drain or waste line that holds a small amount of water to prevent sewer gases from entering the house.
Flat ceiling with the center portion raised and the vertical areas surrounding usually slopped.
Horizontal part of a stair upon which you step.
See “pressure-treated wood.”
Decorative molding, the act of installing moldings and finish materials.
Engineered structural component, assembled from wood members, metal connectors, designed to carry structural loads such as in a roof or floor system.
A layer of panel material, such as plywood, installed just below the finish floor.
Describes gas, electric, telephone and other such services brought to the building.
Internal angle formed by two sloping planes of a roof.
Paper or plastic material installed directly behind the interior wall finish used to prevent moisture from moving through a wall.
Ceiling that rises above the wall height with one or more slopes or angles.
Thin sheets of wood, such as the layers in a piece of plywood.
Movement of air through roof cavities important to controlling moisture, elimination of stale air from inside the building.
Long covered porch.
Entry foyer.
Structural panels manufactured using chips or wafers of wood glued together and sealed, used primarily for floor, wall and roof sheathing.
Wood paneling, usually on the lower part of an interior wall.
Small corrugated metal strap bent and nailed in place to connect brick and stone fascia to a side wall.
Term usually used to describe drywall.
See “soil pipes.”
Small drain holes installed at the base of brick veneer walls to allow moisture to escape.
Measurement calculated by engineers to determine the structural design necessary to stand up to the force of severe weather gales.
Metal wire manufactured in a grid work, usually 6” x 6”, installed in a concrete slab to minimize the separation of concrete due to cracking and settling.
Brand name of pressure-treated wood.
Floor system constructed of wood framing including floor joists and floor sheathing typically suspend over a crawl space, basement or other area of the structure.
Final version of the architectural drawings approved and used for the actual construction.
System that separates the building into areas, or zones, to allow for separate control of levels of heating and cooling to maximize comfort and energy efficiency.
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