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Building Glossary

Building Glossary As you embark on the building of your new home, make sure you understand the trade professionals you'll be working with to make important decisions. Don't be thrown off by terms such as gable, cornice, water closet or hose bib. You'll quickly discover as you begin to build your new home that the professionals you'll be working with have a lingo all their own. Here is a helpful glossary of some common and not some common terms used in the home building business. This is your vocabulary power tool to assist you as you make the biggest investment of your life!



Air-dried lumber is lumber that is stored in yards or sheds for any length of time.

Airway is the space between roof insulation and roof boards which allows for the movement of air.

Alligatoring is a 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 are bolts used to secure a wooden sill plate to a concrete or masonry floor or wall.

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

Asphalt is a subTitleish-black solid or semisolid mixture of bitumens obtained naturally or distilled from petroleum, used in paving, roofing and waterproofing.

Attic ventilators are screened openings used to ventilate an attic space, they can also consist of power-driven fans used as an exhaust system.

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Backhand is a simple molding sometimes used around the outer edge of a plain casing or as a decorative feature.

Backfill is gravel or earth put into a trench around and against a basement foundation to replace excavated earth.

Balusters are small vertical supports of a balustrade rail.

Balustrade is a row of balusters topped by a rail, edging a balcony or a staircase.

Baseboard is a board placed along the floor against the walls and partitions to properly hid the gap between the floor and plaster.

Batt is insulation that comes in the form of a blanket rather than loose fill.

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

Bay window is any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building, either square or polygonal in shape

Beam is a principal structural piece(made of wood or steel) used to support a house.

Bearing partition/wall is a partition/wall that supports a floor or woof, in addition to its own weight.

Bib is a water faucet where a hose may be attached.

Blind-nailing is the process of nailing where the nail heads are not visible on the face of the work—usually at the tongue of matched boards.

Blind stop is a rectangular molding, usually 3?4 by 1-3/8 inches or more in width, used in the assembly of a window frame. It serves as a stop for storm and screen windows helps stop air infiltration.

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

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

Brace is a piece of wood or other material used to form a triangle and stiffen a part of a structure. It’s often used on walls as a temporary brace until framing has been completed.

Brick veneer is a facing of brick used as the outer surface of a framed wall.

Bridging are small wood or metal pieces placed diagonally between floor joists.

Building paper is heavy paper used in walls or roofs to absorb dampness.

Built-up roof is a roofing material applied in sealed, waterproof layers on a flat or low-pitched roofs.

Butt joint is the where two pieces of wood or molding are joined at a point.

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Carriage is the piece which supports the steps or treads of a stair.

Casement is a window sash that opens on hinges at the vertical edge.

is molding of various widths and thickness used to frame doors and windows.

Cavity wall is a hollow wall formed by linking masonry walls to provide an insulating air space.

Chair rail is wooden molding on a wall around a room at the level of a chair back.

Chase is a groove in wall or floor to accommodate pipes or ducts.

Clapboard is a long thin board (thicker on one edge) overlapped and nailed for exterior siding.

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.

Corbel is a horizontal projection from a wall to form a ledge or support structure.

Corner bead is a strip of formed sheet metal or wood placed on corners before plastering to reinforce and protect them.

Corner boards are used as trim for the external corners of a house where the ends of the siding are finished.

Corner braces are diagonal braces at the corners of a frame structure to stiffen and strengthen the wall.

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

Cornerite are metal-mesh lath cut into strips and bent to a right angle. They’re used in interior corners of walls and ceilings to prevent cracks in plastering.

Cornice is the overhang of a pitched roof.

Cornice return is the part of the cornice that returns on the gable end of a house.

Crawl space is a shallow, unfinished space below the first floor of a house with no basement or a shallow space in the attic, immediately under the roof.

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

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

Doorjamb is the surrounding case of door which consists of two upright pieces called side jambs and a horizontal head jamb.

Dormer is the projecting frame of a recess in a sloping roof.

Downspout is a metal pipe that carries rainwater from roof gutters.

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

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

Ducts are round or rectangular metal pipes used for distributing warm or cold air from heating and/or air conditioning systems.

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Eaves are the lower part of a roof projecting beyond the house walls.

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Facia or fascia is a flat board, band, or face located at the outer face of the cornice.

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 are flat stones (1 to 4 inches thick) used for rustic walks, steps, floors, and the like.

Flashing is noncorrosive metal used in roof and wall construction to prevent leaks.

Floor joists are framing pieces which rest on outer foundation walls and interior beams.

Flue is a passageway in a chimney which allows smoke, gases or fumes to escape.

Fly rafters are end rafters of the gable overhang supported by roof sheathing and lookouts.

Footing is a concrete base on which a foundation sits.

Foundation is the supporting portion of a house structure, which is usually below ground level.

Framing is the rough lumber of a a house-joists, studs, rafters and beams.

Furring are thin strips of wood or metal applied to a wall or other surface to level the surface for latching, boarding or plastering.

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Gable the part of the roof above the eave line of a double-sloped roof.

Gable end is an end wall having a gable.

Gloss is a paint or enamel that contains a relatively low proportion of pigment and dries to a sheen or luster.

Girder is a principal beam in a framed floor supporting the joists which carry the flooring boards. It carries the weight of a floor or partition.

Glazing is the process of fitting glass into windows or doors.

Grain refers to the direction, size, arrangement, appearance, or quality of the fibers in wood.

Grout is mortar that is used to fill the joints of tile.

Gusset is a brace or bracket use to provide a connection between wood members.

Gutter is a shallow channel at the eaves of a house to catch and carry off rainwater from the roof.

Gypsum plaster(aka plasterboard or drywall) is the most widely used wall covering today because of its flexibility. It is made from crushed gypsum sheathed in paper (smooth on the faced side and natural on the backside) and gives the appearance of plaster without the need for lath backer strips and it’s easy to install because it’s sold in panels.

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Header is a beam placed perpendicular to joists and to which joists are nailed in framing for chimney, stairway, or other opening.

Hearth is the inner or outer floor of a fireplace, usually made of brick, tile, or stone.

Heel is the end of a rafter that rests on the wall plate.

Hip is the external angle formed by the juncture of two sloping sides of a roof.

Humidifier is a device used to increase the humidity within a room or a house by discharging water vapor. They may consist of individual room size units or larger units attached to the whole house heating system.

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I-beam is 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.

Insulation is material that is placed in walls, ceilings and floors to reduce the rate of heat flow. All insulation is rated by its R-value, which is the insulation material’s resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation.

Interior finish is material used to cover the interior framed areas, or materials used to cover walls and ceilings.

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Jamb is the upright surface that line an opening for a door or window.

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

Joint cement (often called spackle) is powder mixture used for joint treatment in gypsum-wallboard finish.

Joist is one of a series of parallel beams, usually 2 inches in thickness, used to support floor and ceiling loads.

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Kiln dried is the artificial process of drying lumber, which is considered to be a more superior process than air dried lumber.

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Landing is the platform between flights of stairs or at the end of a flight of stairs.

Lath is 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 is a framework of crossed wood or metal strips.

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

Lintel is the top horizontal piece over a door or window which supports walls above the opening.

Load-bearing wall is a strong wall capable of supporting weight.

Louver is an opening with horizontal slats that allows for the passage of air, but not rain, light or vision.

Lumber is timber that is sawed into boards, planks or other structural members in standard or specified lengths.

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Mantel is the shelf above a fireplace.

Masonry is stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, gypsum block, or other similar building materials bonded together with mortar to form a wall.

Mastic is a pasty material used as a cement (for setting tile) or a protective coating (thermal insulation or waterproofing).

Moisture barrier is treated paper or metal that prevents water vapor from passing into walls or floors.

Molding is a strip of decorative material, usually wood, to hide gaps.

Mortise is a slot cut into a piece of wood, stone or other material to receive a tenon and form a joint.

Mullion is slender framing which divides the lights or panes of windows and doors.

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Natural finish is a transparent finish which does not seriously alter the original color or grain of the natural wood.

Newel is an upright post where the end of a stair railing or balustrade is fastened.

Nonbearing wall is a wall supporting no load other than its own weight.

Nosing is the rounded edge of a stair tread.

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O. C. (on center) is the measurement of spacing for studs, rafters, joists, and the like in a home from the center of one member to the center of the next.

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Panel is 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 treatment.

Parting stop or strip is a small wooden piece used in the jambs of double-hung windows to separate upper and lower sash.

Pitch is the angle of slope of a roof.

Plaster grounds are strips of wood used as guides around window and door openings and at the base of walls.

is an interior covering material, such as gypsum board or plywood, which is applied in large sheets or panels.

Plywood is 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.

Post-and-beam construction refers to wall construction in which beams are supported by heavy posts rather than smaller studs.

Prefabrication is the process of manufacturing (a section of a home, for example) in advance.

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

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Rabbet is a rectangular groove cut into a board to receive another board.

Radiant heating is a method of heating, which usually consists of a forced hot water system with pipes placed in the floor, wall, or ceiling.

Rafter is one of a series of structural roof members designed to support roof loads.

Reinforced concrete is concrete that is strengthened with wire or metal bars.

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

Riser is the upright piece of a stair step, from thread to thread.

Rolled roofing is a roofing material, composed of fiber and satin rated with asphalt.

Roof sheathing are boards or sheet material which are nailed to the top edges of trusses or rafters to tie the roof together and support the roofing material.

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Sash is the moveable part of a window frame in which panes of glass are set in a window or door.

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

Scribing is the process of fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.

Sealer is a finishing material, either clear or pigmented, that is applied over uncoated wood to seal the surface.

Seepage pit is a sewage disposal system comprised of a septic tank and connected cesspool.

Septic tank is a large sewage disposal tank where a continuous flow of waste material is decomposed by bacteria.

Shake are handcut wood shingles.

Sheathing is the first structural covering of boards on the outside wall or roof prior to installing the finished side or roof covering,

Shingles are pieces of asphalt. asbestos, wood, tile, slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths, and thickness for covering roofs and walls.

Shiplap are boards with rabbeted edges which overlap.

Shutter is a lightweight louvered or flush wood or non-wood frames in the form of doors located at each side of a window.

Siding is the finished covering of the outside wall.

Sill is the lowest member of the house frame, which rests on the foundation and supports the floor joists or the uprights of the wall.

Sleeper is a strip of wood laid over concrete to support and fasten sub-floor or flooring.

Soffit is the visible underside of structures such as staircases, cornices, beams, a roof overhand or eave.

Soil stack is a vertical plumbing pipe for waste water.

Stile is an upright framing member in a panel door.

Storm sash or storm window is an extra window usually placed outside of an existing one for added protection against cold weather.

Stringer is a long, horizontal support which connects uprights in a frame or supports a floor. In stairs it’s the support on which the treads and risers rest.

Stucco is a wall covering composed of cement, sand and lime.

Studs are the vertical structural members to which horizontal pieces are nailed. Studs are spaced 16 or 24 inches apart.

Sub-floor are boards or plywood sheets laid on joists over which a finish floor is to be laid.

Suspended ceiling is a ceiling system supported by hanging it from the overhead structural framing.

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Threshold is a strip of wood or metal with beveled edges used over the finished floor and the sill of exterior doors.

Tongued and grooved are boards or planks machined in such a matter that there is a groove on one edge and a corresponding tongue on the other.

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

Trim is the finished material such as molding which is applied around openings - window or door trim - or at the floor and ceiling - baseboard, cornice.

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Undercoat is a coating applied prior to the finishing or top coats of a paint job.

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

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

Vapor barrier is material such as paper, metal or paint used to prevent vapor from passing from rooms into the outside walls.

Veneer are thin sheets of wood glued together to make plywood.

Venetian window is a window with one large fixed central pane and smaller panes at each side.

Vent is a pipe or duct which allows flow of air as an inlet or outlet.

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Wainscoting is when you finish the lower part of an internal wall with a material different from the upper part - usually with wood paneling.

Weather-strip is narrow metal, wood, plastic or other material installed around door and window opening to prevent air infiltration.

Weep hole is a small hole in a wall which allows water to drain off.

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Z-bar flashing is a bent, galvanized metal flashing that's installed above a horizontal trim board of an exterior window, door, or brick run to prevent water from getting behind the trim or brick into the home.

Zone is the means my which heat or cold air can be controlled.

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