Building Terms & Definitions

  • Anchor Bolt: A bolt used to attach steel or wood members to concrete.
  • Apron: Window trim or molding placed below the stool to finish the joint formed by the wall and the window frame opening.
  • Armored Cable: Rubber-insulated electrical wires that are encased in a flexible steel covering. See also Conduit
  • Asbestos: A fibrous mineral that has heat resistive qualities; used to make asbestos-cement shingles and other materials for fire resistance.
  • Ash Dump: A trap door accompanied by a shoot and clean-out area used to remove soot and ash from the firebox.
  • Baluster: The vertical support for a stair railing, usually a number of spindles extending from the Tread to the rail or from a bottom rail to a top rail.
  • Barge Board: An ornamental board sometimes covering the fly rafters of a gable roof. With a cornice, it is the fascia board. May also be called verge board.
  • Base or Baseboard: A narrow board or member placed at the juncture of the floor and wall to cover the joint.
  • Base Cap: A strip of wood or other molding used to finish the upper edge of the baseboard.
  • Base Shoe: A trim piece of wood or other material used at the bottom of the baseboard.
  • Batten: Narrow strip of wood that may be used functionally to cover joints or as a decorative piece, applied vertically over boards.
  • Beam: Any member placed to support a load. Also called a girder.
  • Belt: A strip of siding used to join two adjacent contours.
  • Bevel Siding: Wood siding that is tapered on one edge to overlap the non-tapered edge of the next course of siding. Also called clapboard siding.
  • Boston Ridge: A method of finishing a roof at the ridge or hips. Asphalt shingles are folded over the ridge and lapped over each other 5 to 6 inches for double coverage. Wood shingles are alternately lapped and blind-nailed.
  • Brace: A slanted support of framing lumber used to stiffen the structure at specific points.
  • Bridging: A form of bracing in which short wood or metal strips placed between joists to provide additional support and distribute the weight of the structure more evenly over the floor system. Sometimes called struts
  • Buck: One of the side frames of a door; equivalent to the side jamb.
  • Building Paper: Paper that has been sized with rosin or saturated with asphalt for water-resistance. It is not waterproof. May be used between sheathing and finish coverings, between floors and subfloors, and at rough openings such as window and doors.
  • Built-Up-Roof: Roof covering built up in layers of asphalt felt, each mopped with hot tar or asphalt. A final layer of gravel mixed with pitch may finish the roof.
  • Bundle: One third of a square of shingles. Actual count varies by type of shingle.
  • Butt Joint: A square cut joint where two members meet or the place where any two pieces of material meet.
  • Cap Plate: Horizontal lumber nailed to the vertical studding in wall framing. Also called a top plate.
  • Cased Opening: An opening (door or window) in which the unit framing is supported within the structural framing to allow for differential load (weight) deflection and distribution.
  • Casing: Molding used to finish the top and sides of windows and doors, where they fit within the frame.
  • Chair Rail: A wood finish molding used at chair back height around the walls of a dining room to protect the walls. It is generally considered to be more decorative rather than functional.
  • Chip Board: A building board made from wood chips bound with resin glue. May be used as sheeting or for other non-structural purposes.
  • Chord: The bottom horizontal member of a truss
  • Cinder Fill: Backfill used to fill spaces next to the foundation after it has been poured.
  • Clapboard: A board installed horizontally as the exterior wall covering of a building. Also called bevel siding.
  • Cleanout Door: Provides cleaning access for removing firebox debris after it has been discarded through the ash dump.
  • Collar Beam: A horizontal beam nailed to each of two opposing rafters to provide support to the rafters.
  • Common Rafter: Each of the pairs of full sized rafters used to frame a roof.
  • Composition Board: A building board made into sheets by compressing shredded wood chips with a binder. Also called hardboard.
  • Concrete: A mixture of cement, sand, and an aggregate such as crushed stone or gravel, with water.
  • Conductor Pipe: Galvanized steel or plastic pipe used to shed roof water run-off from the gutter to the extension or French drain. See also a downspout.
  • Conductor Head: Attaches the gutter sleeve to the conductor pipe.
  • Conduit: see also Armored Cable; A flexible or rigid steel encasement for electrical wires.
  • Corner Bead: A metal strip used on plaster or drywall corners for reinforcement.
  • Cornerite: Metal lath or wire fabric used on the corners and wall and ceiling joints for reinforcement.
  • Cornice: The roof overhang at the eaves. Its main parts are the soffit board, fascia board, and trim moldings.
  • Corrugated: Formed into alternating ridges and grooves.
  • Course: One level or layer of a number of succeeding levels of building materials such as bricks, shingles, cement blocks, etc.
  • Cove Molding: a trim molding with a concave face used to finish interior ceiling and wall joints.
  • Cricket: A small gable like projection from a slanted roof used shed water away from a projection coming up through the roof. See also dormer.
  • Cripple: Any wood member which is cut less than full size, such as a cripple stud beneath a window opening. Also called jack when used as an adjective.
  • Cross Bridging: See bridging.
  • Crown Molding: A molding used to cover any joint. Commonly refers to ceiling molding.
  • Damper Control: A mechanical or manual lever designed to open and shut a fireplace or furnace flue damper door to prevent drafts of cool air descending down the flue when the unit is not in operation.
  • Decking: Another name for sheathing applied to a roof. It may be boards, plywood or similar wood products.
  • Deformation: A change in shape of a structure or structural element caused by a load or force acting on the structure.
  • Distribution Rib: A transverse beam at the mid-span of a one-way concrete joist structure used to allow the joists to share concentrated loads.
  • Dolly Varden Siding: Wood siding which is beveled on one end and shiplapped on the opposite end, so that the siding lies flat rather than slanted as true beveled siding is.
  • Door Stop: Trim lumber attached to the doorframe to prevent the door from passing through the frame.
  • Dormer: A projection from a slanted roof used as a door or window. See also cricket.
  • Double Hung Window: A window with two sashes, each of which moves up or down in its own track within the frame.
  • Downspout: Galvanized steel or plastic pipe used to shed roof water run-off from the gutter to the extension or French drain. See also a conductor pipe.
  • Drain Tile: A hollow plastic flexible pipe, perforated along its surface, designed to collect and carry ground water.
  • Drip Cap: A molding used on the top of exterior doors and windows to carry rain water away from the window or door framing.
  • Dry Wall: Wallboard made of gypsum and used in place of lath and plaster as a wall system. Also called Sheetrock (trademark) and gypsum board.
  • Eave: The end part of a roof that projects over the exterior wall.
  • Easing: Landing of a stairway.
  • Eave Trough: A device set at the eave line of a roof to receive and carry away rainwater. Also called a gutter.
  • Edge Bead: A strip of metal or plastic used to make a neat, durable edge where plaster or gypsum board abuts another material.
  • End Dam: A turned-up piece of End Nail: A nail driven through the side of one piece of lumber and into the end of another.
  • Entrance Frame and Door: The functional unit of a doorway, including the door, frame, and jamb.
  • Exposure: The portion (generally stated in inches) of a shingle or siding that is exposed to the elements after installation.
  • Extension: See Gutter Extension
  • Facade: An exterior face of a building.
  • Face Shell: The portion of a hollow concrete masonry unit that forms the face of the wall.
  • Fascia (fascia): The board that forms the outer side of a cornice.
  • Felt Paper: Another name for Asphalt-saturated felt building paper.
  • Fiberboard: Sheets of compressed wood fibers formed into boards for building purposes; i.e. roof sheathing.
  • Fiberglass: Glass in fiber form used to manufacture building materials such as insulation and shingles.
  • Fink Truss: A three triangle symmetrical truss, commonly used in supporting large, sloping roofs.
  • Finish Floor: Decorative portion, visible from the living space after work has been completed, of the floor system. Not including the deadening building paper, diagonal sub-floor, floor joists, and cross bridging.
  • Firestop: Wood blocking, usually 2X4, used to retard the spread of fire, and installed between studding. Required by building codes in some areas, especially for balloon framing.
  • Flashing: Usually sheet metal placed at joints of similar to non-similar materials to prevent water from entering.
  • Flux: A substance applied where soldering will take place to clean the parts and promote bonding.
  • Fly Rafter: An end rafter on a long gable overhang that runs parallel to the common rafters and is attached to the lookout rafter.
  • Footing: A support for the foundation wall. Commonly made of concrete and twice the width of the foundation wall.
  • Foundation: The major supporting unit for a structure, including its footings. The total load of the building and its components is deflected to the foundation, which is in turn deflected into the earth or bedrock. Commonly concrete in modern construction.
  • Framing: The rough carpentry skeletal portion of any structure. A building frame includes the interior and exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and roof, and excludes the finished surfaces.

        French Drain: The portion of the gutter system that is piped under ground to avoid any terrestrial obstacles. Usually "daylighted" far away from the foundation, but within the property.

  • Frieze: The board at the termination point of the exterior wall siding just below the roofline on the gable side.
  • Furring: Strips of wood used as a leveling or nailing base for other members.
  • Gable: The triangular portion of an end wall from the ridge board to the end of the Gable Roof: A roof which slopes up from two opposite sides and meets at equal angles to the Galvanized: Coated with zinc to prevent oxidation (rusting) of iron or steel.
  • Gambrel Roof: A roof with an upper and a lower slope, the lower pitched more steeply than the upper (like a barn). Also called a Dutch roof.
  • Girder: Any member that supports a load. Also called a beam. Sometimes used with the term, post.
  • Glazing: Any type of glasswork. Commonly refers to the glass in a door or window.
  • Globe Valve: A valve with a rounded disc that shuts off the flow when closed.
  • Grade: The ground surface surrounding the structure. Usually sloped away from the building at a 1:10 or 1:5 ratio for water drainage in modern construction.
  • Grade Beam: A reinforced concrete beam that transmits the load from a bearing wall into spaced foundations such as pile caps or caissons.
  • Gravel Fill: Gravel used to "backfill" excavations in the soil or bedrock that provided space to pour the foundation.
  • Grille: A component of the HVAC system that promotes air circulation by means of directive louvers.
  • Grounds: Narrow strips of wood used as guides around openings to regulate the thickness of lath and plaster wall systems.
  • Grout: A cement made very thin by the addition of water so it flows into the joints of masonry work to completely fill them.
  • Gusset: A flat metal or wood brace used to strengthen joints, most commonly on wood trusses. Also called a grip plate or gang nail.
  • Gutter: A device set at the eave line of a roof to receive and carry away rainwater. Also called an eave trough.
  • Gutter Extension: Portion of the gutter conductor pipe designed to shed water far away from the foundation.
  • Guy Cable: A cable anchored at one end and supporting or stabilizing an object at the other end.
  • Hardboard: A building board made into sheets by compressing shredded wood chips with a binder. Also called composition board.
  • Header: Lumber set on edge around openings, often to receive ends of pieces such as joists, studs, etc. and to provide additional overhead support above the openings. Also called a lintel when it is above door or window openings.
  • Head Jamb: The top of the frame of a door or window. Also called the yoke.
  • Hip Rafter: One of the rafters that form the hip of a roof as distinguished from the common rafters. Extends diagonally from the ridge board to the end of the roofline.
  • Hip Roof: A roof that slants toward the ridge from all four sides.
  • Hose Bib: An outdoor water faucet, usually and used as a hose connection
  • I-Beam: A steel beam that resembles a capital letter "I". Often used to support heavy loads
  • Insulation: Thermal insulation is any material that significantly reduces the flow of heat, placed between conditioned and unconditioned areas.
  • Jalousie: A window that is hinged at the top to open outward at an angle. Also used in doors.
  • Jamb: The side and / or head of a window or doorframe.
  • Joint: Any place where two separate pieces of material meet together.
  • Joist: A member used to support floors or ceilings and their loads, set parallel to a number of matching joists.
  • Lath: Materials that are nailed to framework to serve as the base for plaster. May be spaced wood strips, perforated gypsum board, or expanded metal.
  • Partition: Any non-load bearing wall that separates rooms.
  • Plaster: A mixture of cement or gypsum plaster with sand, perlite or vermiculite, and sometimes lime to form the interior wall system when applied to lath work.
  • Plate: Instead, see: sill plate, top plate or sole plate
  • Post: Any horizontal member that carries a load. See also girder.
  • Porch: A larger cement, stone, or brick landing and walkway installed at or near the front entry. See also patio.
  • Ridge Board: The horizontal board at the top of roof framing which supports the top ends of the rafters. Also called a ridge: beam, plate, or pole.
  • Rough: Unfinished work in progress.
  • Sash: The movable part of a window containing the panes of glass.
  • Sash Area Way: Commonly referred to as a window well, the Area Way is usually defined in terms of a cellar or basement window well area.
  • Sheathing: Boards, plywood, or insulation board nailed to wall and roof framing before the exterior covering is applied. See also decking
  • Shiplap: Refers to and edge finish in which one edge of a member is cut to lap over the corresponding edge of the adjoining member.
  • Shingle: A roof covering which provides a suitable exposure surface, manufactured to specified sizes, which may be constructed from a variety of materials such as, asphalt, asbestos, wood, slate, and others.
  • Siding: The exterior, weather resistant side cover of a building.
  • Sill: The lowest horizontal member of a door or window unit.
  • Sill Course: See sill and course.
  • Sill Plate: The bottom horizontal wood-framing member laid flat on and anchored to the foundation of a building. Also called a sill or mud sill.
  • Soffit: Undersurface of a projection or opening; bottom of a cornice between the fascia board and the outside of the building; underside of a stair, floor or lintel.
  • Sole Plate: The bottom horizontal member of a frame wall, nailed through the platform into the joists. Also called the bottom plate.
  • Stair Post: A vertical member of wood or steel used to support the load (weight) of the stairway. (Different from a Stair Rail Post)
  • Stair Treads: The horizontal top of each step in a stairway; the portion that receives the foot.
  • Stair Risers: A vertical board that connects two treads of a stair step.
  • Stair Rail and Posts: A functional safety unit installed parallel to the rise (slope) of a stairway to provide hand support to the climber, as well as a barrier to accidental falls from the side of a stairway.
  • Stool: The bottom interior trim of a window frame that forms a flat narrow shelf. Although actually a different piece, the stool is often called the sill. The stool is the sill cap.
  • Stoop: Small cement or wood decking permanently installed to serve as an exterior door landing.
  • Stringer: In stair construction, it is the supporting members for the treads and risers. Otherwise, a wood member that provides support for cross-members in floors and ceilings. See also trimmers.
  • Stud: The vertical framing and support member of a structure, usually a nominal 2" X 4". An uncut stud is a full stud. The plural is studs, studding, or in some areas scantilings.
  • Sub Floor: Usually, boards or plywood nailed to the sill and joists, over which the finished floor is laid.
  • Termite Shield: Protrusion or 6 inch space between the grade and any wood member or siding.
  • Top Plate: The top horizontal member of a frame wall. Also called a cap plate.
  • Trimmer: The member into which a header around an opening is nailed; also the inner stud where a double studding is used around an opening. When used in floors or ceilings it is also called a stringer.
  • Trim: Any type of finish material designed to disguise, cover, or decorate joints of two different members.
  • Truss: A triangle shaped structure used in place of individual rafters for roof framing. The bottom horizontal member replaces the joists, while the upper members slope together at the top to replace the rafters

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