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Builder Terminology

A - E F - M N - R S - Z

Abrasives
Substances rubbed on wood to smooth the surface. Flint, garnet, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide are common abrasives.

ABS Pipe
A type of plastic pipe frequently used in plumbing. The letters "ABS" are an abbreviation for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. The plastic is black and is most frequently used in the form of schedule 40 pipe.

Access Panel

A cover for a portal necessary to reach plumbing or other systems behind a wall.

Acre
A unit of measurement equal to 43,560 square feet.

Actual Dimension
Size of boards or lumber, distinguished from "nominal dimensions". Term 2x4 is a nominal dimension.

Adapter
A fitting that joins pipes and other plumbing components not designed to connect directly.

Adhesive
A material capable of holding other materials together by surface attachment. Glues, cements, pastes, and mucilage are some common adhesives.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) visit a Mortgage Directory
A mortgage loan in which the interest rate is tied to a certain monetary index, and changes upward or downward to follow the index.

Aerator
A device screwed into a faucet spout that mixes air with the flow of water to reduce splashing.

Agent
A person (such as a real estate agent) authorized by a principal to transact or manage some business on his of her behalf.

Aggregate
Hard materials such as sand and crushed stone used to make concrete.

Air Duct
A formed conduit that carries warm or cold air to rooms from the furnace or air-conditioner and back again.

Air-Dried Lumber
Lumber that has been dried by being stored in yards or sheds for any length of time.

Air-Entrained
Concrete suffused with tiny air bubbles, making it more workable and better able to withstand frost.

Airway
A space between roof insulation and roof sheathing for 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.

Alternating Current (AC)
Electrical current which reverses direction regularly (60 hertz, or cycles per second, in the US). As opposed to DC or direct current which does not reverse direction.

Ampere
Also referred to as amp, the rate of flow of electricity through electric wires.

Anchor Bolt
A bolt placed in the surface of concrete for attaching wood framing members.

Angle Iron

L-shaped steel support used to support masonry over an opening.

Appraisal
An estimate of the market value of a property.

Appraiser visit an Appraiser Directory
A professional trained to appraise properties.

Apron
The flat part of the inside trim of a window. It is placed against the wall directly beneath the window sill. Also, concrete slab at the approach to a driveway or garage door.

Apron
Concrete slab at the approach to a garage door- Also the wood trim below a window stool.

Arbor
A shaft or spindle on which a tool is mounted.

Asphalt
A brown to black bituminous substance. Most native asphalt is a residue from evaporated petroleum. Asphalt is used widely in building for such items as waterproofing roof coverings of many types, exterior wall coverings, and flooring tile.

Assessed Value
A value placed on a property by a public officer or a board as a basis for taxation.

Assessment
A charge against real property made by a branch of government to cover the proportionate cost of an improvement such as street or sewer.

Assignee
A person to whom a right or property is transferred.

Astragal
A molding, attached to one of a pair of swinging doors, against which the other door strikes. French doors use this as the stop.

Attic
The accessible space located between the top of the ceiling and the underside of the sloped roof.

Attic Ventilators
Openings in the roof or in gables for the purpose of allowing air to circulate.

Attorney-in-Fact
A person who is given written authority by another person to sign documents on his or her behalf.

Awning
Shading device mounted above a window.

Awning Window
A window that is hinged near the top so the bottom opens outward.

Backfill

The replacement of earth into a trench or pier excavation around and against a basement foundation.

Backhoe
An excavating machine with a bucket at one end and a hoe at the other end.

Backsplash
The raised lip on the back edge of a countertop to prevent water from running down the backs of the cabinets.

Ballast
Required in all fluorescent fixtures, it is an electrical component that limits the flow of electricity into a bulb.

Balloon Framing
A system of framing a building in which all vertical structural elements of the bearing walls and partitions consist of single pieces. These pieces extend from the top of the foundation sill plate to the roofplate, and all floor joists are fastened to them.

Balusters
Usually small vertical members in a railing used between a top rail and the stair treads or a bottom rail.

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

Barge Rafter
Outside roof rafter, usually on the overhang of a gable. This ends up being the fascia board for the gable.

Base Shoe or Shoe Molding

A strip of wood next to the floor on interior baseboard. Similar to quarter round only 5/8" x 3/4" in size.

Base, Baseboard

A board placed along the bottom of a wall next to the floor.

Batt Insulation
Flexible, blanket like pieces, usually fiberglass used for thermal or sound insulation. As opposed to loose fill insulation which is blown in place.

Batten
Narrow strip of wood used to cover joints between boards of sheet material.

Batter Boards
A pair of horizontal boards nailed to posts set at the corners of an excavation. They indicate the proper level and serve as a fastening place for stretched cord to show the outlines of foundation walls.

Bay Window
Any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building. The bay must be square or polygonal in plan.

Beam
Any major horizontal structural member.

Beam Pocket
A recessed area to hold the end of a beam in a concrete or masonry wall.

Bearing Partition/Wall

A partition 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 sidewalls.

Bedding Sand

Coarse sand, like that added to concrete mixes, used to make the bed for setting pavers or bricks.

Belt Course
A horizontal board carried at the same level across or around a building. It is usually made of a flat member and a molding.

Bench Mark
A mark on a permanent object indicating a verified elevation, used by surveyors as a reference point.

Berm
A low, artificially made mound of earth which adds height and depth to a flat landscape; often used in rock gardens, landscaped with rocks and plants.

Bevel
An angular surface across an edge of a piece of stock.

Bevel Siding (lap siding)
A type of finish siding used on the exterior of a house. It is usually manufactured by resawing a dry, squared, surfaced board diagonally to produce two wedge-shaped pieces.

Beveled Cut

An angled cut.

Biscuit
Wooden wafer placed in a slot that bridges and strengthens the joining of two pieces of wood..

Bleaching
A method of lightening the color of wood by applying chemicals.

Bleeding
Seeping of a stain or lower coat through the top coat, spoiling the appearance of the top coat.

Blend

Mixture, as of two pigments, to obtain a desired color.

Blind Nailing

Nails driven so nailheads are not visible. Nails driven at an angle through the tongue of hardwood flooring, so the groove of the adjoining board conceals the nailhead.

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 infiltration.

Blisters
Cloudy or milky-looking raised spots on finished surfaces.

Block Plane
A small hand tool used to shave off or smooth lumber.

Board
Lumber less than 2" thick and 1" or more wide.

Board Foot
A unit of lumber equal to a board 12"x12"x1 inch thick.

Boiled Linseed Oil

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

Boston Ridge
Applying asphalt or wood shingles at the ridge or at the hips of a roof as a finish.

Bottom Chord
The bottom horizontal member in a truss.

Bottom or Sole Plate

The bottom framing member of a wall, usually either 2 x 4 or 2 x 6. The plate is nailed to the bottom of the studs and to the floor joist or sheathing below it.

Bow
The distortion in a board that is no longer flat lengthwise, but has remained flat across its faces.

Box Sill
The header joist nailed across the ends of floor joists at the sill.

Bracket
A brace extending from a wall to support a weight, such as a shelf.

Brad
A fine finishing nail with a small head.

Breezeway
A covered and sometimes enclosed walkway from one point to another. Commonly used to connect a garage to a house.

Brick Mold
Standard wood molding used as outside casing around doors and windows.

Brick Veneer
A facing of brick laid against and fastened to the sheathing of a frame wall.

Bridging
Small wood or metal members inserted in a diagonal position between the floor joists. They brace the joists and spread the loads.

British rhermal Unit (BTU)

The amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

Broom Finish
A slip-resistant texture created by running a stiff broom across fresh concrete.

Buck
Assembly of the framing that constitutes a rough door or window opening.

Builder-Grade
A trade term meaning a product of average quality normally found in production-built housing.

Building Codes
Municipal rules regulating safe building practices and procedures. The codes generally encompass structural, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical remodeling and new construction. Inspection may be required to confirm adherence to local codes.

Building Restriction Lines

The outside edge of the area on a property that can be built on.

Built-Up Roof
A 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-pitch roofs.

Bull Float
A large, long handled float used for reaching into the center and smoothing a large slab of concrete.

Bulldozer
An excavating machine on tracks (crawler), with a steel blade that can be raised or lowered attached to its front. It is used to move earth from place to place and to shape the grade.

Burl
(1) A hard, woody outgrowth on a tree, more or less rounded in form, usually resulting from the entwined growth of a cluster of buds. Burls are the source of highly figured veneers used for ornamental purposes. (2) A localized distortion of the grain, found both in lumber and in veneer. Generally rounded in outline, it is usually the result of an overgrowth of dead branch stubs. Diameter may vary from 1/2" to several inches. A burl often includes one or more clusters, each usually having a core or pith but little end grain surrounding it.

Butt Hinges
Standard hinges.

Butt Joint
A square-cut joint where the ends of two pieces meet.

Butter
Applying mortar to stones or bricks.

Cabinet
A shop or job-built unit for kitchens or other rooms. Often includes combinations of drawers, doors, and the like.

Cantilever
To overhang such as a projecting beam supported at only one end.

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

Carpenter's Glue
Yellow and white adhesives formulated specifically for woodworking.

Carriage
The supporting members for stair treads. Usually a 2" plank notched to receive the treads; sometimes termed a stringer.

Casement Window
A window that is hinged at one side so the opposite side opens outward.

Casing
The trim around a door or window. A Cased opening is an open doorway with trim around it. A cased window is a window with trim around it.

Catch Basin
In a man-made stream or watercourse, a small depression or basin designed to hold water.

Caulking
A waterproof, adhesive filler material that remains flexible so it will not pop or flake out of seams and cracks.

CDX Plywood
An inexpensive, exterior-grade plywood. C grade on one side, D grade on the other, exterior glue used.

Ceiling Joist
Structural members providing support for a second story floor and a nailing surface for a lower story's ceiling.

Cellulose
(1) The principal substance in the framework or walls of wood cells. (2) An organic substance obtained from the cotton plant and used as raw material in the manufacture of paints and other materials.

Cement
Usually refers to portland cement. A fine gray powder that produces a bonding paste when mixed with water. (Cement Siding...See Siding)

Centerline
An actual or imaginary line through the exact center of any object.

Certificate of Occupancy

A certificate issued by the building department stating that the house has been built in accordance with the local building code and zoning ordinance, and may be occupied.

Chair Rail
A horizontal strip of molding mounted at the proper height and protruding enough to prevent the top of a chair back from touching a wall surface. (See also Wainscoting.)

Chalk Line
An instrument with colored chalk and string used to mark a straight line between two points.

Chamfer
A beveled surface cut on the corner of a piece of wood.

Chamfered Edge

Molding with pared-off corners.

Change Order

A term applied to a written agreement allowing a change from previously agreed-to plans.

Chase
An opening made in a wall or through a floor to accommodate pipes or ducts.

Circuit
The electrical path that connects one or more outlets and/or lighting fixtures to a single circuit breaker or fuse on the control panel.

Circuit Breaker
A protective device that opens a circuit, cutting off the power automatically when an overcurrent or short-circuit occurs.

Clamp
A device that holds things together; often used to hold pieces together while the glue dries.

Clapboard
A type of siding. It consists of narrow boards which are usually thicker at one edge than the other.

Cleanout
A plug in a trap or drainpipe that provides access to blockages inside.

Clearance
The amount of space needed for the proper and/or safe use of various installations- for opening appliance and cabinet doors and drawers, for example.

Cleat
A strip of material, such as wood, fastened to another piece to strengthen it or to furnish a grip.

Clinch
To bend the point of a nail after it has passed through both pieces that it is to fasten, thereby locking it together.

Close-Grained Wood
Woods with narrow, inconspicuous annual rings. The term is sometimes used for wood having small and closely spaced pores.

Closet Bend
An elbow-shape fitting beneath a toilet that carries the waste to the main drain.

Closing Costs visit a Mortgage Directory
Expenses incurred to settle a loan transaction. They can include: legal fees, appraisal fees, survey fees, insurance, and other related expenses.

Coarse-Grained Wood

Wood with wide, conspicuous annual rings, indicating considerable difference between springwood and summerwood. The term is sometimes used for wood with large pores such as oak, ash, chestnut, and walnut.

Cobblestones
Naturally rounded stones with dimensions between two and 12 inches; used in paths, terraces, xeriscapes, and water features.

Code Enforcement Officer
An authorized representative of the building code enforcement office. The individual responsible for the approval or denial of code inspections and the party responsible for issuing a certificate of occupancy.

Collar Tie

A horizontal piece of lumber that connects rafters opposite each other and prevents them from spreading apart.

Column
A vertical support (often square, rectangular, or cylindrical), as for roofs or ceilings.

Combination Doors or Windows

Doors or windows with self-storing or removable glass and screen inserts. The need for handling a different unit each season is thus eliminated.

Common Nail
Large-diameter nail for rough framing.

Common Rafter

A rafter extending from the top of the wall to the ridge.

Compression Fitting
A type of fitting used to make a plumbing connection. Typically utilizes a brass body and nut with a ferrule to compress over the pipe, preventing water or air from leaking.

Compressor
The part of an air conditioning or heat pump unit that compresses the refrigerant gas so that it can absorb heat.

Concrete
A combination of cement and sand, broken stone, or gravel. It is used for foundations, building construction, walks, and many other purposes.

Concrete Apron
The section of concrete where a garage floor joins the driveway. Aprons allow for a smooth transition from a lower driveway to an elevated garage floor.

Concrete Pavers

Preformed concrete units commonly used for driveways, patios, and sidewalks. Pavers are designed to be laid in a sand base. They come in many shapes and colors and may interlock in repeating patterns.

Condensation
In a building, beads or drops of water that accumulate on the inside of the exterior covering of the building. Condensation occurs 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.

Conduit
Metal or plastic tubing designed to enclose electrical wires.

Conifer
A cone-bearing tree.

Contact Cement
Rubber-based glue which adheres on contact.

Contour Lines
Lines on a topographic map or site plan to describe the contour of the land.

Control Joints
Grooves that are tooled or cut into the surface of wet concrete to make it crack in straight lines at planned locations, rather than cracking randomly.

Coped Cut

A profile cut on a piece of molding that allows it to be butted tightly against the face of another piece in an inside corner.

Coping
The final horizontal layer of stones that cap and waterproof a stone wall; usually wide and shallow, coping stones are often mortared into place.

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

Core
In plywood, the center of the panel. It may be either veneer or lumber.

Corner Bead

A light-weight metal angle used to shape and reinforce outside corners in drywall, or sheetrock, construction.

Corner Block

A large triangular piece of wood or metal used for added strength at the corners of frames or where legs and rails join.

Corner Boards
Boards used as trim for the external corners of a house or other frame structure and against which the ends of the siding are finished.

Corner Braces

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

Cornice
(1) Overhang of a pitched roof at the eave line, usually consisting of a fascia board, a soffit for a closed cornice, and appropriate moldings. (2) A decorative member, usually molded, placed at or near the top of a wall.

Cornice Return

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

Counterboring
Enlarging a hole so that the head of a screw or bolt inserted can be completely covered.

Counterflashing

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

Countersinking
To sink a nail or screw even with or below the surface.

Coupling
A fitting that connects two lengths of pipe in a straight run.

Course
A single row of building units such as concrete blocks bricks or shingles.

Cove Lighting
Concealed light sources, placed behind cornice or other horizontal recess, that direct the light on a reflecting ceiling.

Cove Mold
Concave molding used to trim an inside corner.

Crawl Space
A shallow, unfinished space beneath the first floor of a house that has no basement. Used for visual inspection and access to pipes and ducts.

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. Also called a saddle.

Cripple Stud

A short framing stud that is cut off to make an opening for a door or window.

Cripple Stud

Short stud over a window or door between the top of the header and the bottom of the top plate. Also, the short stud between the top of the bottom plate and the underside of a window frame.

Cross-Bridging
Diagonal bracing between adjacent floor joists, placed near the center of the joist span to prevent joists from twisting.

Crushed Rock
Stones approximately 1/4 inch to two inches in size which have been mechanically crushed.

Cup
Distortion or warping of a board so that it is no longer flat across its width.

Curb Appeal
A term used in real estate sales referring to the exterior appearance of a property.

Curing
The process of aging a new concrete slab with proper moisture to reduce cracking and shrinkage and to develop strength.

Cut-in-Brace
Bracing cut into each stud at an angle to provide lateral support.

Dado
A rectangular groove across the grain in a board.

Dado Joint

A joint in which one piece is grooved to receive the piece which forms the other part if the joint.

Damper
Valve designed to control the flow of air or smoke.

Dampproofing
Vapor barrier or coating on foundation walls or under concrete slabs to prevent moisture from entering the house.

Darby
A tool with a long sole made of smooth wood or metal, used for smoothing the surface of a concrete slab after initial leveling.

Datum
A reference point from which elevations are measured.

Dead Load
The weight of the walls, permanent partitions, framing, roofs, and all other permanent stationary construction in a building, not counting the occupants and furnishings and movement.

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

Decibel (db)
Logarithmic measure of sound intensity. An increase of 6 db is the same as doubling the sound pressure.

Deciduous
Trees which annually lose their leaves.

Deck Paint
An enamel with a high degree of resistance to mechanical wear; designed for use on such surfaces as porch floors.

Decking
The term decking can apply to the material used to build an exterior deck or the material used to build interior flooring systems.

Defect
Any imperfection occurring in or on wood that may lower its quality.

Delamination
The separation of layers of plies through the failure of adhesive bond.

Detail
A drawing showing special information about a particular part of the construction- Details are usually drawn to a larger scale than the other views and are sometimes section views.

Dewpoint
Temperature at which a vapor begins to condense. Applies especially to moisture in the air.

Dimension Lumber

Lumber at least 2" but less than 5" thick, and 2" or more wide. Includes joists, rafters, studding, planks, and small timbers. (see also Dimension stock.)

Dimension Stock
Today it is commonly known as hardwood dimension lumber.

Direct Current (DC)
Electrical current that flows in a single direction.

Doorjamb
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. Exterior doorjambs also have thresholds.

Dormer
A projection in a sloping roof, the framing of which forms a vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.

Double Glazing
An insulating windowpane formed of two thickness' of glass with a sealed air space between them.

Double-Hung Windows
A window consisting of two sashes that can slide vertically.

Dovetail Joint
A joint in which one piece has dovetail-shaped pins or tenons which fit into corresponding openings on the other piece.

Dowel
A small wooden pin used to strengthen a joint.

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

Dressed Size
The dimension of lumber after being surfaced. A 2" x 4" stud actually measures 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" .

Drier
A solution added to drying oils in paint to quicken the drying.

Drip
(1) A member of a cornice or other horizontal exterior-finish course that has a projection beyond the other parts for throwing off water. (2) 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 above the exterior of a door or window frame, causing water to drip beyond the outside of the frame.

Drip Edge
Metal trim installed at the edge of a roof to stop water from running back under the edge of the roof deck.

Dry Rot
A term loosely applied to any crumbly decay of wood, but especially to that which, when in an advanced stage, allows the wood to be crushed easily to a dry powder. The term does not accurately describe decay. Since fungi which cause the rot require considerable moisture for growth.

Dry Stack Wall
A stone wall constructed without mortar, which depends on gravity and the fit between the stones for its stability.

Drying Oil
Drying oils are used in the manufacture of paints and varnishes. Linseed oil is a common drying oil.

Drywall
Also known as wallboard, gypsum board, plasterboard, and by the trade name Sheetrock, a wall-surfacing material composed of sheets of gypsum plaster sandwiched between a low-grade backing paper and a smooth-finish front surface paper that can be painted.

Dry-Wall Returns
A type of construction in which the windows have drywall installed from the interior wall surface to the window unit. Another method of trimming windows is to have wood returns from the window to the wall surface. With wood returns you need window casing to frame the inside of the window. With drywall returns you have a cornerbead drywall corner and no window casing.

Drywall Mud
Joint compound; the substance used to hide seams and nail or screw heads in the finished walls of a home.

Ducts
Pipes which carry air from a furnace or an air conditioner to the rooms of a building. Usually they are round or rectangular and made of metal, although they may be made of asbestos and composition materials.

Easement
A right or privilege that one party has in the property of another that entitles the holder to a specific limited use of the property.

Eaves
The overhang of a roof projecting over the walls.

Edging

The rounded edges of a concrete slab that are resistant to cracking.

Egress Window
Window whose clear dimensions are large enough that it can serve as a fire exit.

Elbow
Also known as an ell, this fitting is used to change the direction of a water supply line.

Elbow
Right-angle bend in stovepipe.

Elevation
A drawing that shows vertical dimensions- it may also be the height of a point, usually in feet above sea level.

Eminent Domain

The right of the federal and state governments or public service organizations to acquire all or part of a privately owned property for public use.

Enamel
A kind of paint in which the vehicle is a drying oil or combination of drying oil and resin. The paint dries to an even, hard finish.

Equity
The appraised market value of a property less all debts owed against it.

Excavate
To remove earth from a basement site or utility trench, by means of a bulldozer or backhoe (a backhoe is a tractor with a scoop bucket attached).

Expansion Joint

A bituminous fiber strip used to separate blocks or units of concrete to prevent cracking due to expansion caused by temperature changes.

Exposed Aggregate
A decorative treatment that exposes a layer of stones embedded in the surface of concrete.

Extension Jamb

Addition to a door or window jamb to bring the jamb up to full wall thickness. Also known as jamb extender.

Exterior Plywood
Plywood in which the plies are bonded together using exterior or waterproof glue.

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