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ADOBE: Construction using sun-dried units of adobe soil for walls; usually found in southwestern United States.

A-FRAME: A structural system utilizing members which when fastened together resemble the letter A.

ALCOVE: A recessed space connected at the side of a larger room.

ATRIUM: An open court within a building.


BASE PLATE: A plate, usually of steel, upon which a column rests.

BAY WINDOW: A projection formed by three windows that are joined at obtuse angels.

BEAM CEILING: A ceiling in which the ceiling beams are exposed to view.

BREEZEWAY: A roofed walkway with open sides. It connects the house and garage.

BUILDING CODE: A collection of legal requirements for buildings designed to protect the safety, health, and general welfare of people who work and live them.

BUILDING PERMIT: A permit issued by a municipal government authorizing the construction of a building or structure.


CHALK LINE: A string that is heavily chalked, held tight, then plucked to make a straight guideline against boards or other surfaces.

CHIMNEY: A vertical flue for passing smoke and gases outside a building.

CHIMNEY STACK: A group of flues in the same chimney.

CINDER BLOCK: A building block made of cement and cinder.

CIRCUIT: Closed wiring or conductor through which an electric current can pass.

CIRCUIT BREAKER: A safety device used to open and close an electrical circuit.

COMMON WALL: A single wall that serves two dwelling units.

CONDEMN: To legally declare unfit for use.

CONDENSATION: The formation of frost or drops of water on inside walls when warm vapor inside a room meets a cold wall or window.

CONDUCTOR: In architecture, a drain pipe leading from the roof; in electricity, anything that permits the passage of an electric current.

CONDUCTOR PIPE: A pipe used to lead water from the roof to the sewer.

CONDUIT: A channel built to convey water or other fluids; a drain or sewer. In electrical work, a channel that carries wires for protection and for safety.

CONTRACTOR: The manager of a construction project.

CRAWL SPACE: Shallow space below the floor of a building built above ground, generally surrounded with a foundation wall.

CROWN MOLDING: Molding used above eye level; usually the upper trim on interior walls.

CURE: To allow concrete to dry slowly by keeping it moist to allow maximum strength.


DAMPER: A movable plate that regulates the draft of a stove, fireplace, or furnace.

DEAD LOAD: All the weight in a structure made up of unmovable materials.

DECAY: The disintegration of wood through the action of fungi.

DEHUMIDIFY: To reduce the moisture content in the air.

DRY ROT: A term applied to many types of decay, especially and advanced stage when the wood can be easily crushed to a dry powder.

DRY-WALL CONSTRUCTION: Interior wall covering other than plaster, usually referred to as "gypsum board" or "wallboard."

DRY WELL: A pit located in porous ground and lined with rock that allows water to seep through the pit. Used for the disposal of rain water of the effluent from a septic tank.

DUCTS: Sheet metal conductors for warm and cold air distribution.


EASEMENT: The right to use land owned by another, such as a utility company's right-of-way.

ENAMEL: Paint with a considerable amount of varnish. It produces a hard, glossy surface.

EXCAVATION: Cavity or pit produced by digging the earth in preparation for construction.


FACADE: Face or front elevation of a building.

FACING: A surface finish material used to cover another surface.

FASCIA: Outside horizontal face of member on the edge of a roof or cornice.

FIBERBOARD: A building board made with fibrous material used as an insulating board.

FILLED INSULATION: A loose insulating material poured from bags or blown by machines into walls.

FINISH LUMBER: Dressed wood used for building trim and cabinet work.

FIRE DOOR: A door that will resist fire.

FIRE PARTITION: A partition designed to restrict the spread of fire.

FIRE-STOP: Tight closure material or blocking to prevent the spread of flame or hot gases within framing.

FIXTURE: A piece of electric or plumbing equipment that is part of the structure.

FLAGSTONE: Flat stone used for floors, terraces, steps, and walks.

FLASHING: Sheet-metal work used in roof or wall construction to prevent water from seeping into the building.

FLAT ROOF: A roof with minimum pitch for drainage.

FLOATING: Spreading plaster, stucco, or cement on walls or floors with use of a tool called a float.

FLOOR PLAN: The top view of a building at a specified floor level. A floor plan includes all vertical details at or above windowsill levels.

FLOOR PLUG: An electrical outlet flush with the floor.

FLUE: The opening in a chimney through which smoke passes.

FLUSH SURFACE: A continuous surface without an angle.

FRAMING: Wood skeleton of a building constructed one level on top of another.

FRIEZE BOARD: Trim member below the cornice that is fastened against the wall.

FROST LINE: Depth of frost penetration in the ground; bottom of footings should always be below this line.

FURRING STRIPS: Thin strips fastened to walls or ceilings for leveling and for attaching finish surface material.

FUSE: A strip of soft metal inserted in an electric circuit and designed to melt and open the circuit should the current exceed a predetermined value.


GABLE: The vertical triangular end of a building or part of a building, from the eaves to the ridge.

GALVANIZE: A lead and zinc bath treatment to prevent rusting.

GRADIENT: Inclination of a road, piping, or the ground, expressed in percent.

GROUT: Thin cement mortar used for leveling and filling masonry cavities.

GUSSET: Plywood or metal plate used to strengthen joints of a truss.

GUTTER: Metal or wood trough for carrying rainwater to downspouts.

GYP BOARD: Gypsum sheets covered with paper which are fastened to walls and ceilings with nails or screws.


HEARTH: That part of the foor directly in front of the fireplace, and the floor inside the fireplace on which the fire is built. It is made of fire-resistant masonry.

HEEL PLATE: A plate at the ends of truss.

HOUSE DRAIN: Horizontal sewer piping within a building that receives wastes from the soil stacks.

HOUSE SEWER: Watertight soil pipe extending from the exterior of the foundation wall to the sewer main.

HUMIDIFIER: A mechanical device that controls the amount of water vapor to be added to the atmosphere.

HUMIDISTAT: An instrument used for r measuring and controlling moisture in the air.


I BEAM: A steel beam with an I-shaped cross section.

INCANDESCENT LAMP: Lamp in which a filament gives off light.

INDIRECT LIGHTING: Artificial light that is reflected from a surface before reaching source.

INSULATING BOARD: Any board suitable for insulating purposes, usually manufactured board made from vegetable fibers, such as fiberboard.

INSULATION: Materials for obstructing the passage of sound, heat, or cold from one surface to another.

INTERIOR TRIM: General term for all the finish molding, casing, baseboard, etc., applied within the building by finish carpenters.


JOIST: Structural member which directly supports floors or ceilings and is supported by bearing walls, beams, or girders.


KNOCKED DOWN: Unassembled; refers to construction units requiring assembly after being delivered to the job.


LAP JOINT: Joint produced by lapping and joining two similar members.

LATH: Metal or gypsum sheeting used under plaster, stucco, and ceramic tile.

LEAN-TO: A shed whose rafters lean against another building or other part of the same building.

LOAD-BEARING WALL: Wall designed to support the weight imposed upon it from above.

LOT LINE: Line forming the legal boundary of a piece of property; also called property line.

LOUVER: Opening or slatted grillwork that allows ventilation while providing protection from rain, sight, or light.


MANSARD ROOF: A roof with two slopes on each side, with the lower slope being nearly vertical and the upper nearly horizontal.

MASONRY: General term for brickwork, stonework, concrete blockwork, or similar materials.

MASTIC: Flexible adhesive for adhering building materials.

METAL TIE: A strip of metal used to fasten construction members together.

METAL WALL TIES: Strips of corrugated metal used to tie a brick veneer wall to framework.

MILLWORK: Finish carpentry work or that woodwork done in a mill and delivered to the site; relates to interior trim.

MINERAL WOOL: An insulating material made into a fibrous form from mineral slag.

MITER JOINT: Joint made with ends or edges of two pieces cut at 45-degree angles and fastened together.

MODULAR CONSTRUCTION: Construction in which the size of the building and the building materials are based on a common unit of measure.

MODULE: Standardized unit of measure (e.g., 4", 12", or 4'-0", etc.) to unify construction.

MOISTURE BARRIER: A material such as specially treated paper that retards the passage of vapor or moisture into walls and prevents condensation within the walls.

MORTAR: A mixture of cement, sand, and water, used as a bonding agent by the mason for binding bricks and stones.

MOSAIC: Small colored tile, glass, stone, or similar material arranged to produce a decorative surface.

MUD ROOM: A small room or entranceway where muddy overshoes and wt garments can be removed before entering other rooms.


NONBEARING WALL: A dividing wall that does not support a vertical load.


OBSCURE GLASS: Sheet glass that is made translucent instead of transparent.

OVERHANG: Projecting area of a roof or upper story beyond the wall of the lower part.


PANELBOARD: The center for controlling electrical circuits.

PARQUET FLOORING: Flooring, usually wood, laid in an alternating or inlaid pattern to form various designs.

PARTICLE BOARD: Sheets made from compressed wood fiber.

PARTITION: An interior wall that separates two rooms.

PLANK: Lumber 2" thick or more and more than 4" wide, such as joists, flooring, and the like.

PLASTER: A mortarlike composition used for covering walls and ceilings. Usually made of portland cement mixed with sand and water.

PLASTERBOARD: A board made of plastering material covered on both sides with heavy paper.

PLATE GLASS: A high-quality sheet of glass used in large windows.

PLUMB: Said of a member when it is in true vertical position as determined by a plumb bob or vertical level.

POST & BEAM CONSTRUCTION: Wall construction consisting of large, widely spaced posts to support horizontal beams.

PRECAST: Concrete shapes made separately before being used in a structure.

PREFABRICATED BUILDINGS: Buildings that are built in sections or component parts in a factory, and then assembled at the site.

PRIMER COAT: First coat of paint applied to wood or metal to prime the surface for succeeding coats.


RADIANT HEATING: A system using heating elements in the floors, ceilings, or walls to radiate heat into the room.

RAFTER: Inclined structural members used to frame a roof.

REBAR: Steel reinforcing bar.

REGISTER: The open end of a duct in a room for warm or cool air.

REINFORCED CONCRETE: Concrete in which steel bars or webbing has been embedded for strength.

RENDERING: The art of shading or coloring a drawing.

RESTORATION: Rebuilding s structure so it will appear in its original form.

RESTRICTIONS: Limitations on the use of real estate building materials, size, or design styles.

RETAINING WALL: A wall to hold back an earth embankment.

ROLL ROOFING: Roofing material of fiber and asphalt manufactured in rolls.


SASH: Individual frame into which glass is set; the movable part of a double-hung window.

SCRATCH COAT: The first coat of plaster. It is scratched to provide a good bond for the next coat.

SEASONING: Drying out of green lumber, either in an over or kiln or by exposing it to air.

SHEATHING: Rough covering over the framing of a building, either roof or wall, which is not exposed when finish material is applied.

SHIM: A piece of material used to fill in the space between two surfaces.

SHINGLES: Thin pieces of wood or materials that overlap each other in covering a roof. The number and kind needed depend on the steepness of the roof and slope.

SHOE MOLD: Small rounded molding covering the joint between the flooring and the baseboard.

SHORING: Lumber placed in a slanted position to support the structure of a building temporarily.

SIDING: The outside boards of an exterior wall.

SKYLIGHT: An opening in the roof for admitting light.

SLAB CONSTRUCTION: A reinforced concrete floor and foundation system.

SLEEPERS: Wood strips placed over or in a concrete slab to receive a finished wood floor.

SMOKE CHAMBER: The portion of a chimney flue located directly over the fireplace.

SOFFIT: Underside of an overhang such as the eave, a second floor, or stairs.

SOLAR HEAT: Heat from the sun.

SOLE PLATE: The horizontal framing member directly under the studs.

SPACKLE: To cover wallboard joints with plaster.

SPAN: Horizontal distance between supports for joists, beams, or trusses.

SPECIFICATIONS: The written or printed direction regarding the details of a building or other construction not included in the set of working drawings.

SPLICE: Joining of two similar members in a straight line.

STEEL FRAMING: Skeleton framing with structural steel members.

STORM SEWER: A sewer that is designed to carry away water from storms, but not sewage.

STRIPPING: Removal of concrete forms from the hardened concrete.

STUCCO: Any of various plasters used for covering walls, especially an exterior wall covering in which cement is used.

STUDS: Vertical framing members in a wall spaced at 16" or 24" o.c.

SUBFLOOR: Material fastened directly to floor joist below the finish floor.

SUMP: A pit in a basement floor to collect water, into which a sump pump is placed to remove water.

SURVEYOR: A person skilled in land measurement.

SUSPENDED CEILING: Finish ceiling hung below the underside of the building structure, either floor or roof.


TAIL JOISTS: Relatively shorter joists that join against a header or trimmer in floor framing.

TAR: A dark heavy oil used in roofing and roof surfacing.

TEMPERED: Thoroughly mixed cement or mortar.

TENSILE STRENGTH: The greatest longitudinal stress a structural member can resist without adverse affects (breaking or cracking).

TERMITE SHIELD: Sheet metal used to block the passage of termites.

TERRAZZO: Wear-resistant flooring made of marble chips or small stones embedded in cement matrix that has been polished smooth.

THERMAL CONDUCTOR: Material capable of transmitting heat.

THERMOSTAT: A device for automatically controlling the supply of heat and air.

THRESHOLD: Wood, metal, or stone member placed directly below a door.

TIE: A structural member used to bind others together.

TIMBER: Lumber with a cross section larger than 4"x6", for posts, sills, and girders.

TOENAIL: Nailing diagonally through a member.

TOLERANCE: The acceptable variance of dimensions from s standard size.

TONGUE: A projection on the edge of wood that joins with a similarly shaped groove.

T-POST: Post built up of studs and blocking to form the intersection framing for perpendicular walls.

TRANSOM WINDOW: A narrow horizontal window above a window or door, named for the cross bar on which it rests.

TRAP: U-shaped pipe below plumbing fixtures which provides a water seal to prevent sewer odors and gases from entering habitable areas.

TRAY CEILING: A recessed ceiling resembling an upside-down tray; also referred to as a stepped ceiling.

TREAD: The step or horizontal member of a stair.

TRIMMER: The longer floor or ceiling-framing member around a rectangular opening into which headers are joined; both headers and trimmers are doubled.

TRUSS: Structural unit of members fastened in triangular arrangements to form a rigid framework for support over long spans.

TRUSS RAFTER: Truss spaced close enough (usually 24" o.c.) to eliminate the need for purlins.


UNDERPINNING: A foundation replacement or reinforcement for temporary braced supports.


VAPOR BARRIER: Watertight material used to prevent the passage of moisture or water vapor into and through walls and under concrete slabs.

VAULTED CEILING: A ceiling that slopes up to a peak.

VENEER CONSTRUCTION: Type of wall construction in which frame or masonry walls are faced with other exterior surfacing materials.

VENT: A screened opening for ventilation.

VENTILATION: The process of supplying and removing air by natural or mechanical means to or from any space.

VENT PIPES: Small ventilating pipes extending from each fixture of a plumbing system to the vent stack.

VENT STACK: Vertical soil pipe connected to the drainage system to allow ventilation and pressure equalization.

VERGEBOARD: The board that serves as the eaves finish on the gable end of a building.

VESTIBULE: A small lobby or entrance room.

VITREOUS: Pertaining to a composition of materials that resemble glass.

VOLUME CEILING: Any ceiling higher than the standard 8 feet.


WAINSCOTE: Surfacing on the lower part of an interior wall when finished differently from the remainder of the wall.

WALLBOARD: Wood pulp, gypsum, or similar materials made into large rigid sheets that may be fastened to the frame of a building to provide a surface finish.

WALL TIE: Small metal strip or steel wire used to bind courses of masonry to wood frame in veneer construction.

WARP: Any change from a true or plane surface. Warping includes bow, crook, cup, and twist.

WASH: The slant upon a sill, capping, etc., to allow the water to run off.

WASTE STACK: A vertical pipe in a plumbing system that carries the discharge from any fixture.

WATERPROOFING: Material or construction that prevents the passage of water.

WATER TABLE: Horizontal member extending from the surface of an exterior wall to throw rainwater away from the wall; also, the level of subsurface water.

WEATHER STRIPPING: Strips of fabric or metal fastened around the edges of windows and doors to prevent air infiltration.


ZONING: Building restrictions as to size, location, and type of structures to be built in specific areas.





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