Glossary of Terms

Confused by building terms?

Glossary of Terms

Hopefully we can help with that - please read further.

A/C - An abbreviation for air conditioner or air conditioning.

Allowance(s)- A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which have not been selected and specified in the construction contract. For example, selection of tile as a flooring may require an allowance for an underlayment material, or an electrical allowance which sets aside an amount of money to be spent on electrical fixtures.

Base or baseboard- A trim board placed against the wall around the room next to the floor.

Bid- A formal offer by a contractor, in accordance with specifications for a project, to do all or a phase of the work at a certain price in accordance with the terms and conditions stated in the offer.

Bifold door- Doors that are hinged in the middle for opening in a smaller area than standard swing doors. Often used for closet doors.

Bipass doors- Doors that slide by each other and commonly used as closet doors.

Blow insulation- Fiber insulation in loose form and used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed.

Blue print(s) - A type of copying method often used for architectural drawings. Usually used to describe the drawing of a structure which is prepared by an architect or designer for the purpose of design and planning, estimating, securing permits and actual construction.

Blue stake- Another phrase for Utility Notification. This is when a utility company (telephone, gas, electric, cable TV, sewer and water, etc) comes to the job site and locates and spray paints the ground and/or installs little flags to show where their service is located underground.

Breaker panel- The electrical box that distributes electric power entering the home to each branch circuit (each plug and switch) and composed of circuit breakers.

Brick veneer- A vertical facing of brick laid against and fastened to sheathing of a framed wall or tile wall construction.

Builder's Risk Insurance- Insurance coverage on a construction project during construction, including extended coverage that may be added for the contract for the customer's protections.

Building codes-  Community ordinances governing the manner in which a home may be constructed or modified.

Bull nose (drywall)- Rounded drywall corners.

CO- An abbreviation for "Certificate of Occupancy". This certificate is issued by the local municipality and is required before anyone can occupy and live within the home. It is issued only after the local municipality has made all inspections and all monies and fees have been paid.

Casement Window- A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides and swings open like a normal door

Casing- Wood trim molding installed around a door or window opening.

Caulking- (1) A flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces e.g. between pieces of siding or the corners in tub walls. (2) To fill a joint with mastic or asphalt plastic cement to prevent leaks.

Ceiling joist- One of a series of parallel framing members used to support ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls. Also called roof joists.

Ceramic tile- A man-made or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall. Generally used in bathtub and shower enclosures and on counter tops.

Change order- A written document which modifies the plans and specifications and/or the price of the construction Contract.

Chase- A framed enclosed space around a flue pipe or a channel in a wall, or through a ceiling for something to lie in or pass through.

Circuit- The path of electrical flow from a power source through an outlet and back to ground.

Circuit Breaker- A device which looks like a switch and is usually located inside the electrical breaker panel or circuit breaker box. It is designed to (1) shut of the power to portions or all of the house and (2) to limit the amount of power flowing through a circuit (measured in amperes). 110 volt household circuits require a fuse or circuit breaker with a rating of 15 or a maximum of 20 amps. 220 volt circuits may be designed for higher amperage loads e.g. a hot water heater may be designed for a 30 amp load and would therefore need a 30 amp fuse or breaker.

Daylight- The end of a pipe (the terminal end) that is not attached to anything.

Doorjamb, interior- 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. These 3 jambs have the "door stop" installed on them.

Dormer- An opening in a sloping roof, the framing of which projects out to form a vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.

Double glass- Window or door in which two panes of glass are used with a sealed air space between.  Also known as Insulating Glass.

Double hung window- A window with two vertically sliding sashes, both of which can move up and down.

Down payment- The difference between the sales price and the mortgage amount. A downpayment is usually paid at closing.

Draw- The amount of progress billings on a contract that is currently available to a contractor under a contract with a fixed payment schedule.

Dry in- To install the black roofing felt (tar paper) on the roof.

Drywall (or Gypsum Wallboard (GWB), Sheet rock or Plasterboard)- Wall board or gypsum- A manufactured panel made out of gypsum plaster and encased in a thin cardboard. Usually 1/2" thick and 4' x 8' or 4' x 12' in size. The panels are nailed or screwed onto the framing and the joints are taped and covered with a 'joint compound'. 'Green board' type drywall has a greater resistance to moisture than regular (white) plasterboard and is used in bathrooms and other "wet areas".

Ducts- The heating system. Usually round or rectangular metal pipes installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to rooms in the home.  Also a tunnel made of galvanized metal or rigid fiberglass, which carries air from the heater or ventilation opening to the rooms in a building.

Easement- A formal contract which allows a party to use another party's property for a specific purpose. e.g. A sewer easement might allow one party to run a sewer line through a neighbors property.

Eaves- The horizontal exterior roof overhang.

Egress- A means of exiting the home. An egress window is required in every bedroom and basement. Normally a 4' X 4' window is the minimum size required

Electrical Rough- Work performed by the Electrical Contractor after the plumber and heating contractor are complete with their phase of work. Normally all electrical wires, and outlet, switch, and fixture boxes are installed (before insulation).

Electrical Trim- Work performed by the electrical contractor when the house is nearing completion. The electrician installs all plugs, switches, light fixtures, smoke detectors, appliance "pig tails", bath ventilation fans, wires the furnace, and "makes up" the electric house panel. The electrician does all work necessary to get the home ready for and to pass the municipal electrical final inspection

Escrow - The handling of funds or documents by a third party on behalf of the buyer and/or seller.

Estimate- The amount of labor, materials, and other costs that a contractor anticipates for a project as summarized in the contractor's bid proposal for the project.

Exposed aggregate finish- A method of finishing concrete which washes the cement/sand mixture off the top layer of the aggregate - usually gravel. Often used in driveways, patios and other exterior surfaces.

Fascia- Horizontal boards attached to rafter/truss ends at the eaves and along gables. Roof drain gutters are attached to the fascia.

Fire-resistive or Fire rated- Applies to materials that are not combustible in the temperatures of ordinary fires and will withstand such fires for at least 1 hour. Drywall used in the garage and party walls are to be fire rated, 5/8", Type X.

Fixed price contract- A contract with a set price for the work. See Time and Materials Contract.

Flashing- Sheet metal or other material used in roof and wall construction to protect a building from water seepage.

Flatwork- Common word for concrete floors, driveways, basements, and sidewalks.

Floating- The next-to-last stage in concrete work, when you smooth off the job and bring water to the surface by using a hand float or bull float.

Flue- Large pipe through which fumes escape from a gas water heater, furnace, or fireplace. Normally these flue pipes are double walled, galvanized sheet metal pipe and sometimes referred to as a "B Vent". Fireplace flue pipes are normally triple walled. In addition, nothing combustible shall be within one inch from the flue pipe.

Footer, footing- Continuous 8" or 10" thick concrete pad installed before and supports the foundation wall or monopost.

Forced air heating - A common form of heating with natural gas, propane, oil or electricity as a fuel. Air is heated in the furnace and distributed through a set of metal ducts to various areas of the house.

Foundation- The supporting portion of a structure below the first floor construction, or below grade, including the footings.

Framing- Lumber used for the structural members of a building, such as studs, joists, and rafters.

GF C I, or G F I- Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter- an ultra sensitive plug designed to shut off all electric current. Used in bathrooms, kitchens, exterior waterproof outlets, garage outlets, and "wet areas". Has a small reset button on the plug.

Gable- The end, upper, triangular area of a home, beneath the roof.

General Contractor A contractor who enters into a contract with the owner of a project for the construction of the project and who takes full responsibility for its completion, although the contractor may enter into subcontracts with others for the performance of specific parts or phases of the project.

Glued Laminated Beam (Glulam)- A structural beam composed of wood laminations or lams. The lams are pressure bonded with adhesives to attain a typical thickness of 1 ½" . (It looks like 5 or more 2 X 4's are glued together).

Gusset- A flat wood, plywood, or similar type member used to provide a connection at the intersection of wood members. Most commonly used at joints of wood trusses. They are fastened by nails, screws, bolts, or adhesives.

Header- (a) A beam placed perpendicular to joists and to which joists are nailed inframing for a chimney, stairway, or other opening. (b) A wood lintel. (c) The horizontal structural member over an opening (for example over a door or window).

Hearth- The fireproof area directly in front of a fireplace. The inner or outer floor of a fireplace, usually made of brick, tile, or stone.

Heat Rough- Work performed by the Heating Contractor after the stairs and interior walls are built. This includes installing all duct work and flue pipes. Sometimes, the furnace and fireplaces are installed at this stage of construction.

Heat Trim- Work done by the Heating Contractor to get the home ready for the municipal Final Heat Inspection. This includes venting the hot water heater, installing all vent grills, registers, air conditioning services, turning on the furnace, installing thermostats, venting ranges and hoods, and all other heat related work.

Hip- A roof with four sloping sides. The external angle formed by the meeting of two sloping sides of a roof.

Hip roof- A roof that rises by inclined planes from all four sides of a building.

Home run (electrical)- The electrical cable that carries power from the main circuit breaker panel to the first electrical box, plug, or switch in the circuit.

H V A C- An abbreviation for Heat, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning

Insulation- Any material high in resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceiling, or floors of a structure, and will reduce the rate of heat flow.

Jamb- The side and head lining of a doorway, window, or other opening. Includes studs as well as the frame and trim.

Joist- Wooden 2 X 8's, 10's, or 12's that run parallel to one another and support a floor or ceiling, and supported in turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls.

Laminated shingles - Shingles that have added dimensionality because of extra layers or tabs, giving a shake-like appearance. May also be called "architectural shingles" or "three-dimensional shingles."

Ledger (for a Structural Floor)- The wooden perimeter frame lumber member that bolts onto the face of a foundation wall and supports the wood structural floor.

Lien- An encumbrance that usually makes real or personal property the security for payment of a debt or discharge of an obligation.

Lintel- A horizontal structural member that supports the load over an opening such as a door or window.

Load bearing wall- Includes all exterior walls and any interior wall that is aligned above a support beam or girder. Normally, any wall that has a double horizontal top plate.

Mantel- The shelf above a fireplace opening. Also used in referring to the decorative trim around a fireplace opening.

Construct Remodel Improve