Glossary of Terms


Airway: a space between roof insulation and roof boards for movement of air.

Anchor bolts: bolts used to secure a wood sill to concrete or to masonry flooring or walls.

Apron: the inside trim of a window, placed against the wall immediately beneath the stool.

Attic ventilators: screened openings provided to ventilate attic spaces. They are located in the soffit area as inlet ventilators and in the gable end or along the ridge as outlet ventilators. Attic ventilators can also be power-driven fans used as an exhaust system. See also Louver.

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

Backfill: the replacement of excavated earth in a trench around and against a basement foundation.

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

Balustrade: an assembly of balusters, top rail, and sometimes bottom rail; used on the edge of stairs, balconies, and porches.

Barge board: a decorative board covering the projecting rafter (fly rafter) of the gable end. At the cornice, this member is called a fascia board.

Base, Baseboard: a board placed at the base of a wall, next to the floor, to finish properly the joint between floor and wall surface.

Base molding: molding used to trim the upper edge of a baseboard.

Batten: a narrow strip of wood used to cover a joint or as a decorative vertical member over plywood or a wide board.

Batter board: one of a pair of horizontal boards nailed to posts set at the corners of an excavation-used to indicate a desired level; a fastening for stretched strings to indicate outlines of foundation walls.

Bay window: any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building, either rectangular or polygonal in plan.

Beam: a structural member, usually horizontal, that supports a load.

Bearing partition: a partition that supports a vertical load, in addition to its own weight.

Bearing wall: a wall that supports a vertical load in addition to its own weight.

Blind-nailing: nailing in such a way that the nail heads are not visible on the face of the work; usually through the tongue of matched boards.

Blind stop: a rectangular molding, usually 3/4" x 1 1/8" or more in width, used in assembling a window frame. Serves as a stop for storm and screen or combination windows and to resist air infiltration.

Blocking: see bridging.

Board lumber: yard lumber usually 1 in. thick but always less than 2 in. thick; 2 in. or more wide.

Boiled linseed oil: linseed oil in which enough lead, manganese, or cobalt salts have been incorporated to make the oil harden more rapidly when spread in thin coats.

Bolster: a short horizontal timer or steel beam on top of a column that spreads the load of beams or girders.

Boston ridge: asphalt or wood shingles applied at the ridge or the hips of a roof, as a finish.

Brace: an inclined piece of framing lumber applied to walls or floors to stiffen the structure. Often used on walls as temporary bracing until framing and sheathing are complete.

Brick veneer: a facing of brick laid against and fastened to sheathing of a frame-wall or tile-wall construction.

Bridging, cross-bridging: small wood or metal members inserted in a diagonal position between the floor joists at midspan to act both as tension and as compression members for the purpose of bracing the joists and spreading the action of loads. Solid bridging, or blocking, uses lengths of dimension lumber for similar effect.

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.

Butt joint: the junction where the ends of two timbers or other members meet in a square-cut joint.

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Cant strip:
a triangular piece of lumber used at the junction of a flat deck and a wall to prevent cracking of the roofing applied over it.

Cap: the upper member of a column, pilaster, door cornice, molding, and so on.

Carriage: see stair carriage.

Casement frames and sash: frames of wood or metal enclosing part or all of the sash, which can be opened by means of hinges affixed to the vertical edges.

Casing: molding of various widths and thickness used to trim door and window openings.

Checking: fissures that appear with age in many exterior materials and paint coatings.

Collar beam: members connecting opposite roof rafters that stiffen the roof structure. Also called "collar ties."

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 that supports loads acting in the direction of its longitudinal axis.

Combination doors, windows: combination doors or windows that provide winter insulation and summer protection and often have self-storing or removable glass and screen inserts.

Condensation: in a building, beads, drops of water, or frost that accumulate on the inside of the exterior covering of a building when warm, moisture-laden air from the interior reaches a point where it can no longer hold moisture.

Construction, frame: a type of construction in which the structural parts are wood or a material that is supported by a wood frame.

Coped joint: see scribing.

Corbel out: to build out one or more courses of brick or stone from the face of a wall, to support overhanging elements above.

Corner bead: a strip of formed sheet metal placed on drywall or plaster corners as reinforcement. In addition, a strip of wood finish, three-quarters round or angular, placed over a plastered corner for protection.

Corner boards: trim on the external corners of a house; the ends of the siding often abut corner boards.

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

Cornerite: metal-mesh lath cut in strips and bent at a right angel. Used in interior corners of walls and ceilings on lath to prevent cracks in plastering.

Cornice: the overhang of a pitched roof at the eave line, usually consisting of a fascia board, a soffit (for a closed cornice), and appropriate molding. On a flat-roofed structure, the cornice is often the uppermost part of the roof, where it overhangs the front of the house.

Counterflashing: two-piece flashing commonly used on chimneys at the roof line to cover shingle flashing and prevent moisture from entering.

Cove molding: a molding with a concave face, used as trim to finish interior corners.

Crawl space: a shallow space below the living quarters of a house without a basement normally enclosed by foundation walls.

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. Sometimes called a "saddle."

Crown molding: a molding used on a cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered; also a complex molding at the top of an interior wall.

Cut-in-brace: nominal 2"-thick members, usually 2 x 4's, cut diagonally between studs. See also Let-in-brace.

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a rectangular groove, usually across the width of a board or plank.

Deck paint: enamel with a high degree of resistance to wear, designed for use on such surfaces as porch floors.

Dew point: the temperature at which a vapor begins to condense as a liquid.

Dimension lumber: usually lumber 2" thick but not thicker than 5" and wider than 2". The term includes joists, rafters, studs, planks, and small timbers.

Doorjamb, interior: the surrounding frames of a door; consists of two upright pieces, called "side jambs," and a horizontal head, or head jamb.

Dormer: an opening in a sloping roof, the framing of which protrudes, forming a vertical wall suitable for windows and other openings.

Downspout: a pipe, usually of metal, for carrying rainwater from roof gutters.

Drip cap: a molding placed on the exterior top side of a door or window frame, causing water to drip beyond the frame.

Drip edge: a metal edge projecting over other parts (especially along the edges of roofs), for throwing off water.

Drip kerf: a groove under a sill, which allows water to drip free from a surface rather than cling and run down the face of a house.

Drywall: interior covering material, usually gypsum board, applied in large sheets or panels. Commonly called "Sheetrock," a major brand, though Sheetrock may not be material actually used.

Ducts: usually round or rectangular metal pipes for distributing warm air from a heating plant to rooms, or air from a conditioning device.

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the margin, or lower part of a roof, which project over a wall.

nailing perpendicular to the surface or the junction of pieces that are joined. Also called "direct nailing."

Fascia or facia: a flat board, band, or face sometimes used alone, though usually in combination with moldings; most often located at the outer face of a cornice.

Finish, natural: a transparent finish that does not seriously alter the original color or grain of wood. A sealer, oils, varnishes, water-repellant preservatives, and similar materials usually provide natural finishes.

Fire stop: located in a frame wall, usually consists of 2x4 cross-blocking between studs; prevents spread of fire and smoke.

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

Flat paint: an interior paint that contains a high proportion of pigment; dries to a flat, lusterless finish.

Flue: fire clay or terra cotta liners in a chimney through which smoke, gas, and fumes ascend. Each passage is called a "flue." The flues, together with other parts and the surrounding masonry, constitute a chimney.

Fly rafters: end rafters of a gable overhang supported by roof sheathing and lookouts.

Footing: a masonry section, usually concrete, in a rectangular form wider than the bottom of the foundation wall or pier it supports.

Foundation: the supporting portion of a structure below the first-floor construction, or below grade (ground level), including the footings.

Frieze: in house construction, a horizontal member connecting the tip of the siding with the soffit of the cornice.

Frost line: the depth of frost penetration in soil.

Furring: strips of wood or metal applied to a wall or another surface to even it and, normally, to serve as a fastening base for finish material.

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in house construction, the portion of the roof above the eave line of a double-sloped roof.

Gable end: an end wall that has a gable.

Girder: a large, or the principal, beam of wood, or steel used to support concentrated loads, such as joist ends, along its length.

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

Grain: the direction, size, arrangement, appearance, and quality of the fibers in wood.

Grout: mortar made of such consistency (by adding water) that it would flow into the joints and cavities of masonry work, filling them.

Gusset: a flat wood, plywood, or similar member used to provide a connection at the intersection of wood members; commonly used at wood-truss joints. Nails, screws, bolts, or adhesive fastens gussets.

Gutter: a shallow channel of metal or wood set below and along the eaves of a house to catch and carry rainwater away from the roof.

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(a) a beam placed perpendicular to joists, to which joists are nailed in framing for a chimney, stairway, or some other opening; (b) a wood lintel; (c) in floor framing, the outermost joists running perpendicular to others in the grid.

Hip: the external angle formed by the meeting o two sloping sides of a roof.

a steel beam with a cross-section resembling the letter "I." Used for such long spans such as basement beams and over wide wall openings-for example, a double garage door-when wall and roof loads are imposed upon an opening.

Insulation, thermal: any material high in resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceiling, or floors of a structure, reduces the rate of heat flow.

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

Jack rafter:
a rafter that spans the distance from the wall plate to a hip, or from a valley to a ridge.

Jamb: the side element, of a doorway, window, or similar opening.

Joint: the space between the adjacent surfaces of two members or components, typically joined and held together by nails, glue, screws, or mortar.

Joist: one of a series of parallel beams, usually 2 in. thick, used to support floor and ceiling loads and supported, in turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls.

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applying a plastic laminate to a core material. In framing, nailing or bolting two or more pieces of lumber together to increase load-carrying ability.

Landing: a platform between flights of stairs or where a flight of stairs ends.

Lath: a building material of wood, metal, gypsum, or insulating board fastened to the frame of a building and serving as a plaster base.

Lattice: a framework of crossed wood pieces or metal strips.

Ledger strip: a strip of lumber nailed along the bottom side of a girder, on which joists rest. In deck construction, the part of the frame attached to the main house.

Let-in brace: metal or 1-in.-thick board braces notched into studs. See also Cut-in brace.

Light: the space in a window sash for a single pane of glass; also, a pane of glass.

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

Lookout: a short, wood bracket or cantilever that supports the overhang portion of a roof or similar structure; usually concealed from view.

Louver: an opening with a series of horizontal slats arranged to permit ventilation but exclude rain, sunlight, or vision.

Lumber, dressed size: the dimension of lumber after it is shrunk from its green dimensions and after machining to size or pattern.

Lumber, matched: lumber dressed and shaped on one edge in a grooved pattern and in a tongued pattern on the other.

Lumber, shiplap: lumber edge-dressed to make a close, rabbeted, or lapped joint.

Lumber, timber: yard lumber 5 in. or more in its shortest dimension. The term may include beams, stringers, posts, caps, sill, girders, and purlins.

Lumber, yard: lumber of a grade, size, and pattern usually intended for ordinary construction, for example, framework and rough coverage of houses.

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the shelf above a fireplace.

Masonry: stone, brick, concrete, hollow tile, concrete block, gypsum block, or similar building material, or a combination of these materials, bonded together with mortar to form a wall, pier, buttress, or similar mass.

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

Migration: the movement of a jack, or structural member due to the loads upon it, a dangerous situation if a jack is not plumb.

Millwork: generally, any building material made of finished wood and manufactured in millwork plants and planning mills; term covers such items as doors, window and door frames, blinds, porch work, mantels, paneling, stairways, molding, and trim, but normally not flooring, ceilings, or siding.

Miter joint: the joint of two pieces set at an angle that bisects the joining angle. For example, the 90-degree miter joint at the side and head casing at a door opening is made up of two 45-degree angles.

Molding: a shaped wood strip used for decoration.

Mortise: a slot cut in a board, plank, or timber, usually edgewise, to receive the tenon of another board, plank, or timber.

Mudsill: see sill.

Mullion: a vertical bar or divider in the frame between windows, doors, or other openings.

Muntin: a small member that divides the glass or openings of sash or doors.

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a post to which the end of a stair railing or balustrade is fastened.

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

Nosing: usually the projecting edge of a stair tread.

On center (O.C.):
the measurement of spacing for studs, rafters, joists, and so on in a building, from the center of one member to the center of the next.

Outrigger: the extension of a rafter beyond the wall line; usually a smaller rafter nailed to a larger one, forming a cornice or roof overhang.

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a combination of pigments with suitable thinners or oils; used as a decorative and protective coating.

Paper, building: a general term indicating such sheet materials as rosin papers and felts.

Parting stop or trip: a small wood piece used in the jambs and head of double-hung window frames to separate upper an lower sash.

Partition: a wall that subdivides spaces within any story of a house.

Penny: as applied to nails, originally indicated the price per hundred; term is now a measure of nail length and is abbreviated "d."

Pier: a column of masonry, usually rectangular in horizontal cross-section, used to support other structural members.

Pitch: the inclined slope of a roof or the ratio of the total rise to the total width of a house that is, a rise of 8' and a width of 24' is a one-third-pitch roof. Roof slope is expressed in inches of rise per 12" of run.

Plaster grounds: strips of wood used as guides or strike-off edges around window and door openings and around the base of walls.

Plate: sill plate: a horizontal member anchored to a masonry wall. Sole plate or shoe: the lowest horizontal member of a frame wall. Top plate: the highest horizontal member of a frame wall, which supports ceiling joists, rafters, or other members.

Plough: to cut a lengthwise groove in a board or a plank.

Plumb: exactly perpendicular; vertical.

Preservative: any substance that, for a reasonable period, prevents the action of wood-destroying fungi, bores of various kinds, and similar destructive agents.

Primer: the first coat of paint in a paint job; consists of two or more coats. In addition, the paint used for such a first coat.

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a small molding that has the cross-section of a quarter-circle.

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a rectangular, longitudinal groove cut in the corner edge of a board or a plank.

Radiant heating: a method of heating, usually consisting of a forced hot water system with pipes placed in the floor, wall, or ceiling; or with electrically heated panels.

Rafter: one of a series of structural members of a roof designed to support roof loads. The rafters of a flat roof are sometimes called "roof joists."

Rafter, hip: a rafter that forms the intersection of an external roof angle.

Rafter, valley: a rafter that forms the intersection of an internal roof angle. Valley rafters are usually doubled 2-in.-thick members.

Rail: horizontal-framing members of a panel door, sash, or a cabinet frame. In addition, the upper and lower members of a balustrade or staircase extending from one vertical support (such as a post) to another.

Rake: trim members that run parallel to the roof slope and form the finish between the wall and a gable-roof extension.

Reinforcement: steel rods or metal fabric placed in concrete slabs, beams, or columns to increase their strength.

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

Ridge board: the board placed on edge at the ridge of the roof, to which the upper ends of rafters are fastened.

Rise: in stairs, the vertical height of a step or flight of stairs.

Riser: each of several vertical boards used to close spaces between stairway treads. Roll roofing: roofing material composed of asphalt-saturated fiber, supplied in 36"-wide rolls, with 108 square feet of material.

Roof sheathing: boards or sheet material fastened to the roof rafters on which shingles or other roof coverings are laid.

Run: in stairs, the net width of a step or the horizontal distance covered by a flight of stairs.

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see cricket.

Sash: a frame containing one or more lights of glass.

Sash balance: a device, usually operated by a spring or a weight, designed to counterbalance the weight of a window sash.

Saturated felt: felt impregnated with tar or asphalt.

Screed: a small strip of wood, usually the thickness of a plaster coat, used as a guide for plastering. In addition, a board used to level newly laid concrete.

Scribing: fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.

Sealer: a finishing material, clear or pigmented, usually applied directly over uncoated wood to seal the surface.

Semigloss paint or enamel: a paint or enamel that has some luster but which is not particularly glossy.

Shake: a thick, handsplit shingle.

Sheathing: the structural covering, usually wood boards or plywood, used over studs or rafters of a structure. Structural building board is normally used only as wall sheathing.

Sheet-metal work: all components of a house made of sheet metal, for example, flashing, gutters, and down-spouts.

Shoe, base: molding used next to the floor on interior baseboard. Also the bottom plate of a frame wall.

Siding: the finish covering of the outside wall of a frame building, whether made of clapboards, vertical boards with battens, shingles, or some other material.

Sill: in framing (here, also called a "mudsill"), the lowest member of the frame of a structure; rests on the foundation and supports the floor joists or the uprights of the wall. In door or window construction, the member forming the lower side of the opening, as the windowsill or doorsill.

Sleeper: usually, a wood member embedded in or placed on concrete, to which subflooring or flooring is attached.

Soffit: usually the underside of an overhanging cornice.

Soil cover: also called "ground cover," a light covering of plastic film, roll roofing, or similar material used over the soil in crawl spaces of houses to minimize moisture permeation of the area.

Soil stack: a general term used to indicate the vertical main of a system of soil, waste, or vent piping.

Sole or sole plate: see plate.

Span: the distance between structural supports, such as walls, columns, piers, beams, girders, and trusses.

Splash block: a small masonry block laid with the top near the ground surface to receive roof drainage from down-spouts and carry it away from the building.

Square: a unit of measure - 100 square feet - usually applied to roofing material. In measurement, two adjacent pieces that join in a right angle.

Stair carriage: supporting member for stair treads. Usually a 2-in. plank notched to receive the treads.

STC (Sound Transmission Class): a measure of the ability of sound to stop noise.

Stile: an upright framing member in a panel door, sash, or cabinet frame.

Stock: the basic materials from which a building element is fashioned. For example, joists may be cut from 2 x 10 stock, or flashing may be cut from 26-gauge aluminum stock.

Stool: a flat molding, usually rabbeted on the underside, that fits over the inside edge of a window sill.

Storm sash or storm window: an extra window usually placed on the outside of an existing one as additional protection against cold air.

Strip flooring: wood flooring consisting of narrow, matched strips.

String, stringer: in stairs, the supports in which stair ends rest; more or less synonymous with "carriage."

Stucco: a plaster made with Portland cement as its base; used outside.

Stud: one of a series of slender, wood or metal, vertical, structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions. Plural: "studs" or "studding."

Subfloor: boards or plywood laid on joists over which a finish floor is laid.

Suspended ceiling: a ceiling system supported by being hung from overhead structural framing.

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Termite shield:
a shield, usually of corrosion-resistant metal, placed in or on a foundation wall or other mass of masonry or around pipes, to prevent termite migration.

Terneplate: sheet iron or steel coated with an alloy of lead and tin.

Threshold: a strip of wood or metal with beveled edges, used over the finish floor and sill of exterior doors.

Toe-nailing: to drive in a nail at an angle, thereby preventing it from pulling free.

Tread: a horizontal board in a stairway on which one-steps.

Trim: the finish materials in a building, such as molding, applied around openings (window trim, door trim), baseboards, and cornices.

Trimmer: a beam or joist to which a header is nailed when framing a chimney, stairway, or other opening. In floor framing, the outermost joists running parallel to the joist grid.

Truss: a frame or jointed structure of smaller elements designed to span long distances.

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a coating applied before a finish or topcoat of paint. It may be the first of two or the second of three coats. Term is synonymous with "priming coat."

Underlayment: a material placed under finish coverings, especially thin flooring materials, to provide a smooth, even base.

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

Vapor barrier: material used to retard the movement of water vapor into walls and thus prevent condensation in them. Usually considered as having a permeability value of less than 1.0. Applied separately over the warm side of exposed walls or as part of batt, or blanket insulation.

Vent: a pipe or duct that allows air to flow in or out.

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narrow, or jamb-width, sections of thin metal or other material designed to prevent infiltration of air and moisture around windows and doors. Compression weather-stripping prevents air infiltration, provides tension, and acts as a counterbalance.

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