Other useful definitions:

0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


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Abut: Joining the ends of construction members.

Adobe: Construction using sun-dried adobe soil for walls; usually found in Southwestern United States.

A-Frame: Structural system utilizing members that when fastened together resemble the letter “A”.

Aggregate: Gravel (coarse) or sand (fine) used in concrete mixes.

Apron: Inside window trim placed under the stool and against the wall.

Arch: A curved structure that supports itself and spans an opening.

Areaway: Recessed area below grade around the foundation to allow light and ventilation into a basement window.

Arras: Sharp edge formed by two surfaces; usually on moldings.

Asbestos Board: Fire-resistant sheet made from asbestos fiber and portland cement.

Ashlar: Masonry utilized cut, squared stone.

Asphalt: Dark, thick by-product of petrocarbon that is used for roof shingles and road surfaces when mixed with mineral particles.

Astragal: T-profiled molding usually used between meeting doors or easement windows.

Atrium: An open court within a building.

Attic: Interior part of gable house that is directly under the roof.

Awning: Roof-like shelter extending from above windows or doors usually made of canvas or other materials.

Axis: Line around which something rotates or is symmetrically arranged.


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Backfill: Earth used to fill in areas around foundation walls.

Base Cabinets: The lower cabinets in kitchens that support the countertops.

Bargeboard: Finish board covering the projecting and sloping portion of a gable roof.

Baseboard: Finish board covering the interior wall where the wall and floor meet.

Batt: A type of fiberglass insulation designed to be installed between framing members.

Batten: Narrow strip of wood nailed over the vertical joint of boards to form board-and-batten siding.

Batter Boards: Horizontal boards at exact elevations nailed to posts outside the corners of a proposed building. Strings are stretched across the boards to locate the outline of the foundation for workers.

Bay Window: A group of windows extending from an outside wall to form an alcove within.

Beam: Horizontal structural member, usually heavier than a joint.

Bearing Plate: Metal plate that provides support for a structural member.

Bearing Wall: A wall that supports structural weight, such as the roof above.

Bench Mark: Mark on some permanent object fixed to the ground from which land measurements and elevations are taken.

Bidet: Low plumbing fixture in luxury bathrooms for bathing one’s private parts.

Blocking: Small wood pieces in wood framing to anchor or support other major members.

Board Measure: System of lumber measurement. The unit is 1 bd. ft., which is 1ft. square by approximately 1 in. thick.

Bond: Arrangement of masonry units in a wall.

Bond Beam: Continuous reinforced concrete block course around the top of masonry walls.

Bracing: Support members in framing that are used to make the major structural members more rigid.

Brick: Small masonry units made from clay and baked in a kiln.

Bridging: Cross bracing or solid blocking between joists to stiffen floor framing.

Building Line: Setback restrictions on property, established by zoning ordinances, beyond which a building must be placed.

Built-Up Roof: Roofing for low-slope roofs composed of several layers of felt and hot asphalt or coal tar, usually covered with small aggregate.

Butt: Type of hinge allowing edge of door to butt into the jamb: a joint that fastens members end to end.

Buttress: Vertical masonry or concrete support, usually larger at the base, which projects from a wall.


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Callout: Note on a drawing with a leader to the relating feature.

Cantilever: A projecting beam or structural member anchored at only one end.

Cant Strip: Angular shaped member used to eliminate a sharp, right angle, often used on flat roofs.

Casing: Trim around window and door openings.

Caulking: Soft, elastic material used to seal small openings around doors, windows, etc.

Cavity Wall: Double masonry wall having an air space between the withes.

Chamfer: beveled edge formed by removing the sharp corner of a material.

Chancel: Space, Screen or railing about the altar of a church.

Chase: Vertical space within a building for ducts, pipes, or wires.

Chord: Top or bottom member of a truss.

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

Collar Beam: Horizontal member tying opposing rafters below the roof ridge.

Column: Vertical supporting member.

Concrete: Hardened mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water. One of our major building materials.

Conduit: Round cross section electrical raceway of metal or plastic.

Control Joint: Continuous vertical joint in masonry walls to control cracking.

Coping: Metal cap of masonry top course of a wall.

Corbel: Projection of masonry from the face of a wall; a stepped coursing bracket to support weight above.

Cornice: Molded projection of the roof overhang at the top of the wall.

Cove: Concave molding usually used on horizontal inside corners.

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

Cricket: Small gable-like roof structure used to divert water and debris from intersection of sloping roof and chimney; also called a saddle.

Cripple: Structural member that is cut less than full length, such as a studding pierce above a window or door.

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

Cut Stone: Stone cut to given sizes and shapes.


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Dado Joint: Recessed joint on the face of a board to receive the end of a perpendicular board.

Damp Roofing:  Material used to prevent passage of moisture.

Deck: Exterior floor. Usually extended from the outside wall.

Dimension Lumber: Framing that is 2” nominal thickness.
Distribution Panel: Electrical unit that distributes the incoming current into smaller circuits.

Domestic Hot Water: Potable (drinkable) hot water that is used for personal needs.

Door Stop: Projecting strip around the inside of the doorframe against which the door clos

Dormer: Top-floor projection of a room built out from a sloping roof to allow light and ventilation.

Double Glazing: Two panes of glass with air sealed between.

Downspout: Pipe for carrying rain water from the roof to the ground or storm drainage system; also called a leader.

Dressed Size: Dimensions of lumber after planning; also known as finished or actual size.

Drip: Projecting construction or groove below an exterior member to throw off rainwater.

Dry-Wall Construction: Interior wall covering other than plaster, usually referred to as
“gypsumboard” or “wallboard”.

Duplex Outlet: Electrical wall outlet having two plug receptacles.


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Eave: Lower portion of the roof that overhangs the walls.

Efflorescence: Undesirable white stains on masonry walls created by moisture from within.

Ell: Extension or wing of a building at right angles to the main section.

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

Expansion Joint: Flexible joint used to prevent cracking or breaking due to thermal expansion and contraction.


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Façade: Face or front elevation of a building.

Face Brick: Brick of better quality used on the face of a wall.

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

Fasteners: General term for metal devices, such as nails, bolts, screws, etc., used to secure structural members within a building.

Fenestration: Arrangement and sizing of doors and windows in a building.

Fiberboard: Fabricated structural sheets made from wood fiber and adhesive under pressure.

Fire Cut: Angular cut at ends of joints framing into a masonry wall.

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

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.

Flitch-Beam: Built-up beam formed by a steel plate sandwiched between two wood members and bolted together for additional strength.

Flue: Vertical opening used to allow smoke and gases to escape, such as within a chimney.

Footing: Poured concrete base upon which foundation walls, columns, or chimneys rest. Usually has a steel reinforcing bar.

Frieze: 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.


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Gable: Triangular-shaped end wall of a gable-roof building.

Glazing: Installation of glass in windows and doors.

Grade: (1) Finished surface of ground around a building. (2) Refers to classification of the quality of lumber or plywood.

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

Gravel Stop: Strip of metal with a vertical lip used to retain the gravel around a built-up roof.

Grounds: Wood strips fastened to walls before plastering that serve as edges for the plaster-nailing base for wood trim.

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, wood, or plastic trough used for carrying rainwater to downspouts.

Gyp Board: Gypsum sheets covered with a paper that are fastened to walls and ceilings with nails or screws.


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Half-Timber: Exterior wall construction having wood frame members exposed and the spaces between filled with stucco or masonry.

Hanger: Metal strap used to support the ends of joists or piping.

Hardware: General term used for the metal parts that are used with conventional components of a wood structure, such as hinges and knobs on wood doors.

Header: In framing, the continuous joist placed across the ends of floor joists, the double joists at each end of floor or ceiling openings attached to the trimmers, and the structural member above window or door openings. In masonry, exposed ends of masonry units laid horizontally.

Headroom: Vertical clearance in a passageway or above a stairway, measured from the edge of the nosing.

Heartwood: Central portion of a tree, which is stronger and more decay-resistant than the surrounding sapwood.

Heat Pump: All electric heating and cooling devices that takes heat from outside air or ground water for heating and reverses for cooling.

Hip Rafter: Diagonal rafter that extends from the plate to the ridge to form the hip.

Hose Bibb: Water faucet made for the threaded attachment of a home.

House Sewer: Watertight soil pipe extending from the exterior of the foundation wall to the sewer main.


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Incandescent Lamp: Lamp in which a filament gives off light.

Interior Trim: general term for all the finish molding, casing, baseboard, etc., applied within the building by finish carpenters.


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Jack Rafter: Rafter shorter than a common rafter; especially used in a hip-roof framing.

Jamb: Vertical members of a finished door or window opening.

Joinery: General woodworking term used for better quality wood-joint construction.

Joist: Structural member that directly supports floors or ceilings and is supported be bearing walls, beams, or girders.


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Kiln-Dried Lumber: Lumber that has been properly dried and cured (to 15% moisture content) resulting in a higher-grade lumber than air-dried.

Knee Wall: Low wall in upper story resulting from 11/2-story construction.

Knocked Down: Unassembled; refers to construction units requiring assembly after being delivered to the job.


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Laminated Beam: Beam made of superimposed layers of similar material (usually wood) by uniting them with glue under pressure.

Laminates: Different sheet materials used in construction that are made with thin layers laminated under pressure.

Lap Joint: Joint produced by lapping and joining two similar members.

Lath: Metal gypsum sheeting used under plaster, stucco, and cement tile.

Lattice: Grillwork made by crossing small wooden strips.

Leader: Vertical pipe or downspout that carries rainwater to the ground or storm sewer.

Ledger: Strip lumber fastened to the lower part of a beam or girder on which notched joists are attached.

Lineal Foot: One-foot measurement along a straight line.

Lintel: Horizontal support over a window or door opening.

Load-Bearing Wall: Wall designed to support the weight imposed upon it from above.

Lookout: Short, wooden framing member used to support an overhanging portion of a roof. It extends from the wall to support the soffit.

Lot Line: Line forming the legal boundary of a piece of property: also called property line.

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

Luminary: Interior lighting fixture


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

Mastic: Flexible adhesive for adhering building materials.

Matte Finish: Finish free of gloss or highlights.

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

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

Module: Standardized unit of measure (e.g., 4”, 12” or 4’0”, etc.) to unify construction.

Monolithic: Term used for concrete work poured and cast in one piece without joints.

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

Mullion: Structural support member between a series of windows.

Muntin: Small bar separating the glass lights in a window sash.


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Narthex: Enclosed passage between entrance and nave of a church.

Nominal Size: Size of lumber before dressing, rather than its actual or finished size.

Nonferrous Metal: Metal containing no iron, such as copper, brass, or aluminum.


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On Center: Method of indicating spacing of framing members by stating the distance from center of one to center of the next.

Outlet: Any type of electrical box allowing current to be drawn from the electrical system for lighting or appliances.

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


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Parapet: Low wall or railing at the edge of a roof; it extends above the roof level.

Parge Coat: Thin coat of cement mortar applied to a masonry wall for refinement or damp roofing.

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

Particle Board: Sheets made from compressed wood fiber.

Party Wall: Wall common to adjoining buildings, which both owners share, such as a wall between row houses or condominiums.

Penny: Term used to identify nail size.

Pergola: Open, structural framework over an outdoor area, usually covered with climbing vines to form an arbor.

Periphery: Entire outside edge of an object or surface.

Pier: Masonry support, usually in the crawl space, to support the floor framing.

Pilaster: Rectangular pier attached to a wall for the purpose of strengthening the wall; also a decorative column attached to a wall.

Pitch: Slope of a roof usually expressed as a ratio.

Plank: Lumber 2” thick or over, nominal.

Plate: Top or bottom horizontal members of a row of studs in a frame wall; also, the sill member over a foundation wall.

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

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


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Quarry Tile: Unglazed, machine- made tile used for floors.

Quarter Round: Small molding with a quarter-circle profile.

Quarter Sawed: Lumber, usually flooring, that has been sawed so that the medullar rays showing on end grain are nearly perpendicular to the face of the lumber.

Quoins: Large squared stones or brick masonry set in the corners of masonry buildings for architectural style.


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Rabbet: groove cut along the edge or end of a board to receive another board.

Rafter: Inclined structural roof member.

Rake:  Inclined edge of a roof that overhangs the gable.

Random Rubble: Stonework having irregular-shaped units and no indication of systematic course work.

Rebar: Steel reinforcing bars.

Reveal: Side of an opening of a window or door.

Ribbon: A wooden strip put into the studs to provide a bearing for joints.

Ridge Board: Horizontal wood framing member to which the top of rafters are attached.

Riprap: Stone placed on an incline to prevent erosion.

Rise: Vertical height of a roof or stairs.

Rough Hardware: All the concealed fasteners in a building, such as nails, bolts, and hangers.

Rough Opening: Any unfinished opening in the framing of a building.

Rowlock: Brickwork with exposed ends set vertically.

Run: Horizontal distance of a flight of stairs, or the horizontal distance from the outside wall to the ridge of a roof.


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Saddle: Small gable roof placed in back of a chimney on a sloping roof to shed water and debris; also called a cricket.

Sash: Individual frame into which glass is set.            The moveable part of a double-hung window.

Scarf Joint: Joint made with diagonal ends.

Schedule: Listing of finishes, doors, windows, etc., on working drawings.

Scuttle: A small opening in the ceiling to provide access to an attic or roof.

Setback: Distance from the property lines, front, side and rear, to the face of a building; established by zoning ordinances.

Shake: Hand-split wood shingle.

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

Shoe Mold: Small rounded molding covering the joint between the flooring and the baseboard.

Sill: Horizontal exterior member below a window or door opening. In frame construction, the lowest structural member that rests on the foundation.

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

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

Soil Stack: Vertical plumbing pipe that carries sewage.

Soleplate: Horizontal member of a frame wall that is directly under the studs.

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

Square: In roofing, 100 sq. ft. of roofing.

Stile: Vertical framing member of a panel door.

Stool: Horizontal interior member of the frame below a window

Story: Space between two floors of a building.

Stucco: Exterior finish for masonry or wood; made from cement, sand, and hydrated lime mixed with water and applied wet.

Studs: Vertical framing members in a wall spaced 16” or 24″ o.c.

Sub-floor: Material fastened directly to floor joists below the finish floor.

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


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Tail Joists: Relatively shorter joists that join against a header or trimmer in floor framing.

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

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.

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

Toenail: Nailing diagonally through a member.

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

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

Trimmer: The longer floor or ceiling framed member around the 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 to support over long spans.

Trussed Rafter: Truss space close enough (usually 24” o.c.) to eliminate the need for purloins.


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Valley Rafter: Diagonal rafter at the intersection of two intersecting, sloping roofs.

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

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

Vent Stack: Vertical soil pipe connected to the drainage system to allow ventilation and pressure equalization.


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

Wall Tie: Small metal strip or steel wire used to bind courses of masonry in cavity-wall construction or to bind masonry to wood frame in veneer construction.

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.

Weep Hole: Small holes in masonry cavity walls to release moisture accumulation to the exterior.

Welded Wire Fabric (WWF): Metal fabric made from wire welded together at right angles and used for concrete reinforcement.

Winder: Stair tread that is wider at one end than the other, allowing the stairs to change directions.

Wythe: Pertaining to a single-width masonry wall.


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