Terminology

 

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

A

Above grade – a term applied to any part of a structure or site feature that is above ground level

A/C condenser – The outside fan unit of the air conditioning system, removes heat from the Freon gas, “turns” the gas back into a liquid, then pumps the liquid back to the coil in the furnace

Air Duct – Ducts, usually made of sheet metal, that carry air to all rooms
Air Filters – Adhesive filters made of metal or various fibers that are coated with adhesive liquid to which the particles of lint and dust adhere. These filters will remove as much as 90% of the dirt if they do not become clogged. The more common filters are of the throw-away or disposable type.
Air Infiltration – The amount of air leaking in and out of a building through cracks in walls, windows and doors.

Alligatoring – A condition of paint or aged asphalt brought about by the loss of volatile oils and the oxidation caused by solar radiation. “Alligatoring” produces a pattern of cracks resembling an alligator hide and is ultimately the result of the limited tolerance of paint or asphalt to thermal expansion or contraction.
Appraisal – An expert valuation of property
Asphalt – A dark brown to black, highly viscous, hydrocarbon produced from the residue left after the distillation of petroleum. Asphalt is used on roofs and highways as a waterproofing agent.

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B

Balustrade – The rail, posts and vertical balusters along the edge of a stairway or elevated walkway
Base or baseboard – A trim board placed against the wall around the room next to the floor
Batt Insulation – Strips of insulation – usually fiberglass, that fit between studs or other framing.

Below Grade – The portion of a building that is below ground level.

Blister – An enclosed raised spot evident on the surface of a building. They are mainly caused by the expansion of trapped air, water vapor, moisture or other gases.
Blow insulation – Fiber insulation in loose form and used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed
BTU – British Thermal Unit – The amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water through a change of one degree F.

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C

Cantilever – An overhang, where one floor extends beyond and over a foundation wall (e.g., at a fireplace location or bay window cantilever, normally, not extending over 2 feet
Caulk – A compound used for sealing that has minimum joint movement capability; sometimes called low performance sealant. / The application of sealant to a joint, crack or crevice.

Coating – A layer of any liquid product spread over a surface for protection

Collar – In roofing, a conical metal cap flashing used in conjunction with vent pipes or stacks usually located several inches above the plane of the roof, for the purpose of shedding water away from the base of the vent.
Concrete – The mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel, and water, used to make garage and basement floors, sidewalks, patios, foundation walls, etc., commonly reinforced with steel rods (rebar) or wire screening (mesh)
Condensation – The appearance of moisture (water vapor) on the surface of an object caused by warm moist air coming into contact with a colder object.

Conduction – The flow of heat from one part of a substance to another part. A piece of iron with one end placed in a fire will soon become warm from end to end, from the transfer of heat by the actual collision of the air molecules.

Conductor – (1) In roofing, a pipe for conveying rain water from the roof gutter to a drain, or from a roof drain to the storm drain; also called a leader, downspout, or downpipe. (2) In electrical contracting, a wire through which a current of electricity flows, better known as an electric wire.
Construction drywall – A type of construction in which the interior wall finish is applied in a dry condition, generally in the form of sheet materials or wood paneling as contrasted to plaster
Corrosion – The deterioration of metal by chemical or electro-chemical reaction resulting from exposure to weathering, moisture, chemicals or other agents or media.

Crawl Space – An open area between the floor of a building and the ground.

Curb – A short wall or masonry built above the level of the roof that provides a means of flashing the deck equipment

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D

Damper – Valve for controlling airflow. When ordering registers, make sure each supply outlet
has a damper so the air flow can be adjusted and turned off. Dampers maybe either manually or automatically operated. Automatic dampers are required for exhaust air ducts.

Dampproofing – A process used on concrete, masonry or stone surfaces to repel water, the main purpose of which is to prevent the coated surface from absorbing rain water while still permitting moisture vapor to escape from the structure.

Deck – An elevated platform. “Deck” is also commonly used to refer to the above-ground floors in multi-level parking garage.

Dew Point – The critical temperature at which vapor condenses from the atmosphere and forms water.

Dormer – The house-like structure which projects from a sloping roof.
Double-hung window – A window with two vertically sliding sashes, both of which can move up and down
Double-Glazing – In general, any use of two sheets of glass, separated by an air space, within an opening, to improve insulation against heat transfer and/or sound transmission. In insulating glass units the air between the glass sheets is thoroughly dried and the space is sealed, eliminating possible condensation and providing superior insulating properties.

Downspout – The metal pipe used to drain water from a roof.

Drip Edge – A device designed to prevent water from running back or under an overhang.

Drywall – Sheetrock (gypsum board or gyprock) that covers the framing and is taped, coated and finished to make the interior walls and ceilings of a building.

Duct – A cylindrical or rectangular “tube” used to move air either from exhaust or intake. The installation is referred to as “duct work”.
DWV (drain-waste-vent) – Section of a plumbing system that carries water and sewer gases out of a home

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E

Eave – The part of a roof which projects out from the side wall, or the lower edge of the part of a roof that overhangs a wall.

Efflorescence – The process by which water leeches soluble salts out of concrete or mortar and deposits them on the surface. Also used as the name for these deposits.
Electrical rough-in – 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)
Elevation – A side of a building.
End Dams – Internal flashing (dam) that prevents water from moving laterally within a curtain wall or window wall system.
Expansion joint – Fibrous material (1/2″ thick) installed in and around a concrete slab to permit it to move up and down (seasonally) along the non-moving foundation wall

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F

Facade – The front of a building. Frequently, in architectural terms an artificial or decorative effort.

Face Brick – Brick made especially for exterior use with special consideration of colour, texture and size and used as a facing on a building.

Fascia – Any cover board or framed metal assembly at the edge or eaves of a flat, sloping, or overhanging roof which is placed in a vertical position to protect the edge of the roof assembly.

Fasteners – A general term covering a wide variety of screws and nails which may be used for mechanically securing various components of a building.
Flakeboard – A manufactured wood panel made out of 1″- 2″ wood chips and glue, often used as a substitute for plywood in the exterior wall and roof sheathing, also called OSB or wafer board
Finish Grade – Any surface which has been cut to or built to the elevation indicated for that point. The surface elevation of lawn, driveway or other improved surfaces after completion of grading operations.

Flashing – Weatherproof material installed between roof sheathing (or wall sheathing) and the finish materials to help keep moisture away from the sheathing.

Flashing, (Step) – Individual small pieces of metal flashing material used to flash around chimneys, dormers and such projections along the slope of a roof. The individual pieces are overlapped and stepped up the vertical surface.

Flashing, (Thru-wall) – Flashing extended completely through a masonry wall. Designed and applied in combination with counterflashings, to prevent water which may enter the wall above from proceeding downward in the wall or into the roof deck or roofing system.

Floor Plan – The basic layout of building or addition, which includes placement of walls, windows and doors as well as dimensions.

Footings – Wide pours of concrete reinforced with re-bar (reinforcing bar) that support foundation walls, pillars, or posts. Footings are part of the foundation and are often poured before the foundation walls.

Furnace – A heating system that uses the principle of thermal convection. When air is heated, it rises and as the air cools it settles. Ducts are installed to carry the hot air from the top of the furnace to the rooms. Other ducts,
called cold air returns, return the cooler air back to the furnace.
Furring strips – Strips of wood, often 1′ x 2′, used to shim out and provide a level fastening surface for a wall or ceiling

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G

Gable – The end, upper, triangular area of a home, beneath the roof
Gaskets – Pre-formed shapes, such as strips, grommets, etc., of rubber or rubber-like composition, used to fill and seal a joint or opening either alone or in conjunction with a supplemental application of a sealant.

Gauge – The thickness of sheet metal and wire, etc.

Glazing – (n) A generic term used to describe an infill material such as glass, panels, etc. (v) the process of installing an infill material into a prepared opening in windows, door panels, partitions, etc.
Grade line – a pre-determined line indicating the proposed elevation of the ground surface around a building
Gravel – Loose fragments of rock used for surfacing built-up roofs, in sizes varying from 1/8” to 1 3/4”.

Grout or Groutting – A cement mortar mixture commonly used to fill joints and cavities of masonry or in between tiles.

Gutter – Metal trough at the eaves of a roof to carry rain water from the roof to the downspout.

Gutter Strap – Metal bands used to support the gutter.
Gyp board (also drywall, wall board, or gypsum) – A panel (normally 4′ x 8′, 10′, 12′, or 16′) made with a core of gypsum (chalk-like) rock, which covers interior walls and ceilings

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H

Hatch – An opening in a deck; floor or roof. The usual purpose is to provide access from inside the building.
Haunch – An extension, knee-like protrusion of the foundation wall that a concrete porch or patio will rest upon for support
Header – Framing members over windows, doors, or other openings.
Heat Rough – Work performed by the heating contractor after the stairs and interior walls are built, includes installing all duct work and flue pipes, sometimes the furnace and fireplaces are installed at this stage of construction
Honey combs – The appearance concrete makes when rocks in the concrete are visible and where there are void areas in the foundation wall, especially around concrete foundation windows
HVAC – Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning.

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I

I-beam – A steel beam with a cross section resembling the letter I, used for long spans as basement beams or over wide wall openings, such as a double garage door, when wall and roof loads bear down on the opening
Insulation – (1) Generally, any material which slows down or retards the flow or transfer of heat. Building insulation types are classified according to form as loose fill, flexible, rigid, reflective and foamed-in-place. All types are rated according to their ability to resist heat flow (R-Value). (2) In electrical contracting, rubber or thermoplastic wire covering. The thickness of insulation varies with wire size and type of material, application or other code limitations.
Insulation board, rigid – A structural building board made of coarse wood or cane fiber in ½- and 25/32-inch thickness, can be obtained in various size sheets and densities

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J

Jamb – The frame in which a door or window sits.
Joint – The location between the touching surfaces of two members or components joined and held together by nails, glue, cement, mortar, or other means
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

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K

Keeper – The metal latch plate in a door frame into which a doorknob plunger latches
Keyway – A slot formed and poured on a footer or in a foundation wall when another wall will be installed at the slot location, gives additional strength to the joint/meeting point

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L

Laminated shingles – Shingles that have added dimensionality because of extra layers or tabs, giving a shake-like appearance, also called “architectural shingles” or “three-dimensional shingles”
Landing – A platform between flights of stairs or at the termination of a flight of stairs, often used when stairs change direction, usually no less than 3 ft. x 3 ft. square
Lap – To extend one material partially over another; the distance so extended.
Level – True horizontal, also a tool used to determine level
Lintel – or header – A horizontal piece of wood or steel over an opening such as a window or door to support the walls immediately above the opening. Lintels can also be steel or stone.

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M

Membrane – A generic term relating to a variety of sheet goods used for certain built-up roofing repairs and applications.
Moulding – A wood strip having an engraved, decorative surface, used to conceal or decorate a joint
Mudsill – Bottom horizontal member of an exterior wall frame which rests on top a foundation, sometimes called sill plate, also sole plate, bottom member of interior wall frame

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N

Natural finish – A transparent finish which does not seriously alter the original colour or grain of the natural wood, natural finishes are usually provided by sealers, oils, varnishes, water repellent preservatives, and other similar materials
Newel post – The large starting post to which the end of a stair guard railing or balustrade is fastened

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O

Open-hole inspection – When an engineer (or municipal inspector) inspects the open excavation and examines the earth to determine the type of foundation (caisson, footer, wall on ground, etc.) that should be installed in the hole
Overhang – That part of the roof structure which extends horizontally beyond the vertical plane of the exterior walls of a building.

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P

Paver Stones – Usually pre-cast concrete slabs used to create a traffic surface.

Pitch – The incline slope of a roof or the ratio of the total rise to the total width of a house (i.e., a 6-foot rise and 24-foot width is a one-fourth pitch roof), roof slope is expressed in the inches of rise, per foot of horizontal run
PITI – Principal, interest, taxes and insurance (the four major components of monthly housing payments)
Polyurethane Sealant – An organic compound formed by reaction of a glycol with and isocyanate.

Ponding – A condition where water stands on a roof for prolonged periods due to poor drainage and/or deflection of the deck.

Porosity – The density of substance and its capacity to pass liquids.

Pressure Treated Lumber – Lumber that is treated in such a way that the sealer is forced into the pores of the wood.
PVC or CPVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) – A type of white or light gray plastic pipe sometimes used for water supply lines and waste pipe

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Q

Quarry tile – A man-made or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall, generally 6″ x 6″ x 1/4″ thick

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R

Rafter – Lumber used to support the roof sheeting and roof loads, generally 2 x 10’s and 2 x 12’s are used, rafters of a flat roof are sometimes called roof joists
Rail – The top and bottom frame members of a door or window (not the jamb).
Return – In heating and cooling systems, a vent that returns cold air to be warmed. In a hot air furnace system, it is located near an inside wall.

Roof System – General term referring to the waterproof covering, roof insulation, vapor barrier, if used, and roof deck as an entity.
Roughing-in – The initial stage of a plumbing, electrical, heating, carpentry, and/or other project, when all components that won’t be seen after the second finishing phase are assembled
Resistance Value (RSI or R-Value) – A measure of insulation, measure of a material’s resistance to the passage of heat, the higher the R value, the more insulating “power” it has (e.g., typical new home’s walls are usually insulated with 4″ of batt insulation with an R-Value of R-13, and a ceiling insulation of R-30)
R-Value – The thermal resistance of a glazing system. The R-value is the reciprocal of the U-value. The higher the R value, the less heat is transmitted throughout the glazing material.

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S

Sash – The window frame, including muntin bars if used, to receive the glazing infill.

Scupper – An outlet in the wall of a building or a parapet wall for drainage of water from a flat roof.

Sealant – An elastomeric material with adhesive qualities applied between components of a similar or dissimilar nature to provide an effective barrier against the passage of the elements.

Sheathing – Plywood, gypsum or wood fiber encasing walls, ceilings, floors and roofs of framed buildings. It is the first layer of outer wall covering nailed to the studs or rafters.

Shingles – Small units of material which are laid in a series of overlapping rows as a roof covering on pitched roofs.

Silicone Sealant – A sealant having as its chemical compound a backbone consisting of alternate silicon-oxygen atoms.

Sill Plate – The framing member anchored to the foundation wall upon which studs and other framing members will be attached. It is the bottom plate of your exterior walls.

Sill Step – The first step coming directly off a building at the door openings.

Skylight – A structure on a roof that is designed to admit light and is somewhat above the plane of the roof surface.

Slab on Grade – A type of construction in which footings are needed, but little or no foundation wall is poured.

Slope – Incline or pitch of roof surface.
Slump – The “wetness” of concrete (e.g., a 3-inch slump is dryer and stiffer than a 5-inch slump)
Soffit – The underside of a part or member of a building extending out from the plane of the building walls.
Sound attenuation – Sound-proofing a wall or sub-floor, generally with fiberglass insulation
Spalling – The chipping or flaking of concrete, bricks, or other masonry where improper drainage or venting and freeze/thaw cycling exists.

Splitting – The formation of long cracks completely through a membrane. Splits are frequently associated with lack of allowance for expansion stresses. They can also be a result of deck deflection or change in deck direction.
Spec Home – A house built before it is sold, builders speculate that they can sell it at a profit
Stack – The vertical pipe of a system of soil, waste or vent piping.

Stucco – A type of cementitious exterior finish.

Sub-floor – Material (such as particleboard) installed before finish flooring materials.

Substrate – A part or substance which lies below and supports another.

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T

Thermal Movement – The measured amount of dimensional change that a material exhibits as it is warmed or cooled.
Threshold – The bottom metal or wood plate of an exterior door frame, they are adjustable to keep a tight fit with the door slab
Tooling – The operation of pressing on a sealant in a joint to press the sealant against the sides of a joint to secure good adhesion; the finishing off of the surface of a sealant in a joint so that it is flush with the surface.
Truss – An engineered and manufactured roof support member with “zig-zag” framing members does the same job as a rafter but is designed to have a longer span than a rafter
Tuck Pointing – The re-grouting of defective mortar joints in a masonry or brick wall.
Turnkey – A term used when the subcontractor provides all materials (and labour) for a job

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U

Ultraviolet – The invisible rays of the spectrum of light which are at its violet end. Sometimes abbreviated U.V.

Underlayment – A material placed under finish coverings, such as flooring or shingles, to provide a smooth, even surface for applying the finish
Utility easement – The area of the earth that has electric, gas, or telephone lines, these areas may be owned by the homeowner, but the utility company has the legal right to enter the area as necessary to repair or service the lines

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V

Vapor – The gaseous form of any substance.
Vapour barrier – A building product installed on exterior walls and ceilings under the drywall and on the warm side of the insulation, it is used to retard the movement of water vapor into walls and prevent condensation within them (e.g., polyethylene plastic sheeting)
Vent – A vertical pipe or duct which allows the flow of air and gasses to the outside, another word for the moving glass part of a window sash (i.e., window vent)
Venting – The process of installing roof vents in a roof assembly to relieve vapor pressure; the
process of water in the insulation course of the roof assembly evaporating and exiting via the roof vents.

Vent Stack – A vertical vent pipe installed for the purpose of providing circulation of air to and from any part of a drainage system.

Vent System – In plumbing, a system to provide a flow of air to or from a drainage system or to provide circulation of air within such system to protect trap and seals from siphonage and back pressure.
Voltage – A measure of electrical potential, most homes are wired with 110- and 220-volt lines, 110-volt power is used for lighting and most of the other circuits, 220-volt power is used for the kitchen range, hot water heater, and dryer

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W

Walk Ways – Designated areas for foot traffic.

Water Vapor – Moisture existing as a gas in air.
Weatherization – Work on a building exterior in order to reduce energy consumption for heating or cooling, any work that involves adding insulation, installing storm windows and doors, caulking cracks, or putting on weather-stripping
Weep holes – Small holes in storm window frames that allow moisture to escape (drain)
Wet Seal – Application of an elastomeric sealant between the glass and sash to form a weather tight seal.

Wind Uplift – The upward force exerted by wind traveling across a roof.

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X

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Y

Yard of concrete – One cubic yard of concrete is 3′ x 3′ x 3′ in volume, or 27 cubic feet, one cubic yard of concrete will pour 80 square feet of 3 ½” sidewalk or basement/garage floor

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Z

Z-bar flashing – Bent, galvanized metal flashing installed above a horizontal trim board of an exterior window, door, or brick run, prevents water from getting behind the trim/brick and into the home
Zoning – A governmental process and specification which limits the use of a property (e.g., single-family use, high-rise residential use, industrial use), zoning laws may limit where you can locate a structure