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AIR BARRIER: material or surface designed to prevent passage of air, but not water vapor.
AIR GAP: a separation between any pipe or faucet conveying water and the flood-level rim of any plumbing receptacle.
ALCOVE: a recessed part or addition to a room.
AMPACITY: ampere-carrying capacity of a wire.
AMPERE: unit of electrical current. Often abbreviated amp.
ANTI-SIPHON VALVE: valve on a lawn sprinkler that prevents the sprinkler water from backflowing into the main water supply.
ASBESTOS: a fire and heat-resistant material used in construction until the early 1970s, when it was discovered to pose health hazards.
ASH DUMP: opening in the floor of a fireplace for ash disposal.
ASPHALT PLASTIC CEMENT: asphalt used to seal roofing materials together.
ATTIC: the space under the roof of a structure but above the top floor.
BACK-FLOW PREVENTER VALVE: see anti-siphon valve above.
BALLOON FRAME: wood frame in which studs are continuous from the sill plate to the top plate of the top floor.
BALUSTER: vertical member under a stair, deck, or porch railing.
BASEBOARD: Any board or molding covering an interior wall where it meets the floor.
BATT: An oblong blanket of fiberglass insulation.
BATTEN: thin wood molding used to cover a joint (usually used with siding).
BAY WINDOW: window that projects outward from the wall.
BEARING WALL: wall that supports a load from above, such as a vertical load of a roof system.
BlTUMIN: substance containing oil or coal-based compounds; (asphalt based roofing material).
BRANCH CIRCUIT: one of several circuits in a building, originating at the service entrance panel and protected by a separate circuit breaker or fuse.
BRICK VENEER: brick facing over wood or masonry frame.
BRIDGING: bracing between floor joists to prevent twisting of joists.
BRITISH THERMAL UNIT (BTU): amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree.
BUILDING PAPER: a waterproof heavy paper used in construction of a roof or wall.
BUILT-UP ROOF: roofing consisting of many alternating layers of asphalt and felt.
BUSS BAR: rectangular metal bar (usually copper) for carrying large electrical current.
BUTT JOINT: joint in which two members meet without overlap or miter.
CAPILLARY: movement of water through small gaps due to adhesion and surface tension.
CASEMENT WINDOW: window hinged on the side and opening outward.
CASING: inside or outside molding.
CELLULOSE INSULATION: loose-fill insulation consisting of shredded and treated newspaper.
CHECK: cracks in the surface of wood resulting from drying and shrinking of the surface faster then the interior.
CLEANOUT PLUG: a threaded fitting in a pipe or fixture that provides access for cleaning or drainage.
CIRCUIT: two or more wires carrying electricity to lights, receptacles, switches and appliances.
CIRCUIT BREAKER: electromechanical device that opens when the circuit exceeds its electrical capacity.
CLAPBOARD: board used for overlapping as horizontal siding.
CLOSED VALLEY: roof valley where the shingles extend in an unbroken line across the valley intersection.
COLLAR TIE BEAM: a horizontal beam fastened above the upper ends of rafters to stabilize them.
CONDUCTOR: wire intended to carry electrical current.
CONDUIT: metal or plastic pipe that surrounds electrical wires and protects them from physical damage.
CONVECTION: heat transfer through either the natural or forced movement of air.
COUNTERSINK: to sink a nail or screw below the surface.
CRAWLSPACE: a space between the ground and the first floor of a house that allows access for repair of utilities that run under the house.
CRICKET: small roof for diverting water away from the back side of a chimney.
CRIPPLE WALL: a short wall built upon the foundation of a house that produces a high crawlspace.
DAMPER: an adjustable plate in the flue of a fireplace or furnace that is used to control the draft from the flames.
DAMP-PROOFING: water-proofing a masonry surface to retard capillary action and water leaks.
DEAD LOAD: load imposed on a structure by the weight of the building materials only.
DECAY: deterioration of wood from attack by fungi or insects.
DEW POINT: air temperature at which water vapor begins to condense as either water or ice (frost).
DIELECTRIC UNION: type of connector that insulates two different types of metal pipe to prevent electrolysis.
DIMENSION LUMBER: framing lumber 2 to 5 inches in nominal thickness and up to 12 inches in nominal width.
DIVERSION VALVE: valve in a septic tank system that allows the user to alternate leach lines.
DORMER: vertical window projecting from a roof; gabled dormers have peaked roofs, shed dormers have shed roofs.
DOUBLE GLAZING: insulated window pane formed by two thicknesses of glass with a sealed air space between them.
DOUBLE LUGGING: running two or more electrical circuits off a single lug (terminal or connector).
DOWNSPOUT: pipes leading from the gutters of a roof to the ground and away from the building.
DRAINAGE: gradual flowing of liquids off a surface. Any system to remove liquid waste or rainwater by channeling its flow to a designated area.
DRIP EDGE: material designed to force water to drip away from roof rakes and eaves.
DUCTS: any conduit for hot air, gas, water, electrical wiring, etc.
EAVES: the lower part of a roof that projects beyond an exterior wall.
EGRESS WINDOW: window whose clear dimensions are large enough that it can serve as a fire exit.
ELEVATION: view of a vertical face of a building.
FASCIA: vertical flat board at the roof eaves, that the gutters are attached to.
FIREBRICK: special clay brick that can be exposed to extremely high temperature change without damage; used in furnaces, fireplaces and similar high temperature areas.
FIRE-STOP: framing member designed to block the spread of fire within a framing cavity.
FLASHING: sheet metal or similar materials used at different points in a structure to prevent water seepage, such as around vent pipes or chimneys.
FLOOR FURNACE: a ductless furnace placed directly below a floor that transmits heat only through a grille in the floor.
FLOOR JOIST: a framing piece that rests on the outer foundation walls and interior beams or girders, and supports the flooring above.
FLUE: the opening or passageway in a chimney through which smoke, gases, etc., pass from a building. Any opening or passageway for the elimination of gases or fumes.
FOOTING: foot like projection at the base of a foundation wall, column, pier, etc., used to secure, support, and help eliminate settling or shifting of the wall.
FORCED-AIR FURNACE: furnace that has a fan or blower which forces warm air through the ducts.
FOUNDATION: the part of a building, usually below ground level, that supports the superstructure above it.
FRAMING: wood structure of a building that provides its strength and shape; includes exterior and interior walls, floor, roof, and ceilings.
FRIEZE: in wood construction, the horizontal board between the top of the siding and the soffit.
FROST HEAVE: expansion of the earth due to freezing of interstitial water.
FROST LINE: maximum depth of freezing in the soil.
FUSE: a short plug in an electric panel box that interrupts an electrical circuit when it becomes overloaded.
GIRDER: a large or principal beam used to support concentrated loads or weight at particular points along its length.
GLAZING: glass or other transparent material used for windows.
GRADE: level of the ground.
GROUNDED WIRE: wire in a circuit that is connected to the ground and serves to return current from the hot wire back to the ground. Identified by a white insulation jacket.
GROUND FAULT INTERRUPTER: (GFI or GFCI) circuit breaker that trips on leakage of current.
GROUNDING WIRE: bare or green wire in a circuit that connects metal components, such as appliance cabinets, to the ground.
GROUT: very thin mortar applied to masonry joints.
HEADER: beam over a door or window for supporting the load from above.
HEARTH: The stone or brick floor of a fireplace.
HYDRONIC: method of distributing heat by hot water.
I-BEAM: steel whose cross section resembles the letter I.
ICE DAM: ridge of ice at roof eaves or gutters causing snow and ice blockage, and preventing from properly draining.
INFILTRATION: Incursion of outdoor air through cracks, holes and joints.
INSULATING GLASS: factory-sealed double or triple glazing.
JAMB: top and sides of a door or window.
JOINT COMPOUND: material used to finish joints in gypsum drywall. Known as mud.
JOIST: see floor joist.
JUNCTION BOX (J-box): a device in which wires are spliced to bring various electrical circuits together.
KNOB-AND-TUBE WIRING: oldest type of electrical wiring; the knobs serve as insulators, and the ceramic tubes isolate the wiring from neighboring wood.
LATH: perforated base for application of plaster; formerly wood, now usually metal.
LATTICE: framework of crossed strips of wood, plastic, or metal.
LEACH LINE: a gravel-filled subsurface trench extending from a septic tank; liquid wastes are absorbed into the leach line's soil
LOAD-BEARING WALL: a wall capable of supporting weight.
LINTEL: solid member above a door or window that carries the load above.
LIVE LOAD: temporary load imposed on a building by occupancy and the environment.
MASONRY: construction consisting of stone, brick, or concrete block.
MEMBRANE ROOF: roofing consisting of a single waterproof sheet.
MIL: one-thousandth of an inch.
MITER: to cut at an angle other than 90 degrees.
MOISTURE BARRIER: treated paper or metal that retards or bars water vapor, used to keep moisture from passing into walls or floors.
MORTAR: mixture of cement, sand, and water.
NEUTRAL WIRE: grounded wire.
NON-BEARING WALL: wall or partition that does not carry a load from above.
NOSING: projection of a stair tread beyond the riser.
ON CENTER (OC): framing measurement from the center of one member to the center of the next.
OPEN VALLEY: roof valley where shingles do not cross the valley intersection; flashing does.
PARAPET: a low wall or barrier at the edge of a balcony or roof.
PARGING: a surface coat of cement over masonry to help waterproof it.
PARQUET: thin strips of wood applied in geometric patterns on floors.
PASSIVE SOLAR COLLECTOR: system for collecting solar energy without use of mechanical devices such as fans or pumps.
PITCH: the angle of slope of a roof. (i.e. 4 inches rise in a 12 inch area equals a 4/12 pitch roof).
PLATE: horizontal framing member at the top or bottom of a wall.
PLENUM: a chamber that can serve as a distribution area for heating or cooling systems, generally located between a false ceiling and the actual ceiling.
POLARITY: the electrical charge, either positive or negative, of an electric service terminal.
PRESSURE-TREATED WOOD: wood that has been injected with preservative under pressure.
RACKING: distortion of a building surface from the rectangular plane.
RADIANT HEATING: method of heating whereby much of the heat transfer is accomplished by radiation through space from warm building, surfaces such as floors, walls, or ceilings.
RAFTER: roof beam running in the direction of the slope.
REBAR: steel bars used in concrete, to strengthen it and tie it together.
RELATIVE HUMIDITY: amount of water vapor in air compared with the maximum amount possible, expressed as a percentage.
RETROFIT: to upgrade a structure using modem materials.
RIDGE: highest point of a roof.
RIDGE BOARD: A board running the length of the ridge of the roof, to which rafters are fastened.
RIDGE VENT: continuous, prefabricated outlet ventilator placed over an opening at the ridge of the roof line to allow the release of air.
RISE: vertical increase in one step of a stair.
RISER: vertical board between stair treads. Also a vertical plumbing pipe.
ROLL ROOFING: low-cost asphalt roofing in roll form.
R-VALUE: measurement of a materials resistance to heat.
SASH: frame holding the panes of glass in a window or door.
SEALANT: compressible material used to seal building joints, etc.
SEALED GLASS: panes of glass with a sealed air space between.
SERVICE DROP: service entry wiring from the utility pole to the meter.
SHEATHING: layer of boards over the framing but under the finish.
SHEETROCK: plasterboard compound of a core of gypsum between two sheets of heavy paper.
SHIM: thin, tapered piece of wood or metal, used to level something.
SHINGLE: small, thin piece of material, often tapered, for laying in overlapping rows as in roofing or siding.
SILL: lowest horizontal member in a frame. Also the bottom piece of the window rough opening.
SKYLIGHT: a window in a roof or ceiling.
SLAB-ON-GRADE: concrete slab resting directly on the ground at near grade level.
SOFFIT: underside of a roof overhang, cornice, or stairway.
SOLAR RADIATION: total electromagnetic radiation from the sun.
SPAN: distance between supports.
SPARK ARRESTER: wire mesh device placed atop a chimney to prevent embers from blowing out onto the roof.
STANDING-SEAM: metal roofing technique of folding the upturned edges of adjacent sheets to form a weatherproof seam.
STILE: vertical outside frame member in a door or window sash.
STOOL: interior horizontal, flat molding at the bottom of a window.
STOP (MOLDING): thin molding for stopping doors on closure or holding window sash in place.
STRINGER: side member of stairway into which the stair treads and risers are attached and set.
STUCCO: a wet plaster finish, specifically designed for exterior use; popular as an outside wall surface or as a siding material.
STUD: vertical framing member to which wall sheathing and siding are attached.
SUBFLOOR: first floor laid over the floor joists. The subfloor may also serve as the finish floor.
TAB: exposed portion of an asphalt shingle between the cutouts.
TAPING: finishing gypsum drywall joints with paper tape and joint compound.
TEMPERED GLASS: glass that has been cooled rapidly to produce surface tension; the result is a stronger-than normal glass that shatters into relatively harmless cubical fragments when broken.
TRESHHOLD: a wooden or metal strip under an outside door; the entrance to a building.
THIMBLE: protective device installed in a combustible wall through which a stovepipe passes.
TOE NAILING: nailing a wood joint at an angle for additional strength.
TONGUE AND GROOVE: flooring and sheathing joint in which the tongue of one piece meets a groove in a mating piece.
TRAP: a curved section of drain pipes used under plumbing fixtures to "trap" waste material or debris.
TREAD: horizontal part of a step.
TRUSS: framing structure for spanning great distances, in which every member is purely in tension or compression.
UNDERLAYMENT: sheet material or wood providing a smooth, sound base for the finished floor above.
VAPOR BARRIER: material or surface designed to block diffusion of water vapor.
VERMICULITE: type of insulation.
WATER HAMMER: sound made by supply pipes when water is suddenly stopped by the quick closing of a valve.
WATER TABLE: level of water saturation in soil.