Remodeling Glossary

Absolute Humidity
actual amount of water vapor in the air
Accent Lighting
lighting that emphasizes displayed items, such as artwork or china cupboards
characteristics of spaces or products that meet prescribed requirements
for particular variations in ability, for example, wheelchair accessibility
additional cabinetry items such as overlays, moldings, etc to enhance the
appearance and quality of a project, also includes towel bars, soap dishes,
hardware, etc.
the adjustment to change in the climate or environment. Some materials
may need time to acclimate before they are positioned in a kitchen or bath.
Acoustical Tile
special tile for walls and ceilings made of mineral, wood, vegetable
fibers, cork, or metal – its purpose is to control sound volume, while
providing cover.
Active Solar Heating
heat from the sun is absorbed by collectors and mechanically transferred
by pumps or fans for storage for heating, cooling, or making electricity
Air Chamber
a device containing a pocket of air which, when connected in the water
piping near a fixture, expands and contracts to prevent the sudden jolt
called water hammer
Air Duct
pipes that carry warm air and cold air to rooms and back to furnace or
air conditioning system
Air Gap
negative pressure that can result
when a hand-held shower faucet or sink sprayer is dropped into a sink or tub – if negative pressure exists, wastewater can be siphoned out into the supply
system. Newer products have back-flow protection or a vacuum breaker
(vertical spray bidet) to prevent the problem – the distance between the
flood level of a fixture and the lowest portion of the faucet opening
delivering water to the fixture
space between roof insulation and roof boards for movement of air
a recessed area in a room
a sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which
have not been selected and specified in the construction contract
a type of reflector in recessed lighting fixtures, in silver or gold
Ambient Lighting
general lighting diffused within an entire room
the rate that electricity flows through wires 
Anchor Bolts
bolts used to secure a wood sill to concrete or to masonry flooring or
Anti-microbial Finish
a material that has an applied finish, or ingredient in the product that
inhibits the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi
Appliance Garage
a roll-up or single door unit placed under a wall cabinet typically for
storage of small appliances
the inside trim of a window, placed against the wall immediately beneath
the stool
Attic Ventilators
screened openings provided to ventilate attic spaces
Auxiliary Sink
second sink in the kitchen providing another work area for either cleanup
or food preparation
simple molding sometimes used as a decorative feature around the outer
edge of plain rectangular casing
a panel material used as a substrate for tile on floors and wall surfaces
in wet areas
the gravel or earth replaced in the space around a building wall after
foundations are in place
that portion of the exposed area between the bottom of the wall cabinets
and the countertop
a device that controls the current in a fluorescent lamp
Balloon Framing
type of framing where the studs run from the bottom sill plate all the
way up to the roof rafters
upright supports of a balustrade rail
a row of balusters topped by a rail, edging a balcony or a staircase
Bamboo Flooring
resembles wood, with a smooth, light, tight-grained surface that can be
finished to a high gloss
Band Joist
the floor joist that runs around the perimeter of the house above the
a built-in table with chairs in an alcove, or a built-in upholstered
bench along a wall, often used in breakfast areas
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
Barn Door
hardware that allows the door to slide along a wall. Useful when a pocket
door is too costly or not possible
Base Cabinets
cabinetry used on the floor to provide countertop support and typically
is 34-1/2 inches tall and 24 inches deep
board along the floor against walls and partitions to hide gaps
insulation in the form of a blanket, rather than loose filling
small thin strips covering joints between wider boards on exterior
building surfaces
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
one of the principal horizontal wood or steel members of a building
Beam Angle
the usable portion of the cone of light cast by a lamp defined at the
point where the candlepower falls to 50% of the candlepower at the center
Bearing Partition
partition that supports a vertical load, in addition to its own weight
Bearing Wall
wall supporting the floor or roof of a building
Bib (Bibcock)
water faucet to which a hose may be attached, also called a hose bib or
sill cock
a personal hygiene fixture with a hot and cold water supply that is
designed for personal cleanliness; used to wash the perineum and genital
water containing human waste from toilets and urinals. Blackwater
contains pathogens that must be neutralized before the water can be safely
seeping of resin or gum from lumber. This term is also used in referring
to the process of drawing air from water pipes
Blind Base Cabinet
base cabinet usually incorporated into a design to turn a corner with
an appliance or other cabinet perpendicular to it
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
Blue Board
type of gypsum wallboard (drywall) with a blue-colored paper facing
chemically treated to provide a bonding surface for plaster or tile adhesive
The central heating device in a hydronic or steam heating system
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
Bottom Plate
horizontal structural member of a stud framed wall. The bottom plate sets
on the subfloor, nails through the subfloor into floor joists
piece of wood or other material used to form a triangle and stiffen
some part of a structure
Braced Framing
construction technique using posts and cross-bracing for greater
large cabinet or bookcase whose center section projects beyond the two
end sections
Brick Veneer
brick used as the outer surface of a framed wall
small wood or metal pieces placed diagonally between floor joists
British Thermal Unit (BTU)
measurement of heat quantity in countries using the British system. One
BTU is the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one
pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit
Building Code
an official list of rules that a building or construction site is legally
obliged to follow, Building Codes are generally state, province or country
wide but local governments can add their own rules
Building Paper
heavy paper used in walls or roofs to damp-proof
Built-up Roof
roofing material applied in sealed, waterproof layers, where there is
only a slight slope to the roof
Burled Wood
hard wood cut from a large rounded growth on a tree characterized by a
large swirl and often used as a veneer or inlay
flat bar inside an electrical power panel into which branch circuit
breakers are plugged
Butt Joint
joining point of two pieces of wood or molding
Bx Cable
electricity cable wrapped in rubber with a flexible steel outer covering
projecting beam or joist, not supported at one end, used to support an
extension of a structure
the member which supports the steps or treads of a stair
window sash that opens on hinges at the vertical edge
an enclosed frame around a door or window opening, also called trim
Cavity Wall
hollow wall formed by firmly linked masonry walls, providing an
insulating air space between
Chair Rail
wooden molding on a wall around a room at the level of a chair back
Chamfered Edge
molding with pared-off corners
a groove in a masonry wall or through a floor to accommodate pipes or
fissures that appear with age in many exterior materials and paint
Chimney Breast
the horizontal projection-usually inside a building-of a chimney from the
wall in which it is built
Chimney Cap
concrete capping around the top of chimney bricks and around the floors
to protect the masonry from the elements
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride
an improved version of PVC, suitable for both hot and cold domestic water
supply piping
Circuit Breaker
safety device which opens (breaks) an electric circuit automatically
when it becomes overloaded
tank to catch and store rain water
long thin board, thicker on one edge, overlapped and nailed on for
exterior siding
Clean Air Delivery Rate
measure of the efficiency of a portable air cleaner, based on the
percentage of particles removed from the air and the speed at which the
particles are removed
Clean Technology
technical measure taken to reduce or eliminate at the source the
production of any nuisance, pollution, or waste and to help save raw
materials, natural resources, and energy
Clear Floor Space
area which is free of obstruction within an overall space, typically used
in bathrooms in reference to the recommendations for clearances at a center
Clearance Space
The space required for a safe and clear use of an appliance, cabinet
doors and safe passage
Cleavage Membrane
a thin, waterproof material such as polyethylene or asphalt saturated
felt, placed between a rigid finish material, such as floor tile, and a
substrate, such as a wood floor, to allow the substrate to move without
cracking the finish material
Cold Air Return
the ductwork (and related grills) that carries room air back to the
furnace for re-heating
Collar Beam
horizontal beam fastened above the lower ends of rafters to add rigidity
Compact Fluorescent (CFL) 
type of fluorescent lamp with the fluorescent tube coiled into a
compact shape in a size similar to an incandescent bulb
Compartmentalized Bathroom
a bathroom where individual activities, like toileting or showering, are
separated by walls into individual compartments
Concealed Hinge
hinge that is attached to the door and the inside end panel or stile of
a cabinet, making it not visible from the exterior of the cabinet
Condensing Boilers
type of boiler that achieves efficiencies of up to 95% by incorporating
a second heat exchanger that recoups some of the heat from the hot exhaust
gases to pre-heat the water in the boiler system
the flow of heat energy through a material. Heat flows from the warmer to
cooler side of the material
Console Sink
sink basin supported by legs. The legs can be metal or wooden
Contemporary Style
very similar to modern, but a bit more relaxed, with fewer sharp edges
and lines. A more universally accessible design, and probably the most
The transmission of heat through a liquid or gas. The cooler feeling you
experience in front of a fan in summer is due to convective air movement over
your skin. It is also a form of cooking
tile or brick used to cap or cover the top of a masonry wall
horizontal projection from a wall, forming a ledge or supporting a
structure above it
Cork Flooring
provides a resilient, cushioned surface that’s noiseless, warm-looking
and feeling, comfortable and moisture-resistant when finished with a glossy
urethane coating
Corner Bead
strip of wood or metal for protecting the external corners of plastered
Corner Brace
diagonal brace at the corners of the frame structure used to stiffen
and strengthen a wall
horizontal projection at the top of a wall or under the overhanging part
of the roof
bit to create a round tapered or coned shape hole to match the shape of
a flat head screw to set it flush with or below the surface of the material
being fastened
Countertop Plan
separate plan showing the countertop is helpful in illustrating the
installation or fabrication to the allied tradesperson, particularly in
complex projects, such as those that combine various counter materials or
built-up edge treatments
horizontal row of bricks, cinder blocks or other masonry materials
Cove Lighting
concealed light sources behind a cornice or horizontal recess which
direct the light upon a reflecting ceiling
Cove Molding
molding with a concave face, used as trim to finish interior corners
Crawl Space
shallow space below the living quarters of a house without a basement
normally enclosed by foundation walls
cut-off framing members above and below windows
the upward bow, curve or rise along the length of a board. Deck boards
are set on end with the crown up. Over time, the crown will sag and the board
will straighten
Crown Molding
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
rectangular groove, usually across the width of a board or plank
usually referring to outside projects, the lumber that forms the floor
surface. Decking fastens directly over the floor joists
Decorative Overlay
piece of carved, scrolled wood which is usually fastened to the face of
a panel or custom hood
Dew Point
the temperature at which water vapor condenses
Diagonal Corner Cabinet
cabinet used to span across a corner; another term for this type of
cabinet is wall angle
in heating and cooling systems, a grill, or register, in a floor or wall
that delivers conditioned air to the room. In lighting, a diffuser is a
transparent or translucent lens that encloses the lamp
Direct-vent Heater
all-in-one heating device that draws combustion air into the fire
chamber through a vent in the wall and exhaust the burnt gases back out
through another, concentric vent
Divided Light
type of window or door containing several sections of glazing, each
section, or pane, separated from the other by muntins
Door Buck
the rough frame of a door
structure built atop a roof to increase the usable space below or to
contain windows. A window set vertically in a structure projecting through a
sloping roof
Double Glazing
an insulating window pane formed of two thicknesses of glass with a
sealed air space between them
Double Hung Windows
windows with an upper and lower sash, each supported by cords and
Downdraft Ventilation System
kitchen ventilation system that pulls air with the by-products of
cooking down through a vent and exhausts it to the outside; typically the
ventilation system is integrated with the cooktop or installed immediately
adjacent to it.
Downflow Furnace
A forced air furnace that delivers heated air below the unit.
Downspout Leader
A spout or pipe to carry rain water down from a roof or gutters.
Downspout Strap
A piece of metal which secures the downspout to the eaves or wall of a
The projecting part of a cornice which sheds rain water.
Drip Cap
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.
Gypsum board, used instead of plaster, placed over studs as the final
interior wall
Usually round or rectangular metal pipes for distributing warm air from a
heating plant to rooms, or air from a conditioning device.
The extension of roof beyond house walls.
White powder that forms on the surface of brick.
Treated sewage from a septic tank or sewage treatment plant.
Energy Efficiency Rating
A standard for rating an appliance's energy efficiency. The higher the
EER number, the more efficient the appliance.
Energy Star®
The Energy Star program, managed by the Environmental Protection Agency
and the Department of Energy, helps consumers identify energy-efficient
products for their homes.
Engineered Lumber
Structural members composed of wood fibers bonded by resins and formed
into structurally efficient post, beam, and joist shapes.
Ergonomic Design
The application of human factor data to the design of products and spaces
to improve function and efficiency.
Evaporative Cooling
Cooling the air by blowing it through water, which then evaporates,
removing heat from the air.
Exposed Hinge
A hinge attached to the door and the front frame of the cabinet, making
it visible from the exterior of the cabinet.
Extend Stile
A wider than normal stile typically 4-1/2 inches wide to replace a
filler. Typical of semi-custom framed cabinetry.
Face Framing
A method of installing joists or rafters, where they attach to the face
of the beam rather than run over the top.
Nailing perpendicular to the surface or the junction of pieces that are
Fascia or Facia
A flat horizontal member of a cornice placed in a vertical position.
Fill-type Insulation
Loose insulating material which is applied by hand or blown into wall
spaces mechanically.
Fire Stop (Fire Wall)
Located in a frame wall, usually consists of 2x4 cross-blocking between
studs; prevents spread of fire and smoke.
A device that connects one lengths of piping or a pipe to a fixture or
Noncorrosive metal used around angles or junctions in roofs and exterior
walls to prevent leaks.
Floor Joists
Framing pieces which rest on outer foundation walls and interior beams or
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.
Having ends or surfaces that are even.
Fly Rafters
End rafters of a gable overhang supported by roof sheathing and lookouts.
Masonry section, usually concrete, in a rectangular form wider than the
bottom of the foundation wall or pier it supports.
The supporting portion of a structure below the first-floor construction,
or below grade (ground level), including the footings.
The rough lumber of a house-joists, studs, rafters, and beams.
A horizontal member connecting the tip of the siding with the soffit of
the cornice.
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.
A short plug in an electric panel box which opens (breaks) an electrical
circuit when it becomes overloaded.
The triangular part of a wall under the inverted V of a roof line.
The diameter of wire. The lower the gage, the larger is the diameter.
Also used to indicate the thickness of sinks.
Gambrel Roof
A roof with two pitches, designed to provide more space on upper floors.
The roof is steeper on its lower slope and flatter toward the ridge.
A main member in a framed floor supporting the joists which carry the
flooring boards. It carries the weight of a floor or partition.
Fitting glass into windows or doors.
Grab Bars
Safety bars installed in bathtubs and showers to prevent falls.
Grade Line
The point at which the ground rests against the foundation wall.
The direction, size, arrangement, appearance, and quality of the fibers
in wood.
Granite Countertop
Offers matchless crystalline structure that really sparkles in a brightly
lit room.
Wastewater from sources such as sinks, showers, kitchens, and washers,
which after purification, is used for non-potable uses such as flushing and
Green Lumber
Lumber which has been inadequately dried and which tends to warp or bleed
Pieces of wood embedded in plaster of walls to which skirtings are
attached. Also wood pieces used to stop the plaster work around doors and
Mortar made of such consistency (by adding water) that it would flow into
the joints and cavities of masonry work, filling them.
A brace or bracket used to strengthen a structure.
A channel at the eaves for conveying away rain water.
Hard Water
Water that contains a high level of dissolved minerals. Water with a high
content of minerals, usually calcium and magnesium; often leads to plumbing
problems from mineral deposit.
The close-grained wood from broad-leaved trees such as oak or maple.
Hardwood Flooring
Available in many species and in solid, engineered or parquet form. New,
clear finishes are tougher, more durable and water-resistant than ever.
Double wood pieces supporting joists in a floor or double wood members
placed on edge over windows and doors to transfer the roof and floor weight
to the studs.
Heat Exchanger
A coil through which heat can be transferred to the heating medium (water
or air) without exposing the medium directly to the heat.
Heat Pump
A refrigeration device that can reverse the cooling cycle to produce
useful heat.
Heat Recovery Systems
Building mechanical systems that capture waste heat from another system
and use it to replace heat that would otherwise come from a primary energy
The end of a rafter that rests on the wall plate.
The external angle formed by the juncture of two slopes of a roof.
Hip Roof
A roof that slants upward on three or four sides.
Hood Insert
A liner for a custom made hood for housing the filter system, fan, and
lights. Made from sheet metal or other non-combustible material.
Steel beam with a cross-section resembling the letter "I" used
for long spans such as basement beams and over wide wall openings
Indigenous Materials
Building materials that are mined, manufactured, or fabricated locally to
reduce transportation cost and increase the viability of the local economy.
An area of cabinets and countertops which can be accessed and walked
around from all sides. Considered free standing.
Jack Rafter
Spans the distance from the wall plate to a hip, or from a valley to a
Windows with movable, horizontal glass slats angled to admit-ventilation
and keep out rain. This term is also used for outside shutters of wood
constructed in this way.
The side element of a doorway, window, or similar opening. 
Space between the adjacent surfaces of two members or components,
typically joined and held together by nails, glue, screws, or mortar.
One of a series of parallel beams, usually 2-inch thick, used to support
floor and ceiling loads and supported, in turn by larger beams, girders, or
bearing walls.
A regional district, county or city which interprets and enforces the
National Building Code in their area.
Artificial drying of lumber, superior to most lumber that is air dried.
King Post
The middle post of a truss. Large, heavy screws, used where great
strength is required, as in heavy framing or when attaching ironwork to wood.
Lag (Coach) Screws
Large, heavy screws, used where great strength is required, as in heavy
framing or when attaching ironwork to wood.
Lally Column
a steel tube sometimes filled with concrete, used to support girders or other floor beams.
any thin material such as wood or plastic glued to the exterior of a cabinet, countertop or other surface.
Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL)
an engineered wood used for a stud, plate, header or rim board for I-joists.
Laminated Veneer Lumber ((LVL)
an engineered wood used for a beam or header, these usually come in widths of 1-3/4" up to lengths of 60'.
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.
a platform between flights of stairs or where a flight of stairs ends.
one of a number of thin narrow strips of wood nailed to rafters, ceiling joists, wall studs, etc. to make a groundwork or key for slates, tiles, or plastering.
framework of crossed wood pieces or metal strips.
Leaching Bed
tiles in the trenches carrying treated wastes from septic tanks.
a piece of wood which is attached to a beam to support joists.
an all natural flooring material made of linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, tree resins, ground limestone, and pigments; regarded as environmentally friendly flooring.
the top piece over a door or window which supports walls above the opening.
Load-bearing Wall
a strong wall capable of supporting weight.
a short, wood bracket or cantilever that supports the overhang portion of a roof or similar structure; usually concealed from view.
an opening with horizontal slats to permit passage of air, but excluding rain, sunlight and view.
unit of measure for total light output, the amount of light falling on a surface of one square foot.
shelf above a fireplace.
structures built by a mason, using brick, stone, tile or similar materials bound together by mortar.
pasty material used as cement (as for setting tile) or a protective coating (as for thermal insulation or waterproofing).
Medium-Density Fiberboard
an engineered wood made from softwood fibers that were mechanically separated, then randomly combined, glued and pressed so the material has no grain, but is consistent throughout.
movement of a jack, or structural member due to the loads upon it, a dangerous situation if a jack is not plumb.
generally, any building material made of finished wood and manufactured in millwork plants and planning mills.
Miter Joint
the joint of two pieces set at an angle that bisects the joining angle.
Moisture Barrier
treated paper or metal that retards or bars water vapor, used to keep moisture from passing into walls or floors.
a strip of decorative material having a plane or curved narrow surface prepared for ornamental application.
a slot cut in a board, plank, or timber, usually edgewise, to receive the tenon of another board, plank, or timber.
a method of installing ceramic stone tiles by setting them into a mortar bed.
a vertical bar or divider in the frame between windows, doors, or other openings.
a small member that divides the glass or openings of sash or doors.
a piece of material attached to the main structure as a base for attaching subsequent items.
a post to which the end of a stair railing or balustrade is fastened.
Non-bearing Wall
a wall supporting no load other than its own weight.
the rounded edge of a stair tread.
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.
the slow release of chemical gasses contained within building materials to the ambient air, such as formaldehyde in particleboard.
Outpost Kitchen
small kitchen located away from the primary food preparation area, such as in the bedroom/bathroom area (morning kitchen) or a living or recreation area.
the extension of a rafter beyond the wall line; usually a smaller rafter nailed to a larger one, forming a cornice or roof overhang.
Overflow Scupper
a projecting lip at the edge of a flat roof, which allows water to run off the edge.
a rough coat of mortar applied over a masonry wall as protection or finish; may also serve as a base for an asphaltic waterproofing compound below grade.
Parting Stop (Trip)
a small wood piece used in the jambs and head of double-hung window frames to separate upper a lower sash.
a wall that subdivides spaces within any story of a house.
Passive Cooling
a system whereby a building's structure (or an element of it) permits increased ventilation and retention of coolness within the building components, the intention is to minimize or eliminate the need for mechanical means of cooling.
Passive Solar Heating
using the sun's energy to heat a house with minimal dependence on mechanical devices.
Passive Ventilation
the use of convective airflows that result from the tendency of warm air to rise and cool air to sink, while also taking advantage of prevailing winds.
Pedestal Lavatory
a free-standing fixture with a wide top and narrow base that conceals the plumbing.
Penny Nail
originally indicated the price per hundred; term is now a measure of nail length and is abbreviated "D"
column of masonry, usually rectangular in horizontal crosssection, used to support other structural members.
a projection or the foundation wall used to support a floor girder or stiffen the wall.
the angle of the slope of a roof.
pieces of wood placed on wall surfaces as fastening devices, the bottom member of the wall is the sole plate and the top member is the rafter plate.
a chamber which can serve as a distribution area for heating or cooling systems, generally between a false ceiling and the actual ceiling.
to cut a lengthwise groove in a board or a plank.
exactly perpendicular; vertical.
Pocket Door
a door that slides horizontally on a track and is typically moved inside a wall for storage.
treatment of joints in masonry by filling with mortar to improve appearance or protect against weather.
Post & Beam Construction
wall construction in which beams are supported by heavy posts rather than many smaller studs.
construction of components such as walls, trusses, or doors, before delivery to the building site.
a groove cut in a board to receive another board.
Radiant Heat
coils of electricity, hot water or steam pipes embedded in floors, ceilings, or walls to heat rooms.
one of a series of structural roof members spanning from an exterior wall
to a center ridge beam or ridge board.
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.
trim members that run parallel to the roof slope and form the finish
between the wall and a gable-roof extension.
Reinforced Concrete
concrete strengthened with wire or metal bars.
steel rods or metal fabric placed in concrete slabs, beams, or columns to
increase their strength.
the horizontal line at the junction of the top edges of two sloping roof
Ridge Pole
thick longitudinal plank to which the ridge rafters of a roof are
to saw a board or plywood in the same direction as the grain of the wood.
in stairs, the vertical height of a step or flight of stairs.
the vertical piece of a stair step, from tread to tread.
Roof Sheathing
sheets, usually of plywood, which are nailed to the top edges of trusses
or rafters to tie the roof together and support the roofing material.
in stairs, the net width of a step or the horizontal distance covered by
a flight of stairs.
Sandwich Panel
panel with plastic, paper, or other material enclosed between two
layers of a different material.
the movable part of a window-the frame in which panes of glass are set in
a window or door.
Sash Balance
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, normally used on roofing
Scarf Joint
joint between two straight pieces of trim or woodwork where each piece
meets the other one on an angle other than 90 degrees (butt joint), such that
any shrinkage will be less noticeable.
light fixture affixed to a wall.
concave molding.
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.
fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.
Scuttle Hole
small opening either to the attic, to the crawl space or to the
plumbing pipes.
finishing material, clear or pigmented, usually applied directly over
uncoated wood to seal the surface.
Seepage Pit
sewage disposal system composed of a septic tank and a connected
Septic Tank
sewage settling tank in which part of the sewage is converted into gas
and sludge before the remaining waste is discharged by gravity into a
leaching bed underground.
hand-cut wooden shingles.
the first covering of boards or material on the outside wall or roof
prior to installing the finished siding or roof covering.
Sheetmetal Work
all components of a house made of sheet metal, for example, flashing,
gutters, and down-spouts.
thin tapered piece of wood used for leveling or tightening a stair or
other building element.
pieces of wood, asbestos or other material used as an overlapping outer
covering on walls or roofs.
siding boards of special design nailed horizontally to vertical studs
with or without intervening sheathing to form the exposed surface of outside
walls of frame buildings.
Shoe Base
molding used next to the floor on interior baseboard. Also the bottom
plate of a frame wall.
the finish covering of the outside wall of a frame building, whether made
of clapboards, vertical boards with battens, shingles, or some other
Sill Plate
the lowest member of the house framing resting on top of the foundation
wall. Also called the mud sill.
narrow boards around the margin of a floor; baseboards.
concrete floor placed directly on earth or a gravel base and usually
about four inches thick.
strip of wood laid over concrete floor to which the finished wooden floor
is nailed or glued.
Soapstone Countertop
has a soft, soapy feel and is a delight to the touch with a gray-to-green
the visible underside of structural members such as staircases, cornices,
beams, a roof overhang or eave.
easily worked wood or wood from a cone-bearing tree.
Soil Cover
light covering of plastic film, roll roofing, or similar material used
over the soil in crawl spaces to minimize moisture permeation of the area.
Also called ground cover.
Soil Stack
vertical plumbing pipe for waste water.
Solid Surface Countertop
available in a wide range of thicknesses, colors, patterns and inlays for
a look ranging from streamlined to natural or elegant.
Sound Transmission Class (STC)
measure of the ability of sound to stop noise. 
the distance between structural supports, such as walls, columns, piers,
beams, girders, and trusses.
Splash Block
small masonry block laid with the top near the ground surface to
receive roof drainage from down-spouts and carry it away from the
unit of measure - 100 square feet - usually applied to roofing
material. In measurement, two adjacent pieces that join in a right
Stair Carriage
supporting members for stair treads. Usually 2-inch planks, notched atop
which the treads sit.
upright framing member in a panel door, sash, or cabinet frame. 
basic materials from which a building elements are fashioned.
flat molding, usually rabbeted on the underside, that fits over the
inside edge of a window sill.
Storm Window
an extra window usually placed on the outside of an existing window as
additional protection against cold air. 
a long, horizontal member which connects uprights in a frame or supports
a floor or the like – one of the enclosed sides of a stair supporting the
treads and risers.
Strip Flooring
wood flooring consisting of narrow, matched strips.
plaster made with Portland cement as its base for exterior use on siding.
one of a series of slender, wood or metal, vertical, structural members
placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions.
boards or plywood laid on joists over which a finish floor is laid.
pit in the basement in which water collects to be pumped out with a sump
Suspended Ceiling
ceiling system supported by being hung from overhead structural
wide shallow depression in the ground to form a channel for storm water
Task Lighting
strong, directional lighting that brightens a specific area so a
particular task — reading, cooking, applying makeup or working at a
desk, for example — can be accomplished safely and easily.
Termite 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. 
iron or steel sheet coated with an alloy of lead and tin (terne).
Threshold (Reducer)
strip of wood or metal with beveled edges, used over the finish floor
and sill of exterior doors. 
wooden member which binds a pair of principal rafters at the bottom.
Tile Field
open-joint drain tiles laid to distribute septic tank effluent over an
absorption area or to provide subsoil drainage in wet areas.
driving in a nail at an angle, thereby preventing it from pulling free.
carpentry joint in which the jutting edge of one board fits into the
grooved end of a similar board.
the bend in a water pipe to hold water so gases will not escape from the
plumbing system into the house.
the horizontal part of a stair step.
the finish materials in a building, such as molding, applied around
openings (window trim, door trim), baseboards, and cornices. 
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.
combination of structural members usually arranged in triangular units
to form a rigid framework for spanning between load-bearing walls.
coating applied before a finish or topcoat of paint. It may be the first
of two or the second of three coats
material placed under finish coverings, especially thin flooring
materials, to provide a smooth, even base
Universal Design
design to simplify life for everyone by making a room usable by as many
people as possible, regardless of their age or abilities.
the depression at the meeting point of two roof slopes.
Vapor Barrier
material such as paper, metal or paint which is used to prevent vapor
from passing from rooms into the outside walls.
Venetian Window
window with one large fixed central pane and smaller panes at each
piping or ductwork that allows air to flow in or out
Vent Pipe
pipe which allows gas to escape from plumbing systems.
the edge of tiles, slates or shingles, projecting over the gable of a
Vessel Sink
appears to sit on top of a countertop, like a bowl on a table.
the lower three or four feet of an interior wall when lined with
paneling, tile or other material different from the rest of the wall.
Wall Sheathing
sheets of plywood, gypsum board, or other material nailed to the outside face of studs as a base for exterior siding.
Weather Stripping
metal, wood, plastic or other material installed around door and window openings to prevent air infiltration.
Weep Hole
small hole in a wall which permits water to drain off.
section of a building that is served by one heating and cooling loop to meet distinct heating and cooling needs.