The principal function of a house is to provide
protection from the elements. Our present society,
however, requires that a home provide not only shelter,
but also privacy, safety, and reasonable protection of our
physical and mental health. A living facility that fails to
offer these essentials through adequately designed and
properly maintained interiors and exteriors cannot be
termed "healthful housing."
Ash dump – A door or opening in the
firebox that leads directly to the ash pit, through
which the ashes are swept after the fire is burned out.
All fireboxes are not equipped with an ash dump.
Attic space – The open space within the attic area.
Backfill – The material used to refill an excavation
around the outside of a foundation wall or pipe
Baluster – One of a series of small pillars that is attached to and runs between the stairs and the
handrails. The spacing between the balusters should
be less than 4 inches to prevent small children from
getting stuck between the balusters. Balusters are
considered a safety item and provide an additional
Baseboard trim –T ypically a wood trim board that is
placed against the wall around the perimeter of a
room next to the floor. The intent is to conceal the
joint between the floor and wall finish.
Basement window – A window opening installed in
the basement wall. Basement windows are
occasionally below the finish grade level and will be
surrounded on the exterior by a window well.
Blind or shutter – A lightweight frame in the form of
a door located on each side of a window. They are
most commonly constructed of wood (solid or
louvered panels) or plastic. Originally they were
designed to close and secure over the windows for
security and foul weather. Most shutters now are more
likely decorative pieces that are secured to the house
beside the windows.
Bridging – Small pieces of wood or metal strapping
placed in an X-pattern between the floor joists at
midspan to prevent the joists from twisting and
squeaking and to provide reinforcement and
distribution of stress.
Building paper/underlayment – Building material,
usually a felt paper that is used as a protective barrier
against air and moisture passage from the area
beneath the flooring as well as providing a
movement/noise isolator in hardwood flooring.
Ceiling joist – A horizontally placed framing
members at the ceiling of the top-most living space of
a house that provides a platform to which the finished
ceiling material can be attached.
Chair rail (not shown) – Decorative trim applied
around the perimeter of a room such as a formal
dining room or kitchen/breakfast nook at the
approximate same height as the back of a chair. It is
sometimes used as a cap trim for wainscoting (see
Chimney – A masonry or in more modern
construction wood framed enclosure that surrounds and contains one or more flues and extends above the
Chimney cap – The metal or masonry protective
coveringat the top of the chimney that seals the
chimney shaft from water entry between the chimney
enclosure and the flue tiles.
Chimney flues – The space or channel in a chimney
that carries off the smoke and other combustion gases
to the outside air. Most homes will have a terra cotta
tile flue or a metal flue.
Collar beam/tie – A horizontal piece of framing
lumber that provides intermediate support for
opposite rafters. They are usually located in the
middle to upper third portion of the rafters. It is also
known as a collar beam or collar brace.
Concrete slab floor – Typically approximately
4 inches thick, the concrete slab floor provides a
number of uses. It creates a solid level surface to walk
and work on. It provides a separation between the
grade/soil and a potentially livable area. It also
provides lateral compression resistance for the
foundation walls, preventing soil pressure from
outside the foundation from pushing the foundation
walls and footings inward.
Corner brace – Diagonal braces placed at the corners
of framed walls to stiffen them and provide extra strength.
Cornice – An overhang of a pitched roof at the eave
line that usually consists of a fascia board, a soffit, and
any appropriate moldings or vents.
Cornice molding – The individual pieces of wood
trim that are applied to the cornice area at the eaves.
Door casing/trim – The finish trim details around the
perimeter of the door on the interior finished wall.
Door frame/jamb – The top and sides of the door to
include the wall framing as well as the actual door
frame and trim.
Downspout – A pipe, usually of metal or vinyl, that is
connected to the gutters and is used to carry the roofwater
runoff down and away from the house.
Downspout gooseneck – Segmented section of
downspout that is bent at a radius to allow the downspout to be attached to the house and to follow
the bends and curves of the eaves and ground.
Downspout shoe – The bottom downspout
gooseneck that directs the water from the downspout
to the extension or splash block at the grade.
Downspout strap – Strap used to secure the
downspout to the side of the house.
Drain tile – A tube or cylinder that is normally
installed around the exterior perimeter of the
foundation footings that collects and directs ground
water away from the foundation of the house. The tile
can be individual sections of clay or asphalt tubing or,
in more recent construction, a perforated-plastic drain
tile that is approximately 4 inches in diameter. The
drain tile leads either towards a sump or to an exterior
discharge away from the house.
Entrance canopy – A small overhanging roof that
shelters the front entrance.
Entrance stoop – An elevated platform constructed of
wood framing or masonry at the front entry that
allows visitors to stand above or out of the elements.
The platform should be wide enough to allow
someone to stand on the platform while opening an
outward swinging door such as a storm door even if
one is not present.
Exterior siding – The decorative exterior finish on a
house. Its primary function is to protect the shell of
the house from the elements. The choice of siding
materials varies widely to include wood, brick, metal,
vinyl, concrete, stucco, and a variety of manufactured
compositions such as compressed wood, compressed
cellulose (paper), fiber-reinforced cement, and
Fascia – The visible flat front board that caps the
rafter tail ends and encloses the overhang under the
eave that runs along the roof edge. The gutter is
usually attached at this location.
Fascia/rake board – The visible flat front board that
caps the rafter tail ends and encloses the overhang
under the eave that runs along the roof edge and at
the edge of the roofing at the gables. The gutter is
usually attached to this board at the eaves.
Finish flooring (not shown) – The final floor covering
inside the living space of a house. The most common
types of finishes are carpeting; hardwood flooring;
ceramic, composite, or laminate stone tile; parquet
panels; or vinyl sheet flooring.
Finished grade line – A predetermined line indicating the
proposed elevation of the ground surface around a
Firebox – The cavity in the open face of the fireplace
in which the fire is maintained. The firebox leads
directly to the fireplace flue. The firebox is constructed of
fire or refractory brick set in fireclay or reinforced
mortar in traditional masonry fireplaces. The firebox
may also be constructed of metal or ceramic-coated
metal panels in more modern prefabricated fireplaces.
The walls of the firebox are usually slanted toward the
living space both to direct smoke up toward the flue
and to reflect heat into the room.
Fireplace cleanout door – The access door to the ash
pit beneath the fireplace. On a fireplace that is located
inside the house, the cleanout door is usually located
in the lowest accessible level of the house such as the
basement or crawl space. On a fireplace that is located
at the outside of the house, the cleanout door will be
located at the exterior of the chimney. Not all
fireplaces are equipped with a cleanout door.
Fireplace hearth – The inner or outer floor of a
fireplace, usually made of brick, tile, or stone.
Flashing (not shown) – The building component
used to connect and cover portions of a deck, roof, or
siding material to another surface such as a wall, a
chimney, a vent pipe, or anywhere that runoff is
heavy or where two dissimilar materials meet. The
flashing is mainly intended to prevent water entry and
is usually made of rubber, tar, asphalt, or various metals.
Floor joists – The main subfloor framing members
that support the floor span. Joists are usually made of
engineered wood I-beams or 28 or larger lumber.
Foundation footing – The base on which the
foundation walls rests. The foundation is wider than
the foundation wall to spread out the load it is
bearing and to help prevent settling.
Foundation wall – The concrete block, concrete slab
or other nonwood material that extends below orpartly below grade, which provides support for
exterior walls and other structural pans of the building.
Framing studs – A 24 or 26 vertical framing
member used to construct walls and partitions,
usually spaced 12 to 24 inches apart.
Gable framing – The vertical and horizontal framing
members that make up and support the end of a building
as distinguished from the front or rear side. A gable is
the triangular end of an exterior wall above the eaves.
Garage door – The door for the vehicle passage into
the garage area. Typical garage doors consist of
multiple jointed panels of wood, metal, or fiberglass.
Girder – A large beam supporting floor joists at the same
level as the sills. A larger or principal beam used to support
concentrated loads at isolated points along its length.
Gravel fill – A bed of coarse rock fragments or
pebbles that is laid atop the existing soil before
pouring the concrete slab. The gravel serves a dual
purpose of breaking surface tension on the concrete
slab and providing a layer that interrupts capillary
action of subsurface moisture from reaching the
concrete slab. Typically, a polyethylene sheeting will
be installed between the gravel fill and the concrete
slab for further moisture proofing.
Gutter – A channel used for carrying water run-off.
Usually located at the eaves of a house and connected
to a downspout. The primary purpose of the gutters
and downspouts is to carry roof water run-off as far
away from the house as possible.
Insulation – A manufactured or natural material that
resists heat flow that is installed in a house's shell to
keep the heat in a house in the winter and the
coolness in the house in the summer. The most
common form of insulation is fiberglass, whether in
batts or blown-in material, along with cellulose, rigid
foam boards, sprayed-in foam, and rock wool.
Jack/king stud – The framing stud, sometimes called
the trimmer, that supports the header above a
window, door, or other opening within a bearing wall.
Depending on the size of the opening, there may be
several jack studs on either side of the opening.
Mantel – The ornamental or decorative facing around
a fireplace including a shelf that is attached to the
breast or backing wall above the fireplace.
Moisture/vapor barrier – A nonporous material, such
as plastic or polyethylene sheeting, that is used to
retard the movement of water vapor into walls and
attics and prevent condensation in them. A vapor
barrier is also installed in crawl space areas to prevent
moisture vapor from entering up through the ground.
Newel post – The post at the top and bottom of the
handrails and anywhere along the stair run that
creates a directional change in the handrails is called
the newel post. The newel post is securely anchored
into the underlying floor framing or the stair stringer
to provide stability to the handrails.
Reinforcing lath – A strip of wood or metal attached
to studs and used as a foundation for plastering,
slating or tiling. Lath has been replaced by gypsum
board in most modern construction.
Ridge board/beam – The board placed on edge at the
top-most point of the roof framing, into which the
upper ends of the rafters are joined or attached.
Roofing – The finished surface at the top of the house
that must be able to withstand the effects of the
elements (i.e., wind, rain, snow, hail, etc.). A wide
variety of materials are available, including asphalt
shingles, wood shakes, metal roofing, ceramic and
concrete tiles, and slate, with asphalt shingles making
up the bulk of the material used.
Roof rafters – Inclined structural framing members
that support the roof, running from the exterior wall
the to the ridge beam. Rafters directly support the
roof sheathing and create the angle or slope of the roof.
Roof sheathing – The material used to cover the
outside surface of the roof framing to provide lateral
and rack support to the roof, as well as to provide a
nailing surface for the roofing material. This material
most commonly consists of plywood OSB or
horizontally laid wood boards.
Sidewalk – A walkway that provides a direct, allweather
approach to an entry. The sidewalk can be
constructed of poured concrete, laid stone, concrete
pavers, or gravel contained between borders or curbs.
Sill plate – The horizontal wood member that is
anchored to the foundation masonry to provide a
nailing surface for floors or walls built above.
Silt fabric – A porous fabric that acts as a barrier
between the backfilled soil (see backfill) and the gravel
surrounding the drain tile. This barrier prevents soil
particles from blocking the movement of groundwater
to the drain tile.
Soffit/lookout block – Rake cross-bracing between
the fly rafters and end gable rafters that the soffit is
Stair rail – A sturdy handhold and barrier that follows
the outside, and sometimes inside, perimeter of the
stairs. The stair rail is used to prevent falls and to
provide a means of additional support when walking
up or down the stairs.
Stair riser – The vertical boards that close the space
between each stair tread on a set of stairs (see stair
stringer and stair tread).
Stair stringer – The supporting members in a set of
stairs that are cut or notched to accept the individual
treads and risers (see stair riser and stair tread).
Stair tread – The horizontal board in a stairway that
is walked upon (see stair riser and stair stringer).
Subfloor – Boards or plywood, installed over joists,
on which the finish floor rests.
Support post – A vertical framing member usually
designed to carry or support a beam or girder. In
newer construction a metal lally (pronounced "lolly")
column is commonly used, as well as 44- or 66-
inch wood posts.
Tar – Otherwise known as asphalt, tar is a very thick,
dark brown/black substance that is used as a sealant or
waterproofing agent. It is usually produced naturally
by the breakdown of animal and vegetable matter that
has been buried and compressed deep underground.
Tar is also manufactured – a hydrocarbon by-product
or residue that is left over after the distillation of
petroleum. It is commonly used as a sealant or patch for
roof penetrations, such as plumbing vents and chimney
flashing. Tar is also used as a sealer on concrete and
masonry foundation walls before they have been
Termite shield – A metal flashing that is installed
below the sill plate that acts as a deterrent to keep
termites from reaching the sill plate.
Top plate – The topmost horizontal framing members
of a framed wall. Most construction practices require
the top plate to be doubled in thickness.
Dado – The wooden paneling of the lower
part of an interior wall up to approximately waistheight
or between 36 and 48 inches from the floor.
Wall insulation – A manufactured or natural material
that resists heat flow that is installed in a house's shell
to keep the heat in a house in the winter and the
coolness in the house in the summer. Fiberglass batts
are the most common form of wall insulation.
Wall sheathing – The material used to cover the
outside surface of the wall framing that provides lateral
and shear support to the wall as well as a nailing
surface for the exterior siding.
Window casing/trim – The finish trim details around
the perimeter of the window on the interior finished wall.
Window cripple – Short studs placed between the
header and a top plate or between a sill and sole plate.
Window frame/jamb – The top and sides of the
window, to include the wall framing and the actual
window frame and trim.
Window header – A beam placed perpendicular to
wall studs above doors, windows, or other openings to
carry the weight of structural loads above the window
Window sash – The framework that holds the glass in
a door or window.
Window well (not shown) – An excavation around a
basement window that prevents the surrounding soils
from collapsing into the window. The window well
surround is normally constructed of formed
corrugated galvanized metal, built-up masonry, or