Glossary Of Terms

Buying or Building a house is a large task by any person. You may come across or here terms used in the building industry that you are not sure of their definition. Please take some time to refer to our glossary to help take any confusion you may have when it comes to your house.

A/C Condenser
The outside fan unit of the Air Conditioning system. It removes the heat from the freon gas and "turns" the gas back into a liquid and pumps the liquid back to the coil in the furnace.
Additional Principal Payment
A payment by a borrower of more than the scheduled principal amount due in order to reduce the remaining balance on the loan.
Adjusted Basis
The original cost of a property plus the value of any capital expenditures for improvements to the property minus any depreciation taken.
Air Change Per Hour (ACH)
A unit that denotes the number of times a house exchanges its entire volume of air with outside air in an hour. This is generally used in two ways: 1) under natural conditions and 2) under a 50 Pascal Pressure difference.
Allowance(s)
A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which have not been selected and specified in the construction contract. For example, selection of tile as a flooring may require an allowance for an underlayment material, or an electrical allowance which sets aside an amount of money to be spent on electrical fixtures.
Backfill
The replacement of excavated earth into a trench around or against a basement/crawl space foundation wall.
Baseboard
A molded board placed against the wall around a room next to the floor to conceal the joint between the floor and wall finish.
Bearing
The part of a joist, rafter, truss or beam which actually rests on its support and the area of the support on which it rests.
Bifold Door
Doors that are hinged in the middle for opening in a smaller area than standard swing doors. Often used for closet doors.
Binder
A preliminary agreement, secured by the payment of an earnest money deposit, under which a buyer offers to purchase real estate.
Blow Insulation
Fiber insulation in loose form and used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed.
Builder's Risk Insurance
Insurance coverage on a construction project during construction, including extended coverage that may be added for the contract for the customer's protections.
Bundle
A package of shingles. Normally, there are 3 bundles per square and 27 shingles per bundle.
Cantilever
An overhang. Where one floor extends beyond and over a foundation wall. For example at a fireplace location or bay window cantilever. Normally, not extending over 2 feet.
Cap
A provision of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) that limits how much the interest rate or mortgage payments may increase or decrease. See lifetime payment cap, lifetime rate cap, periodic payment cap, and periodic rate cap.
Earnest Money Deposit
A deposit made by the potential home buyer to show that he or she is serious about buying the house.
Egress
A means of exiting the home. An egress window is required in every bedroom and basement. Normally a 4' X 4' window is the minimum size required.
Encroachment
Encumbrance
Anything that affects or limits the fee simple title to a property, such as mortgages, leases, easements, or restrictions.
Gable
The end, upper, triangular area of a home, beneath the roof.
Girder
A large or principal beam of wood or steel used to support concentrated loads at isolated points along its length.
Girt
A large horizontal beam supporting the ends of upper storey floor joists between posts.
Jamb
The side and head lining of a doorway, window, or other opening. Includes studs as well as the frame and trim.
Joint Trench
When the electric company and telephone company dig one trench and "drop" both of their service lines in.
Particle Board
Plywood substitute made of course sawdust that is mixed with resin and pressed into sheets. Used for closet shelving, floor underlayment, stair treads, etc.
Percolation Test or Perc. Test
Tests that a soil engineer performs on earth to determine the feasibility of installing a leech field type sewer system on a lot. A test to determine if the soil on a proposed building lot is capable of absorbing the liquid affluent from a septic system.
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.
Saddle
A small second roof built behind the back side of a fireplace chimney to divert water around the chimney. Also, the plate at the bottom of some-usually exterior-door openings. Sometimes called a threshold.
Scribing
Cutting and fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.
Setback Thermostat
A thermostat with a clock which can be programmed to come on or go off at various temperatures and at different times of the day/week. Usually used as the heating or cooling system thermostat.
Time and Materials Contract
A construction contract which specifies a price for different elements of the work such as cost per hour of labor, overhead, profit, etc. A contract which may not have a maximum price, or may state a 'price not to exceed'.
Top Plate
Top horizontal member of a frame wall supporting ceiling joists, rafters, or other members.
Trap
A plumbing fitting that holds water to prevent air, gas, and vermin from backing up into a fixture.
Treated Lumber
A wood product which has been impregnated with chemical pesticides such as CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) to reduce damage from wood rot or insects. Often used for the portions of a structure which are likely to be in contact with soil and water. Wood may also be treated with a fire retardant.
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.
Turn-Key
A term used when the subcontractor provides all materials (and labor) for a job.
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.
Veneer
Extremely thin sheets of wood. Also a thin slice of wood or brick or stone covering a framed wall.
Vested
Having the right to use a portion of a fund such as an individual retirement fund. For example, individuals who are 100 percent vested can withdraw all of the funds that are set aside for them in a retirement fund. However, taxes may be due on any funds that are actually withdrawn.
Weatherstrip
Narrow sections of thin metal or other material installed to prevent the infiltration of air and moisture around windows and doors.
Weep Holes
Small holes in storm window frames that allow moisture to escape.
Whole House Fan
A fan designed to move air through and out of a home and normally installed in the ceiling.
Wind Bracing
Metal straps or wood blocks installed diagonally on the inside of a wall from bottom to top plate, to prevent the wall from twisting, racking, or falling over "domino" fashion.
Window Buck
Square or rectangular box that is installed within a concrete foundation or block wall. A window will eventually be installed in this "buck" during the siding stage of construction.
Z-Bar Flashing
Bent, galvanized metal flashing that's installed above a horizontal trim board of an exterior window, door, or brick run. It prevents water from getting behind the trim/brick and into the home.

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