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Magnifying glass over dictionary


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Actual dimensions – The exact measurement of a piece of lumber. For instance, a 2 x 4 is actually 1½-inches thick and 3½-inches wide.


Alcove – A recessed area in a room.


Ampere (Amp, A) – The unit of measurement of electrical current as it moves through a conductor.


Angle-nail – Driving nails into a substance at an angle.


Apex – The vertex; the highest point of something.


Apron – The trim below a window sill or table top.


Argon gas – Argon is a safe, odorless, colorless, non-toxic, non-flammable inert gas that is commonly used in place of air between the glass panes of an insulated Low-E glass unit to reduce temperature transfer.


Asphalt – A bituminous waterproofing agent applied to roofing materials during manufacturing.


Asphalt plastic roofing cement – An asphalt-based cement used to bond roofing materials.


Awl – A tool with a handle and a long, sharp-pointed end used for punching holes into things like wood or leather.


Awning windows – Awning windows are hinged at the top and swing outward via a crank or lever.




Backer rod (foam backer rod) – A flexible, cylindrical-shaped material used for chinking wide joints, for enhanced sealant/caulking performance.


Back surfacing – Fine mineral matter applied to the back side of shingles to keep them from sticking.


Base flashing – That portion of the flashing attached to or resting on the deck to direct the flow of water onto the roof covering.


Batt – A section of fiberglass or rock-wool insulation.


Batten (batts) – A narrow strip used to cover joints between boards or panels.


Bay Windows – A composite of three windows, usually made up of a large center fixed unit and two flanking units at 30°, 45° or 90° degree angles to the wall.


Beam – A long, sturdy piece of squared timber or metal spanning an opening or room, usually to support the roof or floor above. Horizontal support.


Bearing wall – Exterior or interior walls that lends support to the roof or overhead floor joists.


Beading – This architectural term refers to a narrow, half-round molding that spans the edge of the siding.


Beveled exterior – An angled extension from the frame that adds an aesthetically-pleasing dimension to the exterior of the window.


Blanket – Fiberglass or rock-wool insulation that comes in a roll.


Blind-nailing – A method of driving nails into tongue-and-groove planks in a way that hides them from sight. Drive the nail into the tongue of the plank at an angle; make sure the head is recessed. Slide the grooved side of the succeeding board over the tongue, hiding the nail head.


Blocking – Bridging lengths of solid wood between floor joists for extra support and to eliminate squeaks. Staggering alternately on each side of the chalk line offsets the blocks, allowing you to nail each block firmly in place more easily without having to angle-nail.


Block frame window – Used when replacing the wood sash of an old double hung wood window.


Box – To mix containers of the same kind and color of paint together to ensure the color will be exact throughout the painting project.


Bow windows – A composite of four or more window units in a radial or bow formation.


Breaker box – An insulated box that contains mounted circuit breakers or fuses that control the electrical current in a structure.


Bridging – Boards nailed between joists for rigidity and to keep the joists from warping.


British Thermal Unit (BTU) – The amount of heat required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.


Building codes – Ordinances for safety purposes that govern the manner in which a structure is constructed or modified; codes can be national, providence or statewide, or local. Local codes supersede other codes.


Bulkhead enclosures – A partition, wall or embankment that acts as a protective barrier.


Bundle – A package of shingles. There are 3, 4 or 5 bundles per square.


Butt – Materials placed end-to-end or end-to-edge, without overlapping.


Butt edge – The lower edge of the shingle tabs.


Butt hinge – The most common type of hinge; one leaf attached to the door’s edge, the other to its jamb.


Butt joints – Formed by edges of wallboard that join together when constructing a wall, for instance; seams are taped, covered with compound, and then sanded with the end goal of a flat surface with invisible seams.




Cantilever – A beam or beams that projects beyond its support.


Carpenter’s square – a handheld tool larger than a try square, used as a guide for establishing 90-degree (right) angles, made of metal in the shape of a right triangle.


Casing – The enclosing frame around a door, window or other opening.


Cam lock and keeper – The mechanisms which pull the sash together when placed in the locked position.


Casement window – A window unit in which the single sash cranks outward, to the right or left.


Casing – Molding of various widths, thickness and shapes applied to the framework of window and door units.


Cats paw – A tool similar to a small crowbar, used in small work spaces or tight areas.


Caulk – A variety of compounds used to seal seams and joints.


Cfm (Cubic Feet per Minute) – The amount of air a blower or fan is capable of moving.


Chalk line – An encased reel of string coated with colored chalk, used to mark straight lines.


Chalking – (1) The tendency of some exterior paints to slowly erode over a period of time.  (2) To fill a joint with mastic or asphalt cement to prevent leaks.


Clapboard – A thin, narrow board with one edge thicker than the other, used as siding. CertainTeed siding brands offer clapboard-style siding in different exposures, several different textures, and even different panel projections.


Circuit breaker – A safety switch designed to automatically shut off electrical current to avoid a circuit overload.


Collar – Pre-formed flange placed over a vent pipe to seal the roof around the vent pipe opening. Also called a vent sleeve.


Compound miter – A saw with a box, used to cut wood at a tilted angle for accurate, smooth, clean bevel and miter cuts; especially useful for cutting trim and crown molding and for cutting paneling for ceilings without 90-degree angles.


Compressor – The part of a cooling unit or heat pump that compresses refrigerant gas so it absorbs heat.


Concrete – A mixture of water, sand, gravel and cement; one of the more basic building and paving materials.


Condensing unit – The outdoor section of a cooling system; it includes a compressor and condensing coil.


Conduction – Energy transfer from one material to another by direct contact.


Convection – Heat transfer by currents that flow from a warm surface to a colder one.


Conduit – Metal pipes encased over electrical wiring to protect it in exposed settings.


Construction grade plywood – Various types of a thicker, more durable grade of plywood manufactured for particular purposes and to meet or exceed building code requirements for certain types of construction projects.


Coping – (1) A rounded or beveled cap located at the top of a wall so water will run off.  (2) A curved cut that neatly joins one contoured molding with another.


Corner bead – Lightweight, perforated metal angle, used to reinforce outside corners in drywall construction.


Coupling – A fitting used to connect two lengths of pipes in a straight run.


Courses – Parallel layers of building materials; bricks, shingles, siding, etc.


Cornice – A horizontal molded projection that completes a building or wall; the molding between the wall and ceiling.


Counterbore – A pre-drilled pilot hole with a larger hole drilled in the center to allow screw heads to rest flush or just below the surface.


Cove – A concave surface that connects the ceiling and a wall; a type of molding used to join vertical surfaces to horizontal ones.


Cripple – A short stud above or below a window or door opening; short studs placed between the header and a top plate, or sill and bottom plate.


Crosscut – To cut wood across its natural grain.


Crown – (1) A slightly humped surface on paving that allows water to run off.  (2) A contoured molding installed at the junctures of walls and ceilings.


Cupping – A type of warping that causes the edges of boards to curl up.




Dado – A groove cut into a piece of wood to secure a plank or board in place.


Damper – A valve inside a cut or flue; used to slow or stop the flow of air or smoke.


Deck – The surface installed over the supporting framing members to which the roofing is applied.


Deadbolt – A locking device with squared-off ends, activated with a key or thumb turn.


Double or dual glazing – Use of two panes of glass in a window to increase energy efficiency and provide other performance benefits.


Double-hung window – A window unit that has two operable sashes which move vertically in the frame.


Downspout – A pipe for draining water from roof gutters. Also called a leader.


Digital multi-meter – A relatively inexpensive, compact, easy-to-use instrument used for home electrical applications, easier to use than an analog Ohm meter, with wire probes and a digital display. Some models also have a select mode function.


Dormer window – A window vertically set in a structure, projecting through a sloping roof.


Double cylinder – A lock that is operated with a key from the inside as well as the outside.


Drip cap – A molding placed on the top of the head brickmold or casing of a window frame.


Drip edge – A non-corrosive, non-staining material used along the eaves and rakes to allow water run-off to drip clear of underlying construction.


Ducts – Round or rectangular metal pipes that transport warm or cold air from either a furnace or air conditioner to rooms in a house.


Dutchlap – A beveled-edge siding panel that was popularized by early American settlers.




Easement – A legal right for restricted use of someone’s property.


Eaves – The horizontal, lower edge of a sloped roof that projects away from the wall.


Efflorescence – A whitish powder that sometimes oozes from the mortar joints in masonry work.


Egress – An opening for going out; an exit point.


Elastomeric caulk – A durable, paintable latex sealant, more expensive than other type caulks, but better for specific applications.


Elbow (L) – A plumbing or electrical fitting that allows you to change direction in lengths of pipe or conduit.


Elevation drawing – (1) A drawing of the exterior or interior of a building as seen from a horizontal position – without dimensional perspective.  (2) The side view of a room detailing one wall per drawing.


Emissivity – The relative ability of a surface to radiate heat.


Evaporator coil – A cooling system part that absorbs heat from air in a structure.


Expansion joint – Flexible material between two surfaces, allowing joints differing rates of expansion and contraction.


Exposure – The width of each "board" of siding. Also called a reveal.


Exterior grade plywood (WBP; water and boil proof) – Plywood treated with durable veneers, bonded with waterproof adhesive. It is capable of withstanding prolonged exposure to even severe exterior conditions.


Extrusion – A form produced by forcing material through a die. Most window frames are clad with extruded vinyl or aluminum.




Fall – The slope of drain pipes; minimum fall is ¼-inch per foot.


Fascia board – (1) Horizontal trim attached to the outside ends of rafters, or to the top of an exterior wall. 
(2) Architecturally, "fascia" refers to a flat, horizontal band. A flat board that runs horizontally along the eaves of a roof, typically capping the ends of the roof rafters to give the roof edge a more finished look and provide a base for attaching gutters.


Flashing – A thin strip of metal or synthetic material that diverts water away from a window or skylight.


Female – Any part with internal threads that allows another part to be inserted and attached.


Fenestration – An architectural term referring to the arrangement of windows in a wall. From the Latin word, "fenestra," meaning window.


Fiberglass – A composite material made by embedding glass fibers in a polymer matrix. May be used as a diffusing material in sheet form or as a standard sash and frame element.


Finish – Refers to the texture (and sometimes the gloss level) of a siding panel. For fiber cement, this refers to the coating used to finish the siding. Usually an opaque paint, solid or semi-transparent stain.


Fire blocking – Short horizontal members nailed between studs.


Fish tape – A flexible, flat metal wire used to move other wires through conduits or other hard-to-access locations in a structure; also referred to as steel fish tape or fish wire.


Fitting – Any pipe connector other than a valve.


Fixture – Any device providing a flow of water, or sanitary disposal of wastes; this includes bathtubs, showers, toilets and sinks.


Fixed window – Non-venting or non-operable window. Also known as a picture window.


Flangs – The part of a window that surrounds the frame, for mounting in place and installation.


Flashing – Metal or composition strips used to seal junctions between roofing and other surfaces.


Floating – The stage just before the final stage in concrete work, where you introduce water and smooth off the surface.


Floor plan – A scale drawing that depicts the rooms of a house, including the orientation of doors, walls, windows and permanent fixtures.


Flue – A pipe or other channel that carries smoke and combustion gases to the outside air.


Footing – The base on which a masonry wall rests.


Frame – The enclosure in which window sash or door panels are mounted.


Frieze – The horizontal member connecting the top of the siding with the soffit.


Frame fins – The members of a window frame that engage with the exterior surface of a building once inserted into position. Used to attach the frame to the exterior of a structure; secured with nails or screws.


Framing – The structural skeleton or framework of a building.


Framing square – A flat tool made of metal, shaped like an “L,” used to form accurate right angles. Most commonly used for marking perpendicular lines along the length of lumber during construction projects.


Furred – A wall, ceiling or floor prepared with the use of strips of wood or metal to provide a level substratum for plaster, flooring, or another surface; or to create an air space.


Furring strips – Long thing strips of wood used to make backing surfaces support finished surfaces in a room. Furring can refer to the strips themselves, or “to fur;” the process of installing the strips. Note: some building codes in communities that support fire-proof supporting elements require the use of metal furring strips. So be sure and check what your local building code requirements are before installing any.


Fuse – A safety device that burns out if a circuit shorts or overloads.




Gable – The triangular area located beneath the sloping parts of a roof, and the line that runs between the roof’s eaves.


Gable roof – A type of roof containing sloping planes of the same pitch on each side of the ridge. Contains a gable at each end. A gable roof has a ridge at the center and slopes in two directions. It is the form most commonly used by the Navy. It is simple in design, economical to construct, and can be used on any type of structure.


Galvanized – An outer covering of zinc that protects against rusting.


Gate valve – A valve that completely stops the flow of water.


Girder – The main supporting beam of the house.


Glazing – Glass in a window or door; the act or process of fitting with glass; securing it with glazier’s points and glazing compound.


Glazing bead – A plastic or wood strip applied to the window sash around the perimeter of the glass.


Glazing stop – The part of the sash or door panel which holds the glass in place.


Globe valve – A valve that adjusts the flow of water.


Grade – (1) Ground level.  (2) The elevation at any given point.


Graphite – A soft, black carbon powder for lubricating working metal parts.


Gross floor area – A measurable floor area that is usable.


Ground – The shortest route to earth, in regards to electricity.


Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) – A safety device capable of detecting electrical leakage and interrupting the current.


Grout – Thin mortar used to fill the joints between tiles or other masonry.


Gutter – The trough that channels water from the eaves to the downspouts.


Gypsum wallboard – A type of wallboard made from layers of gypsum (plaster of Paris) and paper; commonly used in walls and partitions as a substitute for plaster.




Habitable rooms – Any room used as, or with the intended use, of sleeping, cooking, living or eating; enclosed spaces such as toilets, landings, halls, lobbies, utility rooms, etc. are excluded.


Hanger – Flat strap that is installed under the roofing material that holds up the horizontal section of the gutter.


Hardboard – A substance manufactured by pressing wood fibers into sheet goods to be used as building material.


Head – The main horizontal member forming the top of the window or door frame.


Header – (1) Heavy framing above the top of a window, door or other opening that lends support; usually two boards or a masonry product sandwiched together and laid on edge.  (2) A horizontal framing member placed over the rough opening of a window to prevent the weight of wall or roof from resting on the window frame.


Hip – The outside angle of a roof; formed by the intersection of two sloped sides of the roof.


Hip roof – The hip roof has four sloping sides. It is the strongest type of roof because it is braced by four hip rafters. These hip rafters run at a 45° angle from each corner of the building to the ridge.


Hopper – A window unit in which the top of the sash swings inward.


Hot wire – The wire that carries electricity away, to a receptacle or other device.


HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning.




IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) – Interior air quality, increasingly recognized as important to health; this includes gaseous composition, temperature, relative humidity and airborne contaminant levels, such as pollen and dust.


Ice dam – Condition formed at the lower roof edge by the thawing and re-freezing of melted snow on the overhang. Can force water up and under shingles, causing leaks.


Insulating glass – A combination of two or more panes of glass with a hermetically sealed air space between the panes of glass. This space may or may not be filled with an inert gas, such as argon.




Jack studs (trimmers) – Studs at both sides of an opening, used to support the header.


Jamb – The main vertical members forming the sides of a window or door frame.


Jigsaw – A power saw used to cut curved, irregular and intricate patterns; it has a thin blade that moves up and down.


Joint compound – A synthetic-based paste used in combination with paper or fiberglass tape to conceal joints between drywall panels.


Joint Tape – A special type of paper tape or paper-faced cotton; used over joints between wallboard applied as a surface. Helping to conceal the joints and provide a smooth surface for finishing (painting, texturing, etc.).


Joists – Horizontal floor and ceiling framing supports.




Keyhole saw – A handheld saw, also called a jab saw or drywall saw; similar to a compass saw. Typically, it has a long narrow blade with a sharpened point that can be pushed through soft materials without pre-drilling a hole for the blade to fit through. Used for cutting short radius curves in such surfaces as drywall and plywood.


King studs – The studs located on both ends of a header that lend support, and run from the wall’s sole plate to its top plate.




Lag screw – A large wood screw with a hexagonal head; secured in place using a wrench instead of a screwdriver.


Laminate – (1) The process of applying a veneer.  (2) A Thin layer of material (i.e. wood, plastic) glued to the exterior of a surface.


Latch – A beveled-metal, tongued, locking device with a spring-loaded knob or lever.


Lattice – Wood or other material formed into an open cross-hatch design.


Ledger – The horizontal support for an end or edge of an assembly.


Level – A tool used to determine true horizontal or level.


Lift – A handle or grip installed on the bottom rail of the lower sash of a double-hung window to make it easier to raise or lower the sash.


Lineal – Molding of various widths used to trim door and window openings at the jambs. Also referred to as: box post, window and door surround.


Lintel – (1) The load-bearing beam over an opening.  (2) A horizontal member above a window or door opening that supports the structure above.


Light or Lite – Glazing framed by muntins and/or sash in a window or door.


Load-bearing wall – Also called a bearing wall, a load-bearing wall supports the house structure, transferring the structure’s weight to the foundation. This includes all exterior walls and any interior wall aligned above a support beam or girder; normally, any wall with a double horizontal top plate.


Louver – A framed opening fitted with fixed or movable horizontal slats for admitting air and light, while shedding rain.


Low-E Glass – A common term used to refer to glass which has low emissivity due to a film or metallic coating on the glass or suspended between the two lights of glass to restrict the passage of radiant heat.


Low-voltage wiring – Electrical wire for low-voltage systems requiring between 6 and 30 volts.


Lux – An International System unit of illumination equal to one lumen per square meter.




Main drain – The part of the drainage system between the home’s sewer drain and fixture drains.


Male – Any part with external threads that fits into and attaches to another part.


Masonry opening – The space in a masonry wall left open for windows or door.Masonry Chisel – A tool with a flat steel blade used for cutting or chipping away stone and masonry.


Mason’s line – A heavy string, usually brightly colored, that does not snag or stretch; used for marking the placement of building materials or indicate level of a wall.


Materials list – A list of materials required to complete a new construction or renovation project.


Measurable floor area – The floor area under ceilings 5 ft. and higher, or furred ceilings 7 ½ ft. and higher.


Miter – A joint formed by beveling the edges or ends of two pieces of material, fitted together at an angle.


Molding – A strip of wood or other material used to decorate or finish a surface.


Mortise – The hole, slot or other recess into which another element fits.


Mullion – A wood or metal part used to structurally join two window or door units.


Muntin – Applies to any short or light bar, either vertical or horizontal, used to separate glass in a sash into multiple lights. Also called a windowpane divider or a grille.


Muntin bar – Any small bar that divides a windows glass. Also called a grille or windowpane divider.




Nail hem – The top edge of a siding panel, where it is nailed to a wall.


Nail set – A short metal rod with a narrow blunt point, used to set nail heads below the surface of wood.


National Electrical Code (NEC) – A set of rules for safe wiring practices.


Neutral wire – A wire that carries electricity from an outlet back to the ground; usually color-coded white.


National Uniform Plumbing Code (NUFC) – A complex manual of acceptable plumbing standards for safety purposes.


Newel post – A post at the top of a staircase or bottom of the landing, secured to the handrail.


Nipple – A short length of threaded pipe that connects to runs of water or gas supply pipe.


NM electrical cable – A type of power cable with a nonmetallic jacket used by electricians that meets electrical code requirements for safe installation and wiring; sometimes also referred to as Romex™.


Nominal dimensions – Labels given to a standard piece of lumber before it is finished by planning; sometimes sanded down to its actual dimensions.




Ohm meter (also known as VOM) – A hand-held device used to test cables, AC power levels and batteries; it has a needle that moves left to right, a type of rotary switch and set of wire probes.


On center (OC) – The distance from the center of one regularly spaced framing member to the center of the next.


Overhang – That portion of the roof structure that extends beyond the exterior walls of a building.


Overlap – Area where two pieces of lap siding are overlapped. This dimension is usually 1¼".




Packing nut – A nut with packing material that holds the stem of a valve in place.


Pane – A framed sheet of glass within a window.


Panel projection – The section of siding that projects from the wall. As a rule of thumb, a larger panel projection creates a more pronounced shadow line.


Pennyweight – A system of measurement for the size of a nail.


Perlins – The horizontal members of a roof’s structure that attaches and supports roof panels; horizontal lengths of lumber that connect rafter trusses.


Pier – A masonry post.


Picture window – Non-venting or non-operable window. Also known as a fixed window.


Pilot hole – A small-diameter hole to guide a nail or screw.


Pilot light – A small, continuous flame that ignites gas or oil burners once turned on.


Pitch – The degree of roof incline expressed as the ratio of the rise, in feet, to the span, in feet.


Platform framing – The most common method of light-frame construction framing used for houses, small apartment buildings and occasionally for small commercial buildings throughout the United States and Canada. Platform framing uses studs that are attached to floor-level bottom plates. This type framing requires not only shorter pieces of lumber than balloon framing, but also makes home structural renovation changes much easier.


Point – Filling the cracks of masonry wall with mortar or cement to finish it off.


Post-and-beam – A basic building method where a few hefty posts and beams are used to support an entire structure.


Pressure-treated wood – Lumber treated with a preservative.


Primer – A base coat formulated to seal raw surfaces and hold succeeding finish coats.


Profile – Side view of a siding or soffit panel.


Property value – The value of a piece of property based upon a recent appraisal and the amount a buyer will pay. Four Seasons can help you add property value by fixing and remodeling your home.




Rafters – Framing members that run parallel and support the roof.


Rake – (1) The inclined edge of a roof.  (2) Trim members that run parallel to the roof slope and form the finish between the wall and a gable roof extension.


Rail – The top and bottom horizontal members of the framework of a window sash.


Reducer – A fitting with openings in various sizes used to connect a larger pipe to a smaller one.


Ridge – The uppermost, horizontal external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.


Ridge board – The topmost beam located at the peak of a roof to which rafters are attached; the horizontal board that serves as the apex, the highest point, of the roof or ceiling.


Rip / Ripping – To trim or saw a board by following the grain.


Rise – The vertical distance from one point to another above it.


Riser – The upright piece between two stair steps.


Rough opening – The framed opening in a wall into which a window or door unit is to be installed. Openings are larger than the size of the unit to allow space for insulation and to shim the unit square.


Roughing-in – The initial stage of a construction or renovation project, once all plumbing, carpentry and electrical components that won’t be seen after the second finishing phase are assembled.


Run – (1) The horizontal distance of a ramp or stairway.  (2) A line of pipes or cabinets.


R-Value – The measure of the resistance to heat transfer of an insulating material. Higher R-value numbers indicate greater insulating value.




Sash – (1) The part of a window that can be opened.  (2) A single assembly of stiles and rails made into a frame for holding glass.


Sash lift – A protruding handle screwed to the inside bottom rail of the lower sash on a double-hung window.


Seat board – A flat board cut to fit the contour of a bow or bay window and installed between the sills and the flat wall surface, providing a seat or shelf space.


Set screw – Used to prevent loosening due to vibration; available as thumb screw, square head, Allen head (inset socket) – and most commonly – headless; designed to be inserted flush with or below a surface.


Setback – (1) The distance a home must be built from property lines, governed by local zoning codes. 
(2) Temporary change in a thermostat’s setting.


Shadow line – The shadow pattern cast by a particular siding in the sunlight. Shadow line is influenced by the style and panel projection of the siding.


Shake – A wood shingle that has been split, instead of cut.


Sheathing – The first covering on a roof or exterior wall.


Sheet goods – Plywood and similar materials manufactured as panels.


Shims – Wood wedges (often wood shingles) used to secure the window or door unit in the rough or masonry opening in a square, level and plumb position during and after installation.


Shoe molding (base shoe) – Molding along the point where the baseboard meets the floor.


Sidelites – Narrow fixed units mulled or joined to door units to give a more open appearance.


Sill – The lowest horizontal piece of a window, door or wall framework.


Sill cock – The valve of an outdoor faucet.


Sill plate – A sole plate that rests on a foundation; the first component of framing a house, supporting the house structure.


Simulated divided lite – A method of constructing windows in which muntins are affixed to the inside and outside of a panel of insulating glass to simulate the look of true divided light.


Single glazing – Use of single panes of glass in a window. Not as energy-efficient as double glazing.


Single-hung window – A double-hung type of window in which the top sash is fixed or inoperable.


Sisal – A natural, durable fiber frequently used in floor coverings.


Sleepers – Boards that lay over a masonry floor, used as nailers for plywood, strip or wood flooring.


Slider window – Both sashes slide horizontally in a double-sliding window. Only one sash slides in a single-sliding window. Ventilation area can vary from a small crack to an opening of one-half the total glass area. Screens can be placed on the exterior or interior of the window unit.


Slope – The degree of roof incline expressed as the ratio of the rise, in inches, to the run, in feet.


Snap ring – A small metal ring. When installing a sink, it holds the entire, under-the-counter, sink assembly tight and securely in place.


Soffit – The underside of a structural element. Usually the underside of an overhang or eaves, beam, arch, cornice or staircase.


Soil pipe – A large pipe used to carry liquid and solid wastes to a sewer or septic tank.


Sole plate – The bottommost horizontal part of a stud partition; supported by a wood subfloor, concrete slab or another closed surface.


Sound transmission class (STC) – A rating of airborne sound transmission; used for floor, ceiling, wall soundproof values. Typical sound proof values range from a modest 25 to 35 rating for lightweight, single family residential structures; room partitions for commercial structures may have increased STC ratings upwards of 50 to 60. Many homeowners elect to increase STC rating to soundproof certain rooms of the house, such as home theaters, home offices, bedrooms, guest quarters, family recreation rooms, etc.


Spackle / Spackling compound – A paste that can be sanded once dried; used to fill cracks and holes in walls.


Span – (1) The distance between supports.  (2) The horizontal distance between the outside top plates, or the base of two abutting right triangles.


Spline – A thin piece of wood used to strengthen the joint, fitted into the slots on the edges of two joined boards.


Square – (1) Surfaces positioned at a 90-degree angle to each other.  (2) Unit of measure for siding equal to 100 square feet (or a 10-foot by 10-foot wall section).


Square notched trowel – A handheld tool with different notched depths, used to spread and “comb” adhesives and other similar products onto underlayment or other horizontal surfaces. Most frequently used for installing floor tile.


Stack – The main drain pipe that runs vertically through a house.


STC – (See “sound transmission class.”)


Steel fish tape – (See “fish tape.”)


Stool – An interior trim piece on a window which extends the sill and acts as a narrow shelf.


Stop molding – A molding used to hold, position or separate window parts.


Stile – The main vertical members of the framework of a sash.


Stringer – A long piece of lumber used to support stairs.


Strike – The plate on a door frame that engages a latch or dead bolt.


Strikeplate – A plate protecting the jamb from the hardware latch on a door; covers the latch and deadbolt.


Studs – Vertical framing members spaced at regular intervals, usually 18", within a wall.


Stud finder – An electronic or magnetic tool used to locate wall studs.


Subfloor – The first layer of a floor.


Substratum – An underlying layer. The foundation; material on which another material is attached.


Surform plane – A type of plane with various blades for special purposes; one with precision-sharpened, hard teeth set to produce consistent quality cuts.


Sweep – A flexible strip on the bottom edge of a door to prevent drafts.


Swing stapler (hammer tacker) – A small, hand-held heavy duty stapling device that requires one-hand operation; used with a swinging motion much like that of a hammer. Ideal for installing insulation, poly sheeting, tar paper, carpet, house wrap, etc.


T-square – (1) A tool with a 48-inch long tongue; typically made from aluminum, used to measure and cut wallboard. 
(2) A technical drawing instrument primarily used for drawing lines on a drafting table.


Tailpiece – (1) The short drainpipe located between a fixture drain and a trap.  (2) The inlet tubes on faucets that connect it to water supply lines.


Taping – The process of covering drywall joints with paper tape and joint compound.


Tempered Glass – Glass manufactured to withstand greater-than-normal forces on its surface. When it breaks, it shatters into small pieces to reduce hazard. Standard on all doors and large fixed windows.


Thermal break – The addition of a thermal insulating material between two thermally conductive materials.


Threshold (saddle) – The plate located at the bottom of some door openings, usually on the exterior.


Toenail – Nailing at an angle to attach two boards together, diagonally through the corner of one board into the other board.


Top plate – The uppermost horizontal element of a stud-frame wall.


Total run – is equal to half the span, or the base of one of the right triangles. Total rise is the vertical distance from the top plate to the top of the ridge, or the altitude of the triangle.


Trap – A bend in a drainpipe that creates a water seal to prevent toxic gases from escaping through fixtures into the house.


Tread – The level part of a staircase.


Transom – A small window that fits over the top of a door or window, primarily for additional light and aesthetic value.


True divided lite – A term which refers to windows in which multiple individual panes of glass or lites are assembled in the sash using muntins.


Underlayment – (1) Asphalt saturated felt used beneath roofing to provide additional protection for the deck. 
(2) A cement-like product that is used to level floors before laying down any surface material.


Union – A plumbing fitting used to join pipes end to end.


Unit of run – is a fixed unit of measure, always 12 inches for the common rafter. Any measurement in a horizontal direction is expressed as run and is always measured on a level plane. Unit of span is also fixed, twice the unit of run, or 24 inches. Unit of rise is the distance the rafter rises per foot of run (unit of run).


Universal design – Physically-challenged friendly; products and environments accessible and useable by all people regardless of age, size or physical ability.


Utility knife – A knife with a long handle and a retractable razor blade.


Valley – Where two roof slopes intersect. The internal angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.


Vapor barrier – Waterproof material that blocks the transfer of moisture in a wall, floor or ceiling.


Veneer – Thin sheets of wood applied to the surface of furniture.


Vent – Any outlet for air that protrudes through the roof deck such as a pipe or stack. Any device installed on the roof, gable or soffit for the purpose of ventilating the underside of the roof deck.


Vent unit – A window or door unit that opens or operates.


Vertical siding – Also referred to as "panel siding", this rectangular shaped siding is typically manufactured in 4 x 8,
4 x 9 or 4 x 10 sizes. Vertical siding is never overlapped. Solid vinyl soffit can also be used as vertical siding.


Vinyl – A Synthetic resin or plastic consisting of polyvinyl chloride or a related polymer, used esp. for siding, windows, doors, etc.


Wainscoting – Decorative wood paneling that only covers the lower half of a wall.


Warping – Distortion in a material.


Weatherstripping – A material or device used to seal the openings, gaps or cracks of venting window and door units to prevent water and air infiltration.


Wet wall – A wall framed to enclose the building’s main drain/vent stack, water lines, and DWV lines.

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