Construction Dictionary


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This document is a list of terms and language used primarily in the construction industry.

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Construction Dictionary

  1. 1. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) ABSTRACT OF TITLE: A summary of all deeds, wills, and legal actions to show ownership. ABUT: Joining the ends of construction members. ACOUSTICS: The science of sound. In housing, acoustical materials used to keep down noise within a room or to prevent it from passing through walls. ADOBE: Construction using sun-dried units of adobe soil for walls; usually found in southwestern United States. A-FRAME: A structural system utilizing members which when fastened together resemble the letter A. AGGREGATE: Gravel (course) or sand (fine) used in concrete mixes. AIR CONDITIONER: An apparatus that can heat, cool, clean, and circulate air. AIR-DRIED LUMBER: Lumber that is left in the open to dry rather than being dried by a kiln. AIR DUCT: A pipe, usually made of sheet metal, that conducts air to rooms from a central source. AIR TRAP: A U-shaped pipe filled with water and located beneath plumbing fixtures to form a seal against the passage of gases and odors. ALCOVE: A recessed space connected at the side of a larger room. ALTERATION: A change in, or addition to, an existing building. AMORTIZATION: An installment payment of a loan, usually monthly for a home loan. AMPERE: The unit used in the measure of the rate of flow of electricity. ANCHOR BOLT: A threaded rod inserted in masonry construction for anchoring the sill plate to the foundation. ANGLE IRON: A structural piece of rolled steel shaped to form a 90-degree angle. APRON: Inside window trim placed under the stool and against the wall. Papers, sometimes tar-impregnated, used on roofs and sidewalls to give protection against dampness and leaks.
  2. 2. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) ARCH: A curved structure that will support itself by mutual pressure and the weight above its curved opening. AREA WALL: A wall surrounding an areaway. AREAWAY: A recessed area below grade around the foundation to allow light and ventilation into a basement window or doorway. ASHLAR: A facing of squared stones. ASHPIT: The area below the hearth of a fireplace which collects the ashes. ASPHALT: Bituminous sandstones used for paving streets and waterproofing flat roofs. ASPHALT SHINGLES: Composition roof shingles made from asphalt-impregnated felt covered with mineral granules. ASTRAGAL MOLD: T-profiled molding usually used between meeting doors or casement windows. ATRIUM: An open court within a building. ATTIC: The space between the roof and the ceiling. AWNING WINDOW: An out-swinging window hinged at the top. AXIS: Line around which something rotates or is symmetrically arranged. BACKFILL: Earth used to fill in areas around foundation walls. BACKHEARTH: The part of the hearth inside the fireplace. BAFFLE: A partial blocking against a flow of wind or sound. BALCONY: A deck projecting from the wall of a building above the ground. BALLOON FRAMING: The building-frame construction in which each of the studs is one piece from the foundation to the roof of a two-story house. BALUSTRADE: A series of balusters or post connected by a rail, generally used adjacent to stairs.
  3. 3. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) BANISTER: A handraling. BARGEBOARD: Finish board covering the projecting and sloping portion (end rafter) of a gable roof. BASE: The finish or a room at the junction of the walls and floors. BASEBOARD: Finish board covering the interior wall where the wall and floor meet. BASE COURSE: The lowest part of masonry construction. BASE LINE: A located line for reference control purposes. BASEMENT: The lowest story of a building, partially or entirely below ground. BASE PLATE: A plate, usually of steel, upon which a column rests. BASE SHOE: A molding used next to the floor in interior baseboards. BATT: A type of fiberglass insulation designed to be installed between framing members. BATTEN: Narrow strip of wood nailed over the vertical joints of boards to form board-and-batten siding. BATTER: A masonry or concrete wall which slopes backward from the perpendicular. BATTER BOARDS: Horizontal boards at exact elevations nailed to posts just outside the corners of a proposed building. Strings are stretched across the boards to locate the outline of the foundation for workers. BAY WINDOW: A projection formed by three windows that are joined at obtuse angels. BEAM: A horizontal structural member that carries a load. BEAM CEILING: A ceiling in which the ceiling beams are exposed to view. BEARING PLATE: Metal plate that provides support for a structural member. BEARING WALL OR PARTITION: A wall supporting any vertical load other than its own weight.
  4. 4. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) BEARING PLATE: Metal plate that provides support for a structural member. BEARING WALL OR PARTITION: A wall supporting any vertical load other than its own weight. BENCH MARK: Mark on some permanent object fixed to the ground from which land measurements and elevations are taken. BENDING MOMENT: A measure of the forces that break a beam by bending. BENT: A frame consisting of two supporting columns and a girder or truss used in vertical position in framing a structure. BEVEL SIDING: Shingles or other siding board thicker on one edge than the other. The thick edge overlaps the thin edge of the next board. BILL OF MATERIAL: A parts list of material accompanying a structural drawing. BLANKET INSULATION: Insulation in rolled-sheet form, often backed by treated paper that forms a vapor barrier. BLIND NAILING: Method of nailing which will conceal nails, usually used on strip flooring and wood paneling. BLOCKING: Small wood framing members that fill in the open space between the floor and ceiling joists to add stiffness to the floors and ceiling. BLUEPRINT: An architectural type drawing used by workers to build from. The original drawing is transferred to a sensitized paper that turns blue with white lines when printed. Also, prints of blue lines on white paper. BOARD MEASURE: System of lumber measurement. The unit is 1 bd. ft, which is 1 ft square by approximately 1 in. thick. BOND BEAM: Continuous, reinforced concrete block course around the top of masonry walls. BOW WINDOW: A curved projection formed by five or more windows that are joined at obtuse angles.
  5. 5. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) BEARING BRACE: Any stiffening member of a framework. BRACED FRAMING: Frame construction with posts and braces used for stiffening. BREEZEWAY: A roofed walkway with open sides. It connects the house and garage. BRIDGING: Cross bracing or solid blocking between joist to stiffen floor framing. BUCK: Frame for a door, usually made of metal, into which the finished door fits. BUILDING CODE: A collection of legal requirements for buildings designed to protect the safety, health, and general welfare of people who work and live them. BUILDING LINE: Setback restrictions on property, established by zoning ordinances, beyond which a building must be placed. BUILDING PAPER: A heavy, waterproof paper used over sheathing and subfloors to prevent passage of air and water. BUILDING PERMIT: A permit issued by a municipal government authorizing the construction of a building or structure. BUILT-UP ROOF: Roofing for low-slope roofs composed of several layers of felt and hot asphalt or coal tar, usually covered with small aggregate. BUTT: Type of hinge allowing edge of door to butt into the jamb; a joint which fastens members end to end. BUTTERFLY ROOF: A roof with two sides sloping down toward the interior of the house. BUTTRESS: Vertical masonry or concrete support, usually larger at the base, which projects from a wall. BTU: Abbreviation for british thermal unit; a standard unit for measuring heat gain or loss. BX CABLE: Armored electric cable wrapped in plastic and protected by a flexible steel covering. CANOPY: A projection over windows and doors to protect them from the weather.
  6. 6. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) CANTILEVER: A projecting beam or structural member anchored at only one end. CANT STRIP: Angular shaped member used to eliminate a sharp, right angle, often used on flat roofs. CARPORT: An automobile shelter not fully enclosed. CARRIAGE: The horizontal part of the stringers of a stair that supports the treads. CASEMENT WINDOW: A hinged window that opens out, usually made of metal. CASING: Trim around window and door openings. CATCH BASIN: An underground structure for drainage into which the water from a roof or floor will drain. It is connected with a sewer drain or sump pump. CAULKING: Soft, elastic material used to seal small openings around doors, windows, etc. CAVITY WALL: Double masonry wall having an air space between the wyths. CEDAR SHINGLES: Roofing and siding shingles made from western red cedar. CEMENT: A masonry adhesive material purchased in the form of pulverized powder. CENTRAL HEATING: A single source of heat that is distributed by pipes or ducts. CESSPOOL: A pit or cistern to hold sewage. CHALK LINE: A string that is heavily chalked, held tight, then plucked to make a straight guideline against boards or other surfaces. CHAMFER: Beveled edge formed by removing the sharp corner of a material. CHASE: Vertical space within a building for ducts, pipes, or wires. CHECKS: Splits or cracks in a board, ordinarily caused by seasoning. CHECK VALVE: A valve that permits passage through a pipe in only one direction.
  7. 7. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) CHIMNEY: A vertical flue for passing smoke and gases outside a building. CHIMNEY STACK: A group of flues in the same chimney. CHORD: Top or bottom member of a truss. CINDER BLOCK: A building block made of cement and cinder. CIRCUIT: Closed wiring or conductor through which an electric current can pass. CIRCUIT BREAKER: A safety device used to open and close an electrical circuit. CISTERN: A tank or other reservoir to store rainwater run off. CLAPBOARD: A board, thicker on one side than the other, used to overlap an adjacent board. CLEARANCE: A clear space to allow passage. CLERESTORY: An outside wall of a room or building that rises above an adjoining roof and contains windows. CLINCH: To bend over the protruding end of a nail. CLIP: A small connecting angle used for fastening various members of a structure. COLLAR BEAM: Horizontal member tying opposing rafters below the roof ridge. COLUMN: Vertical supporting member. COMMON WALL: A single wall that serves two dwelling units. COMPRESSION: A force that tends to make a member fail because of crushing. CONCRETE: A mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water. CONCRETE BLOCK: Precast hollow or solid blocks of concrete. CONDEMN: To legally declare unfit for use.
  8. 8. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) CONDENSATION: The formation of frost or drops of water on inside walls when warm vapor inside a room meets a cold wall or window. CONDUCTOR: In architecture, a drain pipe leading from the roof; in electricity, anything that permits the passage of an electric current. CONDUCTOR PIPE: A pipe used to lead water from the roof to the sewer. CONDUIT: A channel built to convey water or other fluids; a drain or sewer. In electrical work, a channel that carries wires for protection and for safety. CONSTRUCTION LOAN: A mortgage loan to be used to pay for labor and materials going into the house. Money is usually advanced to the builder as construction progresses and is repaid when the house is completed and sold. CONTINUOUS BEAM: A beam that has no intermediate supports. CONTRACTOR: The manager of a construction project. CONTROL JOINT: Continuous, vertical joint in masonry walls to control cracking. CONVECTOR: A heat-transfer surface that uses convection currents to transfer heat. COPING: Metal cap or masonry top course of a wall. CORBEL: Projection of masonry from the face of a wall; a stepped coursing bracket to support weight above. CORNER BEAD: A metal molding built into plaster corners to prevent the accidental breaking off of the plaster. CORNICE: Molded projection of the roof overhang at the top of a wall. COUNTERFLASHING: A flashing used under the regular flashing. COURSE: A continuous row of stone or brick of uniform height.
  9. 9. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) COURT: An open space surrounded partly or entirely by a building. COVE: Concave molding usually used on horizontal inside corners. CRAWL SPACE: Shallow space below the floor of a building built above ground, generally surrounded with a foundation wall. CRICKET: Small gable-like roof structure used to divert water and debris from intersection of sloping roof and chimney; also called a saddle. CRIPPLE: Structural member that is cut less than full length, such as a studding piece above a window or door. CROSS BRACING: Boards nailed diagonally across studs or other boards to make framework rigid. CROSS BRIDGING: Bracing between floor joist to add stiffness to the floors. CROSSHATCH: Lines drawn closely together at an angle to show a section cut. CROWN MOLDING: Molding used above eye level; usually the upper trim on interior walls. CULL: Building material rejected as below standard grade. CULVERT: A passage for water below ground level. CUPOLA: A small structure built on top of a roof to provide ventilation. CURB: A very low wall. CURE: To allow concrete to dry slowly by keeping it moist to allow maximum strength. CURTAIN WALL: An exterior wall that provides no structural support. DADO JOINT: Recessed joint on the face of a board to receive the end of a perpendicular board. DAMP COURSE: A layer of waterproof material. DAMPER: A movable plate that regulates the draft of a stove, fireplace, or furnace.
  10. 10. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) DATUM: A reference point of starting elevations used in mapping and surveying. DEADENING: Construction intended to prevent the passage of sound. DEAD LOAD: All the weight in a structure made up of unmovable materials. DECAY: The disintegration of wood through the action of fungi. DEHUMIDIFY: To reduce the moisture content in the air. DENSITY: The number of people living in a calculated area of land such as s square mile or square kilometer. DENTIL: One of a series of small projecting rectangular blocks forming a molding under an overhang, most common in Colonial-style homes. DETAIL: Information added to a drawing to provide specific instruction with a drawing, dimensions, notes, or specifications. DIMENSION LINE: A line with arrowheads at each end to show the distance between two points. DIMENSION LUMBER: Framing lumber that is nominal thickness. DOME: A hemispherical roof form. DOORSTOP: Projecting strip around the inside of door frame against which the door closes. DORMER: Top-floor projection of a room built out from a sloping roof to allow light and ventilation. DOUBLE GLAZING: A pane made of two pieces of glass with air space between and sealed to provide insulation. DOUBLE HEADER: Two or more timbers joined for strength. DOUBLE HUNG: A window having top and bottom sashes each capable of movement up and down. DOWNSPOUT: Pipe for carrying rainwater from the roof to the ground or storm drainage system; also called a leader.
  11. 11. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) DRAIN: A pipe for carrying waste water. DRESSED LUMBER: Lumber machined and smoothed at the mill. Usually 1/2 inch less than nominal (rough) size. DRIP: Projecting construction or groove below an exterior member to throw off rainwater. DRY ROT: A term applied to many types of decay, especially and advanced stage when the wood can be easily crushed to a dry powder. DRY-WALL CONSTRUCTION: Interior wall covering other than plaster, usually referred to as "gypsum board" or "wallboard." DRY WELL: A pit located in porous ground and lined with rock that allows water to seep through the pit. Used for the disposal of rain water of the effluent from a septic tank. DUCTS: Sheet metal conductors for warm and cold air distribution. DUPLEX OUTLET: Electrical wall outlet having two plug receptacles. EASEMENT: The right to use land owned by another, such as a utility company’s right-of-way. EAVE: Lower portion of the roof that overhangs the exterior walls. EFFLORESCENCE: Whitish powder that forms on the surface of bricks or stone walls due to evaporation of moisture containing slots. EFFLUENT: The liquid discharge from a septic tank after bacterial treatment. ELASTIC LIMIT: The limit to which a material can be bent or pulled out of shape and still return to its former shape and dimensions. ELBOW: An L-shaped pipe fitting. ELEVATION: The drawings of the front, sides, or rear face of a building. ELL: Extension or wing of a building at right angles to the main section.
  12. 12. CONSTRUCTION TERMS (A – E) EMBELLISH: To add decoration. EMINENT DOMAIN: The right of the local government to condemn for public use. ENAMEL: Paint with a considerable amount of varnish. It produces a hard, glossy surface. ENTABLATURE: In architecture, the entablature is that part of a structure which is immediately above the column; also the distinguishing feature of the Greek styles. There are five distinct orders of entablature - Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite. The entablature is composed of three parts - the architrave, a stone or marble slab, the prototype of which was the square timber beam of the primitive structure; the frieze or middle member, subdivided into its minor parts; and the cornice, which, with its mouldings and ornaments, is the superior projection of the structure. ERGONOMICS: The study of human space and movement needs. ESCUTCHEON: The hardware on a door to accommodate the knob and keyhole. EXCAVATION: Cavity or pit produced by digging the earth in preparation for construction. EXPANSION JOINT: Flexible joint used to prevent cracking or breaking due to thermal expansion and contraction. The following terms, F-Z, will be posted to this site in February. If you are in need of construction terms, costs, contractors, architects or need an evaluation of your current space for renewal, subleasing, or relocation, please call: Robert S. “Bob” Lowery Coldwell Banker Commercial 832-275-6514