BEAM: A principal structural member used between posts,
columns or walls.
BEARING WALL or PARTITION: A wall which supports a vertical
load like a roof.
BOW: A curved projection formed by at least five windows
joined at obtuse angles (more than 90 degrees, less than 180 degrees).
CAMBER: A slight curve in a beam or other horizontal structural
member which prevents it from bending into a downward or concave
shape due to its load.
CAULK: To seal a crack or joint and make it water-or airtight,
especially around window or exterior door frames.
CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY: A piece of paper stating your
building is up to code.
CLERESTORY: An outside wall of a room or building that rises
above an adjoining roof and contains windows.
COLUMN: An upright supporting member; can be circular or
rectangular in shape.
CONDUIT: (Electrical) A pipe or tube in which wiring is
DENTIL: One of a series of small projecting rectangular
blocks forming a molding under an overhang, most common in colonial
DIMENSIONAL STABILITY: The ability of a material to resist
changes in its dimensions due to temperature, humidity and/or physical
DORMER: A structure projecting from a roof, containing a
window (looks like a small dog house).
DRY WALL: Materials used for wall covering (interior) which
do not need to be mixed with water before application. Also called
gypsum board or wallboard.
EAVES: The lower part of a roof that projects over the exterior
wall. Also called overhang.
ELEVATIONS: Drawings which show the exterior sides of your
FOOTPRINT: The outline of a home's foundation - used for
FOUNDATION: The supporting portion of a building, usually
concrete (including the footings), which sits below grade or below
the first-floor construction.
FRAMING: The wood structure of a building which gives it
strength and shape; includes exterior and interior walls, floor,
GABLE: The vertical triangular end of a building from the
eaves to the ridge.
GABLE ROOF: A roof consisting of two rectangular planes
sloping up to a ridge.
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Person overseeing a construction job,
may include hiring special contractors, doing physical labor.
GIRDER: A large or principal beam used to support concentrated
loads or weight at particular points along its length.
GLAZING: The process of installing glass into window frames
(sash) and doors.
GYPSUM BOARD: The generic name for a family of noncombustible
sheet products consisting of a core primarily of gypsum and paper
surfacing. Also known as wallboard, sheetrock, or drywall.
HEADER: Horizontal structural member that supports the load
over an opening such as a window or door.
HIP ROOF: A roof with sloping ends and sides that meet at
INSULATION: Any material high in resistance to heat transmission;
placed in structures to reduce the rate of heat flow.
JOIST: One of the series of parallel framing members used
to support the floor and ceiling; joists are supported in turn by
larger beams, girders or bearing walls.
KEYSTONE: A wedge shaped detail at the top of an arch.
LIEN (mechanic's lien): The right to enforce a charge against
the property of another until some claim or unpaid charge is satisfied.
LIGHT CONSTRUCTION: Construction generally restricted to
conventional wood stud walls, floor and ceiling joists and rafters.
Primarily used in houses and small buildings.
LOAD: Weight that must be taken into account to design the
strength of a structure. Tables in the U.B.C. will give you typical
Dead Load: A nonvariable weight; the weight of the building
materials themselves. The roof is a dead load on the walls; the
roof and the walls are a dead load on the foundation, etc.
Live Load: The total of all moving and variable loads (furniture,
people, appliances) that can safely be placed upon a building.
MEMBER: Any unit or element of construction usually referred
to when speaking of structural components of the building.
NOMINAL SIZE: As applied to timber or lumber, the commercial
size by which it is known and sold. Wood that is called 2 x 4 measures
only 1 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.
NONBEARING PARTITION: A wall extending from floor to ceiling
which supports no load other than its own weight; designed to separate
rooms. Can be knocked down without jeopardizing the safety of strength
of the structure.
ON CENTER (O.C.): A method of indicating the spacing between
framing members by starting the measurement from the center of one
member to the center of the next.
PALLADIAN WINDOW: A window arrangement with a half-round
window on top of a wider rectangular window.
PARTITION: A wall that subdivides space within one floor
or story of the building.
PIER: A small column of masonry or concrete (usually drawn
rectangular in plan) used to support other beams or columns as part
of the foundation of the building.
PITCH: Slope, as of roofs or stairs. It is computed by dividing
the rise by the run. (A roof which rises 5 feet over a 20-foot length
(run) has a one-in-four pitch, 5/20=1/4).
PLAN: A drawing representing any one of the floors or horizontal
cross sections of the building. Usually taken at four feet above
the floor so as to cut through most structures-windows, built-in
cabinets, etc. PLOT PLAN shows the buildings on your site.
PLATE: A nailing board placed over the foundation sill or
rafter used to connect the foundation or rafters to the wall.
QUOIN: A large square or rectangular stone set into the
corner of a masonry building.
RAFTER: One of a series of structural members of a roof
which support the roof's weight.
RETAINING WALL: A wall used to support or keep back earth.
Below-grade FOUNDATION WALLS.
RISER: The vertical piece between consecutive stair treads.
ROUGHING IN: The work of installing plumbing, gas or electrical
systems to the point where it is ready to be connected to sewage,
water supply pipes or electrical wires. An inspection is always
made after roughing in to make sure the systems are functional as
safe before final connect.
ROUGH OPENING: The opening formed by the framing members.
This is one of the several measurements that may be used when ordering
doors and windows. Other measurements used are FINISH OPENING (the
dimension of an opening after sash is installed).
SHEATHING PAPER (building paper): A protective building
material used on a wall and roof construction to resist the passage
SIDELIGHT: A vertical window beside a door or another window.
SIDING: The finish covering of the outside wall of a frame
building. Many different types are available such as vinyl, wood,
SPAN: Distance between structural supports such as walls,
columns, piers, beams, etc.
STUD: One of vertical structural members in walls or partitions,
typically 2 x 4 for interior walls or 2 x 6 for exterior walls.
SUBCONTRACTOR/SPECIALTY CONTRACTOR: A craftsperson under
contract to the owner to do a particular phase of construction such
as plumbing or wiring, etc.
SURVEY: An exact measurement of your property lines done
by a licensed surveyor or civil engineer.
TOENAILING: To drive a nail at an angle for better stability.
TRANSOM WINDOW: A narrow window above another window or
TRAY CEILING: A recessed ceiling - sometimes with the sides
sloped at an angle.
VAULTED CEILING: A ceiling that slopes up to a peak. Like
an upside down V.
VENT: A pipe installed to provide a flow of air to or from
a drainage system; or to provide a circulation of air within plumbing
systems to prevent siphonage or back pressure from contaminating
the water supply.
WALLBOARD: Gypsum or other materials made into large sheets
(typically 4 feet by 8 feet) that are fastened to the frame of the
building to provide a surface finish. Also known as sheetrock.