Glossary of Construction Terminology



caisson – A 10” – 12” diameter hole drilled into the earth and embedded into bedrock 3 – 4 ft. in order to provide structural support for a type of foundation wall, porch, patio or other structure. Two or more "sticks" of reinforcing bars (rebar) are inserted into and run the full length of the hole and concrete is poured into the caisson hole.

cantilever – An overhang, where one floor extends beyond and over a foundation wall.

cap – The upper member of a column, pilaster, door cornice, molding or fireplace.

cap flashing – The portion of the flashing attached to a vertical surface to prevent water from migrating behind the base flashing.

capital – The principal part of a loan, i.e. the original amount borrowed.

capped rate – The mortgage interest rate will not exceed a specified value during a certain period of time, but it will fluctuate up and down below the level.

carbide bit – Tool used to drill holes in brick or block.

casement – Frames of wood or metal enclosing part, or all, of a window sash. May be opened by means of hinges affixed to the vertical edges.

casement window – A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides and swings open like a normal door.

casing – Wood trim molding installed around a door or window opening.

caulking – A flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces, such as, between pieces of siding or the corners of tub walls. Or, to fill a joint with mastic or asphalt plastic cement to prevent leaks.

ceiling joist – One of a series of parallel framing members used to support ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls, also called roof joists.

cellulose insulation – Ground up newspaper that is treated with a fire retardant.

cement – The gray powder that holds concrete together, as in Portland cement. Also, any adhesive.

ceramic tile – A man-made or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall. Generally used in bathtub and shower enclosures and on counter tops.

Certificant of Occupancy – A document stating that a building is approved for occupancy. The building authority issues this certificate.

cubic feet per minute, CFM – A rating that expresses the amount of air a blower or fan can move. The volume of air, measured in cubic feet, that can pass through an opening in one minute.

chair rail – Interior trim material installed about 3 – 4 ft up the wall, horizontally.

Change Order – A written document which modifies the plans and specifications and/or the price of the construction Contract.

chase – A framed enclosed space around a flue pipe or a channel in a wall, or through a ceiling for something to lie in or pass through.

chink – To install fiberglass insulation around all exterior door and window frames, wall corners, and small gaps in the exterior wall.

chip board – A manufactured wood panel made out of 1” – 2’ wood chips and glue. Often used as a substitute for plywood in the exterior wall and roof sheathing. Also called OSB, oriented strand board, or wafer board.

Chromated Copper Arsenate, CCA – A pesticide that is forced into wood under high pressure to protect it from termites, other boring insects and decay caused by fungus.

circuit – The path of electrical flow from a power source through an outlet and back to ground.

circuit breaker – A device which looks like a switch that automatically opens a circuit when the rated current is exceeded as in the case of a direct short.

cleat – A wedge-shaped piece, usually metal, which serves as a support or check. A strap fastened across something to give strength or hold something in position.

cold air return – The ductwork that carries room air back to the furnace for re-heating.

cold patch – In roofing, a roof repair done with cold applied material.

collar beam – A tie that keeps the roof from spreading. Connects similar rafters on opposite sides of roof.

column – A vertical structural compression member which supports loads.

combustion air - The duct work installed to bring fresh, outside air to the furnace and/or hot water heater. Normally two separate supplies of air are brought in, one high and one low.

compressor – A mechanical device that pressurizes a gas in order to turn it into a liquid, thereby allowing heat to be removed or added. A compressor is the main component of conventional heat pumps and air conditioner.

condensation – The appearance of moisture on the surface of an object caused by warm moist air coming into contact with a colder object.

conductor – In roofing, a pipe for conveying rain water from the roof gutter to a drain, or from a roof drain to the storm drain, also called a leader, downspout, or downpipe. In electrical contracting, a wire through which a current of electricity flows, better known as an electric wire.

conduit – A metal or PVC pipe for protecting wires.

construction loan – A loan provided by a lending institution specifically to construct or renovate a building.

Construction Contract – A legal document which specifies the what-when-where-how, how much and by whom in a construction project. It usually includes a fixed price for the work, a payment schedule, a warranty, a dispute clause, a set of specifications, and a statement of quality.

Contractor – A company or individual licensed to perform certain types of construction activities.

control joint – A control joint controls or accommodates movement in the surface component of a roof or concrete floor.

coping – A construction unit placed at the top of the parapet wall to serve as a cover for the wall.

corbel – The triangular, decorative and supporting member that holds a mantel or horizontal shelf.

core – A small section cut from any material to show internal composition.

cornice – A horizontal projecting course on the exterior of a building, usually at the base of the parapet.

corrosion – The deterioration of metal by chemical or electrochemical reaction resulting from exposure to weathering, moisture, chemicals or other agents or media.

corrugated - Folded or shaped into parallel ridges or furrows so as to form a symmetrically wavy surface.

cost breakdown – A breakdown of all the anticipated costs on a construction or renovation project.

cripple – Short vertical "2 x 4's or 6's" frame lumber installed above a window or door.

coupling – In plumbing, a short collar with only inside threads at each end, for receiving the ends of two pipes which are fitted and joined together. A right/left coupling is one used to join two gas pipes in limited space.

course – A single layer of brick or stone or other building material.

crawl space – An open area between the floor of a building and the ground.

crazing – A series of hairline cracks in the surface of weathered materials, having a web-like appearance. Also, hairline cracks in pre-finished metals caused by bending or forming.

cricket – A small drainage-diverting roof structure of single or double slope placed at the junction of larger surfaces that meet at an angle, such as a chimney.

crown molding – A molding used on cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered.

culvert – Round corrugated drain pipe that is installed beneath a driveway and parallel to and near the street.

cupola – A small monitor or dome at the peak of a pitched roof.

cupping – A type of warping that causes boards to curl up at their edges.

curb – A short wall or masonry built above the level of the roof that provides a means of flashing the deck equipment.

curing – In concrete application, the process in which mortar and concrete harden. The length of time is dependent upon the type of cement, mix proportion, required strength, size and shape of the concrete section, weather and future exposure conditions. This period may be three weeks or longer for lean concrete mixtures used in structures such as dams, or it may be only a few days for richer mixes. Favorable curing temperatures range from 50 – 70 degrees F. Design strength is achieved in 28 days.

curing agent – One part of a multi-part sealant which, when added to the base, will cause the base to change its physical state by chemical reaction between the two parts.

curtain wall – A thin wall, supported by the structural steel or concrete frame of the building independent of the wall below. Also, a metal framing system on the face of a building containing vision glass panels.