Glossary of Construction Terminology



dado – A rectangular groove across the width of a board or plank.

decay – Disintegration of wood or the other substance through the action of fungi.

damper – A metal door placed with the fireplace chimney. Normally closed when the fireplace is not in use.

dampproofing - The black, tar like waterproofing material applied to the exterior of a foundation wall.

dead bolt – An exterior security lock installed on exterior entry doors that can be activated only with a key or thumb-turn.

deck – An elevated platform.

dedicated circuit – An electrical circuit that serves only one appliance, i.e. a dishwasher, or garage door opener.

deflect – To bend or deform under weight.

deflection – The amount of bending movement of any part of a structural member perpendicular to the axis of the member under an applied load.

delamination - Separation of the plies in a panel due to failure of the adhesive. Usually caused by excessive moisture.

design pressure – Specified pressure a product is designed to withstand.

direct nailing – To nail perpendicular to the initial surface or to the junction of the pieces joined. Also termed face nailing.

disconnect – A large electrical on-off switch, for an A/C system, pool or spa.

doorjamb – The surround case into which and out of which a door closes and opens. It consists of two upright pieces, called side jambs, and one horizontal head jam.

door stop – The wooden style that the door slab will rest upon when it's in a closed position.

dormer – An opening in a sloping roof, the framing of which projects out to form a vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.

double-glazing or dual-paned windows – An use of two panes of glass, separated by an air space, within an opening, to improve insulation against heat and/or sound transmission.

double plate – When two layers of 2 x 4's are placed on top of studs in framing a wall.

downspout – A pipe, usually a metal, for carrying rainwater from the roof's horizontal gutters.

drain tile – A perforated, corrugated plastic pipe laid at the bottom of the foundation wall and used to drain excess water away from the foundation. It prevents ground water from seeping through the foundation all. Sometimes called a perimeter drain.

draw – The amount of progress billings on a contract that is currently available to a contractor under a contract with a fixed payment schedule.

drywall – Interior covering material, such as gypsum board or plywood, which is applied in large sheets or panels.

ducts – In a house, usually round or rectangular metal pipes for distributing warm air from the heater to room, or air from a conditioning deice or as cold air returns. Ducts are also made of asbestos and composition materials.

dura board, dura rock – A panel made out of concrete and fiberglass usually used as a ceramic tile backing material.


earthquake strap – A metal strap used to secure gas hot water heaters to the framing or foundation of a house. Intended to reduce the chances of having a water heater fall over in an earthquake and causing a gas leak.

easement – A formal contract which allows a party to use another party’s property for a specific purpose, e.g. a sewer easement might allow one party to run a sewer line through a neighbors property.

eaves – The margin or lower part of a roof projecting over the wall.

edge metal – A term relating to brake or extruded metal around the perimeter of a roof.

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio; is figured by dividing BTU hours by watts.

efflorescence – The process by which water leeches soluble salts out of concrete or mortar and deposits them on the surface.

egress – A means of exiting a home. An egress window is required in every bedroom and basement, normally a 4' x 4' foot window is the minimum size required.

elastomeric – Of or pertaining to any of the numerous flexible membranes that contain rubber or plastic.

electrical lateral – The trench or area in the yard where the electrical service line, from a transformer or pedestal is located.

electrical service entrance panel– The entry point of the electrical power including; the location where the main breaker is attached to the service conduits, the meter which measures how much power is used, and the circuit breaker box where the power can be shut off and where overload devices such as fuses or circuit breakers are located.

electrical rough – Work performed by the Electrical Contractor after the plumber and heating contractor are complete with their phase of work. Normally all electrical wires, and outlet, switch, and fixture boxes are installed before insulation.

electrical trim or finish – Work performed by the Electrical Contractor when the house is nearing completion. The electrician installs all plugs, switches, light fixtures, smoke detectors, appliance pig tails, bath exhaust fans, wires the furnace, and makes-up the electrical service panel. The electrician does all work necessary to get the home ready for final inspection.

elevation – A side of a building.

elevation sheet – The page of the blue prints that depicts the house or room as if a vertical plane were passed through the structure.

emulsion – In roofing, a coating consisting of asphalt and fillers suspended in water.

estimate – The amount of labor, materials, and other costs that a contractor anticipates for a project as summarized in the contractor's bid proposal for the project.

estimating – The process of calculating the cost of a project. This can be a formal and exact process or a quick and imprecise process.

excavate – Dig the basement and or all areas that will need footings/foundations below grade.

expansion joint – A bituminous fiber strip used to separate blocks or units of concrete to prevent cracking do to expansion as a result of temperature changes. Also used on concrete slabs.

extras – Additional work requested of a contractor, not included in the original plan, which will be billed separately and will not alter the original contract amount, but increase the cost of the project.

eyebrow – A flat projection which protrudes horizontally from a building wall, generally above a window.


façade – The front of a building. Frequently in architectural terms an artificial or decorative effort.

fascia – A flat board, band or face, used sometimes by itself but usually in combination with moldings, often located at the outer face of the cornice.

felt – Tar paper, installed under the roof shingles, normally 15lb or 30lb.

female – Any part, such as a nut or fitting, into which another part can be inserted. Internal threads are female.

field measure – To take measurements in the home itself instead of using blueprints, i.e. cabinets, countertops, stairs, shower doors, etc.

filler – A heavily pigmented preparation used for filling and leveling off the pores in open-pored woods.

finger joint – A manufacturing process of interlocking two shorter pieces of wood end to end to create a longer piece of dimensional lumber or molding. Often used in jambs and casing, usually painted instead of stained.

finish carpentry – The hanging of all interior doors, installation of door molding, base molding, chair rail, window trim, etc.

finish coat – The last coat applied in plastering intended as a base for further decorating or as a final decorative surface.

finish grade – Any surface which has been cut to or built to the elevation indicated for that point. Surface elevation of lawn, driveway or other improved surfaces after completion of grading operations.

fire-block – Short horizontal members sometimes nailed between studs, usually about halfway up a wall.

fire brick – Brick made of refractory ceramic material which will resist high temperatures. Used in a fireplace and boiler.

fire-rated – Descriptive of materials that have been tested for use in fire walls.

fire wall – Any wall built for the purpose of restricting or preventing the spread of fire in a building. Such walls of solid masonry or concrete generally sub-divide a building from the foundations to two or more feet above the plane of the roof.

fish tape – A long strip of spring steel used for fishing cables and for pulling wires through conduit.

flagstone – Flat stones, from 1 to 4 inches thick, used for rustic walks, steps, and floors.

flashing – Sheet metal or other material used in roof and wall construction to protect a building from water seepage.

flashing, counter – The formed metal secured to a wall, curb, or roof top unit to cover and protect the upper edge of a base flashing and its associated fasteners.

flashing, step – Individual small pieces of metal flashing material used to flash around chimneys dormers, and such projections along the slope of a roof. The individual pieces are overlapped and stepped up the vertical surface.

flat work – Common word for concrete floors, driveways, basements, and sidewalks.

flexible metal conduit – Conduit similar to armored cable in appearance but does not have the pre-inserted conductors.

floating wall – A non-bearing wall built on a concrete floor. It is constructed so that the bottom two horizontal plates can compress or pull apart if the concrete floor moves up or down. Normally built on basements and garage slabs.

floor plan – The basic layout of building or addition, which includes placement of walls, windows and door as well as dimensions.

flue – Large pipe through which fumes escape from a gas water heater, furnace, or fireplace. Normally these flue pipes are double walled, galvanized sheet metal pipe and sometimes referred to as a "B Vent". Fireplace flue pipes are normally triple walled. In addition, nothing combustible shall be within one inch from the flue pipe.

flue lining – Fire clay or terra-cotta pipe, round or square, usually made in all ordinary flue sizes and in two foot lengths. Used for the inner lining of chimneys with the brick or masonry work around the outside.

fly rafters – End rafters of the gable overhang supported by roof sheathing and lookouts.

footings – Wide pours of cement reinforced with re-bar that support foundation walls, pillars, or posts. Footings are part of the foundation and are often poured before the foundation walls.

foundation – The supporting portion of a structure below the first floor construction, or below grade, including the footings.

frame inspection – The act of inspecting the buildings structural integrity and its compliance to local municipal codes.

framer – The carpenter contractor that installs the lumber and erects the frame, flooring system, interior walls, backing, trusses, decking, installs all beams, stairs, soffits, and all work related to the wood structure of the home. The framer builds the building according to the blueprints and most comply with local building codes and regulations.

framing – Lumber used for the structural members of a building, such as studs, joists and rafters.

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

furnace – A heating system that uses the principle of thermal convection. When air is heated, it rises and as the air cools it settles. Ducts are installed to carry the hot air from the top of the furnace to the rooms. Other ducts, called cold air returns, return the cooler air back to the furnace.

furring strips – Strips of wood, often 1 x 2 inches, used to shim out and provide a level fastening surface for a wall or ceiling.

fuse – A device often found in older homes designed to prevent overloads in electrical circuits. Similar in function to the modern circuit breaker.