Glossary of Construction Terminology



saddle - A ridge in the roof deck whose top divides two sloping parts of the roof so that water will be diverted to the roof drains.

sash - A single light frame containing one or more lights of glass.

sash balance - A device, usually operated by a spring and designed to hold a single hung window vent up and in place.

saturated felt - A felt which is impregnated with tar or asphalt.

scratch coat - The first coat of plaster, which is scratched to form a bond for the second coat.

screed - A small strip of wood, usually the thickness of the plaster coat, used as a guide for plastering.

scribing - Cutting and fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.

scupper - An outlet in the wall of a building or a parapet wall for drainage of water from a flat roof.

scutch - A bricklayer's cutting tool used for dressing and trimming brick to a special shape. It resembles a small pick.

sealant - An elastomeric material with adhesive qualities applied between components of a similar or dissimilar nature to provide an effective barrier against the passage of the elements.

seasoning - Removing moisture from green wood in order to improve its serviceability.

self-leveling - A term used to describe a viscous material that is applied by pouring, in its uncured state, it spreads out evenly.

self-sealing shingles - Shingles containing factory-applied strips or spots of self-sealing adhesive.

semigloss paint or enamel - A paint or enamel made with a slight insufficiency of nonvolatile vehicle so that its coating, when dry, has some luster but is not very glossy.

septic system - An on-site water water treatment system. It usually has a septic tank which promotes the biological digestion of the waste, and a drain field which is designed to let the left over liquid soak into the ground. Septic systems and permits are usually sized by the number of bedrooms in a house.

service entrance panel - Main power cabinet where electricity enters a home wiring system.

service equipment - Main control gear at the service entrance, such as circuit breakers, switches, and fuses.

service lateral - Underground power supply line.

service conductor - The supply conductors that extend from the street main or from the transformer to the service equipment.

service drop - The overhead service conductors that extend from the street main or from the transformer to the service equipment.

sewage ejector - A pump used to 'lift' waste water to a gravity sanitary sewer line. Usually used in basements and other locations which are situated bellow the level of the side sewer.

sewer lateral - The portion of the sanitary sewer which connects the interior waste lines to the main sewer line. The side sewer is usually buried in several feet of soil and runs from the house to the sewer line. It is usually 'owned' by the sewer utility, must be maintained by the owner and may only be serviced by utility approved contractors. Sometimes called side sewer.

sewer stub - The junction at the municipal sewer system where the home's sewer line is connected.

sewer tap - The physical connection point where the home's sewer line connects to the main municipal sewer line.

shake - A thick handsplit shingle, resawed to form two shakes; usually edge-grained.

sheathing - Plywood, gypsum or wood fiber encasing walls, ceilings, floors and roofs or framed buildings. It is the first layer of outer wall covering nailed to the studs or rafters.

shed roof - A roof containing only one slope plane

sheetrock - panels made primarily from gypsum installed over the framing to form the interior walls and ceilings. Sheetrock is often called gypsum board.

sheet metal work - All components of a house employing sheet metal, such as flashing, gutters, and downspouts.

sheet metal duct work - The heating system. Usually round or rectangular metal pipes and sheet metal (for return air) and installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to rooms in the home.

shellac - A transparent coating made by dissolving lac a resinous secretion of the lac bug (a scale insect that thrives in tropical countries, especially India), in alcohol.

shingles - Roof covering of asphalt, asbestos, wood, tile, slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths, and thickness'.

shingles, siding - Various kinds of shingles, such as wood shingles or shakes and non-wood shingles, that are used over sheathing for exterior sidewall covering of a structure.

shoring - A temporary support erected in a trench or other excavation to support the walls from caving in.

shutter - Usually lightweight louvered or flush wood or non-wood frames in the form of doors located at each side of a window. Some are made to close over the window for protection; others are fastened to the wall as a decorative device.

siding - The finished exterior covering of the outside walls of a frame building.

siding, lap - Wedge shaped boards used as horizontal siding in a lapped pattern. This siding varies in butt thickness from 1/2 to 3/4 inch and in widths up to 12 inches.

silicone sealant - A sealant having as its chemical compound a backbone consisting of alternating silicon-oxygen atoms.

sill - The lowest member of the frame of a structure, resting on the foundation and supporting the floor joists or the uprights of the wall. The member forming the lower side of an opening, as a door sill, window sill, etc.

single ply - A descriptive term signifying a roof membrane composed of only one layer of material such as EPDM, Hypalon, or PVC.

single hung window - A window with one vertically sliding sash or window vent.

skylight - A more or less horizontal window located on the roof of a building.

slab, concrete - Concrete pavement, i.e. driveways, garages, and basement floors.

slab, door - A rectangular door without hinges or frame.

slab on grade - A type of foundation with a concrete floor which is placed directly on the soil. The edge of the slab is usually thicker and acts as the footing for the walls.

slag - Concrete cement that sometimes covers the vertical face of the foundation void material.

sleeper - Usually a wood member embedded in concrete, as in a floor, that serves to support and to fasten the subfloor or floor.

sleeve(s) - Pipe installed under the concrete driveway or sidewalk, and that we be used later to run sprinkler pipe or low voltage wire.

slope - The incline angle of a roof surface, given as a ratio of the rise (in inches) to the run (in feet). See also pitch.

soffit - The area below the eaves and overhangs. The underside where the roof overhangs the walls. Usually the underside of an overhanging cornice.

soil pipe - A large pipe that carries liquid and solid wastes to a sewer or septic tank.

soil stack = A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.

sole plate - Bottom horizontal member of a frame wall.

solid bridging - A solid member placed between adjacent floor joists near the center of the span to prevent joists or rafters from twisting.

sonotube - Round large cardboard tubes designed to hold wet concrete in place until it hardens.

sound attenuation - Sound proofing a wall or subfloor, generally with fiberglass insulation.

space heat - Heat supplied to the living space, for example, to a room or the living area of a building.

span - The clear distance that a framing member carries a load without support between structural supports. The horizontal distance from eaves to eaves.

spec home - A house built before it is sold. The builder speculates that he can sell at a profit.

specifications, or specs - Detailed written instructions which, when clear and concise, explain each phase of work to be done.

splitting - The formation of long cracks completely through a membrane. Splits are frequently associated with lack of allowance for expansion stresses. They can also be a result of deck deflection or change in deck direction.

square - a unit of measure-100 sq feet-usually applied to roofing and siding material. Also, a situation that exists when two elements are at right angles to each other. Also a tool for checking this.

stack - To position trusses on the walls in their correct location.

stack vent - Also called a waste vent or soil vent, it is the extension of a soil or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack.

standard practices of the trade - One of the more common basic and minimum construction standards. This is another way of saying that the work should be done in the way it is normally done by the average professional in the field.

standing seam - A type of joint often used on metal roofs.

static load - A total amount of permanent non moving weight that is applied to given surface areas.

steel inspection - A municipal and/or engineers inspection of the concrete foundation wall, conducted before concrete is poured into the foundation panels. Done to insure that the rebar (reinforcing bar), rebar nets, void material, beam pocket plates, and basement window bucks are installed and wrapped with rebar and complies with the foundation plan.

stick built - A house built without prefabricated parts. Also called conventional building.

stile - An upright framing member in a panel door.

stool - A flat molding fitted over the window sill between jambs and contacting the bottom rail of the lower sash.

Stop Order - A formal, written notification to a contractor to discontinue some or all work on a project for reasons such as safety violations, defective materials or workmanship, or cancellation of the contract.

stops - Molding along the inner edges of a door or window frame. Also valves used to shut off water to a fixture.

stop valve - A device installed in a water supply line, usually near a fixture, that permits an individual to shut off the water supply to one fixture without interrupting service to the rest of the system.

storm door - A panel or sash door placed on the outside of an existing door to provide additional protection from the elements.

storm sewer - A sewer system designed to collect storm water and is separated from the waste water system.

storm window - A glazed panel or sash placed on the inside or outside of an existing sash or window as additional protection against the elements.

story - That part of a building between any floor or between the floor and roof.

strike - The plate on a door frame that engages a latch or dead bolt.

striking off - The operation of smoothing off excess compound or sealant at sight line when applying same around lites or panels.

string line - A nylon line usually strung tightly between supports to indicate both direction and elevation, used in checking grades or deviations in slopes or rises. Used in landscaping to level the ground.

string, stringer - A timber or other support for cross members in floors or ceilings. In stairs, the supporting member for stair treads. Usually a 2 x 12 inch plank notched to receive the treads.

strip flooring - Wood flooring consisting of narrow, matched strips.

stub, stubbed - To push through.

stucco - Refers to an outside plaster finish made with Portland cement as its base.

stud - The evenly spaced, vertical framing members of a wall.

stud framing - A building method that distributes structural loads to each of a series of studs.

stud shoe - A metal structural bracket that reinforces a vertical stud. Used on an outside bearing wall where holes are drilled to accommodated a plumbing waste line.

subcontractor - A contractor who specializes in a particular trade such as electricity or plumbing.

subfloor - Material (such as particleboard) installed before finish flooring materials.

sump pump - A submersible pump in a sump pit that pumps any excess ground water to the outside of the home.

suspended ceiling - A ceiling system supported by hanging it from the overhead structural framing.

sub rough - That part of a building's plumbing system that is done before the cement is poured.

substrate - A part or substance which lies below and supports another.

switch - A device that completes or disconnects an electrical circuit.