The ABCs of Home Ownership (A Glossary)
Here are some common terms relevant to home ownership.
A/C: An abbreviation for Air Conditioner, Air Conditioning, or Alternating Current.
Access Panel: An opening in the wall or ceiling near the fixture that allows access for servicing the plumbing/electrical system.
Approach: The area between the sidewalk and the street that leads to a driveway or the transition from the street as you approach a driveway.
Awning Window: A window with hinges at the top allowing it to open out and up.
Backsplash: A raised integral portion of a wall mount sink or lavatory located at the rear to protect the wall.
Baseboard: Usually wood or vinyl installed around the perimeter of a room to cover the space where the wall and floor meet. A board placed against the wall around a room next to the floor to properly finish between the floor and the plaster.
Bearing Wall: A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.
Breeze Way: A roofed, open-sided passageway connecting two structures, such as a house and a garage.
Casement Window: A sidehinged window that opens on hinges secured to the side of the window frame.
Casing: Molding of various widths and thicknesses used to trim door and window openings at the jambs.
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.
Chair Rail: A molding that runs horizontally along the wall at about 3 feet from the ground. In storefront, window wall, or curtain wall systems, a chair rail is an aluminum extrusion applied horizontally to the inside of the system 3 feet from the floor to create a barrier in floor-to-ceiling glazing applications.
Circuit: A network of wiring that typically commences and returns at a panel box, and feeds electricity to outlets.
Composite Board: An insulation board which has two different insulation types laminated together in 2 or 3 layers.
Compression Valve: A type of valve that works by raising or lowering a stem. Water passes through the valve by turning the faucet handle, which causes the stem to drop or rise.
Condensing Unit: The outdoor component of a cooling system. It includes a compressor and condensing coil designed to give off heat.
Crawl Space: A shallow open area between the floor of a building and the ground, normally enclosed by the foundation wall.
Crown Molding: A molding used on cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered.
Culvert: Round, corrugated drain pipe (normally 15″ or 18″ in diameter) that is installed beneath a driveway parallel to and near the street.
Deck: An elevated platform. “Deck” is also commonly used to refer to the above-ground floors in multi-level parking garage.
Dormer: A converted attic with windows projecting through a sloping roof.
Double Hung Window: A window with sashes that slide vertically and allow opening from the top and bottom.
Drywall: A gypsum board material used for walls or ceilings.
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 neighbor’s property.
Eave: The part of the roof which extends beyond the side wall.
Egress: A means of exiting the home. An egress window is required in every bedroom and basement. Normally a 4×4 window is the minimum size required.
Energy Efficiency Ratio: An air conditioning efficiency rating system which indicates the number of BTU’s delivered per watt of power consumed.
Expansive Soils: Earth that swells and contracts depending on the amount of water that is present.
Facade: The front of a building. Frequently, in architectural terms an artificial or decorative effort.
Fenestration: Any glass panel, window, door, curtain wall or skylight unit on the exterior of a building.
Field Measure: To take measurements (cabinets, countertops, stairs, shower doors, etc.) in the home itself instead of using the blueprints.
Fitting: A general term that usually refers to faucets, shower valves, tub fillers, or various piping parts such as tees or elbows.
Fixture: In plumbing, the devices that provide a supply of water and/or its disposal, e.g. sinks, tubs, toilets.
Floor Plan: The basic layout of building or addition, which includes placement of walls, windows and doors as well as dimensions.
Footing: The underground support for a foundation or support post.
Foundation: The supporting portion of a structure below the first floor construction, or below grade, including the footings.
- Homeowner’s Glossary of Building Terms from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Home Improvement Library
- Construction Glossary
- Home Building Manual
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