Glossary of Home Terms & Definitions

A

AMPERE (AMP):

A unit of electrical current

 

APERTURE:

A hole or opening

 

ASBESTOS:

A naturally occurring fibrous mineral that was used in building materials until the latter part of the 20th century. All asbestos is dangerous if inhaled and professional advice should be sought if removing

 

AWNING WINDOWS

A top hinged window that opens out for openings where the width is more than the height

 

B

BASEBOARD:

A covering around the lowest part of an interior wall, where the wall and floor meet, usually made of wood or vinyl

 

BASEBOARD HEAT:

An electric or hydronic heating system that runs along the base of the wall and does not require ducting to the outside

 

BREAKER BOX:

The main hub for electrical distribution in your home, consisting of circuit breakers

 

BUILDING CODE:

A set of regulations, local and state, that govern the design, construction, maintenance, etc. of structures in order to establish and maintain public safety

 

BUCKLING:

The bending of flooring or other building materials, often the result of moisture contact

 

C

CASEMENT WINDOWS:

A side-hinged window that opens out from the window frame, often with a crank mechanism

 

CAULKING:

Material and process used to seal joints, seams and gaps, such as around bathtubs or windows

 

CIRCUIT BREAKER:

An automatic safety switch that will sense an unusual change in current and open the circuit to cut electricity

 

CLASS B DOOR:

A door used to prevent the passage of fire between two areas with a UL rating of 90 minutes

 

CPVC:

Chlorinated PVC piping that is flexible and withstands a large temperature range and is often used for water piping

 

CRAWL SPACE:

A small area either below a house or under a roof that allows access to wiring and plumbing

 

CUT-OFF VALVES:

A valve that will shut off the water to a specific point without water to the entire house being turned off, such as the valve underneath a sink

 

D

DAMPER:

A valve that regulates the flow of air inside your home into different zones

 

DISPOSER:

An electric chopper that grinds food that enters your drain to minimize clogging

 

DORMER:

A roofed structure containing a window that projects beyond the sloped roofline to create more useable space

 

DOUBLE HUNG WINDOW:

A window where both the top and bottom sashes can be opened and tilted

 

DRYWALL:

A type of board commonly used as wallboard and made of plies of gypsum and other materials

 

DUCTWORK:

A system of ducts used to distribute air from the central heating/cooling system

 

E

EAVES:

The section of roof that meets or overhangs the exterior walls of a house

 

EXHAUST FAN:

Extracts air from the interior and vents to the exterior to reduce excess heat or moisture

 

F

FLASHING:

Thin sheets of metal used to prevent water entry at joints on the roof

 

FLUE:

An enclosed passageway for directing smoke and waste gases outside, such as in fireplaces

 

FOOTINGS:

Concrete support for the foundation of a structure poured into a hole or trench

 

FORCED AIR FURNACE:

A system that produces heated air which can be sent through the home via a central ducting system

 

FOUNDATION:

The base of the structure which supports the construction above

 

FUSE BOX:

An electrical safety device which contains fuses which regulate the home’s current

 

G

GROUND FAULT INTERRUPTER (GFI):

A quick acting circuit breaker which protects from electrical shock in the event of a ground-fault

 

GUTTER/DOWNSPOUT:

A channel, typically metal or plastic, affixed to the eaves, to direct water away from the home’s foundation

H

HEARTH:

The fireproof lower surface of a fireplace and/or area in front of it

 

HEAT EXCHANGER:

The portion of the furnace that heats the air that is then pumped through the home

 

HEAT PUMP:

A reverse cycle refrigeration unit that both heats and cools

 

HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEM:

A type of home heating that relies on a boiler and pump to circulate heated water through the home

 

HVAC:

Heating, ventilating and air conditioning system

 

I

INSULATION:

Building material such as fiberglass, cellulose and foam that are placed in walls, ceilings or crawl spaces to reduce heat energy loss

 

J

JOISTS:

Horizontal structural beams or bars that support a floor or ceiling

 

L

LATHING:

Base for installing plaster consisting of narrow strips of wood

 

LEAD:

A material found in many older homes that is dangerous if ingested or inhaled. The local environmental protection agency should be contacted regarding applicable laws, handling and disposal of lead paint or pipes

 

M

MASONRY:

A durable form of construction using stone, brick, cement or other similar materials

 

MEMBER:

Parts of the framing and foundation of a structure that serve as the nailing base for the covering material

 

MORTAR:

A bonding material used in brick or stone masonry

 

MOLDING:

Decorative strips of wood or other materials used to cover joints between surfaces such as between walls and ceilings

 

P

PARAPET WALL:

A low wall or railing along the edge of a roof, bridge or balcony constructed for protection from sun, rain or purely aesthetic

 

PARQUET FLOORS:

Wood or veneer pieces that are laid in a decorative geometric pattern to create a floor covering

 

POINTING UP:

The process of renewing the mortar between bricks

 

POLYBUTYLENE:

An older form of piping used in homes that is prone to leaking or sudden failure

 

R

R-VALUE:

A measure of the capacity of the insulation material to resist heat transfer. The higher the r-value, the greater the insulation power

 

RADIANT HEATING SYSTEM:

A home heating system that uses electricity to create heat directly to a floor or panels installed on the wall or ceiling

 

RADON:

A naturally occurring colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can be harmful with prolonged exposure. Radon varies greatly and should be tested for and the state radon office contacted regarding mitigation

 

RAFTER:

A series of timbers or beams that run from the exterior wall of a structure to support the roof

 

REGISTERS:

A grille with moveable parts that regulate the flow of air

 

RETAINING WALL:

A rigid structure used to restrict movement of soil to a different level on the other side of the wall

S

SASH:

The moveable part of a window that holds the glass

 

SETTLING:

The lowering of a home into the earth over time due to weight, shrinkage or water

 

SHINGLE:

Thin sheets of building material overlapped to create a covering for roofs or other surfaces of the home

 

SIDING:

Finishing material on the exterior walls of a home such as aluminum, vinyl or wood

 

SILL:

A shelf or slab at the base of a window or doorway which provide for water runoff

 

SLAB:

A concrete foundation poured directly onto a gravel or sand base upon which the home is built

 

SOFFIT:

The exposed siding under the roofs overhang

 

SOLAR HEAT:

Home heating, either active through a collector or passive through windows, produced by gathering solar energy

 

SUMP PUMP:

A pump used to remove water from the sump basin usually located in the basement of a home

 

T

THERMOSTAT:

An electronic or analog device that automatically regulates temperature

 

THRESHOLD:

A strip of building material forming the bottom of a doorway often made of wood or stone

 

U

UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION:

A type of expanding liquid foam insulation that can release formaldehyde gas and is often found in homes built before the 1970’s. Significant levels of formaldehyde can cause health problems, and the local environmental protection agency should be contacted regarding this type of insulation

 

W

WEATHER -STRIPPING:

The sealing of gaps using various materials to prevent the elements from entering the home

 

WINDOW WELL:

An opening that is maintained in front of a subsurface window

 

Z

ZONE:

A system that uses dampers to regulate air temperature and flow to different areas of a structure