The construction industry has a unique vocabulary that any contractor or construction worker can understand. They have a different way to describe the processes of building homes, apartments, office buildings and other projects that construction workers face during the day.
Here are just a few of the most common terms that are used in the building profession, but they are just scratching the surface.
A/C - An abbreviation for air conditioning.
Air space - The area between insulation wall coverings.
Area wells - Corrugated metal or concrete walls installed around the basement window to keep away the earth
Attic access - An opening in the dry walled ceiling providing access to the attic.
Ballast - A transformer that increases the voltage in a florescent lamp.
Baseboard – A trim board placed against the wall around the room near the floor.
Bearing wall - A wall that supports a vertical load in addition to its weight.
Blocking - Small wood pieces to brace framing or to provide a nailing base for board or paneling.
Brick mold -Trim used around an exterior door jamb that siding butts to.
Building codes – ordinances governing the way a home may be constructed or customized.
Casing - Wood trim molding installed around a door or window opening.
Chalk line – A line made by snapping a tight string dusted with chalk making a straight line.
Conduction - The direct transfer of heat energy through a material.
Crown molding – A molding used on cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered, especially at the roof and wall corner.
Damper - A metal “door” placed within the fireplace chimney.
Dormer - An opening in a sloping roof, the framing of which projects out to form a vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.
Eaves - The exterior roof overhang.
Equity - The “valuation” that you own in your house.
Facing brick – The brick used on the outside of a wall. Usually these have a finished texture.
Fire retardant chemical - A chemical used to reduce the flammability of a material or to retard the spread of flame.
Flashing – Sheet metal used in roof and wall construction to protect a building from water.
Foundation - The supporting portion of a structure below the first floor construction.
Glazing - The process of installing glass, which often is secured with glazier’s points and glazing compound.
Grout - A wet mixture of cement, sand and water that flows into masonry or ceramic crevices to seal the cracks between the different pieces.
Heat pump - A device which uses compression and decompression of gas to heat and/or cool a home.
Insulation - Any material high in resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceiling, or floors of a structure, and will reduce the rate of heat flow.
Jamb - The side and head lining of a doorway, window, or other opening. Includes studs as well as the frame and trim.
Laminating - Bonding together two or more layers of materials.
Load bearing wall - Includes all exterior walls and any interior wall that is aligned above a support beam or girder.
Masonry - Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, or other similar building units or materials.
Overhang - Outward projecting eave-soffit area of a roof; the part of the roof that hangs out or over the outside wall.
Particle board - Plywood substitute made of course sawdust that is mixed with resin and pressed into sheets.
Permit – A governmental authorization to perform a building process as in:
Retaining wall - A structure that holds back a slope and prevents erosion.
Scratch coat - The first coat of plaster, which is scratched to form a bond for a second coat.
Sheet rock- A manufactured panel made out of gypsum plaster and encased in a thin cardboard.
Strip flooring- Wood flooring consisting of narrow, matched strips.
Top plate - Top horizontal member of a frame wall supporting ceiling joists, rafters, or other members.
Undercoat - A coating applied prior to the finishing or top coats of a paint job.
Wind bracing - Metal straps or wood blocks installed diagonally on the inside of a wall from bottom to top plate, to prevent the wall from twisting, racking, or falling over “domino” fashion.
For more construction related terminology, here are additional resources:
Construction Terminology (From MIT Libraries)
Construction Terminology (Adobe PDF from Illinois Department of Revenue)
Homeowner’s Glossary of Building Terms (Federal Citizens Information Center)