Ever wondered what a certain building term meant, but were too embarrassed to ask. Well, fear not. Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common terms in new home buying, building and construction. Everything from aggregate to zoning so that we’re all speaking the same language.

A mixture of sand and stone and a major component of concrete.

Air Duct
A formed conduit that carries warm air and cold air to rooms and back to furnace or air conditioning system.

Air space
The area between insulation facing and interior of exterior wall coverings. Normally a 1″ air gap.

An amount of money set aside in the construction contract for finishing items, such as flooring or fixtures, which have not been selected and specified.

A payment plan by which a loan is reduced through monthly payments of principal and interest.

Ampere (aka Amp)
The rate of flow of electricity through electric wires.

An estimate of the market value of a property.

A paved area where a driveway meets the street or the garage door.

A licensed profession who draws up house plans.

Arts & Crafts
A style of elevation known for strong mason work, low-pitched hip and gable rooflines with extensive detailing and large, tapered porch columns. This movement started in the late 19th Century and was intended to promote traditional building techniques using local materials.

Attic Hatch
A small opening to the crawl space in the attic.

The gravel or earth replaced in the space around a building wall after the foundation is in place.

Upright supports in a railing used between the top  rail and the bottom rail or stair tread.

A row of balusters topped by a rail (and sometimes including a bottom rail), edging a balcony or a staircase.

A board against the bottom of walls and partitions around the room next to the floor.

Batt Insulation
Insulation, usually fiberglass, in the form of a flexible blanket, rather than loose filling.

Small thin strips of wood used to cover joints between wider boards of sheet material.

One of the major horizontal wood or steel structural members of a building.

Bearing Partition/Wall
A wall that supports any vertical load, such as a floor or roof, of a building.

Bench Mark
A mark on a permanent object indicating a verified elevation, used by surveyors as a reference point.

An angular surface across an edge.

Bifold door
Doors that are hinged in the middle for opening in a smaller area than standard swing doors. Often used for closet doors.

Blow insulation
Fiber insulation in loose form used to insulate attics and exterior walls.

A drawing of a structure which is prepared by an architect or designer for the purpose of design and planning, estimating, securing permits and construction.

Lumber less than 2″ thick and 1″ or more wide.

A piece of wood or other material used to form a triangle and stiffen some part of a structure.

Braced Framing
Construction technique using posts and cross-bracing for greater rigidity.

Brick Veneer
Brick laid against and fastened to sheathing (aka outer surface) of a framed wall.

Builder’s Risk Insurance
Insurance coverage on a construction project during the construction phase for the customer’s protections.

Building Codes
Ordinances in a jurisdiction governing the manner in which a home may be constructed or modified.

Building Paper
Heavy paper used in walls or roofs to dampproof.

Built-Up Roof
A roofing material applied in sealed, waterproof layers, where there is only a slight slope to the roof.

Butt Joint
Joining point of two pieces of wood or molding.

A projecting beam, joist or floor, not supported at one end extending beyond the main structure.

The member which supports the steps or treads of a stair.

The principal part of a loan, i.e. the original amount borrowed.

A window sash that opens on hinges at the vertical edge.

The upper member of a column, pilaster, door cornice, molding, or fireplace.

Cap Flashing
The portion of the flashing attached to a vertical surface to prevent water from migrating behind the base flashing.

Capital and Interest
A repayment loan where the borrower pays an amount each month to cover the amount borrowed (capital or principal) plus the interest charged on capital.

Capped Rate
A mortgage interest rate that does not exceed a specified value during a certain period of time, but will fluctuate up and down below that level.

Frames of wood or metal enclosing part (or all) of a window sash.

Casement Window
A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides that swings open like a normal door.

Door and window framing.

A flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces.

Cavity Wall
A hollow wall formed by firmly linked masonry walls, providing an insulating air space between.

Ceiling Joist (aka roof joists)
One of a series of parallel framing members used to support ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls.

Chimney Cap
Concrete capping around the top of chimney bricks and around the floors to protect the masonry from the elements.

Chair Rail
Wooden molding on a wall around a room at the level of a chair back.

Chamfered Edge
Molding with pared-off corners.

A groove in a masonry wall or through a floor to accommodate pipes or ducts.

Chimney Breast
The horizontal projection – usually inside a building – of a chimney from the wall in which it is built.

Circuit Breaker
A safety device which opens (breaks) an electric circuit automatically when it becomes overloaded.

Class “A”
Optimum fire rating issued by Underwriter’s Laboratories on roofing. The building codes in some areas require this type of roofing for fire safety.

Class “C”
Minimum fire rating issued by the Underwriters’ Laboratories for roofing materials.

Clean Out
An opening providing access to a drain line closed with a threaded plug.

A style of elevation, influenced by the Georgian period, that emphasizes symmetrical massing. Colonial homes typically include gable roofs, classically influenced columns, brick work and individual windows to balance the look of the home.

A vertical structural compression member which supports loads.

Beads or drops of water, or frost in extremely cold weather, that accumulate on the inside of the exterior covering of a building. A vapor barrier under the gypsum lath or dry wall on exposed walls reduces condensation.

Conditions, Convenants, and Restrictions 
Standards defining how a property may be used and the protections the developer makes for the benefit of all owners in a community or subdivision.

An elevation style based on a 21st century style consisting of simple, clean lines with large expanses of glass, minimal detailing, with flat or shed roofs and incorporate the use of large structural elements to add visual interest. They are considered to be innovative and forward-thinking, often appearing to be minimal and somewhat futuristic.

Corner Bead
A strip of wood or metal for protecting the external corners of plastered walls.

Horizontal projection at the top of a wall or under the overhanging part of the roof.

A horizontal row of bricks, cinder blocks or other masonry materials.

Cove Lighting
Concealed light sources behind a cornice or horizontal recess which direct the light upon a reflecting ceiling.

An elevation style that is an extension of the Arts & Crafts movement. It typically has a medium pitched, multiple gable roofs with dormers with batten detail, large brackets, exposed rafters and prevalent stonework and commonly both siding and shakes are used.

Crawl Space
A shallow, unfinished space in the attic immediately under the roof or beneath the first floor of a house which has no basement, used for visual inspection and access to pipes and ducts.

Credit Rating
A report ordered by a lender from a credit agency to determine a borrower’s credit habits.

A groove cut into a board or panel intended to receive the edge of a connecting board or panel.

Dead Bolt
A security lock installed on exterior doors that can be activated only with a key or turn.

Dedicated Circuit
An electrical circuit that serves only one appliance or a series of smoke detectors.

Discount Rate
A mortgage interest rate that is lower than the current rate for a certain period of time.

The surrounding case into and out of which a door closes and opens.

Door Buck
The rough frame of a door.

The projecting frame of a recess in a sloping roof.

Double Glazing
An insulating window pane formed of two thicknesses of glass with a sealed air space between them.

Double Hung Windows
Windows with an upper and lower sash, each supported by cords and weights.

A spout or pipe to carry rain water from a roof or gutters.

Downspout Strap
A piece of metal which secures the downspout to the eaves or wall of a building.

The projecting part of a cornice which sheds rain water.

Dry Wall
A wall surface of plasterboard or material other than plaster.

A formal contract which allows a party to use another party’s property for a specific purpose.

The extension of roof beyond house walls.

A means of exiting the home. An egress window is required in every bedroom and basement.

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 building the home.

An elevation style characterized by large front verandas that wrap around the side of the home, steeply pitched roofs, often accented with dormers, gables, and brackets. Simple details commonly found are horizontal siding, shutters and symmetrical windows. Brick or stone is not used due to the significance of the clean features.

A flat horizontal member of a cornice placed in a vertical position.

Fill-Type Insulation
Loose insulating material normally blown into wall spaces mechanically.

Fire Stop
A solid, tight closure of a concealed space to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through such a space.

Fixed Price Contract
A contract with a set price for the work.

Fixed Rate
A loan where the initial payments are based on a certain interest rate that will not change for a stated period regardless of changes in the lender’s standard variable rate.

Fixed Rate Mortgage
A mortgage with an interest rate that remains the same for the stated period of time.

Noncorrosive metal used around angles or junctions in roofs and exterior walls to prevent leaks.

Floor Joists
Framing pieces which rest on outer foundation walls and interior beams or girders.

A passageway in a chimney for conveying smoke, gases or fumes to the outside air.

Concrete base on which a foundation sits.

Lower parts of walls on which the structure is built. Foundation walls of masonry or concrete are mainly below ground level.

Foundation Waterproofing
High-quality moisture protection used below-grade on exterior concrete and masonry walls to seal out moisture and prevent corrosion.

Frame Inspection
The act of inspecting the home’s structural integrity and it’s compliance to local municipal codes.

The rough lumber of a house-joists, studs, rafters, and beams.

French Country
An elevation style inspired by the rustic manors in the European countryside. Design elements typically include curved archways, extensive stone work and steeply pitched roofs accented by dormers, which can be curved.

Frost Line
The depth of frost penetration in soil and/or the depth at which the earth will freeze and swell. This depth varies in different parts of the country.

Thin wood, or metal applied to a wall to level the surface for lathing, boarding, or plastering, to create an insulating air space, and to damp proof the wall.

A short plug in an electric panel box which opens (breaks) an electrical circuit when it becomes overloaded.

The triangular part of a wall under the inverted “v” of the roof line.

A main member in a framed floor supporting the joists which carry the flooring boards. It carries the weight of a floor or partition.

Fitting glass into windows or doors which commonly is secured with glazier’s points and glazing compound.

Grade Line
The point at which the ground rests against the foundation wall.

A wet mixture of cement, sand and water that flows into masonry or ceramic crevices to seal the cracks between the different pieces.

A brace or bracket used to strengthen a structure.

A channel at the eaves for conveying away rain water.

All of the “metal” fittings that go into the home when it is near completion.

The close-grained wood from broad-leaved trees such as oak or maple.

Double wood pieces supporting joists in a floor or double wood members placed on edge over windows and doors to transfer the roof and floor weight to the studs.

The end of a rafter that rests on the wall plate.

An elevation style found in historical areas settled by wealthy, affluent members of society. These homes blend features from multiple styles (typically a mixture of Colonial and Craftsman style elements) with a focus on more ornate detailing through numerous materials, and elaborate & complicated roofs.

Hip Roof
A roof that slants upward on three or four sides.

The external angle formed by the juncture of two slopes of a roof.

Hose Bib
A water tap with a bent nozzle fixed to the end of a pipe to which a hose may be attached, also called a hose bib.

An appliance normally attached to the furnace, or portable unit device designed to increase the humidity within a room or a house by means of the discharge of water vapor.

An abbreviation for Heat, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.

A steel beam with a cross section resembling the letter I used for long spans as basement beams or over wide wall openings, such as a double garage door, when wall and roof loads bear down on the opening.

Manufactured structural building component resembling the letter “I” used as floor joists and rafters.

The interest rate or adjustment standard that determines the changes in monthly payments for an adjustable rate loan.

The passage of air from indoors to outdoors and vice versa; usually associated with drafts from cracks, seams or holes in buildings.

Inside Corner
The point at which two walls form an internal angle, as in the corner of a room.

Insulating Glass
A window or door in which two panes of glass are used with a sealed air space between.

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.

The cost paid to a lender for borrowing money.

Interior Finish
Material used to cover the interior framed areas of walls and ceilings.

Lawn sprinkler system.

An upright surface that lines an opening for a door or window.

The location between the touching surfaces of two members or components joined and held together by nails, glue, cement, mortar, or other means.

A small rectangular sectional member arranged parallel from wall to wall in a building, or resting on beams or girders. They support a floor or the laths or furring strips of a ceiling.

The metal latch plate in a door frame into which a doorknob plunger latches.

Kilowatt (kw)
One thousand watts. A kilowatt hour is the base unit used in measuring electrical consumption.

The middle post of a truss. Large, heavy screws, used where great strength is required, as in heavy framing or when attaching ironwork to wood.

Lag-Screws or Coach-Screws
Large, heavy screws, used where great strength is required, as in heavy framing or when attaching ironwork to wood.

Bonding together two or more layers of materials.

A piece of wood which is attached to a beam to support joists.

True horizontal. Also a tool used to determine level.

The top piece over a door or window which supports walls above the opening.

Load-Bearing Wall
A strong wall capable of supporting weight.

An opening with horizontal slats to permit passage of air, but excluding rain, sunlight and view.

Walls built by a mason, using brick, stone, tile or similar materials.

A strip of decorative material having a plane or curved narrow surface prepared for ornamental application. These strips are often used to hide gaps at wall junctures.

Moisture Barrier
Treated paper or metal that retards or bars water vapor, used to keep moisture from passing into walls or floors.

Loan secured by land.

Mortgage Broker 
A broker who represents numerous lenders and helps consumers find affordable mortgages; the broker charges a fee only if the consumer finds a loan.

Mortgage Company
A company that borrows money from a bank, lends it to consumers to buy homes, then sells the loans to investors.

Mortgage Loan
A contract in which the borrower’s property is pledged as collateral. The mortgagor (buyer) promises to repay principal and interest in installments, keep the home insured, pay all taxes and keep the property in good condition.

Nail Inspection
An inspection made by a municipal building inspector after the drywall material is hung with nails and screws (and before taping).

Natural Finish
A transparent finish which does not seriously alter the original color or grain of the natural wood.

Neutral Wire
Usually color-coded white, this carries electricity from an outlet back to the service panel.

The upright post or the upright formed by the inner or smaller ends of steps about which steps of a circular staircase wind. In a straight flight staircase, the principal post at the foot or the secondary post at a landing.

The rounded edge of a stair tread.

A crosswise groove at the end of a board.

On Center
The measurement of spacing for studs, rafters, and joists in a building from the center of one member to the center of the next.

An extension of a rafter beyond the wall line. Usually a smaller member nailed to a larger rafter to form a cornice or roof overhang.

Outside Corner
The point at which two walls form an external angle, one you usually can walk around.

Outward projecting eave-soffit area of a roof; the part of the roof that hangs out or over the outside wall. See also Cornice.

A combination of pigments with suitable thinners or oils to provide decorative and protective coatings. Can be oil based or latex water based.

A rough coat of mortar applied over a masonry wall as protection or finish; may also serve as a base for an asphaltic waterproofing compound below grade.

Particle Board
Plywood substitute made of course sawdust that is mixed with resin and pressed into sheets.

A wall that subdivides spaces within any story of a building or room.

Payment Schedule
A pre-agreed upon schedule of payments to a contractor usually based upon the amount of work completed.

A governmental municipal authorization to perform a building process. Permits can be a zoning\use permit, demolition permit, grading permit, building permit, electrical permit and plumbing permit.

The angle of slope of a roof.

Plasterboard (See Dry Wall)
Gypsum board, used instead of plaster.

Pieces of wood placed on wall surfaces as fastening devices. The bottom member of the wall is the sole plate and the top member is the rafter plate.

Plot Plan
An overhead view plan that shows the location of the home on the lot. It includes all easements, property lines, set backs, and legal descriptions of the home.

A chamber which can serve as a distribution area for heating or cooling systems, generally between a false ceiling and the actual ceiling.

Plumbing Ground
The plumbing drain and waste lines that are installed beneath a basement floor.

Plumbing Rough
Work performed by the plumbing contractor after the Rough Heat is installed. This work includes installing all plastic ABS drain and waste lines, copper water lines, bath tubs, shower pans, and gas piping to furnaces and fireplaces.

Plumbing Stack
A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.

A term to denote the number of layers of roofing felt, veneer in plywood, or layers in built-up materials, in any finished piece of such material.

A panel (normally 4′ X 8′) of wood made of three or more layers of veneer, compressed and joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles to give the sheet strength.

Point Load
A point where a bearing/structural weight is concentrated and transferred to the foundation.

Treatment of joints in masonry by filling with mortar to improve appearance or protect against weather.

Post-And-Beam Construction
Wall construction in which beams are supported by heavy posts rather than many smaller studs.

Construction of components such as walls, trusses, or doors, before delivery to the building site.
Pressure Relief Valve (PRV)- A device mounted on a hot water heater or boiler which is designed to release any high steam pressure in the tank to prevent tank explosions.

Prairie & Four Square
An elevation style evolved from the Arts & Craft movement and originating in the Midwest. It features strong horizontal lines with shallow pitched roofs and large overhanging eaves. Mason work, wide porches and rows of windows with minimal, yet striking detailing are highlighted in this style.

Pressure-Treated Wood
Lumber that has been saturated with a preservative.

The first, base coat of paint formulated to seal raw surfaces and holding succeeding finish coats.

The original amount of the loan, the capital.

Quarter Round
A small trim molding that has the cross section of a quarter circle.

A groove cut in a board to receive another board.

Radiant Heat
Coils of electricity, hot water or steam pipes embedded in floors, ceilings, or walls to heat rooms.

One of a series of structural roof members spanning from an exterior wall to a center ridge beam or ridge board.

Any relatively lightweight horizontal element such as cross members of panel doors or of a sash. Also, a wall or open balustrade placed at the edge of a staircase, walkway bridge, or elevated surface to prevent people from falling off.

Redline (aka red lined prints)
Blueprints that reflect changes and that are marked with red pencil.

Reinforced Concrete
Concrete strengthened with wire or metal bars.

Relief Valve
A device designed to open if it detects excess temperature or pressure.

Retaining Wall
A structure that holds back a slope and prevents erosion.

The horizontal line at the junction of the top edges of two sloping roof surfaces.

The upright piece of a stair step, from tread to tread.

Roof Joist
The rafters of a flat roof. Lumber used to support the roof sheeting and roof loads.

Roof Sheathing
Sheets, usually of plywood, which are nailed to the top edges of trusses or rafters to tie the roof together and support the roofing material.

A small second roof built behind the back side of a fireplace chimney to divert water around the chimney. Also, the plate at the bottom of some—usually exterior—door openings. Sometimes called a threshold.

Sales contract
A contract between a buyer and seller which should explain: (1) What the purchase includes, (2) What guarantees there are, (3) When the buyer can move in, (4) What the closing costs are, and (5) What recourse the parties have if the contract is not fulfilled or if the buyer cannot get a mortgage commitment at the agreed upon time.

The movable part of a window-the frame in which panes of glass are set in a window or door.

A table on the blueprints that list the sizes, quantities and locations of the windows, doors and mirrors.

A finishing material, either clear or pigmented, that is usually applied directly over raw wood for the purpose of sealing the wood surface.

Handcut wood shingles.

The first covering of boards or material on the outside wall or roof prior to installing the finished siding or roof covering.

Thin tapered piece of wood used for leveling or tightening a stair or other building element.

Pieces of wood, asbestos or other material used as an overlapping outer covering on walls or roofs.

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

Sill Plate (aka mud sill)
The lowest member of the house framing resting on top of the foundation wall.

Concrete floor placed directly on earth or a gravel base and usually about four inches thick.

Strip of wood laid over concrete floor to which the finished wood floor is nailed or glued.

The visible underwide of structural members such as staircases, cornices, beams, a roof overhang or eave.

Spec home
A house built before it is sold.

Specifications (aka Specs)
A narrative list of materials, methods, model numbers, colors, allowances, and other details which supplement the information contained in the blue prints. Written elaboration in specific detail about construction materials and methods. Written to supplement working drawings.

A unit of measure 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.

A long, horizontal member which connects uprights in a frame or supports a floor or the like. One of the enclosed sides of a stair supporting the treads and risers.

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.

An outside plaster finish made with Portland cement as its base.

Stud Framing
A building method that distributes structural loads to each of a series of relatively lightweight studs. Contrasts with post-and-beam.

In wall framing, the vertical members to which horizontal pieces are nailed. Studs are spaced either 16 inches or 24 inches apart.

The framing components of a floor including the sill plate, floor joists, and deck sheeting over which a finish floor is to be laid.

A pit in the basement in which water collects to be pumped out with a sump pump.

Suspended Ceiling
A ceiling system supported by hanging it from the overhead structural framing.

A wide shallow depression in the ground to form a channel for storm water drainage.

A wood member which binds a pair of principal rafters at the bottom.

Driving nails at an angle into corners or other joints.

Carpentry joint in which the jutting edge of one board fits into the grooved end of a similar board.

A bend in a water pipe to hold water so gases will not escape from the plumbing system into the house.

The horizontal part of a stair step.

A combination of structural members usually arranged in triangular units to form a rigid framework for spanning between load-bearing walls.

A style of elevation which today is closer to a ‘Tudor Revival’ style and feature elements from 16th century medieval architecture. It features gothic & rustic craftsmanship, steeply pitched roofs, extensive batten work and decorative mullions on windows.

A coating applied prior to the finishing or top coats of a paint job.

Underground Plumbing
The plumbing drain and waste lines that are installed beneath a basement floor.

A material installed under carpet to add foot comfort, isolate sound, and to prolong carpet life.

A plumbing fitting that joins pipes end-to-end so they can be dismantled.

Utility Easement
The area of the earth that has electric, gas, or telephone lines. These areas may be owned by the homeowner, but the utility company has the legal right to enter the area as necessary to repair or service the lines.

The depression at the meeting point of two roof slopes.

Vapor Barrier
Material such as paper, metal or paint which is used to prevent vapor from passing from rooms into the outside walls.

Variable Rate
An interest rate that will vary over the term of the loan.

Venetian Window
A window with one large fixed central pane and smaller panes at each side.

Vent Pipe
A pipe which allows gas to escape from plumbing systems.

A measure of electrical potential. Most homes are wired with 110 and 220 volt lines. The 110 volt power is used for lighting and most of the other circuits. The 220 volt power is usually used for the kitchen range, hot water heater and dryer.

An abbreviation for water closet (aka toilet).

Wafer board
A manufactured wood panel made out of 1″- 2″ wood chips and glue. Often used as a substitute for plywood in the exterior wall and roof sheathing.

The lower three or four feet of an interior wall when lined with paneling, tile or other material different from the rest of the wall.

Wall Sheathing
Sheets of plywood, gypsum board, or other material nailed to the outside face of studs as a base for exterior siding.

A final inspection of a home before “Closing” to look for and document problems that need to be corrected.

In Alberta, all new homes are protected by the Alberta New Home Warranty Program.

Weather Stripping
Metal, wood, plastic or other material installed around door and window openings to prevent air infiltration.

Window Frame
The stationary part of a window unit; window sash fits into the window frame.

Window Wells
Corrugated metal or concrete barrier walls installed around a basement window to hold back the earth.

A “Y” shaped plumbing fitting.

The section of a building that is served by one heating or cooling loop because it has noticeably distinct heating or cooling needs.

A governmental process and specification which limits the use of a property e.g. single family use, high rise residential use, industrial use, etc. Zoning laws may limit where you can locate a structure. Also see building codes.