House Construction and Repair Terms


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Lag-Screws or Coach-Screws

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

Lally Column

A steel tube sometimes filled with concrete, used to support girders or other floor beams.


One of a number of thin narrow strips of wood nailed to rafters, ceiling joists, wall studs, etc. to make a groundwork or key for slates, tiles, or plastering.

Leaching Bed

Tiles in the trenches carrying treated wastes from septic tanks.


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


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.


Slender framing which divides the lights or panes of windows.




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 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.


A projection or the foundation wall used to support a floor girder or stiffen the wall.


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.


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


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.




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.

Reinforced Concrete

Concrete strengthened with wire or metal bars.

Ridge Pole

A thick longitudinal plank to which the ridge rafters of a roof are attached.


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

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.



Sandwich Panel

A panel with plastic, paper, or other material enclosed between two layers of a different material.


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


A concave molding.

Scuttle Hole

A small opening either to the attic, to the crawl space or to the plumbing pipes.

Seepage Pit

A sewage disposal system composed of a septic tank and a connected cesspool.

Septic Tank

A sewage settling tank in which part of the sewage is converted into gas and sludge before the remaining waste is discharged by gravity into a leaching bed underground.


Handcut wood shingles.

Sheathing (See Wall Sheathing)

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.


Boards with rabbeted edges overlapping.


Siding Boards of special design nailed horizontally to vertical studs with or without intervening sheathing to form the exposed surface of outside walls of frame buildings.

Sill Plate

The lowest member of the house framing resting on top of the foundation wall. Also called the mud sill.


Narrow boards around the margin of a floor; baseboards.


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.


Easily worked wood or wood from a conebearing tree.

Soil Stack

Vertical plumbing pipe for waste water.


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.


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


Usually, plywood sheets that are nailed directly to the floor joists and that receive the finish flooring.


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


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.

Tile Field

Open-joint drain tiles laid to distribute septic tank effluent over an absorption area or to provide subsoil drainage in wet areas.


Driving nails at an angle into corners or other joints.

Tongue-And- Groove

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.



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.

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.


The edge of tiles, slates or shingles, projecting over the gable of a roof.



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.

Weather Stripping

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

Weep Hole

A small hole in a wall which permits water to drain off.