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Construction Dictionary

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Welcome to our online construction dictionary. The dictionary is in a continual evolution. Since this site is about residential construction the dictionary will reflect this. If you can't find a certain term email us and we will add it to our list.


dampproofing- the process of applying a water-resistant substance to concrete or masonry to stop the infiltration of moisture. Basement foundations are a good example of where dampproofing is used.

dead load- the force that is placed on a structure and structural members due to the weight of the materials used. Shingles are an example of a dead load. The heavier the materials; the greater the load.

deck sheathing- any covering that goes over floors and roofs and studs. Plywood, OSB and wafer board are common deck sheathing materials.

dimension lumber- wood lumber that ranges in thickness from 2-5 inches and from a width greater than 2". Studs, joist, beams, and posts are usually made form dimensional lumber.

dormer- a projection through the roof which raises the ceiling and allows a vertical surface to install a window. Shed and gable dormers are the most common types.

double hung window- a vertically opening window where both the top and bottom sashes move on separate tracks. This allows the top and bottom sashes to be open at the same time.

double top plate- the two horizontal plates on top of the wall that hold the wall stud in place and tie walls together.

drain tile- underground clay or synthetic pipe used to carry water away from areas that need to remain dry, such as foundations. Also called perimeter drain.

drip edge- a angle piece of sheet metal that is placed over the edge of the roof to help the water drip directly to the ground and not run under the fascia and soffit.

dry rot- a fungus that thrives under damp moist conditions which turns wood into powder. It occurs in areas where ventilation is poor, such as crawlspaces, and basements.

drywall (gypsum board or Sheetrock™)-is a gypsum mineral board formed into panels that are 4' wide and 8'-16' long. The 1/2" or 5/8" thick panels are used to finish interior walls.

ducts- round or rectangular pipes used in forced air heating systems to supply warm or cool air throughout the house.

dwelling- a house or separate living unit.

DWV- drain waste and vent. Pipes that are designed to safely remove waste water from the house.


easement- the legal right of a party to cross or to use others property in a limited way. Access to landlocked property is often a way in which an easement would be afforded.

eaves- the lower part of the roof that projects past the exterior walls or the wall that supports it.

eaves trough- see rain gutter.

edger (edging trowel)- a concrete finishing tool that is used along the edge of concrete slabs to create a rounded edge.

elevation drawing- an elevation drawing which shows the views of a house from a vertical plane. In simpler terms it is a view of each side of the house. Elevation drawings are part of the total blueprint set.

excusable delay- a delay that is beyond the control negligence or fault of the contractor. An example of an excusable delay would might be a natural disaster.

expansion joint- a space or gap that is built into a structure (most notably concrete) which allow the structure to expand without causing damage.


fascia board- a board that is nailed to the rafter tails at the end of the eaves. In modern residential construction the fascia board is covered with a finish fascia material such as painted aluminum, vinyl or finish wood.

felt paper- asphalt based paper sheathing used as a moisture barrier under shingles, siding and masonry. 15lb and 30 lb are common weights of felt paper.

final inspection- the last inspection to take place before an occupancy permit is issued by building officials. All life and safety code issues must be resolved before a occupancy permit is issued.

firestop- material placed in an enclosed area to prevent the spread of fire.

fireblocking- wood blocking placed between joists and studs to prevent the vertical travel of fire between walls and floors.

firewall- a wall designed to contain the spread of fire between rooms or between residences. Fire walls are rated by the number of hours that they can contain a fire from 1-4. Non-combustible materials such as gypsum, concrete, clay brick are best at resisting fire spread.

flashing- sheet metal used in wall and roof systems to prevent the water infiltration.

floor plan- a view of the layout of the floor structure from an overhead perspective. The floor plan contains information such as location and size of windows and doors, room size, location of exterior and partition walls, location of electrical fixtures, outlets and switches and plumbing fixture location etc. Each floor has it's own floor plan.

four-way switch- an electrical switch that is used to control a fixture from three or more locations.

floor area ratio (FAR)- a ratio of the total square footage of the house over the square footage of the property on which it is built. Maximum and minimum FAR's may be established by city ordinance or building covenants.

floor plan- part of the construction plans which show the layout of rooms, hallways and stairway etc. It may also show window door and electrical information.

footing (footer)- the rectangular concrete base which supports the entire building structure.

form- a temporary structure used to create a mold for concrete poured on site.

foundation- the part of the structure which is below grade that support the above grade structure.

frost line- the depth that the ground typically freezes. The frostline varies depending on climate and geographical area.


gable- the portion at the end of a building between the eaves and the peak of the roof. The shape of the gable is determined by the type of roof. A typical gable roof forms a triangular shaped gable.

gambrel roof- a roof that has two different slopes. The lower slope being steeper than the upper slope portion of the roof.

girder- a large beam that is used to support secondary structural members at points along the beam

glulam beam- a wood beam made by gluing thinner pieces together in a stack.

grade- the contour of the land around a structure. The grade is usually designed to control the flow of storm water.

grout- mortar which fills the spaces between tiles. Used extensively in floor and wall tiles. (2) A small aggregate concrete mixture used to fill the open cells in cement blocks.

gypsum board- see drywall.

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