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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.


nail pattern- any pattern that is used when attaching boards or panels.

newel post- the large post that supports a stair rail at the top and bottom of the stairs.

no-hub cast iron- cast iron pipe without hubs. Typically a rubber gasket is used to couple the pipes.

nominal dimension- when referring to lumber the nominal size is the dimensions before the board is planed. For example, a 2 x 4 is the nominal dimension and the actual size is 1½" x 3½".

non-bearing wall- a wall which carries no weight or load. Also called a partition wall.

non-structural- any part of the structure which doesn't support any loads other than its own weight.


open eaves- eaves where the rafter tails are left exposed. The alternative is to cover the eaves with a Soffit.

outlet- the point where a electrical circuit ends at a fixture or a receptacle.

occupancy permit- a certificate issued by the building authority stating that the structure is substantially complete and has met the code requirements for occupancy. The occupancy permit is issued after final inspection.


parge- the application of thin stucco layers on the exterior foundation. It is used to waterproof the foundation or for decoration.

particle board- a generic term used to describe a panel board made from compressed wood particles.

party wall- a wall shared between two separate dwellings, like between a townhouse for example.

paving brick (paver)- a masonry brick with excellent strength and wear resistance used for walkways, driveways and roads. Some types of paving brick are interlocking. Paving brick are popular in Europe.

percolation test- a test which determines the absorption rate of soil. It is used to in construction projects and for designing septic systems.

perimeter drain (foundation drain or French drain)- an underground drain installed around the footings to prevent the build up of water around the house.

perimeter footing- the concrete footing that support the foundation walls.

platform framing- a method of framing where the floor joists of the upper level rests on top of the walls of the level below.

plenum- the box that attaches directly to the furnace where the warm air goes before being divided into separate trunk lines.

plot plan- a drawing showing the orientation of the structure on the property from an aerial perspective. The plot plan is part of the plan set on a typical set of house plans.

plumb- refers to an object when it's in an exact vertical position, not tilting or leaning to any side.

plumbing access- Any opening in a wall or surface that allows access to plumbing piping.

points- in real estate terms a point means percent. For example 2 points equals 2 percent.

point load- the point where a structural load is concentrated vertically. For example a post that supports a beam creates a point load.

pressure treated lumber- wood that has been treated under pressure with chemical which helps the wood resist decay and insect.

primer- the first coat of paint or other cover that is used to seal the surface before applying finish coats.

punch list- the punch list contains a list of items or tasks that need to be repaired or completed. It is created when the project is substantially complete. The list is created by the owner and confirmed by the contractor.

p-trap- pipe that is shaped like the letter "P" used in drains. The P shape traps water and prevents sewer gasses from entering the home.


quarter round molding- a small piece of molding which is shaped in a quarter of a circle. It is used to cover right angle joints.

quote (bid)- the act of making an offer at a guaranteed price.


r value- measurement of a material ability to resist heat transfer. The higher the R value the better the insulation resists transfer of heat and cold.

rain gutter- a long trough that attaches to the fascia below the drip edge of the roof to catch rain water. In modern construction, rain gutters are usually made of aluminum, steel or copper .

radiant floor heating- a heating system that uses in-floor or under floor pipes to transfer heat inside a structure. The pipes used today are made of plastic or rubber compounds.

raised panel door- door made of panels and held in place by stiles and rails.

rebar- short for reinforcing bar. Steel bar is placed in concrete to give it strength. 1/2" or 5/8" diameter rebar is most commonly used in residential construction.


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