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Glossary Of Terms

Glossary Of Terms Landing Page image.

If you are new to construction and building, our house plans and articles may contain words you are unfamiliar with, so for your convenience we have provided a glossary that touches on all types of terms that may appear throughout our website. This is a terrific resource that will provide a quick and easy place for obtaining knowledge and understanding as you read floor plans, articles and other areas of our website. Whether you decide to read up on these definitions before you begin your search, or as you stumble upon a phrase or subject you’re not familiar with, this thorough glossary is just the place to expand your building knowledge.

A

Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
A mortgage loan in which the interest rate changes throughout the life of a loan as an index changes with the market.

Amortize
The method of paying down the principal of a loan over a period of time. In a traditional 30 year loan the amount of the loan is repaid, or amortized, with payments that also include interest over 30 years.

Ampere (Amps)
The rate of flow of electrical charge. Current = voltage / resistance.

Assessment
A charge levied against real property by a governmental entity for the cost of improvements, such as streets or sewers.

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B

Backfill
Material brought to a site to be used around the foundation or to fill a trench.

Balloon loan
A loan that comes due and must be paid off or refinanced because the final payment is much higher than the monthly payments.

Base molding
Strips of wood or plaster used to cover the joints between the floor and walls.

Batt
Fiberglass or rock wool pre-cut insulation strips.

Bearing wall
A wall that supports the floor or roof.

Brick veneer
A brick facing used for exterior siding for decorative appearance and not for bearing the load of the building.

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C

Circuit
Two or more wires through which electrical power flows from the distribution panel to one or more outlets or fixtures, then back.

Circuit breaker
A safety device that breaks the flow of electrical current whenever a circuit becomes overloaded.

Conduit
Piping made out of plastic or metal used to protect electrical wire.

Construction loan
A short-term loan taken for the expressed purpose of building. Installment payments are made and when the building is complete, the loan is usually replaced by a longer-term mortgage.

Corner bead
A lightweight strip of metal, angled to reinforce corners in drywall.

Cornice
The eave overhang of a pitched roof, consisting of soffit and facia.

Crawl space
A shallow, enclosed space below the first floor in a house without a basement. 

Current
Term used to describe electrical flow.

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D

Damper
A valve installed inside an air duct to regulate airflow.

Deed
A written document that transfers title of real property.

Distribution panel
The main box through which electrical power is brought into the home and then distributed.

Dormer
A window structure projecting from a sloped roof.

Double-hung window
A window consisting of two sashes that can slide up and down.

Dry well
A pipe made of stones buried below the elevation of the footings to collect water from the drainpipe and evaporate it during hot weather.

Duct
A tube used to transfer warm and cool air.

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E

Easement
Privileges a party has over the property of another. Easements may limit the use of property one owns. 

Eave
An overhang from a sloping roof that projects beyond the walls of a house.

Equity
The market value less any loans against a property.

Escrow
An agreement in which the parties deposit money and/or legal documents with a third party who handles the transaction.

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F

Flashing
A sealant device for conduit roof penetrations such as chimneys.

Footing
A concrete base poured underneath a home to distribute the load of the foundation walls.

Foundation
The footings, walls, and slabs that support a house.

Framing
The studs, rafters, joists, sole plates, and roof plates that form the skeletal structure of a house.

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G

Gable
A triangular shaped roof.

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt)
A breaker or receptacle that detects excessive electrical current flow and stops electrical flow in the circuit. It is a required safety feature in many areas of the home where there is an increased risk of shock.

Grade
The slope of the lot.

Grounding
The connection of an electrical system to the earth. It is used to prevent damage and minimize the danger of electrical shock

Grout
A mortar used to fill joints between tiles.

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H

Header
Heavy framing on top of windows, doors, and other openings.

Hip roof
A roof with sloping ends and sides.

Hot wire
The electrical wires (typically black or red) used to carry current as distinguished from the neutral wires (usually white)

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J

Jambs
The pieces forming the sides and top of a window or doorframe.

Joists
Horizontal beams that support a floor or ceiling.

Junction Box
An electrical box used for wire splicing.

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L

Lien
A legal right or claim that one party has against a property as a security for a payment obligation.

Live load
A load that is not derived from the actual structure, but from furniture, snow, people, or other weight placed upon surfaces.

Load
The amount of power or watts on a circuit or distribution panel.

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M

Main
The principle water pipe from which other pipes branch.

Mechanic's lien
The right given to a contractor or material supplier over a property for material supplied or work performed and not yet paid.

Miter
A joint formed by cutting two pieces of wood at 45-degree angles. Often found in trim work.

Multiple listing service (MLS)
A real estate brokerage service organized by local brokers to share real estate listed for sale.

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N

Neutral
The wire in an electrical system (usually white) that carries current when there is unbalance load.

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O

O.C.
On-center. The distance between the centers of two framings.

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P

Plumb
Perfectly vertical, a term often used for the placement of doors and windows.

Plumbing fixture
A receptacle or device from which water is dispensed and/or drained, such as a bath, toilet, or faucet.

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R

R-value
A measurement used to describe the resistance to temperature changes in insulation.

Rafters
Sloping roof beams that extend from the center ridge board to the overhang.

Rail
The horizontal framing pieces of a panel door.

Ridge board
The highest beam supporting the upper end of the rafters.

Riser
The vertical piece between two steps on a stairs.

Rough In
The installation of all parts of the plumbing system that can be completed prior to the installation of fixtures, including drainage, water supply, vent piping, and the necessary fixture supports.

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S

Salt box roof
A side gable with one side long and extending down to the first floor and the other side short covering the second floor. 

Setback
The minimum distance between the street and the building line established by local ordnances.

Shakes
Roofing or siding shingles made from split wood.

Sheathing
Panels used to cover the framing of a roof and exterior walls

Shim
Small thin pieces of wood or other material used to fill in gaps or level surfaces.

Short circuit
An improper connection of a hot wire with another hot wire or neutral.

Soffit
The boards covering the underside of the eave overhang.

Span
The distance between the structural supports of beams and girders.

Stile
The vertical side pieces of a panel door.

Studs
The vertical member in wall framings used to form and support walls.

Subflooring
Plywood nailed directly to floor joists to form a base for a finished floor.

Sump
A pit in a basement to collect water and pump it out.

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T

Taping
The process of covering drywall joints with strips of paper or mesh and coating with joint compound to produce a smooth, seamless surface.

Term
The length of a loan.

Title
The right of ownership to real property.

Trap
A fitting or device which provides a liquid seal to prevent smell from sewage or waste water, such as the U-shaped pipe underneath a sink. 

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U

Underlayment
A layer of material placed under carpeting, resilient flooring, or roof shingles.

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V

Vapor barrier
A waterproof membrane or plastic sheet used in insulation. The sheathing faces the heated area to control dampness.

Veneer
A decorative or protective facing, such as stone or brick.

Volt
A unit of electrical force. Volts = Current (amps) x Resistance (OHMs)

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