Construction Terms

A/C: An abbreviation for air conditioner or air conditioning.

A/C Condenser: The condenser is the outside fan unit of the Air Conditioning system. It removes the heat from the Freon gas and "turns" the gas back into a liquid and pumps the liquid back to the coil in the furnace.

A/C Disconnect: The main electrical ON-OFF switch near the A/C Condenser.

Aerator: The round screened screw-on tip of a sink spout. It mixes water and air for a smooth flow.

Air Conditioned Living Area: The square footage of the area that is air conditioned in a home. Areas such as garage, porches, non air conditioned attic storage areas, etc. are not included in this measurement. When cost per square foot is considered the cost of the home is typically divided by the square footage of Air Conditioned Living Area. Large amounts of non air conditioned area can have a huge impact on the cost per square foot of a home.

Allowances: In the specifications for the construction of a home typically numerous items are called allowances. They are typically decorator items such as cabinets, tile, paint, wallpaper, carpet, landscaping, etc. The Builder will base the price of the home including allowances for the items agreed to as allowance items.

Architectural Ceilings: Known as tray ceilings or other specially designed ceilings. They are typically designed by the Interior Architectural Designer and not the Architect or Designer of the home.

Astragal: A molding, attached to one of a pair of swinging double doors, against which the other door strikes.

Attic access: An opening that is placed in the drywalled ceiling of a home providing access to the attic

Automated lighting control system: A professionally installed system that controls lights in multiple rooms without use of manual switches.

Backsplashes: Wall area between the cabinet countertop and the upper cabinets. This area can have tile, granite, wallpaper, or painted an accent color.

Balusters: Vertical members in a railing used between a top rail and bottom rail or the stair treads. Balusters are sometimes referred to as 'pickets' or 'spindles'.

Balustrade: The rail, posts and vertical balusters along the edge of a stairway or elevated walkway are known as the Balustrade.

Banding: Typically refers to exterior veneer of the home. Banding is the trim installed around windows, doors, and other exterior architectural features of the home. It can be made out of stucco, wood, or stone.

Bath Accessories: Includes the toilet tissue holder and towel bars. They can be metal or ceramic.

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

Bi-pass doors: Doors that slide by each other and commonly used as closet doors.

Bottom chord: The lower or bottom horizontal member of a truss.

Breaker panel: The electrical box that distributes electric power entering the home to each branch circuit (each plug and switch) and composed of circuit breakers.

Builder's Risk Insurance: Insurance coverage on a construction project during construction, including extended coverage that may be added for the contract for the customer's protections.

Building codes: Local and state ordinances governing the manner in which a home may be constructed or modified.

Built INS: Can be anywhere in the home. The Built Ins are typically designed by the Interior Architectural Designer. They are normally built into some type of niche specially prepared for the Built in. They are highly personalized and not inexpensive. Normally, the built-ins are finished wood and include TV entertainment centers, Bookcases, Desk, Storage Chest, and much more.

Bull nose (drywall): Rounded drywall corners.

Cantilever: An overhang where one floor extends beyond and over a foundation wall. For example at a fireplace location or bay window cantilever.

Casement: A window that one side of the window sash cranks out.

Casing: The casing is the wood trim molding installed around a door or window opening.

Cast Stone: Man made material to resemble coral stone or some other type of natural stone. Cast Stone is very expensive. Many times the same look can be accomplished through our stucco artists at a fraction of the cost.

Cement: The gray powder that is the "glue" in concrete. Portland cement. Also, any adhesive.

Ceramic tile: A man-made or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall. Generally used in bathtub and shower enclosures and on counter tops.

Certificate of Occupancy: Issued by the County Building Department once the home has passed all of the required inspections by the County building department. This certificate is issued by the local municipality and is required before anyone can occupy and live within the home. It is issued only after the local municipality has made all inspections and all monies and fees have been paid.

CFM (cubic feet per minute): A rating that expresses the amount of air a blower or fan can move. The volume of air (measured in cubic feet) that can pass through an opening in one minute.

Chair rail: Interior trim material installed about 3-4 feet up the wall, horizontally.

Circuit Breaker: A device which looks like a switch and is usually located inside the electrical breaker panel or circuit breaker box. It is designed to (1) shut of the power to portions or the entire house and (2) to limit the amount of power flowing through a circuit (measured in amperes). 110 volt household circuits require a fuse or circuit breaker with a rating of 15 or a maximum of 20 amps. 220 volt circuits may be designed for higher amperage loads e.g. a hot water heater may be designed for a 30 amp load and would therefore need a 30 amp fuse or breaker.

Circuit: The path of electrical flow from a power source through an outlet and back to ground.

CO: An abbreviation for "Certificate of Occupancy".

Cold air return: The ductwork (and related grills) that carries room air back to the furnace for re-heating.

Combustion air: The duct work installed to bring fresh, outside air to the furnace and/or hot water heater. Normally 2 separate supplies of air are brought in: One high and One low.

Compressor: A mechanical device that pressurizes a gas in order to turn it into a liquid, thereby allowing heat to be removed or added. A compressor is the main component of conventional heat pumps and air conditioners. In an air conditioning system, the compressor normally sits outside and has a large fan (to remove heat).

Concrete block: A hollow concrete 'brick' often 8" x 8" x 16" in size.

Concrete: The mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel, and water. Used to make garage and basement floors, sidewalks, patios, foundation walls, etc. It is commonly reinforced with steel rods (rebar) or wire screening (mesh).

Condensate line: The copper pipe that runs from the outside air conditioning condenser to the inside furnace (where the a/c coil is located).

Condensation: Beads or drops of water (and frequently frost in extremely cold weather) that accumulate on the inside of the exterior covering of a building. Use of louvers or attic ventilators will reduce moisture condensation in attics. A vapor barrier under the gypsum lath or dry wall on exposed walls will reduce condensation.

Condensing unit: The outdoor component of a cooling system. It includes a compressor and condensing coil designed to give off heat.

Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC and R's): The standards that define how a property may be used and the protections the developer makes for the benefit of all owners in a subdivision.

Construction Agreement: The contractual agreement between the Buyers and the Builder. This agreement spells out the rights, obligations, and duties between both parties.

Control joint: Tooled, straight grooves made on concrete floors to "control" where the concrete should crack

Convection: Currents created by heating air, which then rises and pulls cooler air behind it. Also see radiation.

Cooling load: The amount of cooling required keeping a building at a specified temperature during the summer, usually 78° F, regardless of outside temperature.

Corbel: The triangular, decorative and supporting member that holds a mantel or horizontal shelf.

Corner bead: A strip of formed sheet metal placed on outside corners of drywall before applying drywall 'mud'.

Cornice: Overhang of a pitched roof, usually consisting of a fascia board, a soffit and appropriate trim moldings.

Course: A row of shingles or roll roofing running the length of the roof. Parallel layers of building materials such as bricks, or siding laid up horizontally.

Dedicated circuit: An electrical circuit that serves only one appliance (ie, dishwasher) or a series of electric heaters or smoke detectors.

Disconnect: A large (generally 20 Amp) electrical ON-OFF switch.

Distributed audio system: A professionally installed system that allows occupants to play and control audio from a central source in at least three rooms in the home The system should include at a minimum a distribution amplifier, room controls and in-wall, on-wall or in-ceiling speakers.

Doorjamb, interior: The surrounding case into which and out of which a door closes and opens. It consists of two upright pieces, called side jambs, and a horizontal head jamb. These 3 jambs have the "door stop" installed on them.

Dormer: An opening in a sloping roof, the framing of which projects out to form a vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.

Double Cylinder Deadbolt: This is a deadbolt lock on a door. Double cylinder means that a key must be used on both sides of the lock. A single cylinder means that a key must be used on one side of the door while a lever of some other type is used to unlock the door on the opposite side.

Double glass: Window or door in which two panes of glass are used with a sealed air space between. Also known as Insulating Glass.

Double hung: A window that both the upper and lower window sashes move up and down.

Draw: The amount of progress billings on a contract that is currently available to a contractor under a contract with a fixed payment schedule.

Drop in Sink: Sink that is surface mounted on a counter top. The rim of the sink is visible. A sink that the rim is not visible is called an under mount sink.

Dry in: To install the black roofing felt (tar paper) on the roof.

Ducts: The heating system. Usually round or rectangular metal pipes installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to rooms in the home. Also a tunnel made of galvanized metal or rigid fiberglass, which carries air from the heater or ventilation opening to the rooms in a building.

Easement: A formal contract which allows a party to use another party's property for a specific purpose. e.g. a sewer easement might allow one party to run a sewer line through a neighbor’s property.

Eaves: The horizontal exterior roof overhang.

Egress: A means of exiting the home. An egress window may be required in every bedroom. Normally a 4' X 4' window is the minimum size required

Electrical Rough: Work performed by the Electrical Contractor after the plumber and heating contractor are complete with their phase of work. Normally all electrical wires and outlet, switch, and fixture boxes are installed (before insulation).

Electrical Trim: Work performed by the electrical contractor when the house is nearing completion. The electrician installs all plugs, switches, light fixtures, smoke detectors, appliance "pig tails", and bath ventilation fans, wires the furnace, and "makes up" the electric house panel.

Elevation: Drawing depicting the final look of an element such as each side of the home.

Evaporator coil: The part of a cooling system that absorbs heat from air in your home. Also see condensing unit.

Expansion joint: Fibrous material (@1/2" thick) installed in and around a concrete slab to permit it to move up and down (seasonally) along the non-moving foundation wall.

Fascia: The flat, vertical surface immediately below the edge of a roof. It is the surface a gutter would be attached to. The term fascia can also be used to describe other flat vertical surfaces in a home.

Faux Painting: Paint applied by an artist to a surface in a manner to match a certain pattern and color desired. Normally requires a base coat of paint with numerous other coats of other color paint to achieve the desired look. Faux painting cab be used on walls and many other surfaces.

Felt - Tar paper: Installed under the roof shingles. Normally 15 lb. or 30 lb.

Flashing: Sheet metal or other material used in roof and wall construction to protect a building from water seepage.

Flatwork: Common word for concrete floors, driveways, basements, and sidewalks.

Flue: Large pipe through which fumes escape from a gas water heater, furnace, or fireplace. Normally these flue pipes are double walled, galvanized sheet metal pipe and sometimes referred to as a "B Vent". Fireplace flue pipes are normally triple walled. In addition, nothing combustible shall be within one inch from the flue pipe.

Footer: The concrete reinforced supporting base or groundwork of the home.

Foundation Wall: The concrete block walls built on top of the footer to the height of the slab. The area inside the foundation walls is filled with compacted fill.

Framer: The carpenter contractor that installs the lumber and erects the frame, flooring system, interior walls, backing, trusses, rafters, decking, installs all beams, stairs, soffits and all work related to the wood structure of the home. The framer builds the home according to the blueprints and must comply with local building codes and regulations.

Framing: Lumber used for the structural members of a building, such as studs, joists, and rafters.

French Drains: Installed below the surface of the ground to aid movement of ground water outside the home. A trench is dug in which a perforated PVC pipe is installed. The pipe is embedded in gravel and the pipe is then directed to a positive drain source. The pipe, if properly sloped, will do an excellent job draining wet areas. French drains are also known as under drains.

Glazing: The process of installing glass, which commonly is secured with glazier's points and glazing compound.

GPM: This is a measurement that describes the number of gallons that can flow through a particular pipe or other item per minute.

Grade: Ground level or the elevation at any given point. Also the work of leveling dirt. Also the designated quality of a manufactured piece of wood.

Ground fault: Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI, GFI) - an ultra sensitive plug designed to shut off all electric current. Used in bathrooms, kitchens, exterior waterproof outlets and "wet areas". Has a small reset button on the plug.

Ground: Refers to electricity's habit of seeking the shortest route to earth. Neutral wires carry it there in all circuits. An additional grounding wire or the sheathing of the metal-clad cable or conduit—protects against shock if the neutral leg is interrupted.

Groundwater: Water from an aquifer or subsurface water source.

Grout: A wet mixture of cement, sand and water that flows into masonry or ceramic crevices to seal the cracks between the different pieces. Mortar made of such consistency (by adding water) that it will flow into the joints and cavities of the masonry work and fill them solid.

Gypsum Board: Gypsum is used to create drywall. Drywall is the interior wall and ceiling surface of your home. It typically comes in 4’x 8’ and 4’x12’ sheets.

Hardware: All of the "metal" fittings that go into the home when it is near completion. For example, door knobs, towel bars, handrail brackets, closet rods, house numbers, door closers, etc. The Interior Trim Carpenter installs the "hardware".

Heat Recovery Units: Use waste heat from your air conditioning system to heat domestic hot water.

Hip: A roof with four sloping sides. The external angle formed by the meeting of two sloping sides of a roof.

Hip roof: A roof that rises by inclined planes from all four sides of a building.

Home automation system: A professionally installed system that integrates the control of security, HVAC or lighting systems to enhance safety, comfort and convenience.

Home theater system: A professionally installed audio/video system designed to re-create cinema-like experiences in the home, including at least a five-speaker surround-sound system.

Hose Bib: Exterior garden hose outlet.

HVAC: The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system for your home.

HVCA Rough: Work performed by the Heating Contractor after the stairs and interior walls are built. This includes installing all duct work and flue pipes. Sometimes, the furnace and fireplaces are installed at this stage of construction.

HVAC Trim: Work done by the Heating Contractor to get the home ready for the municipal Final Heat Inspection. This includes venting the hot water heater, installing all vent grills, registers, air conditioning services, turning on the furnace, installing thermostats, venting ranges and hoods, and all other heat related work.

Interior Architectural Detailing: As important or possibly more so that the architectural plans for your home. They include the plans for all of the special ceilings, niches, special trim, built ins, decorative tile details, and more for your home. They are typically prepared by the Interior Designer and Architect.

Irrigation: Exterior sprinkler system for the yard.

Jamb: The side and head lining of a doorway, window, or other opening. Includes studs as well as the frame and trim.

Joist hanger: A metal "U" shaped item used to support the end of a floor joist and attached with

Joist: Wooden 2 X 8's, 10's, or 12's that run parallel to one another and support a floor or ceiling, and supported in turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls.

Keyless: A plastic or porcelain light fixture that operates by a pull string. Generally found in the basement, crawl space, and attic areas.

Knockdown: Splatter texture applied to a surface that is then troweled to achieve a particular finish. Normally used to describe finish on drywall interior walls and ceilings, porch and pool deck floor finishes, as well as a particular type of exterior wall stucco finish.

Laminate: Formica or other brands surface glued to a wood substrate typically for countertops.

Light Lift: Typically found where chandeliers are installed in high ceiling areas. The light lift is electrically operated and raises or lowers the light fixture for cleaning and maintenance.

Male: Any part, such as a bolt, designed to fit into another (female) part. External threads are male.

Masonry: Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, or other similar building units or materials. Normally bonded together with mortar to form a wall.

Millwork: Generally all building materials made of finished wood and manufactured in millwork plants. Includes all doors, window and door frames, blinds, mantels, panel work, stairway components (balusters, rail, etc.), moldings, and interior trim.

Miter joint: The joint of two pieces at an angle that bisects the joining angle. For example, the miter joint at the side and head casing at a door opening is made at a 45° angle.

Molding: A wood strip having an engraved, decorative surface.

Monitored security system: A professionally installed system designed to detect intrusion or other hazard, including sensors, an alarm-sounding device and communication device that reports conditions to an alarm monitoring service.

Mortar: A mixture of cement (or lime) with sand and water used in masonry work.

Mullion: A vertical divider in the frame between windows, doors, or other openings.

Newel post: the large starting post to which the ends of a stair guard railing or balustrade is fastened.

Nonbearing wall: A wall supporting no load other than its own weight.

Nosing: The projecting edge of a molding or drip or the front edge of a stair tread.

Pitch: The incline slope of a roof or the ratio of the total rise to the total width of a house, i.e., a 6-foot rise and 24-foot width is a one-fourth pitch roof. Roof slope is expressed in the inches of rise, per foot of horizontal run.

Plot plan: An overhead view plan that shows the location of the home on the lot.

Programmable Thermostats: Allow the homeowner to program times and temperature for automatic operation, saving 30% during a typical setback period.

Punch List: A written list of items which need to be fixed, repaired or replaced prior to the final walk-through.

Radiant Barrier Sheathing: Aluminum foil installed over the air conditioned living area of the home between the interior ceiling and the roof of the home. It is typically stapled to the undersides of the sloped roof trusses. Each piece is taped and sealed. It reduces heat transfer into the Attic and the home. This may reduces cooling costs by up to 25%.

Rebar: Steel reinforcing rods installed in concrete. Objective is to hold the concrete together.

Receptacle: An electrical outlet. A typical household will have many 120 volt receptacles for plugging in lams and appliances and 240 volt receptacles for the range, clothes dryer, air conditioners, etc.

Recessed Box Washer Connection: Installed inside the wall in the laundry where the clothes washer will be located. Inside this box are the hot and cold water supplies as well as the drain for the washer.

Recessed lights: Ceiling lights installed in the ceiling of the home by the electrician.

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

Returns: The conditioned air is distributed throughout the home using a system of rigid and flexible duct, collectively referred to as ductwork. Ductwork is a circulatory system that uses supplies to feed air into a room and returns to complete the circuit back to the air handler. Adequate and properly placed returns will keep closed rooms from becoming pressurized which limit the entrance of supply air into the room.

Rough opening: The horizontal and vertical measurement of a window or door opening before drywall or siding is installed.

Roughing-in: The initial stage of a plumbing, electrical, heating, carpentry, and/or other project, when all components that won't be seen after the second finishing phase are assembled. See also Heat Rough, Plumbing Rough, and Electrical Rough.

SEER: Universal energy rating for heat pumps. The higher the number the better.

Service equipment: Main control gear at the service entrance, such as circuit breakers, switches, and fuses.

Sheathing: A layer of plywood or similar type material applied to the studs and joists of a building to strengthen it and serve as a foundation for a weatherproof exterior finish.

Single Cylinder Deadbolt: This is a deadbolt lock on a door. Double cylinder means that a key must be used on both sides of the lock. A single cylinder means that a key must be used on one side of the door while a lever of some other type is used to unlock the door on the opposite side.

Single Hung: Refers to a type of window where the bottom window sash goes up and down. The upper sash remains fixed.

Skimmer: Typically refers to the pool. It is an inlet where the pool water is sucked from the pool water surface by the pool pump through the filtration equipment and returned to the pool as fresh filtered water.

Slide Bolt: Normally found where double doors are used. A slide bolt is installed at the top and bottom of one of the doors to allow the doors to lock. The door with the slide bolt remains fixed unless the slide bolts are opened. It can then be opened or closed.

Soffit: The underside of a structural component, such as a beam, arch, staircase, or cornice. The term is typically used to refer to the flat horizontal area between the edge of the roof and the exterior veneer of the home.

Soil Report: The Soil Engineer takes core samples at various locations on the home site 7-10 feet deep. He then analyzes the samples for structural capacity of the soil. His report details those findings and offers his suggestions on how to deal with any problem soils.

Solarium: A solarium is a room enclosed largely with glass and affording exposure to the sun. The term solarium as used by a Builder typically refers to the wall built surrounding this room. The wall allows the room to remain open to the sun, but affords privacy at the same time.

Span: The clear distance that a framing member carries a load without support between structural supports. The horizontal distance from eaves to eaves.

Specifications Sheet: Attached to Matrix Home’s Construction Agreement. Ours are typically 5 pages or more detailing items that are included with the home, as well as items that are is not included.

Standard Feature: A specific item that is automatically included when you purchase a new home. Standard features may include a specific style of cabinets, or a specific type of countertops.

Structured Wiring System: The future of all homes! A central box is installed inside the home in an easily accessible location. All TV and telephone outlets are then wired directly to each outlet from this box. The telephone, cable television, satellite, fiber optic, and other lines coming into the home from the outside are wired directly to this box. The computers can be networked through this box, distributed audio and video systems can be installed, as well as home automation and lighting controls can be installed in this system.

Supplies: The conditioned air is distributed throughout the home using a system of rigid and flexible duct, collectively referred to as ductwork. Ductwork is a circulatory system that uses supplies to feed air into a room and returns to complete the circuit back to the air handler. Adequate and properly placed returns will keep closed rooms from becoming pressurized which limit the entrance of supply air into the room.

Survey: A drawing or map showing the precise legal boundaries of a property, the location of improvements, easements, rights of way, encroachments, and other physical features. Provided by the surveyor.

Surface-mount: Mounted on the surface of something as opposed to under mount which would be a recessed mounting.

Threshold: A piece of aluminum or wood placed beneath a door; a doorsill. It typically has vinyl or rubber weather stripping installed to not only save energy cost, but also to prevent pests from entering the home.

Top chord: The upper or top member of a truss.

Transom: A window or opening installed above a door or window.

Trap: A plumbing fitting that holds water to prevent air, gas, and vermin from backing up into a fixture.

Trusses: Engineered wood roof system.

Tyvek or similar material: Applied to the exterior wood plywood sheathing on all frame wall areas of the home. It is a plastic type material that does an excellent job of preventing moisture entering the home through the exterior walls.

Under-layment: Material installed between two surfaces. An example is a pad under-layment is installed between the concrete slab and the carpet.

Under-mount: Refers to a sink installed below a counter top making the sink and the top appear to be one piece.

Upgrade: A homeowner can choose to upgrade to a higher-level of material or style in several areas of their home (e.g., granite countertops instead of formica; or hardwood floors instead of carpet).

Valley: The "V" shaped area of a roof where two sloping roofs meet. Water drains off the roof at the valleys.

Vapor Barrier: Visquene installed to prevent moisture from passing between two locations. A vapor barrier is installed on top of the foundation fill prior to pouring the slab. This prevents condensation entering the floor of the home from the ground below.

Walk-through: Zephyr Homes schedule walk-through(s) with homeowner, during all phases of construction : pre-construction orientation, form boards, electrical, structured wiring, trim & doors, shelving, paint & stain samples, concrete layout, hardware location and final walk-through/move-in orientation.

Zoning: Zoning the Air Conditioning System allows a home to be separated into multiple zones. Each zone has individualized control with its own thermostat. Also: 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.