ABS: A type of black plastic pipe commonly used for waste water lines.

Aggregate: Crushed rock used as a top layer in some flat-roof applications.

Algae: Micro organisms that may grow to colonies in damp environments, including certain rooftops. Often described as fungus, algae can discolor shingles.

Allowances: A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which have not been selected and specified in the construction contract. Best kept to a minimum number and used for items who’s choice will not impact earlier stages of the construction. For example, selection of tile as flooring may require an alternative framing or underlayment material.

Amperage or AMPS: A unit of electrical current or volume- see voltage. Most homes have an electrical service ‘entrance’ package of 125 or 200 amps. Some older homes have 60 or 100 amp ‘entrances’.

Anchor Bolts: ‘L’ shaped bolts which are set in the concrete foundation and used to attach the framing of the house to the foundation.

APA Plywood: APA=American Plywood Association, number one rated exterior plywood, contains no voids between laminate layers.

Asbestos: (1) A common form of magnesium silicate which was used in various construction products due to it’s stability and resistance to fire. Asbestos exposure by inhaling loose asbestos fibers is associated with various forms of lung disease. (2) The name given to certain inorganic minerals when they occur in fibrous form. Though fire-resistant, its extremely fine fibers are easily inhaled, and exposure to them over a period of years has been linked to cancers of the lung or lung-cavity lining and to asbestosis, a severe lung impairment.

Asphalt: A bituminous material employed in roofing materials because of its waterproofing ability.

Asphalt plastic cement: An asphalt-based cement used to bond roofing materials. Also known as flashing cement or mastic.


Ball cock: The mechanism that controls the flow of water into a gravity-operated toilet tank. The ball cock is controlled by the float mechanism floating in the water in the tank. When the toilet is flushed, the float drops and opens the ball cock, allowing water to enter the tank and/or bowl. The float rises as the water level in the tank is restored, and shuts off the ball cock when the tank is completely filled. Also referred to as a float valve.

Base sheet: Bottom layer of built-up roofing.

Beam: A horizontal framing member designed to carry a load from a set of joists or a roof and spanning an open space. Usually 6″ x 6″ or 4″ x 10″ or larger.

Bidet: A personal hygiene fixture with hot and cold water supply for genital and perineum cleanliness.

Bisque: Unglazed areas of vitreous china fixtures, such as inside the tank or on the bottom of the bowl foot, have a bisque finish.

Bitumen: Term commonly applied to various mixtures of naturally occurring solid or liquid hydrocarbons, excluding coal. These substances are described as bituminous. Asphalt is a bitumen. Term commonly applied to various mixtures of naturally occurring solid or liquid hydrocarbons, excluding coal. These substances are described as bituminous. Asphalt is a bitumen.

Blind Nailing: A method of nailing that ensures that the nail heads are not visible on the surface of the finished material.

Blue Prints: A type of copying method often used for architectural drawings. Usually used to describe the drawing of a structure which is prepared by an architect or designer for the purpose of design and planning, estimating, securing permits and actual construction. Also called Blue Lines.

Bowl: Water-containing receptor that receives liquid and solid body waste; two general bowl classifications are round front and elongated.

Brick Ledge: The jutting lip or portion of foundation that the exterior brick courses are to be placed on.

Brick Veneer Wall: A facing of brick commonly used in modern construction that covers an exterior load bearing wall.

Bridging: Small wood or metal pieces that are placed diagonally between floor joists or wall studs to act as floor or wall stiffeners. Often used for wide spans.

Built-ins: Custom cabinets or bookcases built on site.

Built-up roof: A type of “flat” roof finish, produced by applying alternate layers of roofing felt and hot asphalt or pitch. The top layer is given a hot flood coat of the bitumen; granules of rock, gravel, slag, or ceramic particles may be embedded while the flood coat is still hot. The roofing system may incorporate rigid insulation.

Bundle: A package of shingles. There are 3, 4 or 5 bundles per square.

Butt edge: The lower edge of the shingle tabs.

Butt joint: The connection of two pieces of wood or other types of materials that meet in a square-cut joint.


Cabinet soffit: A boxed framework found above the upper cabinets in kitchens.

Cap flashing: The portion of the flashing attached to a vertical surface to prevent water from migrating behind the base flashing.

Cap sheet: A top layer in built-up roofing.

Casement Window: A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides and swings open like a normal door.

Casing: Molding of different widths, thickness and designs used as trim around window and door openings at the jambs.

Caulking: 1. A flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces e.g. between pieces of siding or the corners in tub walls. 2. To fill a joint with mastic or asphalt plastic cement to prevent leaks.

Chalk line: A line made on the roof by snapping a taut string or cord dusted with chalk. Used for alignment purposes.

Change Order: A written document which modifies the plans and specifications and/or the price of the construction Contract.

Circuit Breaker: A device which looks like a switch and is usually located inside the electrical panel or circuit breaker box. It is designed to (1) shut of the power to portions or all of the house and (2) to limit the amount of power flowing through a circuit (measured in amperes).


Deck: The surface, installed over the supporting framing members, to which the roofing is applied.

De-humidistat: A control mechanism used to operate a mechanical ventilation system based upon the relative humidity in the home.

Dimension lumber: Wood lumber that ranges from 2 inches thick up to, but not including, 5 inches thick and 2 or more inches wide. Includes joists, rafters, studs, and planks.

Designer:One who designs houses, interiors, landscaping or other objects. When used it the context of residential construction it usually suggests that a designer is not a licensed architect. Most jurisdictions don’t require an architectural license for most single family construction.

Door header: A beam located over a door or window to carry or redirect any load from above the door to the side door studs.

Dormer: Any structure whose framing projects out of a sloping roof to form a vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.

Double Hung Window:A window with two vertically sliding sashes. This is a very common older window design, was usually made out of wood and tends to require frequent repairs.

Double coverage: Application of asphalt roofing so that the lapped portion is at least 2 inches wider than the exposed portion, resulting in two layers of roofing material over the deck.

Downspout: A pipe for draining water from roof gutters. Also called a leader.


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 neighbors property.

Eaves:The horizontal overhang of the non-sloping edge of a roof beyond a vertical wall.

Eaves flashing: Additional layer of roofing material applied at the eaves to help prevent damage from water backup.

Edging strips: Boards nailed along eaves and rakes to provide secure edges for re-roofing with asphalt shingle after cutting back existing wood shingles.

Electrical entrance package: The entry point of the electrical power including: (1) the ‘strike’ or location where the overhead electrical lines connect to the house, (2) The meter which measures how much power is used and (3) The ‘panel’, ‘circuit breaker box ‘or ‘fuse box’ where the power can be shut off and overload devices such a fuses or circuit breakers and located.

Elongated bowl: Toilet bowl having dimensions of 14″ wide by 18 1/2″ long (from center of seat hinge holes to front outside rim edge).

Estimating: The process of calculating the cost of a project. This can be a formal and exact process or a quick and imprecise process.

Expansion joint:A joint that allows for expansion and contraction during temperature changes.

Exposed Aggregate: A method of finishing concrete which washes the cement/sand mixture of the top layer of the aggregate – usually gravel. Often used in driveways, patios and other exterior surfaces.

Exposed nail method: Application of roll roofing in which all nails are driven into the cemented, overlapping course of roofing. Nails are exposed to the weather.

Exposure: The portion of the roofing exposed to the weather after installation.


Fascia: A vertical wood member, such as a cedar 1″ x 6″, which is nailed to the ends of the rafters and is often the backing of the gutter.

Feathering strips: Tapered wood filler strips placed along the butt edges of old wood shingles to create a level surface when re-roofing over existing wood shingle roofs. Also called “horse feathers.”

Felt: Fibrous material saturated with asphalt and used as an underlayment or sheathing paper.

Fibered Aluminum Roof Coating: High-performance metallic reflective barrier for prepared roofing, metal surfaces and exterior masonry. Reflects sun’s harmful rays, reduces energy costs in summer and winter while prolonging surface life.

Fibered  Foundation Coating: Combined application for this special medium-viscosity-grade fibered material. Use as a  foundation coating. High-performance metallic reflective barrier for prepared roofing, metal surfaces and exterior masonry. Reflects sun’s harmful rays, reduces energy costs in summer and winter while prolonging surface life.

Fibered  Foundation Coating: Combined application for this special medium-viscosity-grade fibered material. Use as a  foundation coating. *Also see Foundation Coating*

Fibered Roof Coating: Optimal protection for low-sloped roofs. This thick, high-quality coating seals fine cracks and openings. Renews and rejuvenates old composition roofing and prolongs roof life. Also performs well on metal or concrete surfaces.

Fiberglass mat: An asphalt roofing base material manufactured from glass fibers.

Fixed Price Contract: A contract with a set price for the work. See Time and Materials Contract.

Flapper: Also known as flush ball, the flapper is the moving part of the flush valve that seals the water into the tank or allows water to exit the tank for the flush cycle. This is the predominant replacement part used on conventional toilets.

Flashing: 1. Sheet metal or roll roofing pieces fitted to the joint of any roof intersection, penetration or projection (chimneys, copings, dormers, valleys, vent pipes, etc.) in order to prevent water leakage.  2. The building component used to connect portions of a roof, deck, or siding material to another surface such as a chimney, wall, or vent pipe. Often made out of various metals, rubber or tar and is mostly intended to prevent water entry.

Float ball: The floating ball connected to the Ball cock inside the tank, which rises or falls with changing water levels in the tank, and actuates or shuts off the Ball cock as needed.

Floor area: The total space covered by all floors in a building.  Length X width for total square footage.

Floor plan: A sketch of an existing or proposed building showing the design and layout of the building and the specifications of each room. May also show doors, windows, stairways and other features.

Fixed Price Contract: A contract with a set price for the work.

Footing: The rectangular concrete forms found under foundation walls, slabs or above piers. Footings support the weight of the object above it.

FOUNDATION: The supporting portion of a structure that includes everything below the first floor or below grade.

Foundation Coating: High-quality below-grade moisture protection. Used for below-grade exterior concrete and masonry wall damp-proofing to seal out moisture and prevent corrosion.

Frame construction: A style of construction where the load bearing structural supports of the building are make of wood framing.

FRAME WALL: Any structural wall made of studs with a bottom and top plate and some wall covering such as drywall, paneling or plaster.

Free-tab shingles: Shingles that do not contain factory-applied strips or spots of self-sealing adhesive. See also self-sealing shingles.

Forced Air Heating: A common form of heating with natural gas, propane, oil or electricity as a fuel. Air is heated in the furnace and distributed through a set of metal plastic ducts to various areas of the house.

Framing: The structural wood and/or metal elements of most homes. The floor and ceiling framing is called the joist work. Wall framing is usually made out of 2″ x 4″ or 2″ x 6″ studs.

Frost line: The typical depth of frost penetration below the surface of the ground in any particular geographical location.

Fungal Wood Rot: A common wood destroying organism which develops when wood containing material is exposed to moisture and poor air circulation for a long (6 month +) period of time. Often and incorrectly referred to as dry rot.

Furring: Small strips of wood that are applied to a wall or other surface to act as a fastening piece for the finishing material.

Fuse: A device often found in older homes designed to prevent overloads in electrical lines – see ‘circuit breakers’.


Gable: A sidewall that comes to a point at its intersection with the ridge of two sloping roof planes set at the same length and angle.

Gable roof: A type of roof with sloping planes of the same pitch on each side of the ridge. Has a gable at each end.

GFI or GFCI or Ground Fault Current Interrupter: A electrical device used to prevent injury from contact with electrical appliances. Required in new homes in: bathrooms, kitchen, garage, out of doors and in other locations where one might be in contact with a grounded surface and an electrical appliance. Most GFI are located in the receptacle itself and can be identified by the presence of a ‘test’ and a ‘reset’ button.

Glass Base: Roll roofing product built on a fiberglass base sheet constructed with a heavyweight TAMKO fiberglass mat, coated with weathering-grade asphalt. Used as a base sheet in select TAMKO modified asphalt and fiberglass roofing systems and as an alternate for TAMKO Type 43 Coated Base Sheet in any TAMKO specification. Hot-asphalt applied or mechanically fastened.

Glass-Seal: 3-tab self-sealing fiberglass shingles with a traditional square-tab design. A thick layer of weathering-grade asphalt gives them extra waterproofing protection. They are U.L. Class A fire rated and backed by a 20-year limited warranty. Algae-resistant granules optional.

GPF: Abbreviation for “gallons per flush”, used in discussing water consumption for toilets.

Grade level: The surface contour of the land around a foundation.

Granules: Crushed rock coated with ceramic material, applied to the exposed surface of asphalt roofing products to add color and reduce ultraviolet degradation. Copper compounds added to these help make them algae resistant.

Gravity operated toilet: A toilet which relies on the natural downward pressure (or “head”) of water in a toilet tank to flush the toilet effectively.

Grout: A type of mortar that is used to fill the joints and cavities found between pieces of masonry, ceramic or natural stone. Often used to fill the joints between ceramic floor tiles and bathroom tiles.

Gutter: The trough that channels water from the eaves to the downspouts.


Header: A beam of wood placed perpendicular to joists and to which joists are nailed in order to accommodate an opening such as a staircase through a floor or a window opening in a wall.

Hearth: The inner floor of a fireplace, usually made of firebrick, stone or tiles.

Hip roof: A type of roof formed by sloping roof planes on all four sides, with no gables.

Hip shingles: Shingles used to cover the inclined external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.

Heat pump: A device which uses compression and decompression of gas to heat and/or cool a house.

Hollow core door: A door composed of sheets of thin material with a hollow core that has been filled with a stiffening material. As opposed to a solid core door which is made of a solid material throughout.

Hose bib: A water tap or facet with a treaded end that enables a hose to be attached.

HVAC: Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning.


I-beam: A type of load bearing beam made of metal or composite wood whose cross section is shaped like the letter I. Used for wide open spans.

Insulation: Any material that offers resistance to heat transmission. When insulation is placed in walls, ceilings or floors it reduces the loss or gain of heat from outside sources.  Fiberglass and wool are usually what the products of choice.

Interlocking shingles: Individual shingles that mechanically fasten to each other to provide wind resistance.


Jet: An orifice or other feature of a toilet that is designed to direct water into the trap way quickly, to start the siphon action.

Joists: A framing member, often a 2″ x 10″ piece of lumber, which is usually spaced every 16″ to 24″ and supports the sub-floor and flooring. The joist is usually ‘sits’ on a load barring wall or a Beam.

Joist hangers: A metal brackets used to connect joists to the adjoining headers or support beams.  Used when joist have to be butted up to support beams or headers rather than resting on top.


Kiln dried lumber: Any wood that has been dried in a heated kiln to lower the materials moisture content to between the 6 and 12% range. Preferred over air-dried lumber which has a higher moisture content and is thus subject to more warping as it dries out after installation.

Knot: A part of a branch or limb that appears on the surface of a board. Usually brown in color and oval in size.


Low consumption toilet: A classification of toilet designed to flush using 1.6 or less gallons of water, as opposed to 3.5 gallon “Water-Saving” toilets, and other higher-consumption toilets. 

Laminated header:  Stacked and glued pieces of lumber for stress loads for use as a load bearing beam over large spans.

Laminated shingles: Shingles that have added dimensionality because of extra layers or tabs, giving a shake like appearance. May also be called “architectural shingles” or “three-dimensional shingles.”

Landing: A flat platform found between flights of stairs or at the end of a flight of stairs.

Lap: To cover the surface of one shingle or roll with another.

Lap joint: Two boards that overlap one another but are nailed together where they overlap

Lap cement: An asphalt-based cement used to adhere overlapping plies of roll roofing.

Lath and Plaster: The most common wall finish prior to the introduction of drywall. Thin wood strips (lath) were nailed onto the framing as a base for the sand/lime plaster.

Lintel: The horizontal structural member over an opening such as a door or window that supports any load from above.

Louver: An opening with a series of fixed or movable horizontal slats that permit ventilation but stop rain, sunlight or vision.

Low-slope application: Method of installing asphalt shingles on roof slopes between 2 and 4 inches per foot.

Load Bearing Wall: A wall which is supporting its own weight and some other structural elements of the house such as the joists.


Mansard roof: A roof with two sloping planes of different pitch on each of its four sides. The lower plane is steeper than the upper, and may be almost vertical. See also gambrel roof.

Manufactured Wood: A wood product such as a truss, beam, Glue Lam TM or joist which is manufactured out of smaller wood pieces and glued or mechanically fastened to form a larger piece. Often used to create a stronger member which may use less wood. See also Oriented Strand Board.

Manufacturers Specifications: The written installation and/or maintenance instructions which are developed by the manufacturer of a product and which may have to be followed in order to maintain the product warrantee.

Masonry primer: An asphalt-based primer used to prepare masonry surfaces for bonding with other asphalt products.

Mastic: An adhesive putty material used as a sealant for plumbing or as a seal when waterproofing a foundation wall.  An adhesive used to fasten ceramic tile in non wet areas.

Millwork: All building materials made of finished wood.

Mineral stabilizers: Finely ground limestone, slate, trap rock or other inert materials added to asphalt coatings for durability and increased resistance to fire and weathering.

Miter joint: An angled or square cut joint of two pieces of wood used either to join or turn wood.

Mineral-surfaced roofing: Asphalt shingles and roll roofing that are covered with granules.

Mobile Home Aluminum Roof Coating: Durable one-coat application prolongs the life of mobile home roofs while reflecting sun’s rays and providing a decorative surface. Reduces energy costs.

Modified Bitumen roof: A roof covering that is typically composed of a factory-fabricated composite sheet consisting of a copolymer-modified bitumen, often reinforced with polyester and/or fiberglass, and installed in one or more plies. The membrane is commonly surfaced with field-applied coatings, factory-applied granules or metal foil. The roofing system may incorporate rigid insulation.

Mortise:  A rectangular slot that has been cut into a piece of wood that another piece of wood is to be inserted into to form a locking joint.  A cutout for hinges or door strikes.


Nail pattern: Any designated or specific pattern used to put nails in a board.

Newel: A post a staircase that the stair railing is attached to.

Nesting: A method of re-roofing with new asphalt shingles over old shingles in which the top edge of the new shingles is butted against the bottom edge of the existing shingle tab.

Nonbearing wall or partition: Any wall that supports no load other than its own weight

No-cutout shingles: Shingles consisting of a single, solid tab with no cutouts.

Non-fibered Aluminum Roof Coating: Thin but efficient reflective barrier to reflect sun’s harmful rays and prolong surface life. Also works on metal surfaces.

Non-fibered Roof and Foundation Coating: Dual purposed, this thin-viscosity material doubles as a nonfibered roof or foundation coating.

Non-fibered Roof Coating: Easily applied, this thin coating will give low-sloped roofs, as well as metal and masonry surfaces, added protection. Steel or wooden fences and underground pipe may also be treated.

Nonstructural: Any materials or point in a structure that does not support any loads other than its own weight.

Non-veneer panel: Any wood-based panel that does not contain veneer and carries an APA span rating, such as wafer board or oriented strand board.

Normal slope application: Method of installing asphalt shingles on roof slopes between 4 inches and 21 inches per foot.

Nosing: The overhanging edge of a stair tread or counter top.


Open valley: Method of valley construction in which shingles on both sides of the valley are trimmed along a chalk line snapped on each side of the valley. Shingles do not extend across the valley. Valley flashing is exposed.

One piece toilet: A toilet in which the tank and bowl are manufactured as a single vitreous china fixture. Typically, one-piece toilets have a lower profile than two-piece toilets.

Oriented Strand Board or OSB or Chip Board or Wafer Board: A manufactured wood panel made out of 1″- 2″ wood chips and glue. Often used as a substitute for plywood in the exterior wall and roof sheathing.

Organic felt: An asphalt roofing base material manufactured from cellulose fibers.

Overhang: The portion of the roof structure that extends beyond the exterior walls of a building.

Over flow tube: The vertical tube inside a toilet tank (usually part of the flush valve), which directs water into the bowl in case the Ball cock malfunctions. If the Ball cock does not shut off properly, water will drain through the overflow tube into the bowl, and flow harmlessly over the dam and out the drain. This prevents potential water damage caused by the tank overflowing, and indicates to the user that there is a problem by a “constant running” condition.


Pallets: Wooden platforms used for storing and shipping bundles of shingles.

Parapet: A wall placed at the edge of a roof, especially a flat roof, to prevent people from falling off.

Payment Schedule: A pre agreed upon schedule of payments to a contractor usually based upon the amount of work completed. Such a schedule may include a deposit prior to the start of work. Payments are often scheduled for the beginning of the month and allow the contractor to subcontractors and suppliers by the 10th of the month. There may also be a temporary ‘holdout’ at the end of the contract for any small items which have not been completed.

Permit: A governmental authorization to perform a building process as in:

  • ZoningUse permit: Authorization to use a property for a specific use e.g. a factory, a single family residence etc.
  • Grading permit: Authorization to change the contour of the land.
  • Septic permit: A health dept. authorization to build or modify a septic system.
  • Building permit: Authorization to build or modify a structure.
  • Electrical permit: A separate permit required for most electrical work.
  • Plumbing permit: A separate permit required for new plumbing and larger modifications of existing plumbing systems.

Pier: Any column of masonry that is used to support other structural members such as beams or girders.

Pitch: The degree of roof incline expressed as the ratio of the rise, in feet, to the span, in feet. See also slope. Also, a thick, oily substance commonly obtained from tar, used to seal out water at joints and seams. Pitch is produced from distilling coal tar, wood tar, or petroleum.

Pitch pan or Pitch pocket: A container, usually formed of sheet metal, around supporting connections with roof-mounted machinery. Filling the container with pitch, or better yet, plastic roof cement, helps seal out water even when vibration is present.

Plastic Roof Cement: Ultimate protection for those tough jobs is found in this specially formulated heavy-bodied material. Used as a waterproofing medium in new construction and as a general-purpose exterior repair and maintenance material. Stops roof and other leaks fast. Available in both summer and winter grades.

Ply: The number of layers of roofing; i.e. one-ply, two-ply.

Ply sheet: A layer in built-up roofing.

Plywood: Any sheet of wood made of 3 or more thin layers of wood that has been bonded together with glue.

Post: A vertical framing member usually designed to carry a beam. Often a 4″ x 4″, a 6″ x 6″, or a metal pipe with a flat plate on top and bottom (see diagram).

Pressure Relief Valve: A device mounted on a hot water heater or boiler which is designed to release any high steam pressure in the tank and thus prevent tank explosions.

Pressure treated lumber: Any wood that has been treated under pressure with some chemical preservative that protects the lumber from moisture and insects.

P-trap: A piece of pipe shaped like the letter P, used in drains. Its shape prevents fumes or sewage gases from going against the flow of draining water and entering the interior of a home

PVC or CPVC: A type of white plastic pipe sometimes used for water supply lines.


Quarter round: A small piece of molding used to cover joints between two right-angle surfaces. Attaches to bottom of baseboard and the finished floor surface.

Quick-setting cement: An asphalt-based cement used to adhere tabs of strip shingles to the course below. Also used to adhere roll roofing laps applied by the concealed nail method.


Rafter: The framing member which directly supports the roof sheathing. A rafter usually follows the angle of the roof, and may be a part of a roof truss. The supporting framing member immediately beneath the deck, sloping from the ridge to the wall plate.

Rake edge: The overhang of an inclined roof plane beyond the vertical wall below it.

Random-tab shingles: Shingles on which tabs vary in size and exposure.

Rebar: When concrete cracks it will separate or become uneven, rebar is a rod of steel placed into the concrete, usually in square feet one or two.

Refill tube: On most toilets, a refill tube directs water from the Ballcock into the overflow tube to refill the bowl after the siphon break.

Release tape: A plastic or paper strip that is applied to the back of self-sealing shingles. This strip prevents the shingles from sticking together in the bundles, and need not be removed for application.

Relative Humidity: The amount of moisture in a volume of air as a percentage of the maximum amount of moisture which can be held in that air at a certain temperature – cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warmer air.

Ridge: The intersection of two roof planes, or the angle formed by them.

Ridge shingles: Shingles used to cover the horizontal external angle formed by the intersection of two sloping roof planes.

Ridge vent: A single or continuous roof vent located at the peak of a gable roof

Rim holes: A series of small holes, in the underside of a toilet rim, around the circumference of the bowl. Incoming water flows down into the bowl through these holes, creating a rinse effect, or “rim wash” over the entire inner surface of the bowl.

Rise: The vertical distance from the eaves line to the ridge.

Roll roofing: Asphalt roofing products manufactured in roll form.

Round front bowl: Toilet bowl having dimensions of 14″ wide by 16 1/2″ long (from center of seat hinge holes to front outside rim edge).

Roofing membrane: The layer or layers of waterproofing products that cover the roof deck.

Roofing tape: An asphalt-saturated tape used with asphalt cements for flashing and patching asphalt roofing.

Rough in opening: The distance from a finished wall or floor to the center of the waste or supply opening or mounting holes on a plumbing fixture. Any opening in a buildings framework for the insertion of windows, doors, stairways etc.

Run: The horizontal distance from the eaves to a point directly under the ridge. One half the span.

R Value: A measure of insulation. For example, typical new home’s walls are usually insulated with 6″ of bat insulation with an R value of R-19, and a ceiling insulation of R-28.


Sash: The frame that holds the glass in a window, often the movable part of the window. see.. double hung windows, and casement windows.

Saturant: Asphalt used to impregnate a felt-base material.

Saturated Felt: An underlayment, or water-resistant layer, put down beneath shingles and made of felt impregnated with asphalt.

SBS-modified: Asphalt that has been combined with SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene) polymers to increase its elasticity.

Scupper: An opening for drainage in a wall, curb or parapet. The drain in a downspout or flat roof, usually connected to the downspout.

Self-sealing shingles: Shingles containing factory-applied strips or spots of self-sealing adhesive.

Setback Thermostat: A thermostat with a clock which can be programmed to various temperatures at different times of the day/week. Usually used as the heating or cooling system thermostat.

Shading: Slight differences in shingle color that may occur as a result of normal manufacturing operations.

Shake: A wood, usually cedar, roofing product which is produced by splitting a block of the wood along the grain line. Modern shakes are sometimes machine sawn on one side. See shingle.

Sheathing: Exterior-grade boards used as roof deck material.

Shed roof: A roof containing only one sloping plane. Has no hips, ridges, valleys or gables.

Shingle: A machine sawn wood, usually cedar, roofing and siding product. see shake.

Single ply Roof: See Torch Down Roof

Siphoning: The suction or pulling effect that takes place in the trap-way of a toilet as it is filled with outgoing water and waste. An effective siphon is critical to an effective flush for any toilet. 

Siphon break: The point in a toilet flush when air is re-introduced into the trap way, “breaking” the siphoning action. The siphon break is usually heard as a deep gurgling at the conclusion of a flush.

Skip Sheathing: The normal base for shake, shingle and some tile roofs. 1″ x 4″ or similar sized boards are nailed at 90š to the rafters leaving a space of about 4″ between each row and allowing for better ventilation.

Single coverage: Asphalt roofing that provides one layer of roofing material over the deck.

Slab on Grade: A type of foundation with a concrete floor which is placed directly on the soil. The edge of the slab is usually thicker and acts as the footing for the walls. Common in California and 1940s and 50s concrete block home (see diagram).

Slope: The incline angle of a roof surface, given as a ratio of the rise (in inches) to the run (in feet). See also pitch.

Smooth-surfaced roofing: Roll roofing that is covered with ground talc or mica instead of granules.

Soffit: The finished underside of the eaves. A small ceiling like space, often out of doors, such as the underside of a roof overhang.

Specifications or Specs: A narrative list of materials, methods, model numbers, colors, allowances, and other details which supplement the information contained in the blue prints.

Splash Block: A pad which is placed under the lower end of a downspout and diverts the water from the downspout away from the house. Usually made out of concrete or fiberglass.

Standard Practices of the Trades: One of the more common basic and minimum construction standards. This is another way of saying that the work should be done in the way it is normally done by the average professional in the field.

Soil stack: – A vent pipe that penetrates the roof.

Span: The horizontal distance from eaves to eaves.

Specialty eaves flashing membrane: A self-adhering waterproofing shingle underlayment designed to protect against water infiltration due to ice damage or wind-driven rain.

Square: A unit of roof measure covering 100 square feet.

Square-tab shingles: Shingles on which tabs are all the same size and exposure.

Starter strip: Asphalt roofing applied at the eaves that provides protection by filling in the spaces under the cutouts and joints of the first course of shingles.

Steep-slope application: Method of installing asphalt shingles on roof slopes greater than 21 inches per foot.

Step flashing: Flashing application method used where a vertical surface meets a sloping roof plane.

Strip shingles: Asphalt shingles that are approximately three times as long as they are wide.

Supply stop: The valve providing on/off toilet water supply control.


Tab: The exposed portion of strip shingles defined by cutouts.

Tank: The fixture reservoir for flush water. On a conventional toilet, the ballcock, flush valve and trip lever are installed in the tank. A tank lid closes the top tank opening.

Three-way switch: One of a pair of specialized electrical switches that allows an electrical fixture to be turned on and off from two locations. As opposed to the usual single pole electrical switches that are normally used that only allow a single switch in the circuit.

Tread: The horizontal step surface of a staircase.

Threshold: A strip of wood or other material with a beveled edge applied to the transition area between a floor and the sill plate of a door. Also called a transition.

Time and Materials Contract: A construction contract which specifies a price for different elements of the work such as: cost per hour of labor, overhead, profit etc. Such a contract may not have a maximum price or may state a ‘price not to exceed a dollar amount.

Toe nailing: The nailing of boards by driving the nail in at an angle or slant to the finished surface in order to attach it to the adjacent board at right angles.

Torch Down Roof or Single Ply or Modified Bitumen: A newer roofing material mostly used on flat roofs. This material usually comes in rolls and is applied to the roof with an open flame or ‘torch’. Truss – A manufactured wood member often in the form of a large triangle which is used to form the ceiling joists and rafters on the top floor of a home.

Tongue and groove:  Boards or planks that have been finished so that there is a groove on one side of the board and a corresponding tongue on the other edge. When two pieces are placed together the tongue of one fits into the groove of the other forming a natural joint between the two boards. Often used in hardwood flooring and siding.

Total rise: The total vertical distance covered by a staircase, measured from the starting floor finish to the destination floor finish.

Total run: The total horizontal distance covered by a staircase, measured from the edge of the first step to back edge of the last step.

Trap Seal: The height of water in a toilet bowl “at rest, it provides a water seal which prevents sewer gases from entering the home. Trap seal is measured from the top of the dam, down to the inlet of the trap-way. Also referred to as deep seal.

Treated Lumber: A wood product which has been impregnated with chemicals to reduce damage from wood rot or insects. Often used for the portions of a structure which is likely to be in ongoing contact with soil and water. Wood may also be treated with a fire retardant.

Trip lever: Handle which is rotated to initiate the toilet flush cycle. Kohler factory-installed trip levers have a polished chrome finish; optional trim kits offer trip levers in other finishes. Toilets equipped with Peacekeeper seat-actuated flush do not have a trip lever.

Trim: Finishing materials applied over a surface, such as widows, doors, or baseboard trim.

Tube and Knob Wiring: A common form of electrical wiring used before W.W.II. When in good condition it may still be functional for low amperage use such as smaller light fixture.

Two piece toilet: A toilet with a separate tank and bowl. Also referred to as close-coupled.


U.L. : Underwriters Laboratories, a private research firm located in the United States that attempts to classify and determine the safety of various materials and products.

Ultraviolet degradation: A reduction in certain performance limits caused by exposure to ultraviolet light.

Undercoat: Any coating that has been applied prior to the finishing coat of a paint job. Often referred to as the primer coat.

Underlayment: Any material placed under flooring, carpets or shingles to provide a smooth even surface for the finish materials.  A secondary roofing layer that is waterproof or water-resistant , installed on the roof deck and beneath shingles or other roof-finishing layer.

UV Rays: Ultraviolet rays from the sun.


Valley: The inward angle formed by two intersecting, sloping roof planes. Since it naturally becomes a water channel, additional attention to waterproofing it is desirable.

Valley Shield: A quality underlayment for added protection in the heavy water flow areas of your roof. This self adhering product has a waterproof asphalt coating which offers excellent elongation and recovery properties for accommodating roof expansion and contraction and structural movement.

Vapor Barrier: Moisture resistant materials used to stop or slow the movement of moisture through a surface. Often applied on the inside face of exterior walls to prevent condensation forming in interior living areas.  Examples are Tyvek and tar paper.

Vent: Any outlet for air that protrudes through the roof deck, such as a pipe or stack. Any device installed on the roof, gable or soffit for the purpose of ventilating the underside of the roof deck.

Voltage: A measure of electrical potential.

  • Most homes are wired with ‘110’ and ‘220’ volt lines. The ‘110’ volt power is used for lighting and most of the other circuits. The ‘220’ volt power is usually used for the kitchen stove. water heater and dryer. (The terms ‘110’ and ‘220’ volts are a short hand, e.g. a ‘110’ volt line is usually rated at 117 volts plus or minus 10%).

Warranty: In construction there are two general types of warranties. One is provided by the manufacturer of a product such as roofing material or an appliance. The second is a warranty for the labor. For example, a roofing contract may include a 30 year material warranty a and a 5 year labor warranty.

  • Many (but not all ) new homes and remodels come with a one year warranty. Any major issues found during the first year should be communicated  to the builder/remodelor at once. Small items can be saved up and presented to the builder/remodelor in a letter on the eleventh month anniversary of the closing. This gives the builder/remodelor one month to make the necessary corrections.

Water closet: A plumbing fixture having a water-containing receptor which receives liquid and solid body waste and, upon actuation (flushing), conveys the waste through a trap way into a gravity drainage system.

Water saving toilet: A classification of toilet that uses no more than 3.5 gallons and no less than 1.6 gallons per flush.

Watt: A measure of the electrical requirement of an appliance calculated by multiplying voltage x amperage. For example: a 1600 watt hair dryer which uses ‘110’ volt power needs about 15 amps.

Wet or Dry Surface Plastic Roof Cement: Superior performance in cold and wet applications. Performs as a general-purpose exterior repair and maintenance material on damp or dry surfaces. Stops roof and other leaks fast.

Woven valley: Method of valley construction in which shingles from both sides of the valley extend across the valley and are woven together by overlapping alternate courses as they are applied. The valley flashing is not exposed.


Zoning: A governmental process and specification which limits the use of a property e.g. single family use, high rise residential use etc.

Z-Ridge™: A product designed to cover the ridge line of a roof, designed by Elk Roofing Products®. Gives the roof lines more character.