Glossary of Inspection, Architectural, and Construction Terms
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DAMPER: A device used to vary the volume of air passing through an air outlet, inlet, or duct. It does not significantly affect the shape of the delivery pattern. A pivoted cast-iron plate at a fireplace throat to regulate draft.

DECORATIVE: Components not required for the operation of a home's essential systems and outside the scope of a home inspection.

DENTIL: One of a series of small projecting rectangular blocks forming a molding under an overhang, most common in Colonial-style homes.

DESCRIBE: To identify in a commercial building inspection report in writing a system or component by its type or distinguishing characteristics.

DETERIORATED PAINT:  Paint that is cracking, flaking, chipping, peeling, or otherwise separating from the substrate of a building component.

DIELECTRIC FITTING: In a home or commercial building's water supply system, a special type of adapter (such as a union) used to connect a pipe containing copper with a pipe containing iron; used between dissimilar metals to prevent galvanic action from causing corrosion failure.

DIFFERENTIAL SETTLEMENT: Relative movement of different parts of a building or home caused by uneven sinking of the structure.

DIMENSIONAL LUMBER: Lumber as it comes from the saws, two inches thick and from four to twelve inches wide; also, lumber cut to standard sizes or to sizes ordered.

DISMANTLE: To take apart or remove any components, device, or piece of equipment that would not be taken apart or removed by a homeowner in the course of normal home maintenance. It is beyond the scope of a home inspector conducting a home inspection.

DORMER: A structure projecting above a sloping roof on a home, usually housing a vertical window. It is not part of the roof structure, but is framed separately, and often provides daylight and ventilation for a room located in a garret or loft space.

DOOR JAMB:  The sides of a door opening.

DOUBLE GLAZING: A pane made of two pieces of glass with air space between and sealed to provide insulation.

DOUBLE HEADER: Two or more timbers joined for strength.

DOUBLE HUNG: A window having top and bottom sashes, each capable of movement up and down.

DOWNSPOUT: Pipe for carrying rainwater from the roof to the ground or storm drainage system; also called a leader.

DRAFT HOOD: A device placed in and made part of the vent connector, chimney connector, or smokepipe, from an appliance, or in the appliance itself. It is designed to ensure the ready escape of the products of combustion.

DRAIN: A pipe for carrying waste water out of a building.

DRIP EDGE: A piece of metal placed over the building or home's roof sheathing at the perimeter to deflect water away from the sheathing and fascia board.

DRY ROT: A term applied to many types of decay, especially an advanced stage, when the wood can be easily crushed to a dry powder.

DRY-WALL CONSTRUCTION: Interior wall covering other than plaster, usually referred to as "gypsum board" or "wallboard."

JACK RAFTER: Rafter shorter than a common rafter; especially used in hip-roof framing.

JALOUSIE: A shutter or blind with fixed or adjustable slats which exclude rain and provide ventilation, shade, and visual privacy.

JAMB: Vertical members of a finished door or window opening.

JOIST: A building structural member which directly supports floors or ceilings, and is supported by bearing walls, beams, or girders.

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PALLADIAN WINDOW: A window arrangement with a half-round window on top of a wider rectangular window.

PARAPET: Low wall or railing at the edge of a building or home's roof; it extends above the roof level.

PARGE COAT: Thin coat of cement mortar applied to a masonry wall for refinement or dampproofing.

PARQUET FLOORING: Flooring, usually wood, laid in an alternating or inlaid pattern to form various designs.

PARTICLE BOARD: Sheets made from compressed wood fiber.

PARTING BEAD:  A long narrow strip between the upper and lower sashes in a double-hung window frame, enabling them to slide past each other.  Also called parting stop, parting strip.

PARTY WALL: Wall common to adjoining buildings in which both home owners share, such as a wall between row houses or condominiums.

PATIO: An open court.

PEDIMENT: A triangular space formed in the middle of a gable; also used as a decoration above a door.

PERGOLA: A garden structure with an open wooden-framed roof, often latticed, supported by regularly spaced posts or columns. The structure, often covered by climbing plants such as vines or roses, shades a walk or passageway.

PIER: Support, usually in the crawl space of a home, to support the floor framing.

PIGMENTS:  Chemicals that have color, or properties which affect color.  Usually, a small amount of these chimicals is mixed with another material to color all of the material.  Lead carbonate and lead oxide are chemical forms of lead used as pigments.

PILASTER: Rectangular pier attached to a building wall for the purpose of strengthening the wall; also a decorative column attached to a wall.

PILLAR: A column used for supporting parts of a building or home.

PINNACLE: Projecting or ornamental cap on the high point of a roof.

PITCH: Pitch is the slope of a roof usually expressed as a ratio of vertical rise over horizontal run. For uniformity, the run is always defined as twelve feet. Therefore, a 6 in 12 roof would have a vertical rise of six feet over a horizontal distance of twelve feet. Roofs with a pitch greater than 4 in 12 are considered conventional roof systems. Roofs with a slope between 4 in 12 and 2 in 12 are considered to be low slope roofs, and roofs with a pitch less than 2 in 12 are considered to be flat roofs.

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PLASTER: A mortarlike composition used for covering walls and ceilings, usually made of portland cement mixed with sand and water.

PLAT: A map or chart of an area showing boundaries of lots and other parcels of property.

PLATE: Top or bottom horizontal members of a row of studs in a frame wall; also, the sill member over a foundation wall.

PLENUM: The large metal box attached to the furnace from which heating ducts emerge.

PLINTH: A square or rectangular base for columns and pilasters.

PLUMB: Said of a building member when it is in true vertical position as determined by a plumb bob or vertical level.

PLYWOOD: A piece of wood made of three or more layers of veneer joined with glue and usually laid with the grain of adjoining piles at right angles.

POLARITY: The correct flow of electricity, which is achieved when the hot and neutral wires of the power supply circuits are connected to the corresponding hot and neutral wires of an appliance or outlet.

PORCH: A covered area attached to a house at an entrance.

PORTE COCHERE: A covered, drive-through structure that extends from the side of a home, providing shelter for people getting in and out of vehicles.

PORTICO: A roof supported by columns; often used at an entry to a building or home.

PORTLAND CEMENT: A hydraulic cement, extremely hard, formed by burning silica, lime, and alumina together and then grinding up the mixture.

POST: A perpendicular building support member.

POST & BEAM CONSTRUCTION: Wall or foundation construction consisting of large, widely spaced posts to support horizontal beams.

PRECAST: Concrete shapes made separately before being used in a building.

PREFABRICATED BUILDINGS: Buildings or homes that are built in sections or component parts in a factory, and then assembled at the site.

PRESTRESSED CONCRETE: Concrete in which internal stresses are introduced of such magnitude and distribution that the tensile stresses resulting from the service loads are counteracted to a desired degree. In reinforced concrete the prestress commonly is introduced by tensioning the tendons.  Mostly found in commercial buildings.

PRIME COAT: First coat of paint applied to wood or metal to prime the surface for succeeding coats.

PRINCIPAL PURLIN: a purlin that is heavier than a common purlin; usually runs parallel to the ridge of the roof and the top plate. The only purlin on each side of the roof ridge. It is framed into and joins the principal rafters, thus providing lateral stability for the building's entire roof framing system and support for a number of common rafters.

PURLIN: Horizontal roof members laid over trusses or rafters to support a building's roof decking.

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WAINSCOT: Surfacing on the lower part of an interior wall when finished differently from the remainder of the wall.

WALLBOARD: Wood pulp, gypsum, or similar materials made into large rigid sheets that may be fastened to the frame of a building to provide a surface finish.

WASTE STACK: A vertical pipe in a plumbing system that carries the discharge from any fixture.

WATER HAMMER: In water lines, a loud concussive noise which results from a sudden stoppage of the flow. In steam lines, water of condensation which is picked up and carried through the steam main at high velocity. When direction of the flow changes, the water particles hit the pipe walls, emitting a banging noise.

WEATHER STRIPPING: Strips of fabric or metal fastened around the edges of the windows and doors of a home to prevent air infiltration.

WEEP HOLE: Small holes in masonry cavity walls to release moisture accumulation to the exterior.

WINDOW TROUGH:  For a typical double-hung window, the portion of the exterior window sill between the interior window sill and the frame of the storm window.  If there is no storm window, the window trough is the area that receives both the upper and lower window sashes when both are lowered.

WIRE GLASS: A type of window glass in which wire with a coarse mesh is embedded to prevent shattering of glass in case it is broken; also, to protect a building against intruders.

WITHE, WYTHE: Pertaining to a single-width masonry wall in a building or home. The partition dividing two flues in the same chimney stack.

WOOD SHINGLE: A thin roofing unit of wood, usually cut from green wood to stock lengths, widths, and thicknesses, and then kiln-dried. Used as an exterior covering on sloping roofs and on sidewalls, and applied in an overlapping fashion.


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Glossary of Inspection, Architectural, and Construction Terms
Commeercial Building Inspection Seattle Building Inspector Construction Architetcure