Construction Jargon to English Translations

By HomeAdvisor

Updated December 12, 2016

Handyman tools, an online resource linking homeowners to contractors, has provided these easy to understand definitions for several of home improvement’s most commonly misunderstood terms.

Flooring and Roofing Terms

  • Joist: Parallel framing members installed horizontally to carry floor and ceiling loads.
  • Floating Floor: A floor system that can be placed on top of an existing floor (and does not need to be nailed down.) Tiles or boards are glued together rather than directly to the sub floor or floor.
  • Dormer Window: A window that rises vertically from a sloping roof.
  • Hip: The angle formed by two intersecting, sloping roof planes that runs from the eaves to the ridge of a house.
  • Parquet Flooring: Woodwork floors set in geometric forms for design purposes.
  • Ponding: The pooling of water on a roof.
  • Prefinished Floor: A finished flooring that requires installation only.
  • Pickled Floors: The informal, casual look when you rub white paint into already stained or finished wood flooring.
  • Soffit: The underside space between the end of the roof and the side of a home, often vented to provide circulation to the attic.
  • Frieze: A carpet style where the yarn is tightly twisted to give it a nubby, rough appearance.
  • Subfloor: Boards or plywood mounted over joists on which the finish floor is laid.
    Terrazzo: A multi-colored floor made from stone or marble chips embedded in cement.

Window Terms

  • Jamb: The molding around a window frame. The “side jamb” is vertical while the “head jamb” is horizontal.
  • Lite: A pane of glass within a window. Often used when talking about how many panes there are in a window (i.e. a 12-lite colonial window.)
  • Louvered Window: A window with several glass, metal or wooden slats that open together like shutters, usually by pulling a lever or crank to adjust the angle. Also called a jalousie.
  • Mullion: The vertical strip of wood that separates side-by-side windows.
  • Oriel Window: Similar to a bay window, it projects out from the wall, but does not extend to the ground. Instead the bottom curves back into the wall.
  • Sash: The parts of a window that holds the glass (the “doors” of a window.)

Carpentry Terms

  • Galvanized: Any metal coated with zinc to protect it from rusting.
  • Girder: A large beam of wood or steel which acts as the principle support for loads along its span.
  • Header: A beam which is perpendicular to wall suds above doors, windows or other openings. It carries the weight of structural loads.
  • Joint: Any place where two building materials come together and leave a gap or space.
  • Miter: A 45-degree cut. Unlike a compound miter cut, the saw blade remains at 0 degrees.
  • Pull Bar: The tool used to tighten tongue and groove joints during the installation process.
  • Sapwood: The lighter color wood near the outside of the tree.
  • Stud: A 2×4 or 2×6 vertical framing member used to assemble walls.
  • Toenailing: Nailing at an angle to connect one framing piece to a second.

HVAC Terms

  • Passive Cooling/Heating: A building structure designed to increase ventilation and retention of heating/cooling within its building components.
  • Passive Solar Design: Using design methods to capitalize on heat and light from the sun, thereby reducing the need for electric systems.
  • Pellets: Fuel that consist of 100% wood sawdust with no additives.
  • Split System: An air conditioner or heat pump that has components in two different locations (typically one inside and one outside).
  • Integrated Hot Water System: A system that provides water heating from a single heat source.

Miscellaneous Home Improvement Terms

  • Integral Sink: A sink made out of the same material as the countertop to form a continuous surface.
  • Paver Tile: Tile that is larger than six square inches.
  • Pyrolave: Countertop material made from enameled lava rock.
  • Retrofit: Upgrading a preexisting fixture by installing new parts.
  • Sconce: A light fixture attached to a wall.
  • Shim: A thin piece of wood used during installation to insure that countertops are level.
  • Substrate: Any surface to which a paint, stain or sealant is applied.
  • Tongue and Groove: A way of connecting materials, such as wood, in which the tongue of a board is placed into the groove of the board following it.
  • Veneer: A thin piece of wood attached to particleboard to create the illusion of wood surfaces.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Materials that evaporate from organic products and can cause acute and chronic illnesses.
  • Wood Shakes: Rough, thick, uneven shingles, either hand split or sawn, that can be used as a siding material.
  • Xeriscape: landscaping that is designed specifically for areas that are susceptible to drought, or for areas where water conservation is practiced.

No Comments Yet

Are You Familiar With This Topic? Share Your Experience.

Compare quotes from local pros Compare Quotes
Return to Top