Construction Terminology Cheat Sheet

Rhino Design Build put this “cheat sheet” together for anyone who wants to know what words mean what.  We build and remodel homes in Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, San Antonio and Bexar County.

*Do you have a construction term that you need defined?  Post a comment with your question and I’ll get back to you.


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

Allowance(s) – A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which have not been selected and specified in the construction contract. For example, selection of tile as a flooring may require an allowance for an underlayment material, or an electrical allowance which sets aside an amount of money to be spent on electrical fixtures.

Apron- A trim board that is installed beneath a window sill.

Attic vents – Allow the heat in the attic to escape.

Baseboards – The Trim at the bottom of a wall where it meets the floor.

Blocking – Small wood pieces to brace framing members or to provide a nailing base for sheetrock.

Casing- Wood trim molding installed around a door or window opening.

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.

Contractor – A company licensed to perform certain types of construction activities. In most states, the generals contractor’s license and some specialty contractor’s licenses don’t require of compliance with bonding, workmen’s compensation and similar regulations. Some of the specialty contractor licenses involve extensive training, testing and/or insurance requirements.

There are various types of contractors:
• General contractor – responsible for the execution, supervision and overall coordination of a project and may also perform some of the individual construction tasks. Most general contractors are not licensed to perform all specialty trades and must hire specialty contractors for such tasks, e.g. electrical, plumbing.
• Remodeling contractor – a general contractor who specializes in remodeling work.
• Specialty contractor – licensed to perform a specialty task e.g. electrical, side sewer, asbestos abatement.
• Sub contractor – a general or specialty contractor who works for another general contractor.

Crown molding- A molding used on cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered, especially at the roof and wall corner.

Design Build – An entity that is responsible for designing the dwelling and also builds it.

Drywall - A manufactured panel made out of gypsum plaster and encased in a thin cardboard. Usually 1/2″ thick and 4′ x 8′ or 4′ x 12′ in size. The panels are nailed or screwed onto the framing and the joints are taped and covered with a ‘joint compound’. ‘Green board’ type drywall has a greater resistance to moisture than regular (white) plasterboard and is used in bathrooms and other “wet areas”.

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 neighbors property.

Elevation – Shown in a set of Architectural drawings, it is the view from the front and sides of the home or building.

Fascia – Horizontal boards attached to rafter/truss ends at the eaves and along gables. Roof drain gutters are attached to the fascia.

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

Floor plan – Shown is a set of Architectural drawings, it shows the layout of the home or building (bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, kitchen, etc)

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.

Foundation – The supporting portion of a structure below the first floor construction, or below grade, including the footings.

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

Gable- The end, upper, triangular area of a home, beneath the roof.

GF C I, or G F I- Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter- an ultra sensitive plug designed to shut off all electric current. Used in bathrooms, kitchens, exterior waterproof outlets, garage outlets, and “wet areas”. Has a small reset button on the plug.

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.

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”.

Header - (a) A beam placed perpendicular to joists and to which joists are nailed inframing for a chimney, stairway, or other opening. (b) A wood lintel. (c) The horizontal structural member over an opening (for example over a door or window).

HVAC – An abbreviation for Heat, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.

Insulation – Any material high in resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceiling, or floors of a structure, and will reduce the rate of heat flow.

Joists - One of a series of parallel framing members used to support ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls.

Load bearing wall – A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.

On center (O.C.) - The measurement of spacing for studs, rafters, and joists in a building from the center of one member to the center of the next.

Overhang- Outward projecting eave-soffit area of a roof; the part of the roof that hangs out or over the outside wall.

Pier and beam foundation- A basic building method that uses cedar posts or concrete post to support an entire home.

Plywood- A panel (normally 4′ X 8′) of wood made of three or more layers of veneer, compressed and joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles to give the sheet strength.

Radiant Barrier – Materials that are installed in buildings to reduce summer heat gain and winter heat loss.

Rafter- Lumber used to support the roof sheeting and roof loads. Generally, 2 X 10’s and 2 X 12’s are used. The rafters of a flat roof are sometimes called roof joists.

Ridge vents – Installed on the roof and allow heat to escape from the attic.

Rhino – The most awesome construction company ever with the greatest owner of all time! (just making sure you are paying attention)

Roof decking – Plywood that goes on top of the rafters and under the roof.

Sheetrock - A manufactured panel made out of gypsum plaster and encased in a thin cardboard. Usually 1/2″ thick and 4′ x 8′ or 4′ x 12′ in size. The ‘joint compound’. ‘Green board’ type drywall has a greater resistance to moisture than regular (white) plasterboard and is used in bathrooms and other “wet areas”.
Shingles – Roof covering of asphalt. asbestos, wood, tile, slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths, and thickness’.

Soffit – The area below the eaves and overhangs. The underside where the roof overhangs the walls. Usually the underside of an overhanging cornice.

Stud – A vertical wood framing member, also referred to as a wall stud, attached to the horizontal sole plate below and the top plate above. Normally 2 X 4’s or 2 X 6’s, 8′ long (sometimes 92 5/8″). One of a series of wood or metal vertical structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions.

Sub contractor - a general or specialty contractor who works for another general contractor.

Treated lumber- A wood product which has been impregnated with chemical pesticides such as CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) to reduce damage from wood rot or insects. Often used for the portions of a structure which are likely to be in contact with soil and water. Wood may also be treated with a fire retardant.

Trim – The finish materials in a building, such as moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim) or at the floor and ceiling of rooms (baseboard, cornice, and other moldings). Also, the physical work of installing interior doors and interior woodwork, to include all handrails, guardrails, stair way balustrades, mantles, light boxes, base, door casings, cabinets, countertops, shelves, window sills and aprons, etc.

*Do you have a construction term that you need defined?  Post a comment with your question and I’ll get back to you.  78209

Rhino Design Build, LLC
3510 N St Marys Street San AntonioTX78212 USA 
 • 210-413-8789
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