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Home Glossary

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ABSTRACT (OF TITLE) - Set of public records that are related to the title of a piece of land. Usually a title company or attorney reviews these record to check for, and clear away, any discrepancies before buyer can purchase property.

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

AGREEMENT OF SALE - Called a contract. This contract is an agreement between seller and buyer for selling and purchasing a piece of property.

AGGREGATE - Crushed rock or stone.

AIR DUCT - Rectangular or round metal pipe used to convey warm or cold air through house and back to forced-air furnace, or to air conditioning unit.

AIR CHAMBER - A vertical, air filled pipe that prevents water hammer by absorbing pressure when water is shut off at a faucet or valve.

Air-conditioner condenser The outside fan unit of the air conditioning system. The condenser discharges heat to the building exterior.

ALLIGATORING - Open cracks or fissures in the surface of a paint coating. This criss-cross pattern is caused by expansion or contraction of new top coat over a slippery undercoat.

AMPERE - The unit of currents. This current flows through a conductor whose resistance is one ohm. The conductor has a potential difference of one volt between its ends.

ANCHOR BOLT - Threaded steel bolt used to secure wood sill plate to foundation wall.

APPRAISAL - An individual's judgment of the value of the piece of property.

ASPHALT - Black bituminous coating used for blacktop for driveways, in roof coverings, and wall shingles.

BACKFILL -Earth is replaced and tamped down around foundation walls has been completed.

BACKFLOW - A reverse flow of water or other liquids into the water supply pipes, caused by negative pressure in the pipes

BALLOON-FRAMING Old type of framing using long wall studs which are secured to sill plate. After studs are secured, floor joists are secured to them.

BALUSTERS -Spindles of upright members attached to handrail and stair treads.

BALUSTRADE - Handrail used at end of stairs and on landings.

BASE SHEET - Bottom layer of built-up roofing.

BATT - A section of fiberglass or rock-wool insulation.

BAY WINDOW - Any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building, either square or polygonal in plan.

BEAM - Horizontal structural member which can be steel or wood (main support timber). Used to support floor joists and partitions.

BEARING WALL - Wall supporting roof load or floor load, depending upon its placement. There may be a bearing wall on each floor of a building.

BEVEL SIDING - Wood siding attached to exterior walls with nails. Looks wedge-shaped in cross-section.

BINDER - Agreement between buyer and seller in which buyer agrees to pay a fixed amount of money to secure his/her right to purchase property.

BLEACHING OIL - Oil stain used on wood siding, decking, etc., to accelerate the weathering process.

BLISTERS - Soft raised or puffed spots appearing on siding where paint was improperly applied. Also may be seen on roof covering that was improperly installed.

BRACE - A piece of framing member or wood subfloor installed at an angle or incline to stiffen the structural members.

BRICK VENEER - A brick facing applied to wood-framed house. It is attached to sheathing of framed walls with metal ties.

BRIDGING - Metal member or short length of wood member used between floor joists in a diagonal position to brace and stiffen joists and to distribute loading.

BUILDING CODE - Legal codes required by town, city, state for the design, construction of residential and commercial buildings. Written to protect people who live and/or work in these buildings.

BUILDING LINE -Distance from the sides, front, and back of a lot beyond which a building cannot extend, depending upon local code.

CASEMENT - A window sash supported by hinges which open and close the sash. Hinges are fastened to one side of the vertical frame.

CASING - Window and door framing.

CAVITY WALL - A hollow wall section created by wood framing members and usually insulated.

CERTIFICATE OF TITLE - Issued by a title company. Indicates that the seller has good marketable and insurable title to the property he/she is offering for sale.

CHIMNEY CAP - A concrete cover at the top of a brick chimney

CIRCUIT BREAKER - An electric safety device housed in an electrical box which breaks an electric circuit automatically when it becomes overloaded. Breaker moves from "On" to "Off" position.

CLAPBOARD - Wood exterior siding that is thicker on one edge than the other. Comes in a variety of lengths. It is overlapped and nailed into sheathing.

CLOSING COSTS - A number of expenses associated with completing the transaction in the transfer of ownership of real estate including attorney's fee, partial heating, electric and tax bill, etc.

CLOSING DAY - Day on which seller and buyer meet to conclude formalities of real estate sale.

COCK LOFT - Small space between top floor ceiling and roof

COMMISSION - Money paid to real estate broker by the seller for facilitating the sale of the property.

COLLAR BEAM - Wood beam connecting two inclined roof rafters. It helps to stiffen the framing of a pitched roof structure.

COLUMN - A vertical member such as a lally column used to support main beams, roofs, etc.

COPING - A tile cap used to cover the top of a parapet wall or any regular masonry wall.

CONCRETE - A mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel, and water used in building construction for foundation walls, floor slabs, footings, etc.

CONDENSATION - Drops of water formed when warm moist air is put in contact with an area having a lower temperature than that air. Drops form when air can no longer hold moisture.

CONDUCTOR - Material used to transmit an electric current, such as copper wire.

CONDUIT - A metal pipe used to carry electric wire throughout the inside and outside of a house.

CORNICE - Wood or metal decorative projection at the roof level of a building.  It usually projects outward and is located at the front of the building.

COUNTER FLASHING - Sheet metal placed at the base of a parapet wall over the roof covering, or at the base of a chimney, to prevent water entry.

CRAWL SPACE - A narrow, unfinished area usually filled with soil located in the cellar or basement.

CRIPPLE STUDS - Short wood members used above and below window and door openings to support frame.

DECAY - Disintegration of wood fibers by action due to insects, wood-decaying fungus, or water damage.

DEED - A written document through which title to the property being sold is transferred.

DEHUMIDIFIER - A device that removes moisture from the air.

DEPRECIATION - Decline in the price of a piece of property due to economic trends, wear and tear of the property, and popularity of the location of the property such as proximity to beach that is eroding.

DOOR JAMB - Wood casing surrounding a door. Door opens and closes into this jamb.

DOUBLED-GLAZED - Insulating glass which is constructed of two panes of glass with a sealed air space between them.

DOUBLE-HUNG WINDOW - Window with a top and bottom sash raised and lowered by weights attached to cords or chains.

DOWN PAYMENT - Amount of money the seller receives upon signing an agreement to sell his/her property with balance to be paid later.

DRYWALL - A type of interior wall construction applied in 4'x8' sheets, often called by the trade name Sheetrock.

EASEMENT RIGHTS - Permission of right-of-way granted to a person or company giving access to or across the owner's land.

EAVES - The projection of the roof beyond the house's walls.

EFFLORESCENCE - Water stains formed on the surface of brick or concrete caused by moisture penetration.

ENCROACHMENT - A building that extends beyond its building line or projects onto another individual's property.

ENCUMBRANCE - A claim against property that diminishes that property's value.

EQUITY - The market value of the property minus any loans, liens, or debts against that property.

ESCROW - Funds held in reserve until a specified event has been completed.

EXPANSION JOINT - Bituminous fiber strip used to divide sections of concrete streetwalk or blocks to prevent cracking due to expansion.

FASCIA - Flat wood member covering a section of eave or cornice. The roof gutter is supported by this fascia.

FILL-TYPE INSULATION - Loose material used for insulating wall cavities, such as rock wool or cellulose.

FIRE BOX - An area of combustion in the boiler.

FIRE BRICK - Bricks used to line the interior of the fire box chamber.

FIRE-STOP - Usually 2x4 wood blocking put between studs in a partition wall to prevent the spread of fire and smoke.

FLASHING -Sheet metal used at wall and roof junctions and at chimney and roof junctions to prevent water entry.

FLOOR JOISTS - Framing members which span from one foundation wall to the other side of foundation wall, or sometimes rest on intermediate main beams.

FLUE - An air channel, usually a pipe , in a chimney, which allows smoke and fumes of combustion to exit into the air.

FLUE LINER - Terra cotta tile or fire clay material, round or square, used as a lining inside brick chimney of heating system or fireplace.  Usually available in 2"-long sections.

FLUE PIPE - Metal cylindrical pipe used to allow smoke and products of combustion from furnace, boiler, or hot water heater to exhaust into chimney and out of house.

FOOTING - A section of concrete that the house's foundation walls sit on.

FOUNDATION - A block, brick, stone, or concrete wall on which the house's framing is built.  It is mostly below grade.

FORECLOSURE - Bank or mortgage lender assumes ownership of property due to failure to pay loan.

FRAMING - Construction lumber used to form structure such as floor joists, floor rafters, wall studs, etc.

FROST LINE -The depth to which frost can penetrate the soil. Footings should be placed below frost line.

FUNGUS - Plants that live in wood and cause it to decay and be stained.  Also can be found in wood in damp areas in house such as in crawl space.

FUSE - Small, screw-type safety device used in an electric panel box to break circuit when it becomes overloaded.

GABLE - Steep triangular roof shape in which rafters are attached from ridge board to double top plate. A house with a gable roof usually has a spacious attic.

GRADELINE - The location where the soil rests against the foundation wall.

GRADE STAMP - Stamped marking on lumber indicating quality, type of wood, if kiln-dry. For example, No. 1, K.D., Hem-Fir.

GRANTEE - The person/persons on the deed who is/are buying the property.

GRANTOR - The person/persons on the deed who is/are selling the property.

GUTTER -A metal or wood channel supported at the eave to convey rainwater away from the structure.

HEADER - A framing member that sits on the sill plate and to which floor joists are attached.

HUMIDIFIER - A device used to increase or maintain relative moisture in the air in a house or .room.

INSULATION - Material used to resist loss of heat energy and to reduce the transfer of sound or electricity.

INTEREST - A charge (amount of money) paid for the loan of money.

JAMB - Wood or metal casing surrounding a door or window.

JOIST - A series of rectangular sections, usually wooden, used to support floor and ceiling loads.

KILN-DRY - Lumber that has been dried in a kiln with the use of heat to a moisture content of six to twelve percent.

KNEE WALL - Framing member used for wall construction in an attic.

LALLY COLUMN - A round steel pillar used to support a beam or joist. Usually it is concrete-filled.

LEADER - A metal downspout connected to the gutter to convey rainwater away from property.

LIEN - A claim made by an individual on another individual's property to pay for money owed.

LINTEL - A horizontal structural member, usually made of steel or sometimes stone, used to support the area of the wall above a window or door opening.

LOAD-BEARING WALL - Same as bearing wall. Used to support roof or floor load.

MASONRY - Walls constructed of brick, block, stone, etc.

MOISTURE BARRIER -Treated paper or foil used to keep moisture from moving from one area to another. Paper or foil is on the back of roll-type insulation and foil is on insulation board.

MORTGAGE - A loan from the lender to the buyer against the property.

MORTGAGE COMMITMENT - Notice from a bank or lending institution saying it is advancing mortgage funds.

MORTGAGE NOTE - An agreement in writing to repay the loan by the borrower.

MORTGAGE (OPEN-END) - Gives permission to borrow additional money in the future without refinancing the loan.

MORTGAGEE -Person or institution that holds the mortgage.

MORTGAGOR - The borrower.

NEWEL POST - The main post at the floor of the staircase. The balustrade (handrail) is attached to the newel post.

NON-BEARING WALL - Wall that supports only its weight and does not support a load from the roof, floor, etc.

NOSING - Rounded edge of a stair tread that projects over a stair riser.

ON-CENTER - The measure for the spacing between floor joists, wall studs, etc. For instance , "16 inch on center" means that the studs are spaced (by the carpenters) 16 inches apart from the center of each stud.

PARTITION -An interior wall which divides a space such as one that separates one room from another.

PITCH- The slope or incline of a roof.

PLASTER - Mixture of lime, sand, and water used mostly to cover interior wall and or ceiling surfaces.

PLATFORM FRAMING - A system of framing of a structure in which the wall studs are attached to the sole plate and top plate. This wall section is attached to the subfloor and floor joists. Each stud wall is only one story high.

POINTS- Additional charges placed on borrowed money for a mortgage, usually levied when money is tight.

POINTING - Repairs to joints in brick or block construction done by refilling mortar joints with mortar

POST & BEAM CONSTRUCTION - A system of construction in which beams (timbers) are supported by heavy posts instead of joists and studs.

PORCH - An area extending beyond the exterior walls of a house which can be enclosed or left open.

PREPAYMENT - Payment of a mortgage loan, or of part of it, before it becomes due for payment.

PRINCIPAL - That portion of a loan which is not the interest on that mortgage loan

PUTTY - A soft, pliable compound used for sealing glass in a sash or for repairing small holes 

R VALUE - Resistance to heat transfer of material.

RADIANT FLOOR HEATING - Tubing with hot water flowing in it embedded in concrete floor, or installed under wood floor, used to heat a room.

RAFTER - Structural member used to frame and support roof. It spans from exterior wall to ridge board.

REAL ESTATE BROKER - An individual who assists a property owner in finding a buyer for his/her property.

REFINANCING - Obtaining a second loan to assist in paying off the first loan.

REINFORCED CONCRETE - Concrete with steel rods or wire embedded to give the concrete mixture extra strength.

RIDGE BOARD - Board placed at peak of roof to support one end of roof rafters. Other end of roof rafter is attached to double top plate.

RISER -The vertical section of a step in a staircase.

ROCK WOOL - An insulating material similar to fiberglass which can be blown into wall cavities.  It has a high melting point.

ROLL ROOFING PAPER - Roofing material (felt) made with asphalt fibers. Heaviest weight is 10-lb. and roll is 36" wide.

ROOF - The covering on top of a building.

ROOF SHEATHING - Plywood or similar sheets which are fastened to the roof rafters.  Building paper is applied and then roof covering.

SAG - A dip or deflection in a joist, or an unevenness in a coat of paint.

SASH - The window frame that houses the glass pane.

SATURATED FELT - Roll roofing paper that has been saturated with asphalt.

SEEPAGE PIT - A septic tank and cesspool making up a system for sewage disposal.

SEPTIC TANK - A tank in which sewage settles to the bottom where part of it is destroyed by bacteria and the rest is discharged to a leaching bed.

SHAKES - Wood shingles that have been handcut.

SHEATHING - Plywood or similar sheets, usually 4'x8', which are nailed onto exterior studding and rafters and covered with roof covering or exterior siding.

SHINGLES - A siding or roof covering applied in overlapping layers, usually made of asphalt, wood, asbestos, slate, etc.

SIDING - Wood boards or metal sections nailed vertically or horizontally to sheathing. The siding may be overlapped if installed horizontally, or it may interlock vertically as with metal sidding.

SILL PLATE -Wood member that rests on foundation wall and is attached to it with anchor bolts.  Floor joists and header are attached to it.

SKIRT BOARD - A horizontal member attached to wall studs at an incline to support a staircase's treads and risers.

SLAB - A concrete floor poured directly onto the soil which may have a bed of gravel in it or reinforcing steel bars criss-crossed in it.

SOFFIT - Underside of the eave or cornice.

SOLE PLATE - The bottom wood member of a framed stud wall.

SOLID BRIDGING - A short wood member placed between the floor joists at the center to prevent the joists from twisting.

SPALLING - Hard outer surface of brick separates and falls off exposing brick's soft interior. This occurs when water freezes and expands after it has penetrated a porous or cracked brick wall, forcing the brick' surface to pull away.  Exposure of the brick's soft interior accelerates the deterioration of the brick.

SPECIAL ASSESSMENT - A tax added onto a piece of property to cover costs for road construction, sewers, sidewalks, etc.

SPLASH BLOCK - A masonry section placed under leader pipe to divert water drainage away from the foundation of a house.

STRINGER - A long wood member placed at an incline as a sidewall to support a staircase.

STUD - Wood member used for wall framing, usually 16" on center.

 SUBFLOOR - Plywood or similar wood sheet nailed to floor joists on which finished flooring is installed.

SUSPENDED CEILING - Fabricated tiles supported by a metal grid hung from the old ceiling and by wall angles attached to the walls.

SUMP - Pit in basement housing house trap and water main.  Sump pump often found installed in this pit to pump out any water that collects in pit.

TAX - A charge on income and real estate to be used for services provided by town, county, city, state, or federal government.

TERMITES - Insects that live in and destroy wood.  They resemble ants and destroy the wood framing in a house.

TERMITE SHIELD - A piece of metal attached to a foundation wall to serve as a barrier against termites.

TIE - A wood member that holds a pair of rafters at or near the bottom for support.

TITLE - A document that states ownership or possession of a piece of property.

TITLE INSURANCE - Protection against loss of interest for the lender or homeowner in case of a defect in the title.

TITLE SEARCH - An investigation of the property about to be purchased to make sure that there are no liens or loans on it, that the owner is properly entitled to sell the house, etc.

TOP PLATE - Wood members, usually known as a double top plate, that form the top of a framed wall. The roof rafters and ceiling joists are supported by the top plate.

TREAD - The horizontal part of the staircase on which a person steps to ascend or descend the stairs.

TRAP - Usually a 4" diameter cast-iron pipe, called the house trap, with a U bend which acts as a seal as water passes through it.  It prevents sewer gases from entering into a house.

TRUSS - An assembly often used in roof construction composed of roof rafters, horizontal joists, and braces.

U VALUE - Heat transfer coefficient of material.

VALLEY - Angle formed at the intersection of two sections of sloped roofs.

VAPOR BARRIER - Material used to prevent passage of vapor or moisture from one area to another.  Kraft paper or foil is used on roll-type (batt) insulation, foil used on insulation board. Sometimes a plastic membrane is installed over insulation without a vapor barrier before the inside walls are covered.

VENT STACK - A pipe riser that extends through the roof to the outside atmosphere to allow sewer gases to escape from plumbing system.

VERMICULITE - Bulk insulation material similar to mica.

VOLT - A unit of electrical potential difference and electromotive force.

WALL SHEATHING - Plywood sheets, usually 4'x8', which are nailed to wall studs on outside. Exterior siding is applied over wall sheathing.

WATT - An electrical unit of power equal to one ampere running through a conductor with one volt of force.

WEATHERING - Discoloration of wood surface due to prolonged exposure to sun, rain, wind, light, etc.  Application of a bleaching oil will speed up this process.

WEEP HOLE - Small hole in masonry wall that permits water to drain from behind wall.

WYTHE - A vertical layer of masonry that is one masonry unit thick.

ZONE - The section of a building that is served by one heating or cooling loop because it has noticeably distinct heating or cooling needs. Also, the section of property that will be watered from a lawn sprinkler system.

ZONING ORDINANCE - Code defined by town, county, city or other locality to govern building and land uses.

ZONE VALVE - A device, usually placed near the heater or cooler, which controls the flow of water or steam to parts of the building; it is controlled by a zone thermostat.

A home inspection is not intended to provide warranties or guarantees. A home inspection is intended to help you make an informed decision about buying your home. A home inspection is not to be mistaken as a warranty on the house.


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