Asphalt: A sticky, black liquid or semi-solid found in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits. Most commonly used for paving and roofing.

Alligatoring: The phenomenon of paint layers cracking into the pattern of an alligator. This is an indication that paint is old and should be removed and replaced with a fresh coat.

Baluster: A short column used in a group to support a rail, as commonly found on the side of a stairway; a banister.

Baseboard: A finish trim covering the lowest part of an interior wall, hiding the joint between wall surface and floor. Also known as base molding, floor molding, and skirting.]

Beadboard: A type of paneling recognizable by its characteristic vertical groove pattern. It’s most often used as wainscoting, typically running half way up the wall from the floor. Traditional beadboard is assembled from long slats of wood.

Bevel: Any edge of a structure or material that does not hit at a 90-degree angle; instead, its slanted edge is closer to a 45-degree angle.

Casement Window: A window that is attached to its frame by one or more hinges. It’s typically hinged at the side and opens like a door. When the hinges are located at the top, it’s referred to as an awning window.

Cornice Molding: A decorative framework installed horizontally where the wall meets the ceiling. It’s favored for its interesting architectural detailing.

Countersink: A shallow angled hole at the head of a flathead screw or bolt that keeps flush with the surface or recessed below the surface. Also, the act of driving a screw below the surface, often to hide it.

Dormer: A vertical structure, usually housing a window, that projects from and is perpendicular to a sloping roof; covered by a separate roof structure.

Double-Hung Window: A window with two sashes — upper and lower — that slide along vertical tracks.

Drywall: A thin, dry plaster surface made with panels of gypsum board, fiber board or plywood used for interior walls.

Edge Grain: A wood grain pattern characterized by growth rings of 45 or more degrees, preferably perpendicular, to the surface of a board. Also called quartersawn.

End Grain: The wood grain pattern produced when wood is cut across its growth rings.

Framing: A building technique based around studs which provide a stable frame to which interior and exterior wall coverings are attached.

Fiberboard: A prefabricated board made of compressed wood fibers and glue.

Flue: A flue is a pipe, tube or channel that transmits or ventilates air, gas, smoke or steam. There are three types of flues, open or conventional, closed or balanced and fanned flues.

Grommet: A grommet (also referred to as an eyelet) is a metal, rubber or plastic ring inserted into a hole in a material. The grommet protects and reinforces the hole.

Grout: A wet mixture of cement, sand and water used to fill cracks and cavities in masonry projects, tiles, and other building materials.

Gypsum plaster: A type of plaster made from dehydrated gypsum — a very soft mineral composed of calcium sulfate — water and a variety of chemicals. Often used in the production of drywall.

Hearth: A term used to describe the area near a home’s fireplace, it’s actually the paved or tiled floor-level part of the fireplace surround that extends out into a room).

Insulation: Materials used in the home to reduce the rate of heat transfer; insulation may be made of fiberglass, cellulose or mineral wool.

Jamb: The side and head lining of a doorway, window, or other opening, including studs as well as the frame and trim.

Joist: One of a series of parallel horizontal framing members that are used to support floor or ceiling loads.

Kiln-dried lumber: Any lumber placed in a heated chamber to reduce its moisture content to a specified average under controlled conditions.

Laminate: Material formed of about four thin layers glued together and installed over a substrate. It’s often used in flooring, cabinetry and countertops.

Linoleum: Linoleum, often called lino, is an environmentally and economically friendly flooring option. Lino is made from a heated and compressed mixture of oxidized linseed oil, resins, and natural binders and fillers. It is durable (50+ year life span) and easy to clean.

Load-bearing: Term usually applied to walls or columns that support floors, ceilings, or roofs. Load-bearing walls and columns cannot be permanently removed without compromising the structural integrity of the building.

Low-E glass: Low-emissivity glass with transparent coating which acts as a thermal mirror. Used to increase a window’s insulating value, block or increase heat flow, and reduce fading.

Masonry: Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, or other similar building units or materials. Often bonded together with mortar to form a wall.

Miter: The woodworking joint created when two boards are cut at an angle to one another; the most common miter joint is the 45-degree miter used for picture frames.

Mortar: A mixture of lime or cement, sand and water used for bonding bricks and stones.

MDF: An abbreviation for medium density fiberboard, which is a material made from fine wood particles and glue, formed and pressed into sheets, and used in furniture, cabinetry, and other household applications.

Newel post: A newel is the upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind, often topped with a decorative finial.

Nosing: The projecting edge of a molding or drip or the front edge of a stair tread.

Polyurethane: A polymer containing urethane used as plastic, adhesive, paint, rubber, or to form a tough, resistant coating.

Plaster: A mixture of lime or gypsum with sand and water which hardens into a smooth solid. This sturdy material is used to cover walls and ceilings, especially in older buildings.

Plywood: A board made of three or more layers of veneer joined with glue; usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles.

Plumb: A position or measurement that is truly and exactly vertical, 90° from a level surface.

Putty is a home repair material used as a filler or sealant. It is a plastic material similar in consistency to dough.

Rafter: Typically made of wood and assembled in a parallel, downward sloping design, the rafter is a beam that supports the roof.

Rail (window): The outer encasement of a window, fitted to the sill.

Riser: The vertical part of a stair that supports the horizontal treads.

R-Value: A measure of resistance to the flow of heat. A higher R-values indicate a material’s greater ability to insulate.

Sash: The framework that holds the panes of a window together within the window frame.

Septic tank
: A small waste management system buried underground. Each tank typically supports a single household’s septic needs where there is no connection to a city-wide sewage system. Waste collects in the tank until it settles and is then picked up by truck and disposed of in a leach field.

Soffit: The visible underside of an arch, balcony, beam, cornice, staircase, vault or any other architectural element.

Sheetrock: A plasterboard compound of a core of gypsum between two sheets of heavy paper.

Square: An aluminum or steel tool, commonly used in carpentry. Shaped like an “L” it has straight sides at an exact 90 degree angle, allowing the user to make sure what they are building is straight. Also used to describe structural elements that meet at 90 degrees are level or perfectly perpendicular.

Stud: An upright framing member in the wall. A stud provides support to objects hanging on the wall as well.

Tread: The horizontal member of a stair; the surface where the foot lands.

Tongue-and-groove: A joint, in flooring or panelling, made by fitting a ridge (tongue) along the edge of one board into a corresponding slot (groove) on another.

Typically wooden beams or mettle bars arranged in a triangle, or a series of triangles, creating a structure capable of supporting excessive weight. A roof is supported by a truss.

VOCs: Volatile organic compounds; organic chemical compounds that participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions. VOCs are often found in paints, adhesives, and varnishes. Many companies are addressing this health and environmental dilemma by producing low- or zero-VOC products.