Glossary of Home Builder Terms

Home School Building 101

Here's a short glossary of homebuilding terms we've gathered for you. We hope it helps you stay more engaged in the construction process.

AFF (Above Finished Floor) – a rough height provided for the installation of a certain component of the house.

Architectural Approval – the process of the land developer’s review and approval of your proposed home’s exterior appearance (colours, materials and exterior elevations), working drawings and plot plan to ensure the meet community’s architectural guidelines.

Backfill – soil used around the foundation wall to replace the void left by excavation.

Battens – an exterior piece of wood/smart board that is primarily used as a decorative trim around windows/doors and other accents.

Beam – a structural member that can support roof trusses, floor joists, or deck joists. This is usually a laminated or manufactured product but solid wood and metal beams are also used when called for.

Bearing Wall – a wall that supports vertical load (structural) in addition to its own weight. This wall is found inside the home and replaces the need for a beam in that location.

BOW – (Back of Walk) is the point at which the rear of the concrete City sidewalk ends. This is shown on the plot plan as being measured from the property line.

Bulkhead – a dropped area of the ceiling that may be done for decorative purposes or to accommodate structure, pipes or other parts of the home’s distribution systems.

Cantilever – a floor projection over the wall below. This is found on exterior walls.

Damproofing - The process of coating the outside of the foundation wall with a water resistant product (tar/ foundation wrap) to help resist the passage of moisture through concrete

Deficiency – a part of the home that is damaged, incomplete or does not meet quality standards.

Developer (Land Developer) – the company responsible for the subdivision and construction of the community and lot that your home is built upon.

Ducts – smaller metal pipes used for distributing air in heating and ventilating systems.

Easements and Rights of Way – part of the property that is legally accessible to persons other than the owner (i.e. utility companies or in the case of zero lot lines, a neighbor).

Elevation – 1) the front, rear or side elevation refers to the two-dimensional drawings showing the appearance of the home from the outside; 2) A floor elevation refers to the height of the floor in reference to grades around the home or in relationship to other homes on the street.

Escutcheon – the plate to which the door knob is attached.

Fascia – a finished material around the face of the eaves/roof overhang.

Footings – concrete section at the base or bottom of a foundation wall or column used to transfer loads from above to the ground.

Foundation – the lower portion of a structure, usually concrete, including the footings, which transfers the weight from the roof, walls, and floors to the ground.

Framing – the structure of the home (usually wood or composite wood) that makes up the wall, floors and roofs.

Joist – series of horizontal wood members used for structural support. These can be used for roof or floor construction.

LOG – (Lip of Gutter)- is the point at which the concrete gutter transitions to asphalt road. This is shown on the plot plan as being measured from the property line.

Mechanical Wall or Chase – a wall or space used to house plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or electrical work.

Muntin Bars – many years ago these were bars that divide panes of glass in windows or doors. Today they are purely decorative pieces of aluminum placed between the panes of glass to replicate the appearance of the older style of windows.

Nosing – is a finishing detail found on stairs where a strip of hardwood is placed on the outermost edge of the stair.

Paint Grade – is a grade of wood that is intended to be painted to achieve the finished look.

Parging – cement mortar applied to concrete close to the ground to give a finished look to exposed concrete.

Plenum – larger continuous chamber used to circulate or gather heated or cooled air in a forced–air heating/cooling system.

Plot Plan – is a drawing representing the lot/building site, c/w property lines, grades, an outline of the building and improvements to be constructed, setbacks from that building to all property lines, and any easements, rights of way or other features.

Retaining Walls – any wall erected to hold back or support soil. Retaining walls can be 8” concrete, precast concrete block, or created using large rocks and boulders.

RPR (Real Property Report) – is a post construction legal survey that is done by a surveyor to show the home and any permanent improvements on the piece of property at time of survey.

Setback – the distance away from a property line that a building is built. There are front/ rear and side yard setbacks.

Smart Board – is a manufactured product that is made to look like wood. It is a paintable product used as battens and other exterior trim.

Soffit – a finished material applied to the underside of roof overhangs.
Sump Pump – a pump, usually electrically operated, used to remove water which collects in a barrel below the basement floor. A sump pump is generally used where a storm sewer is not available.

Telepost – is a metal post that gives intermediate support to beams. Teleposts are most commonly found in basements but can also be used in garages if required to support floors above.

Toe Kicks – is the small recess at the bottom of kitchen/ bathroom cabinets that allows a person to stand closer to the cabinet by giving extra space for that persons toes.

Top of Joist (TOJ) – usually noted on plot plan drawings and elevation drawing. This is a geodetic measurement of height. Essentially this is a height given to the main floor that can be referenced to the exterior grade, footing height, height of the street and other houses in the neighborhood. This number is generally a metric number even when the plan is drawn in imperial.

Truss – manufactured structural system that creates the exterior roof shape and the interior ceiling look.

Weeping Tile – is a porous plastic pipe that is placed alongside the concrete footings to help remove excess water from around the footings.

Wood Stain – is a clear or tinted solution applied to wood to enhance and protect the wood.

Working Drawings – is the final set of technical drawings that will be used to construct your home.