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BACKFILL: Replacement of excavated earth into a pit or trench, or against a building.

BACKHEARTH: The part of the hearth inside the fireplace.

BALCONY: A deck projecting from the wall of a building above the ground.

BALLOON FRAMING: The building-frame construction in which each of the studs is one piece from the foundation to the roof of a two-story house.

BALUSTER: One of a number of short vertical members, often circular in section, used to support a stair handrail or a balcony guardrail.

BALUSTRADE: A series of balusters or posts connected by a rail, generally used adjacent to stairs.

BANISTER: A handrail for a staircase.

BAROMETRIC DAMPER: An automatic adjustable device for regulating the draft through a fuel-burning appliance, thereby making operation of the appliance nearly independent of the chimney draft over its normal range of operation.

BARGEBOARD: Finish board covering the projecting and sloping portion (end rafter) of a gable roof.

BASEBOARD: Finish board covering the interior wall where the wall and floor meet.

BASE SHOE:  A wood molding, usually one-quarter round, nailed into the joint between a floor and a baseboard.

BATT: A type of fiberglass insulation, which is designed to be installed between a building's framing members.

BATTEN: Narrow strip of wood nailed over the vertical joints of boards to form board-and-batten siding.

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BAY WINDOW: A projection formed by three windows that are joined at obtuse angles.

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BEAM: A horizontal structural member in a building that carries a load.

BEAM CEILING: A ceiling in which the ceiling beams are exposed to view.

BEARING WALL OR PARTITION: A wall supporting any vertical load in a building other than its own weight.

BLANKET INSULATION: Insulation in rolled-sheet form, often backed by treated paper that forms a vapor barrier.

BLOCKING: Small wood framing members that fill in the open space between the floor and ceiling joists to add stiffness to the floors and ceiling.

BLUEPRINT: An architectural type drawing used by workers to build from. The original drawing is transferred to a sensitized paper that turns blue with white lines when printed. Also, prints of blue lines on white paper.

BOARD: Lumber less than two inches thick.

BOARD AND BATTEN: A type of siding composed of wide boards and narrow battens. The boards are nailed to sheathing so that there is one-half inch space between them. The battens are nailed over the open spaces between the boards.

BOND BEAM: Horizontal beam poured inside the U block for reinforcement of block walls in commercial or residential buildings. A bond beam is made by filling the block cells with either grout or insulation up to the level of the bottom of the U block. Reinforcing steel is placed, and the U block is filled with grout.

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BONDING: Joining of metallic parts to form a conductive path that has the ability to safely conduct electrical loads.

BOW WINDOW: A curved projection from a building formed by five or more windows that are joined at obtuse angles.


BRACE: Any stiffening member of a building's framework.

BREEZEWAY: A roofed walkway with open sides. It connects the house and garage.

BRICK TIE: Metal anchors installed to secure brick veneer to the exterior wall.

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BRIDGING: Cross bracing or solid blocking between joists to stiffen floor framing.

BUILDING COMPONENT:  In lead inspections it refers to any element of a building that may be painted or have lead dust on its surface, e.g., walls, stair treads, floors, railings, doors, and window sills.

BUILDING PERMIT: A permit issued by a municipal government authorizing the construction of a building, house, or other structure.

BUILT-UP ROOF: A continuous roof covering made up of laminations or plies of saturated or coated roofing felts, alternated with layers of asphalt and surfaced with a layer of gravel or a cap sheet; generally used on flat or low-pitched roofs on both commercial buildings and homes.

BUTTERFLY ROOF: A roof with two sides sloping down toward the interior of the building.  A critical inspection of a home with this style roof is essential. 

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BUTT JOINT: The junction where the ends of two timbers or other members meet in a square-cut joint.

BUTTRESS: Vertical masonry or concrete support, usually larger at the base, which projects from a wall in a building.

BTU: Abbreviation for British thermal unit; a standard unit for measuring heat gain or loss.

BX CABLE: Armored electric cable wrapped in plastic and protected by a flexible steel covering.

HANGER: Metal strap used to support the ends of joists or piping.

HEADER: In home or commercial building framing, the continuous joist placed across the ends of floor joists, the double joists at each end of floor or ceiling openings attached to the trimmers, and the structural member above window or door openings. In masonry, exposed ends of masonry units laid horizontally.

HEARTH: That part of the floor directly in front of the fireplace, and the floor inside the fireplace on which the fire is built. It is made of fire-resistant masonry.

HEEL PLATE: A plate at the ends of a truss.

HIP RAFTER: Diagonal rafter that extends from the plate to the ridge to form the hip.

HIP ROOF: A roof style on a home with sloping ends and sloping sides that meet at a ridge.

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HOSE BIBB: Water faucet made for the threaded attachment of a hose; also called a sill-cock.

HOUSING RECEIVING FEDERAL ASSISTANCE:  Housing which is covered by an application for HUD mortgage insurance, receives housing assistance payments under a program administered by HUD, or otherwise received more than $5,000 in project-based assistance under a Federal housing program administered by an agency other than HUD.

HUMIDIFIER: A mechanical device that controls the amount of water vapor to be added to the atmosphere of a home or building.

HUMIDISTAT: An instrument used for measuring and controlling moisture in the air.

HVAC: Acronym for Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning.

HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE: The pressure exerted from the outside by water under a basement floor or against the building's foundation wall.

NEWEL: A post supporting the handrail at the top or bottom of a stairway.

NONBEARING WALL: A dividing wall in a building or home that does not support a vertical load.

NOSING: The rounded edge of a stair tread.

U BLOCK: Block which looks the same as a standard block from the front or back, but whose cells are open on the top so that grout can flow outward to the other block on each side. The U Block provides for placement of horizontal reinforcing steel and grout to form a bond beam within the course (ie: layer) where it is used.

UNDER-FLOOR CRAWL SPACE: The area within the confines of the building's  foundation and between the ground and the underside of the floor.

UNDERPINNING: A foundation replacement or reinforcement for temporary braced supports.


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Glossary of Inspection, Architectural, and Construction Terms