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Architectural, Construction, Interior Design & Real Estate Related Terms

Many of these terms are misused in everyday conversations






Alcove A recess, niche, or narrow space formed by the meeting of two or more walls. Often a space off of, but still a part of a room, with walls on three sides

Apartment The physical arrangement of an "apartment" can be varied:

A suite of rooms designed as a residence for one or more related or unrelated persons, generally located in a building with other such units that are rented or leased to the tenants

A "studio apartment" is typically a single sleeping-living room with an attached bathroom and kitchen. Studio apartments are designed as a residence for one or two related or unrelated persons, generally located in a building with other such units that are rented or leased to the tenants

An "efficiency apartment" is typically a single sleeping-living room with an attached bathroom, and kitchen facilities either as part of the main living space or in a specially equipped "closet" or niche.Efficiency apartments are designed as a residence for one or two related or unrelated persons, generally located in a building with other such units that are rented or leased to the tenants

A single sleeping-living room as described above, but with either the bathroom or the kitchen facilities detached from the main room and shared with another apartment. Such apartments are designed as a residence for one or two related or unrelated persons, generally located in a building or house with other such units that are rented or leased to the tenants

In a large private residence, mansion, or palace, an "apartment" is a self-contained suite of connected rooms, located either in the main residence or in a separte structure on the grounds, and occupied by one or more family members. Typically such apartments are occupied by the owner or family members of the owner, relatives, house guests, or domestic servants


Baseboard Typically a wood molding of any height and/or thickness that runs along the bottom of a wall as a decorative feature, and serves to hide where the wall meets the floor, or carpet meets the wall. Also referred to as "mop board", "shoemold", or "base molding", however "base molding" made of rubber, vinyl or plastic is not "baseboard"

Base Molding Rubber, vinyl or plastic that runs along the bottom of a wall as a decorative feature, and serves to hide where the wall meets the floor. Typically used in bathrooms, kitchens, family rooms, recreation rooms, and rooms with tile or linoleum floors. Never used in rooms with carpeting

Bay Window Typically the portion of a room that extends beyond the horizontal plane of the exterior wall, providing additional interior floorspace in the form of a recess or niche with windows on all sides; A bay window is usually rectangular, polygonal, or semicircular

A "bay window" differs from a "dormer" which has a window (or windows) on a single plane parallel to the interior wall, and extends from a roof or gable

Beam A squared-off log or large oblong piece of timber, metal, or stone used as a horizontal support in construction. The cross beam is horizontal member of the "truss", a triangular structure that holds up the roof. Refer to "Open Beam Ceiling"

Berber Carpet Typically in off-white, pastel, natural, or dark tones, Berber carpets use flecked yarns most often in loop styles. The size of the loops varies from large nubby ones to smaller styles. Patterened Berbers are multi-level-loop as well as cut-and-loop styles.

Historically an off-white, heathered look of cloaks used by the Berber tribes of North Africa.

Breezeway A roofed, open-sided passageway connecting two or more structures, such as a house and garage

Bulkhead A horizontal or sloping structure with a large door that provides access to a cellar stairway or detached storm shelter. When used to access a cellar, a bulkhead usually replaces an interior staircase

Commonly misused to refer to a soffit

An upright partition dividing a vessel, such as a ship, aircraft, spacecraft, or vehicle into compartments and serving to add structural rigidity and, in the case of a ship, prevent the spread of fire or flooding of the compartments

Bungalow A small one to four-room house or cottage usually having a single story, and (1) located behind a main house for use as a guest house, in-law apartment, or rental, or (2) on a beach as a stand-alone structure occupied on a seasonal basis

Not to be confused with "Bungalow style" which refers to a large house of a particular architectural style

Bungalow Style A particular architechtural style that is distinguished by geometric shapes, wide overhangs, and broad porches on one or more sides


Cabin A small house with one or more rooms that is either unfinished or cruedly finished, and primarily used as a sleeping shelter on an occasional basis while it's occupants enjoy outdoor sporting activities. Cabins are found near lakes, rivers, and in the mountains, in close proximity to hunting, fishing, hiking, and snow & water skiing venues

Carport An open-sided shelter for vehicles, usually formed by a roof projecting from the side of a building, or sometimes as a detached structure

Carpet Squares Loose-laid or self-adhesive backed "tiles" of carpet

Casement Window A window sash opening on hinges affixed to one vertical side of the frame into which it is fitted. Casement windows are basically of two types: (1) a window that can be unlatched and manually pushed outward, (2) a window that is attached to a crank assembly requiring the operator to rotate a handle in order to open the window outward. Slang: "Crank out"

Cellar An unfinished room or enclosed space often used for storage, having limited headspace, and beneath the ground or under a building. Often cellars have dirt floors and walls or crude flooring and walls. Cellars can either be accessed by an interior staircase, ladder, or from the outside of the structure through a bulkhead

A term sometimes used to describe an unfinished or crudely finished basement

An underground shelter from storms, as in "storm cellar", which is accessed via a bulkhead with a door flush to the ground

Ceramic Tile A hard-surfaced tile made from clay or a mixture of organic materials, ceramic tile is finished by kiln firing. Manufactured in various shapes and sizes, it is glazed or unglazed. For floors, tiles are afixed with, and grouted with, a cement-like mortar. Refer to "Porcelain Tile"

Chair Rail A piece of molding attached to a wall and running horizontally across that wall at the same general height as the back of a table chair. Historically used to keep chairs from damaging the walls. Often a chair rail tops wainscoting that covers the portion of the wall from the chair rail to the baseboard

Clearstory An upper portion of a wall containing windows that supply natural light to a room

Also spelled "Clerestory"

Clearstory Window(s) A short window, or set of windows, any width, located high on a wall near the ceiling of a vaulted or very high-ceiling room

Also spelled "Clerestory Window"

Coffered Decorative recessed panels surrounded by multiple layers of molding. As in coffered ceilings

Condo / Condominium A building, complex, or development in which units of property, such as apartments or attached homes, are owned by individuals and common parts of the property, such as the grounds and building structure, are owned jointly by the unit owners, and the grounds are maintained by employees of, or contractors hired by, a homeowner's association or property management company. Condo associations often place restrictions on individual tenants in matters of decorating, and construction

A unit in such a building, complex, or development

Co-Op / Cooperative An arrangement where a residential building and it's grounds, similar in structure to a condominium or apartment building, and/or all of the units in the building, are jointly owned and/or managed by the tenants. Co-Ops are found more often in larger Eastern and Mid-West U.S. cities and place restrictions on individual tenants in matters of decorating, construction, and guests

An enterprise or organization jointly owned and/or managed by those who use it's facilities or services

Composite Floor A floor made up of parts or compounded of several elements. Typically the top layer is imprinted with a photograph of wood grain, giving the illusion that the flooring material is actually hardwood

Cornice A horizontal molded projection that crowns or completes a building or wall. The uppermost part of an entablature

The molding in the top corner of the wall of a room, between two opposing walls and the ceiling

An ornamental horizontal molding or frame used to conceal rods, picture hooks, or other devices at the top of window casing, aka "valance"

Cottage A small one to three-room house having only a single story, and typically located in the country. A vacation house near or on a lake or river, or in the mountains

Cottage Cheese Ceiling A slang term for a lightweight fiberous material that is sprayed onto ceilings to cover-up flaws and provide a decorative texture. The texture can vary in thickness, size and density. A "cottage cheese" ceiling is sometimes regarded as a negative feature, but the texture can be easily removed. Also known as "popcorn ceiling".

Crawl Space A low or narrow space, such as one beneath the upper or lower story of a building, that gives workers access to plumbing, wiring, or structural supports. A crawl space below the lower floor of a building at ground level or just above, is usually accessed from outside by a small opening in the foundation wall, while the crawl space above the top floor of a building is accessed through a small hatch in a closet or hallway ceiling

Crown Molding Decorative molding made primarily of wood, composite wood materials, or plaster that is used to embellish and/or hide the joint where the walls of a room meet the ceiling. Crown molding contacts both the wall and the ceiling, with no space between the molding and either surface, and running the width of the wall

Cut-and-Loop Carpet A multi-level loop carpet, where the taller loops are sheared.The resulting uncut loops and sheared top loops create a sculptured pattern. The texture and often subtle, varigated colorings help hide soil and traffic wear

Cut Pile The face of a carpet where the surface is composed of cut ends of yarn


Damper An adjustable plate in the flue of fireplace, stove, or furnace that controls the draft

Deadbolt Lock A door lock that when operated moves a bolt in or out of the lock assembly that, unlike other types of locks, is not spring-loaded, thus is very hard to defeat. A "single deadbolt" lock requires insertion of a key into the outside assembly, while the inside assembly is operated by a thumb knob/latch. A "double deadbolt" lock requires that a key be inserted into either the inside or outside assembly in order to operate the lock. Many jurisdictions require rental units to include deadbolt locks on all exterior doors

Deck A roofless, walless structure, usually attached to a house that is suspended above the ground or otherwise not touching the ground. Decks most likely have a railing, and are typically made from wood planks or composite material, but steel and/or concrete is used when the structure is high above the ground. Decks are most commonly found on homes, apartment buildings, motels and hotels

Den A room, closed off from all others, that is comfortable and secluded. Another term for a "study"

A small, enclosed room where one goes to be alone

Dormer A window set vertically into a small gable projecting from a sloping roof; The gable holding such a window. Dormers genearlly increase the head- and floor-space of a room by a small amount forming a niche or recess, and with the window, or windows, on only one plane, differing it from a "bay window"

Variants include shed dormers where no gable is constructed

In France, an obsolete term referring to a sleeping room

Double-hung Window A style of window divided into two equal parts that are suspended in the frame so that each can move up or down independently

Drywall A brand of gypsum board which is applied in large sheets to walls and ceilings, and provides a smooth surface for wallpaper or paint. Another brand name is "Sheet Rock"

Duplex Two single or multiple story residences, with separate entrances, that are fully attached to each other

A structure with three such residences is referred to as a "triplex"


Efficiency Apartment Typically a single sleeping-living room with an attached bathroom, and kitchen facilities either as part of the main living space or in a specially equipped "closet" or niche. Efficiency apartments are designed as a residence for one or two related or unrelated persons, generally located in a building with other such units that are rented or leased to the tenants. Refer to "Apartment"

Efficiency Kitchen Cooking and refrigeration facilities (1) that are contained in a "closet" or "niche", typically with accordion-style doors or folding doors, (2) that are in a self-contained cabinet, or (3) within the same room as the living and sleeping accommodations


Family Room In older homes, a separate room in the basement, used for family recreation or TV watching. A recreation room

In newer homes, a family living space located adjacent to, and sometimes fully open to, a kitchen, that is most often in addition to a more formal living room, but sometimes in place of a living room

Faux Fireplace A decorative appointment, using a mantle and fireplace surround placed against a wall, with or without an actual recess in the wall, that is meant to suggest the existence of an actual fireplace

Fiberboard A composite of wood chips or shavings bonded together with resin and compressed into rigid sheets. Refer to "Oriented Strand Board" and "Particle Board"

Flat A self-contained apartment that occupies an entire floor of an apartment building or house, and has an entrance that is separate from the living spaces on other floors. Flats typically share laundry facilities, garbage dumpsters, and/orrecycling containers that are maintained by the landlord or property management company

Floor The horizontal structural part of a room that is used to stand and walk on, and which can hold furniture and appliances. A "floor" is supported by beams, girders, joists, and is typically formed in a residence by laying plywood and/or wood planks over the supports as a sub-floor, then covering, or not, the wood with another covering such as tongue-and-groove planks, linoleum, ceramic tile, or stone tile to make a finished floor. Often carpet or linoleum is installed directly over the sub-floor. In the basement or cellar of a residence or commercial structure the floor is most typically concrete with or without another covering on top. In a commercial building the floors above the basement level may have an underlayment of steel, iron, or concrete instead of plywood or wood planks.

A "floor" is NOT bare ground, and is NOT found outside of a structure unless the walls and/or roof of the structure itself is missing

Florida Room A room with lots of windows. A sun room. A common term used in Florida and other Southern U.S. states

Four-Way Switch One of three or more switches that is wired to a other switches at different locations, and together control one or more light fixtures, switched outlets, or fans. Refer to "One-Way Switch" and "Three-Way Switch"

Foyer An entrance area, normally wider than a typical hallway, specifically used for receiving guests, with rooms and hallways branching from it

French Doors A set of two or more doors that open and close individually, but when both (or all) are open, provide an unobstructed opening that spans the width of both (or all) doors. Such doors swing out or into the room, or in the case of more than two doors, fold against each other accordian-style. A sliding door of any type or width is NOT a "French Door"


Gable The generally triangular section of the outside wall at the end of a pitched roof, occupying the space between the two slopes of the roof

A triangular, usually ornamental architectural section, as one above an arched door or window

Gallery Typically a large room, hallway, or formal foyer containg a collection of artworks on display; Any wall in a room or hallway used to display an art collection

A roofed promenade, especially one extending along the wall of a building and supported by arches or columns on the outer side

Garden Window A window unit at counter level that extends from the side of the building, having glass on all sides and the top, and is open to the room inwhich it is installed. Garden windows allow for additional off-counter storage and display, and provide tremendous natural light for the room

Gathering Room An term used primarily in the North Eastern and Southern U.S. to describe a family room, tv room, living room, or great room

Historically the main living space in a home where the daily activities of a family, including cooking and bathing, took place

GFCI / GFI A "Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter" is a device that instantly stops the flow of electricity to the equipped electrical outlet (and all connected outlets beyond the GFCI) in order to prevent electrical shock. The GFCI is tripped when the outlet is "shorted out". Some contractors shorten the acronym to "GFI". A GFCI-protected outlet is NOT the same as a "grounded" outlet, but may ALSO be grounded (GFCI outlets should be tested for ground, although grounding is not required)

Glazed Tile Clay shaped into tiles, fire-hardened, and then covered with a matte or glossy glaze to make the tiles more resistant to moisture

Grand Salon A large formal room, typically in a large private residence or mansion, used primarily for receiving and entertaining guests, but not for daily family activities

A hall or gallery used for the exhibition of works of art

Great Room A large open room in a private residence often featuring a high or vaulted ceiling, used primarily for daily living

A large open room that includes kitchen facilities, a dining area, and living space that are visually and physically open to each other, and work together as one room; Historically the larger taller version of a "Gathering Room"

Grounded Outlet An electrical outlet that contains a (usually green-sheathed) copper "ground wire" that is connected either directly or in-line to (a) a main circuit breaker panel, (b) a cold water pipe, or (c) a long metal rod inserted directly into the ground outside. Grounded outlets have 3 holes, and can accept 2-prong or 3-prong plugs, although the presence of a 3-holed outlet does NOT necessarily mean that it is attached to a properly grounded circuit and/or properly grounded circuit breaker panel. Grounded circuits are not commonly found in homes built before the 1980's, and even homes that have been retrofitted may retain ungrounded circuits. Each outlet should be tested for ground

EDITOR'S NOTE: Power strips or other outlet expansion devices, and 3-to-2 adapters should NEVER be used on ungrounded outlets. Surge protectors provide little or no protection from damage and/or fire if the outlet is not grounded

As a rule, 3-hole outlets should NEVER be installed on an ungrounded circuit, but can be used if they are clearly and permanently marked as ungrounded, and/or if outlets are turned upside down, so that the third hole is on top. Using labeled 2-hole outlets on ungrounded circuits is the most prudent approach

If the ground wire runs from one or more outlets to a cold water pipe or ground rod, there should be no breaks, splices or joints in the ground wire, and no other wires should be attached to it. Ground wires should not touch other conductive structural components, such as metal rails. If a circuit breaker panel is not properly grounded none of the outlets connected to that panel, via ground wires, are grounded. Grounded outlets do NOT protect against electrical shock (see GFCI). When a surge protection devices is attached, the connected electronics are protected from damage and the excess electricity is sent out via the ground wire


Hall The abbreviated form of "hallway"

A large and imposing house. A mansion or manor house

A building or room of considerable size and/or stateliness, used for public gatherings, education, dining, or recreation

A university building containing living quarters, as in "residence hall". A dorm or dormitory

Historically large room in a castle or manor house, used as a gathering place for social events, as well as for daily living

Hallway Any long and usually narrow corridor in a building that leads to other rooms.

In Great Britain: A "hallway" is an entrance foyer with a square or oblong footprint. Long narrow spaces leading to other rooms, known as hallways in the U.S., are called "passages" in Great Britain

Hardwood Floor Solid wood planks harvested from any one or more of several varieties of broadleaf deciduous trees or fir trees, then cut to the desired width and length. Typically hardwood floors are installed over a sub-floor consisting of plywood, particle board, or oriented strand board (OSB). Since solid hardwood floors can be very expensive, look-a-like composite, laminate, and wood veneer floors are more often used in new construction and remodels. The term "hardwood" has no reference to the hardness of the wood. Refer to "Composite Floor", "Wood Laminate Floor", "Wood Veneer Floor"

Header In construction, a framing member crossing over a doorway, window, or opening between two or more rooms, whether part of either an inside or outside wall, that supports joists or rafters and transfers their weight around the opening to wall studs. Although not always used in older construction, headers are required by law in structures built in more modern times

Hearth The floor of a fireplace, usually extending into a room and paved with brick, flagstone, concrete, marble, granite or other stone. Most building codes in the U.S. require that a hearth extends a set distance into the room from the face of the fireplace

The brick, flagstone, concrete, or stone pad under and extending in front of a wood burning stove

Home Share A legally contracted financial arrangement where a homeowner shares his/her home with a housemate, and the housemate compensates the homeowner by sharing the operating and maintenance expenses, and housekeeping duties. Depending on the laws of the state, county, and city in which the home share arrangement is located, this type of arrangement may be an option to a typical rental agreement in zones or districts where owners of single-family residences are not legally allowed to rent a portion of their primary residence. Some cities require that the housemates live as a "functional family" as defined in city code

An arrangement where two or more (non-owner) tenants share a rental house, including the monthly rent and housekeeping duties

Hooked Rug A rug made by pulling yarns or fabric strips through a mesh backing. Many are designed in various colors to create a scene or design

Housemate A person who shares a single-family house with one or more other persons, as well as the monthly rent or reimbursement, and housekeeping duties, as a "functional family"

HVAC The acronym for Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning




Knob and Tube An outdated, now illegal and dangerous, method of installing electrical wiring through a structure. Two wires (a "hot" and a "neutral") run parallel from knob to knob to the various outlets, fixtures, and switches. "Knobs" are made of glass, ceramic, or porcelain and act to keep the two wires separated from other structural materials and each other. As the wires pass through floor joists, wall studs, and beams they are insulated by hollow ceramic or porcelain "tubes" that prevent the hot wire from grounding out.


Laminate Flooring A type of flooring with a dense fiberboard core with a paper pattern layer sealed both top and bottom under high pressure with a plastic-like substance. Sold as planks and panels in faux wood, stone, tile textures. Refer to "Wood Laminate Floor"

Lap Siding Beveled wood

Lath and Plaster A building process whereby walls are constructed using thin strips of wood fastened at spaced intervals to wall studs, providing a foundation for a top layer of plaster.

Lavatory A room equipped with toilet facilities, a bathroom

A place for washing. A wash basin, wash bowl, sink

A toilet that is cleaned of waste by the flow of water

Leaded Glass Window panes divided and held in place by lead strips. Leaded window panes can be in many shapes such as squares, rectangles, diamonds, or circles. Leaded glass windows are typically found in upscale residences or government, college, or commercial buildings built in the 19th century or early part of the 20th century

Historically molten lead was poured between the panes to connect them

Level In construction: A line or surface to which, at every point, a vertical or plumb line or plane is is perpendicular, exactly 90 degrees from the vertical plane. A line or surface which is, at all points, parallel to the surface of still water - true level. Refer also to "Plumb"

Library A room of any size in a private home, where books are kept on shelves, and books are read.

A room of any size in a private home used exclusively for reading

Load-bearing Wall A wall that is the primary support for the structure above it. Outside walls transfer the load of the roof and floors to the foundation, and are thus "laod-bearing walls". Interior walls can also be "load-bearing" by supporting floors and other walls above. Non-load-bearing walls are merely dividers between areas or rooms and carry no weight besides their own. Load-bearing walls, or any portion thereof, cannot be removed without being first replaced by large wood, laminate, or metal structural beams that transfer the vertical load above to appropriately sized studs on each end

Loft A large, usually unpartitioned floor over a factory, warehouse, or other commercial or industrial space, whether that structure is still being used as built or not. Such a floor converted into a studio or living space

An open space under a roof, attic, or garret that is open to the floor below

A gallery or balcony


Mantle An ornamental facing or shelf above and around a fireplace, Also called a "mantelpiece", "mantelshelf", or "fireboard"

Mud Room A secondary, utility, or family entrance to a residence, configured as an open foyer or large enclosed vestibule, usually entering from the side or back of the residence, and providing utilitarian seating and storage for outerwear; a transitional space used for changing from outerwear to inside clothes, and vice versa


Niche A cavity, hollow, or recess generally within the thickness of a wall, used for displaying artwork or statuary

A small recessed, possibly enclosed, space designed for a specific function, such as for an efficiency kitchen

Nook A small corner, alcove, recess, niche, or narrow space formed by the meeting of two or more walls. Often a space off of - but still a part of - a room, with walls on three sides, as in a "breakfast nook"


One-Way Switch / Single-Pole Switch A single switch that, by itself, controls one or more light fixtures, switched outlets, or fans. Refer to "Three-Way Switch" and "Four-Way Switch"

Open Beam Ceiling Construction where the ceiling's cross beams and/or the "truss beams" are partially or completely exposed rather than hidden above the finished ceiling. Structural beams are a vital component of the structure and may be sheathed with a decorative finish material or left exposed, while faux beams have no significance to the structure and are included merely as a decorative element

Oriented Strand Board / OSB A type of particle board panel composed of strand-type flakes which are purposeully aligned to make the panel stronger and stiffer, and with improved dimensional properties. Refer to "Fiberboard" and "Particle Board"


Parlor A room of any size in a private residence where visitors are received and entertained, or a set of rooms separated by pocket doors, as in "double parlor", where one room may be used for entertaining guests and the other room for family, or historically, both rooms used for entertaining guests, with one room for women and the other for men

A small lounge or sitting room affording limited privacy, as at an inn or tavern

A room equipped and furnished for a specific function or business, as in a "tanning parlor", or "beauty parlor"

Particle Board A generic term for a material manufactured from wood particles or other lignocellulosic material and a synthetic resin or other suitable binder. Refer to "Fiberboard" and "Oriented Strand Board"

Parquet Floor A patterned floor made of square "tiles" which in turn are composed of individual slats

Patio A paved, stoned, or bricked surface, flush with or resting at grade with surrounding grade at the same or near same level. Used primarily for dining, lounging, or recreation, patios typically are found adjoining homes, but are also found adjoining apartment buildings and commercial buildings such as restaurants

A roofless inner courtyard, typically found in Spanish and Spanish-style dwellings

Picture Molding A molding or trim that runs along the ceiling and serves not only as decoration but as an anchor and support for wire that is used to suspend artwork along the vertical wall surface

Pitched Roof A two-sided sloped roof having a gale at both ends, commonly known as a "gabled roof"

Plank A solid board usually 3/4" thick and 3" to 8" wide designed to be installed as flooring in parallel rows. Edges may be beveled to simulate the appearance of Colonial American plank floors

Plumb To install pipes (typically copper) for the delivery of water

In framing: Exactly vertical, perpendicular (exactly 90 degrees) to a perfectly level plane. Refer also to "Level"

Plumbed For... A term used to indicate that the building, room, or specific wall or portion of a wall already contains the pipes needed for the delivery of water or natural gas. In most cases such pipes are connected to the source and thus pressurized

Porcelain Tile A ceramic tile made from porcelain clay, a very pure variety, formed directly from the decomposition of feldspar (often called kaolin)

Porch A covered or partially covered and enclosed or partially enclosed entrance to a building, whether taken from the interior, and forming a sort of vestibule within the main wall, or projecting without and with a separate roof. Sometimes the porch is large enough to serve as a covered walk

Portico / Porticoshare A large porch or walkway with a roof supported by columns, most often leading to the entrance of a building. Porticos can extend over a portion of, but not the ending point of, a long or semi-circular driveway allowing one vehicle at a time to drive under the structure. Porticos over driveways differ from carports in that the driveway continues beyond the portico to garages, a motor court, or the street, and the covered structure is intended to protect people, not vehicles, from the weather

Powder Room A lavatory for guests in a private home, containing only a toilet and a sink

A lavatory for women in an office building or public facility

Pre-Finished Flooring Wood flooring that has been sanded, stained, sealed, and finished at the factory and requires only installation

Promenade A roofed sidewalk, patio, or terrace, especially one extending along the wall of a building and supported by arches or columns on the outer side. Typically found adjoining large hotels, resorts, or public buildings, and surrounded by lush gardens or water features


Quartersawed A specific way that wood strips or planks are cut from a log during milling. The annual growth rings form an angle of 45 degrees - 90 degrees with the surface of the wood strip. In quartersawed strips the medullary rays or pith rays in ring porous woods are exposed as flecks which are reflective and produce a distinctive grain pattern


Recreation Room In older homes, a large room used for family recreation and social gatherings

Romex A sheathed and insulated bundle of two or more wires used to connect outlets, switches and light fixtures to an electrical panel. Replaced "knob and tube" wiring

Roommate A person who shares a room, apartment, or trailer house, with one or more other persons, as well as the monthly rent and housekeeping duties, as a "functional family"

Row House A single or multiple story residence that is fully attached on one or both sides to another, or other, such structure(s). Typically found in working class neighborhoods and poorer areas of larger cities

The upscale version of a row house is referred to as a "townhouse"


Salon A room used primarily for receiving and entertaining guests, and/or the exhibition of works of art

Screened Porch A porch of any size, on any floor of a private residence, cabin, hotel, or resort that is used for relaxing or socializing, and is entirely screened on all sides to maximize air circulation. Screened porches are quite common in the Mid-West and Southern U.S. states where bugs are a problem. Screened porches are not typically used for sleeping except in lake or mountain cabins.

Sheet Rock A brand of gypsum board which is applied in large sheets to walls and ceilings, and provides a smooth surface for wallpaper or paint. Another brand name is "Drywall"

Skylight A window, whether openable or not, installed between a ceiling and a roof that allows natural light to illuminate a room, but primarily does not provide a view of anything other than open sky. Typically skylights are made of frosted plastic or glass to diffuse direct sunlight (see also Clearstory)

Sleeping Porch A well-ventilated, usually screened porch, multi-windowed room, or gallery used as an occasional sleeping quarters. A sleeping porch most often has three outside walls of windows allowing for cross-ventilation, and is often located on an upper floor of a private residence adjacent to a bedroom. The sleeping porch was replaced by central air conditioning

A variant still in use is a screened porch

Soffit A decorative framed structure that completely encloses the unusable space between a ceiling and the tops of cabinets

A completely enclosed, narrow and shallow framed structure that steps the ceiling level down along a wall, on one or more sides of a room, and is either purely decorative or contains wiring and/or HVAC ducts

The underside of a structural component, such as beam, arch, staircase, or cornice

Commonly mistakenly referred to as a "bulkhead"

Strip Flooring Wood and wood veneer tongue & groove strips nailed directly to a plywood subfloor. Refer to "Hardwood Floor"

Structured Cable A bundle of various cables used to provide bi-directional communications and/or video between rooms and a communications panel

Stucco A durable finish for exterior walls, usually composed of cement, sand, and lime, and applied while wet. Stucco is commonly used in Southwestern U.S. states

A plaster or cement finish for interior walls

Stud / Wall Stud Typically a 1-3/4" by 3-3/4" by 6', 8', or 10' piece of wood called a "two-by-four" that is nailed vertically into position to form the structural part of a wall. Wood "four-by-fours" and metal studs are also used in framing

Studio Apartment Typically a single sleeping-living room with an attached bathroom and kitchen. Studio apartments are designed as a residence for one or two related or unrelated persons, generally located in a building with other such units that are rented or leased to the tenants. Refer to "Apartment"

Study A room, closed off from all other rooms, used primarily for reading, writing and studying. Another term for a "den"

Suite In a large private residence, mansion, resort, hotel or motor inn, a series of connected rooms designed as a self-contained luxury or semi-luxury living unit, and wholly separate from the remainder of the residence or building

An apartment in a large private residence, mansion, or palace

Sun Room A room used for relaxing or casual morning dining, and having many windows or with walls consisting primarily of windows, and often including glass ceilings or multiple skylights


Terrace A paved, stoned, or bricked surface, either (1) flush with or resting at grade with surrounding grade on all non-structure sides substantially and immediatley lower or higher, or (2) attached to a residential structure and sitting substantially above surrounding grade. Used primarily for dining, lounging, or recreation. Terraces typically are found adjoining larger homes, but are also found adjoining large apartment buildings and commercial buildings such as restaurants

A patio that is raised above the surrounding grade

A raised bank of earth having vertical or steeply sloping sides and a flat top; one of multiple such configurations of earth where the grade is stepped up or down a hillside

A flat, narrow strip of land, often having a steep slope above and below, facing a river or lake

Three-Way Switch One of two switches that is wired to a second switch at a different location, and together control one or more light fixtures, switched outlets, or fans. Refer to "One-Way Switch" and "Four-Way Switch"

Tongue & Groove In strip, plank, and parquet flooring made from strip, and some osaic parquet, a tongue is milled on one edge and a groove on the opposite edge. As the flooring is installed the tongue of each strip, slat, or unit is engaged with the groove of the adjacent strip or unit.

Townhouse A multiple story residence that is fully attached on one or both sides to another, or other, such structure(s)

An upscale "row house"

Trim The finish materials in a building, such as moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim), along the floor (baseboard, shoemold), or around the ceiling (cornice, picture molding, crown molding)

Triplex Three single or multiple story residences, with separate entrances, that are fully attached to each other

A structure with two such residences is referred to as a "duplex"

Tudor Style A term used to describe "Tudor Revival" a style of architecture that has it's roots in the Tudor Period of Great Britain. Similar in characteristics to English Norman. Tudor homes are distinguished by steep gabled roofs, and may include one or more of the following characteristics: brick facades, cross beam s embedded in stucco,



Valance An ornamental drapery hung across the top edge, as of a bed, table or canopy

A short drapery, decorative board, or metal strip mounted especially across the top of a window to conceal structural fixtures

Veranda A porch or balcony, usually roofed or seasonally covered in fabric, and sometimes partially enclosed, extending along the outside of a home or other building such as a hotel

Vestibule An enclosed or partially enclosed porch or entrance into a house. A short enclosed hall or antechamber next to the entrance. A small lobby or foyer not without doors or dividers between the vestibule and all adjacent areas and rooms


Wainscot A facing or paneling usually of wood or wood composite material, applied to the lower portion of the walls of a room providing a different material, color, and/or texture than the upper portions of the wall. Most often used in conjunction with a chair rail or capped with some other sort of molding

Walk-up An apartment or co-op that is located on an upper floor of an apartment building lacking an elevator

A building that has no elevator

Water Closet / "WC" A room or booth containing a toilet and a sink

In the U.S., a bathroom or powder room

Wood Laminate Floor A floor made of various thin layers of wood laminated together with an adhesive (as in plywood), typically with a higher quality layer of wood as the top surface, then cut to a desired width and length to form a plank or strip used as flooring

Wood Veneer Floor A floor made from a thin layer of high-quality wood laminated to the top surface of an inferior piece of solid wood, particle board, or oriented strand board (OSB), then cut to a desired width and length to form a plank or strip used as flooring



Yard A tract of ground next to, surrounding, or surrounded by (as in a courtyard), a building or buildings. Yards can consist of bare soil, weeds, grass, shrubbery & ground cover, or any combination thereof. Yards can also be bricked or paved, and can be fully or partially enclosed, or completely open

A tract of ground, whether planted in grass or paved, enclosed, partially enclosed, or open, and used for a specific business or activity, such as an exercise yard at a prison, or school yard

Any exterior area adjacent to a building that is used to regularly and consistently park one or more vehicles can NOT be considered a "yard" or a portion of a yard, especially if it consists of bare compacted soil, brick, asphalt, or concrete




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