Glossary & Definitions

September 28, 2016

 
A

A/C: An abbreviation for air conditioner or air conditioning.

A/C Circuit: Alternating Current. The flow of current through a conductor first in one direction, then in reverse. It is used exclusively in residential and commercial wiring because it provides greater flexibility in voltage selection and simplicity of equipment design.

A/C Condenser: The outside fan unit of the air conditioning system. It removes the heat from the Freon gas and turns the gas back into a liquid and pumps the liquid back to the coil in the furnace.

A/C Disconnect: The main electrical ON-OFF switch near the A/C condenser.

Above Grade Wall: A wall more that is mostly above grade and enclosing conditioned space.

ABS: (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) Rigid black plastic pipe used only for drain lines.

Absolute Humidity: Amount of moisture in the air, indicated in grains per cubic foot

Accelerator: Any material added to stucco, plaster or mortar which speeds up the natural set.

Access: That which enables a device, appliance or equipment to be reached.

Access Panel: An opening in the wall or ceiling near the fixture that allows access for servicing the plumbing/electrical system.

Accessibility: Level of access a building offers people with disabilities.

Accessible: Can be approached or entered by the inspector safely, without difficulty, fear or danger.

Accessory Structure: An additional building to the primary building.

Acre: 43,560 square feet.

Acrylic: A glassy thermoplastic material that is vacuum-formed to cast and mold shapes that form the surface of fiberglass bathtubs, whirlpools, shower bases, and shower stalls.

Activate: To turn on, supply power, or enable systems, equipment, or devices to become active by normal operating controls. Examples include turning on the gas or water supply valves to the fixtures and appliances and activating electrical breakers or fuses.

Actual Dimension (Lumber): The exact measurement of lumber after it has been cut, dried and milled.

Actual Knowledge: The knowledge possessed by an individual as opposed to that discovered through document review.

Adaptor: A fitting that unites different types of pipe together, e.g. ABS to cast iron pipe.

Addition: An extension or increase in the conditioned space of a building.

Adhesion: The property of a coating or sealant to bond to the surface to which it is applied.

Adhesive Failure: Loss of bond of a coating or sealant from the surface to which it is applied.

Adverse Conditions: Conditions that may be dangerous for the inspector and may limit the walk-through survey portion of the inspection.

Adversely Affect: Constitute, or potentially constitute, a negative or destructive impact.

Aerator: An apparatus that mixes air into flowing water. It is screwed onto the end of a faucet spout to help reduce splashing.

Aggregate: Crushed stone, slag or water-worn gravel that comes in a wide range of sizes which is used to surface built-up roofs.

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 Duct: Ducts, usually made of sheet metal, that carry cooled or heated air to all rooms.

Air Filters: Adhesive filters made of metal or various fibers that are coated with an adhesive liquid to which particles of lint and dust adhere. These filters will remove as much as 90% of the dirt if they do not become clogged. The more common filters are of the throwaway or disposable type.

Air Infiltration: The amount of air leaking in and out of a building through cracks in walls, windows and doors.

Air Intake: An opening in a building's envelope whose purpose is to allow outside air to be drawn in to replace inside air.

Air Space: The area between insulation facing and interior of exterior wall coverings. Normally a 1" air gap.

Air-Dried Lumber: Lumber that has been piled in yards or sheds for any length of time. For the United States as a whole, the minimum moisture content of thoroughly air dried lumber is 12 to 15 percent and the average is somewhat higher. In the South, air dried lumber may be no lower than 19 percent.

Airway: A space between roof insulation and roof boards provided for movement of air.

Aisle: An exit access component that provides a path of egress travel.

Alarm Signal: A signal indicating an emergency, such as a fire, requiring immediate action.

Alarm System: Warning devices, installed or free-standing, including but not limited to: carbon monoxide detectors, flue gas and other spillage detectors, security equipment, ejector pumps and smoke alarms.

Algae: Microorganisms that may grow to colonies in damp environments, including certain rooftops. They can discolor shingles. Often described as "fungus."

Alligatoring: A condition of paint or aged asphalt brought about by the loss of volatile oils and the oxidation caused by solar radiation. Causes a coarse checking pattern characterized by a slipping of the new paint coating over the old coating to the extent that the old coating can be seen through the fissures. "Alligatoring" produces a pattern of cracks resembling an alligator hide and is ultimately the result of the limited tolerance of paint or asphalt to thermal expansion or contraction.

Allowable Span: The distance between two supporting points for load bearing lumber such as joists, rafters or a girder.

Allowance(s): A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items which have not been selected and specified in the construction contract. Best kept to a minimum number and used for items whose choice will not impact earlier stages of the construction. For example, selection of tile because flooring may require an alternative framing or underlayment material. (Also, money that your parents give you as a child.)

Alteration: Any construction or renovation to an existing structure other than a repair or addition. Also, a change in a mechanical system.

Aluminum Wire: A conductor made of aluminum for carrying electricity. Aluminum is generally limited to the larger wire sizes. Due to its lower conductivity, aluminum wire smaller than No. 12 is not made. Aluminum is lighter and less expensive than copper, but does not conduct as well. It also breaks easily.

Amateurish Workmanship: Construction and/or repairs made in a sub-standard way and/or using inferior materials. Many times these items have been completed by an uninformed home owner.

Amortization: A payment plan by which a loan is reduced through monthly payments of principal and interest.

Ampacity: Refers to the how much current a wire can safely carry. For example, a 12 gauge electrical copper wire can safely carry up to 20 amps.

Amperage: The rate of flow of electricity through wire - measured in terms of amperes.

Amps (AMPERES): The rate at which electricity flows through a conductor.

Anchor Bolts: In residential construction, bolts used to secure a wooden sill plate to a concrete or masonry floor or wall. In commercial construction, bolts which fasten columns, girders or other members to concrete or masonry such as bolts used to anchor sills to masonry foundation.

Angle Iron: A piece of iron that forms a right angle and is used to span openings and support masonry at the openings. In brick veneer, they are used to secure the veneer to the foundation. Also known as shelf angle.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Annual cost of credit over the life of a loan, including interest, service charges, points, loan fees, mortgage insurance, and other items.

Anti-Scald: A valve that restricts water flow to help prevent burn injuries. See Pressure Balancing Valve and Thermostatic Valve. In some areas, plumbing codes require anti-scald valves. Speak to a professional in your area for more information and help with code requirements.

Anti-Siphon: A device that prevents waste water from being drawn back into supply lines and possibly contaminating the water supply.

Antiquated: No longer in use, useful or functioning, as in most home inspection associations. Obsolete.

APA Plywood: (APA=American Plywood Association) Plywood that has been rated by the American Plywood Association. For example, number one APA rated exterior plywood contains no voids between laminate layers.

Appliance: A household device operated by use of electricity or gas. Not included in this definition are components covered under central heating, central cooling or plumbing.

Appears Serviceable: The item appeared to be in working or usable condition with no major discrepancies noted.

Appraisal: An expert valuation of property.

Approach: The area between the sidewalk and the street that leads to a driveway or the transition from the street as you approach a driveway.

Approved: Acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction. Also, accepted by an internationally recognized organization such as ASHI and/or NAHI

Apron: A trim board that is installed beneath a window sill.

Arbitration Service: A service to resolve complaints.

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter: A device intended to provide protection from the effects of arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected.

Architect: A tradesman who designs and produces plans for buildings, often overseeing the building process.

Architectural Service: Any practice involving the art and science of building design for construction of any structure or grouping of structures and the use of space within and surrounding the structures or the design, design development, preparation of construction contract documents, and administration of the construction contract

Areaway: An open subsurface space adjacent to a building used to admit light/air or as a means of access to a basement.

Asbestos: A common form of magnesium silicate which was used in various construction products due to its stability and resistance to fire. Asbestos exposure (caused by inhaling loose asbestos fibers) is associated with various forms of lung disease. The name given to certain inorganic minerals when they occur in fibrous form. Though fire-resistant, its extremely fine fibers are easily inhaled, and exposure to them over a period of years has been linked to cancers of the lung or lung-cavity lining and to asbestosis a severe lung impairment. A naturally occurring mineral fiber sometimes found in older homes. It is hazardous to your health when a possibility exists of exposure to inhalable fibers. Homeowners should be alert for friable (readily crumbled, brittle) asbestos and always seek professional advice in dealing with it.

Asphalt: A dark brown to black highly viscous hydrocarbon produced from the residue left after the distillation of petroleum. Asphalt is used on roofs and highways as a waterproofing agent.

Asphalt Plastic Cement: An asphalt-based cement used to bond roofing materials.

Assessment: A tax levied on a property, or a value placed on the worth of a property.

Astragal: A molding which is attached to one of a pair of swinging doors against which the other door strikes.

Attic Access: An opening that is placed in the dry-walled ceiling of a home providing access to the attic.

Attic Ventilators: In houses, screened openings provided to ventilate an attic space. They are located in the soffit area as inlet ventilators and in the gable end or along the ridge as outlet ventilators. They can also consist of power-driven fans used as an exhaust system.

Auger: In carpentry, a wood-boring tool used by a carpenter to bore holes.

Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ): An organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. The AHJ is often the building owner, health department, insurance agent, or fire Marshall.

Automatic: That which provides a function without the necessity of human intervention.

Automatic Fire-Extinguishing System: A system of devices and equipment which automatically detects a fire and discharges in an attempt to put it out.

Automatic Sprinkler System: An automated sprinkler system for fire protection purposes.

Awning Window: A window with hinges at the top allowing it to open out and up.

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B

Backfill: The slope of the ground adjacent to the house. In any previously excavated area, i.e., the replacement of excavated earth into a trench around and against a basement foundation. In carpentry, the process of fastening together two pieces of board by gluing blocks of wood in the interior angle.

Backflow: Movement of water (or other liquid) in any direction other than that intended.

Back Pitch: When an item ( pipe, wasteline, flue, etc.) or area (porch, yard, patio, etc.) slopes in the opposite direction that is recommended for proper performance. Example; Rain water should flow away from a structure not towards it.

Backflow Preventer: A device or means to prevent backflow into the potable water supply.

Backsplash: A raised integral portion of a wall mount sink or lavatory located at the rear to protect the wall.

Balancing Damper: Baffle or plate used to control the volume of flowing air in a confined area.

Balcony: Exterior floor projecting from and supported by a structure without additional independent supports.

Balloon Framing: In carpentry, the lightest and most economical form of construction in which the studding and corner plates are set up in continuous lengths from the first floor line or sill to the roof plate to which all floor joists are fastened.

Balusters: Usually small vertical members in a railing used between a top rail and the stair treads or a bottom rail. Sometimes referred to as 'pickets' or 'spindles'.

Balustrade: A railing made up of balusters, top rail, and sometimes bottom rail, used on the edge of stairs, teal conies, and porches.

Barometer: Instrument for measuring atmospheric pressure.

Base Molding: Molding used to trim the upper edge of interior baseboard.

Base Shoe: Molding used next to the floor on interior base board. Sometimes called a carpet strip.

Baseboard: Usually wood or vinyl installed around the perimeter of a room to cover the space where the wall and floor meet. A board placed against the wall around a room next to the floor to properly finish between the floor and the plaster.

Baseboard Heat: A heating system with the heating unit located along the perimeter of the wall where the baseboard would normally be located. It can be either an electric or hot water system.

Basement: That portion of a building which is partly or completely below grade.

Basement Wall: A wall of a building that is mostly below grade.

Basket Strainer: Basket shaped strainer with holes allowing water to drain while catching food or other solids. Can also be closed to fill the sink with water.

Bathroom: A room containing plumbing fixtures such as a water closet, urinal, bathtub, or shower.

Batt Insulation: Strips of insulation, usually fiberglass, that fit between studs or other framing.

Batten: Narrow strips of wood used to cover joints or as decorative vertical members over plywood or wide boards.

Batter Board: One of a pair of horizontal boards nailed to posts set at the corners of an excavation, used to indicate the desired level, also used as a fastening for stretched strings to indicate outlines of foundation walls.

Bay Window: Any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building, either square or polygonal in plan.

Bead: In glazing, an applied sealant in a joint irrespective of the method of application, such as caulking bead, glazing bead, etc. Also a mol