Home Inspection Glossary

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T UV W X Y Z

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 also removes the heat from the Freon gas and turns the gas back into a liquid, and pumps the fluid back to the coil in the furnace.

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

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

Adverse Conditions –  A condition determined by the contractual scope of the inspection and which is producing a detrimental effect on systems or components. 

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

 Air Filters – Adhesive filters made of metal or various fibers coated with an adhesive liquid to which lint and dust particles adhere. Furthermore, 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.

Angle Stop – A shutoff valve in which the inlet connects to the water supply pipe in the wall and the outlet angles 90 degrees upward toward the faucet or toilet.

Aperture – The opening in a pipe.

Appliance – A household device or piece of equipment designed to perform a specific task. 

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

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

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

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

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 Backflow PreventerA device or means to prevent backflow into the potable water supply.

Barometer – Instrument for measuring atmospheric pressure.

 Baseboard –  Usually, wood or vinyl is installed around the perimeter of a room to cover the space where the wall and floor meet.

 Baseboard Heat – A heating system with the heating unit located along the walls perimeter where the baseboard would nor be typically found. It can be either an electric or hot water system.

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

Beam – A supporting member either of wood or steel.  The Structural support member (steel, concrete, lumber) transversely supporting a load that transfers weight from one location to another.

 Blow Insulation – Fiber insulation in loose form is used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed.

 Boards – Yard lumber less than two inches thick and two or more inches wide.

 Bolster – A short horizontal timber or steel beam on top of a column to support and decrease the span of beams or girders

 Brace –An inclined piece of framing lumber applied to the wall or floor to stifled the structure. Often used on walls as temporary bracing until framing is complete.

 Breaker Box – A metal box containing circuit breakers or fuses  controls the electrical current in a home.

 Breaker Panel – The electrical box  distributes electric power entering the home to each branch circuit (each plug and switch) and composed of circuit breakers.

Breeze Way – A roofed, open-sided passageway connecting two structures, such as a house and a garage.

Bushing –  A pipe fitting for joining pipes with different diameters. A bushing is threaded on the inside and outside.

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Canopy – An overhanging roof.

Cantilever – A projecting beam or other structure supported only at one end. Any part of a structure that projects beyond its direct support and balanced on it.

 Cap – The upper member of a column, pilaster, door cornice, molding, and the like

 Casement Window –  A side-hinged window that opens on hinges and that is secured to the side of a window frame.

Casing –  Molding of various widths and thicknesses used to trim door and window openings at the jambs.

Cast Iron – Heavy metal formed by casting on molds. The metal is covered with a porcelain enamel coating to make fixtures such as the cast iron tubs.

 Cast-Iron Pipe (Plumbing) – Drain and vent lines. Most older drain-waste venting systems  of cast-iron pipes. Now increasingly supplanted by ABS and PVC. Pipes were originally joined with molten lead, but most plumbers now join them with no-hub couplers.

Caulking – Material used to seal exterior cracks and openings such as windows or foundations.

 Ceiling Joist –  One of a series of parallel framing members used to support ceiling loads and supported in turn by larger beams, girders or bearing walls

 Cellulose Insulation – Ground-up newspaper  treated with a fire retardant.

 Cement – The gray powder that is the “glue” in concrete. Portland cement. Also, any adhesive.

Ceramic Tile – A manufactured or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall and generally used in bathtub and shower enclosures and on counter tops.

 Circuit – A network of wiring that typically commences at a panel box, feeds electricity to outlets, and ultimately returns to the panel box.

 Circuit Breaker – A protective device that automatically opens an electrical circuit when it is overloaded.

 Cleanout – A plug in a trap or drainpipe that provides access to clear an obstruction.

 Cleanout (Plumbing) – A drain fitting, usually a wye or a tee, with a removable plug to permit inspection and access for an auger or snake.

 Cleat – A wedge-shaped piece (usually of metal) that serves as a support or check. A strip fastened across something to give strength or hold something in position.

Cold Air Return – The ductwork (and related grills) carries room air back to the furnace for re-heating.

 Collar – In roofing, a conical metal cap flashing is used in conjunction with vent pipes or stacks, usually located several inches above the plane of the roof to shed water away from the base of the vent.

Composite Board – An insulation board with two different insulation types laminated together in 2 or 3 layers.

 Compressor – A mechanical device that pressurizes gas and turns it into a liquid, allowing heat to be removed or added. A compressor is the main component of conventional heat pumps and air conditioners. In an air conditioning system, the compressor usually sits outside and has a large fan (to remove heat).

 Concrete Board – A panel made out of concrete and fiberglass usually used as a tile backing material.

 Coping Joint – The intersection of a roof slope and an exterior vertical wall.

 Corner Boards – Used as trim for the external corners of a house or other frame structure against which the ends of the siding are finished.

CPVC-  Plastic water piping.

 CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) –  Rigid plastic pipe used in water supply systems where code permits.

Crawlspace – A shallow open area between the floor of a building and the ground, usually enclosed by the foundation wall.

 Crown Molding – A molding used on cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered.

CSST Tubing – a yellow flexible pipe use to provide natural gas and propane to  homes.  

 Culvert –  Round, corrugated drain pipe (normally 15″ or 18″ in diameter) that is installed beneath a driveway parallel to and near the street.

 Cutoff Valves – Valves used to shut the water off, generally located under sinks or behind bathtub and shower access panels. They cut off hot and cold water at the source without cutting all water off throughout the house.

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Damper – An air valve that regulates airflow inside the flue of a furnace or fireplace.

Deck –  An elevated platform. 

Doorjamb (Interior) – The surrounding case into which and out of which a door closes and opens. It consists of two upright pieces, called side jambs and a horizontal head jamb.

 Dormer – A converted attic with windows projecting through a sloping roof.

 Double Hung Window – A window with sashes that slide vertically and open from the top and bottom.

 Downspout – The pipe that carries water down from the gutter or scupper. Also called a leader.

Drywall – A gypsum board material used for walls or ceilings.

 Duct – A cylindrical or rectangular “tube” used to move air either from exhaust or intake and  distribute warm air from the heating plant to rooms, or air from a conditioning device or as cold air returns. 

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Eave – The part of the roof which extends beyond the side wall.

Examine(d) – To evaluate  the readily accessible and safely accessible systems and components of a home following the contractual scope of the inspection. 

Exhaust Fan – Extract’s air or excess heat from the interior of a home

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Façade – The front of a building. Frequently, in architectural terms, an artificial or decorative effort.

 Fascia – A flat, horizontal board enclosing the overhang under the eave.

 Fasteners – A general term covering a wide variety of screws and nails, which are used for  securing various components of a building.

 Faucet – A device by which a flow of liquid or gas from a pipe or container can be controlled; a tap. 

 Fire Block – Short horizontal members sometimes nailed between studs, usually about halfway up a wall.

Fire Stop  – A solid, tight closure of a concealed space, placed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through such a space. In a frame wall, this will usually consist of 2x4s cross blocking between studs.

 Fire Wall – Any wall built to restrict or prevent the spread of fire in a building. Such walls of solid masonry or concrete generally sub-divide a building from the foundations to two or more feet above the plane of the roof.

 Fitting – A general term usually refers to faucets, shower valves, tub fillers, or various piping parts such as tees or elbows.

Fixture – In plumbing, the devices that supply water or its disposal, e.g., sinks, tubs, toilets

Flashing – Material used around any angle in a roof or wall to prevent leakage.

 Flex Hose – A flexible pipe or tube usually made of braided stainless steel. Its commonly used with widespread or Roman tub faucets to provide variable centers.

 Floating Wall – A non-bearing wall built on a concrete floor.  Constructed so that the bottom two horizontal plates can compress or pull apart if the concrete floor moves up or down. Typically built on basements and garage slabs.

Flue – A pipe used to exhaust smoke, gas, or air.

 Fluorescent Lighting – A fluorescent lamp is a gas-filled glass tube with a phosphor coating on the inside, generally with two pins that extend from each end. 

 Flush Valve – The valve is separating the water in the tank from the bowl.

Footing – The underground support for a foundation or support post.

 Footings – Wide pours of cement reinforced with re-bar (reinforcing bar) supporting foundation walls, pillars, or posts. Footings are part of the foundation and  poured before the foundation walls.

 Forced Air Heating – A common form of heating with natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity as a fuel. Air is heated in the furnace and distributed through a set of metal plastic ducts to various areas of the home.

 Foundation – The supporting portion of a structure below the first- floor construction, or below grade, including the footings.

Framing – The structural wood and/or metal elements of most homes. 

 Free-Tab Shingles – Shingles that do not contain factory-applied strips or spots of self-sealing adhesive. See also self-sealing shingles.

Furnace – is a heating unit used to heat up an entire building and are a major component of a central heating system.

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 Gable – is a triangular portion of a wall between the edges of intersecting roof pitches. The shape of the gable and how it is detailed depends on the structural system used, which reflects climate, material availability, and aesthetic concerns.Gas

 Gas Lateral – The trench or area in the yard where the gas line service is located, or the work of installing the gas service to a home.

 Gaskets – Pre-formed shapes, such as strips, grommets, etc., of rubber or rubber-like composition, used to fill and seal a joint or opening either alone or in conjunction with a supplemental application of a sealant.

Glass –A hard, brittle substance, usually transparent, made by fusing silicates under high temperatures with soda, lime, etc.

Gravel – Loose fragments of rock used for surfacing built-up roofs, in sizes varying from 1/8″ to 1¾.”

Grid – The completed assembly of main and cross tees in a suspended ceiling system before the ceiling panels are installed. Also, the decorative slats (munton) are installed between glass panels.0

Grounding Rod – a rod used to ground an electrical panel.

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Hardware – are metal accessories such as door knobs, towel bars, toilet paper holders, etc.

 Hatch –  An opening in a deck, floor, or roof. The usual purpose is to provide access from inside the building.

Header – A beam placed perpendicular to joists and to which joists are nailed in framing for a chimney, stairway, or other opening

 Hearth – The inner or outer floor of a fireplace and is usually made of brick, tile, or stone.

 Heat Pump – A device that uses compression and decompression of gas to heat or cool a house.

 Hinge –  A jointed or flexible device that allows the turning or pivoting of a part, such as a door or a lid, on a stationary frame.

Home Inspection –  A home inspection is a visual examination of the home’s major systems and focuses on the home’s condition rather than code or design issues.

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Incandescent Lamp – A lamp employing an electrically charged metal filament that glows at white heat. A typical light bulb.

Inspect – to view closely or look over.

Insulation – Generally, any material which slows down or retards the flow or transfer of heat. Building insulation types are classified according to form as loose-fill, flexible, rigid, reflective, and foamed-in-place. All types are rated according to their ability to resist heat flow (R-Value). In electrical contracting, rubber, thermoplastic, or asbestos wire covering. The  insulation thickness varies with wire size and type of material, application or other code limitations.

 Insulation Board – A rigid structural building board made of coarse wood, or cane fiber.

Irrigation – Lawn sprinkler system

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

 Joint – The space between the adjacent surfaces of two members or components joined and held together by nails, glue, cement, mortar, or other means.

 Joist – Any small timbers or metal beams ranged from wall to wall in a structure to support a floor or ceiling.

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Keeper – The metal latch plate in a door frame into which a doorknob plunger latches.

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 Ladder, Fixed – A ladder which is permanently attached to a building.

 Laminated Glass – Consists of two or more  glass lights permanently bonded together with one or more inter-layers.

Landing – A platform between flights of stairs or at the termination of a flight of stairs.

 Lavatory – Bathroom or washroom sink.

 Light Fixture- an electrical device that contains an electric lamp.

Load Bearing Wall – A wall that supports its own weight and some other structural elements of the house, such as the roof and ceiling structures.

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Main Vent (or Stack) – Principal vent to which branch vents may be connected. See Stack.

Mantel – The shelf above a fireplace. 

Manufactured Wood – A wood product such as a truss, beam, Glue Lam, or joist is manufactured out of smaller wood pieces and glued or mechanically fastened to form a larger piece. .

Masonry – Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, gypsum block, or other similar building units or materials or a combination of the same, bonded together with mortar to form a wall, pier, buttress, or similar.

Molding – A wood strip having a coned or projecting surface used for decorative purposes, e.g., door and window trim.

 Monitor – A large structure rising above the surrounding roof planes, designed to give light and ventilation to the building interior.

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Neutral Wire – Usually color-coded white, the neutral wire carries electricity from an outlet to the service panel. .

Non-Bearing Wall are walls inside a property that do not support any structural weight of a building. They do not bear any other weight of the property’s structure other than its own

Not Applicable – Not present or outside the contractual scope of the inspection.

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O-ring – Rubber washer or gasket that is compressed to create a watertight seal, typically in a compression fitting

Overhang – The part of the roof structure which extends horizontally beyond the vertical plane of the exterior walls of a building

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Padding – A material installed under carpet to add foot comfort, isolate sound, and prolong carpet life.

Panel – In house construction, a thin flat piece of wood, plywood, or similar material, framed by stiles and rails as in a door or fitted into grooves of thicker material with molded edges for the decorative wall treatment.

Pier –  is a raised structure that rises above a body of water and juts out from its shore, supported by piles or pillars.

Plumbing Stack –  A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.

Plywood – A piece of wood made of three or more layers of veneer joined with glue and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles. Almost always, an odd number of plies are used to provide balanced construction.

Post – A vertical member of wood, steel, concrete, or other material that transfers weight from the top of the post to whatever the post is resting on.

Pressure-Relief Valve – Valve to relieve excess pressure in water storage tanks.

Putty – A type of cement usually made of whiting and boiled linseed oil, beaten or kneaded to the consistency of dough, and used in sealing glass in sash, filling small holes and crevices in wood, and for similar purposes.

 PVC or CPVC (PolyVinyl Choride)  – A type of white plastic pipe sometimes used for water supply lines.

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Quarry Tile – A man-made or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall. Generally 6″X6″X1/4″ thick .

 Quarter Round –  A small molding that has the cross section of a quarter circle.

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Radiator – Radiators are heat exchangers used to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another for the purpose of cooling and heating.

Radon System – actively removes radon gas from our home, usually by removing the gas from below the building and expelling it above and away from the home.

Readily Accessible – Able to be examined without requiring the inspector to move, remove, damage, or disturb any wall, floor, ceiling, or window coverings, interior or exterior claddings, or finish treatments.

Receptacle – An electrical outlet. 

Reflective Insulation – Sheet material with one or both sun faces of comparatively low heat emissivity, such as aluminum foil. When used in building construction the surfaces face air spaces, reducing the radiation across the air space.

Remote – Remote electrical, gas, or water meter digital readouts that are installed near the front of the home in order for utility companies to easily read the home owners usage of the service.

Resilient Flooring
A durable floor cover that has the ability to resume its original shape.

 Retaining Wall – A structure that holds back a slope and prevents erosion.

Return – In heating and cooling systems, a vent that returns cold air to be warmed. In a hot air furnace system, it is located near an inside wall.

 Riser – vertical boards closing the spaces between the treads of stairways.

 Root Cellar – Food storage area with a dirt floor.

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Safely Accessible -Able to be examined without the risk to the inspector or others without risk of damage to any item, of personal or property and not requiring disassembly or the use  of any special protective clothing, tools, or equipment. 

Sewage Ejector –A pump used to ‘lift’ waste water to a gravity sanitary sewer line. Usually used in basements and other locations which are situated bellow the level of the side sewer.

 Sewer Lateral – The sanitary sewer connects the interior waste water lines to the main sewer lines. The side sewer is usually buried in several feet of soil and runs from the house to the sewer line. It is usually ‘owned’ by the sewer utility, maintained by the owner, and may only be serviced by utility- approved contractors. Sometimes called side sewer.

 Sheathing – Is a  structural covering, usually wood boards, plywood, gypsum, or wood fiber, used over studs or rafters of framed buildings as the first layer of outer wall covering nailed to the studs or rafters.

 Shingles – Roof covering of asphalt, wood, tile, slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths, and thicknesses,  laid in a series of overlapping rows as a roof covering on pitched roofs.

Shutoff Valve – The valve that allows water supply to be cut off to one fixture without affecting the water supply to the entire house or building. Standard use with clawfoot tubs, sinks, and toilets.

 Siding – The finish covering of the outside wall of a frame building, whether made of horizontal weatherboards, vertical boards with battens, shingles, or other material.

 Skylight –  A structure on a roof that is designed to admit light and is somewhat above the  roof surface plane.

 Slab – a large, thick, flat piece of stone, concrete or wood, typically rectangular.

Soffit – The underside of an overhanging cornice of a building extending out from the plane of the building walls.

 Stair Carriage – Supporting member for stair treads. Usually a 2-inch plank notched to receive the treads; sometimes called a “rough horse.”

Stem – A small shaft or rod that projects through the faucet valve and to which the handle is installed.

Storm Door –  a glazed panel  or sash placed inside or outside an existing sash  or window as additional protection against the elements.

 Storm Window – A glazed panel or sash placed on the inside or outside of an existing sash or window as additional protection against the elements.

 Structural Floor – A framed lumber floor that is installed as a basement floor instead of concrete. 

 Stud – One of a series of wood or metal vertical structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions.

Subfloor – Boards or plywood laid on joists over which a finished floor is to be laid.

 Sump – Pit or large plastic bucket/barrel inside the home designed to collect ground water from a perimeter drain system.

 SSump Pump – submersible pump in a sump pit that pumps any excess ground water to the outside of the home.

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 Tail Beam A relatively short beam or joist supported in a wall on one end and by a header at the other.

Tee – A T-shaped fitting with three openings

Thermal Insulation – Any material high in resistance to heat transmission that, when placed in the walls, ceiling, or floors of a structure, will reduce the rate of heat flow.

 Thermostat – A device that relegates the temperature of a room or building by switching heating or cooling equipment on or off.

 Threshold – A strip of wood or metal with beveled edges used over the finish floor and the sill of exterior doors.

 Tongue and Groove – A type of flooring where the tongue of one board is joined to the groove of another board.

 Torching – Applying direct flame to a membrane for the purpose of melting, heating or

Trim – The finish materials in a building, such as moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim) or at the floor and ceiling of rooms (baseboard, cornice, and other moldings).

 Truss – A frame or jointed structure designed to act as a beam of long span, while each member is usually subjected to longitudinal stress only—either tension or compression.

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Undercounter – A style lavatory that is positioned under the cutout of the countertop

 Underground Plumbing -The plumbing drain and waste lines that are installed beneath a basement floor.

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 Valve – A device to stop, start or regulate the flow of liquid or gas through or from piping.

 Vapor Barrier – A membrane  placed between the insulation and the roof deck to retard water vapor in the building from entering the insulation and condensing into liquid water.

 Vent – A pipe or duct which allows the flow of air as an inlet or outlet.

 Vent Pipe – A vertical pipe of relatively small dimensions which protrudes through a roof to provide for the ventilation of gasses.

 Vent Stack – A vertical vent pipe installed to provide air circulation  to and from any part of a drainage system.

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 Walkways – Designated areas for foot traffic.

Weather Strip – Jamb-width or narrower sections of thin metal or other material to prevent air and moisture infiltration around windows and doors. Compression weather stripping prevents air infiltration, provides tension, and acts as a counterbalance.

 Weep Hole – A hole that allows for drainage of entrapped water from masonry or glazing structures.

Well Casing Head –  A heavy, flanged steel fitting connected to the first string of casing.

 Whole House Fan – A fan designed to move air through and out of a home and normally installed in the ceiling.

 Window Frame – The stationary part of a window unit; the window sash fits into the window frame.

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 Y – A “Y” shaped plumbing fitting.

Yoke – The location where a home’s water meter is installed between two copper pipes, and located in the water meter pit in the yard.

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Z-Bar Flashing – Bent galvanized metal flashing installed above a horizontal trim board of an exterior window, door, or brick run. It prevents water from getting behind the trim/brick and into the home.

Zone
The section of a building served by one heating or cooling loop because it has noticeably distinct heating or cooling needs. Also, the section of the property will be watered from a lawn sprinkler system.

Zone Valve
A device, usually placed near the heater or cooler,  controls the flow of water or steam to parts of the building a zone thermostat controls it.

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