Glossary of Home Inspection Terminology

A

AMPERE (AMP):

A unit of electrical current

APERTURE:

An opening (such as in a pipe)

ASBESTOS:

A naturally occurring silicate mineral. Historically it was used in building materials, however it is a health risk if inhaled. Professional abatement is suggested

AWNING WINDOWS

A window with hinges at the top, typically for openings where the width is greater than the height

B

BASEBOARD:

A board, usually wood or vinyl, that covers the lowest part of an interior wall

BASEBOARD HEAT:

A ductless heating system, either electric or hot water, that runs along the base of the wall

BREAKER PANEL:

A box containing he main distribution point for electrical circuits in your home

BUILDING CODE:

The local, state and federal regulations that pertain to building design, construction, repairs, materials, etc. in order to protect public health and safety

BUCKLING:

The warping of a building material, such as flooring, as a result of uneven contact with moisture

C

CASEMENT WINDOWS:

A window with hinges on the side that allows it to open out from the window frame

CAULKING:

Material and process used to fill joint, seams, gaps and cracks in a variety of building materials

CIRCUIT BREAKER:

A safety switch for electrical systems that will automatically cut a circuit when an unusual condition, such as a lightning strike or malfunctioning appliance, arises

CLASS B DOOR:

A door with a UL fire resistance rating of 90 minutes

CPVC:

PVC piping that has been chlorinated to make it more flexible and able to withstand a greater temperature range, making it ideal for carrying potable water

CRAWL SPACE:

An area with limited space either under a house or a roof to give access to wiring and plumbing

CUT-OFF VALVES:

A device that will restrict or stop the flow of water in the home without stopping flow to the entire house; generally located at the point of use, such as underneath a sink

D

DAMPER:

A simple device inside your air duct that direct air flow to different areas of your home

DISPOSER:

An electric food grinder located before your drain that chops waste to allow disposal through your plumbing without clogging

DORMER:

A roofed structure containing a window that protrudes beyond the sloped roofline

DOUBLE HUNG WINDOW:

A window in which both sashes move and tilt so windows can be opened from the bottom or top

DRYWALL:

A type of board used on the interior walls of homes made of gypsum

DUCTWORK:

A network of ducts used to carry air through the home

E

EAVES:

The potion of roof that meets or overhangs the walls of a house

EXHAUST FAN:

Vents interior by extracting excess heat or moisture and expelling it outside

F

FLASHING:

Sheet metal used to prevent water entry around roof junctions and chimneys

FLUE:

A duct for smoke and waste gases produced by a fire or other fueling burning installations such as fireplaces

FOOTINGS:

Support for the foundation of a structure, commonly concrete and rebar poured into an excavated hole or trench

FORCED AIR FURNACE:

A unit that produces heat and transfers it through air, which is then circulated through the home

FOUNDATION:

The base part of the structure upon which all the construction is built

FUSE BOX:

A box which contains the home’s fuses which regulate electrical current in the house

G

GROUND FAULT INTERRUPTER (GFI):

A safety device that protects from electrical shock by quickly breaking a circuit

GUTTER/DOWNSPOUT:

A trough attached to the eave to direct water away from the foundation of a home

H

HEARTH:

The fireproof floor of a fireplace or area in front of it

HEAT EXCHANGER:

A series of tubes or coils in a furnace that heat the breathing air in a furnace

HEAT PUMP:

A reverse cycle refrigeration unit that both heats and cools.

HOT WATER HEATING SYSTEM:

A boiler and pump system that send heated water through a series of pipes to heat the home

HVAC:

Heating, ventilating and air conditioning system

 

I

INSULATION:

Material such as fiberglass, cellulose and foam placed strategically in the home to reduce energy loss

J

JOISTS:

Parallel horizontal timber or steel beams that support a floor or ceiling

L

LATHING:

Slats of narrow wood used under plaster as the base for mainly interior walls

LEAD:

A hazardous material potentially found in older homes in pipes or paint. The local environmental protection agency should be contacted about applicable laws, handling and disposing

M

MASONRY:

Stonework, brickwork, or other construction using similar materials

MEMBER:

Parts of the framing and foundation of a structure such as studs or wall plates

MORTAR:

A workable paste mixture used to bond brick or stone

MOLDING:

Decorative strip of material used to cover joints between surfaces such as floors and walls

P

PARAPET WALL:

A low protective barrier along the edge of a roof, bridge or balcony

PARQUET FLOORS:

A mosaic of geometric wood pieces to create a decorative floor covering

POINTING UP:

The removal and replacement of mortar between bricks

POLYBUTYLENE:

An older form of water piping used for both interior piping and the main waterline to the street that often have problems with leaking or failure

R

R-VALUE:

The capacity of  insulation to resist heat flow. The greater the r-value, the greater the greater the resistance

RADIANT HEATING SYSTEM:

A electric home heating system that supplies heat directly to the floor or to panels installed on the wall or ceiling

RADON:

A colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can cause cancer with prolonged exposure. Homes should be tested for radon and the state radon office should be contacted regarding mitigation

RAFTER:

Structural timbers or beams that support  a roof, spanning from the exterior wall to the peak of the roof

REGISTERS:

A grille with moving parts used to regulate the flow of air from a central HVAC system

RETAINING WALL:

A vertical structure used to support a soil mass at two different levels on the two sides of the wall

S

SASH:

The moveable framework that hold glass in a window or door

SETTLING:

The gradual sinking of a home over time due to numerous factors

SHINGLE:

A thin piece of building material used as a covering for roofs or other surfaces of the home

SIDING:

Cladding material on the outside walls of a home such as aluminum, vinyl or wood

SILL:

A shelf at the base of a window or doorway made of wood, stone or metal  that is slanted downward

SLAB:

A concrete foundation poured directly onto the earth that does not have a crawl space underneath

SOFFIT:

Underside of the eaves of a roof

SOLAR HEAT:

Passive or active heat created by gathering of solar energy, either through windows or a solar collector

SUMP PUMP:

A pump used to remove water that has collected in the sump basin to the outside of a home

T

THERMOSTAT:

A device that automatically regulates the temperature, usually having to do with an HVAC system

THRESHOLD:

A strip of building material such as metal, wood or stone, located across the bottom of a doorway

U

UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION:

A type of expanding foam insulation that can emit formaldehyde gas, often found in homes built before the 1970’s.

W

WEATHER -STRIPPING:

The sealing of gaps around windows, door and other openings to prevent loss of energy

WINDOW WELL:

A open area maintained between a below grade window and the surrounding soil

Z

ZONE:

A system to control the temperature for each area of a structure