Every Home Building Term You Need to Know Before Your Build

Jumping into the home building process comes with a whirlwind of new info. New lingo and tight deadlines add up to additional questions and, at times, uninformed buyer decisions. Get a step ahead on your build and study up on our recommended terms everyone should know before building their dream home!


Adjustable rate mortgage (ARM): A mortgage in which the interest rate is adjusted periodically based on a preselected index.

Aggregate: A mixture of sand and stone and a major component of concrete.

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

Balustrade: The rail, posts and vertical balusters along the edge of a stairway or elevated walkway.

Bat: A half-brick.

Blankets: Fiber-glass or rock-wool insulation that comes in long rolls 15 or 23 inches wide.

Cantilever: An overhang where one floor extends beyond and over a foundation wall.

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.

Cricket: A second roof built on top of the primary roof to increase the slope of the roof or valley.

Dado: A groove cut into a board or panel intended to receive the edge of a connecting board or panel.

Drip cap: A molding or metal flashing placed on the exterior topside of a door or window frame to cause water to drip beyond the outside of the frame.

Fixed Rate Mortgage: A mortgage with an interest rate that remains the same over the years.

Flagstone (flagging or flags): Flat stones (1 to 4 inches thick) used for walks, steps, floors, and vertical veneer (in lieu of brick).

Gable: The end, upper, triangular area of a home, beneath the roof.

Home run (electrical): The electrical cable that carries power from the main circuit breaker panel to the first electrical box, plug, or switch in the circuit.

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

Knot: In lumber, the portion of a branch or limb of a tree that appears on the edge or face of the piece.

Lath: A building material of narrow wood, metal, gypsum, or insulating board that is fastened to the frame of a building to act as a base for plaster, shingles, or tiles.

Leech field: A method used to treat/dispose of sewage in rural areas not accessible to a municipal sewer system.

Louver: A vented opening into the home that has a series of horizontal slats and arranged to permit ventilation but to exclude rain, snow, light, insects, or other living creatures.

Lumens: Unit of measure for total light output.

Mortise: A slot cut into a board, plank, or timber, usually edgewise, to receive the tenon (or tongue) of another board, plank, or timber to form a joint.

Mudsill: Bottom horizontal member of an exterior wall frame which rests on top a foundation, sometimes called sill plate.

Muntin: A small member which divides the glass or openings of sash or doors.

Outrigger: An extension of a rafter beyond the wall line. Usually a smaller member nailed to a larger rafter to form a cornice or roof overhang.

Pad out, pack out: To shim out or add strips of wood to a wall or ceiling in order that the finished ceiling/wall will appear correct.

Parapet: A wall placed at the edge of a roof to prevent people from falling off.

Pitch: The incline slope of a roof or the ratio of the total rise to the total width of a house.

PITI: Principal, interest, taxes and insurance (the four major components of monthly housing payments).

Pressure Relief Valve (PRV): A device mounted on a hot water heater or boiler which is designed to release any high steam pressure in the tank to prevent tank explosions.

Roughing-in: The initial stage of a plumbing, electrical, heating, carpentry, and/or other project, when all components that won’t be seen after the second finishing phase are assembled.

Scribing: Cutting and fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.

Sash: A single light frame containing one or more lights of glass.

Seasoning: Drying and removing moisture from green wood in order to improve its usability.

Slag: Concrete cement that sometimes covers the vertical face of the foundation void material.

Slump: The “wetness” of concrete.

Stack (trusses): To position trusses on the walls in their correct location.

Stick built: A house built without prefabricated parts.

Truss: An engineered and manufactured roof support member with “zig-zag” framing members.

Vermiculite: A mineral used as bulk insulation and also as aggregate in insulating and acoustical plaster and in insulating concrete floors.

Zone: The section of a building that is served by one heating or cooling loop because it has noticeably distinct heating or cooling needs.


The world of custom home building is an extensive field that requires years of experience to not only master the lingo, but the craft as well. If you’re looking to build your dream home, trust a builder that is an expert in the field with proven, award-winning work. And when you’re ready to make that decision, we’d love to sit down with you to discuss your plans! Just give us a call at 210-408-7613 or click the button below to schedule a meeting!

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