Construction Definitions & Terms – Beginning with C and D

CO– An abbreviation for “Certificate of Occupancy“. This certificate is issued by the local municipality and is required before anyone can occupy and live within the home. It is issued only after the local municipality has made all inspections and allmonies and fees have been paid.

Caisson– A 10? or 12? diameter hole drilled into the earth and embedded into bedrock 3 – 4 feet. The structural support for a type of foundation wall, porch, patio, monopost, or other structure. Two or more “sticks” of reinforcing bars (rebar) are inserted into and run the full length of the hole and concrete is poured into the caisson hole

Cantilever- An overhang. Where one floor extends beyond and over a foundation wall. For example at a
fireplace location or bay window cantilever. Normally, not extending over 2 feet.

Cantilevered void– Foundation void material used in unusually expansive soils conditions. This void is “trapezoid” shaped and has vertical sides of 6? and 4? respectively.

Cap- The upper member of a column, pilaster, door cornice, molding, or fireplace.

Cap flashing- The portion of the flashing attached to a vertical surface to prevent water from migrating behind the base flashing.

Capital- The principal part of a loan, i.e. the original amount borrowed.

Capital and interest- A repayment loan and the most conventional form of home loan. The borrower pays an amount each month to cover the amount borrowed (or capital or principal) plus the interest charged on capital.

Capped rate- The mortgage interest rate will not exceed a specified value during a certain period of time, but it will fluctuate up and down below that level.

Casement- Frames of wood or metal enclosing part (or all) of a window sash. May be opened by means of hinges affixed to the vertical edges.

Casement Window- A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides and swings open like a normal door

Casing-Wood trim molding installed around a door or window opening.


(1) A flexible material used to seal a gap between two surfaces e.g. between pieces of siding or the corners in tub walls. 2) To fill a joint with mastic or asphalt plastic cement to prevent leaks.

CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate)- A pesticide that is forced into wood under high pressure to protect it from termites, other wood boring insects, and decay caused by fungus

Celotex ™– Black fibrous board that is used as exterior sheething.

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. Also called roof joists.

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

Ceramic tile- A man-made or machine-made clay tile used to finish a floor or wall. Generally used in bathtub and shower enclosures and on counter tops.

CFM (cubic feet per minute)- A rating that expresses the amount of air a blower or fan can move. The volume of air (measured in cubic feet) that can pass through an opening in one minute.

Chair rail- Interior trim material installed about 3-4 feet up the wall, horizontally.

Chalk line- A line made by snapping a taut string or cord dusted with chalk. Used for alignment purposes.

Change order- A written document which modifies the plans and specifications and/or the price of the construction Contract.

Chase- A framed enclosed space around a flue pipe or a channel in a wall, or through a ceiling for something to lie in or pass through.

Chink- To install fiberglass insulation around all exterior door and window frames, wall corners, and small gaps in the exterior wall.

Chip Board- A manufactured wood panel made out of 1?- 2? wood chips and glue. Often used as a substitute for plywood in the exterior wall and roof sheathing. Also called OSB (Oriented Strand Board) or wafer board.

Circuit- The path of electrical flow from a power source through an outlet and back to ground.

Circuit Breaker- A device which looks like a switch and is usually located inside the electrical breaker panel or circuit breaker box. It is designed to

(1) shut of the power to portions or all of the house and

(2) to limit the amount of power flowing through a circuit (measured in amperes).

110 volt household circuits require a fuse or circuit breaker with a rating of 15 or a maximum of 20 amps. 220 volt circuits may be designed for higher amperage loads e.g. a hot water heater may be designed for a 30 amp load
and would therefore need a 30 amp fuse or breaker.

Class “A”- Optimum fire rating issued by Underwriter’s Laboratories on roofing. The building codes in some areas require this type of roofing for fire safety.

Class “C”-Minimum fire rating issued by the Underwriters’ Laboratories for roofing materials.

Clean out- An opening providing access to a drain line. Closed with a threaded plug.

Clip ties- Sharp, cut metal wires that protrude out of a concrete foundation wall (that at one time held the foundation form panels in place).

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

Collar- Preformed flange placed over a vent pipe to seal the roofing above the vent pipe opening. Also called a vent sleeve.

Collar beam- Nominal 1- or 2-inch-thick members connecting opposite roof rafters. They serve to stiffen the roof structure.

Column- A vertical structural compression member which supports loads.

Combustion air- The duct work installed to bring fresh, outside air to the furnace and/or hot water heater. Normally 2 separate supplies of air are brought in: One high and One low.

Combustion chamber– The part of a boiler, furnace or woodstove where the burn occurs; normally lined with firebrick or molded or sprayed insulation.

Compression web– A member of a truss system which connects the bottom and top chords and which provides downward support.

Compressor- A mechanical device that pressurizes a gas in order to turn it into a liquid, thereby 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 normally sits outside and has a large fan (to remove heat).

Concrete- The mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel, and water. Used to make garage and basement floors, sidewalks, patios, foundation walls, etc. It is commonly reinforced with steel rods (rebar) or wire screening (mesh).

Concrete block – A hollow concrete ‘brick’ often 8? x 8? x 16? in size.

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

Condensation- Beads or drops of water (and frequently frost in extremely cold weather) that accumulate on the inside of the exterior covering of a building. Use of louvers or attic ventilators will reduce moisture condensation in attics. A vapor barrier under the gypsum lath or dry wall on exposed walls will reduce condensation.

Condensing unit – The outdoor component of a cooling system. It includes a compressor and condensing coil designed to give off heat.

Conditions, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC and Rs) – The standards that define how a property may be used and the protections the developer makes for the benefit of all owners in a subdivision.

Conduction- The direct transfer of heat energy through a material.

Conductivity- The rate at which heat is transmitted through a material.

Conduit, electrical- A pipe, usually metal, in which wire is installed.

Construction Contract – A legal document which specifies the what-when-where-how-how much and by whom in a construction project. A good construction contract will include:

  1. The contractors registration number.
  2. A statement of work quality such as ‘Standard Practices of the
    Trades’ or ‘according to Manufacturers Specifications’.
  3. A set of Blue Prints or Plans
  4. A construction timetable including starting and completion
  5. A set of Specifications
  6. A Fixed Price for the work, or a Time and Materials formula.
  7. A Payment Schedule.
  8. Any Allowances.
  9. A clause which outlines how any disputes will be resolved.
  10. A written Warrantee.

Construction drywall- A type of construction in which the interior wall finish is applied in a dry condition, generally in the form of sheet materials or wood paneling as contrasted to plaster.

Construction, frame- A type of construction in which the structural components are wood or depend upon a wood frame for support.

Continuity tester- A device that tells whether a circuit is capable of carrying electricity.

Contractor Definition- A company licensed to perform certain types of construction activities. In most states, the generals contractor’s license and some specialty contractor’s licenses don’t require of compliance with bonding, workmen’s compensation and similar regulations. Some of the specialty contractor licenses involve extensive training, testing and/or insurance requirements.

There are various types of contractors:

· General contractor – responsible for the execution, supervision and overall coordination of a project and may also perform some of the individual construction tasks. Most general contractors are not licensed to perform all specialty trades and must hire specialty contractors for such tasks, e.g. electrical, plumbing.

· Remodeling contractor – a general contractor who specializes in remodeling work.

· Specialty contractor – licensed to perform a specialty task e.g. electrical, side sewer, asbestos abatement.

· Sub contractor – a general or specialty contractor who works for another general contractor.

Control joint- Tooled, straight grooves made on concrete floors to “control” where the concrete should crack

Convection- Currents created by heating air, which then rises and pulls cooler air behind it. Also see radiation.

Conventional loan A mortgage loan not insured by a government agency (such as FHA or VA)

Convertibility The ability to change a loan from an adjustable rate schedule to a fixed rate schedule.

Cooling load- The amount of cooling required to keep a building at a specified temperature during the summer, usually 78° F, regardless of outside temperature.

Coped- Removing the top and bottom flange of the end(s) of a metal I-beam. This is done to permit it to fit within, and bolted to, the web of another I-beam in a “T” arrangement

Coped joint- Cutting and fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.

Corbel- The triangular, decorative and supporting member that holds a mantel or horizontal shelf.

Corner bead- A strip of formed sheet metal placed on outside corners of drywall before applying drywall ‘mud’.

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.

Corner braces– Diagonal braces at the corners of the framed structure designed to stiffen and strengthen the wall.

Cornice- Overhang of a pitched roof , usually consisting of a fascia board, a soffit and appropriate trim moldings.

Counter flashing- A metal flashing usually used on chimneys at the roofline to cover shingle flashing and used to prevent moisture entry.

Counterfort- A foundation wall section that strengthens (and generally perpendicular to) a long section of foundation wall

Course– A row of shingles or roll roofing running the length of the roof. Parallel layers of building materials such as bricks, or siding laid up horizontally.

Cove molding- A molding with a concave face used as trim or to finish interior corners.

Crawl space- A shallow space below the living quarters of a house, normally enclosed by the foundation wall and having a dirt floor.

Credit rating– A report ordered by a lender from a credit agency to determine a borrower’s credit habits.

Cricket- A second roof built on top of the primary roof to increase the slope of the roof or valley. A saddle-shaped, peaked construction connecting a sloping roof with a chimney. Designed to encourage water drainage away from the chimney joint.

Cripple- Short vertical “2 by 4’s or 6’s” frame lumber installed above a window or door.

Cross bridging- Diagonal bracing between adjacent floor joists, placed near the center of the joist span to prevent joists from twisting.

Cross Tee- Short metal “T” beam used in suspended ceiling systems to bridge the spaces between the main beams.

Crown molding- A molding used on cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered, especially at the roof and wall corner.

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

Cupping- A type of warping that causes boards to curl up at their edges.

Curb- The short elevation of an exterior wall above the deck of a roof. Normally a 2 by 6 box (on the roof) on which a skylight is attached.

Curb stop- Normally a cast iron pipe with a lid (@ 5? in diameter) that is placed vertically into the ground, situated near the water tap in the yard, and where a water cut-off valve to the home is located (underground). A long pole with a special end is inserted into the curb stop to turn off/on the water.

Cut-in brace- Nominal 2-inch-thick members, usually 2 by 4’s, cut in between each stud diagonally.

Construction Terms Beginning With Letter: D

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

Damper- A metal “door” placed within the fireplace chimney. Normally closed when the fireplace is not in use.

Damp proofing- The black, tar like waterproofing material applied to the exterior of a foundation wall.

Daylight- The end of a pipe (the terminal end) that is not attached to anything.

Dead bolt- An exterior security lock installed on exterior entry doors that can be activated only with a key or thumb-turn. Unlike a latch, which has a beveled tongue, dead bolts have square ends.

Dead light- The fixed, non-operable window section of a window unit.

Deck, decked- To install the plywood or wafer board sheeting on the floor joists, rafters, or trusses.

Dedicated circuit- An electrical circuit that serves only one appliance (ie, dishwasher) or a series of electric heaters or smoke detectors.

Default- Breach of a mortgage contract (not making the required payments).

De-humidistat- A control mechanism used to operate a mechanical ventilation system based upon the relative humidity in the home.

Delamination- Separation of the plies in a panel due to failure of the adhesive. Usually caused by excessive moisture.

Disconnect- A large (generally 20 Amp) electrical ON-OFF switch.

Discount rate- A mortgage interest rate that is lower than the current rate for a certain period of time, e.g. 2.00% below variable rate for 2 years.

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. These 3 jambs have the “door stop” installed on them.

Door operator- An automatic garage door opener.

Door stop- The wooden style that the door slab will rest upon when it’s in a closed position.

Dormer- An opening in a sloping roof, the framing of which projects out to forma vertical wall suitable for windows or other openings.

Double glass-Window or door in which two panes of glass are used with a sealed air space between. Also known as Insulating Glass.

Double hung window- A window with two vertically sliding sashes, both of which can move up and down.

Down payment- The difference between the sales price and the mortgage amount. A down payment is usually paid at closing.

Downspout- A pipe, usually of metal, for carrying rainwater down from the roof’s horizontal gutters.

Drain tile- A perforated, corrugated plastic pipe laid at the bottom of the foundation wall and used to drain excess water away from the foundation. It prevents ground water from seeping through the foundation wall. Sometimes called perimeter drain.

Draw- The amount of progress billings on a contract that is currently available to a contractor under a contract with a fixed payment schedule.


(a) A member of a cornice or other horizontal exterior finish course that has a projection beyond the other parts for throwing off water.

(b) A groove in the underside of a sill or drip cap to cause water to drop off on the outer edge instead of drawing back and running down the face of the building.

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.

Dry in- To install the black roofing felt (tar paper) on the roof.

Drywall (or Gypsum Wallboard (GWB), Sheet rock or Plasterboard)-Wall board or gypsum- A manufactured panel made out of gypsum plaster and encased in a thin cardboard. Usually 1/2? thick and 4′ x 8′ or 4′ x 12′ in size. The panels are nailed or screwed onto the framing and the joints are taped and covered with a ‘joint compound’. ‘Green board’ type drywall has a greater resistance to moisture than regular (white) plasterboard and is used in bathrooms and other “wet areas”.

Ducts- The heating system. Usually round or rectangular metal pipes installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to rooms in the home. Also a tunnel made of galvanized metal or rigid fiberglass, which carries air from the heater or ventilation opening to the rooms in a building.

Due-on-sale- A clause in a mortgage contract requiring the borrower to pay the entire outstanding balance upon sale or transfer of the property.

Dura board, dura rock- A panel made out of concrete and fiberglass usually used as a ceramic tile backing material. Commonly used on bathtub decks. Sometimes called Wonder boar

DWV (drain-waste-vent)- The section of a plumbing system that carries water and sewer gases out of a home.

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