Home Inspection Terms Glossary

Access Panel An opening that allows access heating/plumbing/electrical system for servicing.
Accessible Can be reached by the inspector safely, without difficulty, fear or danger.
AMP A unit measure of electricity.
Appliance A household device operated by use of electricity or gas.
Asbestos A mineral fiber found is some insulation, floor tile and siding of older homes. It is hazardous to health when fibers are inhaled.
Asphalt The black material roads are made of; maybe is found as walkways.
Attic A space under the roof of a structure but limited to above the top story of a section of building–such space may or may not be passable
Backsplash The area in-between the countertop and cabinets; usually made of tile. Serves to protect the wall from water penetration.
Baluster One of a series of small pillars that is attached to and runs between the stairs and the handrails. The spacing between the balusters should be less than 4 inches to prevent injury.
Baseboard Heat A heating system with the heating unit located along the perimeter of the wall where the baseboard would be. It can be either an electric or hot water system.
Beam A supporting member either of wood or steel.
Bearing Wall A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.
Bi- Level
Breaker A metal box that contains circuit breakers or fuses that control the electrical current in the home.
BTU A measure of the capacity of a heating or cooling system. Abbreviation of British Thermal Unit.
Buckling The bending of a building material as a result of wear and tear or contact with a substance such as water.
BX Cable Armored electrical cable wrapped in galvanized steel outer covering.
Casement Window A side hinged window that opens on hinges secured to the side of the window frame.
Caulking Material used to fill/seal cracks and joints that may exist between floors and fixtures; around windows and doors, shower stalls and bathtubs, etc.
Central Air Conditioning A system which uses ducts to distribute cooled and/or dehumidified air to more than one room or uses pipes to distribute chilled water to heat exchangers in more than one room, and which is not plugged into an electrical outlet.
Chimney   A masonry or in more modern construction wood framed enclosure that surrounds and contains one or more flues and extends above the roofline
 Chimney cap The metal or masonry protective covering at the top of the chimney that seals the chimney shaft from water and animal intrusion.
Chimney flues   The space or channel in a chimney that carries off the smoke and other combustion gasses to the outside air.
Cinder Block  block composed of cinder (ashes) and cement; it does not have the strength or weight of cement block (often standard concrete block is referred to as cinder block)
Circuit Breaker A protective device which automatically opens an electrical circuit when it is overloaded. It interrupts an electric circuit when an unusual condition arises such as lightning and malfunctioning appliances. Unlike a fuse, it can be reset.
CO Certificate of occupancy – Issued by town
Carbon Monoxide  colorless, odorless and highly toxic gas
Code Vary from town to town. Home inspections are not code specific. Minimum local or state regulations established to protect public health and safety. They apply to building design, construction, rehabilitation, repair, materials, occupancy and use.
Collar beam/tie   A horizontal piece of framing lumber that provides intermediate support for opposite rafters. They are usually located in the middle to upper third portion of the rafters.
Condensation Water condensing on wails, ceiling and pipes. Normal in areas of high humidity, usually controlled by ventilation or a dehumidifier.
Condensing Unit The outdoor component of a cooling system. It includes a compressor and condensing coil designed to give off heat.
Condominium a structure of two or more units, the interior space of which is individually owned; the balance of the property (both land and building) is owned in common by the owners of the individual units
Conduit A hollow pipe casing through which electric lines run.
Corrode To eat into or wear away gradually, as a chemical action (often describes rust on pipes, etc.)
Crawl Space A shallow open area between the floor of a building and the ground, normally enclosed by the foundation wall.
Cricket a small, convex roof, placed on a larger roof or surface, to promote drainage in areas of the surface which have barriers to said drainage
 Cross Bridging strengthening a structure by installing cross members between the joists, thereby spreading the weight over a larger area
Damper An air valve that regulates the flow of air inside the flue of a furnace or fireplace.
Deck An elevated platform. “Deck” is also commonly used to refer to the above-ground floors in multi-level parking garage.
Double Hung Window A window with sashes that slide vertically and allow opening from the top and bottom.
Downspout The pipe that carries water down from the gutter
Drywall A gypsum board material used for walls or ceilings.
Ductwork A system of distribution channels used to transmit heated or cooled air from a central system (HVAC) throughout a home.
Easement A formal contract which allows a party to use another party’s property for a specific purpose, e.g. a sewer easement might allow one party to run a sewer line through a neighbor’s property.
Eave The part of the roof which extends beyond the side wall.
Efflorescence A white powder on the surface of wails due to evaporation of water.
Egress A means of exiting the home. An egress window is required in every bedroom and basement. Normally a 4×4 window is the minimum size required.
Evaluate To assess the systems, structures or components of a dwelling.
Exhaust Fan Extracts air or excess heat from the interior of a home.
Exterior siding The exterior finish on a house used to protect the shell of the house from the elements. Wood, brick, aluminum, vinyl, concrete, stucco are some common forms of siding
Artificial or decorative effort.
 Fascia a flat board that is mounted vertically on the ends of the rafter tails (supporting members used to support the roofing material), this board could be said to be cosmetic and conceals rafter ends but may be used to support rain gutters and help prevent the rotating of the rafters (commonly the barge rafter at the gable end of a roof is also called a fascia board).
Faucet valve, spigot, tap, gate which has the spout built on
Final Walkthrough Last review of the property before you take possession at closing. It is at this time to ensure all agreed repairs have been made.
Fire Wall a specific type or size of wall dividing parts of a building or structure to prevent the spread of fire
Firebox The cavity in the open face of the fireplace in which the fire is maintained. The firebox leads directly to the fireplace flue. The firebox is constructed of fire or refractory brick set in fireclay or reinforced mortar in traditional masonry fireplaces.  The firebox may also be constructed of metal or ceramic-coated metal panels in more modern prefabricated fireplaces.
Fireplace cleanout door The access door to the ash pit beneath the fireplace. On a fireplace that is located inside the house, the cleanout door is usually located in the lowest accessible level of the house such as the basement or crawl space. On a fireplace that is located at the outside of the house, the cleanout door will be located at the exterior of the chimney.  Not all fireplaces are equipped with a cleanout door.
 Fireplace hearth The inner or outer floor of a fireplace usually made of brick, tile, or stone. Fireboxes that have more than 6 square feet should have hearth extensions that extend a minimum of 20” in front of the firebox and a minimum of 12” beyond each side of the opening. Fireboxes that have less than 6 square feet have to be a minimum of 16” out and 8” on each side.
Fitting A general term that usually refers to faucets, shower valves, tub fillers, or various piping parts such as tees or elbows.
Flashing   Flashing prevents water entry in area where runoff is heavy. It is usually made of rubber, tar, asphalt or various metals. Used at wall, roof junctions and around chimneys to prevent water entry.
 Floor joists   The main sub-floor framing members that support the floor span. Joists are usually made of engineered wood I-beams or 2 x 8 (or larger) lumbers.
Flue A pipe used to exhaust smoke, gas or air. An enclosed chamber in a fireplace that directs flames, smoke and other gases to the outside air.
Footing The underground support for a foundation or support post. Concrete set in the soil (foundation bed) that supports the foundation of the house.
Forced Hot Air A unit that transfers heat from fuel and circulates heat throughout the ducts of a house.
Foundation The part of the structure upon which all other construction is built.The base upon which the structure or wall rests; usually masonry, concrete, or stone, and generally partially underground.
Foundation wall   The concrete block, concrete slab or other non wood material that extends below or partly below grade, which provides support for exterior walls and other structural pans of the building.
Function The action for which an item, component, or system is specially fitted or used or for which an item, component or system exists; to be in action or perform a task.
Functional Performing, or able to perform, a function.
FUSE BOX A metal box that contains the fuses that regulate electric current in a house.
Galvanized Pipe Iron pipe with a zinc coating. Formerly used for water lines.
Garage door  The door for the vehicle passage into the garage area. Typical garage doors consist of multiple jointed panels of wood, metal or fiberglass.
GFI Abbreviation for Ground Fault Interrupter. A type of circuit breaker now required in areas containing water lines.
Girder A main supporting beam of the house.
Grade Ground level.
Ground fault Interrupter (GFI) A safety device that interrupts surges of electricity in appliances and other electrical components found in a home.
Gutter  A trough used at the edge of a roof to collect rain. It carries off the roof water run-off as far away from the house as possible.
Header Wood member above door or window opening.
Hearth The bottom of a fireplace.
HEARTH The fireproof surface of a fireplace, usually 18 inches wide.
Heat Exchanger A device used to transfer heat in a furnace.
HEAT PUMP A reverse cycle refrigeration unit that both heats and cools.
Home Inspection A snap shot in time, visual evaluation of the readily accessible systems and components of a home and operates those systems and components utilizing these Standards of Practice as a guideline.
Home Owners Association  association formed by the builder of condominiums or planned developments, or people to participate and perform certain duties controlled by statute and or agreements
Hot Water Heater This system heats water to boiling in a water heater, and a circulator pumps it through a system of pipes.
Household Appliances Kitchen and laundry appliances, room air conditioners, and similar appliances.
Humidifier  a unit, usually part of the heating system, which air Add moisture to the air
HVAC Heating, ventilating and air conditioning system.
Installed Attached or connected such that the installed item requires tool for removal.
Insulation   Material used to resist the loss of heat energy. Installed in a house’s shell to keep the heat in a house in the winter and the coolness in the house in the summer. The most common form of insulation is fiberglass, whether in batts or blown-in material, along with cellulose, rigid foam boards and rock wool.
Joists Parallel, horizontal beams laid edgewise from wall to wall to support the boards of a floor or ceiling.
junction box 
kick plate 
Knob and Tube An old form of wiring.
Lally Column A round steel cylinder usually filled with concrete to support overhead beams.
Lead A material used in pipes and paint of many older homes. We now know that lead is hazardous to health. The local environmental protection agency should be consulted for guidelines on handling, removal and applicable laws.
Moisture/vapor barrier  A non-porous material such as plastic or polyethylene sheeting that is used to retard the movement of water vapor into walls and attics and prevent condensation in them. A vapor barrier is also installed in crawl space areas to prevent moisture vapor from entering up through the ground.
MORTAR A bonding material used in the construction of brick or stone structures.
nonbearing wall
Open Grounds
Operate To cause systems to function or turn on with normal operating controls.
Parging A coat of cement over block foundation wails.
Point Up (Repointing) To fill the joints between the brick.
PVC poly vinyl chloride  a type of plastic pipe
Radiant Heat An electrical heating system that distributes heat through cables installed usually in baseboard panels.
Radon A colorless, odorless gas that is emitted from soils, rocks and water as a result of radioactive decay in certain areas of the country. Radon is known to cause cancer.
Rafter A sloping rib member or beam that supports the roof. It spans from the exterior wall to the ridge board of the peak of the roof.
Ranch Style House   true ranch style houses are rambling, with low pitched gable roofs, usually with large eave overhangs, and an interior of open design
Receptacle An electrical outlet for a plug.
Register An opening through which air travels from the ducts into a room.
Representative Number A sufficient number to serve as a typical or characteristic example of the item(s) inspected.
Reserve Polarity  
Retaining Wall A vertical structure used to restrict the movement of soil or water.
Romex A brand name for a type of electric wire that has two or more single wires running within one sheath
Roof Pitch The degree of a roof’s slope.
Roof Rafters  Inclined structural framing members which support the roof, running from the exterior wall the to the ridge beam. Rafters directly support the roof sheathing and create the angle or slope of the roof.
 Roof Sheathing  The material used to cover the outside surface of the roof framing to provide lateral and rack support to the roof, as well as to provide a nailing surface for the roofing material. This material most commonly consists of plywood or horizontally laid wood boards.
Roofing  The finished surface at the top of the house that must be able to withstand the effects of the elements. Asphalt shingles are eth most common form of roofing
Row House a method of construction of individual houses with common side walls and a common roof, also called townhouses
Sash Framework that holds the glass in a window or a door.
Satisfactory basically okay, performing its expected purpose whether flawed or not
Septic Tank a sewage system, whereby waste is drained through pipes and/or a tile field into a septic tank–found in areas where city or county sewers have not yet been installed (see leach lines)
Septic Tank an underground tank into which a sanitary sewer drains from a building–the sewage is held until bacterial action changes the solids into liquids or gases, which are then partly released into the ground
Serviceable  a condition that with proper maintenance will remain satisfactory
Settling The lowering of elevation of a house or pavement due to weight or shrinkage.
Sheathing The covering on roofs or wails below the exterior roof.
Sheetrock Also called plasterboard or dry wall.
Shingles Sheets of waterproof material used to cover the roofs of homes and other surfaces.
Sidewalk  A walkway that provides a direct, all-weather approach to an entry. The sidewalk can be constructed of poured concrete, laid stone, concrete pavers, or gravel contained between borders or curbs.
Siding Finish material such as wood, vinyl and aluminum used on outside walls.
Sill The lowest piece, upon which a window or exterior door rests, usually slanted downward slightly to provide for rain water runoff.
Sill plate  The horizontal wood member that is anchored to the foundation masonry to provide a nailing surface for floors or walls built above. Framing lumber placed on and around the foundation to support the exterior wall studs.
Slab A concrete foundation or floor of a home. Houses built on slab usually do not have basements.
Soffit The underside part of a roof that extends beyond the outside walls of a structure
Spilt Level
Stair rail  A sturdy handhold and barrier that follows the outside, and sometimes inside, perimeter of the stairs.  The stair rail is used to prevent falls and to provide a means of additional support when walking up or down the stairs.
Stair riser  The vertical boards that close the space between each stair tread on a set of stairs (see stair stringer and stair tread).
Stair stringer The supporting members in a set of stairs that are cut or notched to accept the individual treads and risers (see stair riser and stair tread).
Storm Window   an extra window on the outside of an existing window, as additional protection against cold weather
Structural Component A component which supports non-variable forces or weights (dead loads) and variable forces or weights (live loads).
Structure the framing, supporting, and bracing members of a building
Stucco An exterior plaster wall surface.
Stud A vertical, framing member in a wall or partition.
Sub floor  Boards or plywood installed over joists on which the finish floor rests.
Sump Pit A hole in the basement floor where water drains and is pumped out with a sump pump.
Sump Pump An electric pump that empties water from a pit where it is collected and pumps it to the outside of a home. Usually installed in the basement.
Terracotta material of “baked earth”; a hard baked, glazed or unglazed ceramic material used architecturally as a decorative surface for facings and tiles and may be used as foundation materials in older buildings
Thermo pane
Thermostat Controls temperatures within the home.
Townhouse a method of construction of individual houses with common side walls and a common roof–also called townhouses
Trap A bend in a water pipe to hold water and prevent gases from escaping into the house.
Tudor Architectural style of building’s facade, marked by use of varied materials (stone, wood, brickwork), exposed wood beams over light-colored stucco, grilled windows and similar decorative elements.
Unsafe Significant risk of personal injury during normal, day-to-day use. Damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in accepted residential construction standards; may be the fault
Utility Room a room used for laundry, heating equipment, telephone wiring, or janitorial purposes
Vapor Barrier  insulating materials used to prevent the buildup of moisture, whether by condensation or penetration in walls, floors and other parts of a building
Vent Pipe  A pipe allowing gas to escape from plumbing stacks.
Voltage The pressure behind the flow of electricity, measured in terms of volts.
Weather-stripping Material used around door and window openings to prevent rain, wind, and cold from entering the house.
Weep Holes Drain hole to allow moisture to escape.
Window sash  The framework that holds the glass in a door or window.
Window well  An excavation around a basement window that prevents the surrounding soils from collapsing into the window
Zone A system that allows different temperatures in various parts of a structure.