Sunday, July 19, 2015

Commonly Confused Construction Terms

When you're ready to start a building project, whether you're going to hire a contractor or do it
yourself, communication is key. Knowing what to call everything can help you avoid expensive misunderstandings with contractors and suppliers. Here are a few commonly confused or misused construction terms and their meanings:

Joist/Stud: A joist is one of a set of beams that support a floor, deck, or other horizontal surface. A stud is one of a set of posts that make up the frame of a wall. The difference: joists are horizontal and studs are vertical.

Board/Plank: The difference between a board and a plank is thickness. Put simply, if it's at least an inch and a half thick, it's a plank; if it's thinner than that, it's a board.

Cement/Concrete: Cement is heat-treated limestone. Mix it with water and gravel, and you've got concrete. You can't build anything out of cement alone. It's a powerful binding agent when activated by water, but it needs something to bind. That's where the gravel comes in.

Beam/Post: These are both strong structural elements designed to support a lot of weight. The difference is that beams are horizontal and posts are vertical.

Truss: A truss is a sub-structure built to support weight without the need for a lot of posts or load-bearing walls. Trusses are often used to support roofs in buildings where a lot of open floorspace is desired. Don't confuse it with trust.

Soffit/Fascia: If you stand under the overhang of a typical New Hampshire roof and look up, you'll see a sort of outdoor ceiling called a soffit. Now, step away from the house and look for a trim board running along the roofline. That's the fascia, also called fascia board.

Tread/Riser/Stringer: These are all parts of a set of stairs. The treads are the part you probably notice the most, because you walk on them. The risers are the vertical boards that go between the treads. Not all stairs have risers. The stringers are the diagonal planks that form the main structure of the stairs.

Rafter/Purlin: Both these terms refer to the beams that form the structure of a roof. The difference is which direction they run. On a gable (peaked) roof, rafters run from the ridge (peak) to the eaves (bottom of roof/top of wall), whereas purlins run parallel to the short walls of the house. Purlins are not used in traditional-style modern houses, but are usually found in post-and-beam construction.

Sheathing/Siding: Sheathing is attached directly to the wall studs. In modern houses, it's usually made of OSB. In older houses, it may be plywood or even pine boards. Over the sheathing goes the housewrap (Tyvek is a popular brand), and over that goes the siding. The siding is the exterior finish of the house.

Baseboard/Baseboard heater: A baseboard is a piece of trim that runs along the bottom of a wall next to the floor. It's usually made of wood, but in commercial buildings, there's a popular type of baseboard called cove base, which is made of rubber or vinyl. A baseboard heater is a heater, usually electric, designed to be installed just in front of a baseboard.

Banister/Baluster: A banister is a stair rail, and balusters are closely-spaced supports that hold up a railing. A related word: balustrade, a railing with its supporting balusters.

Screw/Bolt: A screw is used by itself, but a bolt is used with a nut.

Cut/rip: Again, the difference is which direction it's going. Cutting goes across the grain of the wood, while ripping goes along the grain.

Did we miss any? Add to the list! What word confusions have gotten you in trouble?

New Hampshire Construction