Blue Water Healthy Living



Think outside the box

Shoptalk – Part Two

Let’s continue from last week’s article which broke down construction jargon from A to Z: the meaning of the commonly used construction words that are often misunderstood.

Inclination or slope, as of roofs or stairs.
Example: That roof pitch is so steep that it is dangerous to walk upon.

Exactly perpendicular or vertical.
Example: The rear foundation wall is noticeably out of plumb.

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Type of construction so designed as to involve a minimum assembly at the job site.
Example: The prefabricated house was delivered on a truck and set on a foundation with a crane.

The vertical stair member between 2 consecutive stair treads.
Example: All rises in a staircase should be equal to each other.

A horizontal line at the top edges of 2 roof surfaces.
Example: That old garage has a noticeable sag at the roof ridge.

A number that specifies the efficiency of an insulating material (R stands for “resistance“ to heat loss.
Example: The less insulation you have the lower the R-Value.

The structural covering.
Example: The roof sheathing around your chimney in the attic has water stains.

Most commonly, the underside of a roof overhang.
Example: Some of your soffit vents appear to be plugged with insulation from within.

Boards or panels laid directly on floor framing over which a finished floor will be laid.
Example: The sub-floor around your toilet appears to be spongy underfoot and may have some deterioration.

An electrical switch designed to operate in conjunction with a similar switch at a different location, to control 1 light fixture.
Example: All staircases should have a 3-way switch set-up (a switch at the top and another at the bottom).

A watertight material (such as a plastic sheet membrane) used to prevent the passage of moisture or water vapor through it.
Example: That crawl space has a musty smell and should have a vapor barrier spread over the dirt floor.

A lower interior wall surface (usually 3-4’ above the floor) that contrasts with the wall surface above.
Example: That bathroom has a beautiful ceramic wainscot around the perimeter.

Finally, one of our readers asked, “What in your opinion are the most commonly misspelled words in construction.” Here are my three favorites.

  1. ASPHALT (not ashphalt)
  2. JOIST (not joyce)
  3. ESCUTCHEON (I hate to admit it, but I have to look this word up every time I use it). An escutcheon is a piece of builder hardware that protects or shields an area and has a hole in it. A common escutcheon are those little chrome plates that you put around a water pipe that comes through the wall (commonly seen under a toilet, under your kitchen sink, where your tub faucet handles come through the ceramic, etc.).

Well, that’s it for now. Don’t be intimidated the next time someone you know tries to impress you with their construction shop talk. You are now armed with word power.

If you have questions for Home Pro, Mitch Kuffa, email him at

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