Home Construction Terminology: M thru Q

Home Construction Terminology:  M thru Q


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Home Construction Terminology

Home Construction Terminology


MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard):  A manufactured wood product made of fine saw dust and resin. Used for shelving cleats and stairway treads.

Male:  Any part, such as a bolt, designed to fit into another (female) part. External threads are male.

Manufactured Wood:  A wood structural product such as a gluelam or microlam, or sheet goods such as OSB, MDF, particle board or finger jointed trim, which are manufactured out of smaller wood pieces and glued to form a larger piece.

Masonry:  Stone, brick, concrete, hollow-tile, concrete block, or other similar building units or materials. Normally bonded together with mortar to form a wall.

Mending Plates (aka Fascia Gusset, MP14):  Toothed metal plates used to join two pieces of fascia.

Microlam (aka Laminated Veneered Lumber [LVL]):  A manufactured structural wood beam. It is constructed of pressure and adhesive bonded wood strands. They have a higher strength rating than solid sawn lumber. Normally comes in l ½” thickness’ and 9 ½”, 11 ½” and 14″ widths.

Millwork:  Generally all building materials made of finished wood and manufactured in mill-work plants. It includes all doors, windows, moldings and interior trim.

Miter Joint:  The joint of two pieces at an angle that bisects the joining angle. For example, the miter joint at the side and head casing at a door opening is made at a 45° angle.

Mortar:  A mixture of cement (or lime) with sand and water used in masonry work.

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

Natural Finish:  A transparent finish which does not seriously alter the original color or grain of the natural wood.

Neutral Wire:  Usually color-coded white, this carries electricity from an outlet or switch back to the service panel. Also see hot wire and ground.

Nonbearing Wall:  A wall supporting no load other than its own weight.

Nosing:  The projecting front edge of a stair tread.

O. C. (On Center):  The measurement of spacing for studs, rafters, joists and trusses in a building from the center of one member to the center of the next.

Oriented Strand Board (aka OSB):  A manufactured 4′ X 8′ wood panel made out of 1″- 2″ wood chips and glue. Often used as a substitute for plywood.

Outrigger (aka Lookout):  An extension from a rafter or truss beyond the wall line to form a roof overhang on a rake end, as a rafter tail or truss tail does on an eave.

Outside Corner:  The point at which two walls form an external angle, one you usually can walk around.

Overhang:  Outward projecting eave-soffit area of a roof; the part of the roof that hangs out past the outside wall.

Padding:  A material installed under carpet to add foot comfort, isolate sound, and to prolong carpet life.

Paint:  A combination of pigments with suitable thinners or oils to provide decorative and protective coatings. It can be oil based or water based.

Pallets:  Wooden platforms used for storing and shipping material. Forklifts and pallet jacks are used to move these wooden platforms around.

Panel:  A thin flat piece of wood, plywood, or similar material, framed by stiles and rails as in a door (or cabinet door), or fitted into grooves of thicker material with molded edges for decorative wall treatment.

Parapet:  An extension of a wall past the plane of the roof to hide roof clutter (i.e. the Territorial look) and originally intended as protection, though now mostly decorative.

Particle Board:  Plywood substitute made of course sawdust that is mixed with resin and pressed into sheets. Usually used for shelving.

Penny:  As applied to nails, it originally indicated the price per hundred. The term now serves as a measure of nail length and is abbreviated by the letter “d“. Normally, 10d (10 “penny”) nails are used for framing.

Permit:  A governmental municipal authorization to perform a building process as in:

· Zoning\Use permit – Authorization to use a property for a specific use e.g. a garage, a single family residence, etc.

· Building permit – Authorization to build or modify a structure.

· Demolition permit – Authorization to tear down and remove an existing structure.

· Grading permit – Authorization to change the contour of the land

· Electrical permit – A separate permit required for most electrical work.

· Plumbing permit – A separate permit required for new plumbing and larger modifications of existing plumbing systems.

Pigtail, Electrical:  The electrical cord installed on an appliance, or another name for an electrical splitter.

Pier:  A pad of concrete used to support a post.

Pilot Hole:  A small diameter pre-drilled hole to guide a nail or screw.

Pitch:  The slope of a roof expressed as vertical rise to horizontal run (i.e. 4/12 means a 4” rise for every 12” of run).

Plan View (aka Floor Plan):  Drawing of a structure with the view from overhead, looking down.

Plate:  Normally a 2 X 4 or 2 X 6 that lays horizontally within a framed structure, such as:

Sill plate- A horizontal member anchored to a concrete or masonry wall.

Top plate- Top horizontal member of a frame wall supporting ceiling joists, rafters or other members.

Platform:  (1) The flat section of floor between stories in a flight of stairs (2) Raised surface supporting an object (i.e. Water Heater Platform).

Plot plan:  An overhead view plan that shows the location of the home on the lot and includes all easements, property lines, set backs, and legal descriptions of the home.

Plumb:  Exactly vertical and perpendicular.

Plumbing Jack (aka Roof Jack):  Sleeve (whose purpose is to prevent water leaks) that fits around drain and waste vent pipes at, and are nailed to, the roof sheeting.

Plumbing Rough:  Work performed by the plumbing contractor including installing all plastic ABS drain and waste lines, water lines and bath tubs.

Plumbing Stack:  A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.

Plumbing Trim:  Work performed by the plumbing contractor to get the home ready for a final inspection, which includes installing all toilets, hot water heaters, sinks, disposal, dishwasher, and all other needed plumbing items.

Plumbing Waste Line:  Plastic pipe used to collect and drain sewage waste.

Ply:  A term to denote the number of layers in built-up materials, or in any finished piece of such material (i.e. plywood).

Plywood:  A panel (normally 4′ X 8′) of wood made of three or more layers of veneer, com-pressed and joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles to give the sheet strength.

Portland Cement:  Cement made by heating clay and crushed limestone into a brick and then grinding to a pulverized powder state.

Post:  A vertical framing member (often a 4″ x 4″ or a 6″ x 6”) usually designed to carry a beam.

Post-and-Beam:  A basic building method that uses just a few hefty posts and beams to support an entire structure, in contrast to our usual stud framing.

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.

Pressure-Treated Wood:  A wood product that has been impregnated with chemical preservatives to prevent rot and infestation.

Primer:  The first, base coat of paint when a paint job consists of two or more coats. A first coating formulated to seal raw surfaces and hold succeeding finish coats. Many paints are now made with a primer and paint in one can.

P Trap:  Curved, “U” shaped section of drain pipe that holds a water seal to prevent sewer gasses from entering the home through a fixture’s water drain.

Punch List:  A list of discrepancies that need to be corrected.

Putty:  1. A type of dough used for filling small holes and crevices in wood, and for similar purposes. 2. Used in plumbing to seal joints to prevent water leakage.

PVC or CPVC:  Poly Vinyl Chloride, a type of white or light gray plastic pipe sometimes used for water supply lines.

Quarter Round:  A small trim molding that has the cross section of a quarter circle.


If there is a term that you are looking for and you do not find it here, please let me know by leaving a Comment in the Comments section below. If appropriate, I will add it to the list.


Thank you,

CJ Dodaro