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Thingamagigs and Whatsits? A glossary of basic building terminology.

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

No doubt that if you own your home you’ve already learned quite a bit about it. But let’s be honest, most people can get through life just fine without knowing what a ‘soffit’ is and you may not have encountered the term in your regular home maintenance.

That said, talking to construction professionals about your home projects can mean a whole new world of terminology for the parts and pieces of your house. Here are some basic building terms for the structure and exterior components of your home.

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

  2. Eaves The horizontal exterior roof overhang.

  3. Fascia Horizontal boards attached to rafter/truss ends at the eaves and along gables. Roof drain gutters are attached to the fascia.

  4. Flashing The material used to prevent the passage of water into a structure from a joint or junction. Flashing is particularly important at roof junctions, joints between roofs and vertical walls, and anywhere that something joins up with a roof or exterior wall such as chimneys, dormers, vent pipes, window openings, and so on.

  5. Gable The intersection of two planes of a roof, coming to a point. Often used to refer to the whole area, such as the "gable-end" of a home.

  6. Grade The level of the ground around your home, i.e. "at grade" or "above or below grade".

  7. Rafters Beams extending from the eaves to the peak of a roof and constituting its framework.

  8. Rake The pitched side of any roof system. Often used to refer to a whole assembly, such as "the rake-trim".

  9. Reveal The distance or step between two adjoining elements or surfaces. For example, the reveal between the eaves and the fascia.

  10. Ridge The horizontal run of a peak where two opposing roof planes meet.

  11. Soffit A soffit is an exterior or interior architectural feature, generally the underside of any construction element. A structure to fill the space between the ceiling and the top of cabinets mounted on the wall is called a soffit, as is the material connecting an exterior wall to the edge of the roof under the eaves.

  12. Truss An assembled framing structure, generally for a roof or floor, made up of triangles and engineered to take advantage of the inherent geometric stability of the triangle to evenly distribute weight and to handle changing tension and compression.


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