Do You Know All of These Common Carpentry Terms?


By: Jacqueline Samaroo

7 Min Quiz

Image: Andres Rodriguez / Blend Images / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Nailed it! Here is the perfect opportunity to show off your impressive vocabulary of carpentry terms!

The age-old profession of carpentry has always been a natural and exciting choice for those among us who love working with their hands to produce practical, meaningful and creative items. Carpentry is more than a physical skill, however, as there is plenty of mental processing and calculations which go with it. Furthermore, carpenters have to learn the jargon or language of carpentry, which can sound quite strange to the ears of an outsider listening in.

Not all of these terms are unique to carpentry, as some can be used and understood in other trades. Be warned, however, that while some of the terms are "plane" simple and common knowledge, there are others which will truly put your carpentry knowledge to the test. Are you up to the challenge or is your mastery of carpentry terms warped? Take the quiz and find out!

Even if you don't know every single one of these terms, remember "awl's" well that ends well. You will certainly know what they all mean by the time you finish the quiz! Plus, you'll learn some interesting carpentry facts along the way. So, go ahead and take the quiz, now!

A load-bearing piece of lumber placed above an opening goes by what name?

The most common places to find headers are above door and window openings. They are, however, used in all cases where the opening is wider than the distance between two studs. As a general rule, the headers used in load-bearing walls will be larger than those in non-load-bearing walls.


Can you spot the term carpenters use when a line or surface is completely vertical?

Plumb is to vertical as level is to horizontal. You can check for plumb with a plumb bob and check for both plumb and level with a tool called a level. Levels come in various designs, including spirit levels, laser levels and even apps you can download on your smartphone to turn it into a mini level.


What is the name of the platform which carpenters construct to help stairs turn in a different direction?

The term landing refers to the flat and wide platform at the top of a flight of stairs before another flight of stairs begins – usually going in another direction. A staircase going in one direction can have landings along the way to allow the climber to rest or to break the climber’s fall so they do not tumble all the way to the bottom in case of an accident.


Which of these terms refers to parallel pieces of lumber which help to support a floor or ceiling?

The primary function of the joists is to support the ceiling or floor, but joists also need support which is provided by girders, large beams and load-bearing walls. In a structure with more than one story, the same set of joists may provide support for both the ceiling of the lower story and the floor of the upper story.


Which of these terms would a carpenter use to indicate that a line or surface is completely horizontal?

The term level also refers to the tool which helps carpenters to determine whether a surface is, in fact, level. Most levels will also indicate vertical (straight up and down) as well as diagonal or slanted at an angle of 45 degrees.


The piece of lumber which is set vertically from the edge of the roof goes by what name?

The fascia board is set vertically at the ends of rafters and combines with horizontal soffit boards to form the eaves of a roof. While they are not essential to the completion of the structure, they give it a more finished appearance.


Can you identify the term for the molding design made up of tiny beads?

Pearling is very similar to beading, with the main difference being that the half-spheres or rounds are smaller. Molding designs made up of only pearling or pearling combined with another feature tend to have a simple and traditional appearance. Pearling is often used to decorate chair rails.


What do carpenters call the tool which they use to mark guide holes and lines?

The bradawl is the most common type of awl a carpenter uses. With the bradawl, the carpenter can make an indentation in a piece of lumber at the point where a nail or screw is to be inserted. The indentation acts as a guide hole, reducing the chances of the nail or screw slipping or being driven in the wrong location


Engraved, decorative strips of wood are often called “trim,” but do you know what other name they go by?

Molding helps to add a finished look to transition areas, such as where a wall meets the ceiling. The decorative effect of the molding comes both from its shape (often with angles and curves) and from the design which is carved into it.


What name do carpenters give to the tool which helps them to check and mark right angles?

There are several different types of squares but there is, in fact, one which is specifically called the “carpenter’s square.” It is shaped like a large letter L and typically made of steel. The longer arm (or blade) is often 24 inches long and 2 inches wide, while the shorter arm (or tongue) is 16 inches long and 1.5 inches wide.


Which bird-related term describes a connection made by interlocking sloping pins on two pieces of wood.

The dovetail joint is a basic timber joint named for the shape of the pins which interlock to form the joint. That shape helps to prevent the joint from slipping out of place and makes the dovetail a strong joint. The dovetail joint is often used to form corners.


Which of these is the term carpenters use for when the weight a structure bears is neither permanent nor fixed?

Live loads are sometimes called “temporary” or “transient,” highlighting the fact that they are both moveable and inconsistent. Live loads may move throughout the structure or enter and leave. The term applies most often to people and furniture.


Which of these terms refers to a layer of the Earth which makes a strong foundation for buildings?

Bedrock is the hard rock layer which is found underneath the loose outer layer of soil. The surface of bedrock is known as rockhead, and bedrock which is visible above the soil layer is known as outcrop.


What carpentry term refers to measurements taken from the middle of one piece of lumber to the middle of a neighboring one?

On center measurements allow for accurate placement of studs and other framing members, especially when the lumber used does not have the same dimensions throughout. When all the pieces of wood are the same size, then their on center measurement is the same as the distance between them.


In carpentry, what term refers to the line along which two sloping sides of a roof meet?

There may be a ridge board or ridge beam to which the rafters are connected. Typically, the ridge beam is a load-bearing element of the roof frame, whereas the ridge board is not. The end of each rafter may be cut at an angle so that it rests flush against the ridge board.


Which of these is the term carpenters use for material which stops the progress of flames inside the walls of a building?

The concealed spaces within walls can transmit fumes, fire and smoke very quickly from one section of a structure to another. The spread of fire can be slowed or stopped by sealing off sections within the wall with fire-resistant material.


Which of these is the term for a vertical element which helps to carry the weight of the structure?

A load-bearing wall supports the weight of the structure and contents above it (as well as its own weight). It is important to find out whether a wall is load-bearing before knocking it out or modifying it in any way. Another term for a load-bearing wall is simply bearing wall.


Carpenters use which of these terms to refer to the way in which lumber curves in response to moisture?

Timber tends to naturally curve when exposed to moisture. The resulting bulging or sagging is known as crowning or cupping – depending on which way the piece of wood is turned. Light curvature will correct itself over time, but extreme distortion of the wood by prolonged exposure to moisture (as in flooding) will most likely mean the wood has to be replaced.


What term is used for partitions which slope?

Rake walls may be low at both ends and higher in the middle or low at one end and high at the other. Rake walls tend to be high walls which slope in both directions. Framing a rake (or raked) wall requires more care and precision than framing a regular rectangular wall.


Which term is used for roof supports which are often pre-fabricated and can be used instead of rafters?

Triangles are very often incorporated into the design of trusses. This is because a triangle is able to withstand large stress forces without distortion – as long as its sides are fixed. Trusses are therefore able to bear greater loads than many other types of roof construction.


Which of these terms applies to when carpenters drive fasteners at an angle to join pieces of lumber?

Toenailing is a very good method of joining a vertical piece of wood to a horizontal one. The carpenter will typically drive at least one nail or screw from opposite sides of the wood to ensure that it is held securely. The technique can also be used to gently nudge an already secured piece of lumber into the correct position.


Which of these terms refers to one method of lowering timber’s moisture content?

Air drying can be time-consuming, since the wood is basically left out in the open with only air to dry it out. Another method is kiln drying, where the cut pieces of lumber are placed is a specially designed oven. Kiln drying is faster than air drying and can result in much lower percentages of moisture content.


Constant forces exerted on a structure go by what carpentry term?

Dead load is the permanent weight which a structure has to bear. It most often refers to the weight of the building itself – without occupants, furniture or other temporary loads.


What type of connection is made when wood is joined end-to-end without shaping or interlocking?

Whether end-to-end or end-to-edge, butt joints secured by glue only are not inherently strong. Some other form of reinforcement is necessary to strength the joint so that it can withstand applied forces. Commonly used reinforcements include nailing, screwing or the use of connectors such as dowels and biscuits.


What is the traditional term for a carpenter who has passed the apprentice stage?

Traditionally, a carpenter learns the skills of the trade by working under the guidance of a seasoned carpenter. The first level of training is apprentice, after which the carpenter is called a journeyman and considered skilled and competent enough to work independently.


Which of these terms refers to a connection formed by slots and ridges at the edge of pieces of wood?

One advantage of the tongue and groove joint is that it provides a flat finish to flooring and paneling. The joint is strong on its own without the need for gluing, which could cause the tongue to break off due to movement or if the wood shrinks.


Can you spot the term used when wood deforms due to moisture?

There are many ways in which a piece of lumber can be deformed due to the changes in moisture content. Crowning/cupping is just one form of warping. Other ways in which wood can warp include the crook or wain; twist or wind; kink (a type of crook); and bow.


Can you spot the name of the major vertical support placed next to a window or door?

A king stud can be found on either side of a door or window on the outside of the jack stud (if one is present). Unlike the shorter jack stud which stops at the lintel or header, the king stud goes from the bottom plate all the way up to the top plate.


What is the term carpenters use for a measuring device with a standard length of 3 feet?

The yardstick gets its name from its length – there are 3 feet in a yard. Yardsticks are traditionally made of wood but both plastic and metal are now commonplace. There are some yardsticks which are hinged at several points so they can be folded for easy carrying and storage.


When two surfaces are not level with each other, what do carpenters call the one which is lower down?

Two surfaces are said to be level or flush when they are exactly in line with each other. The definition can also be applied to the heads of nails and screws with respect to the surface of the material they are driven into. If one surface sticks up past level then it is said to be “proud” while the lower surface is “shy.”


What is the canine term carpenters use for the simple device which helps hold items in place on a workbench?

The simplest of bench dogs is a peg which is inserted in a hole in the workbench and sticks out a bit. A workpiece can be pushed up against one or more bench dogs as it is worked on without the threat of it sliding about. There are commercially sold bench dogs, but some carpenters prefer to make their own.


Which term do carpenters use when a room’s covering is higher than normal?

A vaulted ceiling gives a sense of openness to a room while improving ventilation and natural lighting. Cathedral ceilings are often described as a type of vaulted ceiling which is symmetrical on both sides.


What name do carpenters give to the process of replacing excavated soil in a trench around a foundation?

The term backfill refers to both the process of refilling the trench and the material which is used to fill it. The refilling material can be the same one which was excavated but it does not have to be.


What is the carpentry term for the framework of a structure, a piece of furniture, or other item.

The carcass of a building is made up of all its framing members: studs, rafters, joists, etc. Wood used in creating a building’s frame is referred to as carcassing timber. The carcass of a building is often not seen.


Which of these is the term for a type of beam typically found in a sloped roof?

The jack rafter is shorter than a regular rafter and is sometimes called a cripple rafter. The terms “jack” and “cripple” are also used for studs which are shorter than normal.


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