Do You Know These Home Construction Terms?

John Miller

Image: Jessie Casson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

If you’ve ever wandered a home construction site, you’ve undoubtedly overhead much of the lingo that workers rely on. They connect rafters, raise trusses and curse when they accidentally misalign framing members. Electricians make sure they don’t mix up the hot wires with the grounds. Concrete workers have to pay close attention to slump. Do you think you’d be able to hold a conversation with any of these dedicated construction workers?

It's likely they'd look at you like some goober who bought a tool belt at Home Depot, borrowed a hard hat from one of the Village People and decided to play construction worker for a day. But if you can sling the lingo, you'd have at least a chance of fitting in ... at least until they saw your bean sprout sandwich for lunch.

Without a common vocabulary, construction sites get confusing in a hurry. And they’re already bewildering enough as it is – witness as plumbers and electricians try to explain things like amperage and water main placement to each other, and often arguments and misunderstandings erupt.

Peel of the underlayment of this construction glossary quiz! Maybe you’re an expert with a ball peen hammer, or maybe you should just go back to filing change orders at the office.

It's so fancy! What's a fancy bit of decorative material at the top of a wall?

Crown molding can be a wonderful way to a beautify to a room. These decorative strips were often carved into wood in earlier days, but may be made in more cost-effective ways now.

Don't close your eyes. What's "blind nailing"?

It adds to the beauty of a room. Blind nailing means to hit the nail until it's not longer easily visible.

You might use a concrete form for what sort of construction project?

Concrete forms are temporary forms that hold concrete in place until it sets. They're great for driveways, patios and more.

If you excavate a trench near your foundation wall, what might you place there after the project is complete?

Backfill means you're replacing the dirt that you excavated from a certain area. It's a necessary step to preserve your foundation.

It's a framing member placed at the bottom of a window opening. It is what?

It's connected to the cripple studs. A rough sill is a fundamental framing member under a window opening.

It's just a little one. Where might you find a "dwarf wall"?

Dwarf walls are -- obviously -- small walls. They're often used as retaining walls.

Start swinging. What's a key trait of a casement window?

Casement windows are hinged. They are frequently metal windows for extra durability in rugged applications.

It's a vital horizontal structural member. What's it called?

Joists are among the most important parts of a home. These structural members run horizontally at points where much of the building's weight rests.

You'll route electrical wire through what, exactly?

Electricians often run electrical wires through conduit pipe. These pipes come in a range of strengths and diameters.

"Taping" is especially for which kind of work?

No matter how precisely you aligned your sheets of drywall, you'll be left with gaps. It's vital that you tape those gaps neatly so that you can finish the wall with a high-quality look.

Bad builders use too many of them. What are "shims"?

Shims are slim bits of stuff -- like wood -- that can be used to fill in gaps or shore up imprecise construction. A shim, for instance, can stop your toilet from wiggling everytime you use it.

Improve the view. Where might you have to "reglaze" part of the house?

Windows break. If you have to replace a pane, it's called "reglazing."

American homes use oodles of studs. Where are they?

Studs are fundamental to walls -- they're vertical framing members that provide structural support. You affix drywall to studs.

You'll need them at some point. Hangers are particularly useful for what?

Pipes need support. In a basement, for instance, you can use hangers to suspend pipes from joists and easily run them to various parts of the house.

When it's improperly installed, it's a nightmare. Why use "flashing"?

Flashing is strips of thin metal that are typically bent and placed in roofs or walls to prevent water intrusion. Poorly installed flashing is a common cause of major house problems, like mold.

On which part of your house is "wainscot" often a nice touch?

Wainscot is when you finish a wall so that the bottom section looks different from the top. Wood paneling is one form of wainscot.

When you join together two sloped areas of a roof, you've created a what?

In a home of any real size, you'll see valleys on the roof. It's an area where two slopes come together, and it's where water runoff will be especially heavy.

Don't just slap it on there. For what type of project is "troweling" especially vital?

Concrete workers become adept at troweling. This helps to smooth out the surface of concrete, leaving a finished appearance.

What's the ultimate purpose of a collared beam?

Collared beams are slender pieces of lumber that connect rafters. The end result is a stiffer roof.

It's all about air flow. Where might you find baffles?

Baffles are gadgets meant to allow for better ventilation between the roof sheating and insulation. These are critical for temperature control in attics.

Otherwise, water is a problem. Where would you be likely to use "grout"?

It's necessary between tiles. The plaster-like consistency of grout is pressed between tiles, where it dries and then prevents water infiltration.

Don't eat off of it. Where's the top plate?

And they are clearly vital to the wall's integrity. Top plates are horizontal members nailed to the tops of wall studs.

If you want to control the amount of moisture in a living area, what might you use?

Vapor barriers are plastic sheets that rest between insulation and the living quarters. This barrier can go a long way toward keeping moisture levels from rising in the home's materials.

What's the purpose of a "face brick"?

Brick aesthetics vary quite a lot. Face bricks are specifically made to be used in areas of high visibility, a fact that improves the overall look of the project.

These types matter. Oak and maple are examples of what type of wood?

For projects like cabinets you should use hardwoods, like oak, maple, walnut and so on. These hardwoods are durable and offer beautiful grain when stained.

It's not a massive space. What's a common use for an alcove?

An alcove is a recessed area branching off from a bigger room. They're handy for coatrooms and other purposes.

Walk on! What's a a common purpose behind a sleeper?

A sleeper is usually a bit of lumber sunk into concrete, and it's used for securing flooring or perhaps sub-flooring to the surface.

You have to make room for one. What's the purpose of the house drain?

The house drain is oriented horizontally within the structure, connected to the soil stacks located throughout the home. It transports sewage to the appropriate disposal system.

They're common in some places. What's a defining feature of a shed roof?

Shed roofs are very simple. They are one long flat plane, slightly titled to encourage water runoff.

It's all about access. Where are you going with that scuttle?

If you're building an attic, you need a scuttle, too. The scuttle is simply an access door that allows you to ascend to the attic.

They are fundamental pieces. What are anchors typically made from?

Anchors refers to fasteners, which are generally made from metal like steel. Without anchors, that fancy house would have to be built in an entirely different fashion.

It's a security issue. What's a "toenail"?

Toenailing is when you drive a nail at an angle to connect one member to another. It takes a bit of practice to master this skill.

You need to route wires through a wall. What will you use?

The chase is a continuous opening, often in a framed wall, that allows for an object to pass through various parts of the house. You can run wiring or other objects through a chase.

It has to be just right. Why did you need a "strike"?

The strike is the metal plate on the door frame that secures the deadbolt or latch. When the strike is misaligned or loose, doors simply don't work very well.

It's common in the Northwest. What are you going to do with that "shake"?

Shake is wooden shingles. These shingles shrivel in dry climates, but in places like the Pacific Northwest, they expand and keep water out of the house.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes