Photograph of  cutaway house with some home inspection topics shown .House Parts
Definitions & sketch of the 60 basic components of a house structure
     

  • HOUSE PARTS, DEFINITIONS - CONTENTS: Home Inspection Definitions & Terms - Glossary of more than 60 basic parts of a house and its structure: part names, where they are found. Home inspection definitions. List of home inspection terms. Home inspection terminology also defines the limits and scope of a home inspection
  • Questions & answers about building & home inspection terms & their definitions
  • REFERENCES

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Names & Definitions of the Parts of a House:

This article provides a glossary of the main parts of a house and house structure and we give definitions of common home inspection terms used during home inspections or in home inspection reports. Terms defined here may also appear in home inspection standards and home inspection licensing laws.

This is a public, consumer information document containing a glossary defining some key terms regarding home inspectors in the United States and Canada.

Our page top sketch was published by US DHEW and also by New York State in 1955 (Basic Housing Inspection) or earlier. [1] A key to the numbered items in this house parts list is just below at Glossary of Common House Parts.

Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.

Glossary of Common House Parts

Photograph of  cutaway house with some home inspection topics shown .Because we have found the the page top sketch (US DHEW and New York State 1955 or earlier [1]) published in several forms with and without a consistent key to the numbered house parts or even consistent numbers, we have made up our own glossary list keyed to that sketch - below.

CONTACT us with suggested changes or additions to these terms and definitions.

Also see Basic Home Inspection Definitions of Terms, found below.

[Click any image to see a larger, detailed view.]

1. Chimney - vent flue gases from fireplaces or heating equipment.
See CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR

2. Chimney flue top or chimney cap (if present)

3. Chimney crown or chimney top seal

4. Chimney Flashing seals the roof penetration to avoid leaks into the structure.
See CHIMNEY FLASHING Mistakes & Leaks.

5. Masonry fireplace,
See FIREPLACES & HEARTHS

6. Fireplace ash pit door.

7. Fireplace ash pit cleanout door.
See CHIMNEY CLEANOUT DOORS

8. Fireplace mantel - horizontal trim attached to wall above fireplace opening.
See FIREPLACES & HEARTHS

9. Hearth - flat surface in front of the fireplace, protects flooring from fire.
See Fireplace Hearth Size

Photograph of  cutaway house with some home inspection topics shown .10. Ridge cap or ridge vent (if present)

11. Ridge board

12. Cripple rafters or Jack rafters (between chimney and house eaves - rafters that do not extend the full distance between house eaves and the roof ridge board)

13. Rafter blocking or cross bridging, also found on floor joists and in some wall framing

14. Soffit or lookout or house eaves. The soffit is the enclosed portion of the roof that overhangs the house walls at the roof lower edges. The construction of a typical roof overhang, eave or soffit is shown in our sketch at left.

15. Roof sheathing or roof decking. Also
see INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT.

16. Roof shingles (asphalt shingles, clay tiles, slates, wood shingles, or shakes, similar materials) -
See ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR

17. Drip edge (shown on gable end, used at lower roof edges or eaves). The drip edge is special metal flashing intended to divert water off of the roof lower edges into the roof gutter system. Drip edges should spill into the gutter, not behind it.
ROOF FLASHING DEFECTS LIST

18. Gutter (attached over or to fascia board) to collect roof drainage and prevent it from spilling down and along the building walls (leaks) and basement (wet basements).
See GUTTERS & DOWNSPOUTS

Below we include definitions of trim found at or near the top of building exterior walls and thus (usually) lower than the gutter and soffit:

Definition of fascia & cornice trim boards (C) Daniel FriedmanDefinition of Cornice molding or cornice trim: The horizontal board running at the top of a building exterior wall is a cornice molding or cornice trim board; some buildings have a decorative cornice while more common on simple residential structures is a plain horizontal trim board.

The cornice is also described in some dictionaries as the uppermost part of an entablature. Cornice molding also is used indoors in some buildings and appears as a trim board mounted at the juncture of wall top and ceiling.

Definition of frieze board: a frieze board is a horizontal decorative board at the top of a wall or between the cornice and the wall covering; a frieze board may appear on the building exterior or on an interior wall as well. A frieze board may appear alone, without cornice molding. Thus some architects and builders may refer to the horizontal board at the top of the wall, below the soffit as simply the frieze board, omitting any discussion of (the more complex) cornice or cornice trim.

See this Greek Revival cornice illustration.

Definition of Facia board or fascia trim: The horizontal board running along the outer edge of a soffit, typically covered or mostly covered by a gutter on modern homes, is the fascia board.

Dont' confuse fascia board with cornice molding which is below the soffit and in the plane of the wall itself. On some buildings the water table trim is a bit more complex, using at least two pieces of horizontal trim: a narrow board, perhaps 1-3" in width is placed on an angle sloping away from the wall to form a drip cap atop a 6-10" wide horizontal trim board placed flat against the building.

The water table trim board is described at item 29 below.

19. Downspouts (conduct roof drainage from the gutters to a destination away from the building or into a storm drain system). See DOWNSPOUT / LEADER DEFECTS

20. Downspout leader or downspout extension (hard to see, behind that front right entry porch column)

21. Gable end and gable-end attic vent. The gable end the house wall on a conventional simple gable roof such as shown in our sketch is the triangular end wall (arrows 17, 22, 23, and 31)
See ROOF VENTILATION SPECIFICATIONS

Definition of The rake area of the roof or ends of the roof itself may overhang the gable end wall. The rake is the edge of the gable roof that runs parallel to the sloping roof edge and extends from the ridge or "peak" to the lower roof edges at the gable end walls of the home. Don't confuse "rake" or "gable end" (arrows 17, 22, 23, and 31) with "soffit" or "eaves" of a roof. The eaves are the lower edges of the roof that run parallel to the house walls under the lowest roof edges (arrows 18 and 36 in the sketch).

22. Gable end fascia. See notes at 21 above. The gable end fascia is the trim board attached to the roof edges, extending from ridge to lower roof edge, and where a rake overhang is present, covering the outermost rake rafter or barge rafter.

Photograph of  cutaway house with some home inspection topics shown .23. Gable end vent or attic vent at gable end (Not shown: rake intake venting may also be found at the gable ends of a home where barge rafters and framing form an overhang at these walls).

24. Wall corner studs or post;
STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS


and FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR

25. Wall Stud basic framing unit of wood frame construction building walls

26. Sill plate (rests atop foundation wall, nailed to rim joist and joists)

27. Wall top plate

28. Diagonal wall bracing (not present on all buildings, modern wood frame construction uses plywood or OSB sheathing to provide wall stiffness and protect against "racking" or diagonal movement in the wood framed structure)

Exterior siding & water table trim board (C) Daniel Friedman29. Wall sheathing - showing diagonal tongue and groove boards, typically 3/4" thick; modern wall sheathing in wood frame construction uses 1/2" thick plywood or OSB sheathing products. Also see INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT.

Definition of Water table trim board: The horizontal board running along the bottom of a building exterior wall siding such as common on clapboard-sided homes is often called a water table trim board.

Our illustration at left shows the water table horizontal trim board on a building sided with wood clapboards. Best construction practices would include zee flashing atop this board and extending up behind the bottom clapboard just above, or a drip cap atop the water table trim board along with zee flashing.

Cornice, frieze and fascia boards and trim are described above at item 16.

30. Floor joist resting on sill plate atop foundation wall.
FLOOR, ENGINEERED WOOD, LAMINATES INSTALL

and FLOOR FRAMING & SUBFLOOR for TILE

31. Interior partition wall over fireplace mantel; may be plaster over solid masonry or other construction;

32. Floor joist resting on basement beam or center girder.

33. Flooring underlayment (in 1955 this was red rosin paper or 15# roofing felt). Modern floor underlayment uses at least one thickness of tongue-and groove 3/4" plywood. Where carpeting is to be installed builders may use solid-core plywood to avoid accidental punctures of the flooring through the carpeting (stiletto heeled shoes).
See FLOOR DAMAGE DIAGNOSIS a

nd FLOOR TYPES & DEFECTS

34. Subflooring (shown, diagonal tongue and groove boards) - see #33 above. Additional layers of subflooring over the base underlayment may be installed where tile is to be installed;
FLOOR FRAMING & SUBFLOOR for TILE

35. Housewrap or moisture barrier (in 1955 this was red rosin paper or 15# roofing felt).
See HOUSEWRAP INSTALLATION DETAILS.

Also see INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT.

Photograph of  cutaway house with some home inspection topics shown .36. Exterior siding (shown: clapboards)
See SIDING TYPES, INSTALLATION, DEFECTS

37. Interior partition wall or center wall partition (may be load bearing, supporting 2nd floor joists)

38. Interior wall covering: Plaster wall scratch coat or masonry for chimney (if present)
See PLASTER TYPE IDENTIFICATION

and DRYWALL HAZARDS, CHINESE

and DRYWALL INSTALLATION Best Practices

and DRYWALL MOLD RESISTANT

39. Grade level (top of soil around building).
See GRADING, DRAINAGE & SITE WORK

40. Foundation wall, along with wall footings (42) supports the structure and holds back earth where a basement or crawl space is included.
See FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE

41. Sill sealer (between sill plate and foundation wall top)

42. Footing, supports the foundation wall.
See FOUNDATION DEFECTS OF OMISSION - MISSING

43. Footing drain or foundation drain (perforated pipe + gravel, should extend to daylight to drain by gravity).
FOOTING & FOUNDATION DRAINS

44. Poured concrete basement floor slab (floating slab atop compacted fill inside foundation wall)

45. Compacted fill (or gravel atop fill or poly on gravel on fill) below basement floor slab

46. Main girder resting on supporting posts or pockets in foundation walls (not shown but you can see a post to the right of (30). The main girder carries part of the floor joist load, typically through the center of the home. FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR

47. Backfill around foundation wall.
See GRADING, DRAINAGE & SITE WORK

48. Rim joist or pier cap (rests on pier top where a continuous foundation wall is not present)

49. Pier, alternative to a continuous foundation wall, piers may support posts that in turn support perimeter girders or beams carrying the building wall loads.

Photograph of  cutaway house with some home inspection topics shown .

50. Window sash.
See WINDOWS & DOORS and

see WINDOW TYPES, PHOTO GUIDE

51. Window jamb or window frame

52. Window sash frame

53. Window header

54. Window interior trim

55. Entry porch gable

56. Fireplace ash pit

57. Stair tread.
See STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS

58. Stair riser

59. Stair stringer (structural support for stair treads and risers)

60. Newell post at stair bottom (handrail ends at this post)

61. Stair rail or handrail; on landings or balconies: guardrail.
See STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS

62. Stair baluster. Balusters are the vertical supports enclosing the space between the underside of the stair railing and the stair tread upper surface. Typically spaced 4" o.c. to avoid child hazards.

Definitions of Home & Building InspectionTerms

  • Automatic Safety Controls - Devices designed and installed to protect systems and components from excessively high or low pressure and temperatures, excessive electrical current, loss of water, loss of ignition, fuel leaks, fire, freezing, or other unsafe conditions.

    See Limit Switches, Boilers

    and LOW WATER CUTOFF VALVES as well

    as RELIEF VALVES - TP VALVES

    and RESET SWITCH on PRIMARY CONTROL for examples of automatic safety controls in buildings.

    Also see WATER PUMP & TANK CONTROLS & SWITCHES for examples of plumbing system safety controls, and

    see CIRCUIT BREAKER FAILURES for an example of electrical system safety controls.
  • Central Air Conditioning - see Air Conditioning System Inspection Diagnosis Repair for details. - A system which uses ducts to distribute cooling and/or dehumidified air to more than one room or uses pipes to distribute chilled water to heat exchangers in more than one room, and which is not plugged into an electrical convenience outlet.
  • Component - A readily accessible and observable aspect of a system, such as a floor, or wall, but not individual pieces such as boards or nails where many similar pieces make up the component.
  • Cross Connection - see CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING for details. - A plumbing system cross connection is any physical connection or arrangement between potable water and any source of contamination. A cross connection risks contamination of building water piping or municipal water supply with bacteria.

    Common examples of cross connections in buildings include water softeners (see HEALTH RISKS & WATER SOFTENERS) and dishwashers connected to a building drain without an air gap and water powered backup sump pump systems that use municipal water pressure and a venturi to evacuate water from a building or its sump pit (see Sump Pump Types). Leaving a garden hose outlet end in an unsanitary water source such as a garden pond is also a cross connection that may be unsanitary.
  • Dangerous or Adverse Situations - Situations which pose a threat of injury to the inspector, and those situations which require the use of special protective clothing or safety equipment.
    See Safety for Building Inspectors
  • Describe - Report in writing a system or component by its type, or other observed characteristics, to distinguish it from other components used for the same purposes.
    See Reports: Checklists vs Narrative
  • Dismantle - To take apart or remove any component, device, or piece of equipment that is bolted, screwed, or fastened by other means and that would not be dismantled by the homeowner in the course of normal household maintenance.
  • Engineering - Analysis or design work requiring extensive preparation and experience in the use of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and the engineering sciences.
    See STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS for examples of non-engineering inspection of buildings and structures for visual evidence of defects or unsafe conditions.
  • Enter - To go into an area to observe all visible components.
  • Functional Drainage - A drain is functional when it empties in a reasonable amount of time and does not overflow when another fixture is drained simultaneously.
    See CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR.
  • Functional Flow - A reasonable flow at the highest fixture in a dwelling when another fixture is operated simultaneously. See WATER PRESSURE MEASUREMENT.

    See also  WELL FLOW RATE
  • Household Appliances - Kitchen and laundry appliances, room air conditioners, and similar appliances.
  • Inspector - Any person who examines any component of a building, through visual means and through normal user controls, without the use of mathematical sciences.
    See HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS.
  • Installed - Attached or connected such that the installed item requires tools for removal.
  • Normal Operating Controls - Homeowner operated devices such as thermostat (THERMOSTATS), wall switch, or safety switch (ELECTRICAL POWER SWITCH FOR HEAT).

    Also see ELECTRIC PANEL INSPECTION.
  • Observe - The act of making a visual examination.
  • On-site Water Supply Quality - Water quality is based on the bacterial, chemical, mineral, and solids content of the water. See WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
  • On-site Water Supply Quantity - Water quantity is the volume of water that can be drawn from a well under normal usage rates (for private water supply systems. For municipal water supply systems the quantity of water that can be drawn is usually not limited.

    But many people who ask about water "quantity" are actually concerned with the rate of flow of water . Flow rate -how fast water comes out of a faucet or shower head, depends on several variables such as pipe diameter and water pressure (see WATER PRESSURE MEASUREMENT).

    If the building is served by a private well, both water quantity and flow rate may also be limited by the well itself (see WELL FLOW RATE).

    See WELL FLOW RATE and WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT.
  • Operate - To cause systems or equipment to function. Usually during a home inspection equipment is operated just by using normal controls and switches intended for use by the occupants of the building.
  • Primary Windows and Doors - Windows and/or exterior doors which are designed to remain in their respective openings year round and not left open for the entire summer. See WINDOWS & DOORS
  • Readily Openable Access Panel - A panel provided for homeowner inspection and maintenance which has removable or operable fasteners or latch devices in order to be lifted off, swung open, or otherwise removed by one person, and its edges and fasteners are not painted in place. Limited to those panels which are within normal reach or from a 4-foot stepladder, and which are not blocked by stored items, furniture, or building components.
  • Recreational Facilities - Spas, saunas, steam baths, swimming pools, tennis courts, playground equipment, and other exercise, entertainment, or athletic facilities.
  • Representative Number - For multiple identical components such as windows and electrical outlets -- one such component per room. For multiple identical exterior components - one such component on each side of the building.
  • Roof Drainage Systems - Gutters, downspouts, leaders, splash blocks, and similar components used to carry water off of a roof and away from a building. See GUTTERS & DOWNSPOUTS.
  • Safety Glazing - Tempered glass, laminated glass, or rigid plastic. See WINDOWS & DOORS.
  • Shut Down - A piece of equipment or a system is shut down when it cannot be operated by the device or control which a home owner should normally use to operate it. If its safety switch or circuit breaker is in the "off" position, or its fuse is missing or blown, the inspector is not required to reestablish the circuit for the purpose of operating the equipment or system.
  • Solid Fuel Heating Device - Any wood, coal, or other similar organic fuel burning device, including but not limited to fireplaces whether masonry or factory-built, fireplace inserts and stoves, woodstoves (room heaters), central furnaces, and combinations of these devices. See Wood Burning Heaters Fireplaces Stoves for details.
  • Structural Component - A component which supports non-variable forces or weights (dead loads) and variable forces or weights (live loads). See STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS.
  • System - A combination of interacting or interdependent components, assembled to carry out one or more functions.
  • Technically Exhaustive - An inspection is technically exhaustive when it involves the extensive use of measurements, instruments, testing, calculators, and other means to develop scientific or engineering findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
  • Underfloor Crawl Space - The area within the confines of the foundation and between the ground and the underside of the lowest floor structural component.
    See CRAWL SPACE SAFETY ADVICE

    and CRAWLSPACE MOLD ADVICE.

Other Definitions and Notes

Building Code compliance:

ASHI Inspections are focused on in-service conditions and do not certify compliance with building codes. But to be accurately informed and to be able to recognize important defects in the field, ASHI inspectors may refer to various building codes and also to other standards for purposes of training or explanation.

In-service building component failures

ASHI inspectors operate in that zone of discovery between new constructing code-compliance inspections and post-failure investigations and repair work. Using essentially visual methods home inspectors examine both major building components and small details which offer clues suggesting areas where major repairs may be needed.

ASHI's Contribution to other fields Because ASHI has building experts examining residential structures in every U.S. State and Canadian Province, ASHI members present an opportunity to contribute to and share data and field experience with other construction-related professional groups and with trade associations.

 

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