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HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS
AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
AIR CONDITIONING & HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS
ALUMINUM WIRING HAZARDS & REPAIRS
ANIMAL ENTRY POINTS in buildings
ANIMAL or URINE ODOR SOURCE DETECTION
ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN buildings
ASHI American Society of Home Inspectors
ASHI Certification of Home Inspectors
ATTORNEYS and EXPERT WITNESSES
ROOF ICE DAM LEAKS
BASEMENT CEILING VAPOR BARRIER
BASEMENT HEAT LOSS
BUILDING DAMAGE ASSESSMENT & REPAIR
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
CHINESE DRYWALL HAZARDS
CRAWL SPACE ACCESS
CRAWL SPACE SAFETY ADVICE
DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
DECK COLLAPSE Case Study
DECK FINISHES COATINGS PRESERVATIVES
DECK FLASHING LEAKS, ROT Case Study
DEFECT CLUSTERS at HOME INSPECTIONS
DIRECTORY of BUILDING INSPECTORS
DISASTER BUILDING INSPECTION & REPAIR
EARTHQUAKE DAMAGED FOUNDATIONS
EIFS & STUCCO EXTERIORS
ELECTRICAL INSPECTION, DIAGNOSIS, REPAIR
Electrical Inspection Safety
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
Fiberglass hazards in buildings
FIRE CLEARANCES, SINGLE-WALL METAL FLUES
FIREPLACES & HEARTHS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOODS IN buildings-priorities
FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE
FPE Stab-Lok HAZARDS & REPAIRS WEBSITE
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GUTTERS & DOWNSPOUTS
GLUES ADHESIVES, EXTERIOR CONSTRUCTION
HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS
BUILDING INSPECTORS DIRECTORY
Advice on Becoming a Home Inspector
Checklists vs Narrative Reports
Historic Homes, Home Improvement Costs, Research
HOME INSPECTOR EDUCATION
Home Inspector, How to Become a
HOME INSPECTOR SKILLS
Home Inspection Company Franchises
Home Inspection Components Master List
Home Inspection Definitions & Terms
Home Inspection Ethical Codes
HOME INSPECTION, GET THE MOST FROM
Home Inspection Publications
HOME INSPECTION REPORT WRITING
HOME INSPECTION SAFETY HAZARDS
HOME INSPECTION STANDARDS
HOUSE DOCTOR, how-to be
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PAY for PROFESSIONAL SERVICES?
INSPECTION COMPONENTS MASTER LIST
MOBILE HOME INSPECTION GUIDE
VISUAL PERCEPTION ERRORS
HOT WATER HEATERS
HOUSE PARTS, DEFINITIONS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
ROOF ICE DAM LEAKS
INSECT INFESTATION / DAMAGE
INSULATION IDENTIFICATION GUIDE
INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT
LEED GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION
LEED Building Designation & IAQ
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
LIGHTNING PROTECTION SYSTEMS
LOG HOME GUIDE
MANUALS & PARTS GUIDES - HVAC
MOBILE HOME INSPECTION GUIDE
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOISTURE METER STUDY
MOLD in buildings
MOLD PREVENTION GUIDE
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MOLD SAFETY WARNINGS
MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS
MOLD TESTING SERVICES
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL TANK PIPING & PIPING DEFECTS
OIL TANKS INSPECT LEAK TEST ABANDON REGS
PAINT ANALYSIS, DIAGNOSTIC USES
PAINT & STAIN GUIDE, EXTERIOR
PAINT FALURE, DIAGNOSIS, CURE, PREVENTION
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
PLASTER & BEAVERBOARD & DRYWALL
PLASTER BULGES & PILLOWS
PLASTER LATH, METAL
PLASTER, LOOSE FALL HAZARDS
PLASTER TYPE IDENTIFICATION
PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
RAILINGS, DECK & PORCH
Reports: Checklists vs Narrative
RETAINING WALL DESIGNS, TYPES, DAMAGE
ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR
ROOF VENTILATION SPECIFICATIONS
ROT RESISTANT LUMBER
ROT, TIMBER FRAME
ROT, TIMBER ASSESSMENT
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
SAFETY: Elderly & Veterans Home Safety
SAFETY for ELECTRICAL INSPECTORS
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SAFETY for SEPTIC INSPECTORS
Sears Catalog kit homes - how to identify
Septic System Safety Hazards
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SIDING TYPES, INSTALLATION, DEFECTS
SIDING, ASBESTOS CEMENT
SIDING ASPHALT ROOF SHINGLES on WALLS
SIDING ASPHALT SHINGLE or SHEET
SIDING DAMAGE by SPLASHBACK
SIDING EIFS & STUCCO
SIDING, FIBER CEMENT
SIDING, WOOD PRODUCT CHOICES
SIDING, WOOD INSTALLATION
SIDING WOOD, FAILURES OVER FOAM BOARD
SIDING WOOD, FLASHING DETAILS
SIDING WOOD SHINGLE INSTALLATION
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
CONCRETE SLAB CRACK EVALUATION
SPLITS & CRACKS in STRUCTURAL WOOD BEAMS
STAIN & BIODETERIORATION AGENT CATALOG
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
STAINS on CONCRETE
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on ROOFS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on STONE
STAINS on INDOOR SURFACES: PHOTO GUIDE
STANDARDS, HOME INSPECTION
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
STAIR FALL & TRIP HAZARDS
STONE CLEANING METHODS
STRESS SKIN INSULATED PANELS
STRUCTURAL DAMAGE PROBING
TANK TYPES: WATER, OIL, EXPANSION, ALL
THERMAL TRACKING Indicates Heat Loss
VAPOR BARRIERS & HOUSEWRAP
VAPOR CONDENSATION & BUILDING SHEATHING
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VISUAL PERCEPTION ERRORS
WALL CONSTRUCTION BARRIER vs CAVITY
WATER ENTRY in buildings
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TEST CHOICES & WATER TEST FEES
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TESTING ADVICE
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL CHLORINATION SHOCKING PROCEDURE
WINDOWS & DOORS
WOOD-OIL-BURNING BOILERS, FURNACES, STOVES
WOOD ROOF INSPECTION GUIDE
ZINSCO / SYLVANIA HAZARDS
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.  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 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
Because we have found the the page top sketch (US DHEW and New York State 1955 or earlier ) 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.
[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
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 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
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.
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)
29. 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.
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
and 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
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 andDRYWALL 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.
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.
Other Definitions and Notes
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.
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.
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do you call the wide board that runs just below the soffits on the vertical side of the house? This would be the board just above the clapboard on a wooden house. Also, what do you call the same board at the bottom on the clapboard between the clapboard and the foundation? I use to know these terms, but I can’t remember them. I do find your online information very useful. Thanks for having most of what I need in one place. - M.M. 8/14/2013
Definition 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. 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.
Other sources describe the frieze board as part of a classical entablature located between the architrave and the cornice. But I don't like this usage of architrave when discussing exterior building wall trim because properly an architrave is a decorated / decorative horizontal beam or lintel resting on the top of two or more columns in classical architecture, or found above a building window or door.
Definition of entablature: on a classical building the entablature is a combination of decorative elements that rests atop columns, made up typically of an architrave, frieze, and cornice. The term entablature is used then to describe a built-up combination of horizontal decorative components.
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.
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.
A very helpful reference that provides illustrative sketches and definitions of building components and terms is Architectural Graphic Standards, by Ramsey Sleeper 
At Field Guides to North American House Architecture we list (and you can buy at Amazon) books we have found particularly helpful in identifying architectural styles,
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