Carpentry Glossary

by Marc Dickinson

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Air-Dried Lumber: Lumber that's been stored in an enclosed area for any length of time. The minimum moisture content of this lumber is 12 to 15 percent, though in the South it can be no lower than 19 percent.

Airway: The space made between roof boards and insulation in order for air to move.

Anchor Bolts: Bolts that are used to secure a wooden sill plate to floor or walls.

Apron: The piece of inside window trim placed against the wall directly beneath the stool.

Astragal: A molding attached to a swinging door against which the door hits.

Barge Board: A decorative board covering the rafter of the gable end.

Base or baseboard: A board positioned around the bottom circumference of a room as a finish between the floor and the plaster.

Base molding: A molding used as a trim for the upper edge of a baseboard.

Base Shoe (or Carpet Strip): A molding used as a trim for the bottom edge of a baseboard.

Batten: Narrow strips of wood used to cover joints.

Batter boards: A pair of horizontal boards attached to posts at the corner of a site to indicate desired levels. Often they are used to stretch strings between to create an outline for the foundation walls.

Beam: A structural member which supports a load diagonally.

Bed molding: An angled molding between the cornice and the wall.

Blind nailing: Nailing so that the nailheads are invisible on the face of the work.

Bolster: A short, horizontal timber/steel beam on top of a column which supports/shortens the span between the beams/girders.

Bottom Plate: The bottom, horizontal member of a stud framed wall, nailed through the subfloor into floor joists.

Brace: An inclined piece of lumber placed against wall to temporarily stiffen the structure while framing is completed.

Bridging: Small pieces of wood placed in an X-pattern between the floor joists to prevent them from twisting and squeaking.

Buck: A rough frame opening.

Butt joint: The junction between two ends of timber/members that meet in a square-cut joint.

Cant Strip: A triangular piece of wood used at the junction of a flat deck and wall which prevents the roof from cracking when it is applied over it.

Cap Plate: Upper top plate.

Column: A vertical supporting member that consists of base, shaft, and capital.

Casing: Molding of different lengths/widths used to trim doors/windows that open at the jambs.

Collar beam: 1 to 2 inch-thick members connecting opposite roof rafters to stiffen roof structure.

Compound Miter: An angled cut with the blade sloped at a specified angle.

Corner Boards: Trim for the external corns of a house against which the siding are finished.

Corner Braces: Diagonal braces at the corners of framed walls to provide extra strength.

Corner Post: The wall stud and spacer blocks which creates an nailing surface for drywall at a framed corner.

Cornice: Overhand of a pitched roof at the eve line.

Cove Molding: Molding with a concave face used to finish interior corners.

Cripple Stud: Short studs placed between the header and top plate, or between a sill and sole plate.

Crown: An upward bow, curve, or rise along a board length. Deck boards are set on end with the crown up. Eventually, the crown will sag and straighten the board.

Crown molding: Molding used to cover any interior angle.

Cut-in Brace: Small 2-inch-thick members that cut in between the stud diagonally.

Dado: A rectangular groove along the width of a board.

Decking: Lumber that forms an outside floor surface; decking fastens directly over floor joists.

Direct nailing: See Face-Nail.

Dormer: An opening in a sloping roof that projects out to create a vertical wall for windows.

Dressed and Matched: See Tongue and Groove.

Drip: A cornice that has a projection beyond the other parts to throw off water.

Drip Cap: A cornice on the top-side exterior of window/door frame to throw off water.

Eave: Lower part of a roof which projects over the wall.

Face-nail: Driving a nail perpendicularly through the width side board.

Fascia: The flat front board which caps the rafter tail ends and fly rafter edges.

Filler: A preparation used to fill/level off pores in open-pored woods.

Fishplate: A piece of wood that fastens the ends to two members together at a butt joint.

Floor Joists: The main subfloor framing members which supports the floor span. Typically, joists are made out of I-beams or 2x8 (or larger) lumber.

Fly Rafters: The end rafters forming the outside edge of the roof's rake (overhang).

Framing, balloon: A framing in which all vertical structural elements of the bearing walls consist of single pieces extending from the top of the foundation sill plate to the roofplate and to which all floor joists are fastened.

Framing, platform: A framing in which the floor joists of each story rest on the top plates of the story below or on the foundation sill of the first story and the bearing walls rest on the subfloor of each story.

Frieze: A horizontal member which connects the top of the siding with the soffit of the cornice.

Furring: Strips of wood/metal put on a wall to even it and it often serves as a fastening base for finish material.

Girder: A large beam of wood or steel which acts as the principle support for loads along its span.

Header: A beam which is perpendicular to wall suds above doors, windows or other openings. It carries the weight of structural loads.

Joist: Parallel framing members installed horizontally to carry floor and ceiling loads.

Joist Hangers: Metal brackets which hold joist ends. Hangers are often easier than toenailing joists.

Ledger Board/Strip: A strip of lumber nailed to a beam, girder, or rim joist on which the floor joists rest.

Load-bearing Wall: A wall that supports structural weight above it. It can be recognized by overlapping or butted ceiling joists running vertically above it.

Lookouts: Rake cross-bracing between fly rafters and end gable rafters which the soffit nails to.

Miter: A 45-degree cut. Unlike a compound miter cut, the saw blade remains at 0 degrees.

Non Load-Bearing Wall: A wall which supports no load other than its own weight.

On Center (O.C.): The measured space between studs, joists, rafters, etc. This measurement runs from the center of one member to the center of the adjoining member.

Penny: This type of nail originally meant "the price per hundred." Today, it refers to nail length and is abbreviated with the letter "d," the English sign for one cent.

Plumb: A vertical element that is perfectly perpendicular to a level surface.

Plywood: Wood made of three or more layers of wood veneer laminated together with glue.

Pitch: The angle of a roof slope, measured as "X" inches per 12" (x/12). Roof pitches commonly range from 4/12 to 8/12. To calculate pitch place a carpenter's level on a roof line, measure out 12" on the level, and then from that point measure down to the roof line. This will be the first number of the pitch.

Rough Opening: A framed-in opening (slightly bigger than the actual window/door) that replaces wall studs to accommodate a window/door.

Sheathing: Structural covering for studs, rafters, or roof trusses.

Sill: A structural wood piece which forms the lower side of a window opening.

Sill Plate: A piece of horizontal wood which is anchored to the foundation masonry. It is used to provide a nailing surface for floors or walls built above.

Soffit: The underneath member of eaves and rakes. Often they're vented to draw air into an attic.

Sole Plate: Bottom, horizontal member of a framed wall.

Spacer Blocks: Short blocks nailed to corner studs. A wall stud is nailed to the spacers, which creates a new nailing surface.

Span: Distance between the structural supports in floors, ceilings, and roofs.

Stick-Building: When one constructs framing on the site itself, instead of raising prefabricating walls as a single unit.

Stud: A 2x4 or 2x6 vertical framing member used to assemble walls.

Subfloor: Boards or plywood mounted over joists on which the finish floor is laid.

Tack: A temporary nailer. Something is lightly "tacked" into place in order to aid in positioning, measuring, handling, etc.

Toenailing: Nailing at an angle to connect one framing piece to a second.

Tongue and Groove: Boards manufactured so that there is a groove on one edge and a tongue on the corresponding edge.

Top Plate: Top, horizontal framing pieces of a wall.

Valley: The inward angle of two sloping roof sections. Framing consists of a doubled valley rafter in the middle which extends from a top plate corner to a second ridge board, with angled jack rafters used for support.

Marc Dickinson has worked in both the general contracting and landscaping trades and is currently a home improvement freelance writer with over 300 articles published.