Dictionary of Construction Terminology

Dictionary of Construction Terminology

Search for glossary terms (regular expression allowed)
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Term Definition
P trap
Curved, "U" section of drain pipe that holds a water seal to prevent sewer gasses from entering the home through a fixtures water drain.
Pad out, pack out
To shim out or add strips of wood to a wall or ceiling in order that the finished ceiling/wall will appear correct.
Padding
A material installed under carpet to add foot comfort, isolate sound, and to prolong carpet life.
Paint
A combination of pigments with suitable thinners or oils to provide decorative and protective coatings. Can be oil based or latex water based.
Pallets
Wooden platforms used for storing and shipping material. Forklifts and hand trucks are used to move these wooden platforms around.
Panel
A thin flat piece of wood, plywood, or similar material, framed by stiles and rails as in a door (or cabinet door), or fitted into grooves of thicker material with molded edges for decorative wall treatment.
Paper, building
A general term for papers, felts, and similar sheet materials used in buildings without reference to their properties or uses. Generally comes in long rolls.
Parapet
A wall placed at the edge of a roof to prevent people from falling off.
Particle board
Plywood substitute made of course sawdust that is mixed with resin and pressed into sheets. Used for closet shelving, floor underlayment, stair treads, etc.
Parting stop or strip
A small wood piece used in the side and head jambs of double hung windows to separate the upper sash from the lower sash.
Partition
A wall that subdivides spaces within any story of a building or room.
Paver, paving
Materials—commonly masonry—laid down to make a firm, even surface.
Payment schedule
- A pre-agreed upon schedule of payments to a contractor usually based upon the amount of work completed. Such a schedule may include a deposit prior to the start of work. There may also be a temporary 'retainer' (5-10% of the total cost of the job) at the end of the contract for correcting any small items which have not been completed or repaired.
Pedestal
A metal box installed at various locations along utility easements that contain electrical, telephone, or cable television switches and connections.
Penalty clause
A provision in a contract that provides for a reduction in the amount otherwise payable under a contract to a contractor as a penalty for failure to meet deadlines or for failure of the project to meet contract specifications.
Penny
As applied to nails, it originally indicated the price per hundred. The term now series as a measure of nail length and is abbreviated by the letter "d". Normally, 16d (16 "penny") nails are used for framing
Percolation test or perc. test
Tests that a soil engineer performs on earth to determine the feasibility of installing a leech field type sewer system on a lot. A test to determine if the soil on a proposed building lot is capable of absorbing the liquid affluent from a septic system.
Performance bond
- An amount of money (usually 10% of the total price of a job)  that a contractor must put on deposit with a governmental agency as an insurance policy that guarantees the contractors' proper and timely completion of a project or job.
Perimeter drain
3" or 4" perforated plastic pipe that goes around the perimeter (either inside or outside) of a foundation wall (before backfill) and collects and diverts ground water away from the foundation. Generally, it is "day lighted" into a sump pit inside the home, and a sump pump is sometimes inserted into the pit to discharge any accumulation of water.
Permeability
A measure of the ease with which water penetrates a material.
Permit
A governmental municipal authorization to perform a building process as in:
  • Zoning/Use permit - Authorization to use a property for a specific use e.g. a garage, a single family residence etc.
  • Demolition permit - Authorization to tear down and remove an existing structure.
  • Grading permit - Authorization to change the contour of the land.
  • Septic permit - A health department authorization to build or modify a septic system.
  • Building permit - Authorization to build or modify a structure.
  • Electrical permit - A separate permit required for most electrical work.
  • Plumbing permit - A separate permit required for new plumbing and larger modifications of existing plumbing systems.
Pier
A column of masonry, usually rectangular in horizontal cross section, used to support other structural members. Also see Caisson.
Pigment
A powdered solid used in paint or enamel to give it a color.
Pigtails, electrical
The electric cord that the electrician provides and installs on an appliance such as a garbage disposal, dishwasher, or range hood.
Pilot hole
A small-diameter, pre-drilled hole that guides a nail or screw.
Pilot light
A small, continuous flame (in a hot water heater, boiler, or furnace) that ignites gas or oil burners when needed.
Pitch
The incline slope of a roof or the ratio of the total rise to the total width of a house, i.e., a 6-foot rise and 24-foot width is a one-fourth pitch roof. Roof slope is expressed in the inches of rise, per foot of horizontal run.
PITI
Principal, interest, taxes and insurance (the four major components of monthly housing payments).
Plan view
Drawing of a structure with the view from overhead, looking down.
Plate
 Normally a 2 X 4 or 2 X 6 that lays horizontally within a framed structure, such as:
  • Sill plate- A horizontal member anchored to a concrete or masonry wall.
  • Sole plate- Bottom horizontal member of a frame wall.
  • Top plate- Top horizontal member of a frame wall supporting ceiling joists, rafters, or other members.
Plenum
- The main hot-air supply duct leading from a furnace.
Plot plan
An overhead view plan that shows the location of the home on the lot. Includes all easements, property lines, set backs, and legal descriptions of the home. Provided by the surveyor.
Plough, plow
To cut a lengthwise groove in a board or plank. An exterior handrail normally has a ploughed groove for hand gripping purposes
Plumb
- Exactly vertical and perpendicular.
Plumb bob
A lead weight attached to a string. It is the tool used in determining plumb.
Plumbing boots
Metal saddles used to strengthen a bearing wall/vertical stud(s) where a plumbing drain line has been cut through and installed.
Plumbing ground
The plumbing drain and waste lines that are installed beneath a basement floor.
Plumbing jacks
Sleeves that fit around drain and waste vent pipes at, and are nailed to, the roof sheeting.
Plumbing rough
Work performed by the plumbing contractor after the Rough Heat is installed. This work includes installing all plastic ABS drain and waste lines, copper water lines, bath tubs, shower pans, and gas piping to furnaces and fireplaces. Lead solder should not be used on copper piping.
Plumbing stack
A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.
Plumbing trim
Work performed by the plumbing contractor to get the home ready for a final plumbing inspection. Includes installing all toilets (water closets), hot water heaters, sinks, connecting all gas pipe to appliances, disposal, dishwasher, and all plumbing items.
Plumbing waste line
Plastic pipe used to collect and drain sewage waste.
Ply
A term to denote the number of layers of roofing felt, veneer in plywood, or layers in built-up materials, in any finished piece of such material.
Plywood
A panel (normally 4' X 8') of wood made of three or more layers of veneer, compressed and joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles to give the sheet strength.
Point load
A point where a bearing/structural weight is concentrated and transferred to the foundation.
Portland cement
Cement made by heating clay and crushed limestone into a brick and then grinding to a pulverized powder state.
Post
A vertical framing member usually designed to carry a beam. Often a 4" x 4", a 6" x 6", or a metal pipe with a flat plate on top and bottom.
Post-and-beam
A basic building method that uses just a few hefty posts and beams to support an entire structure. Contrasts with stud framing.
Power vent
A vent that includes a fan to speed up air flow.  Often installed on roofs.
Premium
- Amount payable on a loan.
Preservative
. Any pesticide substance that, for a reasonable length of time, will prevent the action of wood-destroying fungi, insect borers, and similar destructive agents when the wood has been properly coated or impregnated with it. Normally an arsenic derivative. Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) is an example.
Pressure Relief Valve (PRV)
A device mounted on a hot water heater or boiler which is designed to release any high steam pressure in the tank to prevent tank explosions.
Pressure-treated wood
Lumber that has been saturated with a preservative.
Primer
The first, base coat of paint when a paint job consists of two or more coats. A first coating formulated to seal raw surfaces and holding succeeding finish coats.
Principal
- The original amount of the loan, the capital.
Property survey
A survey to determine the boundaries of your property. The cost depends on the complexity of the survey.
Pump mix
Special concrete that will be used in a concrete pump. Generally, the mix has smaller rock aggregate than regular mix.
Punch list
A list of discrepancies that need to be corrected by the contractor.
Punch out
- To inspect and make a discrepancy list.
Putty
A type of dough used in sealing glass in the sash, filling small holes and crevices in wood, and for similar purposes.
PVC or CPVC
Poly Vinyl Chloride-A type of white or light gray plastic pipe sometimes used for water supply lines and waste pipe.