Terms and Distinctions

architectural designer: Certain credentials are required to use the word architect. When you see this title for a professional, question whether residential designer would be more appropriate.

baluster: One of the short vertical pieces, sometimes vase-shape, used to support a stair handrail.
balustrade: An entire railing system or low wall, including a top rail, its balusters, and sometimes a bottom rail.
banister: A handrail for a staircase.
handrail: A bar passing from one support to another along a stairway to provide a handhold.
rail: Same as handrail; may also be rails and their supports that create an enclosure or line of division, as a balcony rail.

bay window: A series of windows assembled in a polygon.
bow window: A series of windows assembled in an arc.

beaded: Use as an adjective to describe a characteristic of a material. Do not use bead. Beaded is more descriptive. Also, be as specific as possible in describing the kind of material. For example: beaded board, beaded ceiling paneling, beaded ceiling material, or beaded-board paneling.

cement: The powder that makes concrete.
concrete: The rocklike substance that makes roads and sidewalks.

commercial or restaurant range: Either may be used to describe a range designed specifically for restaurant use.

An architectural member that projects from within a wall and supports a weight; especially one that is stepped upward and outward from a vertical surface.

engineered wood: This refers to products that are made of wood components combined with adhesives to form structural members that maximize the properties of the wood. Some examples: plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), structural composite panels, glued laminated (glulam) timbers, parallam strand lumber, and wood I-joists.

finial: An ornament usually decorated with a leaf pattern that forms an upper extremity (as of a pinnacle or gable) especially in Gothic architecture.

keystone: The wedge-shape stone at the crown of an arch that locks the other pieces in place.

lintel: A piece of wood or stone that lies across the top of a door or window and holds the weight of the structure above it.

low-E (low-emissivity) glass:Allows light to penetrate but blocks heat; this keeps heat in on cold days and keeps heat out on hot days.

mansard: A roof having two slopes on all sides with the lower slope steeper than the upper one. A mansard roof gives extra space without requiring construction of an entire floor.

mullion: A vertical member between windows.
muntin: A secondary framing member (vertical, horizontal, or slanted) that divides window panes in the same sash.

An upright post at the foot of a straight stairway or at a landing; also an upright post about which the steps of a circular staircase wind.

parapet: A low wall or railing at the edge of a platform, roof, or bridge. Also a wall of earth or stone to protect soldiers.

pediment: A triangular area on the face of a building below the roof, above an entrance, etc. It is a feature of classic architecture

professional-grade, professional-duty, professional-quality, or professional-caliber range: Any may be used to describe a high-performance range designed specifically for residential use.
pro-look or pro-style range: Either may be used to describe a range that is not high performance but is designed to look like it is—in most cases it would be made of stainless steel.

quartz, quartzite: Quartz used to be known as engineered stone. It is made primarily of stone chips mixed with resins and pigments. Brands include Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, Zodiaq. When referring to it, please avoid words like engineered and synthetic;manufacturers don’t use them, so the words will confuse readers. Quartzite is pricey, unusual, and high-end. If a homeowner has used it, they will probably mention it by name, so it merits a brief explanation (or use natural stone and move on). (added 5/21/19)

quoin: Large squared stones or blocks that form the solid exterior angle of a building. They are both decorative and structural because they usually differ in jointing, color, texture, or size from the masonry of the adjoining walls. Most are toothed and set in a regular pattern of alternating lengths. Also the exterior angle itself.

R-value: Ability of material to resist the flow of heat through it. The higher the number, the better it insulates. In text: R-7, R-22, R-30.

A professional person certified by the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders.
remodeler: The common term for someone involved in reworking a building or home.

Sheetrock: This is a trademarked term for drywall, wallboard, plasterboard, or gypsum board. In general, do not use unless you mean this specific product. Usually it is best to use a generic term unless the word is in a direct quote.
drywall, wallboard, gypsum board, plasterboard: These are all acceptable generic terms for the materials used to construct interior walls. The materials are applied in large sheets and do not require a water additive to apply.

This is a trademarked term for surfacing compound. In general, do not use unless you mean this particular product. The same caution applies to the use of spackle as a verb. It means to apply Spackle brand filler to a wall.
surfacing compound: This is the generic term for the filler used to cover cracks or other imperfections in a surface before painting.

skylight: a fixed window; use roof window for operable units.

tongue and groove:
Not tongue in groove. Each plank or panel has a tongue and a groove so each piece may slide into the next. The technique is tongue-and-groove construction; it creates tongue-and-groove flooring, tongue-and-groove wainscoting, etc.



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