Glossary of

Building Terms

Measuring, Cutting & Building

An 8/12 pitch describes how steep a slope is. An 8/12-roof pitch goes up 8" for every foot or 12” it goes over. If you went out level four feet you would be able to plumb up 32"”. 4x8=32” The reverse is the same for coming down a slope. Common pitches begin at a 3/12 for a flat roof and 12/12 for a steep roof. Steeper roofs such as steeples and or A frame buildings can be as high as 20/12.

An acre is 43,500 square feet of land.

A three sided ruler that provides two units of scale on each side. This helps an architect or designer accurately draft their drawings to the correct proportions. 

A tool that is used to bore holes. These are often used to cut out mortises. 

A diagonal cut in the edge of a piece of lumber. 

A board foot is a volume of measurement for wood. It is calculated as 12" x 12" x 1" thick. A 1x6x8 piece of lumber is 4 board feet. A 2x6x8 is 8 board feet. Abbreviated Bd. Ft.

A projecting structure such as a beam, floor, or rafter system, which is supported at only one end.

The measurement of volume. This measurement is obtained by multiplying the width x length x height. 

The entire weight of a structure before other objects (furniture, appliances, people) are added. 

The mental and physical strength used to achieve a job usually associated with hand tasks.

One side of a building. 

The thickness of sheet metal. 

Where two pieces of lumber meet and are attached.

To extend one piece of lumber over another piece of lumber so that the length is extended.

The map which is scratched out on lumber. It is used to know where to nail key pieces of lumber. It eliminates the need to measure each item separately.

The length is the span of the rafter on a level line and the run is the length measured down the rafter.

A tool used for establishing a horizontal plane. It often consists of a small glass tube containing alcohol or similar liquid and an air bubble.

 

As an adjective or verb level can mean something is at a true 90-degree angle to the earth.

A lineal foot refers to the total length of the material. A 1x6x8 and a 2x6x8 both are 8 lineal feet.

The total weight of people, appliances, furniture, and other goods that are contained in a building.

A chunk of wood chiseled out of a board. 

Acronym for On Center. This is the measurement from the center of a board to the center of the next board over. 

The measurement of the slope of a roof.

Plumb is the opposite of level. Holding a level perpendicular to the ground is plumb. Walls are said to be plumb and floor systems are referred to as level.

Most commonly referred to a cut on a rafter that is perpendicular to the ground. On a traditional gable roof where the water drains off two sides the plumb cut would be the one at the peak of the roof. A plumb cut can also refer to the cut at the end of the rafter where the water drips.

A building technique that uses vertical boards (posts) and horizontal boards (beams). The posts and beams are supported with angle braces. Depending on the thickness of lumber used, either half-lap or mortise and tenon joinery will be used. 

The opposite of an angle using 90 degrees as a standard. Example the reverse angle for 34 degrees is 56. 90-34=56.

Cutting a board or piece of plywood the long way and following the grain. Often times a table saw is used for this purpose. A skill saw will do an adequate job.

The vertical height of each step in a staircase. 

When a nail or screw extends beyond the lumber into which it is fastened, so that it is exposed from the interior of the building. 

The amount of weight the roof of a building can hold. Usually this is measured by pounds per square foot. Most of our buildings start with a snow load of 25 lbs per square foot.

As a noun it refers to a carpentry tool. As a verb is refers to putting a structure to true 90-degree angles.

A ninety degree angle. A framing square is most often used to square the ends of boards. In the context of rafters, a square cut is when the end of a rafter is cut at a 90 degree angle, as opposed to a plumb cut.

The square foot measurement of an area is the length of the room multiplied by the width of the room. For example, the square footage of the 8x12 shed is 96 square feet. A 1"x6"x8' is 4 square feet. A 2"x6"x8' is 4 square feet. Abbreviated Sq. Ft.

A style of post and beam construction that utilizes mortise and tenon joinery. This style of construction is known for being extremely sturdy.

A nail or other fastener that has been put in on an angle rather than end nailing it.

The allowance for lumber to be short or over by one quarter of an inch. There is often a variance in rough sawn lumber because it has not been planed to a completely consistent measurement. 

A board is said to "run wild" when it is nailed into place running past its stopping point and then cut in place.

The measure of force on a surface that is created by wind. This is measured by miles per hour. Most of our buildings are rated to handle a wind load of 80 mph in sustained winds and 100 mph in gusts. Wind loads may be increased with hurricane packages.

Lumber & Materials

Lumber that has been dried naturally

Black knots occur where a branch or limb died before the tree was cut.

Discoloration of the sapwood that is usually tinted blue or gray. 

The way the wood arcs. On the narrower side of the lumber the wood grows with a natural arc or bend in it. The crown can be found by holding the lumber so the narrow side of the board is upright and sighting down the top of the board. Some boards are easier to determine than others and one should just guess if it is not apparent. Always place the crown up when framing for better weight support.

Lumber that has been run through a mill and squared into some sort of format. Before this stage it is rough lumber, a plus sized board that is recognizable by its rough texture. The opposite of dimensional lumber is using trees in the natural round state as framing material.

A species of indigenous tree found in Northeast United States and Canada. We most often use this type of lumber for siding and trim. 

Hardware that is used to connect framing, boards, and roofing components, usually comprised of screws, nails and hinges.  

Material used to divert water on a roof where there may be a valley or a second structure attached to a main structure.

Galvalume is used in our Economy Grade and Basic Run In roofing panels. It is constructed of carbon steel and coated with an aluminum-zinc alloy. This type of roofing panel lasts approximately 20 years.  

Galvanized roofing panels are offered as an upgrade. They have a 30-year finish.

The direction that the fibers in wood are arranged.

Is the older non-living center of the tree. Usually harder and darker in color when seen in a cross section, it no longer conducts water and its main function is support of the tree.

A species of indigenous tree found in Northeast United States and Canada. We most often use this type of lumber for floor, wall and roof framing and floor decking in our utility sheds. 

Lumber that has been dried in a kiln. The moisture content should be no more than 6 to 12 percent. Kiln dried lumber is most often used for siding, interior sheathing and trim.

The vertical element that forms a division between units of a window (grids) or screen.

A type of lumber that exposes the natural edge to create a rustic aesthetic. This is shown in our Adirondack siding or our live-edge countertops.

Metal or wood strips that are crossed over each other, often used under porches as a decorative feature.

A section in a window for a pane of glass. Lights are usually separated by grids.

A vent with a screen and horizontal slats that allow air to flow through. These are installed in sheds, barns and garages.

A long crack that appears as the sap wood shrinks around the heartwood over time. Checking is not a structural problem. This may happen on one or two sides of a beam or board.

A post that is attached to an end of a building.

A piece of wood made of three or more layers of veneer joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles.

Lumber that has been treated with a sealer that is forced into the pores of the wood. This type of lumber is typically used in flooring, or anywhere the structure will have contact with the ground or a concrete slab.

Is a type of rip cut in the sawing of logs into lumber. By cutting the boards in a radial pattern from the center it results in boards that have the growth ring mostly perpendicular to the longest edge of the board. It is typically more stable lumber but results in a lower yield from the log.

A spot in the lumber where a branch was alive when the stem wood grew around it. Red knots are tighter and stronger than black knots.

The living part of the tree where sap and water flow. As the tree ages the sapwood can turn into heartwood.

Lumber that has been cut in a way that when installed the pieces will overlap each other. This eliminates gaps and the need for battens.

This lumber will be cut in a way that one long side will have a tongue, and the opposite side will have a groove. When these pieces are installed the tongues and grooves lock into each other eliminating gaps. 

Bark, or lack of wood from any cause, on edge or corner of a piece of wood.

Foundations

The portion of a structure that is above the ground level

Hardware that secures a sill plate to a concrete slab or foundation

The filling of a previously excavated area. A trench that has been dug around a basement foundation may need to have earth replaced once the construction is complete. 

Excavation equipment that pulls and digs dirt with a boom mounted bucket. It is used in digging areas for basements and other foundations, landscaping, or to install drainage and sewer systems. 

The portion of a structure that is below ground level. 

A shallow open area between the floor of a building and the ground, normally enclosed by the foundation wall.

A concrete slab that lays on top of the ground without anchoring. This type of foundation is popular for sheds, workshops and garages

Footings are constructed of concrete and are poured into a trench. These are used in pier foundations, crawl spaces and decks

The depth where frost penetrates the soil. Footings should be placed below the frostline to prevent shifting

A foundation construction that is installed below the frost line to protect the building from freezing

A concrete foundation that can be used as a basement. It is usually constructed below the frost line and may require a frostwall

A foundation that is constructed of a bed of gravel or stone that has been leveled and compacted. This is the most economical foundation type and is recommended for garden sheds, playhouses, or any living building that is used during the summer months only

A foundation option that uses steel screw-in pilings. This type of system is great for those who want something like piers with more stability.

A piece of hardware that is shaped like a J that is used for securing the floor system of a building to a foundation

Pier foundations are usually constructed out of concrete columns. These columns lift the building off the ground. These are most often used in construction where the ground may not be level enough for a gravel pad. 

A piece of hardware that consists of a wire that wraps around a skid and a triangle shaped head that is hammered into the ground

Material that is placed on top of a pier that prevents termites from having access to the lumber components of a building. These are typically made of aluminum sheets

Floor System

Blocking are smaller pieces of wood that are installed between the joists. Blocking prevents pounce and increases the strength of the floor system.

The material that is laid out on top of the floor joists to create a a flat surface. We usually use hemlock boards, CDX plywood or tongue and groove pine for the floor decking. 

When two layers of sill plate are placed on top of each other. 

The main framing supports in a floor system. Run perpendicular to the rim joists. Typically 16″ or 24″ on center along the rim joist.

The joists that frame the outside of the structure’s deck. The rim joist is the board that the joists are nailed perpendicular to. Will have the layout penciled in for joists on the side, typically 16″ or 24″ on center.

A pressure treated lumber frame that is placed on the outer edge of the foundation. This allows for a building to not have a floor system so that it can sit directly on a concrete slab or the ground. This gives a structure that the wall posts can be nailed into. 

The supports on the bottom of the building that will be placed on your foundation. Floor joists are toe-nailed perpendicularly onto the skids.

Decking materials that is placed on top of the joists which is intended to have another type of flooring material (tile, linoleum, hardwood board, etc) laid on top. 

Wall Framing

The flat member of the inside trim of a window placed against the wall immediately beneath the stool.

Thin strips of lumber that are placed over the gaps between siding boards. We cut ours to be 3/4″x2″. Battens tighten up buildings that use rough sawn pine for the siding. 

The horizontal wall framing boards that are nailed to the tops of posts. They provide stability for the posts and provide a support for the rafters to sit on. 

The wall that bears the weight of the elements above. In most cases the rafters are going to sit on this wall. 

A section of posts and beams that create a portion of a wall. A bent in our Vermont Cabins would be three posts (two outer and one center) with the beams and angle braces that connect them. Usually a bent is constructed on the ground and then lifted into place. 

Diaganol supports that are installed in the wall framing. These can be permanent or temporary. Angle bracing is permanent and adds support from the posts to the beams. Temporary bracing is used for holding up the wall framing while the roof framing is installed, then is removed once the framing is in place. 

Molding used to trim door and window openings at the jambs.

Diaganol braces that are installed in the corners of a wall framing in post and beam construction. 

Any short stud used in framing a wall. Usually found under window sills and or above headers.

The surrounding case into which and out of which a door closes and opens. It consists of two upright pieces, called side jambs, and a horizontal head jamb.

The end of the wall where the roof peaks. 

The heavy piece of lumber found over doors or windows to properly transfer the weight of the building away from the opening. The header prevents premature sagging.

The wall framing lumber that holds the jack stud and the header together. The king studs are the same length as common studs.

A hole that is carved into a post or beam where a tenon can be inserted so that two pieces of lumber may be locked together. 

Lumber that is installed horizontally between posts. These are used as an additional attachement point for siding and the top and bottom framing of a window. 

An interior wall, that is not part of the exterior structure, that sections off rooms. 

A cylinder piece of lumber, usually constructed out of oak. A hole will be drilled through a mortise and tenon connection, then the peg will be hammered in. This will solidify the mortise and tenon joinery. 

The vertical components of the wall framing. Posts are installed on top of a floor sytem or sill plate. In our buildings we usually use 4″x4″, 6″x6″ or 8″x8″ hemlock for the posts. 

The opening that is framed out for windows and doors. 

The lumber that is installed on the outer framing of the structure. Siding encloses the building to protect the interior from natural elements and critters. We offer a variety of pine and cedar siding options. 

The measurement from the top of the floor system to the bottom of a window opening. 

The common support lumber inside a wall usually placed on a 16 or 24” layout. Jack or trimmer studs: The wall framing lumber that the header sits on. Found on each side of a door or window.

A projecting piece of lumber that is carved out of a framing post or beam. The tenon is then inserted into a mortise to join the two pieces. 

The framing lumber in a wall that contains the layout. The wall plates are the two boards that hold the studs in place.

Roofing

A very steep gabled roof traditionally on chalet type buildings. It typically extends close to or all the way to the ground.

A roof design that is arched. Our Gibraltar Cabin uses a barrel arch roof detail over the porch. 

A structural part of the rafter system that is nailed to opposing rafters. The purpose is to prevent the rafters from pushing the walls apart. Collar ties are important in snow country. They help in supporting the weight of a snow load. Collar ties can be 1” or 2” lumber and sometimes a cable is used in place of collar ties.

A roof structure that is used for diverting water, usually installed where a chimney is placed. 

Four gable ends connected to create four valleys.

A structure that is installed on top of a roof as a decoration, or that can be framed out to be open inside. Most often cupolas are used as a venting component in our sugar shacks. 

A roof structure that is constructed to extend the roof vertically beyond the plane of a pitched (gable) roof. Dormers are used to increase wall height and usuable space in a lofted area. 

We offer two types of dormers: 

Shed Dormers are constructed to extend out at a shallower pitch than the main roof. They may be placed on one or both sides of the roof. Shed dormers often run 20′ long. 

Dog House dormers are gabled and are usually around 6-feet wide. 

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Metal flashing that is installed at the lower edges of the roof. This feature helps water flow away from the building and protects the siding and trim. 

The part of the roof that overhangs the building. This is where a drip edge would be installed. 

A rafter that extends the standard rafter out further from the building. This feature is seen on our Vermont Cottages, 16x Barns and Vermont Cabins.

The most common two-pitched roof.

The side of a roof where water does not drip off. A gable roof traditionally has two gable ends and a hip roof does not have any.

A four-pitched roof traditional on Dutch style barns.

Rain falls off the building on all four sides.

Ice that forms on the edge of a roof, which can prevent snow and water from shedding off the roof. 

 

A shorter rafter that is usually used in hip roof construction.

A one-pitched roof. Rain falls off on one side only.

The extension of the roof on the gable end side. There are many names and many ways to build the framing.

The extension of a roof, past the walls, on any side.

A horizontal beam that supports the mid-span of rafters and are supported by posts. These make it possible for longer rafters and wider buildings. 

 

The structural support that runs from the roof ridge to the outer wall beams. Rafters are typically laid 24″ on center, side by side.

The end of the rafter that extends out past the wall. It is the part of the rafter that creates the overhang on the drip edge side of a roof.

The board placed on edge at the ridge of the roof into which the upper ends of the rafters are fastened.

Material that covers the ridge cap and extends over the roofing materials. 

Solid material that is placed on top of the rafters. This encloses the roof and gives a surface for a vapor barrier or shingles to sit on top of. 

A one-pitched roof. Rain falls off on one side only.

The part of the roof under the overhangs. The finishing off of the rafter tails and or overlooks. Often times the soffit has a screen in it to ventilate an insulated roof.

A two-pitched roof traditionally seen in snow country. It sheds the majority of the snow off the back of the building.

Thin strips of wood that sit on top of the rafters and are installed perpendicularly to them. This provides a point where metal roofing panels may be attached. 

Structural framing that is installed in a roof system to create additional support. 

When a roof is built on top of or joined to another roof a valley is created. Water drains into the valley from both roofs and travels together down and off.

A shorter rafter that is installed in a roof-line that has a valley. For example our Vermont Gem, Dollhouse and Xylias are all buildings that have valleys, so would include valley rafters in their construction. 

Trim & Finishing Touches

A molding, attached to one of a pair of swinging doors to keep one of the doors from swinging past the other. 

Lumber that is installed over the corners of the building. This hides any variences or gaps in the ends of the siding, and adds an attractive detail to the building. 

The main trim board that is wrapped around all sides of the rafters.

The narrower of the two fascia trim boards. Mainly for decorative purposes its only functional purpose is for a bit more overhang to protect the building from the elements.

Insulation

The space between roof sheathing and roof insulation that is used for airflow. 

A piece of insulation that can be fitted between wall studs. Generally a batt is made out of fiberglass insulation. 

Ridged structural insulation made foam that can be installed between wall studs or posts. 

Any kind of material that is designed to slow down the transfer of heat. It is used to sustain a moderate temperature in a building. 

The covering that is placed inside a building that hides the insulation. We sell a variety of pine and cedar wood interior sheathing options. Drywall is another popular interior sheathing. Interior sheathing is installed on the walls and ceiling. 

Lumber that is placed on top of roof rafters in place of roof strapping. This provides a solid surface for the vapor barrier to sit on. We use rough sawn pine, but plywood is another acceptable material. 

The measurement of insulation to resist heat flow. A higher R-value will mean that the insulation will provide better insulation. 

 

A material used to block moisture from the exterior making it’s way into the interior. Vapor barriers are installed in the floor, walls and roof, under the siding. 

 

Miscellaneous

A building that is designed for spring, summer and fall use. Our 3-Season buildings are constructed with a a vapor barrior in the walls and roof, with roof sheathing, and a fully insulated floor. 

A building that is fully insulated and may be used year round. Four season buildings also include insulated windows and doors. 

A trained professional who designs and drafts plans for buildings. Our customers often hire architects if they need to produce engineered stamped plans for their projects. 

The vertical boards or material in a railing, installed between a top and bottom rail board. 

Oil that has been produced from a seeds of a flax plant. This type of linseed oil may be thickened in viscosity with heat or chemicals. The consistency ranges from raw oil to a gel. 

Oil that has been produced from a seeds of a flax plant. This type of linseed oil would be combined with either lead, maganese or cobalt salts. This chemical make up allows the oil to harden quicker when applied in thin coats. 

Written permission from local government officials authorizing a building project for construction. In some cases engineered stamped plans may be required to obtain a building permit. 

 

The removal of the center posts that are normally installed under a loft. Building with the clearspan option will decrease the floor weight rating of your loft. 

A loan specifically provided to a homeowner or business that is intended for building purposes. 

DIY is short hand for Do It Yourself. Our DIY Plans are detailed step by step instructions that include a shopping list, cut list, detailed diagrams and rafter angle templates. 

Buildings, designed by Jamaica Cottage Shop, that are constructed of economy grade lumber and a galvalume metal roof as a low cost and budget friendly alternative to our standard designs. 

Architectural drawings that have been approved by an engineer to meet local building codes. Usually this type of plan will have a floor plan, elevation drawings of each side of the building, and weight loads. In some cases an electrical and plumbing plan will be required. 

Our acronym for Fully Assembled. FA buildings are buildings that are constructed at our factory and then transported to the customers site. 

The space or passage in a chimney through which smoke, gas, or fumes ascend. Each passage is called a flue, which together with any others and the surrounding masonry make up the chimney.

Our acronym for Frame Only Pre-Cut Kit. FPCK’s include floor, wall and roof framing only. This is a great option for those who need to start their build on a small budget, or want to customize with their own siding, decking, roofing, windows and doors.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters – Special devices capable of opening a circuit when even a small amount of current is flowing through the grounding system. This is a type of electrical outlet that is installed near sinks, toilets, showers or hot water heaters. 

A platform inside a building that may be used as storage or living. Lofts are usually accessed by a ladder or stair system. They are not considered second floors because they usually do not meet the minimum wall height for this purpose. 

A anti-flammable floor covering that is placed under a wood stove. We use a concrete pad. Other hearths may be made of brick, tile or stone. 

An unflamable surface that installed on the wall behind and/or beside a woodstove. This protects the building from sparks that may shoot out from a woodstove, or from high heat. We use corrugated metal panels for heat shields in our buildings. 

International Building Code. A standard set of buidling guidlines that addresses health, safety and performance of a structure. Some states require that buildings follow the IBC. 

 

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A platform between flights of stairs. 

Components of a building that do not relate directly to the structure. Jamaica Cottage Shop considers windows, doors and wood louvered vents to be millwork. 

Our acronym for Pre-Cut Kit. PCK’s include everything needed to build an uninsulated shell from the ground up. 

Our acronym for Ready to Assemble. RTA products are smaller structures that we can ship panelized. These take much less time to construct than a PCK. RTA’s incluce our Pellet Box, 2×4 Garbage Bin, Garden Closet, and Cupola. 

The total number of feet a building may be built from the property line. Set backs are determined by the local government in the town where the building site is. 

Fully insulated builidings that are built with mechanicals. Mechanicals may include some or all of the following: plumbing, electricity, heating sources, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. 

Roof Design Features

A one-pitched roof. Rain falls off one side only.

A French style roof. A gently sloped flat pitch is hidden by fancy curved hips.

An out cropping of the roof. Typically a window is placed in the dormer. Many types exist and can be incorporated with any type of roof. The example at left shows a gable roof with hipped ends, a dormer over the entrance. The valley is where the dormer roof meets the main roof.

Rain falls off the building on all four sides

A four-pitched roof traditional on Dutch style barns.

A two-pitched roof traditionally seen in snow country. It sheds the majority of the snow off the back of the building.

 

Four gable ends connected to create four valleys.

The most common two-pitched roof.

A very steep gabled roof traditionally on chalet type buildings. It typically extends close to or all the way to the ground.