Back Charge– Billings for work performed or costs incurred by one party that, in accordance with the agreement, should have been performed or incurred by the party to whom billed. Owners bill back charges to general contractors, and general contractors bill back charges to subcontractors. Examples of back charges include charges for cleanup work or to repair something damaged by another subcontractor, such as a tub chip or broken window.

Backfill– The replacement of excavated earth into a trench around or against a basement/crawl space foundation wall.

Backflow preventer– A backflow prevention assembly, a backflow prevention device or other means or method to prevent backflow into the potable water supply.

Backing– Frame lumber installed between the wall studs to give additional support for drywall or an interior trim related item, such as handrail brackets, cabinets, and towel bars. In this way, items are screwed and mounted into solid wood rather than weak drywall that may allow the item to break loose from the wall.

Backing, Carpet– holds the pile fabric in place.

Backout– Work the framing contractor does after the mechanical subcontractors (Heating-Plumbing-Electrical) finish their phase of work at the Rough (before insulation) stage to get the home ready for a municipal frame inspection. Generally, the framing contractor repairs anything disturbed by others and completes all framing necessary to pass a Rough Frame Inspection.

Backsiphonage– The flowing back of used or contaminated water from piping into a potable water-supply pipe due to a negative pressure in such pipe.

Ballast– A transformer that steps up the voltage in a florescent lamp.

Balloon – A loan that has a series of monthly payments with the remaining balance due in a large lump sum payment at the end.

Balloon framed wall– Framed walls (generally over 10′ tall) that run the entire vertical length from the floor sill plate to the roof. This is commonly used to eliminate the need for a gable end truss.

Balusters– Vertical members in a railing used between a top rail and bottom rail or the stair treads. Sometimes referred to as ‘pickets’ or ‘spindles’.

Balustrade– The rail, posts and vertical balusters along the edge of a stairway or elevated walkway.

Band joist– In the framing of a deck or floor system, a band joist is attached perpendicular to the joists, and provides lateral support for the ends of the joists while capping off the end of the floor or deck system. Band joists are not to be confused with end joists, which are the first and last joists at the ends of a row of joists that make up a floor or deck frame. Interchangeable with the term, “rim joist”.

Barge– Horizontal beam rafter that supports shorter rafters.

Barge board– A decorative board covering the projecting rafter (fly rafter) of the gable end. At the cornice, this member is a fascia board.

Base or baseboard– A trim board placed against the wall around the room next to the floor.

Basement– A story that is not a story above grade plane.


  1. Should any wall of a basement create a situation in which that wall supports a floor greater than 12′ out of grade plane, the floor below is a story, not a basement.
  2. Should any portion of the floor above be greater than 6 feet out of grade plane, the floor below is a story, not a basement. The grade plane is established by averaging the finished ground level adjoining the building at all exterior walls. Where the finished ground level slopes away from the exterior walls, use the lowest point in the grade to the lot line up to 6 feet away from the building.

Basement window inserts– The window frame and glass unit that is installed in the window buck.

Base shoe– Molding used next to the floor on interior base board. Sometimes called a carpet strip.

Bat– A half-brick.

Batt– A section of fiber-glass or rock-wool insulation measuring 15 or 23 inches wide by four to eight feet long and various thickness’.  Sometimes “faced” (meaning to have a paper covering on one side) or “unfaced” (without paper).

Batten– Narrow strips of wood used to cover joints or as decorative vertical members over plywood or wide boards.

Bay window– Any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building, either square or polygonal in plan; rarely a continuous curve.

Beam– A structural member transversely supporting a load. A structural member carrying building loads (weight) from one support to another. Sometimes called a “girder” or “girder beam”, especially when referring to steel I-beams or H-beams.

Bearing partition– A partition that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.

Bearing point– A point where a bearing or structural weight is concentrated and transferred to the foundation.

Bearing wall– A wall that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.

Bearing header– (a) A beam placed perpendicular to joists and to which joists are nailed in framing for a chimney, stairway, or other opening. (b) A wood lintel. (c) The horizontal structural member over an opening (for example over a door or window).

Bedrock– Is solid rock that is found beneath loose soils or softer material and is suitable to support a structure. “Hard rock” as defined in the International Building Code is the premier type of building subsurface.

Bid– A formal offer by a contractor, in accordance with specifications for a project, to do all or a phase of the work at a certain price in accordance with the terms and conditions stated in the offer.

Bid bond– A bond issued by a surety on behalf of a contractor that provides assurance to the recipient of the contractor’s bid that, if the bid is accepted, the contractor will execute a contract and provide a performance bond. Under the bond, the surety is obligated to pay the recipient of the bid the difference between the contractor’s bid and the bid of the next lowest responsible bidder if the bid is accepted and the contractor fails to execute a contract or to provide a performance bond.

Bid security Funds or a bid bond submitted with a bid as a guarantee to the recipient of the bid that the contractor, if awarded the contract, will execute the contract in accordance with the bidding requirements of the contract documents.

Bid shopping– A practice by which contractors, both before and after their bids are submitted, attempt to obtain prices from potential subcontractors and material suppliers that are lower than the contractors’ original estimates on which their bids are based, or after a contract is awarded, seek to induce subcontractors to reduce the subcontract price included in the bid.

Bidding requirements– The procedures and conditions for the submission of bids. The requirements are included on documents, such as the notice to bidders, advertisements for bids, instructions to bidders, invitations to bid, and sample bid forms.

Bifold door– Doors that are hinged in the middle for opening in a smaller area than standard swing doors. Often used for closet doors.

Binder– A receipt for a deposit to secure the right to purchase a home at an agreed terms by a buyer and seller.

Bipass doors– Doors that slide by each other and commonly used as closet doors.

Blankets– Fiber-glass or rock-wool insulation that comes in long rolls 15 or 23 inches wide. Also, a large, durable plastic covering for concrete as it cures in temperatures that are predicted to be below ideal conditions.

Blocked (door blocking)– Wood shims used between the door frame and the vertical structural wall framing members.

Blocked (rafters)– Short “2 by 4’s” used to keep rafters from twisting, and installed at the ends and at mid-span.

Blocking– Small wood pieces to brace framing members or to provide a draft or fire stop, add rigidity to spanning or vertical members and also used as a nailing surface for gypsum board or paneling.

Block out– To install a box or barrier within a foundation wall to prevent the concrete from entering an area. For example, foundation walls are sometimes “blocked” in order for mechanical pipes to pass through the wall, to install a crawl space door, and to depress the concrete at a garage door location.

Blow insulation– Fiber insulation in loose form and used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed.

Blue print(s)– A type of copying method often used for architectural drawings. Usually used to describe the drawing of a structure which is prepared by an architect or designer for the purpose of design and planning, estimating, securing permits and actual construction.

Blue stake– Another phrase for Utility Notification. This is when a utility company (telephone, gas, electric, cable TV, sewer and water, etc.) comes to the job site and locates and spray paints the ground and/or installs little flags to show where their service is located underground.


  • White- proposed excavation
  • Fluorescent Pink- temporary survey
  • Red- electric power
  • Yellow- gas, oil, product lines
  • Orange- communications, cable TV
  • Blue- water, slurry Purple- reclaimed water
  • Green- sanitary sewer system

Blow insulation– Fiber insulation in loose form and used to insulate attics and existing walls where framing members are not exposed.

Board foot– A unit of measure for lumber equal to 1 inch thick by 12 inches wide by 12 inches long. Examples: 1″ x 12″ x 16′ = 16 board feet, 2″ x 12″ x 16′ = 32 board feet.

Bond or bonding– An amount of money (usually $5,000-$10,000) which must be on deposit with a governmental agency in order to secure a contractor’s license. The bond may be used to pay for the unpaid bills or disputed work of the contractor. Not to be confused with a ‘performance bond‘. Such bonds are rarely used in residential construction, they are an insurance policy which guarantees proper completion of a project.

Bond beam– A horizontal structural element, usually found as an embedded part of a masonry wall assembly. The bond beam serves to impart horizontal strength to a wall where it may not otherwise be braced by floor or roof structure. Bond beams encase steel reinforcing in grout or concrete, binding the structure together horizontally, and often interlocking with additional vertical reinforcement. A bond beam is typically found near the top of a freestanding wall. A bond beam may also be used to provide a consistent anchorage for floor or roof structure. Bond beam assemblies are most commonly used in construction using concrete masonry units, where special shapes allow the beam to blend with the wall construction, but may also be built using brick or may be formed in concrete.

Boom– A truck used to hoist heavy material up and into place. To put trusses on a home or to set a heavy beam into place.

Bottom chord – The lower or bottom horizontal member of a truss.

Bottom plate– The 2 by 4’s or 6’s” that lay on the subfloor upon which the vertical studs are installed. Also called the ‘sole plate’.

Brace– An inclined piece of framing lumber applied to wall or floor to strengthen the structure. Often used on walls as temporary bracing until framing has been completed.

Breaker panel– The electrical box that distributes electric power entering the home to each branch circuit (each plug and switch) and composed of circuit breakers.

Brick ledge– Part of the foundation wall where brick or stone (veneer) will rest.

Brick lintel– The metal angle iron that brick rests on, especially above a window, door, or other opening.

Brick mold-Trim used around an exterior door jamb that siding butts to.

Brick tie– A small, corrugated metal strip @ 1″ X 6″- 8″ long nailed to wall sheeting or studs. They are inserted into the grout mortar joint of the veneer brick, and holds the veneer wall to the sheeted wall behind it.

Brick veneer– A vertical facing of brick laid against and fastened to sheathing of a framed wall or tile wall construction.

Bridging– Small wood or metal members that are inserted in a diagonal position between the floor joists or rafters at mid-span for the purpose of bracing the joists/rafters & spreading the load.

Buck– Often used in reference to rough frame opening members. Door bucks used in reference to metal door frame. See Window Bucks.

Builder– This does not specifically mean a contractor or licensed builder, but does include them. It means anyone building a structure, including a homeowner.

Builder’s Risk Insurance– a special type of property insurance which indemnifies against damage to buildings while they are under construction. Builder’s risk insurance is “coverage that protects a person’s or organization’s insurable interest in materials, fixtures and/or equipment being used in the construction or renovation of a building or structure should those items sustain physical loss or damage from a covered cause.”

Building–  (per IRC)Any structure utilized or intended for supporting or sheltering any occupancy. (per IBC) Any one- or two-family dwelling or portion thereof, including townhouses, used or intended to be used for human habitation, for living, sleeping, cooking or eating purposes, or any combination thereof, or any accessory structure.

Building codes–  a set of rules that specify the standards for constructed objects such as buildings and non-building structures. Buildings must conform to the code to obtain planning permission, usually from a local council. The main purpose of building codes is to protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. The building code becomes law of a particular jurisdiction when formally enacted by the appropriate governmental or private authority.

Building insurance– Insurance covering the structure of the building.

Building paper– 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.

Built-up roof– A roofing composed of three to five layers of asphalt felt laminated with coal tar, pitch, or asphalt. The top is finished with crushed slag or gravel. Generally used on flat or low-pitched roofs.

Bull nose– Rounded drywall corners or countertop edges; also used to describe a quarter-round or half-round piece of wood.

Bundle– A package of shingles or shakes. Normally, there are 3 bundles per square and 27 shingles per bundle.

Butt edge– The lower edge of the shingle tabs.

Butt hinge– The most common type. One leaf attaches to the door’s edge, the other to its jamb.

Butt joint– The junction where the ends of two timbers meet, and also where sheets of drywall meet on the 4 foot edge. To place materials end-to-end or end-to-edge without overlapping.

Buy down– A subsidy (usually paid by a builder or developer) to reduce monthly payments on a mortgage.

By fold door– Doors that are hinged in the middle for opening in a smaller area than standard swing doors. Often used for closet doors.

By pass doors– Doors that slide by each other and commonly used as closet doors.