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HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS
AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine
ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CHIMNEY INSPECTION DIAGNOSIS REPAIR
DECK & PORCH CONSTRUCTION
DEFECT CLUSTERS at HOME INSPECTIONS
DISASTER BUILDING INSPECTION & REPAIR
EXTERIOR WALL SIDING TRIM & FINISHES
FIREPLACES & HEARTHS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FOUNDATION CRACKS & DAMAGE GUIDE
HOME & BUILDING INSPECTION METHODS
HOUSE PARTS, DEFINITIONS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
INSECT INFESTATION / DAMAGE
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
MOBILE HOME INSPECTION GUIDE
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD IN BUILDINGS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
ROOFING INSPECTION & REPAIR
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SEPTIC SYSTEMS S
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
STANDARDS, HOME INSPECTION
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VISUAL PERCEPTION ERRORS
WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS
WATER PRESSURE MEASUREMENT
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINDOWS & DOORS
Names & Definitions of the Parts of a House:
This article provides a glossary of the main parts of a house and house structure and we give definitions of common home inspection terms used during home inspections or in home inspection reports. Terms defined here may also appear in home inspection standards and home inspection licensing laws.
This is a public, consumer information document containing a glossary defining some key terms regarding home inspectors in the United States and Canada.
Our page top sketch was published by US DHEW and also by New York State in 1955 (Basic Housing Inspection) or earlier.  A key to the numbered items in this house parts list is just below at Glossary of Common House Parts.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2015 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
Because we have found the the page top sketch (US DHEW and New York State 1955 or earlier ) published in several forms with and without a consistent key to the numbered house parts or even consistent numbers, we have made up our own glossary list keyed to that sketch - below.
CONTACT us with suggested changes or additions to these terms and definitions.
Also see Basic Home Inspection Definitions of Terms, found below.
[Click any image to see a larger, detailed view.]
1. Chimney - vent flue gases from fireplaces or heating equipment.
2. Chimney flue top or chimney cap (if present)
3. Chimney crown or chimney top seal
4. Chimney Flashing seals the roof penetration to avoid leaks into the structure.
5. Masonry fireplace,
6. Fireplace ash pit door.
7. Fireplace ash pit cleanout door.
8. Fireplace mantel - horizontal trim attached to wall above fireplace opening.
9. Hearth - flat surface in front of the fireplace, protects flooring from fire.
11. Ridge board
12. Cripple rafters or Jack rafters (between chimney and house eaves - rafters that do not extend the full distance between house eaves and the roof ridge board)
13. Rafter blocking or cross bridging, also found on floor joists and in some wall framing
14. Soffit or lookout or house eaves. The soffit is the enclosed portion of the roof that overhangs the house walls at the roof lower edges. The construction of a typical roof overhang, eave or soffit is shown in our sketch at left.
15. Roof sheathing or roof decking. Also
16. Roof shingles (asphalt shingles, clay tiles, slates, wood shingles, or shakes, similar materials) -
17. Drip edge (shown on gable end, used at lower roof edges or eaves). The drip edge is special metal flashing intended to divert water off of the roof lower edges into the roof gutter system. Drip edges should spill into the gutter, not behind it.
18. Gutter (attached over or to fascia board) to collect roof drainage and prevent it from spilling down and along the building walls (leaks) and basement (wet basements).
Below we include definitions of trim found at or near the top of building exterior walls and thus (usually) lower than the gutter and soffit:
Definition of Cornice molding or cornice trim: The horizontal board running at the top of a building exterior wall is a cornice molding or cornice trim board; some buildings have a decorative cornice while more common on simple residential structures is a plain horizontal trim board.
The cornice is also described in some dictionaries as the uppermost part of an entablature. Cornice molding also is used indoors in some buildings and appears as a trim board mounted at the juncture of wall top and ceiling.
Definition of frieze board: a frieze board is a horizontal decorative board at the top of a wall or between the cornice and the wall covering; a frieze board may appear on the building exterior or on an interior wall as well. A frieze board may appear alone, without cornice molding. Thus some architects and builders may refer to the horizontal board at the top of the wall, below the soffit as simply the frieze board, omitting any discussion of (the more complex) cornice or cornice trim.
See this Greek Revival cornice illustration.
Definition of Facia board or fascia trim: The horizontal board running along the outer edge of a soffit, typically covered or mostly covered by a gutter on modern homes, is the fascia board.
Dont' confuse fascia board with cornice molding which is below the soffit and in the plane of the wall itself. On some buildings the water table trim is a bit more complex, using at least two pieces of horizontal trim: a narrow board, perhaps 1-3" in width is placed on an angle sloping away from the wall to form a drip cap atop a 6-10" wide horizontal trim board placed flat against the building.
The water table trim board is described at item 29 below.
19. Downspouts (conduct roof drainage from the gutters to a destination away from the building or into a storm drain system). See DOWNSPOUT / LEADER DEFECTS
20. Downspout leader or downspout extension (hard to see, behind that front right entry porch column)
21. Gable end and gable-end attic vent. The gable end the house wall on a conventional simple gable roof such as shown in our sketch is the triangular end wall (arrows 17, 22, 23, and 31)
22. Gable end fascia. See notes at 21 above. The gable end fascia is the trim board attached to the roof edges, extending from ridge to lower roof edge, and where a rake overhang is present, covering the outermost rake rafter or barge rafter.
25. Wall Stud basic framing unit of wood frame construction building walls
26. Sill plate (rests atop foundation wall, nailed to rim joist and joists)
27. Wall top plate
28. Diagonal wall bracing (not present on all buildings, modern wood frame construction uses plywood or OSB sheathing to provide wall stiffness and protect against "racking" or diagonal movement in the wood framed structure)
29. Wall sheathing - showing diagonal tongue and groove boards, typically 3/4" thick; modern wall sheathing in wood frame construction uses 1/2" thick plywood or OSB sheathing products. Also see INSULATION INSPECTION & IMPROVEMENT.
Definition of Water table trim board: The horizontal board running along the bottom of a building exterior wall siding such as common on clapboard-sided homes is often called a water table trim board.
Our illustration at left shows the water table horizontal trim board on a building sided with wood clapboards. Best construction practices would include zee flashing atop this board and extending up behind the bottom clapboard just above, or a drip cap atop the water table trim board along with zee flashing.
Cornice, frieze and fascia boards and trim are described above at item 16.
31. Interior partition wall over fireplace mantel; may be plaster over solid masonry or other construction;
32. Floor joist resting on basement beam or center girder.
33. Flooring underlayment (in 1955 this was red rosin paper or 15# roofing felt). Modern floor underlayment uses at least one thickness of tongue-and groove 3/4" plywood. Where carpeting is to be installed builders may use solid-core plywood to avoid accidental punctures of the flooring through the carpeting (stiletto heeled shoes).
34. Subflooring (shown, diagonal tongue and groove boards) - see #33 above. Additional layers of subflooring over the base underlayment may be installed where tile is to be installed;
36. Exterior siding (shown: clapboards)
37. Interior partition wall or center wall partition (may be load bearing, supporting 2nd floor joists)
38. Interior wall covering: Plaster wall scratch coat or masonry for chimney (if present)
39. Grade level (top of soil around building).
40. Foundation wall, along with wall footings (42) supports the structure and holds back earth where a basement or crawl space is included.
41. Sill sealer (between sill plate and foundation wall top)
42. Footing, supports the foundation wall.
43. Footing drain or foundation drain (perforated pipe + gravel, should extend to daylight to drain by gravity).
44. Poured concrete basement floor slab (floating slab atop compacted fill inside foundation wall)
45. Compacted fill (or gravel atop fill or poly on gravel on fill) below basement floor slab
46. Main girder resting on supporting posts or pockets in foundation walls (not shown but you can see a post to the right of (30). The main girder carries part of the floor joist load, typically through the center of the home. FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR
47. Backfill around foundation wall.
48. Rim joist or pier cap (rests on pier top where a continuous foundation wall is not present)
49. Pier, alternative to a continuous foundation wall, piers may support posts that in turn support perimeter girders or beams carrying the building wall loads.
51. Window jamb or window frame
52. Window sash frame
53. Window header
54. Window interior trim
55. Entry porch gable
56. Fireplace ash pit
57. Stair tread.
58. Stair riser
59. Stair stringer (structural support for stair treads and risers)
60. Newell post at stair bottom (handrail ends at this post)
61. Stair rail or handrail; on landings or balconies: guardrail.
62. Stair baluster. Balusters are the vertical supports enclosing the space between the underside of the stair railing and the stair tread upper surface. Typically spaced 4" o.c. to avoid child hazards.
Other Definitions and Notes
ASHI Inspections are focused on in-service conditions and do not certify compliance with building codes. But to be accurately informed and to be able to recognize important defects in the field, ASHI inspectors may refer to various building codes and also to other standards for purposes of training or explanation.
ASHI inspectors operate in that zone of discovery between new constructing code-compliance inspections and post-failure investigations and repair work. Using essentially visual methods home inspectors examine both major building components and small details which offer clues suggesting areas where major repairs may be needed.
ASHI's Contribution to other fields Because ASHI has building experts examining residential structures in every U.S. State and Canadian Province, ASHI members present an opportunity to contribute to and share data and field experience with other construction-related professional groups and with trade associations.
Continue reading at HOME & BUILDING INSPECTION METHODS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do you call the wide board that runs just below the soffits on the vertical side of the house? This would be the board just above the clapboard on a wooden house. Also, what do you call the same board at the bottom on the clapboard between the clapboard and the foundation? I use to know these terms, but I can’t remember them. I do find your online information very useful. Thanks for having most of what I need in one place. - M.M. 8/14/2013
Definition of cornice molding or cornice trim: The horizontal board running at the top of a building exterior wall is a cornice molding or cornice trim board; some buildings have a decorative cornice while more common on simple residential structures is a plain horizontal trim board. The cornice is also described in some dictionaries as the uppermost part of an entablature. Cornice molding also is used indoors in some buildings and appears as a trim board mounted at the juncture of wall top and ceiling.
Definition of frieze board: a frieze board is a horizontal decorative board at the top of a wall or between the cornice and the wall covering; a frieze board may appear on the building exterior or on an interior wall as well. Some architects and builders may refer to the horizontal board at the top of the wall, below the soffit as simply the frieze board, omitting any discussion of (the more complex) cornice or cornice trim.
Other sources describe the frieze board as part of a classical entablature located between the architrave and the cornice. But I don't like this usage of architrave when discussing exterior building wall trim because properly an architrave is a decorated / decorative horizontal beam or lintel resting on the top of two or more columns in classical architecture, or found above a building window or door.
Definition of entablature: on a classical building the entablature is a combination of decorative elements that rests atop columns, made up typically of an architrave, frieze, and cornice. The term entablature is used then to describe a built-up combination of horizontal decorative components.
Definition of facia board or fascia trim: The horizontal board running along the outer edge of a soffit, typically covered or mostly covered by a gutter on modern homes, is the fascia board. Dont' confuse fascia board with cornice molding which is below the soffit and in the plane of the wall itself. On some buildings the water table trim is a bit more complex, using at least two pieces of horizontal trim: a narrow board, perhaps 1-3" in width is placed on an angle sloping away from the wall to form a drip cap atop a 6-10" wide horizontal trim board placed flat against the building.
Definition of water table trim board: The horizontal board running along the bottom of a building exterior wall siding such as common on clapboard-sided homes is often called a water table trim board.
A very helpful reference that provides illustrative sketches and definitions of building components and terms is Architectural Graphic Standards, by Ramsey Sleeper 
At Field Guides to North American House Architecture we list (and you can buy at Amazon) books we have found particularly helpful in identifying architectural styles,
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