Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Common construction terms Part 1 (framing houses)

Common construction terms  (Part 1)  FRAMING OF HOMES

Have you have ever been on a construction site talking to your contractor and been totally lost in the terms that they are using? Well I’m here to help; here are some common terms that contractor’s use that you might not understand.

Plates. (Not what you ate off for dinner) A plate is either a bottom plate or a top plate. They are horizontal pieces of 2x4 or 2x6 that are placed in the top or bottom of the wall. They help support the wall from racking and keep the wall straight. All vertical placed pieces of 2x4 and 2x6 (studs) are nailed into the plates.

Stud. (not the guy dating your teenage daughter) A stud is a piece of wood that is either a 2x4 or a 2x6 that is vertically placed in an inside or outside wall at a regular interval of 16 inches. This forms the outside wall and anything from drywall to siding will be nailed or screwed into them.

Pre-cuts. Pre-cuts are studs that come from the lumber yard a certain length so that when you place it in the wall between the bottom plates and the top double plates the wall ends up with an exact height such as 9’1” or 8’1”. No cutting of the pre-cut studs is required.

Exterior sheeting. Exterior sheeting is the plywood or OSB that is installed on the outside of the walls, nailed to the studs. This helps keep the wall square and stable.

Bearing wall. A bearing wall is a wall that has been built in a certain exact spot to hold up the roof or floor above. If you are being told that’s a bearing wall by your contractor they are probably trying to explain to you why you can’t remove the wall! Listen to them.

Code. This refers to the building code. The building code supersedes all other things; it supersedes your ideas and even common sense. So if the builder tells you its code then they are telling you that legally they can’t change it.

Rough openings. This refers to the hole that is framed in the wall for your windows and doors to be installed later. The Rough Opening is a different size then the actual window size. The rough opening is also referred to as an RSO and is always bigger than the window or door size.

Blocking. This refers to pieces of lumber that have been installed between the wall studs to help anchor things such as shower doors, towel bars, handi-cap bars, hand rails, TV brackets, ect.

TGI’s. TGI’s are the floor joist that span your foundation to create your floor. After they are installed they are covered by plywood. The TGI is a common name for TJI. TJI stands for Truss Joist I-beam. They are also called wood I’s. They are the most common form of floor joist.

Squash blocks. These are solid pieces of wood or “I” joist that are installed in specific areas of the walls and floors where there will be a large heavy load. They are installed to prevent the floor or walls from being squashed by the weight above from second floors, roofs or bearing walls by transferring the load to the bearing wall or footings below.

Point Load. A point load is a point in a wall, floor or roof where there is an increased pressure that the conventional framing will not support on its own. You have to install squash blocks, extra studs, beams, posts or even footings.

Footings. Footings are placed below your concrete floor or walls. They are engineered to a certain size and dimensions. They sometimes have rebar installed to help strengthen them against heavy loads. They are installed to help take the weight of loads coming down from the rest of the building. They are built in a way that will spread the weight over the ground below it so that there is no shifting or cracking in the walls and structures above.

Pitch. (Not from baseball) A pitch is usually referring to the slope of a roof. The pitch is the angle that the roof runs on. So common terms for this is 9-12 pitch. What this actually means is that for every twelve inches that you travel across the roof horizontally the angle of the roof rises nine inches. Those giving you a 9-12 pitch.

Back framing. This is a term referring to installing blocking after you have framed all your walls, floors and roofs. Back framing is usually pieces of wood that are installed to help drywallers when they install there ceiling board. It gives them somewhere to put there screws when they get to the edge of the wall or corner.

I beam. An "I" beam is a steel beam that is in the shape of the letter "I" when looked at from the end. They are used as load bearing beams. They are usually placed were a load bearing wall or point load needs to be supported.

Hangers. (Not your closet clothes hangers) Hangers are a term used to explain joist hangers. They are a galvanized piece of metal that is manufactured in a way that encircles a floor joist or beam, allowing for nails to be installed into the surface of the wall that the joist butts into. The function of a joist hanger is to hold the joist from ever moving up, down or side to side. Joist hangers are part of the building code to hold joists up, which means they are mandatory to install on any floor joist that is not sitting on top of a wall.

LVL. Means Laminated Veneered Lumber, LVL. LVL’s are used when framing houses. They are used as beams to carry floors, roofs or load points. They act the same as steel “I” beams. They are made from laminating many layers of wood together. They can come in sizes that range a lot larger then convention lumber.

This should help you understand what your contractor is talking about the next time you have a meeting with them. Look for part 2 of common construction terms, coming soon.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.


  1. i read your blog so . usefull and infomative. thanks for sharing us.


  2. Wanted to let you know that I referred my clients to this page to help them understand the terms when communicating with me. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to read it and recommend it.

  4. A very helpful page. Thanks for taking the time to prepare this.

  5. Back around 1970 I worked for a man who referred to the board that the floor joists were fastened to as the "coma joist." Not sure of the spelling. Anyone else heard of this usage?

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