Below are terms related to homes and their systems and components. You may encounter these terms in your Home Inspection Report or when communicating with other inspectors or contractors about your home.
sack mix: The amount of Portland cement in a cubic yard of concrete mix. Generally, a 5- or 6-sack mix is required for a foundation wall.
saddle: Two sloping surfaces meeting in a horizontal ridge, used between the backside of a chimney or other vertical surface, and a sloping roof.
safety glazing: Tempered glass, laminated glass or rigid plastic used in areas and applications such as shower doors in bathrooms, etc.
sand-float finish: In plastering, lime that is mixed with sand and applied by using a wooden float such that the result is a rough, textured finish.
sanitary sewer: A sewer system designed for the collection of wastewater from the bathroom, kitchen and laundry drains; usually not designed to handle stormwater.
sanitary tee: Used on the waste-side of a plumbing system to keep effluent flowing in the proper direction.
sash: A single light frame containing one or more lites of glass.
sash balance: A device operated by a spring or tensioned weatherstripping that is designed to counterbalance a double-hung window sash.
saturant: Asphalt used to impregnate a felt-based material.
saturated felt: A felt that is impregnated with tar or asphalt.
scratch coat: In stucco work, the first coat of plaster, which is scratched to form a bond for the second coat.
screed (screeding): In cement work, the wood or metal straightedge used to strike off or level newly-placed concrete. Screeds can be the leveling device used or the formwork used to level or establish the level of the concrete. Screeds can be manual or mechanical.
screw-lamp holder: A lamp base that requires a screw-in-type lamp, such as a compact fluorescent, incandescent, or tungsten-halogen bulb.
scrim: A woven or mat-type fabric that is used as a membrane sandwich between other material to provide reinforcement and stretch resistance.
scupper: An outlet in the wall of a building or a parapet wall for drainage of water from a flat roof.
sealant: An elastomeric material with adhesive qualities that is applied between components of a similar or dissimilar nature to provide an effective barrier against the passage of snow, rainwater, wind, etc.
sealer: A clear or pigmented finishing material that is usually applied directly over uncoated wood for the purpose of sealing the surface.
seasoning: Removing moisture from green wood in order to improve its serviceability.
seat: The fixed part of a valve. The stem assembly moves up and down against the seat to open and close the valve.
SEER (seasonal energy-efficiency ratio): A measure of the energy efficiency of equipment over the cooling season, representing the total cooling of a central air conditioner or heat pump (in BTUs) during the normal cooling season, as compared to the total electrical energy input (in watt-hours) consumed during the same period. SEER is based on tests performed in accordance with AHRI 210/240 (AHRI 2003).
self-healing: A term used to describe to a material that melts with the heat from the sun's rays and seals over cracks that were earlier formed from other causes. Some waterproof membranes are self-healing.
self-leveling: A term used to describe a viscous material that is applied by pouring. In its uncured state, it spreads out evenly.
self-rimming: A style of bathroom lavatory or kitchen sink with a finished lip or rim that installs on top of a counter without requiring a metal sink rim.
selvage: The unsurfaced strip along a sheet of roll roofing that forms the under-portion at the lap in the application of the roof covering.
semi-gloss: A paint or enamel made with a slight insufficiency of a non-volatile vehicle so that its coating, when dry, has some luster but not a high gloss.
service conductor: In electrical contracting, the supply conductors that extend from the street main or transformer to the service equipment.
service drop: In electrical contracting, the overhead service conductors from the last pole or other aerial support to and including the splices, if any, connecting to the service-entrance conductors at the building.
settlement: Shifting of a structure, usually caused by freeze-thaw cycles underground.
sewage ejector: A pump installed in a basement or other location situated below the level of the side sewer and used to lift wastewater to a gravity sanitary sewer line.
sewer lateral: The portion of the sanitary sewer that connects the interior wastewater lines to the main sewer lines. The side sewer is usually buried in several feet of soil and runs from the house to the sewer line. It is usually owned by the sewer utility but must be maintained by the owner and may be serviced only by utility-approved contractors.
sewer stub: The junction at the municipal sewer system where the home's sewer line is connected.
sewer tap: The physical connection point where the home's sewer line connects to the main municipal sewer line.
shading: Slight differences in shingle color that may occur as a result of normal manufacturing operations.
shake: A thick, hand-split shingle, re-sawed to form two shakes; usually edge-grained.
sheathing: The structural covering, usually wood boards, plywood, gypsum or wood fiber, used over studs or rafters of framed buildings as the first layer of the outer wall covering nailed to the studs or rafters.
sheathing paper: A paper or felt building material used in wall and roof construction as protection against the passage of air and sometimes moisture.
shed roof: A style of roof having only one slope or pitch, with only one set of rafters that fall from a higher to a lower wall.
sheet metal ductwork: The heating system consisting of round or rectangular metal pipes and sheet metal (for return air) and installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to the rooms in the home.
sheet metal work: All components of a house employing sheet metal, such as flashing, gutters and downspouts.
SHEETROCK®: The brand name for panels made primarily from gypsum and installed over a structure's framing to form the interior walls and ceilings. Also called gypsum board.
shellac: A transparent coating made by dissolving the resinous secretion of the lac bug in alcohol.
shingles: A roof covering made of asphalt, wood, tile, slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths and thicknesses, and laid and attached in a series of overlapping rows as a roof covering on pitched roofs.
shiplap lumber: Lumber that is edge-dressed to make a close rabbeted or lapped joint.
shoring: A temporary support erected in a trench or other excavation to prevent the walls from caving in.
short circuit: A situation that occurs when hot and neutral wires come in contact with each other. Fuses and circuit breakers protect against fire that could result from a short.
shutoff valve: The valve that allows the water supply to be cut off to one fixture without affecting the water supply to the entire house or building. Commonly used with clawfoot tubs, sinks and toilets.
shutter: A lightweight louvered, flush-wood or non-wood frame in the form of doors located at each side of a window. Some are made to close over the window for added protection; others are permanently affixed to the wall as decoration.
siding: The finish covering of the outside wall of a frame building and made of horizontal weatherboards, vertical boards with battens, shingles, and/or other materials.
silicone sealant: A multi-purpose sealant that typically does not shrink or crack and offers flexibility and adhesion, and a weatherproof, watertight seal.
sill: The lowest member of the frame of a structure that rests on the foundation and supports the floor joists or uprights of the wall; the member forming the lower side of an opening, as in a door sill, window sill, etc.
sill plate: The framing member anchored to the foundation wall upon which studs and other framing members are attached; the bottom plate of exterior walls.
sill seal: Fiberglass or foam insulation installed between the foundation wall and sill (wood) plate, designed to seal any cracks and gaps.
sill sealer: A foam strip placed between the top of the foundation wall and the sill plate to facilitate a better fit and eliminate water problems.
sill step: The first step coming directly off a building at a door opening.
sillcock: An exterior water faucet. Also called a hose bib.
single coverage: Asphalt roofing that provides one layer of roofing material over the deck.
single tee: The name given to a type of precast concrete deck that has one stiffening rib integrally cast into slab.
single-family dwelling: A house built for a single family as opposed to multiple families, such as a duplex or apartment complex.
single-ply: A descriptive term signifying a roof membrane composed of only one layer of material, such as EPDM, Hypalon or PVC.
single-wall metal chimney: A field-constructed chimney not permitted in one- and two-family dwellings.
skip sheathing: The normal base for shake, shingle and some tile roofs; 1x4-inch or similar sized boards are nailed at 90-degree angles to the rafters, leaving a space of about 4 inches between each row, which allows for better ventilation.
skylight: A structure on a roof that is designed to admit light and is slightly above the plane of the roof surface to allow it to shed rainwater.
slab on grade: A type of construction in which footings are needed but little or no foundation wall is poured.
slab (concrete): Concrete pavement, such as that used for driveways, garages and basement floors.
slab (door): A rectangular door without hinges or a frame.
slag: A byproduct of smelting ore, such as iron, lead or copper. Also, overburden or dropping from welding that may burn, melt or discolor adjacent surfaces.
slate: A dark gray, stratified stone cut relatively thin and installed on pitched roofs in a shingle-like fashion.
sleeper: A wood member embedded in concrete, as in a floor, that serves to support and fasten the subfloor or flooring.
sleeve: Pipe installed under a concrete driveway or sidewalk that is used to run through sprinkler pipe or low-voltage wire.
slope: The incline or pitch of a roof surface, drainage plane, etc.
sludge: A term for the waste material found in sump pump pits, septic systems and gutters.
slump: Describes the wetness of concrete. A 3-inch slump is dryer and stiffer than a 5-inch slump.
slump test: A test that measures, in inches, the consistency or stiffness of a concrete mix. If the test results are high, one likely cause is too much water. A low-slump test result indicates not enough water.
smoke alarm: A single or multiple alarm that is responsive to smoke, and not connected to a fire sprinkler system.
smoke detector: A device that senses smoke or particles of combustion.
smooth-surface roofing: Roll roofing that is covered with ground talc or mica instead of aggregate or granules.
soffit: The underside of an overhanging cornice of a building extending out from the plane of the building walls.
soil cover: A light covering of plastic film, roll roofing, or similar material used over the soil in the crawlspace of a building that minimizes moisture permeation into the area. Also called groundcover/ground cover.
sole plate: The bottom horizontal member of a frame wall.
solid bridging: A solid member placed between adjacent floor joists near the center of the span to prevent the joists from twisting.
solid fuel: Wood, coal, pellets, and other materials that can be burned for heat.
Sonotube®: The brand name for a large round cardboard tube designed to hold wet concrete in place until it hardens.
sound attenuation: Soundproofing a wall or subfloor using fiberglass insulation or other material.
Sound Transmission Class: See STC.
Sound Transmission Loss: See STL.
space heater: A portable appliance that warms a small area using radiant electric heat.
spacers: Small blocks of neoprene, EPDM, silicone, or other suitable material placed on each side of a glass product that provides centering for the glass and maintains a uniform width of sealant bead to prevent excessive sealant distortion. Also called shims.
spalling: The chipping or flaking of concrete, bricks or other masonry when improper drainage or venting and freeze-thaw cycling exist.
span: The horizontal distance between structural supports, such as walls, columns, piers, beams, girders and trusses.
spandrel: The panels of a wall located between vision areas of windows that conceal structural columns, floors and shear walls.
specialty eaves flashing membrane: A self-adhering, waterproofing shingle underlayment designed to protect against water infiltration due to ice damage and wind-driven rain.
splash block: A small masonry block laid with the top close to the ground surface to receive roof drainage from downspouts and carry it away from the building.
splitting: The formation of long cracks completely through a membrane. Splits are frequently associated with lack of allowance for expansion stresses. They can also be a result of deck deflection or change in deck direction.
spud: In roofing, the removal of gravel or heavy accumulations of bitumen from roof membranes by means of chipping or scraping. In mechanical applications, a short section of pipe or a threaded fitting that completes a connection, as between a longer pipe and a nozzle, valve or meter.
square: A unit of measure applied to roofing material (such as 100 square feet). Sidewall coverings are sometimes packed and sold to cover 100 square feet.
square foot: Coverage measured by multiplying width by length. For example, an area 5 feet long and 7 feet wide is equal to 35 square feet.
squeegee: Fine pea gravel used to grade a floor before concrete is placed.
stack: The vertical pipe of a system of soil, waste or vent piping.
stack vent: The extension of a soil or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack. Also called a waste vent and a soil vent.
stain: A type of thin-consistency oil paint used to color wood that has a rough surface (such as shingles) without forming a coating of significant thickness or gloss.
stair carriage: A supporting member for stair treads; a 2-inch plank notched to receive the treads. Also called a rough horse.
standing seam: A type of joint often used on metal roofs.
static load: The total amount of permanent, non-moving weight that is applied to a given surface area.
static vent: A vent that does not include a fan.
STC (Sound Transmission Class): A single-number rating derived from individual transmission sound losses at specified test frequencies. It is used for rating the soundproofing quality of interior walls, ceilings and floors.
steel inspection: A municipal and/or engineer's inspection of the concrete foundation wall that is conducted before concrete is poured into the foundation panels, and done to ensure that the rebar, rebar nets, void material, beam pocket plates, and basement window bucks are installed and wrapped with rebar and comply with the foundation plan.
steel trowel: A flat steel tool used to spread and smooth plaster, mortar and concrete for a non-porous, smooth finish. Pointing trowels are small enough to be used in places where larger trowels will not fit. The pointing trowel has a point. The common trowel has a rectangular blade attached to a handle. For a smooth finish, a trowel is used when the concrete begins to harden.
stem: A small shaft or rod that projects through a faucet valve to which the handle is installed.
stem assembly: The moving part of a valve that controls the amount and temperature of water released by moving up and down against the seat to open and close the valve.
step crack: Hairline, staircase-shaped cracks typically found near the corners of a foundation, usually due to normal soil settlement. Larger step cracks may indicate ongoing movement or sinking of the foundation and are a more serious condition.
step flashing: Small, individual pieces of metal flashing material used to flash around chimneys, dormers, and similar projections along the slope of a roof. The individual pieces are overlapped and stepped up the vertical surface.
stick-built: A house built without prefabricated parts. Also called conventional building.
stile: An upright framing member in a panel door.
STL (Sound Transmission Loss): The reduction of the amount of sound energy passing through a wall, floor, roof, etc., related to the specific frequency at which it is measured and expressed in decibels.
stool: A flat molding fitted over a window sill between jambs and contacting the bottom rail of the lower sash.
stop box: A cast-iron pipe with a lid 5 inches in diameter that is placed vertically into the ground and situated near the water tap in the yard, and where a water cut-off valve to the home is located underground. A long pole with a special end is inserted into the curb stop to turn the water on and off.
stop valve: A shutoff valve.
storm door: A panel or sash door placed on the outside of an existing door to provide additional protection from the elements.
storm sewer: A sewer system designed to collect storm water and separated from the wastewater system.
storm window: A glazed panel or sash placed on the inside or outside of an existing sash or window as additional protection against the elements.
story: That part of a building between any floor and the floor or roof immediately above.
straight stop: A shutoff valve that is installed on a supply line between the floor and the faucet or toilet. Unlike an angle stop, a straight stop does not change the direction of water flow.
strain: The percentage of elongation or compression of a material or portion of a material caused by an applied force.
striking off: Smoothing off excess compound or sealant at the sight line when applying it around lites or panels.
string: A timber or other support for cross-members in floors and ceilings. Also called a stringboard.
stringer: In stairs, the support on which the stair treads rest.
strip flooring: Wood flooring consisting of narrow matched strips.
structural component: A component that supports a building's non-variable forces and weights (dead loads) and variable forces and weights (live loads).
structural floor: A framed lumber floor that is installed as a basement floor instead of concrete on very expansive soils.
structural silicone glazing: Silicone sealant used for the structural transfer of loads from glass to its perimeter support system and retention of the glass in the opening.
stucco: A type of exterior finish plaster made with Portland cement as its base.
stud: One of a series of wood or metal vertical structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions.
stud framing: A building method that distributes structural loads to each of a series of relatively lightweight studs. Contrasts with post-and-beam construction.
stud shoe: A metal structural bracket that reinforces a vertical stud and used on an outside bearing wall where holes are drilled to accommodate a plumbing waste line.
subfloor: Boards or plywood laid on joists over which a finish floor is laid.
substrate: A part or substance that lies beneath and supports another.
sump: A pit or large plastic bucket or barrel inside the home designed to collect groundwater from a perimeter drain system.
sump pit: Dug at the lowest part of the basement floor to capture and contain any flowing water from a sump pump. The sump pump sits at the bottom of or beside this trench and expels excess water through a series of interconnected pipes to a suitable discharge location. The pump can sense water levels through a float that rises and falls with fluctuating water levels in the trench. Also called a sump trench.
sump pump: A submersible pump in a sump pit that pumps any excess groundwater to the outside of the home.
suspended ceiling: A ceiling system supported by hanging it from the overhead structural framing.
swale: A shallow drainage ditch used in conditions where one or more sides of a building faces an upward slope. A swale should slope away from the building for 10 to 15 feet, at which point it can empty into another swale that directs water around to the downhill-side of the building, leading it away from the foundation.
sway brace: Metal straps or wood blocks installed diagonally on the inside of a wall from bottom to top plate that prevent the wall from twisting, racking or falling over in a domino fashion.
switch: A device that completes and/or disconnects an electrical circuit.