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  • Does Construction Lingo Leave You Confused?

    TOPICS: Suggested Reading  |  POSTED BY: Andrew

    Communication in the design and building of decks and other exterior projects.

    In my years discussing deck construction with clients and other construction professionals it has become clear that a common vocabulary is essential whenever two or more people pursue a joint project.  With that in mind, Dexperts have compiled a list of construction terms that apply to deck and outdoor living space construction.




    In my years discussing deck construction with clients and other construction professionals it has become clear that a common vocabulary is essential whenever two or more people pursue a joint project.  With that in mind, Dexperts have compiled a list of construction terms that apply to deck and outdoor living space construction.


    I will add to the list as necessary, either as new products and practices become common or as the need becomes apparent.




    Actual Dimensions:                 The exact measurements of a piece of lumber after it has been cut, surfaced and dried.  For example, a 2x4 is actually 1 ½” x 3 ½”. (Also see Nominal Dimensions)


    Arbor:                                      A garden structure that can provide shade or ornamental appeal.  Can include a bench or swing, but is typically something that is walked/passed under and not a seating area.


    Azek®:                                    A manufacturer of PVC building products including decking, trim and fascia.


    Balusters:                                The vertical components of a railing system.


    Beam:                                      A large framing member supported by posts and used to support joists.


    Blocking:                                 Solid pieces of lumber cut to fit snugly between joists.  Used to prevent joists from cupping or rolling.


    Break Board:                           A deck board installed perpendicular to the rest of the decking that can be used to break up large areas or define certain areas within a deck.


    Building Codes:                      Requirements for safe building practices and procedures enforced by local municipalities.


    Building Permit:                      A license, obtained from the local building and planning department, authorizing work to be done on a home.  Structural changes and changes to a building’s water, waste or electrical systems require a building permit and inspections.


    Cantilever:                               Construction that extends beyond any vertical support.


    Capped Composite:                Deck boards with a core made of composite but then wrapped in a protective coating which is generally plastic.


    Composite Decking:               Decking products manufactured using a blend of wood and plastic.  Composite decking requires less maintenance than wood and doesn’t rot, crack, or split.             


    Decking:                                  Boards nailed to the tops of joists to form the deck surface.


    Elevation:                                An architectural drawing of a structure from the front, rear, or side view.


    Fascia Board:                          A facing board that covers the deck framing to provide a finished appearance.


    Finial:                                      A decorative element at the top of a post.


    Footing:                                   The concrete base that supports posts or steps.


    Frost line:                                The maximum depth to which the ground freezes in a given geographical area.


    Galvanized:                             A coating for metal of zinc and other chemicals to prevent rusting.


    Grade:                                     The natural ground level.


    Guard Railing:                        Decks over 30 inches off the ground require a railing around the deck to protect people from falling off.  A rail can be decorative and made of a variety of materials, but must be a minimum of 36 inches high and have no openings larger than 4 inches.


    Hand Rail:                               Any stairs that have more than 3 steps require a graspable surface on at least one side of the stairs.


    Joists:                                      Structural members placed across beams to support deck boards.


    Joist Hanger:                           Metal connector used to support one end of a joist.


    Knot:                                       The high density root of a limb that is not connected to the surrounding wood.


    Lag Screw:                              A large diameter wood screw used to connect the ledger board to the house framing.


    Lattice:                                    A cross-pattern material made from wood, plastic, or metal.


    Ledger:                                    A horizontal board attached to the side of a house to support one end of a deck or overhead structure.


    Nominal Dimensions:              The identifying dimensions of a piece of lumber which are larger than the actual dimensions.


    Pergola:                                   An overhead structure consisting of beams or latticework set atop columns or posts.  Often built over a path or patio area for shade or decoration and is differentiated from an arbor in function more than in design.


    Permanent Structure:              Any structure that is anchored to the ground.


    Plan Drawing:                         A drawing which gives an overhead view showing locations of footings and framing pieces.


    Plumb:                                     Vertically straight, in relation to a horizontally level surface.


    Post:                                        A vertical framing member.


    Post Anchor:                           A metal connector used to attach the base of a post to the footing.


    Pressure-treated Lumber:        Wood that has had preservative chemicals forced into it under pressure in the manufacturing process.


    PVC Decking:                         A man-made decking product consisting entirely of cellular PVC.  It is impervious to water and insects and comes in many attractive colors and textures.


    On Center:                              Measurement from the center of one framing member to the next.  Used as a reference point in layout.


    Rail:                             A horizontal member placed between posts.


    Recommended Span: The distance a piece of lumber can safely traverse without being supported.


    Redwood:                  A straight-grained weather-resistant wood used for outdoor building.


    Rim Joist:                 The joist running perpendicular to all other joists on the perimeter of a deck.


    Riser:                      The vertical part of each step on a set of stairs.


    Site Plan:               A map of the property which includes locations of buildings, driveways and parking areas, utilities, slopes, vegetation and other features.


    Skirt:                   Any material installed between the ground and the bottom of the deck.  Provides a more finished appearance and keeps animals out.


    Stringer:            On stairs, the diagonal board which support the treads and risers.  Also called a “stair jack”.


    Timbertech®:    A leading manufacturer of composite decking, railing and trim. 


    Toenail:          To drive a nail through the end of one board into the face of another to connect them.


    Tread:         On stairs, the horizontal boards that make up each step.


    Trellis:          A latticework used as a light screen or as a support for climbing plants.


    XLM:        A durable and long-lasting PVC decking product. Originally a Timbertech product, now            marketed under the Azek brand. XLM is stain, scratch, split and mold resistant, XLM stands for eXtreme Low Maintenance.  It is available in a variety of colors and can be installed with hidden fasteners.