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CAISSON: A sunken panel or coffer in ceilings, vaults, and domes; the term is also used for concrete cylindrical foundations or tubular piers filled with concrete.

CANTILEVER: A structural member or surface that projects horizontally beyond its vertical support.

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CANT STRIP: Angular shaped member used to eliminate a sharp, right angle, often used on flat roofs on commercial buildings.

CAPITAL:  The topmost member, usually decorated, of a column, pilaster, etc.

CARPORT: An automobile shelter not fully enclosed.

CASEMENT WINDOW: A hinged window that opens out, usually made of metal.

CASING:  A wood finish piece placed around the inside of a door or window opening.

CATCH BASIN: An underground structure for drainage into which the water from a roof or floor will drain. It is connected with a sewer drain or sump pump.

CAULKING: Soft, elastic material used to seal small openings around doors, windows, etc.

CAVITY WALL: An exterior wall, usually of masonry, consisting of an outer and inner withe separated by a continuous air space, but connected together by wire or sheet-metal ties. The dead air space provides improved thermal insulation.

CFR:  The Code of Federal Regulations.  A codification of the regulations of the various federal agencies.

CHAIR RAIL:  A wooden protective strip placed horizontally along a wall to prevent damage from chairs striking the wall.

CHALKING:  The photo-oxidation of paint binders, usually due to weathering, that causes a lead powder to form on the film surface when lead-based paint is present.

CHASE: Vertical space within a building or home for ducts, pipes or wires.

CHECK: A small crack running parallel to the grain in wood and across the rings; usually caused by shrinkage during drying.  An inspector should determine if it is structurally significant.

CHECKING: Small cracks at closely spaced but irregular intervals on the surface of mortar, concrete or paint.

CHIMNEY: A non-combustible vertical structure within or adjoining a building or home containing one or more flues to provide draft for fireplaces, and to carry off gaseous products of combustion to the outside air from fireplaces, furnaces, or boilers.

CHIMNEY CAP: The crowning termination of a chimney, usually constructed of concrete, stone or metal; that is installed to prevent water from penetrating the top of a masonry chimney.

CHORD: Top or bottom member of a truss.

CINDER BLOCK: A building block made of cement and cinder.

CIRCUIT BREAKER: An electric device for opening and closing a circuit, designed to open the circuit automatically upon flow of a predetermined value of abnormally high current; may be repeatedly reclosed and reused as an automatic overcurrent protection device without replacement of any components.

CISTERN: A tank or other reservoir to store rainwater run off.

CLAPBOARD: A board, thicker on one side than the other, used to overlap an adjacent board on a building or home's siding.

CLEAN OUT: A plugged opening to drainlines and some traps to facilitate removal of a blockage with a plumber’s snake or auger.

CLERESTORY: An outside wall of a home or building that rises above an adjoining roof and contains windows.

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CMU: Concrete Masonry Unit made from Portland cement and aggregate.

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COLD AIR RETURN: Large ducts that lead cold air, or return air, to a furnace.

COLD JOINT: A joint formed when a concrete surface hardens before the next batch of concrete is placed against it.

COLLAR BEAM: A horizontal member, which ties together (and stiffens) two opposite common rafters, usually at a point about halfway up the rafters.

COMMON AREA:  A portion of a building that is generally accessible to all occupants, such as hallways, stairways, laundry and recreational rooms, playgrounds, garages and fences. 

COMMON WALL: A single wall that serves two dwelling units in a building.

COMPOSITE SAMPLE:  A single sample in lead inspecting made up of individual subsamples.  Analysis of a composite lead sample produces the arithmetic mean of all subsamples.

CONCRETE: A mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water.

CONCRETE BLOCK: Precast hollow or solid building blocks of concrete.

CONDENSATION: The formation of frost or drops of water on inside walls, and when warm vapor inside a room meets a building's cold wall or window.

CONDUCTOR: In architecture, a drain pipe leading from the roof; in electricity, anything that permits the passage of an electric current.

CONDUIT: A channel built to convey water or other fluids; a drain or sewer. In electrical work, a channel that carries wires for protection and for safety.

CONTROL JOINT: A groove which is formed, sawed, or tooled in a concrete or masonry building to regulate the location and amount of cracking and separation resulting from the dimensional change of different parts of the building.

CORBEL: In masonry, a projection or one of a series of projections, each stepped progressively outward with increasing height, and usually projecting from a wall or chimney; serves as a support for an overhanging member or course.

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CORNER BEAD: A metal molding built into plaster corners to prevent the accidental breaking off of the plaster.

CORNICE: Molded projection of the roof overhang at the top of a building's wall.

COUNTERFLASHING: A strip of sheet metal, often built into masonry and turned down over other flashing; used to prevent water from entering the joints and the exposed upturned edges of base flashing on a roof.

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COURSE: A layer of masonry units running horizontally in a wall, or a continuous row or layer of material such as shingles, tiles, etc.

COURT: An open space surrounded partly or entirely by a building.

COVE: Concave molding usually used on horizontal inside corners.

CRAWL SPACE: In a building or home without a basement, an unfinished accessible space below the first floor which is usually less than a full story in height; normally enclosed by the foundation wall.

CRICKET: A small saddle-shaped projection on a sloping roof; used to divert water around an obstacle such as a chimney.

CROSS BRACING: Boards nailed diagonally across studs or other boards to make framework rigid.

CROSS BRIDGING: Bracing between floor joists to add stiffness to the floors.

CROSS CONNECTION: Any plumbing arrangement that allows flow between potable water and a contaminant such as drain water, a gas, a chemical, or even steam. Cross connections are found in many building locations, including: boilers, lawn irrigation systems, between public and private water systems, at bidets, in toilet tanks, and at bathtubs.

CROWN MOLDING: Molding used above eye level, usually the upper trim on interior walls.

CULVERT: A passage for water below ground level.

CUPOLA: A domed structure on a building or home, often set on a circular or polygonal base on a roof or set on pillars; often glazed to provide light in the space below, or louvered to provide ventilation in that space.

CUT AND FILL: The process of cutting into a hillside and using the material removed to fill a downslope portion of the site. Because the newly filled portion is less dense and compacted, buildings or homes constructed across the “cut and fill” line are often cracked or distorted at that location.

I BEAM: A steel beam with an I-shaped cross section.

INSULATION: Materials for obstructing the passage of sound, heat, or cold from one surface/area to another.

INSPECTION REPORT: Results of a home inspection communicated in writing.

INTERIOR TRIM: General term for all the finish molding, casing, baseboard, etc., applied within the building or home by finish carpenters.

ON CENTER: Method of indicating spacing of framing members by stating the distance from the center of one member to the center of the next.

ORIEL:A large bay window projecting from a wall and supported by a corbel or bracket.  

OUTLET: Any type of electrical box allowing current to be drawn from the electrical system for lighting or appliances.

VALLEY: The internal angle formed by two slopes of a roof.

VALLEY JACKS: Rafters that run from a ridgeboard to a valley rafter.

VALLEY RAFTER: Diagonal rafter at the intersection of two intersecting sloping roofs.

VALVE: A device that regulates the flow of material in a pipe.

VAPOR BARRIER: Watertight material used to prevent the passage of moisture or water vapor into and through walls , from dirt floors into crawl spaces, and under concrete slabs.

VAULTED CEILING: A ceiling that slopes up to a peak.

VENT: A screened opening for ventilation. A pipe or other conduit composed of factory-made components, containing a passageway for conveying combustion products and air to the atmosphere.

VENT CONNECTOR: The pipe that connects an approved appliance to a chimney, flue or vent. 

VENTILATION: The process of supplying and removing air by natural or mechanical means to or from any space.

VENT PIPES: Small ventilating pipes extending from each fixture of a plumbing system to the vent stack.

VENT STACK: Vertical soil pipe connected to the drainage system to allow ventilation and pressure equalization.

VERGEBOARD: The board that serves as the eaves finish on the gable end of a building.

VERMICULITE: a natural mica expanded by heat to form lightweight thermal insulating material, used in the expanded state alone as loose fill or as aggregate with other materials.

VESTIBULE: A small lobby or entrance room in a house.

VITREOUS: Pertaining to a composition of materials that resemble glass.



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Glossary of Inspection, Architectural, and Construction Terms
Commeercial Building Inspection Construction Architetcure Seattle Building Inspector