Home Design Glossary

The following home design and construction terms are used throughout Chief Architect's applications, documentation, and learning resources.

A CSV file is a Comma Separated Values file, which allows data to be saved in a table structured format.
A EZF file is an EasyFrame saw system file, which contains wall framing information.
A TXT file is a file that contains human readable text and is compatible with most text editing programs.
3D solid
Polyline shaped 3D objects that can be modified extensively to create a variety of custom objects.
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. A type of outlet or breaker designed to protect against electrical fires by breaking the circuit when an electrical arc is detected.
anchor bolt
A type of threaded fastener used to secure a structure or other load to concrete or masonry.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
A historical record. The Auto Archive utility in Chief Architect automatically creates a historical archive of each plan and layout file.
attic truss
A type of roof truss with an open space at its bottom center to accommodate a living space, with webbing above and on either side of this living space.
balloon framed wall
A framing method in which wall studs and the channels between them run continuously from the foundation to the roof, and floor and ceiling platforms are hung on the inside of the walls.
Closely spaced, vertical supports for railings.
barrel roof
A curved roof that, especially from below, is curved like a cut-away barrel.
base cabinet
Cabinet type that typically sits on the floor in a bathroom or kitchen, and supports a countertop.
A board or molding applied to the bottom of a wall to cover the joint where it meets the floor.
The pivot point for a roof plane when the pitch is changed, typically located over the outer main layer of the wall the roof is built on.
bay window
An alcove with angled sides and windows that extends out from an exterior wall.
A horizontal or pitched structural member that supports floor, ceiling, or roof framing.
bearing wall
A wall that supports the weight of a floor or roof above it and transfers it to the foundation.
belly band
Decorative cladding that runs horizontally around a house or building. It usually runs around the building at about the height of the first or second floor.
bifold door
A door that is hinged in the middle and has its edges on tracks, reducing its required swing area.
Framing members placed between studs, joists, rafters, or trusses for various purposes such as: preventing framing from twisting, support for mounted fixtures, and fire safety.
A document, usually printed on large format sheets, that describes an architectural or engineering design in technical detail. The term refers to a printing process no longer widely used.
board and batten
Vertical siding or interior paneling made of wood, plastic or metal of varying widths with overlapping seams.
bottom chord
The lowest or bottom-most member of a floor or roof truss. Although usually horizontal, the bottom chords of roof trusses may be angled.
bottom plate
A horizontal wall framing member attached to the bottoms of the wall's studs and secured to the floor platform that the wall bears on.
An architectural feature similar to a hallway that allows the passage of a breeze between structures to accommodate high winds, allow aeration, or provide aesthetic design variation.
brick ledge
A narrow shelf in a foundation wall or slab designed to support brick or stone veneer.
Framing members placed between joists, rafters, or trusses to prevent twisting, stiffen the structure, and distribute loads.
Trim that is used to provide a smooth, rounded edge for counter tops, staircase steps, building corners, verandahs, or other construction.
Computer aided drafting or computer aided design.
A horizontal beam supported at one end only and projecting out from that support. Also refers to a structure supported by one or more such beams.
The top part of a pillar or column that connects it with the load bearing down on it.
Window style with hinges on the side of its frame, or a window unit composed of two or more frames with hinges on the side.
cathedral ceiling
A ceiling that has equal sloping sides, meeting in the middle of a room at a ridge, also having the same pitch as the roof structure.
ceiling joist
A horizontal framing member that supports a room's ceiling surface rather than bear the weight of a floor, and may also tie opposing walls and rafters together.
A building material composed of powdered limestone, clay, and other minerals that can be used as an ingredient in concrete or mortar or mixed with water, poured into a form, and allowed to harden or set.
chair rail
A horizontal wall molding located 3-4 feet (1 - 1.25 m) off the floor, originally used to prevent the backs of chairs from damaging the wall.
A straight corner bevel of a specified size connecting any two non-parallel lines.
An outside wall of a building, containing windows for supplying light, that is set higher than the surrounding roofs.
A standardized, cast masonry building unit made of concrete and sized larger than 12 x 4 x 4 inches or 305 x 102 x 102 mm. Solid CMU blocks are joined using grout or mortar while hollow blocks are typically filled with poured concrete.
coffered ceiling
A sunken ceiling panel or series of panels in the shape of a polygon(s) used as decoration for a ceiling or vault.
A vertical structural support, traditionally made of stone and consisting of a base, shaft, and capital. Columns may be decorative only, but typically transfer a load to the structure below and may be engineered for earthquakes or wind resistance.
A man-made, stone-based, composite building material composed of cement, various sizes of aggregate (e.g. sand, gravel, etc), and sometimes other additives. Ingredients can be combined in different formulas to produce special properties and then mixed with water, poured, and allowed to harden.
concrete block
A standardized, cast masonry building unit made of concrete and sized larger than 12 x 4 x 4 inches or 305 x 102 x 102 mm. Solid CMU blocks are joined using grout or mortar while hollow blocks are typically filled with poured concrete.
contextual menu
A menu that opens on screen when you right-click on an object, generally providing tools to edit the selected object.
A wall bracket or block located under and supporting an architectural element that extends out from a wall. Modern corbels are often decorative only and made of wood; traditionally, they were stone and built into a masonry wall's structure.
corner boards
Vertical trim boards placed at exterior wall intersections.
crawl space
An unfinished basement space beneath a floor with low clearance and, typically, access to wiring and plumbing.
cross section
A view that portrays a cut-away portion of a building for the purpose of seeing the internal components.
crown molding
Horizontal molding used to decorate, or crown, the top of an architectural element; typically, the top of a wall where it meets the ceiling or the tops of cabinets or furniture.
A small structure on top of a building's roof often used to provide ventilation and admit light.
A raised border at the edge of a street or sidewalk, typically constructed of concrete.
curtain wall
A non-structural or non load-bearing wall usually built of light-weight material that provides the outer covering of a building.
cut list
A list that calculates the framing materials of the different structural components of the plan by counting the individual pieces present in the model.
The lower part of a wall, below the chair rail, which is typically decorated.
dentil molding
Decorative molding with repeating blocks carved into it.
A structure that projects out from a sloping roof and has one or more walls, its own roof, and one or more windows or vents. A dormer may bear on the roof or its walls may extend down and bear on an interior floor platform.
double hung window
A window with two movable sashes, one above the other, that slide up and down and can be opened at the same time.
double wall
Two walls built face-to-face with no space between them.
A pipe used to route water from a roof gutter down to the ground, a drain, or a storage receptacle.
A board or panel composed of a layer of pressed gypsum plaster between layers of paper or felt and used as an interior surface material for walls and ceilings.
dutch hip
A section of roof that starts as a hip section from the fascia upward and then changes in to a gable end at a determined point below the ridge.
Short for drawing, DWG is a proprietary file format used for storing two- and three-dimensional design data.
Short for drawing exchange format, DXF is a universal file format used for storing two- and three-dimensional design information.
Roof edges that extend beyond the outside of a building's perimeter walls.
A window used as an emergency escape exit. In most residential structures, these would be installed in basement walls.
euro-style cabinet
Frameless cabinets which have no face frame so the hinges are secured to the inside of the cabinet, and the doors overlay the cabinet box.
eyebrow dormer
A low dormer on the slope of a roof having no sides, where the top of the roofing is curved and carried over a flat bottom.
A board running horizontally under a roof edge and oriented vertically to cover the ends of the rafters. Fascia may be made of wood, aluminum, plastic, or composite materials.
A rounding of an interior or exterior corner.
An ornamental cap often found at the top of a roof or newel post, or at the ends of curtain rods.
fire block
Short horizontal members made of wood, sheet metal, or foam installed between studs to fill or seal the openings in construction to prevent or slow the spread of fire.
A strip of material, usually sheet metal, used to weatherproof valleys between roof planes or where a roof plane meets with another surface.
floating dormer
A dormer type in which the walls bear only on the roof plane and not on walls in the living space below except where the front wall of the dormer may bear on an exterior wall of the building.
floor platform
The framed or formed box structure that provides the floor of a building that consists of structural and finish materials.
A slab, or other support, at the bottom of a structure’s foundation used to evenly distribute the weight of the structure over the ground.
The lowest layer of a structure, typically made of concrete and extending below ground level, of which provides support for the entire structure.
A molding applied to the top of an exterior wall to cover the corner where it meets the roof soffit.
frost line
The depth to which water within soil typically freezes in the winter. The frost line varies by location, elevation, and soil type and influences the required depth of a building's foundation.
full height cabinet
Cabinet type that typically starts from the floor and can vary in height. Unlike base cabinets, full height cabinets don't have countertops.
furred wall
The creation of a wall with an additional layer made up of strips of wood or metal to provide a level backing for plaster or another surface or to create an air space.
The part of a wall that encloses the end of a pitched roof.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. A type of outlet designed to protect against electrocution in kitchens, baths, outdoors, and other high-risk areas by automatically tripping a breaker when a current imbalance is detected.
Short for glued laminated lumber, a engineered wood product made of layers of dimensional lumber bonded together using a structural adhesive and used to create beams, arches, and sometimes columns.
grade beam
A reinforced concrete foundation component that transfers a structure's weight to vertical piers or caissons rather than directly to the ground and may either be horizontal or follow the slope of the terrain.
A structural horizontal framing member that spans a door or window opening and redistributes its weight load to the supporting vertical members.
The brick, stone, or concrete floor of a fireplace, which usually extends in front of and to either side of the firebox.
heel height
The vertical thickness of truss or rafter as measured from the outside of the wall's top plate to the underside of the sheathing. Effectively equivalent to the roof baseline.
An angled or sloped ridge line along which the angled sides of two roof planes meet.
hip roof
A roof style in which a roof plane slopes down to bear on every exterior wall of the structure.
A metal beam, usually of rolled or welded steel, with a solid vertical web and horizontal flanges at top and bottom that resemble a capital letter I in cross section.
An engineered wood product with a solid vertical web made of a structural panel material between horizontal flanges made of lumber or laminated wood, so-named because they resemble a capital letter I in cross section.
A material that reduces or prevents the transmission or leakage of one of several forms of energy, including heat, electricity, or sound from one area to another.
A 2 dimensional image of a three-dimensional object in which all three coordinate axes appear equally foreshortened and the angles between any two of them are 120 degrees.
jack rafter
A short or secondary roof framing member that extends from a roof hip down to the eave or from a roof valley up to the ridge.
A horizontal structural member, typically made of wood, steel, or concrete, that supports a floor, ceiling, or flat roof. Joists are generally laid out in a parallel, regularly spaced pattern.
joist hanger
A U-shaped metal strap or bracket used to support a wood joist's end, attach a it to another structural member such as a beam or ledger board, and transfer some of the joists load to that member.
king stud
A vertical wall framing member that extends from bottom plate to top plate and is attached to the outside of a door or window opening's header and jack studs.
knee wall
A short wall for supporting roof rafters that extends past the uppermost ceiling platform under a pitched roof.
lally column
A round, thin walled structural steel column filled with concrete, oriented vertically to provide support to beams or timbers stretching over long spans to prevent buckling.
A platform at the top or bottom step of a staircase. Intermediate landings between floor levels are also used to prevent a single flight of stairs from being too long, or where stairs change direction.
A framework consisting of strips of wood, metal or other material overlapped to produce a grid with diamond or square shaped gaps. Sheets of lattice are often used to create exterior screens for cosmetic or privacy purposes.
The Chief Architect file type in which 2D and 3D views of a plan model are arranged on a page along with a title block and border. Layouts are used to produce printed construction documents.
ledger board
A horizontal board, oriented vertically and attached to a wall, that supports the ends of joists or other structural members where they tie in to that wall.
A key to identify the variables displayed on a plan.
light rail
A molding beneath a wall cabinet to hide under cabinet lighting.
lineal foot
A unit of measurement typically used in construction that describes the total length of a building material in a buy list or structure. Most commonly, it refers to framing lumber or sticks of molding.
An architectural element of wood, stone, concrete, or steel located over a door, doorway, or window. Modern lintels are often decorative only; historically, they were usually structural.
Also referred to as a roof outlooker, a small horizontal framing member oriented to the pitch of the roof that cantilevers past an exterior wall to support the roof eave and fascia.
A unit of measure of the visible light emitted by a source. A paraffin wax taper candle emits about 13 lumens.
The facing around a fireplace hearth, the term may refer specifically to the lintel supporting the chimney, to ornamentation over and around the firebox, or to a shelf above the fireplace.
marquee selection
Selecting one or more objects by clicking and dragging a rectangle or marquee that intersects or contains the object or objects desired for selection.
marriage walls
Two walls built side-by-side, such as for sound insulation, furring, or where the walls of two modular home units meet. In instances such as these, where walls are both parallel and touching, they are often referred to as Double Walls.
A construction method using units of stone, brick, or block joined using mortar. Poured concrete and stucco are usually considered types of masonry, as well, while siding products that contain cement are not.
materials list
A list of all materials currently generated on the plan; can be reported as a Cut List, Buy List, or Mixed.
Building products traditionally produced in a sawmill and used for decorative finish details, the term can also refer to carved or turned pieces as well as to composite or plastic products rather than wood.
A strip of wood or other material used to decorate or finish a surface such as on a wall, around doors and windows, or on cabinets.
A piece of pressure treated lumber placed on top of a masonry foundation used to protect regular lumber from moisture.
Multiple windows or windows and doors placed together that share mullions and casings to form one unit.
An upright post that supports the handrail, typically found at the bottom, top and landings of staircases.
The front edge of a horizontal stair tread that extends past the vertical riser.
On Center spacing, the distance between the center point of one framing member to the center point of the next framing member.
orthographic 3D view
Views that don't have a focal, or vanishing point. Parallel surface edges and pattern lines appear parallel in these views and objects appear to be the same size regardless of their distance from the camera.
The part of the roof that protrudes beyond the walls of a structure to provide protection for lower levels.
A parapet is a wall-like barrier at the edge of a roof that extends above the roof, can be created as a fortification, firewall, or a guard rail.
A computer file format that provides an image of a document independent of the software used to generate the original document.
perspective view
Views that have a focal, or vanishing point. Surface edges and lines that would be parallel in real life appear to converge towards that focal point, and objects closer to the camera appear larger while objects farther from the camera appear smaller.
A round or rectangular column, typically concrete, that supports a beam or post.
A post that has been pile-driven into the ground.
The slope of an object. The pitch of a roof plane is generally expressed as (rise) in (run), i.e. 8 in 12.
plan file
The file type generated by 3D home design software developed by Chief Architect Inc.
plan view
The 2D, top down view of a room or a level of a building.
A horizontal framing member at the top or bottom of a walls framing. Vertical framing members of a wall generally reside between a bottom plate and 2 top plates.
The area between a ceiling/floor platform and a suspended ceiling. Commonly used to house HVAC and electrical wires.
plinth block
The decorative shoe at the base of the door trim, usually thicker and sometimes wider than the casing.
plot plan
A CAD drawing showing property boundaries, utility locations and structure locations.
Wood sheets manufactured by gluing thin layers of wood, peeled from logs together under heat and pressure.
A geometric shape comprised of more than two sides formed of straight lines.
polyline solid
Polyline shaped 3D objects with a specified thickness. They can be oriented either horizontally or vertically and are useful for creating custom details anywhere in your 3D model.
pony wall
A single wall composed of two separate wall types; one built above the other.
A vertical piece of timber, or metal, that may be used to support walls or horizontal beams.
post and beam
A type of construction using heavy timber framing, rather than traditional dimensional lumber.
pressure-treated wood
Lumber applied with a chemical preservative to help protect it from insects and fungal decay.
A measurement of a material's capacity to impede heat flow; the higher the number, the greater the resistance.
A measurement of a material's capacity to impede heat flow; the higher the number, the greater the resistance.
A sloped framing member extending from the eave to the ridge of a roof plane.
An electrical outlet in a wall or floor. Residential receptacles are usually 120 volt, duplex.
reference grid
A grid that appears in your Plan View that serves as a visual reference for scale.
reflected ceiling plan
A scaled drawing, displaying a view of the ceiling, as if it was reflected onto a mirror on the floor.
retaining wall
A wall, typically concrete, that holds back terrain on a sloped lot. The top of a retaining wall usually matches the high side of the terrain break.
Top intersection between the opposite slopes or sides of a roof.
rim joist
Dimensional or engineered wood to which the ends of floor joists in a structure are attached to.
The vertical distance a sloped object moves in a given horizontal distance (run). Roof plane slopes are expressed in rise and run, i.e. 6 in 12.
The vertical face separating stair treads.
roof return
A small decorative roof plane that connects to the low side of a gable roof overhang and extends below the upper triangular portion of the gable wall.
rough opening
A framed opening in a wall in which a window or door is installed.
A frame house with two stories in front and one in back, with a sloping roof that is short in front and long in back.
An assembly of stiles and rails that holds the panes of a window in the window frame.
A table which lists items required on a construction project indicating sizes, types, locations, and special requirements. Example: Door Schedule.
scissor truss
A roof truss system with bottom chords that slope upward to form a peak under the top chord.
shade sail
Large piece of durable fabric, tensioned between three or more anchor points, usually walls, posts or to the ground; used to provide shade and increase aesthetic appeal.
A wood shingle made from split logs used for roofing or siding.
A layer of board or other material applied to studs, joists and rafters to strengthen the structure and provide a base for weather proofing or finish materials.
shed roof
A roof style which consists of a single pitched roof plane. Sometimes called a skillion, flat or lean-to roof.
A board or panel composed of a layer of pressed gypsum plaster between layers of paper or felt and used as an interior surface material for walls and ceilings.
Thin, tapered pieces of wood used for roofing or siding. Can be tapered on one side or both.
A hinged cover, often louvered, used for closing off a window.
side lites
Windows that abut the side of a door, usually the same height as the door.
sill plate
A piece of pressure treated lumber placed on top of a masonry foundation used to protect regular lumber from moisture.
single hung window
A window with two sashes, one above the other, one that can slide, move or open and one that is fixed.
site plan
A document that shows the arrangements of buildings, drives, landscaping and other elements used to verify developmental codes are being met.
skillion roof
A roof style which consists of a single pitched roof plane. Sometimes called a shed, flat or lean-to roof.
A window set in the roof that allows natural light into a building.
A flat rectangular architectural element that is usually formed of a single piece.
slab on grade
A type of foundation with a concrete floor which is placed directly on the soil.
A surface of which one end or side is at a higher level than another.
snap grid
An on-screen grid that allows you to snap objects to specific points on the grid.
soffit (ceiling)
An enclosed area below an interior ceiling added for architectural effect or to enclose mechanical elements.
soffit (roof)
Broadly, a soffit is the exposed underside of a structural assembly on or in a building. Most commonly, it is the underside surface of a closed roof eave, which typically protects rafter ends from the elements.
A room built largely of glass to afford exposure to the sun.
soldier course
A row of bricks set on their ends so that only the long, narrow side of the brick is visible.
stair landing
A platform at the top or bottom step of a staircase. Intermediate landings between floor levels are also used to prevent a single flight of stairs from being too long, or where stairs change direction.
stepped foundation
A foundation constructed in a series of steps that follow the slope of the ground with the purpose of avoiding horizontal forces that may cause cracking or sliding.
The angled support members that support the treads and risers of a staircase.
A fine, durable plaster, typically composed of cement, sand, and lime, used as an exterior wall finish.
A vertical framing member in the framework of a wall.
The rough, lower surface layer of a floor, separating the finished floor from the floor joists.
suspended ceiling
A false ceiling system comprised of a a grid and lay-in panels that is suspended below the roof structure with suspension wires.
terrain wall
A section of wall not necessarily part of a building that follows the slope of the terrain.
A strip at the bottom of a doorway used to separate different types of flooring, or as weather protection.
A brand name of manufactured wood I-joists used as floor joists and rafters.
tongue and groove
A method of connecting two boards where part of one board fits into a corresponding recessed area of another board. Tongue and groove boards are often used as finish materials on floors, walls, or ceilings.
top chord
The topmost inclined or horizontal member of a truss.
top plate
A horizontal framing member that lays across the top of a stud wall, on which floor or ceiling joists rest.
A horizontal crossbeam above a door, separating it from a window above.
transom window
A small window above a door, often hinged to allow for ventilation.
A two dimensional, four-sided geometric shape with two sides that are parallel.
tray ceiling
A section of ceiling that is suspended below the structural ceiling that provides a niche or tray above it for aesthetic depth and/or lighting. (Sometimes spelled "trey".)
A horizontal surface of a staircase that is stepped on when ascending and descending.
treated lumber
Any type of lumber that has been treated with chemical preservatives to help protect from insects, fungal decay, and moisture.
treated sill plate
A piece of pressure treated lumber placed on top of a masonry foundation used to protect regular lumber from moisture.
The vertical stud that provides additional support for an opening such as a door or window.
A framework of rafters, posts, and struts designed to support a structure, such as a roof.
The V-shaped intersection of two sloping roof planes.
valley flashing
Strips of waterproofing material installed in the valley between two sloping roof planes.
vapor barrier
A material that reduces the diffusion of moisture through wall, ceiling, and floor assemblies. Also referred to as Vapor Diffusion Retarders.
vapor diffusion retarder
A material that reduces the diffusion of moisture through wall, ceiling, and floor assemblies.
A verandah is a roofed platform along the outside of a house, level with the ground floor.
video codec
A device or software that enables compression or decompression of digital video usually contained in a file such as AVI, MP4, or WMV.
wall cabinet
Cabinet type that is typically mounted on the upper portion of a wall in a bathroom, kitchen, or utility/laundry room.
A wedge-shaped step that is narrower on one side than the other, used to change the direction of the stairs without landings.
window frame
The fixed frame of a window which holds either the sash or casement, comprised of the head, jambs, and sill.
window sash
A frame of stiles and rails to hold glass.