What’s up y’all? It’s John Gioffre with Revent Builds in Austin, Texas. Have you ever been watching construction content and just feel like a big dumb-dumb because you don’t know all the jargon? Well, I’m here to decode a little bit of that.

Home Construction Terms to Know – Glossary of Construction Terms

I’m going to break down some of the most simple terms that are widely used. And after this video, you’ll be way more construction smart. Let’s get into it.

Stairs Construction Terms

Let’s talk stairs, and what is a more fitting location than our beautiful custom curved stairs of the Modern Victorian. Stairs are quite simple, but the terms aren’t really that intuitive.

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Stairs in the Modern Victorian in Zilker Park | Austin, TX

So first off, there’s two main terms for stairs, tread and riser. And that kind of sounds like gibberish if you’ve never heard them before.

Stair Treads

The tread is the top part of the stair that you step on. Think of it like I am treading up the stairs. Okay, tread.

Stair Riser

The stair risers are the front part of the stair. Think about it rising up with each step.

You tread on the stair treads, you rise up with the stair risers. It’s that simple, folks. Now go and take that and become a billionaire.

Doors Construction Terms

When it comes to doors, again, these terms might sound foreign, but there’s really just three main parts. Let’s start with the door slab. Think of this as a slab of wood. This is the actual door itself.


Take the door off the hinges, you have the slab.

Door Frame

Now the door slab connects to the door frame.

Door Jamb

It’s framed all the way around this opening, which is called the door jamb. If this was a window here, this would be called the window jamb. That is literally just the area that the door or the window attaches to. That is the jamb, so very simple. Now this is pretty cool.

SOSS Hinge Door

If you want a little terms to kind of show off to people, this is a SOSS hinge door or a concealed integrated door. How this works is the hinges are mortised into the door frame and into the door slab so that on the outside, when you close it, it is all flush. You do not see the hinge on the outside.

Trim Construction Terms

Let’s talk trim. Now, when discussing trim, there’s three terms that you need to know, baseboard, door casing and crown molding.


Let’s start with the baseboard. The baseboard is going to sit at the base of the wall on top of the flooring. So we have our baseboard here.

Door Casing

This is our door casing. Why? Because it cases our door. It cases our door like a hug, a case around the door.

Crown Molding

And at the very top we have our crown molding. Think about that as the crown on the head. It’s the crown of the room. At the top, if it goes all the way around, it makes a crown. Now there’s a few other things that we have going on here.


We have what’s called a picture mold because this is drywall and our trim around it basically just makes a picture, like a picture frame. If this was a wood panel in here, this would be called wainscoting.


Come hither, join me by the warmth of the fireplace. And as you come in a little closer, let’s take this time to talk over two terms that you might hear frequently. The first one is going to be a miter. Now again, that sounds like it’s in a different language that we don’t know. All that means, a miter is where you take a corner, you cut a 45-degree angle on this side, a 45-degree angle on that side and you have those meat in a nice clean corner. That is a miter. You can miter countertops, you can miter trim, you can miter siding. Anything that is meeting at that corner, it might be like this or like this, that is a miter. Now, let’s go a little further. This right here, this is also mitered because it meets at this beautiful corner.


But now look at this, this is a chamfer how this is beveled in. Basically on a chamfer, what you do is this 90-degree angle right here, you just cut that into a 45 and that’s where those two pieces meet.

Windows Construction Terms

When it comes to windows, there’s many different types and terms and suppliers. But really if you just know these few terms, you’re going to sound knowledgeable. First, let’s start off with a floor to ceiling window system. Now, that needs to start on the floor and end at the ceiling.

Window Header

But many times we have what’s called the window header, which is just the beams over the window. Those are usually below the ceiling line, so you’ll see about 12 to 18 inches of wall space before you hit that ceiling. With a true floor to ceiling, you want it floor to ceiling, that easy.

Picture Window

Now moving over here we have a fixed window or also a picture window. Usually picture windows have a decent view, but really you could use them interchangeably. With a fixed window, it is not operable, it doesn’t open in any fashion. Now, a few other types of windows.


Casements, which open up like a door, a casement window. Single hung is just your standard window that you open from the bottom. And double hung opens from the bottom and the top.

Tile Construction Terms

Now the topic of tile runs deep. There’s tons of different terms, different methods of installation, different types of tile, but let’s not get too confused. Two terms or really two methods of installation that’s really going to expand your knowledge and help you talk to your tradesmen is mitering and Schluter.


So basically the most elevated way to do a corner or any place where tile meets is to miter it. Just like with the fireplace upstairs, you cut a 45-degree angle on this side, a 45-degree angle on that side and they meet at this arrow and that’s what gets that beautiful corner.


Now over here, we don’t have a corner to miter it, so what we do is we put what’s called a Schluter. That’s like the Kleenex of basically this piece of metal that literally is L-shaped, one piece goes a little behind the tile and then you have this finished piece on the front. Why we use that is because with ceramic tile, the inside of the tile is clay. This front face is glazed. We don’t want to show that clay, so we put a Schluter strip to make that nice and beautiful, match all of our trim.

Foundations Construction Terms

For foundations, there’s really just two main types. They’re easy to tell. When you see a house that’s sitting low to the ground, this is called slab on grade. Grade is the ground, you put a slab of concrete. So the whole thing is concrete sitting right on the ground. Knowing your different types of foundations is really helpful on any and all projects. If you’re evaluating a home to buy yourself, if you’re looking to flip this house, remodel it, what have you.
So first off, when you’re dealing with an older home, most of the time it’s going to have a pier and beam foundation. An easy way to tell that from the outside is these are vents, these are subfloor vents. You’ll also see that the house is lifted off the ground.

Pier and Beam

So anywhere from 18 to 24 inches, but some back in the day could be low. But if you see this, you know that this house is pier and beam.


What that means, it’s sitting on circular piers, various piers around the property with beams on top of those piers that hold the house up. This is called underpinning. So what they do is you make stucco, which encases the crawl space so that critters can’t get in, but we still want this to have airflow so we put these vents here.


Let’s talk about two easily identifiable architectural features that will keep you in the know and make you sound less dumb. The first is a gable. Now this is basically the staple of all traditional homes. That is literally just a triangle. Right where your roof meets, that triangle shape is what’s called a gable.


Now, on the sides of that gable are dormers. What dormers are is on the side of a roof, if you just pop that out. This area right here is called a dormer, right there and right there. It gives more head height in the room, but it also can really dress up the front of the house. On castles and things of that nature, you’ll see tons of gables and dormers.

Foundation Construction Terms - Austin, TX
Foundation Construction Terms – Austin, TX

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Exterior Elements Construction Terms

Here’s a few more exterior elements that you need to know. So we are standing in this beautiful covered porch right now.


The ceiling above me is what’s called the soffit. Now, a soffit is easy. It is really just anywhere that your roof overhangs the house and there is a ceiling there, that is what’s called the soffit, so just an outdoor ceiling. Here we’ve cladded this in a tongue and groove wood, which just means the tongue of the wood, there’s a little piece that comes out, and the other one has a groove. They fit in nicely and that’s how you get that beautiful spacing.


We also have a mix of what’s called Hardie, which is basically just a cement fiber board and it’s smooth. You paint it, it kind of goes away.


Now, another term that you need to know is what caps the soffit is called the fascia. And right here where that gutter is, the gutter always attaches to the fascia. So there’s going to be fascia anywhere that there’s soffit all the way around the house. But as long as you know what a soffit is and what fascia is, you’re going to be in good shape.

Load Bearing Walls Construction Terms

Let’s discuss load bearing walls. Virtually any appointment that I go on for a remodel, people are asking, “Is this wall load bearing? Can I take it out?” The answer to can I take it out is always, “Yes, but at what cost?” It depends what is that load carrying. But an easy way to just guesstimate is this a load bearing wall or not is if you have a lofted ceiling, this is super easy or you can go outside your house and look.


At the peak is called the ridge. This is where your roof line meets and this is the very peak, that is called the ridge. 99% of the time load bearing walls are going to be parallel. They’re going to travel in the same direction as the ridge.

So in this space, this is an exterior wall, just basically count all exterior walls as load bearing. But now when we move toward the interior, if you want it to remove this wall, you have to realize this is carrying the load of the roof right above it. If there was a wall going horizontally, that’s not going to be as crucial. That’s probably not a load bearing wall. Now, just a disclaimer, before you remove any walls or even think about doing any structural work, consult a structural engineer. We do on every project.

Roofs Construction Terms

Roofs, so when you have a sloped or pitched roof, what you’re going to see is asphalt or composite shingle and standing seam metal. Asphalt composite shingle is nailed down. Exactly what it’s named, it’s either made of asphalt or a composite of rubber and asphalt. It lasts about 30 years. Decent, it’s very good on price. Now, upgrade that to metal. That is a steel product that is actually made onsite and connected onsite. That lasts much longer than asphalt, but it’s going to be more expensive. It’s also going to be arguably more pretty to look at.


Now, when you’re dealing with a flat roof, there’s arguably two different types. TPO, which is really a waterproof membrane. It looks kind of like a wetsuit material, that’s going to look a little prettier. And especially if you can see it, that’s what you’re going to want to use. But the other type that most commercial roofs use is called torch down, which is kind of like an asphalt shingle, but it’s made in large sheets and it’s applied with a lot of heat and tar to glue down on the roof. We like to use torch down under our decks. So basically it’s a stronger material that’s going to be more durable than TPO.

Exterior Elements Construction Terms
Exterior Elements Construction Terms – Austin, TX

Thank you guys so much for watching. I hope I was able to dumb it down enough for y’all to just understand some of these simple terms. If you can remember some of these, you’re going to sound much more construction smart. You’re going to be able to hire people, speak their language a little bit better and really just impress your friends. As always, I love y’all.

Inquire About Home Remodeling

If you’re ready to get started on your high end home remodel in Austin, Texas, contact us today. We would love to help you make your home into the home of your dreams!

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