Saddle - The plate at the bottom of someusually exteriordoor openings. Sometimes called a threshold.
Sanitary sewer - A sewer system designed for the collection of waste water from the bathroom, kitchen and laundry drains, and is usually not designed to handle storm water.
Sash - The frame that holds the glass in a window, often the movable part of the window. see.. double hung windows, and casement windows.
Scupper - The drain in a downspout or flat roof, usually connected to the downspout.
Seasonal efficiency - The average efficiency of a heater or cooler over the heating or cooling season.
Seasonal energy efficiency ration (SEER) - The average energy efficiency ratio (EER) achieved by an air conditioner over the cooling season; this number tends to be lower than rated EER
Seasonal storage - Systems that capture and store energy when it is not required (for example, heat in the summer) for use when it is needed (for example, space heating in winter.
Septic system - An on site waste water treatment system. It usually has a septic tank which promotes the biological digestion of the waste, and a drain field which is designed to let the left over liquid soak into the ground. Septic systems and permits are usually sized by the number of bedrooms in a house.
Sewage ejector - A pump used to 'lift' waste water to a gravity sanitary sewer line. Usually used in basements and other locations which are situated bellow the level of the side sewer.
Setback thermostat - A thermostat with a clock which can be programmed to various temperatures at different times of the day/week. Usually used as the heating or cooling system thermostat.
Settlement - Shifts in a structure, usually caused by freeze-thaw cycles underground.
Shake - A wood, usually cedar, roofing product which is produced by splitting a block of the wood along the grain line. Modern shakes are sometimes machine sawn on one side. See shingle.
Shingle - A machine sawn wood, usually cedar, roofing and siding product. see shake.
Side sewer - The portion of the sanitary sewer which connects the interior waste water 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, must be maintained by the owner and may only be serviced by utility approved contractors.
Sheathing - The first covering on a roof or exterior wall, usually fastened directly to rafters or studs.
Sheetrock - A type of wall and ceiling finish made from ground gypsum covered with a paper finish. Common sizes are 4'x8', 4'x12'. Most commonly used as a wall finish that is then painted or wallpapered. Also, drywall, gypsum wall board.
Shim - Thin material inserted to make adjustments in level or plumb. Tapered wood shingles make excellent shims in carpentry work.
Shingle - A covering used to finish the sides or the roof of a house.
Shoe molding - Strips of quarter round commonly used where a baseboard meets the floor. Also sometimes known as base shoe.
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.
Siding - The finish material of an exterior wall. Types include wood, aluminum, vinyl and hardboard.
Sill - The lowest horizontal piece of window, door, or wall framework.
Sill plate (mudsill) - Bottom horizontal member of an exterior wall frame which rests on top a foundation, sometimes called mudsill; also sole plate, bottom member of interior wall frame.
Sink - The point to which a heat pump transfers heat, often a living space or thermal storage.
Skip sheathing - The normal base for shake, shingle and some tile roofs. 1" x 4" or similar sized boards are nailed at 90Ü to the rafters leaving a space of about 4" between each row and allowing for better ventilation.
Skylight - A more or less horizontal window located on the roof of a building.
Slab on grade - A type of foundation with a concrete floor which is placed directly on the soil. The edge of the slab is usually thicker and acts as the footing for the walls. Common in California and 1940s and 50s concrete block home (see diagram).
Sleepers - Boards laid directly over a masonry floor to serve as nailers for plywood, or strip or plank flooring.
Soffit - A small ceiling like space, often out of doors, such as the underside of a roof overhang.
Soil pipe - A large pipe that carries liquid and solid wastes to a sewer or septic tank.
Solar gain - The heat gained in a building due to sunlight, principally that entering through windows.
Solarium - A glazed room or structure (also called a sunspace) whose purpose is to capture solar energy to heat the building; atrium is solarium in middle of a building.
Solar photovoltaic cells - Semiconductor devices able to directly convert sunlight to direct-current electricity.
Sole plate - The bottom most horizontal part of a stud partition. When a plate rests on a foundation, it's called a sill plate.
Source - The point from which a heat pump removes low temperature heat, for example, air or groundwater.
Space heat - Heat supplied to the living space, for example, to a room or the living area of a building.
Spacing - The distance between individual members or shingles in building construction.
Span - The distance between supports, generally walls, for rafters or trusses.
Spandrel - The space between two openings which are one above the other in a wall.
Spec home - A house built before it is sold. The builder speculates that he can sell it at a profit. Sometimes he speculates that he can merely sell it.
Specific heat - The heat capacity of a unit amount of a material, usually given in units of Btu's per pound per degree Fahrenheit.
Specifications - Written elaboration in specific detail about construction materials and methods; this supplements working drawings.
Splash block - a pad which is placed under the lower end of a downspout and diverts the water from the downspout away from the house. Usually made out of concrete or fiberglass.
Square - A situation that exists when two elements are at right angles to each other. Also a tool for checking this. An area of roofing which is 10' square or comprising 100 square feet.
Standard practices of the trade(s) - One of the more common basic and minimum construction standards. This is another way of saying that the work should be done in the way it is normally done by the average professional in the field.
Standby loss - The heat lost in a boiler or furnace when it is not in operation; greatest standby loss is due to warm air flowing through combustion chamber and up flue.
Stile - The vertical upright on either side (and sometimes the center) of a panel door.
Stringer - The side or inclined member of a stair system used to support the treads and risers.
Stops - Moldings along the inner edges of a door or window frame. Also valves used to shut off water to a fixture.
Storage mass - The component in a solar system that stores heat energy for heating when the sun is not shining.
Storm sewer - A sewer system designed to collect storm water and is separated from the waste water system.
Stick built - A house built without prefabricated parts. Also called conventional building.
Strike - The plate on a door frame that engages a latch or dead bolt
Stucco - A mixture of Portland cement, sand, lime and water used to cover cement blocks for decoration purposes.
Stud framing - A building method that distributes structural loads to each of a series of relatively lightweight studs. Contrasts with post-and-beam.
Studs - Vertical 2x3, 2x4, or 2x6 framing members spaced at regular intervals within a wall.
Subfloor - Bottom layer of plywood or boards in a two-layer floor.
Synchronous inverter - A device that converts direct current from a wind machine or solar cells into alternating current matched to the utility electricity and draws electricity from the utility grid in order to make up any household or building power deficits.
Take off - A list of materials developed from a set of blueprints.
Taping - The process of covering drywall joints with paper tape and joint compound.
Tee - A T-shaped plumbing fitting.
Terra Cotta - A ceramic material molded into masonry units.
Therm - A unit of heat equal to 100,000 Btu's; frequently used on gas bills.
Thermal lag - The delay between the absorption of heat by a storage wall in an indirect-gain system and the radiation of heat into the living space.
Thermal mass - Those portions of a building that store significant quantities of heat; these components may be wood or masonry.
Thermal storage - The place in which energy can be stored for use at a later time, for example, a tank of water.
Thermocirculation vent - Vents in a Trombe wall that allow air to circulate by natural convection from airspace to living space and back to airspace.
Thermosiphon - A system in which heat is captured by a collector and moved to the living space or storage by natural convection.
Thermostat - A device which relegates the temperature of a room or building by switching heating or cooling equipment on or off.
Three-four-five triangle - An easy, mathematical way to check whether a large angle is square. Measure three feet along one side, four feet along the other; if the corner is square, the diagonal distance between those two points will equal five feet.
Threshold - See saddle.
Throat - The opening at the top of a fireplace through which smoke passes enroute to the flue.
Tie (veneer) - A metal strip used to tie a brick or masonry wall to the wooden frame wall.
Time and materials contract - A construction contract which specifies a price for different elements of the work such as: cost per hour of labor, overhead, profit etc. Such a contract may not have a maximum price or may state a 'price not to exceed...'.
Toe-nail - To drive nails at an angle.
Ton - A measure of cooling power. One ton equals 12,000 BTU's.
Tongue and groove - A style of lumber in which the pieces interlock to form a strong solid formation.
Top chord - The upper or top member of a truss.
Top plate - The topmost horizontal element of a stud-frame wall.
Torch down roof or single ply or modified bitumen - A newer roofing material mostly used on flat roofs. This material usually comes in rolls and is applied to the roof with an open flame or 'torch'.
TOURS (time-of-use rates) - Special electric rates that are high during on-peak periods and low during off-peak periods.
Trap - A plumbing fitting that holds water to prevent air, gas, and vermin from backing up into a fixture.
Treads - The level parts of a staircase. Also see risers.
Treated lumber - A wood product which has been impregnated with chemicals to reduce damage from wood rot or insects. Often used for the portions of a structure which is likely to be in ongoing contact with soil and water. Wood may also be treated with a fire retardant.
Trimmers - Studs at either side of a door, window, or other opening that are used to support the header.
Trombe wall - A passive indirect-gain solar system in which the space is heated by natural convection during the day and radiation from the wall at night.
Truss - A manufactured wood member often in the form of a large triangle which is used to form the ceiling joists and rafters on the top floor of a home.
Tube and knob wiring - A common form of electrical wiring used before W.W.II. When in good condition it may still be functional for low amperage use such as smaller light fixture.
Turbine - A machine in which the energy contained in a high-pressure gas or liquid is converted to rotational energy, often to turn an electric generator.