Home Improvement Glossary of Terms

We wrote this home improvement glossary to get you up to speed on the most common terms used in the construction industry so you could finally understand your contractors.

If you cannot find a term on here that you think should be here, please email the webmaster and we'll take care of it. 

Argon - is a non toxic gas that is used for insulating glass to reduce the transferring of heat. When you combine Argon Gas and Low E, you increase the thermal performance of home windows.

Awning - windows are hinged at the top and they swing out.

Bay Window - is an arrangement of multiple windows that bulge out from the house at various angles. A popular Bay Window configuration has three window panes, where the sides are casements that can be opened and the center is a fixed piece of glass.

Brick molding  - is the standard milled trim that covers the gaps between door or window frames and the house sheathing.

BTU - Also called a British Thermal Unit, is the measuring of how much heat is required to change the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Heating and cooling systems almost always use this type of measurement.

Casement - This is a window design where the sash swings open on its side hinges.

Foundation - Basement -  A basement foundation generally starts with an eight foot deep hole. At the bottom rests a concrete slab, then concrete walls are formed at each side.

Foundation - Crawl Space - A crawl space foundation allows for duct and plumbing work to be routed underneath the house without the expense of pouring a slab.

Foundation - Slab - A slab foundation is basically a concrete pad which is poured and set directly on the ground.

Hopper - a hopper is a window that has the sash hinged at the bottom.

Horizontal slider - is a window that can be moved from left to right or vice versa.

Jamb - is the top of a window frame or the side of the window frame.

Krypton - is a non toxic gas; unless you're Superman, that is used for insulating windows and reduces heat transfer.

Lintel - a lintel is the horizontal piece above a door or window opening that has the job of supporting the structures above.

Low-E coating - A Low-emittance coating is a very thin and practically invisible layer of metallic oxide that is sprayed onto a window or skylight. Low E reduces radiating heat flow.

Pane - is a single sheet of glass or a single component of a window or door in a frame.

R-value - is the measure of resistance from a glazing substance to heat flow. A window with a higher R value indicates that it has a greater resistance to heat flow than one that has a low R value.

Retrofitting - is when you add or replace materials on existing structures.

Rough opening - is the basic opening where a door or window is to be installed.

Tempered glass - refers to a process where glass was heated to just below the melting point and then quickly cooled. Tempered glass shatters into tiny pieces when it breaks and it is about 5 times stronger that annealed glass.

Thermal expansion - this is the dimensional change in a material as a result of changing temperatures.

Threshold - is the bottom of a door, or sill of a doorway.

Transom  Window- is a horizontal set of windows usually less than one foot in height that is as wide as the doorway.

Triple glazing - refers to 3 panes of glass with two spaces of air in between the panes.

U-factor or U-value

- is the measure of the rate of heat loss or gain in a material, that is not related to solar.  The lower the U-Value of a window is, the greater the resistance the window has to heat flow and it's also an  indication of a better insulating value.

Ultraviolet light - UV rays are at the invisible spectrum range in the violet short-wavelength spectrum. Ultravi9olet rays are responsible for fading paint, carpets, fabrics, and finishes.

Weather-stripping -  is a strip of material that covers joints between the frame and window sash. Weather stripping is used to reduce air leaks and for the prevention of water infiltration into the structure.


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