P-trap: A P-shaped section of drainpipe that traps water, which prevents sewer odors from escaping through the drain and into the home.
pad out: To shim out or add strips of wood to a wall or ceiling so that the finished wall or ceiling will appear level. Also called pack out.
padding: Material installed under carpeting to add depth and plushness, minimize sound, and prolong the carpet's life.
paint: A combination of pigments with suitable thinners or oils to provide a decorative and protective coating.
pallet: A wooden platform used for shipping bulk items, such as shingles and lumber, and for providing a base to store such items off the floor or bare ground.
panel: A thin, flat piece of wood, plywood, or similar material framed by stiles and rails, as in a door, or fitted into grooves of thicker material with molded edges for a decorative wall treatment.
panelboard: A component of the electricity-supply system that divides the electrical power feed into subsidiary circuits, with buss bars and automatic over-current devices, in a common enclosure accessible only from the front. Also called a distribution board.
parapet wall: A low wall around the perimeter of a roof deck.
parge coat: A thin coat of cementitious or polymeric mortar applied to concrete for refinement of the surface.
parking strip: The area in front of a building between the sidewalk and the street, usually landscaped with grass, that serves as a buffer between the road and pedestrians walking on the sidewalk.
parting stop: A small wood piece used in the side and head jambs of double-hung windows to separate the upper and lower sashes. Also called a parting strip.
partition: A wall that subdivides spaces within any story of a building.
patterned glass: A type of rolled glass having a pattern impressed on one or both sides and commonly used for light control, bath enclosures, and decorative glazing. Also called rolled glass, figured glass and obscure glass.
paver stones: Pre-cast concrete slabs used to create a traffic surface.
payment schedule: An agreed-upon schedule of incremental payments to a contractor based upon the amount of work completed. Such a schedule may include a deposit prior to the start of work. Payments are often scheduled for the beginning of the month and allow the contractor to pay subcontractors and suppliers by the 10th of the month. There may also be a temporary holdout or payment withholding at the end of the contract for any small items that have not been completed.
pedestal lavatory: A sink whose washbasin is supported by a single pedestal leg.
penalty clause: A clause in a contract that provides for a reduction in the amount otherwise payable under the contract to a contractor as a penalty for his/her failure to meet deadlines or the project's contracted specifications.
penny: As applied to nails, it originally indicated the price per hundred. The term now serves as a measure of nail length and is abbreviated by the letter D.
penthouse: A relatively small structure built above the plane of the roof; the topmost residential unit of a high-rise building.
percolation test (perc test): A test that a soil engineer performs on soil to determine the feasibility of installing a leach field-type sewer system on a proposed building lot, evaluating whether the soil is capable of absorbing the liquid effluent from a septic system.
performance and payment bond: Guaranty of a project's completion by a surety company if the contractor fails to perform under the contract.
performance bond: An amount of money (usually 10% of the total price of a project) that a contractor must put on deposit with a governmental agency as an insurance policy that guarantees his proper and timely completion of the project.
perimeter drain: Perforated plastic pipe (3 to 4 inches) that goes around the inside or outside perimeter of a foundation wall before backfilling, and collects and diverts groundwater away from the foundation. Generally, it is daylighted into a sump pit inside the home, and a sump pump is sometimes inserted into the pit to discharge any accumulation of water.
perlite: A natural volcanic glass with a high water content that is heated-expanded to create a lightweight aggregate used in fire-resistant insulation.
perm: A measure of water vapor movement through a material in grains per square foot per hour per inch of mercury difference in vapor pressure.
permanent set: The amount by which a material fails to return to its original dimensions after being deformed by an applied force or load.
permanently installed: Fixed in place by screws, bolts, nails, etc., as distinct from components, systems and appliances considered portable or freestanding.
permit: A governmental authorization to perform a building process. A zoninguse permit is an authorization to use a property for a specific use, such as a factory, a single-family residence etc. A grading permit is an authorization to change the contour of the land. A septic permit is a health department authorization to build or modify a septic system. A building permit is an authorization to build or modify a structure. An electrical permit is a permit required for most electrical work. A plumbing permit is a permit required for new plumbing and extensive modification of existing plumbing systems.
Phase I: A type of fireplace and chimney inspection that exceeds the standards required by a general home inspection.
photo-oxidation: Oxidation caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.
physical deficiency: A major defect, a significant deferred-maintenance item, a component or system that has exhausted most or all of its remaining useful life (regardless of its actual life expectancy), a safety concern, or anything that could potentially cause the need for an expensive repair.
pier: A column of masonry, usually rectangular in horizontal cross-section, used to support other structural members.
pier block: A concrete block used to support foundation members, such as posts, beams, girders and joists.
pigment: A powdered solid in suitable degree of subdivision for use in paint or enamel.
pigtail (electrical): The electric cord that the electrician provides and installs on an appliance, such as a garbage disposal, dishwasher, or range hood.
pilot hole: A small-diameter, pre-drilled hole that guides a nail or screw.
pilot light: A small, continuous flame in a hot water heater, boiler or furnace that ignites gas or oil burners when needed.
pitch: (1) The incline slope of a roof, or the ratio of the total rise to the total width of a house. For example, an 8-foot rise and 24-foot width is a 1/3-pitch roof. Roof slope is expressed in the inches of rise per foot of run. (2) Coal tar pitch.
pitch pan: A container formed of sheet metal installed around supporting connections for roof-mounted equipment and machinery. Filling the container with pitch or plastic roof cement helps seal out rainwater even under conditions of vibration caused by the machinery's operation or other factors.
pitch pocket: An opening in a tree's interior that extends parallel to the annual rings of growth that typically contains (or has contained) either solid or liquid pitch.
pith: The small, soft core at the original center of a tree around which wood formation takes place.
PITI: Acronym for principal, interest, taxes and insurance, which are the four major components of monthly mortgage payments.
plan submittal: Submission of construction plans to the city or county in order to obtain a building permit.
plans: See blueprints.
plaster grounds: Strips of wood used as guides or strike-off edges around window and door openings and at the base of walls.
plastic roof cement: Used as a waterproofing medium to quickly stop roof and other leaks in new construction and for general-purpose exterior repair and maintenance. Available in both summer and winter grades.
plat: A map of a geographical area as recorded by the county.
plate: Sill plate: a horizontal member anchored to a masonry wall. Sole plate: the bottom horizontal member of a frame wall. Top plate: the top horizontal member of a frame wall that supports ceiling joists, rafters, and/or other members.
plate line: The top horizontal line of a building wall upon which the roof rests.
platform framing: A system of framing a building by which the floor joists of each story rest on the top plates of the story below or on the foundation sill for the first story, and the bearing walls and partitions rest on the subfloor of each story. One story usually constitutes a platform. Also called platform construction.
plenum: An air compartment or chamber that connects one or more ducts and forms part of an air-distribution system for moving air under a slight positive pressure.
plot plan: A bird's-eye view showing the positioning of a building on a lot, along with the setbacks (how far the building must sit from the road), easements, rights of way, and drainage.
plough: To cut a lengthwise groove in a board or plank.
plumb: Exactly perpendicular; vertical.
plumb bob: A conical lead weight attached to a string used in determining plumb and elevations.
plumbing boots: Metal saddles used to strengthen a bearing wall/vertical stud(s) where a plumbing drain line has been cut through and installed.
plumbing ground: The plumbing drain and waste lines that are installed beneath a basement floor.
plumbing jacks: Sleeves that fit around drain and waste vent pipes and nailed to the roof sheeting.
plumbing rough: Work performed by the plumbing contractor after the rough heat is installed. This work includes installing all plastic ABS drain and waste lines, copper water lines, bath tubs, shower pans, and gas piping to furnaces and fireplaces.
plumbing stack: A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.
plumbing trim: Work performed by the plumbing contractor to get the home ready for the final plumbing inspection, including installing all toilets (water closets), hot water heater and sinks, and connecting all gas pipe to appliances, the disposal, dishwasher, and all other plumbing items.
plumbing waste line: Plastic pipe used to collect and drain sewage waste.
ply: Denotes the number of thicknesses or layers of roofing felt, veneer in plywood, and any finished piece of similar materials.
ply sheet: A layer in built-up roofing.
plywood: A piece of wood made of three or more layers of veneer joined with glue, and usually laid with the grain of adjoining plies at right angles. An odd number of plies is typically used to provide balanced construction.
pocket: A three-sided, U-shaped opening in a sash or frame to receive glazing infill (differing from a rabbet, which is a two-sided, L-shaped section used with a face-glazed window sash). Also called a channel.
point load: A point where a bearing/structural weight is concentrated and transferred to the foundation.
pointing: The process of filling joints between masonry units, bricks, etc., with mortar.
polished wired glass: Wired glass that has been ground and polished on both surfaces.
polymer: Natural and synthetic compounds consisting of large molecules that have been formed from smaller molecules of similar make-up and used in the manufacture of plastics, concrete, glass and rubber.
polysulfide sealant: A type of polymer sealant which is mercaptan-terminated, having long-chain aliphatic polymers containing disulfide linkages. It can be converted to rubbers at room temperature without shrinkage upon the addition of a curing agent.
polyurethane sealant: An organic compound formed by the reaction of a glycol with an isocyanate and used as an adhesive and for sealing and waterproofing decks, wood flooring, trim, etc.
polyvinyl chloride (PVC): A polymer formed by the polymerization of vinyl chloride monomer (sometimes called vinyl) and widely used in residential and commercial construction because of its versatility, high strength and low cost.
ponding: The development of a large puddle or area of standing water on a roof for prolonged periods due to poor drainage and/or deflection of the deck.
pop rivets: Fasteners used to join pieces of metal that are installed by either compressed-air-assisted or hand-operated guns; unique in that they are installed from one side of the work.
pop-out: See stucco pop-out.
pores: The openings of the vessels on the surface of a piece of wood; wood cells of comparatively large diameter that have open ends and are set one above the other to form continuous tubes.
porosity: The density of a substance and its capacity to pass liquids, such as membranes, housewrap, vapor retarders, etc.
Portland cement: A mixture of certain minerals which, when mixed with water, form a gray-colored paste and cure into a very hard mass.
post: A vertical member of wood, steel, concrete or other material that transfers weight from the top of the post to whatever it is resting on.
post-and-beam construction: The most common type of wall framing; a building method that uses posts that carry horizontal beams on which joists are supported.
pot life: The time interval following the addition of an accelerator before a chemically curing material will become too viscous to apply satisfactorily. See also shelf life.
potable: Describes water that is safe to drink.
powder coat: A technique for applying paint to metal surfaces. The metal is covered with a powder of dry paint particles and is baked in an oven. This causes the powder to melt and harden into a tough finish.
power: The energy rate, usually measured in watts. Power equals voltage times amps, or W = E x 1. The heavier the flow of amps at a given supply, the higher the rate at which energy is being supplied and used.
power vent: A vent that includes a fan to speed up air flow, often installed on roofs.
pre-shimmed tape sealant: A sealant having a pre-formed shape containing solids or discrete particles that limit its deformation under compression.
precast concrete: Concrete building components that are formed and cured at a factory and then transported to a work site for erection.
premises: A lot, plot, parcel of land, property or building.
premium: The amount payable on a loan.
preservative: Any substance that, for a reasonable length of time, will prevent the action of wood-destroying fungi, borers of various kinds, and similar destructive agents when the wood has been properly coated or impregnated with it.
pressure drop: The loss in pressure due to friction or obstruction in pipes, valves, fittings, regulators and/or burners, and the length of pipes and the number of elbows.
pressure regulator: A device placed in a gas line for reducing, controlling and maintaining the pressure downstream of the device.
pressure tank: A tank used in conjunction with a well in order to maintain pressure.
pressure-reducing valve: A valve installed in the water service line where it enters the building to reduce the pressure to an acceptable, desirable rate (40-55 psi).
pressure-relief valve: A valve that relieves excess pressure in water storage tanks.
pressure-treated lumber: Lumber that is treated in such a way that sealer is forced into the pores of the wood to add strength and durability.
primary building: A building that an inspector has agreed to inspect, excluding all accessory buildings, with the exception of the primary parking structure.
primary parking structure and surfaces: A building and appurtenant surfaces provided for the purpose of vehicle storage associated with the primary building.
primer: A material of relatively thin consistency that is applied to a surface for the purpose of creating a more secure bonding surface and to form a barrier to prevent the migration of components. Also, the first coat of paint in a paint job that consists of two or more coats.
priming: Sealing of a porous surface so that compounds will not stain, lose elasticity, shrink excessively, etc., because of loss of oil into the surround.
principal: The original amount of a loan; the capital.
projection: In roofing, any object or equipment that pierces the roof membrane.
property survey: A survey conducted to determine the boundaries of a property.
protection board: In roofing, heavy asphalt-impregnated boards that are laid over bituminous coatings to protect against mechanical damage.
public way: A street, alley or yard open to the outside and leading to a public area.
publicly available information: Information that is in the public record and accessible or available to anyone upon request.
pump mix: A special concrete mix that has smaller rock aggregate than regular concrete mix and is used in a concrete pump.
punch list: A list of discrepancies in a construction project that need to be corrected by the contractor, typically at the end of the project.
punch out: To inspect and make a discrepancy or punch list.
purlins: A horizontal structural member spanning between beams or trusses to support a roof deck. In slope glazing, purlins are the horizontal framing members.
push stick: A tool used while cutting a short board on a table saw.
putty: A type of cement made of whiting and boiled linseed oil that is beaten or kneaded into the consistency of dough and used in sealing window glass in sashes, filling small holes and crevices in wood, and similar purposes.
PVC (CPVC): Polyvinyl chloride, which is used in the manufacture of white plastic pipe typically used for water supply lines.
PVD (physical vapor deposition): A durable titanium or zirconium coating used on brass-finish faucets that resists tarnish, scratches and corrosion.
PVDF: An architectural coating. See also Kynar coating.