Here are some useful definitions that will help you while looking for a house plan:

  • Awning
    Crank windows, hinged on the top, that open upward.

  • Bargeboard
    Trim work at the top of gable end walls below the soffit.

  • Basement (Foundation)
    A basement has a slab bottom, and it uses steel or engineered wood members for floor framing. These members are stronger and span farther, eliminating the need for a lot of columns. This in turn opens up the basement and makes it functional.

  • Bungalow (Home Style)
    Bungalows provide simple and affordable middle class housing. They are small and easy to build with a square floor plan, gables, usually one large middle dormer, and porches with big square columns that are larger on the bottom. Bungalows are usually 1200 square feet or smaller.

  • Cape Cod (Home Style)
    Cape Cods are generally symmetrical plans. The front door is in the middle, and they usually have dormers. There is not a lot of overhang or ornamentation, and it is typically one or one-and-a-half stories.

  • Cased Opening
    A doorway with no door.

  • Casement
    Crank windows that are hinged on one side and open like a door.

  • Circular (Stairs)
    Stairs built on a radius.

  • Colonial (Home Style)
    Dates back to historical New England. Two story home with a symmetrical façade. The main roof ridge will run parallel to the street. The main entry door is in the center of the façade, and windows are symmetrically placed on either side. The second level will have its windows symmetrically placed around the door as well. Additional wings might be "tacked-on" to the house proper. Bedrooms are typically on the second level.

  • Contemporary 70's (Home Style)
    Clerestory windows, roofs that pitch in one direction, large overhangs on just two sides of the home, vertical wood siding and patches of stonework are the main characteristics. Solar adaptation is also a key feature.

  • Contemporary 80's (Home Style)
    Trendy details like glass block and pipe railings. Strong geometric forms.

  • Contemporary Traditional (Home Style)
    Traditional homes with modern design elements, particularly open spaces.

  • Country (Home Style)
    Typical country homes have a front porch, dormer(s), and a roof ridge that runs parallel to the street. The most notable characteristic is a large front porch with an open rail. "Dog-house" dormers are frequently on the roof. The exterior material is usually clapboard siding. Regardless of the size of the home, they appear to be small and quaint. Historical country homes had a fireplace on either side of the home to function as the heat source. The historical country home also had a "dog trot" hallway, which was one main hallway that runs through the middle of the house, also known as a double loaded hallway. During warmer months, the front and rear doors can be opened to allow a breeze to come through and cool the house.

  • Crawl Space (Foundation)
    A crawl space foundation means an elevated first floor system that is usually high enough off of the ground to crawl beneath. Piers are made up of 8" x 16" blocks, and the foundation wall is made up of brick and 8" blocks. The foundation wall contains foundation vents, which allow air to circulate throughout the foundation so that moisture does not build up.

  • Dormer Windows
    Also referred to as dog houses, dormer comes from the French word dormir, which means "to sleep." Dormers are located on the second floor, usually in bedrooms or bathrooms, and project through the roof to provide a window in this space.

  • Double Hung Windows
    Both lower and upper sashes can move up or down.

  • Early American (Home Style)
    This is reserved for homes that are replicas of historic American homes. A true Saltbox, Cape, or Federal home would be grouped together in this category.

  • Eave
    Made up of both the soffit and the fascia. This is the term that is given to that edge of the overhang beyond the wall.

  • European (Home Style)
    These are homes with a lot of visual excitement. There can be many roof lines and generally many gables. The undulating façade gives it a "castle" feel. The exterior material would be stone, brick, stucco, or a combination of two or more materials.

  • Farmhouse (Home Style)
    This is an adaptation of the "country" home. The main difference between a country house and a farmhouse is that a farmhouse has a wraparound porch. The porch wraps around the home. The roof ridge runs parallel to the street with or without dormers. The roof pitch breaks to a shallow pitch at the porch. One main roof covers the main body of the home. The exterior material is clapboard siding.

  • Fascia
    Runs horizontally across the ends of the roof rafters ends, creating the "edge" of the roof.

  • Fixed Windows
    These windows cannot be opened.

  • Floor Framing
    Built up on the foundation wall and piers out of 2 x 10 floor joists and beams. The direction and the length of the framing are shown on the blueprints, and they typically are placed 16 inches apart.

  • Footing
    Trenches of poured concrete around the perimeter of the house and below each pier or column that supports and distributes the weight of the house to the ground. Two steel rods, known as rebar, run through the trench of the foundation.

  • Foundation
    Technically, the foundation is the part of a building that meets the ground, where all loads are transferred to the ground.

  • Friezeboard
    Trim work that follows the eve horizontally below the soffit on the wall.

  • Gable Roof
    A roof that consists of two sloping planes that meet at the ridge (peak). The planes are supported at their ends by triangular, upward extensions of walls known as gables.

  • Hip Roof
    A roof that consists of four sloping planes that meet at the ridge (peak). The roof seems to sit on top of the supporting walls, creating a pyramid shape when viewed from the side.

  • Hopper
    Crank windows, hinged on the bottom, that open outward from the top.

  • Load Bearing Walls
    Load bearing walls carry the load from above, down to the foundation. Load bearing walls brace from the floor to the roof. They are noted on the blueprint with hatch lines.

  • Mediterranean (Home Style)
    Warm climate homes with many windows and an open floor plan. The exterior is usually stucco with a tile roof. A hip roof with large overhangs is most common. Some of these elements are characteristic of the Southwestern home style also.

  • Overhang
    Part of the roof that hangs over the wall.

  • Palladian Window
    One larger window with a circle top window above and flanked by two smaller, rectangular windows. These are usually fixed windows.

  • Rake
    Refers to the slope of the roof at the end of a gable, where the outside part of the overhang forms an upside down V.

  • Ranch (Home Style)
    Single level home with a low pitched roof that runs parallel to the street. These homes tend to be long and narrow, with the longest dimension facing front. Porches may or may not be present.

  • Risers (Steps)
    Height of the step, which varies per house (vertical surface).

  • Salt Box (Home Style)
    Early American home that is one-and-a-half stories and looks like a trapezoid when viewed from the side. It is two stories in the front, and the back slopes down to one story.

  • Scissors (Stairs)
    Also known as U-shaped stairs, scissors stairs reverse direction half way up to return back the way it started.

  • Shed (Roof)
    A shed is actually a half gable. One slopping plane is supported by walls. This usually comes off the back side or out of another roof. Shed roofs are also used over some porches.

  • Single Hung Windows
    Only the bottom sash moves up and down, the top is fixed.

  • Slab (Foundation)
    For a slab foundation, the site is leveled off, and a trench is dug around the perimeter of the home site. Gravel is then spread across the site, and concrete is poured approximately four inches thick over wire mesh and a moisture barrier. In areas of load bearing walls, trenches need to be dug to allow for additional thickness at this location. Slab foundations have no piers or floor joists, and the concrete slab is the floor system.

  • Sliders
    Windows that slide open, like sliding glass doors.

  • Soffit
    The underside of the roof overhang or porch ceiling that covers the rafter bottoms. This horizontal surface usually has vents to allow air into the attic.

  • Straight Run (Stairs)
    These are just like they sound, they run straight up to the second floor.

  • Traditional (Home Style)
    These homes usually do not have porches, but several will have covered entryways. They usually have hip main roofs and bold, front facing gables. There will be several main ridge lines running both parallel and perpendicular to the street. The exterior material could be clapboard or masonry (brick, stucco, stone). These homes strive for a grand appearance.

  • Treads (Steps)
    Top of the step, usually 10-½ inches to 11 inches deep (horizontal).

  • Vacation (Home Style)
    These are usually very open houses that may be elevated off the ground. They tend to have a modern or cottage feel.

  • Victorian(Home Style)
    Gingerbread detailing is the key element. Most have multiple roof lines with varying roof pitches. Some have octagonal turrets (towers). The exterior is always clapboard. Lattice work and decorative railings are often used.

  • Winders (Steps)
    Steps that wind around a corner or post, turning 90 degrees from the original direction and typically having several triangular shaped treads at the turn.