Homebuilding Terms: Helpful Terms You Should Know When Building a Home

At Cypress Homes, we realize that home building terms can become lost in translation and that not everyone understands what every home/building term is or what they mean, so we’ve come up with a list to help you better understand various terms that are commonly used when building a home. Even if you’re not in the process of building a home, these home terms and definitions may still be good to know.

Just a note, building terms across the country can vary. The definitions given below are based on terminology we use within our company in Northeast Wisconsin. 

Accent Wall

Accent Wall

Accent Wall: A design or paint color on a wall that is unique from the other walls in the room. Used to make one wall stand out amongst the rest.

Attic Seal Package: A spray used to air-seal areas of the attic that isn’t completely sealed during a normal insulation phase.

Awning: A sheet of canvas or other material that is stretched out on a frame and used to keep sun or rain away.

Backsplash: A panel made of tile, stone, and/or other materials that give both protection and design appeal. Typically found in kitchen spaces.



Balusters: Pillars or columns that support railings, most are decorative.

Bay Window: A window that is built to project outwards from an outside wall.

Bearing Wall/Load-Bearing Wall: A wall that carries at least part of the weight of the house above it. These type of walls are needed for structural purposes.

Beveled Glass – Thick glass that creates an angled surface and provides a spectrum of colors from the light.

Casing: The frame around a door or window.



Catch-all – An area with counter space and cabinets that hold odds and ends. This is usually found near the entrance of a home or near the garage entrance.

Cathedral Ceiling: Slanted or pointed ceiling that rises above more than one floor.

Coffered Ceiling: Sunken panels in the ceiling which create a pattern of indentations or recesses in the overhead surface of an interior.

Crown Molding: Decorative molding used to cap around walls (usually right below the ceiling), pilasters and cabinets.

exterior cultured stone

Cultured Stone

Cultured Stone: A manufactured concrete product designed to give the appearance of natural stone.

Dehumidistat: Connected to the thermostat, a dehumidistat helps to automatically control humidity by eliminating excessive water vapor in the atmosphere.

Dropped Ceiling: A secondary ceiling that adds dimension and hangs below the main ceiling.

Dry Wall



Dry wall: Board made from plaster, wood or other materials used to form the interior walls of a home.

Eaves: The part of a roof that overhangs the exterior walls of a home (usually 18+ inches long).

Egress: An entry/exit used mostly as an escape route on the lower level (basement) of a home that must meet building code requirements.

Fascia: A board made of wood or other flat material that covers the end of the rafters.

Foyer: An entrance or open area at the front of the home.

free standing bath tub

Free-standing Tub

Free-standing Tub: A bathtub that is not attached to any walls and is able to stand alone. Usually more for decorative purposes, but works the same way as a built-in bathtub.

Foundation: The lowest load-bearing part of a home that is typically below the ground.

Grout: Paste that fills holes and gaps between walls and floor tiles.

Hearth: The floor or area in front of a fireplace.



Herringbone: A pattern, design or arrangement made up of parallel lines that create a “V” shape.

Humidifier: A device that can add humidity back into the atmosphere of the home.

Hip Roof: A roof where both the sides and ends are inclined.

Insulation: Material used to keep heat and sound from spreading.

Jamb: Side post or surface of a doorway, fireplace or window.

Fireplace Mantel


Laminate: Multi-layered synthetic material (typically wood) covered with protective materials.

Lacquer: A liquid made of shellac that dries and forms a protective coating for metal, wood and other materials.

Masonry: stone, concrete or brick used for building.

Mantel: The frame around a fireplace.

Newel: The posts at the top or bottom of a flight of stairs that supports the handrail.

Peninsula: A cabinet or cabinets connected to the main body of a kitchen on one side, with the other 3 sides exposed.

kitchen peninsula claremont marquart


Plywood: Strong thin wooden boards that consist of two or more layers that are put together in alternating directions of grain. Usually sold in 4′ x 8′ sheets.

Pocket Door: A door that slides into an adjacent wall when opened.

Realstone Panel: Panels of stone cut into consistent thickness in order to be used as a veneer.



Rafter: Internal beams that extend from the eaves to the peak of the roof.

Risers: Vertical section between the treads of the staircases.

Sconce: Candle holder or light fixture that is attached to a wall.

Shiplap: Popular term for wood paneling, usually laid horizontally on a wall with a small gap between each board.

Siding: Cladding material used on the outside of a home for protection from the elements.



Skirt Board: Floor molding that covers the lowest part of the interior walls. This is more commonly known as a baseboard.

Soffit: Underside of a structure i.e. an arch, balcony or eaves. Also referred to when “boxing” down around venting or other obtrusions below the normal ceiling height.

Spindle: Rods typically used in railings systems, between the newel posts and under the handrail.

Stucco – Fine plaster used to coat wall surfaces or molding used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings.

Subway Tile –  A series of white glazed rectangular ceramic tile that was originally found in subway stations in New York City in the 20th Century. This type of tile can also be found in other colors besides white.

Tile – A thin slab of concrete, clay or other material.

Transom Window

Transom Window

Transom Window – A small (sometimes detailed) window above a door or another window and adds additional lighting.

Tray Ceiling – A ceiling that recessed up into the trusses above the normal height of the rest of the ceiling.

Trim – Decorative material, typically wood, that frames features in the home. This term can be used when referring to casing, baseboards, and/or moulding.

Truss – Framework that is used for support of the structure.  Roof trusses and floor trusses are two common types.

Underlayment – A layer between the sub-floor and finished floor that helps with adhesion and leveling.

Vinyl Plank floor

Vinyl Plank

Vinyl Plank – Flooring that comes in strips of vinyl that resembles hardwood, but has a more affordable cost and easier installation.

Vaulted Ceiling – An angled ceiling that goes upward on one side create volume in the room.

Vessel Sink

Vessel Sink


Vessel Sink – A sink where the bowl sits on top of surface of the counter.

Wainscoting – Wooden panels that line the lower part of the walls, typically in vertical columns.


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