Floor plans and descriptions of home designs are often full of terms that can become confusing for someone not already deeply familiar with architectural styles. Use this glossary to help cut through some of the noise.
Unbaked brick, dried by the sun, as used for house construction in the Southwestern United States.
A range of arches supported on piers or columns.
Squared-off blocks of stone used in construction, laid adjacent to one another, allowing a very thin mortar joint.
An entire railing system along the edge of a balcony or stairwell, including the top rail, bottom rail and balusters.
A wide, flat board that seals the space below the roof between the tiles and the wall on a gable end. Bargeboards often have decorative carving or pierced decoration. Commonly found in Queen Anne and Gothic Revival-style homes.
A vault formed by two identical tunnel-shaped vaults intersecting in the middle, having the form of a half cylinder.
A column that is larger at the base and slopes inward toward the top of the column. Used extensively on Craftsman-style homes, especially for lighter columns supported by heavy masonry piers.
A projection on a house façade that is either curved or angular in plan and has its own windows. Used extensively in Victorian architecture.
A ceiling punctuated by wooden beams, evenly spaced across the width of a room.
A purely decorative arch within a wall or other flat surface without an actual opening.
A form of sheathing for wood-frame buildings consisting of wide boards, usually placed vertically, whose joints are covered by narrow strips of wood over the joints or cracks.
The arrangement of masonry that forms a regular pattern to provide strength, stability and in some cases decorative form.
A projection from a vertical surface providing structural or visual support under cornices, balconies, windows or any other overhanging member.
A beam or structure projecting horizontally beyond its support, only supported by leverage and the weight of the structure on its enclosed end.
A window frame hinged on one side so that it swings out or in to open.
A cornice forming the crowning top of a chimney.
A cylindrical pipe or brick made of terra cotta or metal; placed atop a chimney to extend it and thereby increase the draft.
A wood siding commonly used as an exterior covering on a timber-frame structure, laid horizontally and overlapped, with the thick edge of each board overlapping the thin edge of the board below it.
A ceiling in which the beams and cross-beams leave a regular pattern of square or multi-sided sunken panels, or coffers, each of which is often decorated with molded, carved and painted decoration.
A grouping of columns spaced at regular intervals and supporting either arches or a straight entablature.
A vertical member, circular in section, and normally with a gentle taper that supports a load. In classical architecture, it is composed of a base, shaft and capital.
A projecting molding located where the wall meets the ceiling or roof; may be supported by a series of brackets.
Sheet metal that has been formed into parallel ridges to provide additional strength, usually made of aluminum or galvanized steel. Is widely used on industrial buildings and has increasingly been incorporated into Modern style homes.
A layer of masonry units running horizontally in a wall or over an arch and bonded with mortar.
A highly decorative top border on a screen, wall or roof, often constructed of metal.
A small structure projecting above a roof that provides ventilation or is used as a lookout. A defining feature of Italianate-style homes.
A series of closely spaced ornamental rectangular blocks resembling teeth, used as moldings; most often found in continuous bands beneath the cornice.
Two flights of stairs parallel to each other with a half-landing in between.
A structure projecting from a sloping roof, usually containing a window.
A window with two moveable sash that slide vertically past one another, with a counterweight on each side.
The part of a sloping roof that overhangs the wall.
One of the external faces of a building; also an architect’s drawing of a façade, set to scale.
A low dormer on the slope of a roof. It has no sides, but the roof is carried over it in a continuous wavy line.
The exterior face of a building, particularly one of its main elevations facing the public right-of-way, almost always containing an entrance and characterized by an elaboration of stylistic details.
A window above a door, usually semi-circular, with glazing bars radiating out like a fan. A defining element of Federal-style homes.
Any relatively broad, flat, horizontal surface of an architectural element or the finished surface of an exposed member.
The arrangement of windows and other exterior openings in a building.
A small ornament on top of a spire, pinnacle or gable.
Overlapping wooden tiles used to clad exterior walls; may take various shapes such as fish-scales, diamonds or squares.
The lowest part of a building that serves to transmit the load from the larger structure directly to the earth below; usually below ground level.
A pair of doors similar to casement windows that are hinged on the outer edges so that they open in the middle, usually with glass panes throughout the door. May be used as interior or exterior doors.
The part of a wall immediately under the end of a pitched roof and above the level of the eaves, cut into a triangular shape by the sloping sides of the roof. May be enhanced with decorative elements such as half-timbering, bargeboards or ornamental shingles within the gable or along the roofline.
A roof with a short sloping surface on either side of the ridge, followed by a longer, more steeply pitched surface that is often flared at the end. Used in Dutch Colonial style homes.
The highly decorative and often superfluous woodwork applied to a Victorian style house.
Two sheets of plate glass formed into a sealed hollow block that comes in a variety of sizes and patterns; is used in bathrooms as well as Modern and Art Deco style homes.
A vertically pointed arch used in windows, entryways and numerous other decorative motifs.
A construction method in which vertical and horizontal timbers make up the frame of the wall, which is then filled in with plaster or brick. A defining element of Tudor-style homes.
The floor of a fireplace, usually extending out into the room.
A roof with four sloped sides.
The straight vertical side of a doorway, arch or window.
Horizontal timbers laid parallel to support floor and ceiling loads, which are themselves supported by larger members or bearing walls.
The wedge-shaped central stone in the curve of an arch that holds the other pieces in place.
A diagonal corner member for bracing the angle between two joined members such as a column and rafter. This serves to stiffen and strengthen the joint.
In a window, the openings between mullions; more generally called panes.
A wood or stone beam across the top of an opening such as a door or window that supports the weight above it.
A columned gallery that is attached to a larger structure and open on at least one side, often with a second story. Loggias are frequently found on Coastal homes.
One of a series of overlapping slats, for example in a window shutter, designed to allow ventilation while keeping out rain.
A roof with two slopes, the lower slope almost vertical to allow extra roof space for the attic rooms. A defining feature of Second Empire-style homes.
The frame surrounding a fireplace, often with a shelf above the opening.
An upright bar that vertically divides a window or other opening.
The secondary framing member used to hold panes of glass in a window or glazed door. Also, the vertical member that divides panels of a door.
A recess in a wall, often semicircular in the back and used as a place for statuary.
A pointed arch formed by two reversed curves, slightly S-shaped in profile. Used extensively in Gothic style architecture for windows, doors and applied decorative motifs.
A low protective wall higher than the exterior wall of a building.
A window with a central arched section flanked by two tall, narrow rectangular sections.
A free-standing rectangular support for an arch or column, usually thicker than the column above. Also may bear loads and provide lateral support as part of a foundation.
A vertical, rectangular feature projecting slightly from a wall, its form imitating a classical column with a base, shaft and capital.
A porch at the door of a building for shelter, wide enough to allow access for a car.
A roofed entrance porch, often with columns.
A roof with four sloping sides that intersect in a point at the top.
Finished stone or brick used to visually reinforce the exterior corners of a building.
Masonry cut in large blocks separated by deep joints, used to give a bold, exaggerated look to the lower part of an exterior wall, or to frame a door or window. The surface of the stone is usually very rough.
A framed area of fixed glass, set vertically and flanking a door, usually made up of a number of small panes.
The horizontal ledge at the bottom of a window frame; slopes away from the building to prevent water from entering.
A hard, brittle rock characterized by good cleavage along parallel planes; used as cut stone in thin sheets for flooring, roofing and panels.
The exposed underside of an architectural element such as a beam, arch, balcony, column or ceiling.
A thin, turned column of wood used in series on staircase banisters, balustrades and porches.
A small platform with steps leading up to it at the entrance of a building.
The fine cement or plaster used on the surface of walls, moldings and other architectural ornaments. Generally used as an exterior building material in Coastal homes.
Unglazed, fired clay used for tiles, architectural ornament, garden pots or roofing material and identifiable by its natural, burnt-orange color. Commonly found in architecture with Spanish or Mediterranean influences.
An ornamental arrangement of intersecting ribwork, usually in the upper part of a Gothic window, forming a pierced pattern.
A ceiling that is recessed in the middle to break up the space and add architectural interest; often found in dining rooms, hallways and living rooms.
The horizontal member across the top of a door, or across the top or middle of a window. A transom window is a glazed light above the transom bar of a door.
A wooden framework in the shape of a triangle, used to support timbers, such as those in a roof.
A ceiling with a height two-stories above ground level, employed to open up a space with additional light and air. Often a balcony on the second floor overlooks the vaulted ceiling and room below.
A thin slice of wood cut from the solid, applied as decorative surface to a more common wood. Also, a method of construction in which a thin layer of stone or brick facing is applied to the exterior surface of structural members such as steel, concrete or frame walls.
An open gallery similar to a porch or balcony, but located on the ground level and covered by a roof supported by columns.
A term describing modest and unpretentious architecture, often constructed in a purely regional style and usually a hybrid of more high-style architectural precedents.