saber saw: A saw that cuts on the upstroke, with the good side of the wood facing down.
sack mix: The amount of Portland cement in a cubic yard of concrete mix. Generally, a 5- or 6-sack mix is required for a foundation wall.
saddle: Two sloping surfaces meeting in a horizontal ridge, used between the backside of a chimney or other vertical surface, and a sloping roof.
safety glazing: Tempered glass, laminated glass or rigid plastic used in areas and applications such as shower doors in bathrooms, etc.
sales contract: A property contract between a buyer and seller that should stipulate: (1) what the purchase includes; (2) what guarantees there are; (3) when the buyer can move in; (4) what the closing costs are; and (5) what recourse the parties have if the contract is not fulfilled or if the buyer cannot get a mortgage commitment by the agreed-upon time.
sand-float finish: In plastering, lime that is mixed with sand and applied by using a wooden float such that the result is a rough, textured finish.
sanitary sewer: A sewer system designed for the collection of wastewater from the bathroom, kitchen and laundry drains; usually not designed to handle stormwater.
sanitary tee (T): Used on the waste-side of a plumbing system to keep effluent flowing in the proper direction.
sapwood: The outer zone of wood that is next to the bark. In a living tree, sapwood contains some living cells (whereas heartwood contains none), as well as dead and dying cells. In most species, it is lighter in color than the heartwood. In all species, it is lacking in decay resistance.
sash: A single light frame containing one or more lites of glass.
sash balance: A device operated by a spring or tensioned weatherstripping that is designed to counterbalance a double-hung window sash.
saturant: Asphalt used to impregnate a felt-based material.
saturated felt: A felt that is impregnated with tar or asphalt.
SBS-modified asphalt: Asphalt that has been combined with SBS (styrene-butadiene-styrene) polymers to increase its elasticity.
scale: The relationship between the measurements on a page of plans or blueprints and the actual measurements of the building represented by the plans or blueprints.
schedule (window, door, mirror): A table included on blueprints that lists the sizes, quantities and locations of the windows, doors and mirrors.
scope of work: As related to property inspections, the work that deviates from an established standard, depending on budget, time constraints, purpose of the inspection, age of the subject property, and risk tolerance of the client to which the inspector and client have agreed.
scrap out: The removal of all drywall material and debris after the home is hung out (or installed) with drywall.
scratch coat: In stucco work, the first coat of plaster, which is scratched to form a bond for the second coat.
screed (screeding): In cement work, the wood or metal straightedge used to strike off or level newly-placed concrete. Screeds can be the leveling device used or the formwork used to level or establish the level of the concrete. Screeds can be manual or mechanical.
screw-lamp holder: A lamp base that requires a screw-in-type lamp, such as a compact fluorescent, incandescent, or tungsten-halogen bulb.
scribing: Fitting woodwork to an irregular surface. In moldings, cutting the end of one piece to fit the molded face of another at an interior angle to replace a miter joint.
scrim: A woven or mat-type fabric that is used as a membrane sandwich between other material to provide reinforcement and stretch resistance.
scupper: An outlet in the wall of a building or a parapet wall for drainage of water from a flat roof.
scutch: A bricklayer’s cutting tool that resembles a small pick that is used for dressing and trimming brick to a special shape.
sealant: An elastomeric material with adhesive qualities that is applied between components of a similar or dissimilar nature to provide an effective barrier against the passage of snow, rainwater, wind, etc.
sealer: A clear or pigmented finishing material that is usually applied directly over uncoated wood for the purpose of sealing the surface.
seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER): A measure of the energy efficiency of equipment over the cooling season, representing the total cooling of a central air conditioner or heat pump (in BTUs) during the normal cooling season, as compared to the total electrical energy input (in watt-hours) consumed during the same period. SEER is based on tests performed in accordance with AHRI 210/240 (AHRI 2003).
seasoning: Removing moisture from green wood in order to improve its serviceability.
seat: The fixed part of a valve. The stem assembly moves up and down against the seat to open and close the valve.
self-healing: A term used to describe to a material that melts with the heat from the sun’s rays and seals over cracks that were earlier formed from other causes. Some waterproof membranes are self-healing.
self-leveling: A term used to describe a viscous material that is applied by pouring. In its uncured state, it spreads out evenly.
self-rimming: A style of bathroom lavatory or kitchen sink with a finished lip or rim that installs on top of a counter without requiring a metal sink rim.
selvage: The unsurfaced strip along a sheet of roll roofing that forms the under-portion at the lap in the application of the roof covering.
semi-gloss: A paint or enamel made with a slight insufficiency of a non-volatile vehicle so that its coating, when dry, has some luster but not a high gloss.
separation: In concrete application, when the concrete is dropped directly with a flat chute, causing the concrete to separate, usually occurring at a 1:2 slope.
service conductor: In electrical contracting, the supply conductors that extend from the street main or transformer to the service equipment.
service drop: In electrical contracting, the overhead service conductors from the last pole or other aerial support to and including the splices, if any, connecting to the service-entrance conductors at the building.
setback thermostat: A thermostat with a clock that can be programmed to various temperatures at different times of the day or week, and usually used as the heating or cooling system thermostat.
setting blocks: Rectangular cured extrusions of neoprene, EPDM, silicone, rubber, or other suitable material on which a glass product’s bottom edge is placed to effectively support the weight of the glass.
settlement: Shifting of a structure, usually caused by freeze-thaw cycles underground.
sewage ejector: A pump installed in a basement or other location situated below the level of the side sewer and used to lift wastewater to a gravity sanitary sewer line.
sewer lateral: The portion of the sanitary sewer that connects the interior wastewater lines to the main sewer lines. The side sewer is usually buried in several feet of soil and runs from the house to the sewer line. It is usually owned by the sewer utility but must be maintained by the owner and may be serviced only by utility-approved contractors. Also called a side sewer.
sewer stub: The junction at the municipal sewer system where the home’s sewer line is connected.
sewer tap: The physical connection point where the home’s sewer line connects to the main municipal sewer line.
shading: Slight differences in shingle color that may occur as a result of normal manufacturing operations.
shading coefficient: The ratio of the solar heat gain through a specific glass product to the solar heat gain through a lite of 1/8-inch of clear glass.
shake: A thick, hand-split shingle, re-sawed to form two shakes; usually edge-grained.
sheathing: The structural covering, usually wood boards, plywood, gypsum or wood fiber, used over studs or rafters of framed buildings as the first layer of the outer wall covering nailed to the studs or rafters.
sheathing paper: A paper or felt building material used in wall and roof construction as protection against the passage of air and sometimes moisture.
shed roof: A style of roof having only one slope or pitch, with only one set of rafters that fall from a higher to a lower wall.
sheet metal ductwork: The heating system consisting of round or rectangular metal pipes and sheet metal (for return air) and installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to the rooms in the home.
sheet metal work: All components of a house employing sheet metal, such as flashing, gutters and downspouts.
SHEETROCK®: The brand name for panels made primarily from gypsum and installed over a structure’s framing to form the interior walls and ceilings. Also called gypsum board.
shelf life: Used by manufacturers of glazing and sealants to refer to the length of time their product may be stored before beginning to lose its effectiveness. Shelf life and the necessary storage conditions are typically printed on the product package.
shellac: A transparent coating made by dissolving the resinous secretion of the lac bug in alcohol.
shingles: A roof covering made of asphalt, wood, tile, slate, or other material cut to stock lengths, widths and thicknesses, and laid and attached in a series of overlapping rows as a roof covering on pitched roofs.
shiplap lumber: Lumber that is edge-dressed to make a close rabbeted or lapped joint.
Shore A hardness: A measure of firmness of a compound using a durometer hardness gauge. A hardness range of 20 to 25 is about the firmness of an art gum eraser. A hardness of 90 is about the firmness of a rubber heel.
shoring: A temporary support erected in a trench or other excavation to prevent the walls from caving in.
short circuit: A situation that occurs when hot and neutral wires come in contact with each other. Fuses and circuit breakers protect against fire that could result from a short.
short-term cost: The estimated cost of repairs that may not require immediate attention but which should not be delayed for more than two years.
shut down: Turned off, unplugged, inactive, not in service, or not operational.
shutoff valve: The valve that allows the water supply to be cut off to one fixture without affecting the water supply to the entire house or building. Commonly used with clawfoot tubs, sinks and toilets.
shutter: A lightweight louvered, flush-wood or non-wood frame in the form of doors located at each side of a window. Some are made to close over the window for added protection; others are permanently affixed to the wall as decoration.
side sewer: The portion of the sanitary sewer that connects the interior wastewater lines to the main sewer lines. The side sewer is usually buried in several feet of soil and runs from the house to the sewer line. It is usually owned by the sewer utility and must be maintained by the owner and may be serviced only by utility-approved contractors. Also called sewer lateral.
siding: The finish covering of the outside wall of a frame building and made of horizontal weatherboards, vertical boards with battens, shingles, and/or other materials.
sight line: The line along the perimeter of glazing infills corresponding to the top edge of stationary and removable stops. The line to which sealants contacting the glazing infill are sometimes finished off.
silicone sealant: A multi-purpose sealant that typically does not shrink or crack and offers flexibility and adhesion, and a weatherproof, watertight seal.
sill: The lowest member of the frame of a structure that rests on the foundation and supports the floor joists or uprights of the wall; the member forming the lower side of an opening, as in a door sill, window sill, etc.
sill plate: The framing member anchored to the foundation wall upon which studs and other framing members are attached; the bottom plate of exterior walls.
sill seal: Fiberglass or foam insulation installed between the foundation wall and sill (wood) plate, designed to seal any cracks and gaps.
sill sealer: A foam strip placed between the top of the foundation wall and the sill plate to facilitate a better fit and eliminate water problems.
sill step: The first step coming directly off a building at a door opening.
sillcock: An exterior water faucet. Also called a hose bibb.
single coverage: Asphalt roofing that provides one layer of roofing material over the deck.
single tee: The name given to a type of precast concrete deck that has one stiffening rib integrally cast into slab.
single-family dwelling: A house built for a single family as opposed to multiple families, such as a duplex or apartment complex.
single-ply: A descriptive term signifying a roof membrane composed of only one layer of material, such as EPDM, Hypalon or PVC.
single-wall metal chimney: A field-constructed chimney not permitted in one- and two-family dwellings.
skip sheathing: The normal base for shake, shingle and some tile roofs; 1×4-inch or similar sized boards are nailed at 90-degree angles to the rafters, leaving a space of about 4 inches between each row, which allows for better ventilation.
sky dome: A type of skylight exhibiting a characteristic translucent, plastic domed top.
skylight: A structure on a roof that is designed to admit light and is slightly above the plane of the roof surface to allow it to shed rainwater.
slab on grade: A type of construction in which footings are needed but little or no foundation wall is poured.
slab, concrete: Concrete pavement, such as that used for driveways, garages and basement floors.
slab, door: A rectangular door without hinges or a frame.
slag: A byproduct of smelting ore, such as iron, lead or copper. Also, overburden or dropping from welding that may burn, melt or discolor adjacent surfaces.
slate: A dark gray, stratified stone cut relatively thin and installed on pitched roofs in a shingle-like fashion.
sleeper: A wood member embedded in concrete, as in a floor, that serves to support and fasten the subfloor or flooring.
sleeping unit: A room or space used for sleeping.
sleeve: Pipe installed under a concrete driveway or sidewalk that is used to run through sprinkler pipe or low-voltage wire.
slope: The incline or pitch of a roof surface, drainage plane, etc.
sloped glazing: Any installation of glass that is at a slope of 15 degrees or more from vertical.
sludge: A term for the waste material found in sump pump pits, septic systems and gutters.
slump: Describes the wetness of concrete. A 3-inch slump is dryer and stiffer than a 5-inch slump.
slump test: A test that measures, in inches, the consistency or stiffness of a concrete mix. If the test results are high, one likely cause is too much water. A low-slump test result indicates not enough water.
smoke alarm: A single or multiple alarm that is responsive to smoke, and not connected to a fire sprinkler system.
smoke detector: A device that senses smoke or particles of combustion.
smooth-surface roofing: Roll roofing that is covered with ground talc or mica instead of aggregate or granules.
soffit: The underside of an overhanging cornice of a building extending out from the plane of the building walls.
softening point: The temperature at which a substance changes from a hard material to a softer and more viscous material.
soil cover: A light covering of plastic film, roll roofing, or similar material used over the soil in the crawlspace of a building that minimizes moisture permeation into the area. Also called groundcover/ground cover.
soil stack: A general term for the vertical main of a system of soil, waste, or vent piping.
soil vent: The extension of a soil or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack. Also called a waste vent and a stack vent.
sole plate: The bottom horizontal member of a frame wall.
solid bridging: A solid member placed between adjacent floor joists near the center of the span to prevent the joists from twisting.
solid fuel: Wood, coal, pellets, and other materials that can be burned for heat.
Sonotube®: The brand name for a large round cardboard tube designed to hold wet concrete in place until it hardens.
sound attenuation: Soundproofing a wall or subfloor using fiberglass insulation or other material.
space heat: Heat supplied to the living space of a building.
space heater: A portable appliance that warms a small area using radiant electric heat.
spacers: Small blocks of neoprene, EPDM, silicone, or other suitable material placed on each side of a glass product that provides centering for the glass and maintains a uniform width of sealant bead to prevent excessive sealant distortion. Also called shims.
spalling: The chipping or flaking of concrete, bricks or other masonry when improper drainage or venting and freeze-thaw cycling exist.
span: The horizontal distance between structural supports, such as walls, columns, piers, beams, girders and trusses.
spandrel: The panels of a wall located between vision areas of windows that conceal structural columns, floors and shear walls.
spec home: A new-construction house that is built before it is sold, as the builder speculates that s/he can sell it at a profit.
special consultant: A person with expertise in a particular area who assists an inspector with portions of a commercial inspection.
special equipment: Any tools or devices, other than those normally used by an inspector, that are used to perform a typical and customary, non-invasive, physical examination of the systems, structures and components of a building, including, but not limited to: levels, probes, meters, video and audio devices, and measuring devices.
specialty eaves flashing membrane: A self-adhering, waterproofing shingle underlayment designed to protect against water infiltration due to ice damage and wind-driven rain.
specifications: Detailed, written instructions which, when clear and concise, explain each phase of work to be done.
splash block: A small masonry block laid with the top close to the ground surface to receive roof drainage from downspouts and carry it away from the building.
splitting: The formation of long cracks completely through a membrane. Splits are frequently associated with lack of allowance for expansion stresses. They can also be a result of deck deflection or change in deck direction.
spud: In roofing, the removal of gravel or heavy accumulations of bitumen from roof membranes by means of chipping or scraping. In mechanical applications, a short section of pipe or a threaded fitting that completes a connection, as between a longer pipe and a nozzle, valve or meter.
square: A unit of measure applied to roofing material (such as 100 square feet). Sidewall coverings are sometimes packed and sold to cover 100 square feet.
square foot: Coverage measured by multiplying width by length. For example, an area 5 feet long and 7 feet wide is equal to 35 square feet.
squeegee: Fine pea gravel used to grade a floor before concrete is placed.
stack: The vertical pipe of a system of soil, waste or vent piping.
stack vent: The extension of a soil or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack. Also called a waste vent and a soil vent.
stain: A type of thin-consistency oil paint used to color wood that has a rough surface (such as shingles) without forming a coating of significant thickness or gloss.
stair carriage: A supporting member for stair treads; a 2-inch plank notched to receive the treads. Also called arough horse.
Standard (Standards): Often used to mean InterNACHI’s Standards of Practice for Performing a General Home Inspection, or the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties.
standard practices of the trade(s): One of the more common, basic and minimum construction standards; another way of saying that the work should be done in the way it is normally done by the average professional in the field.
standing seam: A type of joint often used on metal roofs.
static load: The total amount of permanent, non-moving weight that is applied to a given surface area.
static vent: A vent that does not include a fan.
STC (Sound Transmission Class): A single-number rating derived from individual transmission sound losses at specified test frequencies. It is used for rating the soundproofing quality of interior walls, ceilings and floors.
steel inspection: A municipal and/or engineer’s inspection of the concrete foundation wall that is conducted before concrete is poured into the foundation panels, and done to ensure that the rebar, rebar nets, void material, beam pocket plates, and basement window bucks are installed and wrapped with rebar and comply with the foundation plan.
steel trowel: A flat steel tool used to spread and smooth plaster, mortar and concrete for a non-porous, smooth finish. Pointing trowels are small enough to be used in places where larger trowels will not fit. The pointing trowel has a point. The common trowel has a rectangular blade attached to a handle. For a smooth finish, a trowel is used when the concrete begins to harden.
stem: A small shaft or rod that projects through a faucet valve to which the handle is installed.
stem assembly: The moving part of a valve that controls the amount and temperature of water released by moving up and down against the seat to open and close the valve.
step crack: Hairline, staircase-shaped cracks typically found near the corners of a foundation, usually due to normal soil settlement. Larger step cracks may indicate ongoing movement or sinking of the foundation and are a more serious condition.
step flashing: Small, individual pieces of metal flashing material used to flash around chimneys, dormers, and similar projections along the slope of a roof. The individual pieces are overlapped and stepped up the vertical surface.
stick-built: A house built without prefabricated parts. Also called conventional building.
stile: An upright framing member in a panel door.
STL (Sound Transmission Loss): The reduction of the amount of sound energy passing through a wall, floor, roof, etc., related to the specific frequency at which it is measured and expressed in decibels.
stool: A flat molding fitted over a window sill between jambs and contacting the bottom rail of the lower sash.
stop box: A cast-iron pipe with a lid 5 inches in diameter that is placed vertically into the ground and situated near the water tap in the yard, and where a water cut-off valve to the home is located underground. A long pole with a special end is inserted into the curb stop to turn the water on and off.
stop order: A formal, written notification to a contractor to discontinue some or all work on a project for reasons such as safety violations, defective materials or workmanship, or cancellation of the contract.
stop valve: A shutoff valve.
storefront: A system of doors and windows typically at the first-floor level of a non-residential, commercial building.
storm door: A panel or sash door placed on the outside of an existing door to provide additional protection from the elements.
storm sash: An extra window placed outside of an existing one as additional protection against cold weather. Also called a storm window.
storm sewer: A sewer system designed to collect storm water and separated from the wastewater system.
storm window: A glazed panel or sash placed on the inside or outside of an existing sash or window as additional protection against the elements.
story: That part of a building between any floor and the floor or roof immediately above.
straight stop: A shutoff valve that is installed on a supply line between the floor and the faucet or toilet. Unlike an angle stop, a straight stop does not change the direction of water flow.
strain: The percentage of elongation or compression of a material or portion of a material caused by an applied force.
striking off: Smoothing off excess compound or sealant at the sight line when applying it around lites or panels.
string: A timber or other support for cross-members in floors and ceilings. Also called a stringboard.
string line: A nylon line strung tautly between supports to indicate both direction and elevation and used in checking grades or deviations in slopes or rises, and in landscaping to level the ground.
stringer: In stairs, the support on which the stair treads rest.
strip flooring: Wood flooring consisting of narrow matched strips.
structural component: A component that supports a building’s non-variable forces and weights (dead loads) and variable forces and weights (live loads).
structural floor: A framed lumber floor that is installed as a basement floor instead of concrete on very expansive soils.
structural silicone glazing: Silicone sealant used for the structural transfer of loads from glass to its perimeter support system and retention of the glass in the opening.
structure: An assemblage of various systems and components that function as a whole.
stucco: A type of exterior finish plaster made with Portland cement as its base.
stud: One of a series of wood or metal vertical structural members placed as supporting elements in walls and partitions.
stud framing: A building method that distributes structural loads to each of a series of relatively lightweight studs. Contrasts with post-and-beam construction.
stud shoe: A metal structural bracket that reinforces a vertical stud and used on an outside bearing wall where holes are drilled to accommodate a plumbing waste line.
sub-rough: The part of a building’s plumbing system that is done before the cement is poured.
subcontractor: A contractor who specializes in a particular trade, such as waterproofing.
subfloor: Boards or plywood laid on joists over which a finish floor is laid.
subject property: In inspection, the property that is inspected.
substrate: A part or substance that lies beneath and supports another.
suggested remedy: An opinion offered as to a course of action for repairing a deficiency. Offering suggested remedies lies outside the scope of a general home inspection.
sump: A pit or large plastic bucket or barrel inside the home designed to collect groundwater from a perimeter drain system.
sump pit: Dug at the lowest part of the basement floor to capture and contain any flowing water from a sump pump. The sump pump sits at the bottom of or beside this trench and expels excess water through a series of interconnected pipes to a suitable discharge location. The pump can sense water levels through a float that rises and falls with fluctuating water levels in the trench. Also called a sump trench.
sump pump: A submersible pump in a sump pit that pumps any excess groundwater to the outside of the home.
suspended ceiling: A ceiling system supported by hanging it from the overhead structural framing.
swale: A shallow drainage ditch used in conditions where one or more sides of a building faces an upward slope. A swale should slope away from the building for 10 to 15 feet, at which point it can empty into another swale that directs water around to the downhill-side of the building, leading it away from the foundation.
sway brace: Metal straps or wood blocks installed diagonally on the inside of a wall from bottom to top plate that prevent the wall from twisting, racking or falling over in a domino fashion.
switch: A device that completes and/or disconnects an electrical circuit.
system: An assembly of various components which function as a whole.