Structural Lingo

Structural Lingo

Posted on June 26 , 2019 by admin0 Comments


When entering a construction project, there are certain terms that are not as familiar to the regular home owner. This article is intended to help describe some of those elements in residential construction and help interpret what contractors, architects, and engineers are all discussing about your home.

Floor Joist – These horizontal members are typically single 2”x lumber supporting a floor or a ceiling. They are often spaced at a constant distance (16” apart is most typical). The purpose of these members is to support any plywood, which the above finished flooring would be attached to. On the underside of the joist, the drywall ceiling below would be attached; sometimes neglected for unfinished basements.

  • Stand in your basement and look up (assumed unfinished basement). The horizontal repetitive members are the joists
  • Rafter – A rafter is similar in nature to a joist. Both are typically 2x lumber, but rafters support the roof and are installed at an angle. They are also spaced at a constant distance (once again 16” is standard) and the purpose of these members is to support the plywood of the roof, which the shingles get attached to.

  • Stand in your attic and look up (assumed unfinished). The repetitive members at an angle are the rafters
  • Posts/Columns – A beam cannot just float in mid-air and needs to sit on-something. That’s what the posts and columns do for the structure. Both terms are similar in nature and can usually be used interchangeably. They are typically several studs fastened together or sometimes one solid member and placed at each end of the beams.

  • Stand in your basement and locate the beam as described above. The beam typically will sit on round columns and you’ve found them

This list is a short sample of the many words that are relevant to all buildings, but may make you seem more intelligent in your next design meeting. Best of luck!


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