Home Repair Glossary

Ampere: Unit of measure for the rate of flow of electrical energy (see volt); watts divided by volts equals amperes.

Anode rod: Device used inside water heaters to protect the tank against corrosion.

Auxiliary heaters: Heating devices used in addition to the main heating system, such as kerosene heaters, fireplaces, or electrical space heaters.

Awning window: A window that cranks out at the bottom by turning a crank handle; can provide ventilation even in rainy weather.

Basin wrench: Long tool with a flexible, self-gripping head that is used to turn hard-to-reach nuts that hold basins and faucets in place.

Blast bag: Slang term for hydraulic drain openers which are attached to a garden hose and pulsate under high water pressure.

Blower: In reference to forced, warm-air furnaces, the centrifugal fan driven by an electric motor that draws cold air from rooms through the cold-air ducts into the furnace and then forces warmed air back to ducts.

Blower belt: The V-belt which is used to link an electric motor to a centrifugal fan used in a forced, warm-air furnace.

Casement window: Hinged at one side, and may swing out or in as it is cranked by a handle.

Caulking: Procedure of sealing or weatherproofing cracks between materials; may also refer to the caulk material used, such as silicone caulking.

Closet auger: Special, flexible version of a clean-out auger designed for use in toilets; has protective tubing to protect ceramic toilets from scratches.

Cord clamp: Metal clamp with screws on the exterior of larger replacement plugs which is used to secure the cord to the plug.

Condensor switch: In air-conditioning systems, an additional switch that directly controls the motor which powers the fan and the compressor in a unit which is usually located outdoors.

Cotter pin: A hairpin-like fastener which is inserted through a hole (in a shaft, for example) with its two leg sections spread open to hold it in place.

Crocus cloth: Has powdered iron oxide on cloth backing; generally used for polishing.

Circuit breaker panel: Term for main service panel housing the main switches and branch circuits protected by circuit breakers. If circuits become overloaded, a circuit breaker trips to interrupt electrical flow to that circuit (see fuse box).

Cylinder lockset: Used on exterior doors; locked by key inserted into a cylinder within the outside knob, or with turn knob or push button on inner knob.

Double-hung window: Divided into two sections that ride in channels in the jamb on both sides; the top sash can be lowered, the bottom sash can be raised.

Drain cock: A faucet-like device that is turned to allow liquid to drain.

Drain (or disposal) field: A system of underground drain pipe in a private sewer disposal system which is connected to a septic tank through a distribution box.

Drive belt: The flexible V-belt which transfers power between motors and driven devices (see blower belt).

Drywall: Generic term for gypsum board used in place of lath and plaster to cover walls; Sheetrock is a brand name. May also be called wallboard or plasterboard.

Drywall tape: Narrow strips used, – along with joint compound, to finish joints in sections of drywall; may be made of paper or perforated paper without adhesive, or of fiberglass with adhesive backing.

Drywell: A device used to catch and hold water; may be a metal drum sunken into the ground, filled with rocks, and connected to drains to collect rainwater runoff.

Electrical conduit: Metal pathways that carry electric wires; may be greenfield (also known as flexible metal conduit), electric metallic tubing conduit (EMT), or BX cable (also known as armored cable, Type A.C.)

Electronic ignition: In a furnace, an electronic device which provides a direct spark to the main burner, eliminating the need for a pilot burner.

Emery cloth: Has emery abrasive, a natural mineral, on cloth backing; used for rust removal or for sanding metal.

Expansion nozzle: Another term for a hydraulic drain opener, a balloon-type device which connects to a garden hose and is inserted into clogged drains.

Faceplate: The metal plate surrounding the latchbolt that is inset into the door on the latch side.

Feathering: Gradual tapering of added material, such as drywall compound, over a distance so that changes in surface thickness are not noticeable.

Flat-wire plug: Electrical plug designed to accept wires that are flat, as opposed to wires that are round.

Float valve: A valve that opens and closes to keep water at a specific level in a container; generally actuated by the up-and-down movement of a float on the water’s surface.

Flywheel: A wheel of sufficient mass attached to a shaft to help provide continuous momentum.

Forced-air furnace: A furnace which heats and distributes air to the home using a fan to draw cooled air from the rooms through cold-air ductwork to the furnace heating chamber, and back to rooms through hot-air ducts.

Four-way switch: Used in combination with three-way switches when power must be turned on and off from more than two locations.

Fuse box: Term for main service panel that houses the main switches and branch circuits protected by fuses; if circuits become overloaded, a fuse burns out to interrupt electrical flow to that circuit (see circuit breaker pane!).

Glider window: Windows that can be opened and closed by sliding sections horizontally.

Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI): Special receptacle or circuit breaker which detects current flow changes and quickly shuts off before shocks can occur; used in circuits supplying power to outlets in baths, kitchens, laundry rooms, or outdoors.

Gypsum board: A term used for wallboard (see drywall).

Hard-wired: Electrical-powered device which is wired directly into the electrical system of the home, as opposed to one that draws power from a plugged-in power cord or batteries.

Jalousie window: Consists of several narrow horizontal glass sections that pivot in unison for either opening or closing when a hand crank is turned.

Joists: Horizontal wood members that support either floors or ceilings.

Kilowatt: Equal to 1,000 watts; watts divided by 1,000 equals kilowatts. One kilowatt working for one hour equals one kilowatt-hour (kwh).

Media pad: In a home humidifier, the thin, fibrous material that picks up water to be evaporated; may be a smaller pad wrapped around a wheel framework in a central humidifier, or a larger, wider pad humidifier running over rollers in a portable.

Media wheel: In a home humidifier, the wheel-shaped framework that holds the media pad material in place (see media pad).

0-ring: Rubberbandlike ring, generally round in cross-section, which fits between two components to provide a seal.

Octopus plug: A special plug that allows several more plugs to be inserted; its use is ordinarily not recommended by safety specialists and electricians.

Oil heating system: System employing a furnace or stove that burns fuel oil; may be a forced-air system with a blower or a system that depends on the rise of warm air.

Packing nut: A nut with an interior recess that accepts packing material to help seal in a liquid, such as water or oil.

Pilot burner: Small flame that ignites a flame in main burners when fuel is turned on in appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, or kitchen ranges.

Plumber’s friend: Plunger with rubber cup on the end of a wooden handle, used to unclog fixture drains by vigorously moving up and down.

Plumbing fixture: A receptacle, such as a sink, basin, or toilet, that is connected to the plumbing system and collects and retains water or wastes for discharge.

Plumbing stack: Main vent into which all fixtures drain; it is also the vent pipe which emerges through the roof of the house.

Plumbing trap: Special curved fitting needed under all fixtures except toilets to prevent sewer gas from entering the home. Toilets have built-in traps.

Pressure-reducing valves: Special valves that reduce pressure sometimes employed in homes to lower pressure from water mains for use inside the home.

Quick-connect plug: Electrical plug connected by inserting the wires, with spikes making contact between the prongs of the plug and the wires.

Rafters: Sloping wooden members that support the roof of a home.

Receptacle: In electrical systems, outlets within electrical boxes mostly in walls and floors that accept plugs; the most common are those with openings for two plugs, called duplex receptacles; also sometimes referred to as plug-ins.

Replacement plug: Electrical plug, available in several varieties, designed to replace original plugs or other replacement plugs that have become defective.

Roof louvers: Series of slanted slots allowing for ventilation while repelling rain.

Roof vents: Openings that allow attic air to exit through the roof; may be assisted by power fans or wind-assisted turbine devices over the vent. Ridge vents are no mechanical vents installed along the roof ridge.

Romex: Non-metallic-sheathed electrical cable which can be used without metal raceways (see electrical conduit).

Round-cord plug: Electrical plug designed to accept wires that are round instead of flat.

Seat wrench: A special L-shaped tool used to remove a faucet seat; the seat mates with a washer fastened to the handle stem that is turned to close off the water supply.

Set-back thermostats: Programmable thermostats which save energy by automatically dropping the temperature setting for specific periods during heating seasons, or by raising the temperature settings during certain periods during the cooling season.

Sheeftock: Brand name for wallboard (see drywall).

Shims: Narrow strips of wood or other material used to increase thickness; common wood shims used in homes are thin at one end and thicker at the other, and are driven between adjoining wood members.

Single-pole switch: A switch that turns power on and off from only one point.

Soffit vents: Openings within the soffits (the underside of the roof overhang on the outside of the home).

Solenoid: Electronic device that moves on command to allow, for example, the opening and closing of valves.

Spiraled auger: A flexible “plumber’s snake” often made of coiled spring material with its working end configured in spiraling, hooklike manner.

Spline: Slotted grooves, usually on a shaft, designed to accept a second part with corresponding ridges and slots.

Strikeplate: The metal plate used around the hole in the doorjamb that accepts the latchbolt of a door lockset.

Subflooring: First layer of flooring material which lies directly over the floor joints; may be diagonal rough boards or plywood.

Sump pump: An electrically powered pump which is positioned in a “sump” or hole to pump out collected water when it reaches a certain level.

Temperature-pressure relief valve: Special valve used on water heaters that automatically opens before an increase in temperature or pressure could cause an explosion.

Terminal clips: Clips that are flat in configuration and that slip over prongs to make an electrical connection.

Three-way switch: Switch used in pairs to switch power on and off from two different locations.

Tilt-turn window: Newer style which tilts in at the top to provide ventilation and can turn a full 1800 for easy cleaning.

Trip lever: Device used to initiate operation of mechanisms (such as the handle on the tank of a toilet) that begins the flushing operation when pushed.

Tubular lockset: Mostly used in interior doors. May have a push button in its knob or a small lever or button on its interior side.

Underwriter’s knot: A special knot used when replacing plugs or cords (where space allows) to help reduce tension on wires connected to screw terminals.

Volt: Unit of measure for electrical pressure; volts times amperes equals watts or, expressed differently, (pressure) times (current flow) equals power.

Water-mixing valve: A device that mixes hot and cold water to produce water of specific temperatures.

Water-resistant gypsum board: Drywall sheets with a water-resistant paper wrapper for use in areas of high humidity.

Watt: Unit of measure for electrical energy. One ampere of current flow at a pressure of one volt equals one watt of electrical energy (see ampere and volt).

X-bridging: The wood or metal braces used between joists to brace one joist to the next to prevent twisting.