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Architectural Terminology

Builders and Architects seem to have their own language. We banter about words like Architrave or Barge Board, while our clients get that glazed over look in their eyes. To help you the novice understand what your Builder or Architect is talking about, I have compiled a list of basic Architectural terms. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but it will help you keep up the next time your Builder says would you like a Coffered Ceiling in your dining room.

Architrave:

Is the lintel or beam that rest on the capitals of the columns.

Architrave

Ashlar:

Large blocks of masonry cut with even faces and square edges.

Ashlar

Atrium:

A large open space located within a building. Often several stories tall and having a glazed roof or large windows.

Atrium

Baluster:

This is basically the spindle either round or square that supports the handrail.

Baluster

Balustrade:

A railing composition composed of upper and lower rails, balusters and pedestals. Materials used can range from stone to brick, wood and metal.

Balustrade

Barge Board:

Is a board fastened to the projecting gables of a roof to give them strength, protection, and to conceal the exposed end of the horizontal timbers or purlins of the roof to which they were attached. Bargeboards are sometimes molded or carved, and can be very decorative.

Barge Board

Beam:

In construction terms a beam is a horizontal structural member that is designed to carry a load over an opening like a window or door. Can also be used to carry floor loads and roof loads. A typical house might have a beam running down the middle that the floor joist bears on.

Beam

Belt Course:

Also known as a stringcourse. A projecting horizontal molding separating parts of a wall surface in a façade.

Belt Course

Brackets:

Applied ornamental elements often used at a cornice or to flank windows and doors.

Brackets

Capital:

Forms the top most element of a column or pilaster.

Capital

Casement:

A single window sash hinged on one side that swings open.

Casement

Chimney Pot:

A decorative terra cotta chimney extension usually placed above a brick or stone chimney.

Chimney Pot

Clapboard:

One of a series of boards used for siding. It is usually installed horizontally and the board is most often tapered in cross-section.

Clapboard

Coffered Ceiling:

Is a series of sunken panels in the shape of a square, rectangle, or octagon on a ceiling, today these panels are typically used for decoration and are non structural.

Coffered Ceiling

Corinthian:

The most ornate and recent of the Greek classical order. The capital’s design is heavily ornamented.

Corinthian

Cornice:

From the Italian Meaning ledge is any horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or room. Can also be used over doors and windows.

Cornice

Cupola:

A small structure projecting above a roof that provides ventilation and can serve as a“look-out.”

Cupola

Doric:

The Doric order, the earliest type of classical Greek architecture, has a simple yet powerful capital design.

Doric

Dormer:

Is a structural element of a building that protrudes from the plane of a sloping roof surface. Dormers are used, either in original construction or as later additions, to create usable space in the roof of a building by adding headroom and usually also by enabling addition of windows.

Dormer

Double Hung Window:

A window with top and bottom sashes that slide past each other vertically.

Double Hung Window

Eaves:

The projecting overhang at the lower edge of a roof. The name applies to the whole assembly, not the individual pieces.

Eaves

Entablature:

The horizontal band of elements above the column capitals in classical architecture refers to a series of moldings and bands which lie horizontally above columns, resting on their capitals. Entablatures are major elements of classical architecture, and are commonly divided into the architrave, the supporting member immediately above the frieze, and the cornice.

Entablature

Façade:

The exterior faces of a building often used to refer to the wall in which the building entry is located.

Façade

Frieze:

The flat, middle portion of an entablature (sometimes decorated).

Frieze

Gable:

The wall that encloses the end of a gable roof; triangular gable end below a roof overhang.

Gable

Gambrel:

A roof shape characterized by a pair of shallow pitch slopes above a steeply pitched slope on each side of a center ridge.

Gambrel

Hip Roof:

A roof that slopes inward from all four exterior walls.

Hip Roof

Lintel:

Is a structural horizontal element that spans the opening between two vertical supports. It is typically a load-bearing building component, a decorative architectural element, or a combined ornamented structural item. It is often found over doors, windows, and fireplaces.

Lintel

Mansard:

A two-pitched roof with a steep lower slope that typically rises to a more gently sloped upper portion. The space formed by the mansard roof allows for additional living space.

Mansard

Parapet:

The portion of wall that projects above the adjacent roof. To hide the roof or to provide protection against falling.

Parapet

Pedestal:

(also known as a plinth) is a base or support that a column would sit on.

Parapet

Pediment:

The triangular gable end of a classical building, placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature, typically supported by columns. The pediment nowadays is typically used as a non-structural element over windows and doors.

Pediment

Pilaster:

These are basically columns that are used right against a wall. These columns are often very shallow in depth just protruding from the wall several inches. They have capitals on top as well as plinth base on bottom. Pilasters often appear on the sides of a door frame or window opening on the facade of a building, and are sometimes paired with columns set directly in front of them at some distance away from the wall, which support a roof structure above, such as a portico.

Pilaster

Porte-Cochere:

Is a porch like structure at the main entrance to the building that vehicles can pass under, in order for passengers to exit and enter the vehicles protected from the weather.

Porte-Cochere

Portico:

Is a porch leading to the entrance of a building, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls. The ancient Greeks used this style extensively.

Portico

Quoin:

A large rectangular block of stone or brick used to accentuate an outside corner of a building; typically in a toothed form with alternate quoins projecting and receding from the corner.

Quoin

Rake:

Runs along the gable end of the roof on a modern residential structure.

Rake

Sash:

The part of a window frame that holds the glazing, usually moveable or fixed.

Sash

Shed Roof:

A roof with a single slope and rafters spanning from one wall to the other.

Shed Roof

Transom:

A small window placed above a door or window.

Transom

Truss:

In regards to home building a truss is a premade roof element. Instead of site building a roof, truss manufactures can pre make the structural element and ship it to the job site. This is much faster and cheaper than can be made in the field.

Truss

Turret:

A small tower at the corner of a building.

Turret

Verge Board:

Decorative boarding (also called bargeboard) along a Projecting roof eave. It is often carved or scrolled, and is highly ornamental.

Verge Board

Volute:

Is a spiral or scroll like ornament, typically in residential architecture it refers to the spiral element at the end of a hand rail.

Volute