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Uncle Howard's Glossary of Barn and Barn Building Terms

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Allure - Walkway along the top of a wall.

Arcade - A series of arches supported on piers or columns.

Auger - Tool with a spiral cutting edge used for boring holes.


Back fill - The gravel or earth replaced in the space around a building wall after foundations are in place.

Backing - The bevel on the top edge of a hip rafter that allows the roofing board to fit the top of the rafter without leaving a triangular space between it and the lower side of the roof covering.

Bailey - The ward or courtyard inside castle walls, includes exercise area, parade ground, emergency corral.

Baluster - A small column.

Balustrade - A railing as along a path or stairway.

Barn Raising - An event in which a community comes together to assemble a barn for one or more of its households.

Baseboard - A board along the floor against walls and partitions to hide gaps.

Basilica Plan - A building plan in which a dominant nave is flanked by two or more side aisles. Dating back to Roman meeting halls, the form was adopted by early Christians and was later used in aisle barns.

Batten - A narrow board used to cover gaps between siding boards or sheathing; also used to brace and stiffen boards joined edge-to-edge as in a batten door.

Batten Cleat - A narrow strip of board fastening several pieces together.

Batten Door - A door made of sheathing and reinforced with strips of board nailed crosswise.

Bay - Any of a number of similar major vertical divisions of a large interior, wall, etc.

Beam - One of the principal horizontal timbers in a wood-framed building. Its primary function is to carry transverse loads such as floor joists or rafters.

Bird's Mouth - A cutout near the bottom of a rafter that fits over the rafter plate.

Bracket - A projecting support for shelves or other structures.

Break Joints - To arrange joints so that they do not come directly under or over the joints of adjoining pieces such as in shingling and siding.

Bressumer - Beam to support a projection, or a large horizontal beam.

Bridging - Pieces fitted in pairs from the bottom of one floor joist to the top of adjacent joints and crossed to distribute the floor load.

Board and Batten - A type of exterior siding or interior paneling that has alternating wide boards and narrow wooden strips, called battens.

Box stall - A walled enclosure in which an animal can move around untethered.

Bracket - Architectural support found under eaves or other overhangs.

Buttress - Wall projection for extra support; flying
             - narrow, arched bridge against the structure; pilaster
             - gradually recedes into the structure as it ascends.


Camber - To arch slightly; bend or curve upward in the middle.

Cantilever - A beam or other structure projecting from a wall and supporting an extension to a building, as on a cantilevered balcony or upper store.

Carriages - The supports or steps and risers of a flight of stairs.

Casement - A window in which the sash opens on hinges.

Chamfer - A beveled edge created by slicing off the square edge or corner of anything square.

Chevron - Zig-zag moulding.

Chord - The principal member of a truss on either the top or bottom.

Clearspan - The open distance between inside faces of support beams.

Collar beam - A horizontal board that connects opposite rafters to stiffen the roof frame.

Common Rafter - A rafter which runs square with the plate and extends to the ridge.

Concrete - An artificial building material made by mixing cement and sand with gravel, broken stone, or other aggregate plus sufficient water to cause the cement to set and bind the entire mass.

Cornice - Decorative projection along the top of a wall.

Cross Brace - Bracing with two intersecting diagonals. Also refers to the top surface of a piece of wood that has been cut at an angle to match an adjacent member.

Crownwork - Freestanding bastioned fortification in front of main defenses.

Cupola - A feature at the top of a roof, usually dome-shaped and opened by windows or columns.



Dead Load - A permanent load on a building or other structure which includes the weight of its structural members and the fixed loads they carry.

Diaphragm - Wall running up to the roof-ridge.

Dog-legged - With right-angled bends.

Dovetail Joint - A joint made by cutting pins the shape of dovetails which fit between dovetails onto another piece.

Drywall - A wall surface of plasterboard or material other than plaster.


Eave - A portion of a roof that projects beyond the walls.


Fascia - A flat member of a cornice or other finish. Generally the board of the cornice to which the gutter is fastened.

Floor joists - Framing pieces which rest on outer foundation walls and interior beams or girders.

Fluting - Concave mouldings in parallel.

Footing - An englargement at the lower end of a wall pier or column that distributes the load.

Frame - The timber skeleton of a building and the surrounding or enclosing woodwork of windows, doors, etc.

Freight-on-Board - A term used in shipping to refer to the place where the buyer becomes responsible for the shipment and the shipping charges.

Furring - Narrow strips of board nailed upon the walls and ceiling to form a straight surface upon which to lay the laths or other finish.


Gable - The triangular end of an exterior wall in a building with a ridged roof.

Gallery - Long passage or room.

Gambrel - A roof having a double slope on two sides of a building, the lower of which is steeper.

Girt - A horizontal beam that receives the ends of floor joists and summers in timber framing.

Groined - Roof with sharp edges at intersection of cross-vaults.


Hay door - A door near the top of a barn through which hay is loaded into the loft.

Hay drop - An opening through which hay is dropped, usually to the floor below.

Hay hood - An extension of the ridge of a barn roof which protects or supports pulley attachments used to load hay into the loft.

Header - A short joist into which the common joists are framed around or over an opening.

Headroom - The clear space between the floor and ceiling as in a stairway.


Impost - Wall bracket to support arch.


Jamb - Side posts of arch, door, or window.

Joggled - Keyed together by overlapping joints.

Joists - Any of the wood, steel, or concrete beams set parallel from wall to wall or across or abutting girders to support a floor or ceiling.


Kiln-dried - Wood that has been dried to resist warping, splitting and cracking.


Lattice - Laths or lines crossing to form a network.

Lean-to - A small addition with a single-pitched roof.

Live Load - The weight a building must bear due to the combination of furniture or other movable objects and people who occupy the building.

Louvre - An opening in a roof (sometimes topped with lantern) to allow smoke to escape from central hearth.


Miter - The joint formed by two abutting pieces meeting at an angle.

Monitor - A large structure rising above the surrounding roof planes, designed to give light and/or ventilation to the building interior.

Monolithic Slab - Foundation formed from or composed of a single material; seamless.

Mortise - A hole or recess cut in a piece of wood to receive a projecting part of another piece of wood that has been shaped to fit into it.

Mortised Joint - A joint made by cutting a hole or mortise in one piece and a tenon or piece to fit hte hole upon the other.

Mullion - Vertical division of windows.


Newel - Center post of spiral staircase.

Nookshaft - Shaft set in angle of jamb or pier.


On Center - A measurement term meaning a certain distance between like materials. Studs rafters, joists, and the like in a building placed at 16 inches OC will be laid out so that there is 16 inches from the center of one stud to the center of the next.


Parados - Low wall in inner side of main wall.

Parapet - Low wall on outer side of main wall.

Partition - A permanent interior wall that divides a building into rooms.

Pier - Support for arch, usually square.

Pilaster - Shallow pier used to buttress a wall.

Pinnacle - A relatively small, upright structure, commonly terminating in a gable, a pyramid, or a cone, rising above the roof or coping of a building, or capping a tower, buttress, or other projecting architectural member.

Pitch - Inclination or slope as for roofs or stairs

Plank Frame - An early style of house or barn frame in which 1 1/4"-2" thick oak planks, 12" - 15" wide were placed flat-sided about 2" apart into a rabbet on the exterior of the sill and plate. These plank studs extended two stories and were attached to the sill, girt, and plate with oak pins. Exterior siding was attached to these planks.

Plate - A beam capping the exterior posts or studs to support the rafters.

Plinth - Also called plinth course. a projecting course of stones at the base of a wall; earth table.

Post and Beam Construction - Wall construction in which beams are supported by heavy posts rather than many smaller studs.

Post Frame foundation - A foundation consisting of large posts that are placed on concrete pads and backfilled with dirt, gravel, or concrete. They provide support for timbers that support the roof and wall framing.

Purlin - A timber laid horizontally to support the common rafters of a roof.

Putlog - Beams placed in holes to support a hoarding; horizontal scaffold beam.


Queen post - Either of a pair of vertical posts set between the rafters and the base, or tie beam, of a truss at equal distances from the apex.

Quirk - V-shaped nick.


Rafter - Any of the boards that slope from the ridge of a roof to the eaves and serve to support the roof.

Rear-arch - Arch on the inner side of a wall.

Relieving arch - Arch built up in a wall to relieve thrust on another opening.

Rib - Raised moulding dividing a vault.

Ridgepole - The horizontal timber or beam at the ridge of a roof against which the upper ends of the rafters are set.

Riser - The vertical board between two treads of a flight of stairs.

Roofridge - Summit line of roof.

Rough Sawn - Lumber and timber that has not been planed.


Scappled - Cut to a smooth face.

Scarp - Slope on inner side of ditch.

Sheathing - Wallboards or roofing boards generally applied to narrow boards laid with a space between them according to the length of a shingle exposed to weather.

Sidewall - The exterior edge of the building, which is perpendicular to the main frames of the building.

Siding - Any of several varieties of weatherproof facing for frame buildings, composed of pieces attached separately as shingles, plain or shaped boards, or of various units of sheet metal or various types of composition materials.

Sill - Lower horizontal face of an opening.

Silo - An airtight tower in which green fodder is preserved.

Slab - Concrete floor placed directly on earth or a gravel base.

Sleeper - Lowest horizontal timber (or low wall).

Snow Load - The load induced by the weight of snow on the roof of the structure.

Span - The distance between the bearings of a timber or arch.

Squint - Observation hole in wall or room.

Stall - A compartment in a stable for one animal.

Strut - A brace under compression used to strengthen a framework.

Stud - Any of a number of upright pieces in the walls of a building to which panels, siding, laths, etc. are nailed.

Subfloor - A wood floor laid over the floor joists on which the finished floor is laid.


Tack room - A room near a stable in which a horse's equipment (such as saddles, bridles, etc.) is kept.

Tenon - A projection on the end of a piece of wood that has been cut to fit snugly into a socket or mortise in another.

Threshing floor - A floor or ground space for threshing or treading out grain, often the middle bay of the barn.

Threshing wall - A wall between the threshing floor and adjacent bay.

Threshold - The beveled piece over which the door swings.

Timber - Lumber with a cross section more than 4 by 6 inches such as posts, sills, and girders.

Tongue and Groove (T&G) - A joint in which a tongue or tenon in one board fits exactly into a groove in another.

Transom - Horizontal division of window; crossbar.

Tread - The horizontal part of a step.

Truss - A rigid framework of beams, girders, struts, bars, etc. for supporting a roof, bridge, etc.

Turret - Small tower, round or polygonal; usually a lookout.

Tympanum - Space between lintel and arch over doorway.


Undercroft - A vaulted room, sometimes underground, below an upper room such as a church or chapel.


Vault - An arched ceiling or roof of stone, brick or concrete, sometimes imitated in wood or plaster.

Vaulting Shaft - The vertical member leading to the springer of a vault.

Valley Rafter - Rafter extending from an inside angle of the plates toward the ridge or centerline of the building.

Velarium - An awning hung over a courtyard or, in ancient Rome, over an amphitheatre.

Veranda - An open gallery or balcony with a roof supported by light, typically metal, supports.

Verge Boards - The boards that serve as the eaves finish on the gable end of a building.

Vestibule - An entrance hall.

Vyse - A spiral staircase or a staircase winding around a central column.


Wainscoting - A wood paneling on interior walls, usually less than the height of the room.

Wale - A horizontal beam.

Wall-plate - Horizontal roof-timber on wall-top.

Weathering - Sloping surface to throw off rainwater.

Wicket - Person-sized door set into the main gate door.

Wind Load - The lateral pressure on a structure in pounds per square foot, due to wind blowing in any direction.

Wing - An addition that extends a main building.

Wing-wall - Wall downslope of motte to protect stairway.


Xystus - A long covered or open walk.


Yorkshire Lights - In a mullioned window, a pair of lights, one fixed and the other sliding horizontally.


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