Outdoor Living Terms

Arbor- A vertical structure in a landscape that can provide shelter, privacy, or act as an accent. It can also blend or separate different garden areas, direct traffic, and support plants. An arbor can be attached to a residence or freestanding. While similar in structure, an arbor is major, while a trellis is smaller and more delicate. Arbors can be made from wood or wrought iron, and can be made or bought at a garden center or an online catalog.

Balcony- A balcony is a platform projecting from the interior or exterior wall of a building, usually enclosed for privacy and protection by a rail.

Baluster- One of a series of vertical supports used between posts of a railing. Also called a spindle.

Balustrade- A baluster is a railing supported by baluster posts. A baluster is the single, vertical post that can be made of wood, iron, or other material; the balustrade is several balusters spaced evenly and connected together.

Beams- The horizontal boards that are attached to the post to help carry the weight.

Box Sill- In a building frame it is composed of a plate resting on the basement wall and a joist or header at the outer edge of the plate, as well as a soleplate for the studs resting either directly on the joists or on the rough flooring.

Building Codes- Regulations detailing accepted materials and methods of building, such as the size of the deck, setback distances, railing and stair construction, footing depths, fastening methods, lumber types for certain deck components and fence or screen height around the deck. Usually adopted by city, county, or state building departments; most counties have local building codes.

Cabana- a cabin, hut, or shelter, especially one at a beach or swimming pool.

Cantilever- A construction method that involves extending the joists beyond the support beam or the support beam beyond the posts.

Cap Rail- The top horizontal piece of a railing, usually placed to give it a finished appearance.

Casita- In the Spanish language, ‘casa’ means ‘house,’ and ‘-ita’ is a diminutive suffix. Put it together, and casita basically means ‘little house.’ Casitas may also be referred to as auxiliary dwelling units, or ADUs.

Composite Decking- Deck boards manufactured from wood fiber and plastic to form a profile which requires less maintenance and generally has a longer lifespan than natural wood.

Concentrated Load- The application of a relatively large force on a relatively small area.

Courtyard Patio- A courtyard patio has walls on at least three sides and provide seclusion and privacy, even if is positioned in the center of a house. Historically, some of the oldest patios are courtyards. Location-wise, a courtyard or courtyard patio is directly adjacent to the house. It can also be an intimate enclosure situated within a larger yard or garden.

Dead Load- The weight of the structure itself, which includes the plank system, support structure and any railings, built-in benches and other permanent features.

Deck- an open area of wood flooring that can abut a house or be detached and tucked into a remote section of a property.

Decking- The boards that span the area over the joists and form the deck floor.

Expansion and Contraction- Boards expand when they heat up and contract when they cool down. Must be accounted for when spacing deck boards.

Fascia- The boards used to cover rim joists and end joists. Also called “skirt.”

Fasteners- Generic term for nails, bolts, screws and other connecting devices.

Footing- The below-ground support of a deck’s post, usually made from concrete.

Foundation- Either a concrete pad or post installed on footers.

Furring Boards- Long thin strips of wood used to make existing surfaces support the finished surface, in this case the deck.

Gazebo- It’s a structure typically used in a yard or an outdoor area. Discover what it is and if it might be the right thing for your yard.

Grade- A designation given to lumber indicating the amount of flaws and knots typically found in the wood. Example: construction common (aka con-common) is a grade of redwood containing sapwood; construction-heart (con-heart) contains virtually no knots or blemishes. Inset: An area of a deck that has been cut out to accommodate decorative and landscape elements such as trees and firepits.

Handrails- The horizontal boards that provide safety.

Joist Hanger- A pre-manufactured metal piece typically attached to a ledger or beam to support a joist. Joist hangers should be galvanized.

Joists- Horizontal framing members that support decking; a system of sub-deck structural elements located directly beneath the deck boards, commonly using 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 lumber.

Lattice- Often seen in landscape design and outdoor structures, lattice is a framework of diagonally crossing flat wood or metal pieces.

Ledger- A length of board, that is horizontally attached to the side of a house and holds up one edge of a deck.

Linear Feet- The total length of required lumber. For example, three 8-foot-long 2x4s and four 6-foot-long 2x4s both would be described as 24 linear feet of 2x4s.

Live Load- The amount of weight a deck is designed to support. Most deck designs call for a live load of 60 pounds per square foot.

Low-Voltage Lighting- Commercially available lighting systems that use a transformer to reduce the needed electrical current.

Nominal Dimensions- The label given to a standard piece of lumber. For example, 2×4 is the name for a rough- cut piece of about 2×4 inches. It is then finished by planing and sometimes sanding it down to its actual dimensions (1 7/16″ x 3 1/2″).

On Center- A method of measuring distance between two structural members, such as joists, where you measure from the center of one member to the center of the other. The distance between the center of each joist, commonly 16″ or 24″. Joists spaced 16″ on center are actually 14-1/2″ apart.

Pavilion- A tent, especially a large and elaborate one or a small, ornamental building in a garden.

Pergola- an archway in a garden or park consisting of a framework covered with trained climbing or trailing plants.

Pier Block- A masonry post. Piers often serve as above-grade footings for posts and often are made of pre-cast concrete.

Post- The vertical structural element that rests on the footing and supports the beam.

Post Anchor- A metal piece attached to or imbedded in the footing that attaches the post to the footing and keeps the post from being exposed to moisture in the ground.

Post Cap- A small piece of material (often wood) attached to the top of the post to cover the post’s wood grain and protect the post from the weather. Can be made of many materials including metal, Injection-molded plastics, even decorative glass tops for round and square posts.

Pressure Treated Wood- Wood subjected to a high pressure treatment of chemicals as a preservative.

Rise- The vertical distance from one stair tread to another.

Riser- The vertical piece between two stair steps.

Run- Run is the depth of the step.

Shade Structure- A structure built above decks, usually of posts and lattice, to provide a shaded area on the deck.

Span- The distance between supports.

Staircase Landing- Usually part of the decking plan.

Stringers- The boards that support stairs.

Structural Integrity- A structure’s uncompromised ability to safely resist the required loads.

Sub-Structure- The deck construction that is located below, and supports the deck boards and railing system. Components include joists and hangers, ledgers, rim joists, beams, posts, anchors and footers.

Support Posts- 4 x 4 or 6 x 6 posts that are installed to support the weight of the deck.

Sunroom- a room with glass walls.

Tiki Bar- an exotic–themed drinking establishment that serves elaborate cocktails, especially rum-based mixed drinks such as the “mai tai” or “Zombie cocktail”.

Tiki Hut- A tiki hut is an outdoor structure that is popular in Polynesian countries. They are usually made with bamboo and palm fronds. You will also find tiki huts all around the world and they may be made with different materials like cedar or pine. They are usually larger than a tiki bar and used to sit under and stay out of the rain sun.

Treads- The top boards on a stair.

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