Restoration Glossary

Term Definition

The term saltbox is used to describe a particular roof shape common during the seventeenth century in New England. Saltbox houses were 1 ½ to two stories tall with a one-story shed addition off the back. An efficient way to add more space, the rear gable roof plane was simply extended across the shed addition at the rear, creating the “saltbox” shape, so named because of the similarity in shape to wooden lidded boxes used to hold salt. In the south, saltbox houses are also referred to as catslides.

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A sash is used to describe the portion of a window consisting of the frame holding the glass panes, as opposed to the window frame proper which holds the sash and fits into the wall. Sash may be fixed or movable, and hung in different configurations such as: sliding or swinging casements; double hung; or single fixed.

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The minimum open space to be provided between the front line of a building or structure and the front lot line
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Sheathing generally refers to the heavy, rough boards that cover the timber frame of a mid-eighteenth through early-twentieth century house and to which the exterior siding is attached. Today, Plywood, introduced in the 1920s, is used for sheathing in house construction. Sheathing, which can be attached to the frame diagonally, but most often runs vertically on the wall, stiffens the frame and provides additional protection against wind and water infiltration.

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Shed Roof

A shed roof, also referred to as a lean-to, is a roof defined by its single face sloping down in one direction. It is generally the least expensive and easiest type of roof to build. For this reason it was often used for sheds. 

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Shingles are a type of exterior sheathing used both on roofs and as a siding material. Shingles may be made out of a number of materials including wood, slate, asphalt, vinyl, or asbestos (note asbestos shingles were common during the early twentieth century but are no longer manufactured).

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Siding is the material used to cover the exterior of a house. Clapboards and shingles are the most common wooden materials used for siding. Many variations in the dimensions and applications of wood siding are possible, including shiplap, tongue-and-groove, drop (or novelty), flushboard (both horizontal and vertical), and board-and-batten.

Historically, the materials used for clapboards included cedar, oak, white pine, redwood and Douglas fir. Most clapboards today are of western red cedar. Shingles have historically been produced from white and red cedar and cypress. 

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A finely-grained, foliated rock, native to Pennsylvania, Vermont, and New York, and found in many colors. Slate has been used to roof buildings in the United States since the colonial era.

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A soffit is the underside of an overhanging roof.

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Spalling is a word used to describe a form of masonry or brick deterioration in which exterior portions of the material break away from the surface. This type of deterioration has several causes, including when moisture trapped inside the masonry unit expands and contracts due to freeze/thaw cycles, or by salt crystals wicked into walls when dissolved in water. Spalling may also occur as a result of mortar that is harder that the brick or stones set in it. Any movement in the wall (from vibration, thermal expansion or settling) causes failure in the weaker brick or stone instead of the mortar. For this reason, it is critical when re-pointing a historic masonry wall that a soft lime mortar be used. It is easier to re-point a building than to replace failed bricks or stone.

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Stain is an alternative coating material to paint for finishing and protecting exterior siding on a house. Solid-color stain is the typical material used over new siding and in new construction today, and, because it is easier to re-coat than paint and requires less exacting surface preparation, is an appealing alternative for old house owners. However, the use of solid-color stains, which are basically thinned-down paints, may not be compatible on previously-painted wood surfaces.

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A plaster used as a coating for walls and ceilings, and often used for decoration; it is common to many parts of the world, particularly to the Mediterranean region and to the regions of the United States once colonized by Spain.

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The studs in the house frame are those upright pieces of the framing that run between the sills, at the ground floor framing, girts, the horizontal framing members at the midway point of a two-story house, and the plate, the topmost horizontal framing member at the roof line. Studs, usually spaced sixteen inches apart (or with their centers 16 inches apart) make up the structure of the wall to which wallboard, or historically, paneling or lath and plaster, is applied.

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