How Much Do You Know About Home Construction?

By: Bambi Turner

What word do construction pros use to describe ground level?

Contractors use the term grade when referring to ground level. That means footers are installed below grade - underground - while all the windows in the house are above grade. The term grading also refers to the process of bringing the earth on the site to the desired slope or level before building a home. Grading is the first step in the home construction process.

Which of these is the most common roofing material used on homes in the U.S.?

There's a reason asphalt shingles are the most commonly-used roofing material for homes - they're among the cheapest roof finishes available, but still last for decades when properly installed and maintained. Unlike clay tiles and metal roofs, they are also fairly easy to install.

What material is typically installed directly over the exterior wall framing of a house?

After framing up a home, the next step in construction involves installing wall sheathing. This consists of screwing sheets of plywood or similar sheet wood over the framed walls to add structural support. The sheathing is then covered with building paper or some form of moisture barrier.

Which material is the most common siding used on U.S. homes?

Vinyl siding is the most popular siding finish for American homes. According to the U.S. Census Survey of Housing Materials, around 27 percent of all homes are covered in vinyl. Many builders and homeowners choose this finish because it is affordable, easy to work with, and fairly durable and long-lasting.

Which of these areas always requires fire-rated drywall, according to the National Residential Code?

The National Residential Code requires builders to use fire-rated drywall when constructing a garage. This drywall, which is designed to slow the spread of fire, must be installed in walls that separate the garage from the home. It may also be required at utility and furnace rooms.

What shape forms a standard roof truss?

While specialty versions are available, a standard roof truss features a triangular shape. Builders often turn to these pre-fabricated roof trusses instead of framing the roof on-site to save time and money when constructing a home.

What material is typically installed between a subfloor and a finished floor material?

Plywood or OSB sheets installed over floor joists form a subfloor. Before installing the finished floor, builders must add an underlayment. This could include anything from tar paper to plastic sheeting to specialty products designed to work with a specific floor finish.

Which of these water heater capacities would best suit the average four person family?

No modern house is complete without plenty of hot water for showers, laundry and other functions. While an undersized water heater will result in some cold showers, an oversized unit wastes money and energy. When building a home for the typical family of four, plan on a water heater rated at 50 to 60 gallons.

When it comes to insulation, which of these is another word for batt?

Fiberglass batts, or blankets, are the most affordable and most common type of insulation used in the home. Batts can also be made from mineral wool or even recycled cotton.

Which of these materials is the most effective insulator?

Insulation reduces thermal transfer between the interior and exterior of the home. Materials with a higher R-value have higher thermal resistance, and are more effective insulators. Spray foam is the most effective of these materials, with an R-value of 5.9 per inch, better than that of fiberglass batts, loose fill fiberglass, cellulose and polystyrene sheets, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Which of these locales is ideal for a slab on grade foundation?

A slab on grade is one of the cheapest and simplest types of home foundations. This type of foundation works best on a lot with little to no slope in an area where the ground doesn't freeze - making a flat lot in Southern California an ideal spot for this design.

Which of these materials does a mason spend most of his time working with?

Generally, home construction is a team exercise, with a general contractor guiding groups of specialty tradesmen known as subcontractors. The masonry subcontractor will handle most tasks related to brick, block, concrete and stone, including things like the foundation and flatwork on the site.

Which of these roofing materials would be expected to have the longest life on average?

Want a roof that will endure through the entire lifetime of the home, long after you move out? Try slate, which can last a century or more. Other long-lasting roof finishes include clay or concrete tiles, which also have a life approaching 100 years.

About how far are studs placed when framing the walls in a home?

Most residential building codes require contractors to place studs 16 to 24 inches apart on center - that means you measure from the center of one stud to the center of the adjacent one. Studs might consist of metal lumber or light-gauge metal framing.

Which of these home components connects exterior walls to the edges of the roof?

A soffit is the part of the home that sits between the edge of the roof and the exterior walls. It is parallel to the ground and is often made of vinyl in a matching or complementary color to the home's siding.

How many amps are in a standard circuit in a home electrical panel in the U.S.?

Each circuit breaker you see in your electrical panel is powered at between 15 and 20 amps. That means each is designed to support between 1,800 and 2,400 watts. This information can help builders plan electrical loads to meet the demands of the homeowners.

What is the first part of the home that is usually inspected when building a typical home?

Successful home builders know that there is no getting around local inspection requirements. Generally, builders must call in the inspector when the foundation is complete to perform the first inspection of the home. Later inspections are focused on framing, mechanical and plumbing rough-ins, and then a final inspection when the house is near completion.

How large is a standard sheet of drywall?

A standard sheet of drywall measures 4 by 8 feet. This information is useful for contractors when planning for the project and ordering materials.

What does the I in SIP stand for?

Structural insulated panels, or SIPs, are a modern construction material that replace traditional wall framing, sheathing and insulation. The SIP takes the place of all three of these materials, serving as the exterior framing for the home.

What name describes a wall that supports a load other than its own weight?

A bearing wall is one that supports a load other than its own weight. It typically is installed perpendicular to the floor joists, though not all walls with this orientation are necessarily load-bearing.

How much roof area can you cover with one bundle of shingles?

Roofing shingles are sold by the bundle, with one bundle covering around 33 square feet. Roofing is generally measured by the square - an area equal to 100 square feet - so you'll need three bundles for each square of roof area.

Where in the home should you plan to install p-traps?

A p-trap is that u-shaped pipe you see at each toilet and sink in a home. Builders must install one of these at each plumbing fixture to prevent dangerous sewer gases from entering the living space of the home.

Which of these is aggregate used to make?

Aggregate, a composite material made of sand and gravel, is an important ingredient found in concrete. When mixed with cement and water at the correct ratios, it creates an incredibly strong and durable material for footers, foundations, garage floors and exterior pathways.

Which of these units is used to measure lumber?

It takes a lot of lumber to build a typical house, and professionals contractors know that this lumber must be ordered in terms of board feet. One board foot is equal to a volume of lumber measuring 144 cubic inches, or 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch.

What is the minimum height of an egress window in a basement bedroom?

Planning to add bedrooms to that basement? Better plan an egress window if you want to meet code. Each bedroom below grade requires an escape window measuring 24 inches tall and 20 inches wide at a minimum, with a total minimum area of 5.7 square feet. The bottom of the window can't be any higher than 44 inches above the floor.

Which of these home fixtures typically requires a damper?

Dampers control the flow of air, particularly in applications involving heat. When constructing a home, plan to add dampers to stoves, furnaces and fireplaces.

Which of these is a septic tank used as an alternative to?

In many homes, waste flows out of the house via a municipal sewer connection, where it is taken to a wastewater treatment plant for processing. In homes with no connection to the sewer system, this waste is eliminated into a septic tank, where it then drains slowly into the earth in an area known as a leach field.

What is the actual size of a piece of lumber marked 2x4?

Lumber is sold using the nominal size, but because it shrinks when it is dried and planed, it actually measures slightly smaller when you buy it from your local lumber yard. A 2x4, for instance, actually measures 1.5 by 3.5.

What does the V in HVAC stand for?

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning is a critical part of building a home. While heating and air conditioning obviously help keep the home at a comfortable temperature, ventilation does a number of things - from bringing in fresh air to regulating humidity.

Where would you be most likely to install a chair rail?

Despite its name, chair rail isn't actually a part of the furniture. Instead it's a type of trim installed on the wall. It's typically installed a few feet above the floor - right where the backs of chairs tend to damage the wall when pushed against it. The chair rail not only adds visual appeal, but also protects the wall from damage.

Which of these terms is used to describe the diagonal supports on either side of a staircase?

Stringers form the structural support of a staircase, rising diagonally along either side of the treads. Risers are the vertical sections between each step, while nosings can be found on the front of each tread.

What name describes sheets of metal used to seal roof penetrations?

Roof penetrations can allow water to leak into the home, resulting in property damage and even mold. Thin metal sheets known as flashing can be used to seal penetrations around chimneys, vents and other elements, and may be made from aluminum, copper, stainless steel or other metals.

Which of these serves as a transition between one room and the adjacent one?

Thresholds serve as transition between adjacent rooms. They are installed along the floor, and can be made of anything from metal to marble.

Which of these tools is the best option for cutting crown molding?

Crown molding is a type of trim installed where the ceiling meets the top of a wall. It adds visual interest and depth to a room. To make one section of crown line up with the next, the pieces must be cut at the correct angles, which requires the help of a compound miter saw.

Which of these is a list of "to-do's" given to the contractor when the house is nearing final completion?

As the home construction nears completion, the architect or the homeowners himself will walk through and note areas which aren't complete or need touching up. These items are compiled on a document known as a punch list, which guides the home builder through the completion of the project.

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About This Quiz

Do you know what you might want to use a truss for, or which materials are the most effective forms of insulation for small spaces? Think you know the code related to fire-rated drywall, or what size egress window you need in a basement bedroom? Take our quiz to test your home construction knowledge and find out if a career in the building field is right for you!

Many men and women who end up building homes for a living do so to take advantage of certain natural skills and interests, including experience with carpentry or tools, a desire to work with their hands and a passion for working outside of the boring office environment. Yet many quickly learn that home construction requires so much more than the ability to actually construct things or puzzle out a tricky installation.

A good home builder is essentially a jack of all trades, and must understand the basics about every single system required in a home - from plumbing and electrical to heating and cooling to structural support, humidity and moisture control, and everything in between. They must understand which type of foundation or framing works best on a specific piece of property, which insulation will keep occupants comfortable all year long, and whether alternative materials could work better than standard stick framing in some cases.

Yet for all that knowledge and hard work, the home builder is rewarded with watching his or her creations come to life in the form of a house, which will one day house a family. Thing you've got what it takes to master this industry? Prove it with this quiz!

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