adobe. Unburnt brick dried in the sun, commonly used for building in the American Southwest, Spain and Latin America. Usually covered with stucco in homes.
arch. Curved structure supporting the weight of material over an open space such as a bridge or doorway.
atrium. Inner courtyard of a home or other building that is open to the sky or covered by a skylight.
balcony. A platform projecting from a wall, enclosed by a railing or balustrade, supported on brackets or cantilevered out.
bay, bow and oriel windows. These windows project out from the front or side of a house. Oriel windows generally project from an upper story, supported by a bracket. Bay windows are angled projections that rise up from the ground on the first floor. Bow windows are rounded projections, often formed of the window glass itself.
buttress. Brick or masonary structure built againt a wall to add reinforcement.
cantilever. Beam or structure supported at one end only.
capital. The head or crowning feature of a column.
casement window. A metal or wooden window that opens outward or inward.
castellated. Decorated with battlements (a parapet with alternating indentations and raised portions); also called crenellation. Buildings with battlements are usually brick or stone.
cement. Bonding agent used with sand to produce an adhesive mixture.
canopy. A projection or hood over a door, window, niche, etc.
cladding. Thin layer of external covering on a building.
clapboard. Overlapping horizontal boards that cover the timber-framed wall of a house.
clerestory window. A window (usually narrow) placed in the upper walls of a room, usually at an angle, to provide extra light.
cloister. Covered walk within a monastery or nunnery often looking onto a courtyard.
colonnade. Row of columns supporting arches or entablature.
column. Round or polygonal vertical structure supporting part of a building.
concrete. Building material composing cement, sand, stones and water - used since Roman times.
corinthian column. In classical architecture, a column decorated at the top with a mixed bag of curlicues, scrolls and other lavish ornamentation.
cornice. Any projecting ornamental molding that finishes or crowns the top of a building, wall, arch, etc.
cupola. A dome, especially a small dome on a circular or polygonal base crowning a roof or turret. Usually only decorative in modern homes. Older cupolas can be reached by stairs.
curtain wall. Light weight wall, non-load bearing and hung from a frame.
dome. An arched roof or ceiling of even curvature erected on a circular or square base. Domes can be segmented, semicircular, pointed or bulbous. Often decorated with stained or painted glass. Adds light, color and drama to a room or foyer.
doric column. A Greek-style column with only a simple decoration around the top, usually a smooth or slightly rounded band of wood, stone or plaster.
dormer window. A window placed vertically in a sloping roof that has a tiny roof of its own. Most often seen in second-floor bedrooms.
eaves. The underpart of a sloping roof overhanging a wall.
emblature. beam mounted on top a column.
facing. A covering applied to the outer surface of a building.
fanlight. A window, often semicircular, with radiating glazing bars suggesting a fan that is placed over a door.
finial. A formal ornament at the top of a canopy, gable, pinnacle, etc., usually in the general shape of a fleur-de-lis.
fluting. Shallow, concave grooves running vertically on the shaft of a column, pilaster or other surface.
foyer. The entrance hall of a home.
french door. A tall casement window that reaches to the floor and opens like a door. It is a popular accent that brings more light into a home.
frieze. A decorated band along the upper part of an interior wall.
gable. The triangular upper portion of a wall at the end of a pitched roof. It typically has straight sides, but there are many variations.
gargoyle. Roof mounted spout directing rainwater away from the wall - usually found in Gothic architecture.
gazebo. A small lookout tower or summerhouse with a view, usually in a garden or park, but sometimes on the porch or roof of a house; also called a belvedere.
geodesic dome. A building that features a lightweight, domed frame covered with wood, plywood, glass or aluminum. Created as a way to provide a cheap and effective shelter that can be built quickly and covers a large area.
gothic. Style incorporating pointed arches, vaulted ceilings and large windows.
ha-ha. Sunken boundary permitting unobstructed view beyond a garden.
half-timbering. A method of construction featuring walls built of timber framework with the spaces filled in by plaster or brickwork. Often, some of the exposed planks are laid at an angle to create a pattern. In modern homes, half-timbering is usually not authentic, used only as decoration in small areas.
header. A brick laid in a wall so that only its end appears on the face of the wall. To add a varied appearance to brickwork, headers are alternated with "stretchers," bricks laid full length on their sides.
herringbone work. Stone, brick or tile work in which the components are laid diagonally instead of horizontally, forming a distinctive zigzag pattern along a wall face.
hipped roof. A roof with sloped instead of vertical ends.
ionic column. A Greek-style column topped by a single scroll just below the top.
lattice window. A window with diamond-shaped leaded lights or glazing bars arranged like an openwork screen; also, loosely, any hinged window, as distinct from a sash window.
lintel. A horizontal beam or stone bridging an opening, most often a door.
log-construction. A form of timber construction in which walls are made of tree trunks (or logs planed down to create flat or rounded sides) that are laid horizontally on top of each another.
loggia. A gallery open on one or more sides, sometimes pillared. It may also be a separate structure, usually in a garden.
mansard ro. The wood, brick, stone or marble frame surrounding a fireplace, sometimes including a mirror above.
mezzanine. A upper, balconyed, floor that looks out onto an inner couryard.
minaret. Slender tower attached to a Mosque.
mullion. A vertical post or other upright that divides a window or other opening into two or more panes. Sometimes only ornamental.
niche. A recess in a wall (interior or exterior), especially for a statue. Usually curved at the back.
order. Classical classification of column: doric, ionic, corinthian, tuscan, composite.
palladian window. A window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the others.
parapet. A low wall placed to protect any spot where there's a sudden drop, such as at the edge of a bridge or housetop.
patio. Paved recreation area, usually at the rear of a home.
pedestal. In classical architecture, the base supporting a column or colonnade.
pediment. In classical architecture, a low-pitched gable above a portico; also a similar feature above doors in homes. It may be straight or curved, "broken'' in the center, or solid.
penthouse. A separately roofed structure on the top of a tall block of apartments/condominiums, or simply the top-floor unit in a residential high-rise.
pergola. A covered walk in a garden, usually formed by a double row of posts or pillars with joists above and covered by climbing plants.
peristyle. Range of columns surrounding a building or courtyard.
pilaster. A shallow pier or a rectangular column projecting only slightly from a wall. Primarily decorative.
porch. The roofed entrance to a house.
portico. A roofed entrance to a house that is columned like a temple front. Porch with pediment and columns.
precast concrete. Concrete components cast in a factory or on site before being placed in position.
prefabrication. The manufacture of whole buildings or components cast in a factory or on site before being placed in position.
prestressed concrete. A development of ordinary reinforced concrete. The reinforcing steel is replaced by wire cables in ducts.
quoins. The dressed stones at the corners of buildings, usually laid so their faces are alternately large and small. Usually in contrasting color of brick from the rest of the wall. Common accent in Georgian homes.
reinforced concrete. Steel rods are inserted in concrete beams to help them withstand longitudinal stress without collapsing. This development has allowed the construction of very large structures using concrete beams.
rustication. Masonry cut in massive blocks separated by deep joints, used to give a rich, bold texture to an outside wall. Common in Romanesque homes. Effect sometimes simulated in stucco and other building materials.
sash window. A window formed with sashes, or sliding frames running in vertical grooves.
shutters. Window or door screens featuring horizontal slats that may be articulated, allowing control over air and light transmission. They are usually made of wood. While they may be hinged, modern exterior shutters are often decorative and remain fixed to the wall alongside the window or door opening.
sill. The lower horizontal part of a window frame. Materials vary widely, from wood to marble.
skylight. A window set into a roof or ceiling to provide extra lighting. Sizes, shapes and placement vary widely.
soffit. The underside of any architectural element (as of an overhang or staircase). In modern homes, the wood or metal screening used to cover such areas.
stanchion. A vertical supporting beam, nowadays mainly of steel.
strut. A roof timber, either upright and connected to the rafter above it, or sloping, connecting another post to the rafter.
stucco. A sturdy type of plaster used on exterior walls; often spread in a decorative pattern.
studs. Smaller upright beams in a house, to which drywall panels or laths for plaster are attached.
terrace. A level promenade in front of a building; usually made of stone and accented with plants, statuary, etc.
thatch. A roof covering of straw, reeds or even living grass. In modern homes, most "thatching'' is only decorative, simulated with shingles.
thermal windows. Windows designed with multiple panes to trap air and provide greater insulation.
tie-beam. The main horizontal beam in a roof, connecting the bases of the rafters, usually just above a wall.
transom. Small, usually rectangular or fanlight window over a door. Some transoms open to cross-ventilate a home, while others are only decorative.
trim. The framing or edging of openings and other features on the facade of a building or indoors. Trim is usually a different color or material than the adjacent wall.
truss. A number of wood planks framed together to bridge a space, such as a roof truss.
turret. A very small, slender tower. In modern homes, usually only ornamental.
vault. Arched ceiling or roof built of stone or bricks.
widow's walk. A small, railed observation platform atop a house. Once used to scout for seamen, such walks are usually square, done in elaborately-worked wrought iron or wood.