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Terms and Definitions at House Plans by Donald A Gardner Architects. Below is a list of frequently used terms, to assist in your house plan search and selection.  House Plan Terms & Definitions
Welcome to the Donald A. Gardner Architects Terms and Definitions page. Below is a list of frequently used terms, to assist in your house plan search and selection. Please select a category or choose "View All" to see all definitions in alphabetical order. You may also visit our Popular Questions section. If you need additional information not provided here, please Contact Us.



View All Terms Foundations Home Style Roof Terms Technical Terms Window Terms




Basement (Foundation) A basement has a slab bottom, and it uses steel or engineered wood members for floor framing. These members are stronger and span farther, eliminating the need for a lot of columns. This in turn opens up the basement and makes it functional.
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Crawl Space A crawl space foundation means an elevated first floor system that is usually high enough off of the ground to crawl beneath. Piers are made up of 8” x 16” blocks, and the foundation wall is made up of brick and 8” blocks. The foundation wall contains foundation vents, which allow air to circulate throughout the foundation so that moisture does not build up.
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Foundation Technically, the foundation is the part of a building that meets the ground, where all loads are transferred to the ground.
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Slab For a slab foundation, the site is leveled off, and a trench is dug around the perimeter of the home site. Gravel is then spread across the site, and concrete is poured approximately four inches thick over wire mesh and a moisture barrier. In areas of load bearing walls, trenches need to be dug to allow for additional thickness at this location. Slab foundations have no piers or floor joists, and the concrete slab is the floor system.
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Beach House Plans The beach house connotes one of two ideals - either the getaway beach cottage, or the luxury beach house. Beach home plans feature spaces for relaxation and vacation, but can also be primary residences. Many feature raised foundations. Whether you are searching for a quaint beach cottage or a luxurious beachside mansion, we offer beach house plans to suit your needs.
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Bungalow House Plans A derivative of the Craftsman style, the bungalow house plan typically features a compact footprint and a wide, covered front porch. At Donald A. Gardner Architects, our bungalow house plans take advantage of the space provided to create ample room for living in smaller floor plan spaces.
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Cabin Floor Plans Many home plans reflect a region, or at the very least, are more common in certain regions. The cabin house plan sometimes connotes the ideal of the getaway mountain home where residents commune with nature. We offer just that in our updated cabin floor plans!
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Cape Cod Home Plans With its historical roots in the Colonial era, the Cape Cod architectural style is a late 17th century style characterized by steep roofs with side gables, dormers and decorative shutters, and a symmetrical appearance with the front door in the center. Cape Cod homes typically have exteriors of wood and wide clapboard or shingles. Our Cape Cod house plans offer the charm of this time-tested style with updated floor plan layouts for the way modern families live.
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Coastal Home Plans Coastal home plans -- ranging from expansive beachside mansions to cozy waterfront cottages -- feature abundant windows to take in rear views and often include a raised foundation. Fortunately, regardless of which camp you're in - and especially if you're somewhere in the middle - we offer coastal house plans to satisfy your cravings for a beachside retreat.
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Colonial House Plans The Colonial house plan is a symmetrical, two-story home. The Colonial house plan draws much of its influence from the Italian Renaissance style, and typically has a symmetrical two-story front facade with an accented doorway, and evenly spaced windows on either side. The Colonial home plan typically employs elaborate front doors, often with decorative crown pediments and overhead fanlights and sidelights. Side porches or sunrooms are also common in a Colonial floor plan.
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Contemporary Home Plans Contemporary home plans embody a particular decade of popular architecture, with interesting exterior angles, skylights and creatively shaped and placed windows. Whether you're on a mountain slope or hillside, a beach lot or standard lot, contemporary house plans add unique character.
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Cottage House Plans Cottage house plans feature comfortable living spaces in a compact presentation. But cottage floor plans don't have to mean small houses! The traditional cottage house packs a lot of style and charm into a small footprint. Be it a year-round traditional cottage house or a vacation cottage, we offer a wide selection of cottage floor plans to accommodate your preferences.
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Country House Plans A typical country house plan includes a front porch, dormers and a roof line parallel to the street. Our country home plans include these classic elements combined with modern floor plans and up-to-date amenities. Country house plans may be ranch or two-story plans, and work equally well for rural or urban settings.
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Courtyard House Plans A courtyard house plan can provide privacy, a break from the frantic pace of everyday life, and a safe place for children to play. Whether it contains your garden, outdoor living areas, a summer kitchen, playground or pool, the courtyard floor plan has few limitations. A house plan with courtyard entry garage can also create the feel of a courtyard home. This popular option fits well on today's smaller lots.
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Craftsman Home Plans With roots in the American artistic movement known as "Arts and Crafts," the Craftsman home plan is a late 19th and early 20th century style. Because of their lasting influence and attention to detail, Craftsman home plans are still extremely popular today. Materials often include stone, rough-hewn wood, and stucco. Many Craftsman house plans have wide front porches across the front, supported by columns. Other Craftsman house features may include large gables, shed dormers, decorative brackets or timber detailing. We feature Craftsman style home plans that are a modern interpretation of the original Craftsman movement.
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Daylight Basement / Walkout Basement Daylight Basement home plans (also known as Walkout Basement home plans) take advantage of the unique qualities of the land and offer additional square footage on a lower level. Daylight Basement designs are particularly well-suited for lakefront houses, golf course homes, or mountain home designs. Daylight basement house plans also extend outdoor living opportunities, often creating ground-level covered porches and patios as well as porches or decks at the main level.
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Estate Home Plans We define estate home plans as any house plan with over 3840 square feet of living space, typically featuring luxurious amenities and grand facades of various styles. Donald A. Gardner Architects believes your luxury estate home should be the best of both worlds: the right balance of extravagance and practicality to create the estate of your dreams.
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European Home Plans Whether modeled after French Country house plans or designed as an elegant Tuscan home plan, European house plans are typically designed with interesting gables and rooflines, grand facades and welcoming floor plans. European house plans may be brick, stucco, or stone, and often offer floor plans with grand foyers, soaring fireplaces, gourmet kitchens and other custom-styled amenities.
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Farmhouse Plans The farmhouse is similar to the country house plan. Farmhouse plans typically include wrap-around porches and a roof that breaks to a shallower pitch at the porch. Farmhouse home plans may also include dormers. Our farmhouse plans complement the traditional feel of the American farmhouse, with modern floor plan amenities.
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Floridian House Plans The Floridian house plan usually evokes images of open, airy living spaces with plenty of natural light. Floridian home plans are typically one-story layouts with numerous windows, and floor plans that flow seamlessly from room to room. Floridian exteriors are often stucco with tile roofing.
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French Country House Plans The French Country or French Provincial home plan typically includes curved arches, soft lines, and stonework. French Country or Provincial home plans may feature brick, stone, or stucco exteriors and steep rooflines, sometimes with balconies. The French Country house plan is reminiscent of the rural French countryside. Our French Country and Provincial home plans vary from the simple to the extravagant, and use the style and history of the French countryside to create floor plans from the simple to the extravagant.
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Garage Floor Plans The modern garage no longer just holds cars and yard equipment! Whether you need additional living space for a relative, a new office, or just a bigger garage for today's larger cars, Donald A. Gardner Architects can provide you with a detached garage floor plan that meets your needs.
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Georgian Home Plans Similar to the Colonial style house, the Georgian home plan has a hipped or gable roof and a symmetrical façade. Many Georgian houses feature multi-paned double hung windows, paired chimneys and are two- to three-stories high. Our Georgian home plans combine this refined style with modern floor plan styles, to create a fresh take on Georgian house plans.
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Hillside Home Plans The Hillside home plan typically features a finished walkout or "daylight" basement, multiple levels of outdoor living space and grand rear views. Our Hillside house plans are equally at home on a mountaintop or in a suburban setting. These hillside homes blend with the natural surroundings and take advantage of the unique qualities of the land.
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Luxury Home Plans Luxury home plans, similar to estate home plans, feature abundant custom-styled amenities, open floor plans, ample square footage and multiple-use living spaces. If you don't find the perfect luxury house plan, you can customize any of our floor plans to build a truly unique luxury dream home for you and your family. Donald A. Gardner Architects can help you create your luxury home just as you imagine it.
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Mediterranean House Plans Extensive windows, stucco exterior and tile roofing define the Mediterranean style home plan. One-story floor plans with an open layout are typical of the Mediterranean house plan. We strive to design our Mediterranean homes in a manner that honors traditional Mediterranean architecture.
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Modern House Plans To each person, the description "modern house plan" connotes something different. When searching Donald A. Gardner house plans, know that our modern home plans meld modern efficiency with timeless style, grace, and quality. Unique angles and interesting features define our modern floor plans.
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Mountain Home Plans A mountain style house plan typically features many windows to capture rear views. Hillside walkout floor plans are also very popular for mountain environments. The mountain home sometimes invokes the ideal of the getaway where residents commune with nature. We offer a selection of mountain home plans ranging from cottage or cabin floor plans to multi-story mountain homes.
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Narrow Lot House Plans With shrinking lot sizes and increasing real estate prices, we have created a collection of narrow lot house plans with widths of 50 feet and under. Our collection of narrow lot floor plans sacrifices nothing in the way of style or space. Although the narrow lot can introduce challenges when building a home, we can make sure that lot limitations don't hinder your desire to build your dream home just the way you want it.
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Old World Home Plans Old World home plans, similar to European home plans, feature exteriors with mixed materials, European flair and open floor plans. Donald A. Gardner Architects' growing portfolio includes Old World floor plans in a variety of sizes with both one and two-story floor plans, using various exterior materials.
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One Story House Plans The one-story house plan is suitable for everything from suburban neighborhood living to wide-open acres where one-story homes can sprawl out. One-story home designs are available in many house styles, from Craftsman to Traditional to Country and more. Our portfolio contains a large selection of one-story house plans, offering everything from classic floor plans to unique home designs.
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Open Floor Plans Open floor plans are often a necessity for today’s active households. Choosing a house plan with a natural flow is key for everyone from young families with children, to empty nesters who love to entertain. Open floor plans can make smaller spaces appear larger. You will find a large selection of open floor plan house designs from Donald A. Gardner Architects, available in a wide range of styles and square footages.
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Ranch House Plans The ranch house plan features single-story living with a variety of exterior facades. The ranch home is a uniquely American house design. Designed to sprawl out across a wide-open lot, the one-story ranch floor plan first appeared in the 1930s and by the early post-WWII years, ranch-style homes and ranch floor plans filled the suburbs, adding the open feel of the country to the city. We offer a wide range of ranch floor plans to suit every preference.
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Small House Plans Small house plans don't mean you have to sacrifice quality or style. Our small floor plans feature the most efficient use of space in less than 1840 square feet, containing the features you have always wanted in your new dream house. Offering a wide variety of styles, you will find interior and exterior appeal as well as originality as you search our small home plans.
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Southern Living Home Plans Southern Living home plans aren't limited to a specific geographic location. We offer an exclusive collection of Southern Living house plans ranging from quaint farmhouse-style to sprawling country estates, all with the familiar Southern Living designation.
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Southwestern House Plans Southwestern house plans combine wood, stucco, and brick exteriors with decorative details that are typical of the Southwestern style home. Influenced by the original Spanish colonial settlements through the Southwest, these home plans typically call for ornamental flat frames with highly decorative carved doors and stonework, patterned tilework, columns, and courtyard fountains.
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Traditional Home Plans Traditional home plans typically feature multiple gables, hipped roofs and covered entryways with a clapboard or brick façade creating a grand appearance. Our traditional house plans feature open floor plans in various sizes from 1600 - 5000 square feet.
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Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND) Traditional Neighborhood Design house plans are part of a prevalent design movement that focuses on sidewalks, common areas, and curb appeal. As narrow lots become more common and Neo-Traditional housing developments continue to grow in popularity, Traditional Neighborhood Design home plans have become a fixture in cities nationwide. These house designs often have rear-entry garages, but TND house plans may also feature front-load, side-load or courtyard entry garages. Porches, columns, and other classic features are customary in Traditional Neighborhood Design house plans.
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Tuscan Home Plans The hallmarks of a Tuscan home are a low-pitched roof, stone or stucco exteriors and an open floor plan. Outdoor living is also an important element of Tuscan floor plans. Donald A. Gardner Architects offers several different interpretations of Tuscan style house plans, with side courtyards, single or multiple floors and open floor plans.
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Two Story House Plans The Two Story home plan is popular for narrow and smaller lots, to increase square footage without increasing the home's footprint. Donald A. Gardner Architects has been designing two story house plans since 1978. We offer two-story floor plans in a wide variety of styles and sizes. Whether you desire a classic Victorian home or a Traditional two story house, search our floor plans for the home of your dreams.
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Unique Home Plans Home plans with unique exterior facades or floor plan features create personalized surroundings for homeowners. Offering one of a kind curb appeal or unusual use of space, our unique house plans vary widely in size and style. Whether it is a family studio space, a side courtyard or outdoor living elements, a unique home plan focuses on the needs of the homeowner. We understand that no two homeowners are the same and therefore we offer unique floor plans to suit many preferences.
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Universal Design House Plans Universal Design house plans focus on accessibility for all people. Features may include no-step entries, wide doorways, convenient bathrooms and entry ramps. Universal Design is more than just a floor plan style-Universal home plans are helpful in assisting families of all kinds in being more comfortable in their homes, from active adults wishing to age in place to owners with disabilities.
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Vacation House Plans Vacation house plans may be designed for coastal, mountain, lake or golf course settings, but can be built anywhere! Coastal home plans feature an elevated foundation, while mountain homes, lake houses and golf course homes often feature walkout basements and many windows to take advantage of views. Whether it's a waterfront cottage house plan or a mountain cabin, we can make your vacation home a reality.
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Victorian Home Plans Victorian home plans are all about the details. Distinguished by multiple rooflines with varying pitches, Victorian house plans often feature towers, turrets or gingerbread molding, with a siding or clapboard exterior. Our Victorian floor plans honor this historic architectural style with keen attention to detail.
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Bargeboard Trim work at the top of gable end walls below the soffit.
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Cupola A quadrilateral or dome-shaped ornamental structure on a home’s roof. It can be glazed or often louvered.
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Eave The edge of a roof that projects beyond the face of a wall providing protection from the elements.
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Fascia A finish board used at the ends of roof rafters and is part of the eave.
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Gable Roof A pitched roof with two sloping planes that meet at a ridge to form an inverted “V” shape. The gable roof is of the most popular roof styles in American house plans.
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Gambrel Roof A gambrel roof is a ridged roof with two slopes on either side, the lower slope having a steeper pitch than the upper. It is typical of the Dutch Colonial style home plan and frequently referred to as a “barn style” roof.
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Hipped Roof A roof comprised of four or more sloping sides that start at the same eave line.
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Overhang Part of the roof that hangs over the wall.
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Pediment The triangular portion of a gabled wall defined by the edge of the sloping roofs and the horizontal line between the eaves.
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Rake Refers to the slope of the roof at the end of a gable, where the outside part of the overhang forms an upside down V.
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Shed A shed is actually a half gable. One slopping plane is supported by walls. This usually comes off the back side or out of another roof. Shed roofs are also used over some porches.
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Soffit The underside of the roof overhang or porch ceiling that covers the rafter bottoms. This horizontal surface usually has vents to allow air into the attic.
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“Stick-Built” Constructed on the permanent site for the home rather than in a manufacturing plant or factory. Also known as “site-built.”
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Balustrade Repetitious spindles or posts that support the top of a railing at stairs or balcony, often seen in various shapes and materials such as stone, wood or sometimes metal. May also be a decorative feature on the façade of a house plan.
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Cantilever A projecting or overhanging portion of a building with no visible means of support.
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Cased Opening A doorway with no door, shown on the blueprint with two parallel dashed lines.
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Cathedral Ceiling A ceiling in a home plan that symmetrically projects upward in an inverted “V” shape, similar to that of a church.
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Circular Stairs built on a radius.
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Coffered Ceiling A ceiling which showcases recessed paneling typically in rectangular or square configurations. Coffered ceilings are most common in formal rooms of a floor plan.
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Corbel Projecting stone or brick in succession, commonly seen at the top of masonry chimneys or used as support under balconies.
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Cornice The upper portion of projecting, horizontal molding along the top of a wall or at the eave of a roof.
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E-Space An abbreviated version of the home office. A small, open area with a desk, drawers and cabinets in a house plan intended to manage today’s modern home with space to charge electronic gadgets, pay bills, or supervise children using the internet. These spaces may be located in various areas of the home, but are typically in high traffic areas such as the kitchen or off the utility room.
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Family Studio A designated area in the floor plan with multiple functions, ranging from ironing to gift wrapping, depending on the preferences of the homeowner. Sometimes combined with the utility room, the family studio is a place to take care of household tasks or work on hobbies. These rooms typically include cabinets, drawers, an island and ample counter space.
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Floor Framing Built up on the foundation wall and piers out of 2 x 10 floor joists and beams. The direction and the length of the framing are shown on the blueprints, and they typically are placed 16 inches apart.
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Footing Trenches of poured concrete around the perimeter of the house and below each pier or column that supports and distributes the weight of the house to the ground. Two steel rods, known as rebar, run through the trench of the foundation.
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Friezeboard Trim work that follows the eve horizontally below the soffit on the wall.
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Keystone The center, triangular—often elaborated—masonry stone in an arch or lintel over a window or door on the façade of a home plan.
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Lintel A load-bearing beam which spans the opening of a door or window.
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Load Bearing Walls Load bearing walls carry the load from above, down to the foundation. Load bearing walls brace from the floor to the roof. They are noted on the blueprint with hatch lines.
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Loggia A covered outdoor living area supported by columns or pillars, generally open on at least one side. Loggias are integrated in a home’s mass instead of projecting like a porch. Popular in Italian and European style house plans.
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Pilaster A rectangular, flat column attached to the face of a building. The pilaster projects only slightly from the wall and has a base, a shaft, and a capital. In modern house plans, it is an architectural element used to give the appearance of a supporting column, with only an ornamental function. Can also be used in the frame of a doorway.
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Porte Cochere An entry structure through which it is possible for a motor vehicle to pass, typically allowing coverage to the main house. Popular in many luxury home plans.
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Portico A roofed entry surrounded by columns or walls and included in many traditional house plans.
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Quoins Finished stone or brick at the corners of a stone or brick home.
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Risers Height of the step, which varies per house (vertical surface).
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Scissors Also known as U-shaped stairs, scissors stairs reverse direction half way up to return back the way it started.
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Straight Run These are just like they sound, they run straight up to the second floor.
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Tray Ceiling A style of ceiling constructed with four or more sides angling upward to a higher, flat ceiling. This style resembles an upside-down tray and is commonly seen in breakfast areas, dining rooms and bedrooms.
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Treads Top of the step, usually 10-½ inches to 11 inches deep (horizontal).
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Turret A tower-like structure—usually circular or polygonal—projecting from the front of the home with a steep or pointed roof.
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Vaulted Ceiling In modern home plans, a ceiling which springs from a lower wall up to a higher wall.
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Winders Steps that wind around a corner or post, turning 90 degrees from the original direction and typically having several triangular shaped treads at the turn.
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Awning Crank windows, hinged on the top, that open upward. These usually go in the basement.
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Bay Window A window or band of windows that project from the face of a building. Some units may extend to the floor, adding square footage to the floor plan.
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Box Bay Window A bay window in some house plans, with a rectangular projection.
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Box Window A band of windows in some house plans that project from the face of an exterior wall in a bow-like fashion.
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Casement A hinged window that typically swings outward. This type of window was common before the double-hung or “sash” window was introduced.
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Clerestory Windows placed high in a wall typically in a two-story space. Pronounced “clear”-story.
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Dormer A structural element with a gable or hipped roof that projects from a main, sloping roof and contains a window. Often a continuation of a wall, breaking the main eave line, adding light or square footage to a floor plan.
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Dormer Windows Also referred to as dog houses, dormer comes from the French word dormir, which means “to sleep.” Dormers are located on the second floor, usually in bedrooms or bathrooms, and project through the roof to provide a window in this space.
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Double-Hung Window A type of window that features a pair of superimposed, offset sashes that slide up and down vertically. Typically, both top and bottom sashes are operable. Double-hung windows are versatile, making them the most common type of window in American house plans.
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Eyebrow Dormer A dormer whose eave line emerges from the main roof and slopes in an upward curve allowing an arched window to penetrate the wall revealed below. This style of dormer is popular in house plans with European- or French Country-influenced style.
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Fanlight A semicircular or arched window over a door or window, often with muntins (dividers within a window pane) that radiate in the form of an open fan.
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Fixed Windows These windows cannot be opened.
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Hopper Crank windows, hinged on the bottom, that open outward from the top.
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Palladian Window Also known as a Venetian window, this is a large, central window with a semicircular transom flanked by two smaller windows. This is generally the focal point of a room and is widely used in a variety of traditional and country house plans.
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Shed Dormer A dormer whose roof consists of a single sloping plane. This style of dormer is popular in the Craftsman style house plan.
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Single Hung Windows Only the bottom sash moves up and down, the top is fixed.
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Sliders Windows that slide open, like sliding glass doors.
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Transom Window A window located above a door or window. Customarily seen as rectangular or arched. In modern home plans, the transom is typically a decorative element, but may be operable for ventilation in some cases.
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Thank you for allowing us to be part of your house plan purchasing experience. We appreciate your business and want to take this opportunity to explain important information about our copyright. By providing you with these facts, we hope to clarify any confusion and exclude you from legal concerns. House Plans are COPYRIGHTED! Donald A. Gardner Architects, Inc. and/or Donald A. Gardner, Inc. designed -- and hold the copyrights to -- the pre-designed Floor Plans on this web site. With bond (paper) set purchases, the purchaser is granted a one-time license to build the home. Just like books, movies, and songs, federal copyright laws protect the intellectual property of architects and home designers by giving copyright protection to house plans and home designs. The copyright laws prevent anyone from reproducing or reusing the house plans or home designs without written permission from the copyright owner. Who is responsible for copyright infringement? Any party who participates in the violation may be responsible whether you were aware of the house plan copyright or not. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Refuse to be part of any illicit copying or use of house plans, floor plans, home designs, derivative works, blueprints, or home design features by being certain of the original design source.