Reuben Saltzman

Commonly Mistaken and Misused Terms, Part II

Below is a list of commonly misused or mistaken terms that I hear on a regular basis – sometimes from other home inspectors.  This will hopefully clear up some misused or mistaken terms.  Feel free to add to the list.

Direct Vent A direct vent gas appliance is constructed and installed to take all of it’s air for combustion directly from the exterior, and will discharge all of it’s flue gases directly to the exterior.  It’s essentially a combustion system that’s sealed off from the indoor air.

  • Furnace For a furnace, you’ll see two plastic pipes running to the furnace – one for air coming in, one for combustion gases going out.   A high efficiency furnace furnace with only one plastic pipe running to the outdoors is not a direct vent.Direct Vent Terminations
  • Gas Fireplace For a decorative gas appliance (aka – gas fireplace), you’ll typically see a metal termination at the exterior of the home, where the outer ‘ring’ brings air in, and the inner ring exhausts combustion gas. The photo at right shows the termination for a gas fireplace.
  • Water Heater Direct vent water heaters are not common in Minnesota – I think I’ve seen two in my life.  Powervent water heaters are.   A powervent water heater will have a single plastic pipe to force the exhaust gases to the exterior.
CO2 Detector.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “CO2 detector”.  They usually mean CO detector (or CO alarm).  CO is carbon monoxide, the bad stuff that can kill you in your sleep.  Carbon dioxide is CO2.  Mono  = 1, Di = 2.

Knee Wall Attic Space

Attic – Attics are defined as “The unfinished space between the ceiling joists of the top story and roof rafters”.  Many people refer to attic spaces as ‘crawl spaces’, but ‘attic’ is a much more specific term.

Fuse Box Most people are referring to the main panelboard when they say this, and most have circuit breakers, not fuses.

Fire Wall This is a term that only applies to commercial properties.  Most people are referring to the fire separation wall between the house and garage at a single family dwelling when they use this term, but this is not a fire wall.  A true fire wall completely separates parts of a building so that one portion may collapse and burn to the ground in the event of a fire, while the other side remains intact.  You won’t find a fire wall in a single family home unless you’re referring to the internet connection.

Sheetrock®, Durock®, Romex®… They’re all brand names, just like Kleenex®.  Better terms would be gypsum board or drywall, cement board, and NM (non-metallic) cable, respectively.  I use the terms interchangeably when talking, but not when writing reports. Relief Valve Discharge Pipe

Overflow Pipe I’ve heard many people use this term to refer to the pipe that gets connected to the temperature and pressure relief valve on a water heater.  I really don’t know what the best term for this pipe is, but it’s certainly not an overflow pipe.  I awkwardly refer to it as the “temperature and pressure relief valve discharge pipe” or “relief valve discharge pipe”.

Eavestrough – Ok, that’s not a misused term, just a regional term that we don’t use here in Minnesota.   ‘Round here, we call ’em gutters.

Hot Water Heater  Water heater

Reel-a-durr Realtor (it’s pronounced the way it looks)

Joyce  Joist

Acrost Across

Heighth Height

Footer Footing

House Geek Home Inspector

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspector