Welcome to The
Hound’s Corner! My name is Sulu Pearce. I was a speed demon on a greyhound
racetrack and after retirement my friends invited me to come to their office to
fulfill a new position as the mascot for ESPA Architects. I’ve noticed over the
years of working in the office that our clients sometimes have a confused look
on their face when a certain building description or architectural term is used.
So, I’ve collected a list of terms over the years and developed some definitions
to help people understand some of the lingo used an architectural office. Please
check in on us once in a while for new architectural terms and definitions!
walk through a door opening you may notice a shiny piece of metal on the floor.
I found out from my friends that this is called a threshold, saddle or sill. I have to admit I like to give
them a good sniff to see who has been coming and going through the door
opening. Although I‘m a sighthound, my
nose can tell me about the coming and going. A threshold is a horizontal piece
of metal, wood or stone at the bottom of a door frame that helps straddle the
gap between the interior and exterior of a building. There are many theories to
why we call it a threshold, the one I
like that is in medieval times it meant to
pounds one’s feet (thresh). I notice
many people stomp their feet before coming in our office (that how I know where
folks have been). I walk through many
doorways, and notice some thresholds are simple while some actually have raised
sections to help keep water and air from coming under the door. So, next time
you walk through a door, clean your feet before
entering, and don’t trip on the threshold.
afternoon I was enjoying a good nap when I heard a client ask about the
thing-a-mabob on the side of a door frame. It got my attention to what is a thing-a-mabob
and I discovered there are many parts to a door opening or as my friends call
it, a door frame. The top of the door frame is called the head and the sides are referred
to as jambs. Along the jamb’s surface there is a thin projection
from the jamb to help stop the door called the door stop (thing-a-mabob).
The jambs of the doorframe are where door hinges and strikes
are mounted. I also found out that door
frames are constructed of steel, wood or aluminum. Frames can come to the
building site in one piece, or a kit of parts, but no matter what you make a
door frame out of, the parts of the frame remains the same.
One of my
favorite hobbies is to look out the windows at our office to see what’s going
on in the world and to alert my friends when guests are coming to the
door. I’m still trying to remember glass
is a hard surface I can see through, but cannot go through. Also, my friends tell me that I leave my nose
prints on glass which they have to clean. Did you know that parts of a window
are very similar to the parts of the doorframe?
The top of the window is called a head
and the sides of the window are called jambs
and the bottom of the window is called a sill.
Windows that open have a sash
which is where the glass fits into the window frame and muntins are used to support smaller panes of glass. Windows
can be made out of many different types of material; the most common are wood,
aluminum or steel.
Did you know
there are several different types of glass and depending upon where is it is
used in the building? I heard the term float glass used the other day,
and was not sure if that meant the glass floated without a frame. I found out
that float glass is perfectly flat and made brilliantly clear by a process that
was developed almost 40 years ago by glass manufacturers. Float glass is made by pouring molten glass
onto the surface of molten tin. And, did you know glass is a solid, super-cooled
ceramic material made from sand, soda and lime? Another glass type I heard
mentioned is tempered. Tempered glass is heat treated for increased
resistance to impact stresses- it is 3 to 5 times stronger than regular glass
and pulverizes into small pieces when broken.
You can find tempered glass in doors or other areas where people might
run into it. I’ve noticed staring out
our front door that you can see a white etching on the glass (at dog nose
level) telling you it is tempered glass.
I have been
known to dig in the dirt looking for that rabbit I was chasing after he has
disappeared into a hole. I discovered that the top layer of dirt is easy to dig,
but when I get below that top layer, it can get a bit harder to dig out. My
friends tell me it looks like I am creating soil boring or test pits.
I researched about soil boring and discovered that soil boring is when
you pull a core out of the earth to determine the composition of the soil, and
based on the information from these borings, determine the type of foundation a
new building will need.
What’s That White Powder on Brick?
walks with my friend we pass many buildings made of brick and as I like to
examine the handiwork of the brick masons. In doing this, I’ve noticed white “powder”
on the outside walls. My research has indicated that this white powder is
called efflorescence. Efflorescence is crystallization caused by
water-soluble salts which come to the surface when water evaporates from the brick.
My friend tells me efflorescence usually means water has found its way into the
wall and to correct this problem you can clean the wall with a mild detergent
to remove the white powder, but you also need to find where the moisture is
How do flat roofs drain?
you do not see a pitch or slope on a roof does not mean it is flat. I have discovered
that roof structures can be flat and the slope toward a roof drain is created
by tapering the roof insulation. Or, the structure may be sloped with the roof
drain at the lower end of the structure.
To direct water between drains they install what is called a cricket- not
a bug, but a peaked structure made of rigid insulation that drives water toward
a drain. Since I am a sighthound I did notice that whether the slope is created
by roof insulation or the structure itself, the slope is usually a quarter inch
per foot. So the roof may appear to be flat, but there is slope for the water
to drain away.
Concrete vs. Cement
other day my friend was correcting one of our clients when he say he wanted a
“cement” driveway for his business. I was able to eavesdrop on the conversation
(they think I am asleep, but I am listening).
Cement (Portland cement) is
one of the components of concrete along
with sand, gravel and water. It is a
pourable mix that hardens into a super-strong building material. Did you know that concrete was used by the
Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago? Our
client inquired about Portland cement and my friend explained that it is
manufactured from lime, silica, iron oxide and alumina with gypsum to control
the setting time. The ingredients are ground and burned to form clinkers which are later pulverized to
make cement. I also discovered that the mixture of the components can
determined the strength of concrete, but that information is for another day (a
dog has to get his naps in when he can).
What is Radon?
I heard a
client ask the other day if their structure required radon protection. I had to do some digging and I discovered radon
is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that is not produced as a commercial
product. Radon is a naturally occurring
radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of radium.
It is usually found in igneous rock and
soil, but in some cases, well water may also be a source of radon. As my friend
explained, the level of radon depends on where you live. Some area s in the
western and northern counties of North Carolina have been noted for high
potential of radon. If you are planning to build in an area where radon could
exist, it is best incorporate radon-resistant features in the building. A simple way to prevent radon from entering a
structure is to have a continuous vent made of PVC with an outlet pipe buried
below the floor and continuing up through the roof. This creates a passive system or draft pipe
to drawn the gas from the soil and away from the interior; a fan can be added
to increase the venting of the gas.
Parts of a Brick
Did you know
that there are parts of a brick? The
most common brick is called standard
or standard modular and the long side of the brick is called the face. This side is the pretty side of
the brick and it can have a sand finish, a textured, or even a smooth finish. The
top and bottom of the brick are called the beds
and the side opposite the face is called the side. The smaller rectangular portions of a brick are called the end and cull. I also found out that the holes in the brick are called cores or frogs. During my walks I noted that brick can be used in different
patterns and there are different sizes of brick. I will be doing some more research on those
subjects for another article.
Why do old windows get foggy?
of my walks around town on nice sunny day I noticed a window that looks foggy, like it had water
on the glass when the window frame looked dry.
So I wonder what caused this. I
discovered what I was looking at was condensation inside an insulated glass
window which was caused by the failure of the seal between the panes of glass. This
failure allowed moist air to collect between the glass panes, where it
condensed. Over time the condensing and
drying out of the window can leave mineral deposits on the glass creating a
hazy, foggy appearance. My friend was
telling a client the other day that when the seal fails it is best to have the
insulated glass panel removed and replaced or have a glazing company that
specializes in repairs to foggy windows remove the moisture, clean and reseal
listening to my friend explain to one of our clients that even though their
building had a limited amount of wood in it, they would still need to protect
the foundation and floor slab from termites.
He was explaining that termites eat cellulose found in dead plant
material and wood. There are several
types of termites and those commonly found in this area are Subterranean and
Drywood. Subterranean termites usually
live in mounds of soil, building elaborate tunnel systems and mud tunnels
through which they access above-ground food sources. Drywood termites usually live within the wood
studs of a wall or piece of furniture.
When I chow down on a rawhide bone or a bowl of food everyone can hear
me, but I discovered that you cannot hear termites eating and a colony of
termites can cause a lot of damage to a home or business before you know it. My
friend told our client that termite colonies are everywhere and it is best to
treat the soil during construction by a licensed exterminator and to have an
experienced pest control company conduct yearly inspections of their building
to make sure that termites are not feeding on their building. Also, check around the building to see if
there are any mud tunnels, wood that sounds hollow when you tap it, or cracked
- bubbling paint- these are all indications that you might have termites.