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P A P E R   F O X    C O L L E C T I V E

terms used in the industry


ACCA Manual J Residential Load Calculation: An energy load analysis for HVAC. A blower door test (air tightness), house R-values, window U-values, square footage, and misc should be known before sizing an HVAC unit. Ducts should be insulated and sealed and tested for leaking using a pressure testing device.


ACT 250 (Vermont): This Land Use and Development Act, passed in 1970, regulates development to preserve Vermont’s water, air and character. It is of particular concern to buyers and developers of larger-scale projects, but impacts a wide range of real estate transactions, including smaller residential properties. Act 250 establishes rules for where and how property can be developed. If you buy Vermont real estate, your property may be subject to an existing Act 250 permit or to the Act 250 regulations that govern what structures may be built on the property, where those structures may be located, what uses the property may be put to, and what natural features must be maintained and protected


Air Admittance Valve (Studor Valve): negative-pressure-activated” one-way mechanical valves that replace roof venting for plumbing. Check to make sure they are allowed within the local code book, additionally AAVs range in lifespan from 1-30 years, but will eventually fail and allow bugs / flies into the sewer pipe system. Local codes usually require at least one vent stack in each house regardless of AAV systems.


ANSI RESNET ICC Standard 850: Rating the water efficiency of homes.




Back Drafting: Drawing undesirable exhaust air back into the house by creating a large pressure difference. Combustion equipment that is not sealed (example - atmospherically drafted gas water heater) and is exhausting in close proximity to the house envelope will be sucked back into the house through back drafting.


Batter Boards: Boards that are stacked in the ground with a 90 degree angle. These boards provide a precise reference for the foundation subs to install the foundation forms. They will be using the lines set up by the batter boards, not through any on site survey. 




Cash Contract (Cash Sale): the Seller will receive the funds for the entire purchase price of the property at closing.


Cedar Shake Shingles: Wooden roofing material known for their high maintenance and risk of fire. Try to avoid in housing options. 


Certainteed Membrane Vapor Retarder: Polyamide film that changes permeability depending on humidity. Used on the inside face of a wall, the membrane permeability can change from 1 perm in low humidity to 20 perms in times of high humidity. This allows any moisture in the walls to evaporate while still functioning as a vapor barrier.


Closing Procedure (Land) - Escrow Company: An escrow company is used to hold the money between the seller and the buyer. Until a set of contingencies have been met, the escrow company holds on to the money. In the event those contingencies aren’t met, the escrow company has set instructions on how to distribute the money. This option is less common with land acquisition due to less contingencies and with land contracts typically being used. 


Closing Procedure (Land) - Seller / Buyer Closing: All closing parameters are handled by the seller and buyer. This option saves escrow fees, additional wire transfer fees, notary fees and time.


Control Layers: Water, Air, Vapor, Temperature. The four control layers that must exist in wall, slab, roof assemblies. 


Condensing Storage Water Heater: An advanced heat exchanging combustion chamber inside the heater keeps combustion gases in contact with water long enough for the moisture in the flue gas to condense and release latent heat. As a result, an efficiency of 96% can be reached. 


CPVC (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride): Plastic pipe that can be used in lieu of copper piping for the plumbing system. May contain an aftertaste for roughly a year as the pipe system is flushing all joint sealing compounds / new pipe coatings. As compared to regular PVC pipe which is only rated for cold water and sewer installations. 




Decay Fungi: A brown type of mold that is not harmful to humans, but breaks down and consumes wood fibers, weakening a home’s structure.


Dead Wood: consists of short pieces of lumber installed in areas that need backing on to which to nail drywall to. These include: tops and sides of windows where curtain hardware will be attached, small areas around stairs, locations of electrical boxes, and bracing for lights or ceiling fans.


Dry In: The installation of the doors and windows, after the roof and sheathing have been installed. 




Exfiltration: The act of air escaping.




FHA Straps: Are metal plates designed to protect pipes from being punctured by nails. Usually installed with plumbing prior to dry wall sub installation. 


Finger Joint Molding: Molding created from small scrap pieces of wood, usually the most cost effective molding to use (especially if painting the molding).


Floating Concrete Slab: Consists of a traditional footing and a few courses of concrete block. Once the blocks have been set, the concrete slab will be poured using the blocks as forms. 






HERS (Home Energy Rating System): used by RESNET (Residential Energy Services Network) to rate energy efficiency of a home on a scale from 0-100 with 0 being net zero home. HERSH20 rates water as well.


HERS Accredited Rater: Someone certified in performing the HERS test for a house. An accredited organization (Building Energy Resources) charges $2,999 in order to take the class for certification, this does not include the required 5 HERS tests that you will need to perform in order to achieve certification. These 5 tests are not provided by the training provider. 


Humidity: The concentration of water vapor present in the air. Sources include humid outside air, cooking, bathing, and human respiration. Humidity encourages the growth of mold and mildew. As air temperature drops the amount of moisture the air is capable of holding is reduced (relative humidity), if the temperature drops without a corresponding drop in humidity, water vapor can begin to condense on cooler surfaces because of the air’s lack of ability to store the water vapor anymore.


Hurricane Ties: anchor the roof rafters to the stud walls and greatly increase resistance to high winds. 










Laborer: Makes the assumption that the worker is an employee of yours and will need to claim taxes / workers compensation. You will want a sub-contractor in lieu of a laborer.


Land Contract: The Seller of the property is going to allow the Buyer to make payments over time in order to pay for the property. Also known as a terms sale, an installment sale, a seller financed sale, or an owner carry sale. Are quite common within land purchases (as opposed to house purchases).


Lendable equity: is simply the equity you have in another property that you can use to purchase other properties. By utilizing this method, you are cross-collateralizing one property to buy another


Lumber: Lumber is used to build a home, wood is used to build a fire.




MERV: Minimum efficiency reporting value


Mildew: sub category of mold that is usually defined as a white fluffy species of fungus. 


Mold Resistant Framing Products: lumber that comes stained in green or blue colors (to distinguish it from regularly treated lumber). This borate treatment is considered relatively safe and offers combined protection against mold, termites and fungal decay. Frameguard and Bluwood are popular brands. 


Mold Resistant Drywall: define.








Panelized Construction: The use of panelized exterior walls to replace stick built exterior walls. Although 10-15% more in cost, the tolerance of tightness are much higher / windows and doors are put into the walls into the factory making it more controllable and tighter. 


Percolation Test: determines if the soil is porous enough to allow for the discharge of a septic system.


PEX Pipe: A flexible, quick installation pipe alternative. Its flexible nature allows for minimal joints to be installed, which is the most expensive cost incurred with plumbing installations. 


PEX Home Run System: Includes a large manifold in close proximity to the water heater. Each individual fixture has its own PEX pipe (either on the hot side of the manifold or the cold) that is run separately throughout the house with PEX pipe. 


Photovoltaics: define.


Plywood - CDX GRADE: The “C” refers to the grade of plywood on one side, the “D” refers to the grade on the other side, and the “X” refers to exterior grade. Exterior Grade plywood is made with an exterior type of glue that is waterproof and can stand up to prolonged exposure to the elements during construction. 


Polycrystalline Solar Panels: solar panels that put out the most energy per square foot but cost higher due to mounting and installation of the rigid panels. Thin film solar typically puts out half the energy.








SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) Rating: the energy efficiency of AC units.


Solar Assisted Heat Pump: One or more solar electric panels are directly tied into the home’s heat pump, providing assistance while the sun is out. Additionally refrigerant from the heat pump can be routed to the roof mounted panels. Since heat pumps lose efficiency during cold days, directly tying the solar heat gain of the panels to the heat pump refrigerant can increase the efficiency of the pump. DEFINE MORE. 


Solar Hot Water: Heat pump panels that directly collect solar energy to heat water to be used in the house. A more efficient solution is the combination of a heat pump powered hot water heater and solar PV panels to power it. This method is cheaper, but also any excess electricity collected can be used to offset other electrical costs (in lieu of a solar hot water collection system in which any unused heated water is wasted).


Solar Pitch: The pitch at which to set your solar panels in order to achieve optimal energy retrieval. The optimal pitch depends on the latitude of your location and the season. Due to the two different sun angles for the winter and summer season, the optimum pitch will be a compromise between these two extremes. The angle of the sun from winter to summer varies greater in northern latitudes. If heating will outweigh cooling, you will want to angle your panel at a steeper pitch to capture more of the winter sun (lower horizon angle) than the summer sun. Units are able to be mounted with a changeable axis, allowing manual changing of the axis during each season to capture both angles.


Solar Power Grid Connection: Connecting your solar power system to the power grid, allowing a power backup in case enough solar energy is not reached for the demand. Additionally any excess energy created will cause your meter to run backward (in essence), selling your surplus of energy back to the utility company. Check with the local utility company to confirm, if not provided, send your excess power to a battery for storage.


Steep Roof Pitch:  Defined as a roof pitch steeper than 3:12. 


Stud Grade Lumber: Is more expensive than a standard framing 2”x4” (considered utility grade). You should not frame walls with utility grade as stud grade lumber are more uniform and straight with fewer cracks, this is crucial for installing drywall. Additionally utility lumber may not be rated to handle the strength required for a stud.


Sub Flooring: Usually consists of one sheet of ½” or ⅝” CDX Plywood along with a finish layer of ⅝” particle board or another layer of plywood. The second layer is installed after drying in the structure. Install a layer of asphalt felt (same used for roofing) or heavy craft construction paper. This acts as a sound buffer and reduces floor squeaking. Often a two story house will use ½” flooring on the first floor and ⅝” on the second.




Tiny Home: Defined as a home 500 square feet or less.


Tankless Water Heater: Coming in both electric and gas, they are able to heat water through means without the need to store water, resulting in endless hot water.  They should be placed close to the fixtures as possible but an efficient design also includes placing one next to a PEX plumbing system.




UV Inhibitors: Some materials are naturally UV resistant (concrete or clay tile roofing, brick). Others such as plastic are prone to dry rot unless UV inhibitors are added. Vinyl siding has this added to make it more durable. 




Vapor Barriers (behind drywall): present in most northern climates so that when moist inside air doesn’t meet cold outside air in pockets and gaps inside of the wall.


Vent Stack: A vertical plumbing pipe that penetrates the roof to allow for the release of pressure in the plumbing system. Without the vent stack, waste water in the system (public supply / septic) would be allowed to back up into the plumbing within the pipes. Vent stacks create positive pressure that removes sewage odor from flowing upstream in the pipes. Air admittance valves are a great replacement but local codes usually require at least one in each house.


Vermont Shoreline Protection Act: The Vermont Shoreland Protection Act regulates activities within 250 feet of the mean water level of lakes greater than 10 acres in size. The intent of the Act is to allow some development along Vermont lakes, while protecting aquatic habitat, water quality and the natural stability of shoreland. Restrictions in the Act limit tree cutting, gardening, access paths, lawns, and impervious surfaces – including houses, sheds, decks and driveways within 250 feet of the shoreline