How Much Do You Know About the Steps and Materials Involved in Building a Home?

Bambi Turner

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Do you know the difference between vinyl and aluminum siding, or what ducts are designed to carry? Know why you need special electrical outlets in your bathroom, and what these special outlets are called? Any idea what a board foot is? If you think you know all the steps and materials involved in building a house, take our quiz to prove it!

Home building has come a long way in the past couple of centuries. As early Americans established homesteads, they had limited options to choose from when it came to building a house. Most took advantage of plentiful free lumber, joining forces to build simple structures with just a single room or two, using mud to fill the gaps and keep out the cold.

Of course, things have changed a lot since then. Modern homes come equipped with conveniences our forefathers could only dream of. This is pretty nice when it comes to taking a hot shower or flipping on a light switch when the sun goes down, but it makes the building process infinitely more complex. Today's builders are also subject to countless building codes and safety regulations to protect occupants against everything from radon gas to fires to structural failure.

Still think you're a home building expert despite the complexities of the modern construction industry? Take our quiz to find out!

What's the most common material used to provide structural support for interior house walls?

Wood studs are by far the most common material used to frame interior walls on homes. While metal studs are fairly common in commercial structures, wood is still popular in the commercial industry in many applications. Concrete block is used on interior walls only in limited applications, like some schools and warehouses.

How far apart are wood studs placed in a typical home?

The most common placement for wooden studs is 16 inches oc, or on center. That means that the center of one stud is 16 inches from the center of the adjacent one. In some older homes, you may also find studs placed at 24 inches oc.

How is lumber measured?

Lumber is measured in volume, not length. The most common unit of lumber measurement is the board foot, which is equal to the volume of a piece of wood one foot long, one foot wide and one inch thick.

What is drywall made of?

Up until WWII, most American homes had plaster walls. To build homes faster to meet demand, builders turned to drywall starting in the '40s, and now it's found in virtually every home. This material consists of pressed gypsum supported by sheets of heavy paper on either side.

What are ducts designed to carry?

A network of pipes carries water and waste through the home, while ducts transport air. They not only help ventilation, but also work with the home's heating and cooling equipment to keep every room at the desired temperature.

What is a GFCI?

A ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a special electrical outlet that stops the flow of power if it detects a problem -- like a human being electrocuted. In many areas, building codes require GFCI outlets in bathrooms and other wet areas to help protect people from danger.

Where in the home would you find a SIP?

Structural insulated panels, or SIPs, are relatively new materials gaining popularity in home construction. They consists of sheets of foam insulation sandwiched between sheets of plywood or other sheet wood. By combining insulation with structural sheathing, they allow for faster, more energy-efficient wall construction.

Where are you most likely to find a slab-on-grade foundation?

A slab-on-grade foundation consists of a slab of concrete with thickened edges that is poured directly over the ground, or on grade. It is an affordable and effective foundation option in areas where the ground doesn't freeze, like the southeastern U.S.

What is a CMU made from?

CMU stands for concrete masonry unit, and is essentially a basic cement block. This material is commonly used to craft foundation walls, which is one of the first steps in building a home.

What is the correct term for the sheets of plywood fastened to the exterior side of framed walls?

A standard exterior wall consists of wooden studs covered by a layer of plywood sheathing. The sheathing not only serves as a structural element, but also ties together the studs and serves as a nailing base for siding installation.

What is the cheapest siding material on average?

Vinyl siding is almost always the cheapest of the traditional siding materials used in the U.S., and because of its low cost, is also the most common material used to side homes. It can be found for as low as $2 per foot installed, while other materials start at around twice that price.

Which of these roofing materials could you expect to last the longest?

Slate roofs can last a century with proper maintenance, while well-maintained metal roofs will last about half that long. Asphalt shingles are the cheapest roofing material for a reason -- they have a shorter life than many more expensive options.

Where do you put building wrap?

Building wrap looks like paper, but it's actually a permeable synthetic material that allows moisture to pass out to the outside without letting rainwater in. It's installed on top of sheathing and under siding to protect the house during construction and after.

Which of these is always true about hardwood?

Don't let the terms hardwood and softwood fool you. They have nothing to do with how hard or soft wood is. All these terms actually reveal is what kind of tree the wood came from. Hardwood comes from a broad-leafed tree like an oak or elm, while softwood comes from a conifer like a pine or fir.

Which of these is true?

Beams and joists are two types of horizontal framing members used in home construction. Beams support joists structurally, and there are generally fewer beams than joists used in a project.

What do you call the thin strips of wood used to support old-school plaster?

Before the widespread use of drywall, walls in homes were made using plaster. The plaster was applied to walls framed with thin wooden strips, known as a lathe. Today, the lathe and plaster system has been replaced with drywall, with special types of board sometimes coated with plaster for those who prefer a high-end wall finish.

What's the stuff used to smooth drywall joints?

Drywall or joint compound is applied over strips of tape to hide the seams between sheets of drywall. Once dried, the compound is sanded until the wall is smooth and ready for painting.

Which of these is used to join bricks together?

Mortar is the cementitious material applied between each row of bricks to unite the blocks into a single structure. Mortar is also used with certain types of tile and concrete block.

What does the Janka scale tell you?

The Janka scale is a measure of relative wood hardness. Using this scale, you can determine that woods like rosewood or hickory are harder than beech or pine. Harder woods are more resistant to dents, dings and wear, and are often better choices for heavily-trafficked wood floors.

What is the process of repairing brick walls called?

Over time, the mortar between bricks can crumble or fall out, leaving the brick susceptible to water damage. To fix this, brick masons perform a process known as pointing, or tuck-pointing, where the mortar is removed and replaced with new mortar. When pointing brick, it's critical to choose the correct type of mortar for the job, as all types are slightly different.

Which of these materials could you use on a flat roof?

Shingles are designed for sloped roofs, not flat ones. For homes with flat roofs, choose rubber or thermoplastic membranes, or go with a traditional built-up roof made of gravel, tar and asphalt.

Which of these features is a must for a passive solar home?

Passive solar homes can dramatically cut energy costs while still keeping occupants comfortable. They use energy from the sun, gained through south-facing windows to heat the home with reduced or no traditional heating fuel.

Which of these remodeling projects offers the best return on investment for homeowners?

It's tempting to upgrade your home, hoping to increase its value for when you're ready to sell, but if you're looking for a good ROI, choose your projects with care. According to a 2018 "Cost Vs. Value Report" by "Remodeling" magazine, a new master suite comes with an ROI of only around 48 percent. A new composite deck comes in at 63 percent ROI, while a simple entry door replacement returns 91 percent of its cost.

What is a VOC?

When shopping for home building materials, you may note products labeled as "No VOCs." According to the EPA, volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, have a negative impact on air quality in the home -- and can even make the air inside your house more dangerous than outside air.

How do you measure the effectiveness of insulation?

You can compare different types of insulation using R-value, with higher R-values associated with better insulating ability. Using the right amount of insulation can have a tremendous impact on energy costs and comfort.

Which of these materials offers the best insulating ability per inch?

Polyurethane foam is one of the best insulating materials on the market. It has an R-value of 5.6 to 8.0 per inch, compared to fiberglass blankets, which rate 3.9 to 3.8 per inch.

When do you need a septic system?

Many urban homes are connected to municipal wastewater lines, which transport waste to a water treatment plant and treat it. Rural homes often have no sewer connections, which requires homeowners to install a septic system to process waste safely.

What do you call the vertical panels on the front of each step in a staircase?

Staircases consist of three major components. First, builders craft a diagonal set of supports known as stringers. Then they add vertical members called risers, and horizontal surfaces called treads.

Which of these is commonly installed using a floating technique?

Traditional flooring installation uses glue, nails or other fasteners to secure the floor covering to the subfloor. A floating floor clicks together, with no attachment to the subfloor. This easy floating installation technique is very common with laminate and some engineered wood floors.

When is a punch list complete?

A punch list is a list of items created by the homeowner or architect. It lets the home builder know which items remain to be completed before the contractor will receive his final payment.

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