Sooner or later, most do-it-yourselfers run into it: the language barrier.
Your helpers or your life's partner may know exactly what you mean when you ask for the thingamajig on the floor over there, but the folks at the plumbing counter are likely to laugh at your request for a whosis to fix the broken whatchamacallit.
Windows, for instance, may seem simple -- until it comes to getting them fixed, or ordering replacements, and suddenly you realize they have a lot of parts, each with a specific name. Can you tell a sash from a jamb? A rail from a stile? A sill from a stool? A muntin from a mullion?
Actually, that last one trips up a lot of people. To help you sound like a pro when you're discussing your window parts over the back fence, or down at the lumberyard, here's a vocabulary of the terms.
*Pane. This is one you won't get much argument over: It's a piece of glass. Windows get their names from how many panes of glass they have -- six over one, for instance, or one over one. (Of course, there's one little twist: When you're referring to doors, panes become "lights," or "lites," as in "15-lite French door.")
*Sash. The panes and their frame. Double-hung windows, for instance, the type most common in older houses, have two sashes, a top sash and a bottom sash.
*Stile. The vertical sides of the sash, left and right.
*Rail. The horizontal parts of the sash, top and bottom.
*Muntins. The wood strips that separate panes within a sash. Glass is installed from the outside of the window. Muntins are routed out on the outside (rabbeted, in technical terms), the glass is fitted, then held in place with glazing points (tiny triangular pieces of metal), and surrounded by glazing compound (a putty-like substance). ("Glazing" is also sometimes used as a verb, as in "glazing a window," to mean putting glass in it, or as an adjective meaning "glassed," as in "double-glazed" windows.)
*Mullions. Vertical pieces of wood that separate windows.
*Jamb. The vertical structures that support the sashes. Jambs have a lot of sub-parts: stops, vertical strips at the inside and outside that keep the sashes from falling in or out; parting strips, vertical strips that separate the sashes in double or triple hung windows; and channels, the spaces between the stops where the sashes ride.
*Sash weights. Traditionally cast iron, these torpedo-shaped weights on cords or chains provide the counterbalance that allows the sashes to be raised and lowered easily and holds them in place when they're raised (in the case of the bottom sash) or lowered (in the case of the top sash).
*Pulleys. Located at the tops of the jambs, they carry the sash cords or sash chains.
*Window sill. The bottom of the jamb, where the bottom sash rests when it's down. In frame houses, the sill often extends out over the exterior siding; in masonry houses, there are two sills, a wooden one beneath the sashes, and the other a masonry course that extends slightly from the house. In both frame and masonry houses, the exterior sill slants slightly toward the ground so water runs away from, rather than into, the house.
*Stool. The interior horizontal strip at the bottom of the window. It usually rests on the sill and forms an additional barrier to water.
*Apron. The horizontal trim on the wall below the stool. It helps seal the edge of the wall below the window so the plaster or drywall edge doesn't show.
*Casing. The trim on the interior or exterior of the window.
*Lintel. The horizontal support at the top of the window that extends past the frame to bear the weight of the structure above. In frame houses, lintels are usually wood, and part of the framing. In masonry houses, the lintels may be brick, block, steel or wood. (Old wooden lintels cause lots of problems in masonry houses, because they rot out. Modern building codes won't allow replacement lintels to be wood.)
New wood replacement windows don't have all the parts of traditional wood windows. The sash weights, cords and pulleys are replaced by a closed tension system and the channels interlock differently with the top and bottom sashes.
New windows also have built-in weather stripping and may have double or triple glazing (two or three panes in a sandwich).
Learning how to talk about them intelligently is the first step in getting old windows replaced, and it's essential if you're repairing or restoring old windows.
Next: First aid for aging panes.
Mr. Johnson is construction manager for Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore. Ms. Menzie is Home Editor of The Sun.
If you have questions, comments, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.