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We’ve been in building supply since 1904. Proving quality building materials is only part of the equation. Our staff is always friendly, always knowledgeable. We’ve hired and trained the best so contractors and “weekend warriors” alike can get the information they need. Build with confidence.

General Frequently Asked Questions

Helpful Videos From Vendors

Get Help With Building Codes

Construction Terminology

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I burn treated wood?

No. Treated wood is hazardous to your health when burned. Always dispose of it properly.

Do you deliver?

Yes. We have a fleet of well-maintained delivery trucks to offer delivery in the greater Grand Traverse area. Click here to learn more.

Can you assist my project design and material selection?

Yes, gladly. We’ve got a phenomenal staff that’s ready to help you design your kitchen, deck, or other projects. We’ll help you select the right materials for your needs and budget too.

Are you open to the public?

Yes. While we service contractors of all levels in the greater Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties areas, we’d love to add you to a growing contingent of do-it-yourselfers that trust our quality and expertise.

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See it Yourself with Videos

Our experienced team is always here to provide you with knowledge and advice, but what about on the site of your project? We’ve built a library of some of our vendors most popular how-to and tips videos.

Andersen Windows
Wolf Home Products
PPG Paints

Building Codes and Permits

Common questions about permits and codes, plus links to buy the codes if you need them. As always, Northern Building Supply is here to help guide you both online and in-store.

What construction projects require a building permit?

With very few exceptions, most new construction will require a building permit. Projects to existing structures also require permits. Additions, decks, siding, re-shingling, change of use, all need permits. Essential for safety, any project that requires structural or load-bearing modifications for safety.

What is a building code?

Building codes are the minimum set of standards to follow for the construction of structures that we use and occupy. They keep things both standardized and safe.

Who needs building codes?

Construction and remodeling projects need building codes. More generally, we all rely on building codes to establish confidence in the basic quality and safety of structures.

What building code do I need?

Currently, the “2015 Michigan Residential Code” applies to one and two-family dwellings. All other structures rely on the “2015 Michigan Building Code.” These codes are based on international standards. Other plumbing, mechanical, and electrical codes are also available through the International Code Council (ICC).

How do I get building codes or more information?

Your county-level government organization has information for applications/permits, inspections, and codes. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) also has great information on their Bureau of Construction Codes page. Click the images to purchase a physical or PDF version of the codes from ICC.


Glossary of Construction Terminology

Sometimes the building industry uses jargon you might not be familiar with. We’ve included some terminology our customers have found helpful.

Area Wells

Corrugated metal or concrete barrier walls installed around a basement window to hold back the earth.

Bottom Chord

The lower or bottom horizontal member of a truss.

Cove Molding

A molding with a concave face used as trim or to finish interior corners.

Flame Retention Burner

An oil burner, designed to hold the flame near the nozzle surface. Generally the most efficient type for residential use.

Heat Trim

Work performed by the Heating Contractor to get the home ready for the municipal Final Heat Inspection. This includes venting the hot water heater, installing all vent grills, registers, air conditioning services, turning on the furnace, installing thermostats, venting ranges and hoods, and all other heat-related work.

Linear / Lineal Foot

A unit of measure for lumber equal to 1 inch thick by 12 inches wide by 12 inches long. Examples: 1″ x 12″ x 16′ = 16 board feet, 2″ x 12″ x 16′ = 32 board feet.

Rake Siding

The practice of installing lap siding diagonally.

Sash Balance

A device, usually operated by a spring and designed to hold a single hung window vent up and in place.

Service Lateral

Underground power supply line.

Stair Rise

The vertical distance from stair tread to stair tread (and not to exceed 7 ½”).

Sway Brace

Metal straps or wood blocks installed diagonally on the inside of a wall from bottom to top plate, to prevent the wall from twisting, racking, or falling over “domino” fashion.

Utility Easement

The area of the earth that has electric, gas, or telephone lines. These areas may be owned by the homeowner, but the utility company has the legal right to enter the area as necessary to repair or service the lines.


Work the framing contractor does after the mechanical subcontractors (Heating-Plumbing-Electrical) finish their phase of work at the Rough (before insulation) stage to get the home ready for a municipal frame inspection. Generally, the framing contractor repairs anything disturbed by others and completes all framing necessary to pass a Rough Frame Inspection.

Concrete Board

A panel made out of concrete and fiberglass usually used as a tile backing material.

Cross Bridging

Diagonal bracing between adjacent floor joists, placed near the center of the joist span to prevent joists from twisting.

Flue Lining

2-foot lengths, fire clay or terra-cotta pipe (round or square) and usually made in all ordinary flue sizes. Used for the inner lining of chimneys with the brick or masonry work done around the outside. Flue linings in chimneys run from one foot below the flue connection to the top of the chimney.

Heel Cut

A notch cut at the end of a rafter to permit it to fit flat on a wall and on the top, doubled, exterior wall plate.

Manufactured Wood

A wood product such as a truss, beam, glulam, microlam or joist which is manufactured out of smaller wood pieces and glued or mechanically fastened to form a larger piece. Often used to create a stronger member which may use less wood. See also Oriented Strand Board.

Roof Joist

The rafters of a flat roof. Lumber used to support the roof sheeting and roof loads. Generally, 2 X 10’s and 2 X 12’s are used.

Scratch Coat

The first coat of plaster, which is scratched to form a bond for a second coat.

Sheet Metal Duct Work

The circulatory system of a forced-air heating system. Usually round or rectangular metal pipes and sheet metal (for Return Air) and installed for distributing warm (or cold) air from the furnace to rooms in the home.

Steel Inspection

A municipal and/or engineers inspection of the concrete foundation wall, conducted before concrete is poured into the foundation panels. Done to ensure that the rebar (reinforcing bar), rebar nets, void material, beam pocket plates, and basement window bucks are installed and wrapped with rebar and complies with the foundation plan.

T&G / Tongue-and-Groove

A joint made by a tongue (a rib on one edge of a board) that fits into a corresponding groove in the edge of another board to make a tight flush joint. Typically, the subfloor plywood is T & G.

Water Board

Water resistant drywall to be used in tub and shower locations. Normally green or blue colored.

Basement Window Inserts

The window frame and glass unit that is installed in the window buck.

Construction Drywall

A type of construction in which the interior wall finish is applied in a dry condition, generally in the form of sheet materials or wood paneling as contrasted to plaster.

Dura board / Dura rock

A panel made out of concrete and fiberglass usually used as a ceramic tile backing material. Commonly used on bathtub decks. Sometimes called Wonder board.

Fly Rafters

End rafters of the gable overhang supported by roof sheathing and lookouts.

Laminated Shingles

Shingles that have added dimensionality because of extra layers or tabs, giving a shake-like appearance. May also be called “architectural shingles” or “three-dimensional shingles.”


A manufactured structural wood beam. It is constructed of pressure and adhesive-bonded wood strands of wood. They have a higher strength rating than solid sawn lumber. Normally comes in l ½” thickness’ and 9 ½”, 11 ½” and 14″ widths

Rough Sill

The framing member at the bottom of a rough opening for a window. It is attached to the cripple studs below the rough opening.

Service Entrance Panel

Main power cabinet where electricity enters a home wiring system.

Soil Stack

A plumbing vent pipe that penetrates the roof.

Stop Box

Normally a cast iron pipe with a lid (@ 5″ in diameter) that is placed vertically into the ground, situated near the water tap in the yard, and where a water cut-off valve to the home is located (underground). A long pole with a special end is inserted into the curb stop to turn off/on the water.


To drive a nail in at a slant. The method used to secure floor joists to the plate.

Wind Bracing

Metal straps or wood blocks installed diagonally on the inside of a wall from bottom to top plate, to prevent the wall from twisting, racking, or falling over “domino” fashion.

Bearing Partition

A partition that supports any vertical load in addition to its own weight.

Coped Joint

Cutting and fitting woodwork to an irregular surface.

Exposed Aggregate Finish

A method of finishing concrete which washes the cement/sand mixture off the top layer of the aggregate – usually gravel. Often used in driveways, patios and other exterior surfaces.

Gang Nail Plate

A steel plate attached to both sides at each joint of a truss. Sometimes called a fishplate or gussett.

Leech Field

A method used to treat/dispose of sewage in rural areas not accessible to a municipal sewer system. Sewage is permitted to be filtered and eventually discharged into a section of the lot called a leech field.

Plumbing Waste Line

Plastic pipe used to collect and drain sewage waste.

Sack Mix

The amount of Portland cement in a cubic yard of concrete mix. Generally, 5 or 6 sack is required in a foundation wall.

Service Equipment

Main control gear at the service entrance, such as circuit breakers, switches, and fuses.

Solid Bridging

A solid member placed between adjacent floor joists near the center of the span to prevent joists or rafters from twisting.

Structural Floor

A framed lumber floor that is installed as a basement floor instead of concrete. This is done on very expansive soils.

Top Chord

The upper or top member of a truss.

Yard of Concrete

One cubic yard of concrete is 3′ X 3′ X 3′ in volume or 27 cubic feet. One cubic yard of concrete will pour 80 square feet of 3 ½” sidewalk or basement/garage floor.