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Understanding Building Jargon

Welcome to the wonderful world of Builders Jargon! Working in the office, even I have my moments of fleeting confusion. The terminology used during a project is vital to anyone building – whether it is your dream home or an investment property. Knowing the difference between a joist and a jamb may not be as detrimental to you personally as knowing the difference between a quote and an estimate, but here is a list of some common (and not so common) words and terms you may hear around a worksite or when speaking with your project team. Feel free to impress them with your knowledge!

General Terms:
Aggregate: This is a general term for stones used within a concrete mix or loose stones/rocks for back-filling retaining walls.

Baluster: A normal person would use the word banister.

Bib tap: A tap that has a horizontal supply running to it.

Bodge: This word describes something that has been poorly done, so hopefully you never hear it!

Chippy: Slang term for a carpenter.

Estimate: An educated estimate of how much something could cost, usually within 15% of the costs final quote.

First Fix: Everything that needs to be done before the plastering such as the house timber framing and the installation of wires. 

Floor plan: The floor plan refers to the layout of the building. It is a drawing of the bird’s eye view that shows how the different spaces relate to each other.

Gobbo: Slang term for mortar.

Header: The end of a brick.

Loose fill insulation: Any form of loose material that is used to fill ceiling cavities for insulation purposes.

Knotting solution: A specialty varnish that covers the knots in wood; this is important as resin from knots can change the colour of paintwork.

Lath: A strip of wood that is used as a frame for plaster.

Lathe: The actual machine used when working on lath, wood, metal, and other materials.

Make good: Repairing the plaster and paintwork after some form of interior construction work.

Quote: An official price for a specific task or set of tasks. Quotes should be detailed enough that you know exactly what you are paying for. too much ambiguity would suggest that it is really an estimate. ( A lot of estimates are disguised as quotes!)

Racking Back: Building the two ends of a brick wall first in order to get the correct level.

Rafters: Horizontal beams that support a pitched roof.

Raking: Removing old mortar from brick or masonry work before applying new mortar to the existing bricks.

Screed: A layer of concrete that provides a very smooth finish and often sets the falls within a bathroom floor.

Second Fix: Everything that happens after plastering is finished.

Skim:  The finish top coat of plaster is applied to walls and ceilings that already have a base to apply it to.

Soldier course: Bricks that are set with the narrow side exposed are called soldiers and when presented in a row that is the soldier course.

Span: A horizontal distance that is usually used when referring to beams and joists etc.

Sparky: Slang term for an electrician.

Toothing in: When an existing wall is being repaired or lengthened the vertical side has alternate rows of bricks jutting out to form a strong bond with new work.

Tread: The horizontal parts of a staircase; the parts you tread on.

TRV (Thermostatic radiator valve): a self-regulating valve fitted to hot water heating system radiator, to control the temperature of a room by changing the flow of hot water to the radiator.

Voussoir: Brick shaped like a wedge that is used for constructing arches.

Acro Prop: An extendable device that provides temporary support to walls

Architrave: The moulding around openings such as doors or windows that can be made from a variety of different materials and can be highly stylised.

Arris: the sharp edge formed by the intersection of two surfaces

Closer: This term refers to a brick that has been cut in half lengthways.

Course: A ‘course of bricks’ is a single horizontal row of bricks.

Cornice: Decorative horizontal moulding along the top of a wall, just below the ceiling.

Damp Proof Course: A horizontal barrier in a wall designed to prevent moisture rising through the structure by capillary action – a phenomenon known as rising damp.

Drip: A moulding in an overhanging sill that prevents water from seeping back to the wall.

Fixtures: Permanently installed items that are attached to the property and cannot be removed without causing damage to the property, such as bathroom suites, built-in wardrobes, and kitchen stoves.

Glazing Bar: A bar that has been shaped for a pane of glass that typically creates a seal from the elements.

Jamb: The side of an opening in a wall that is for a door or a window.

Lintel: A beam over an opening that supports a wall above it that can be both ornamental and/or structural.

Joist: A beam that supports a floor or ceiling.

Mezzanine: A floor that juts out between the floor and ceiling of a room;
used to create more floor space in tall rooms.

Newel: The posts that support a hand rail at the top and bottom of a staircase.

Nogging: Small intermediate timbers halfway up a stud or joist that provide extra support.

Relieving Arch: An arch that bears the weight of a wall.

Stack: A vertical plumbing waste pipe to service an upstairs wet area.

String: The board that goes up the side of a staircase.

Outdoors and landscaping:

Buttress: A term that refers to the thickening of a wall to strengthen it.

Coping: The finish applied to the top of a wall to protect it from the elements, usually bricks laid on edge and on a slope to divert water. It also refers to the capping or edging around a pool.

Easement: A right held by one person to make use of the land of another.
For example, land set aside for drainage and sewerage pipes.

Eaves: The lower portion and edge of a roof that overhangs the walls; the overhang created by your eaves will direct water away from the walls and windows during the rain which means less cleaning and greater longevity in your build.

Flashing: A metal sheet that waterproofs junctions such as between a wall and a roof.

Footing: A construction feature that transfers the weight of a building to the building’s foundation.

Formation Level: The deepest excavation point when constructing pathways or driveways.

Gable: Triangular end of a house formed by the end of a pitched roof, from the level of the eaves to the roof apex.

Hipped roof: A pitched roof with sloping ends.

Mansard Roof: A pitched roof that is designed and built to have rooms directly underneath.

Pitch: The angle of a sloping roof.

Plinth: A base for external walls.

Purlin: A horizontal beam in a roof that the cladding is screwed to.

Render: The external cement covering for walls.

Reveal: The part of a window that extends from the aluminium frame and that the architrave is fixed to.

Roof truss: A pre-fabricate timber framework that supports a roof.

Root barrier: An engineer-designed method to protect a house slab from roots of nearby trees.

Sarking: A layer of breathable membrane that sits under your roof tiles as a moisture barrier.

Soil test: A test that establishes how likely it is that the soil beneath your project will move, expand and contract with different levels of moisture content and determines how a house must be built.

We know this can seem like a lot to learn… so take a breath, grab a cuppa, and settle in with one of our many free e-books that will help you on your building journey!  Feel free to contact us at 8366 2225 with any questions and remember, your project team is there to help you. If you don’t understand something, ASK! There will never be a question we haven’t heard and just like your grannie mentioned… there’s no such thing as stupid questions!  

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