ABUTMENT: That part of a pier or wall either end of an arch, beam, or bridge which resists the pressure of a load.

AGGREGATE: The crushed stone or alternative substance contained in concrete.

AIR BRICK: Ventilation built into brickwork to provide ventilation through the wall.

ALLOTMENT: A building site

APEX: The highest point of a gable.

ARCHITRAVE: A moulded section covering the joint between window and door frames and the wall lining

BACKFILL: To fill the earth, any remaining space after placing concrete, brickwork, timber, pipes etc in an excavation.

BAGGING – A method of finishing brickwork involving the application of a thin mortar slurry using a hessian bag or sponge. Can be painted over or left to fade in an oxide finish. Usually completed by the bricklayer. Bagging varies in texture & colour greatly and is not uniform like render.

BALUSTRADE – A series of vertical members supporting a handrail of a stair, landing, platform or bridge.

BARGE BOARD: The board covering the roof timbers on the gable or skillion end of a roof, fixed parallel to the roof slope.

BEAM: A horizontal load-bearing structural member.

BEARER: A member of floor framing, spanning piers and supporting joists.

BED JOINT: Horizontal joint in brickwork.

BENCHMARK (BM): A fixed point of reference, the elevation of which is known and referred to during levelling operations.

BOND: Pattern for laying bricks so that none of the perpends are in line in adjacent courses.

BRICK CONSTRUCTION: A construction where the external and internal walls are built of brick.

BRICK VENEER: Framed construction with an outside skin of brickwork tied to the frame.

BUILDING TRADES: The trades that play a part in the construction of a building (eg carpentry, masonry, painting, plumbing, electricity, etc).

CAPPING: The uppermost part on top of a piece of work.

CAPPING BRICK: Bricks which are specially shaped for capping the exposed top of a wall.

CARPENTRY: Trade of preparing, cutting and fixing timber in building construction.

CAST IN-SITU: Concrete cast or poured in its permanent position in prepared forms (eg concrete steps, hearth slabs, floors, etc).

CAVITY WALL: A hollow wall, usually consisting of two brick walls erected 40 to 50mm apart and joined together with ties of metal.

CHASE: A rough groove or recess cut into a masonry wall for water pipes, conduit etc.

CIVIL ENGINEERING WORKS: Works comprising a structure other than a building and its associated site works such as a dam, bridge, road, etc or an operation such as dredging, dewatering, soil stabilisation.

CLADDING: Any material used to face a building or structure.

CONCRETE: Artificial rock of cement, sand and aggregate.

CONSTRUCTION JOINT: Joint which occurs because of the sequence of construction, unlike an expansion joint.

CONTOUR LINE: A line drawn on a site plan joining points of the same elevation.

CORNICE – A moulding placed at the junction between a wall and ceiling.

COUNTERSINK: A tapered recess, cut around a pilot hole for a screw, to receive the head of the screw.

COURSE: A single row or layer of bricks.

CRAZING: Fine cracks that may occur on plastered or rendered surface.

CROSS CUTTING: Cutting timber across the grain.

CURING: Treatment of concrete or cement rendering to facilitate hardening.

DADO – The lower portion of a wall above the skirting when finished in contrast to the remainder of the wall e.g. with wood panelling.

DAMP PROOF COURSE (DPC): A barrier, usually physical, built into masonry to prevent moisture migrating up from the ground or down from above, eg chimneys, parapets.

DATUM: A predetermined level on a site from which all other levels are established.

DEAD LOAD: A permanent, inert load on a building or other structure due to the weight of its structural members and the fixed loads they carry, which impose definite stresses and strains upon the structure.

DISTRIBUTED LOAD: A load spread over a surface expressed in kilograms per square metre, or along a length of member expressed in kilograms per metre.

DOOR FRAME: A frame into which a door is fitted.

DOOR HEAD: The upper part of the frame of a door.

DOOR JAMBS: The two vertical members of a door frame.

DOOR LEAVES: In wide openings, a door may be made up into two or more individual sections or “leaves”, which are hinged together.

DOWEL: A wood or metal pin used to strengthen a joint by its insertion partly into each of the

joined pieces.

DRESSED: Timber that has passed through a planing machine to produce smooth surfaces.

EAVE: The lower part of a roof that overhangs the walls.

EFFLORESCENCE: A white or coloured powder sometimes formed on the surface of masonry by deposit of soluble salts.

ELEVATION: A geometrical drawing of a facade of a building.

EXCAVATION: A hole made by removing earth.

EXPANSION JOINT: A joint in a building to permit thermal movement or creep.

EXPANSION STRIP: A soft, resilient material used to fill the void provided for the expansion and contraction of any two adjacent substances.

FASCIA: A board fixed horizontally to the lower ends of the rafters, to which guttering may be fixed. Also forms the outside board of a boxed eave.

FIBRE CEMENT: A product made of cellulose fibre, fillers, Portland cement and water.

FILLET: A small strip of wood or a flat moulding of small section.

FINISHES: The final applied coat or natural surface of a material used in walls, ceilings or floors of a building.

FLASHING: A strip of impervious material used to prevent the ingress of water between two surfaces.

FLUSH JOINT: To place two adjacent surfaces together in the same plane. To form an invisible joint between two such surfaces, eg sheets of plaster-board.

FOOTING: The construction whereby the weight of the structure is transferred from the base structure to the foundation.

FORMS: Prepared forms of timber or other material for the casting of concrete.

FOUNDATION: The ground upon which the footings of a building are constructed.

FRONT AGE: The line or lines marking the division between a building site and a street.

GABLE – The vertical triangular end of a building with a pitched roof, between the rafters from eaves level to the apex (ridge). It may be formed in brickwork or timber framed and clad with weatherboards.

GRADING: A classification of timber by strength requirement to perform a specific tasks.

GROUND PLAN (FLOOR): Plan view of a horizontal section of a building showing the layout of rooms on the ground floor.

HANDRAIL: Railing which serves as a guard and which is intended to be grasped by the hand to serve as a support.

HEADER: A brick laid with its short end to the face of the wall.

HIP: A slanting ridge formed by the intersection of two sloping roof surfaces at an external corner.

HIPPED ROOF: A roof with an end roughly pyramidal in shape, with surfaces sloping upwards from all three eaves.

HOT DIP GALVANISED: Process by which iron or steel is immersed in molten zinc to provide protection against corrosion while in service.

JOINERY: Doors, windows, cupboards, manufactured in a joiner’s shop.

JOIST: Ceiling Timber members spanning between walls or other supports, to which the ceiling battens or ceiling is attached.

KERFING: The process of cutting grooves of kerfs across a board so as to make it flexible for bending

KILN DRYING: Controlled seasoning of timber by use of kilns.

LEVELLING INSTRUMENT: Device consisting of a spirit level attached to a sighting tube and the whole mounted on a tripod and used for levelling a surface to a horizontal plane (eg dumpy level).

LINING: Internal covering to walls of framed construction.

LINTEL: Structural member or beam carrying loads over an opening.

MASONRY: Brick, concrete, stone, artificial stone or terra cotta laid in mortar.

MASTIC: A waterproof adhesive plastic compound.

MATRIX: The mixture of sand and cement that binds together the aggregate of concrete.

MILLED: Timber that has passed through a moulding machine and is of a specific profile.

MITRE: Half the angle of a joint.

MOISTURE BARRIER: Material which is used to retard the flow of vapour or moisture into floor or walls.

MOISTURE CONTENT: Mass of water contained in timber expressed as a percentage of dry wood fibre.

MONOLITHIC: Any structure made of a continuous mass of material or cast as a single piece.

MORTAR: A composition of lime and/or cement and sand mixed with water in various proportions.

MORTAR JOINTS: Types of joints in finishing the mortar in stone or brick work.

MORTISE: A recess in a piece of wood to receive a tenon or lock.

NEWELS: Posts placed at top and bottom of flights of stairs to secure handrails, strings.

NOGGING: A horizontal piece of timber fixed between studs in a framed wall.

NOMINAL SIZE: Sawn sectional size of timber.

NON-LOAD BEARING PARTITION OR NON–LOAD BEARING WALL: One which supports no vertical load except that of its own weight and merely defines spaces.

NOSING: A projecting edge of any flat surface (generally rounded in section), eg the projecting edge of a stair tread.

OFF FORM CONCRETE: Concrete which is formed by placing and stripping from formwork and has no other applied finish.

ORTHOGONAL PROJECTION: A drawing of the various views or sections of a building, so the projecting lines are perpendicular to the place of projection.

OUTSIDE FOUNDATION LINE: A line which indicates the location of the outside of the foundation wall for a new building.

OVERFLASHING: The flashing which is built into the wall surface and sits over the upturned apron flashing.

OVERHANG (ROOF): The section of a roof extending over the external wall (see Eaves).

OVERLOADING: Placing too heavy a load on a beam, column or floor.

PARAPET: Low wall at the edge of a roof, balcony, bridge or terrace.

PARTICLEBOARD: A manufactured material formed by bonding together flakes of wood and pressing them into a dense sheet.

PARTY WALL: The wall between two adjoining buildings but common to and used to advantage of both buildings.

PELMET – A built-in head to a window to conceal the curtain rod or to a sliding door to conceal the tracks.

PERGOLA: An open framework over a path, terrace or patio.

PERPENDS: The vertical joints in a masonry wall.

PIER: A vertical member of base structure.

PITCH: The angle of inclination to the horizontal of a roof or stair.

PITCH ROOF: The ratio of the height to span, usually measured in degrees.

POINTING: The completion of jointing between ridge or hip tiles with a matching colour after bedding of tiles or trowelling of mortar into joints after bricks have been laid to touch up.

RAFTER: A sloping member in a roof providing the principal structural support for the roofing material.

RAKED JOINT: A brick joint raked out by the bricklayer for a key for plaster or as a decorative finish.

RENDER: The covering of a brick wall with one or more coats of cement mortar consisting of Sydney Sand, cement and plasterers clay.

RIDGE: The highest part (apex) of a roof, which is usually a horizontal line.

RISER: The vertical face of a step in a stair flight.

SHORING: The temporary or permanent support of an existing building, often due to demolition or of footing excavation to prevent collapse.

SKIRTING: A wooden board fixed to the bottom of a wall at the junction of the floor to prevent damage to the wall or to conceal small gaps.

SLIP JOINT: A joint designed to allow movement between two members usually in the form of two layers of sheet metal with grease installed on top of a brick wall prior to installation of a concrete slab.

SPROCKET: A framing timber used in eaves construction.

STUCCO: Traditionally an external render to provide a decorative finish but now generally referred to as a fibro wall sheet with a decorative finish.

THRESHOLD: The step or sill at an external door of usually timber tile or brickwork.

UNDERPINNING: The construction of new footings or concrete piers under an existing footing to prevent its collapse or failure.

VALLEY: The meeting line of two inclined roof surfaces at a re-entrant angle.

WEEP HOLES: Vertical joints or perpends in brickwork left open above the flashing line to allow water from behind the wall to escape.

WINDERS: Wedge shaped treads in a staircase landing.

Z-PURLIN: A metal purlin with a cross section in the shape of the letter Z.


For an extensive list of Building & Construction Terminology, see: Australian Building Codes Board


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