Common Building Terms
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
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 a more extensive listing of Building & Construction Terminology, go to:
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