A

  • AGGREGATE

    Pebbles, shingle, gravel etc., used in the manufacture of concrete and in the construction of “soakaways”.
  • AIRBRICK

    Perforated brick used for ventilation, especially to floor voids (beneath timber floors) and roof spaces.
  • ANAGLYPTA

    Embossed lining paper used for walls and ceilings.
  • ARCHITRAVE

    Joinery moulding around window or doorway.
  • ARTEX

    Decorative texture coating for ceilings and walls.
  • ASBESTOS

    Fibrous mineral used in the past for insulation. Can be a health hazard, specialist advice should be sought if asbestos (especially blue asbestos) is found.
  • ASBESTOS CEMENT

    Cement with 10-15% asbestos fibre as reinforcement. Fragile, will not bear heavy weights. Hazardous fibres may be released if cut or drilled.
  • ASPHALT

    lack, tar-like substance, strongly adhesive and impervious to moisture. Used on flat roofs and floors.
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B

  • Balcony

    A platform projecting from a wall, enclosed by a railing or balustrade, supported on brackets or cantilevered out.
  • BALUSTER

    A short post or pillar in a series that supports a rail, thus forming a balustrade, may be curved or straight, generally formed to staircases.
  • BALANCED FLUE

    Common metal device normally serving gas appliances which allows air to be drawn to the appliance whilst also allowing fumes to escape.
  • BAY, BOW AND ORIEL WINDOWS

    These windows project out from the front or side of a house. Oriel windows generally project from an upper storey, supported by brackets. Bay windows are angled/square projections that rise up from the ground. Bow windows are rounded projections often formed of the glass itself.
  • BACK ADDITION

    Rear projecting wing of house.
  • BALANCED FLUE

    Duct through wall takes boiler oxygen from the outside.
  • BARGE BOARD

    Timber fascia to roof verge or gable end.
  • BARK BORER

    A generally harmless form of woodworm found in bark and sapwood.
  • BATTENS

    Thin timber strips, to which tiles and slates are fixed.
  • BEETLE INFESTATION

    (Wood boring insects; woodworm). Larvae of various species of beetle which tunnel into timber causing damage. Specialist treatment normally required. Can also affect furniture.
  • BENCHING

    Smoothly contoured concrete slope beside drainage channel within an inspection chamber. Also known as Haunching
  • BINDER

    Roof timber running over ceiling joists to provide stiffness.
  • BIRDSMOUTH

    Cut in roof timber to join strut at angle to purlin, rafter to plate.
  • BITUMEN

    Black sticky substance, related to asphalt. Used in sealants, mineral felts and damp-proof courses.
  • BLACKASH MORTAR

    Made using industrial ash instead of sand with cement and lime.
  • BONDING

    Method of laying bricks, i.e. English Bond, Flemish Bond.
  • BORROWED LIGHT

    Window in interior wall transferring natural light from windows in another room.
  • BREEZE BLOCK

    Originally made from cinders (“breeze”) the term now commonly used to refer to various types of concrete and cement building blocks.
  • BRESSUMER

    Beam spanning opening to support wall above.
  • BUILDING REGULATIONS

    Statutory Local Authority control over building works.
  • BUILDING SURVEY

    Detailed inspection and report (formerly Structural Survey).
  • C

  • CALCIUM CHLORIDE

    Additive used in concrete which can cause loss of strength.
  • CALCIUM SILICATE BRICKS

    Type of brick prone to thermal cracking.
  • CANTILEVER

    A horizontal projection from a building, such as a step, balcony, beam or canopy, that is without external bracing and appears to be self-supporting.
  • CAPILLARY ACTION

    A process by which dampness can rise through walls and floors and between tiles.
  • CARBONATION

    A natural process affecting the outer layer of concrete. Metal reinforcement within that layer is liable to early corrosion, with consequent fracturing of the concrete.
  • CASEMENT WINDOW

    A metal or wooden window that opens outward or inward.
  • CAVITY WALL

    Standard modern method of building external walls of houses comprising two leaves of brick or blockwork separated by gap (“cavity”) of about 50mm (2 inches).
  • CAVITY WALL INSULATION

    Filling of wall cavities by one of various forms of insulation material:
    -Beads: Polystyrene beads pumped into the cavities. Will easily fall out if the wall is broken open for any reason.
    -Foam: Urea formaldehyde form, mixed on site and pumped into the cavities where it sets. Can lead to problems of dampness and make replacement of wall-ties more difficult.
    -Rockwood: Inert mineral fibre pumped into the cavity.
  • CAVITY WALL-TIE

    Metal device bedded into the inner and outer leaves of cavity walls to strengthen the wall. Failure by corrosion can result in the wall becoming unstable, specialist replacement ties are then required.
  • CESSPOOL

    A simple method of drain comprising a holding tank which needs frequent emptying. Not to be confused with Septic Tank.
  • CHEEK

    Side face of roof dormer or bay.
  • CHIPBOARD

    Also referred to as “particle board”. Chips of wood compressed and glues into sheet form. Cheap method of decking to flat roofs, floors and (with formica or melamine surface) furniture, especially kitchen units.
  • COB

    Rural wall construction using rendered earth, clay, straw etc.
  • CODES OF PRACTICE

    Various non-statutory recommendations for use of materials.
  • COLLAR

    Horizontal timber member intended to restrain opposing roof slopes. Absence, removal or weakening can lead to Roof Spread.
  • COMBINATION BOILER

    Modern form of gas boiler which activates on demand. With this form of boiler there is no need for water storage tanks, hot water cylinders etc.
  • CONCRETE

    Cement mixed with course and fine aggregate (pebbles, crushed stone, brick), sand and water in specific proportions. There are three types of concrete: precast, reinforced and prestressed.
  • CONDENSATION

    Arises on any surface when critical dew point is reached.
  • CONSUMER UNIT

    Modern electric switch box with fuses or circuit breakers (fuseboard).
  • CONVENTIONAL FLUE

    Boiler chimney with boiler oxygen taken from room.
  • CONVERSION

    Property now used differently from original layout – especially flats.
  • COPING

    Brick, stone or tile finish to top of parapet wall.
  • CORBE

    Cantilevered projecting support on face of wall.
  • CORE SAMPLE

    Taken for testing – especially concrete.
  • CORNICE

    Ornamental moulded projection around the top of a building or around the wall of a room just below the ceiling
  • COVING

    Curved junction between wall and ceiling or (rarely) between ceiling and floors.
  • CREEP

    Spreading and cracking especially to asphalt and leadwork on slopes in sun.
  • CURTAIN WALLING

    Non load bearing thin outer panel wall.
  • CURTILAGE

    Enclosed area of land belonging to dwelling.
  • D

  • DADO RAIL

    Wooden moulding fixed horizontally to a wall, about 1m (3ft 4in) above the floor, originally intended to protect the wall against damage by chair-backs.
  • DAMP PROOF COURSE

    Course layer of impervious material (mineral felt, pvc etc) incorporated into a wall to prevent dampness rising up the wall or lateral dampness around windows, doors etc. Various proprietary methods are available for damp-proofing existing walls including “electro-osmosis” ands chemical injection.
  • DEATHWATCH BEETLE

    (Xestobium Refovillosum) Series insect pest in structural timbers, usually affects old hardwoods with fungal decay already present.
  • DETAILING

    Flashing upstands and other roof weather sealing.
  • DISHING

    Downward movement to the centre of a floor or roof.
  • DORMER WINDOW

    A window placed vertically in a sloping roof that has a tiny roof of its own. Most often seen in second floor bedrooms.
  • DOUBLE GLAZING

    A method of thermal insulation usually either:
    Sealed unit: Two panes of glass fixed and hermetically sealed together, or:
    Secondary: In effect a second “window” placed inside the original window.
  • DRY ROT

    (Serpula Lacrymans). A fungus which attacks structural and joinery timbres, often with devastating results. Can flourish in moist, unventilated areas.
  • E

  • EASEMENT

    Right over adjoining property, e.g. for drainage, light etc.
  • EAVES

    The overhanging edge of a roof.
  • EFFLORESCENCE

    Salt deposits on walls or roof tiles where dampness evaporates.
  • ENDOSCOPE

    Equipment for viewing inside wall cavities etc.
  • ENGINEERING BRICK

    Particularly strong and dense type of brick, sometimes used as a damp-proof course.
  • EXCLUSION CLAUSES

    Parts of reports limiting surveyors liability.
  • EYEBROW WINDOW

    Set into roof slope under curve in tiles.
  • F

  • FACADE

    Front elevation of building.
  • FASCIA

    A horizontal piece (such as a board) covering the joint between the top of a wall and the projecting eaves; also called fascia board.
  • FIBREBOARD

    Cheap, lightweight board material of little strength, used in ceilings or as insulation to attics.
  • FILLET

    Sealing of joist and corners between surfaces, generally cement mortar.
  • FINLOCK GUTTERS

    Interlocking pre-cast concrete gutters.
  • FLANK

    Side elevation of building.
  • FLASHING

    Building technique used to prevent leakage at a roof joint. Normally metal (lead, zinc, copper) but can be cement, felt or proprietary material.
  • FLAUNCHING

    Contoured cement around the base of chimney pots, to secure the pot and to throw off rain.
  • FLIGHT

    Straight run of stairs.
  • FLUE

    A smoke duct in a chimney, or a proprietary pipe serving a heat-producing appliance such as a central heating boiler.
  • FLUE LINER

    Metal (usually stainless steel) tube within a flue essential for high output gas appliances such as boilers. May also be manufactured from clay and built into the flue.
  • FLYING FREEHOLD

    n England the ownership of airspace over another Freehold.
  • FLYING SHORE

    Temporary support framework between buildings.
  • FOUNDATIONS

    Normally concrete, laid underground as a structural base to a wall: In older buildings may be brick or stone.
  • FRENCH DOOR

    A tall casement window that reaches to the floor and opens like a door.
  • FRIEZE

    Decorated band along the upper part of an interior wall.
  • FROG

    A depression imprinted in the upper surface of a brick, to save clay, reduce weight and increase the strength of the wall. Bricks should always be laid frog uppermost.
  • G

  • GABLE

    Upper section of a wall, usually triangular in shape, at either end of a ridged roof.
  • GALVANIC CORROSION

    Galvanised steel tanks rust in presence of lead and copper.
  • GRAVITY CIRCULATION

    No pump, wide bore pipework for heating and hot water.
  • GROUND HEAVE

    Swelling of clay sub-soil due to absorption of moisture, or tree removal: can cause an upward movement in foundations.
  • GROUT

    Filling for joists or cracks, especially in tiling.
  • GULLIES

    Exterior drains into which waste and storm water discharges.
  • H

  • HALF TIMBERING

    A method of construction featuring walls built in timber framework with the spaces filled in by plaster or brickwork. Often some of the exposed planks are laid at an angle to create a pattern.
  • HAUNCHING

    See Benching. Also term used to describe the support to a drain underground.
  • HEADER

    A brick laid in a wall so that only its end appears on the face of the wall. To add a varied appearance o brickwork, headers are alternated with “stretchers”, bricks laid full length on their sides.
  • HERRINGBONE WORK

    Stone, brick or tile work in which the components are laid diagonally instead of horizontally forming a distinct zigzag pattern along a wall face.
  • HIP

    The external junction between two intersecting roof slopes..
  • HIPPED ROOF

    A roof with sloped instead of vertical ends.
  • HAC

    High Alumina Cement. Additive used in concrete to speed hardening, cases loss of strength especially in damp conditions.
  • HARDCORE

    Broken brick, stone, concrete etc.
  • HOGGIN

    Hardcore used as infilling material beneath solid floors etc.
  • HONEYCOMB WALL

    Bricks laid with gaps between to allow ventilation (sleeper wall).
  • HOPPERHEAD

    Funnel to collect water at top of downpipe/wastepipe.
  • I

  • INFILL

    Hardcore, rubble or other such material used to bring the ground floor level on a sloping site, prior to laying of a solid concrete floor level.
  • INSPECTION CHAMBER

    Commonly called “manhole”. Access point to a drain comprising a chamber (of brick, concrete or plastic) with the drainage channel at its base and a removable cover at ground level.
  • INTERCEPTOR

    Trap in drain to prevent foul air entering from sewer.
  • INVERT

    Bottom of manhole or drain.
  • INTERSTITIAL CONDENSATION

    Trapped moisture in timber frame walls and flat roofs, double glazing.
  • J

  • JAMB

    Side part of a doorway or window.
  • JOIST

    Horizontal structural timber used in flat roof, ceiling and floor construction. Occasionally also metal.
  • K

  • KING POST

    Single central upright in traditional roof truss system.

    L

  • LOGGIA

    A gallery open on one or more sides, sometimes pillared. It may also be a separate structure, usually in a garden.
  • LAMINATION

    Splitting away of surface of tiles etc. (delamination).
  • LANDSLIP

    Downhill movement of unstable earth, clay, rock etc., often following prolonged heavy rain or coastal erosion, but sometimes due entirely to sub-soil having little cohesive integrity.
  • LATH

    Thin strip of wood used in the fixing of roof tiles or slates, or as a back to plaster.
  • LATH AND PLASTER

    Traditional ceiling and stud wall plaster on thin wooden strips.
  • LINTEL

    Horizontal structural beam of timber, stone, steel or concrete placed over window or door openings.
  • LONGHORN BEETLE

    (Hylotrupe Bajulus). A serious insect pest mainly confined to the extreme south east of England, which can totally destroy the structural strength of wood.
  • LPG

    Liquid Petroleum Gas or Propane. Available to serve gas appliances in areas without mains gas. Requires as storage tank.
  • M

  • MADE GROUND

    Potentially difficult sites infilled with hardcore or rubbish.
  • MANSARD ROOF

    This roof is flat on top, sloping steeply down on its sides, thus appearing to enclose the top storey, usually tiled.
  • MANTLEPIECE

    The wood, brick, stone or marble frame surrounding a fireplace.
  • MAISONETTE

    A dwelling on more than one level, part of a larger building, usually having its own independent ground floor access point.
  • MICROBORE HEATING

    Narrow diameter pipework connected by manifolds.
  • MINERAL FELT

    Common flat roof covering with fairly short life.
  • MOISTURE METER

    Measures electrical conductivity and hence dampness.
  • MONITORING

    Observing crack damage over time using tell-tales, studs or similar.
  • MONO-PITCH

    Roof with only one slope.
  • MORTAR

    Mixture of sand, cement, lime and water, used to join stones or bricks.
  • MOTORISED VALVES

    Electrically controlled flow in heating and hot water pipes.
  • MOVEMENT JOINTS

    In walls and floors to allow for expansion and contraction.
  • MULLION

    Vertical bar dividing individual lights in a window.
  • N

  • NAIL SICKNESS

    Rusting of nails used to fix slates to roof battens.
  • NATIONAL HOUSE BUILDING COUNCIL

    Issues 10 year NHBC certificates.
  • NEWEL

    Stout post supporting a staircase handrail at top and bottom. Also, the central pillar of a winding or spiral staircase.
  • NO-FINES CONCRETE

    Cast concrete in shuttering with no sand aggregate.
  • NOGGINS

    Horizontal timber between studs in timber-framed wall construction.
  • NOSING

    Outer top corner of step or sill.
  • O

  • ONE-PIPE HEATING

    All water passes in and out of each radiator in turn.
  • OVERSAILING

    Course of brick or stone projecting out from face of wall.
  • OVERSITE

    Rough concrete below timber ground floors: the level of the oversite should be above external ground level.
  • P

  • PARAPET

    Low all along the edge of a flat roof, balcony etc.
  • PARQUET FLOORING

    Flooring of hardwood strips laid in patterns of a wood subfloor or concrete.
  • PATIO

    Paved recreation area, usually to the rear of the property.
  • PEDIMENT

    Low pitched gable above a portico or similar feature above doors in homes or windows. Generally stonework, rendered brickwork.
  • PERGOLA

    A covered walk in a garden, usually formed by a double row of posts or pillars with joists above and covered by climbing plants.
  • PILASTER

    A shallow pier or a rounded/rectangular column projecting only slightly from a wall. Primarily decorative.
  • PORCH

    The roofed entrance to a house.
  • PORTICO

    A roofed entrance to a house that is columned like a temple front.
  • PREFABRICATION

    The manufacture of whole buildings or components cast/assembled in a factory or off-site before placed in position.
  • PANTILES

    Flattened S-shaped interlocking tiles.
  • PARTY WALL

    Each owner owns half with rights in respect of the other half.
  • PEBBLE DASH

    Cement mortar render with brown pebble or similar pebble finish.
  • PEGTILES

    Old handmade tiles held by wooden pegs on battens.
  • PILES

    Foundation of concrete columns sunk into ground, can be steel.
  • PITCHED ROOF

    Sloping (rather than flat) and covered with tiles, slates etc.
  • PLASTERBOARD

    Chips and plaster sandwiched between 2 sheets of cardboard.
  • PLATE

    Horizontal timber on wall to spread load of joists, rafters etc.
  • PLINTH

    Widening at base of wall, often rendered.
  • PLUMB

    Vertical (out of plumb/loss of plumbness – leaning/bowing, distorted).
  • PONDING

    Lying water on flat roofs, hardstandings where constructed of inadequate falls.
  • PURLIN

    Roof timber running sideways across slope and supporting rafters.
  • Q

  • QUOINS

    The dressed stones at the corners of buildings, usually laid so their faces are alternatively large and small. Usually in contrasting colour of brick or stonework from the rest of the wall. Common in Georgian houses.
  • QUEEN POST

    Two off-centre uprights used in traditional roof truss system.
  • R

  • RADON

    A radioactive gas usually associated with granite rock, subsoils.
  • RAFTER

    A sloping roof beam, usually timber, forming the carcass of a roof.
  • RENDERING

    Vertical covering of a wall either plaster (internally) or cement (externally) sometimes with pebble-dash, stucco or Tyrolean textured finish.
  • RETAINING WALL

    Supports ground to the rear of the wall, may provide support to structures, prevents landslip.
  • REVEALS

    The side faces of a window or door opening.
  • RIDGE

    Horizontal top to a pitched roof, usually covered with ridge tiles.
  • RISER

    The vertical part of a step or stair.
  • RISING DAMP

    Moisture soaking up a wall from below ground, by capillary action causing rot in timbers, plaster decay, decoration failure etc.
  • ROOF SPREAD

    Outward bowing of a wall caused by the thrust of a badly restrained roof carcass. (See Collar).
  • ROLLED STEEL JOIST

    RSJ used as a lintel to structural openings
  • ROTATION OF FOUNDATION, FLOOR OR LINTEL

    Tilting or overturning movement around axis.
  • ROUGH CAST

    Cement render application to give rough uneven finish.
  • S

  • SASH WINDOW

    A window formed with sashes or sliding frames running in vertical grooves.
  • SCREED

    Final, smooth finish of a solid floor; usually cement, concrete or asphalt.
  • SCRIM

    Hessian type material used to seal joints in plasterboard.
  • SEPTIC TANK

    Tank drain installation whereby sewage decomposes through bacteriological action, which can be slowed down or stopped altogether by the use of chemicals such as bleach, biological washing powders etc.
  • SETTLEMENT

    General disturbance in a structure showing as distortion in walls, cracking etc, possibly a result of structural failure. Sometimes of little current significance.
  • SHAKES

    Naturally occurring cracks in timber; in building timbers, shakes can appear quite dramatic, but strength is not always impaired.
  • SHINGLES

    Small rectangular slabs of wood used on roofs instead of tiles, slates etc.
  • SHIPLAP

    Weatherboarding of tongued and grooved planking.
  • SILL

    The lower horizontal part of a window frame. Materials may vary, generally timber or stone, can be tiled.
  • SKYLIGHT

    A window set into a roof or ceiling to provide extra lighting.
  • SLEEPER WALLS

    See honeycomb walls.
  • SNAGGING

    Minor building works to be finished off after practical completion.
  • SNAP HEADERS

    Cut bricks to outer skin of cavity wall or rounded bays.
  • SOAKAWAY

    Arrangement for disposal of rainwater, utilising graded aggregate laid below ground.
  • SOAKER

    Sheet metal (usually lead, copper or zinc) at the junction of a roof with a vertical surface of a chimney stack, adjoining wall etc. Associated with flashings which should overlay soakers.
  • SOFFIT

    The under-surface of eaves, balcony, arch etc.
  • SOIL STACK (Soil & Vent Pipe)

    Main vertical drain pipe for WC and other waste water, generally foul.
  • SOLDIER ARCH

    Bricks laid vertically on end above window or door opening.
  • SOLID FUEL

    Heating fuel, normally coal, coke or one of a variety of proprietary fuels.
  • SPALLING

    Breaking of surface of tiles or bricks, often associated with frost.
  • SPANDREL

    Space above and to the sides of an arch; also the space below a staircase.
  • STANCHION

    Vertical support beam, generally steel today.
  • STRETCHER

    Brick laid sideways.
  • STRINGS

    Sloping framework supporting ends of treads to staircase.
  • STRUCTURAL SURVEY

    See Building Survey.
  • STRUT

    A roof timber, generally sloping between rafter and binder/ceiling joist.
  • STUCCO

    A sturdy type of plaster, used on exterior walls, often spread in a decorative pattern.
  • STUD PARTITION

    Lightweight, sometimes non-load bearing wall construction comprising a framework of timber faced with plaster, plasterboard or other finish.
  • SUBFRAME

    Outer part of a window fixed directly to the wall.
  • SUBSIDENCE

    Ground movement, generally downward, possibly a result of mining activities or clay shrinkage.
  • SUBSOIL

    Material below top soil on which foundations rest.
  • SULPHATE ATTACK

    Chemical reaction, activated by water, between tricalcium aluminate and soluble sulphates. Can cause deterioration in brickwork and concrete floors.
  • T

  • TANKING

    Waterproofing of cellar walls and floors.
  • TELLTALE

    Glass or calibrated indicator fixed over crack to check movement.
  • TERRACOTTA

    Fired but unglazed clay, used mainly for floor and roof tiles.
  • TERRAZZO

    A sturdy floor finish of marble chips mixed with cement mortar. These are generally polished.
  • THERMO-PLASTIC TILES

    Common 1950′s floor covering before vinyl tiles.
  • THRESHOLD

    Sill to an exterior door opening
  • TIE BAR

    Inserted in buildings subject to movement with end plates on walls, generally flank walls.
  • TIMBER FRAMED HOUSES

    Built with load bearing timber, generally brick faced.
  • TINGLES

    Metal clips to re-fix slipped slates.
  • TRANSOM

    Horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window or top of door.
  • TREAD

    The horizontal part of a step or stair.
  • TRUSSED RAFTERS

    Method of roof construction utilising prefabricated triangular framework of timbers. Now widely used in domestic construction.
  • U

  • UNDERPINNING

    Method of strengthening weak foundations whereby a new, stronger foundation is placed beneath the original.
  • V

  • VALLEY GUTTER

    Horizontal or sloping gutter, usually lead or tile-lined at the internal intersection between two roof slopes.
  • VENTILATION

    Necessary in all buildings to disperse moisture resulting from bathing, cooking, breathing etc., and to assist in prevention of condensation.
    Floors: Necessary to avoid rot, especially Dry Rot; achieved by airbricks near to ground level.
    Roofs: Necessary to disperse condensation within roof spaces; achieved either by airbricks in gables or ducts at the eaves.
  • VERGE

    The edge of a roof, especially over a gable.
  • VERGE BOARD

    Timber, sometimes decorative, placed at the verge of a roof; also known as barge board.
  • VERTICAL DAMP PROOF COURSE

    Used at change in level and in basements and adjacent to window and door openings.
  • W

  • WALL PLATE

    Timber placed at the eaves of a roof, to take the weight of the roof timbers.
  • WALL TIE

    Galvanised steel fixing linking inner and outer cavity skins or external cladding to timber framework.
  • WEATHER BOARD

    Horizontal overlapping to timber planks as an external wall finish.
  • WEEPHOLES

    Drainage within brickwork, generally cavities.
  • WET ROT

    Fungal attack to woodwork, especially exterior softwood joinery.
  • WOODWORM

    Colloquial term for beetle infestation: usually intended to mean Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium Punctatum): by far the most frequently encountered insect attack in structural and joinery timbers.
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