Building Terms Glossary

The building and construction industry uses a number of technical terms. The following list is a glossary of commonly used terms and their meanings.

BALUSTRADE handrail and a series of balusters to provide a safety barrier.
BEAM horizontal sub-floor framing member supporting joists.
BIRDSMOUTH angled check in a rafter to fit over the supporting plate or beam
BUILDING PAPER (breather type) underlay which will allow water vapour to pass through.
BUTT JOINT a square-cut joint between two adjacent members.
BY-LAW a regulation made and enforced by the local authority (city council, borough council etc.)
CANTILEVER projection of a building or member beyond its support
CLASHING STRIP edging strip to one or both edges of flush doors to cover over the facing sheets’ edges and the core of the door
CLEAT member nailed to other members or elements to hold them in their correct place.
CODE  local authority or national building regulations or requirements.
CONCRETE plastic mixture of aggregates, cement and water which will set to a given mould.

sealed pipework to dispose of: a. waste water (sewerage); b. stormwater

  • Back vent  -  vent pipe which leads from a waste pipe to the open air to prevent the loss of water seal in the waste pipe.
  • Gully trap  -  water-sealed fitting just above ground level into which the waste pipes discharge.
  • Site drainage  -  open-jointed pipes or perforated plastic drain coil are used as sub-soil drains.
  • Terminal vent  -  vent at or near the end of a drainage line to relieve the build-up of foul-air pressure.
  • Details  -  larger-scale details to show exactly what is required at a certain position.
  • Elevations  -  to show the exterior views of the building in two-dimensional form.  Materials to be used, window and door shapes and types, roof type, pitch and covering are all shown.
  • Explanatory  -  sketches and drawings to pass on information regarding methods of construction to be used, fixing, weatherproofing precautions, etc.
  • Pictorial  -  (either perspective or oblique) to give an impression of the finished building before it is constructed; to try out materials, exterior colour schemes, garden layouts.
  • Plan  -  layout of the rooms showing all floor areas, windows, doors fixtures, fittings and services.
  • Plan, site  -  layout of the site showing the position of the building and the positions of the services.
  • Plan, site layout  -  layout of the whole building site, showing requirements, sun angle, wind direction.
  • Secional drawings  -  to show how the structure is to be built.  Spans, supports and weatherproofing precautions are also shown.
EAVES roof overhang at the lower ends of the rafters.
ENAMEL paint with a hard surface finish.
FASCIA exterior timber trim at the lower edge of a roof to which the spouting is attached.
FLASHING waterproof material used to prevent water ingress  -  above windows and exterior doors, around roof projections, etc.
FOOTING lower part of a foundation which transmits the building weight and loads to the ground.
FOUNDATIONS base of the building up to timber plates and bearers.
FRAMING TIMBER  timber of a grade suitable for the structure of the building.  No. 1 framing grade is indicated by a black dot on the end.  No. 2 framing grade by a yellow dot.
FURNITURE hardware for the doors and windows: hinges, locks, handles and fittings.
GALVANISED iron or steel coated with zinc.
GLULAM timber member (beam) built up of several smaller pieces of timber glued together.
GREEN unseasoned (of timber).
JACK term used to indicate that a member is less than full-length.  Thus a jack stud is not a full-length stud.
JAMB the vertical side members of a joinery frame.
JOISTS Regularly spaced framing members supporting the floor or level ceiling.
LINTEL structural member above a door or window opening.
NOGGING (dwang) short member fitted between main structural members.  Used to stiffen the structural members for the attachment of linings and finishings.
PARTITIONS internal wall dividing the floor area into rooms.  Can be load-bearing or not-load-bearing.
PELMET cover board above doors and windows to conceal tracks and fittings.
PILE foundation member.
PLATE horizontal timber framing member.
PLUMB upright, vertical.
PRIMER the first coat of paint over an untreated surface.
PURLIN regularly spaced horizontal roof member set out to accommodate the roofing material.
QUIRK amount showing of the edge of a joinery frame after the architrave has been applied.
REBATE recess machined out of a piece of timber to form a stop for the fitting or fixing of doors, glass, etc.
RIDGE apex of roof.
ROD (storey or set-out-rod) used to keep measurements constant.
SCRIBE marking and cutting a piece of lining or moulding to fit neatly against the adjoining surface.
SOAKER flashing over end joints of weatherboards.
SOFFIT undersurface, usually of the eaves.
STUCCO exterior solid plaster finish.
TEMPLATE a full-size pattern.
TEXTURE surface finish.
TRIM mouldings applied to the exterior and interior of a building as finishes, coverings of joints, etc.
TRIMMER framing member fixed at right-angles to other trimmed framing members to support them.
TRUSS prefabricated structural roofing element.
UNDERCOAT one or two coats of paint applied after the priming and stopping have been done and before the finish coat is applied.
VAPOUR BARRIER sheet material which inhibits the passage of water vapour.
VERGE overhang of a roof at the gable end.


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