Jargon Buster

Anobium PunctatumThe Common Furniture Beetle, the most usual form of woodworm in the UK

ArchitraveTrim fixed over joint between plaster and door frame

ArtexDecorative textured coating for walls and ceilings

AsbestosFibrous mineral with fire resistant qualities

AsphaltA covering for flat roofs

Back additionProjecting rear part usually of a Victorian house

Back boilerA boiler fitted at the back of the hearth of an open fire or behind a gas fire

Balanced flueA metal flue terminal for the inlet of air and outlet of fumes through a wall from gas boiler or heater

BalustradesStaircase and landing handrails and spindles

Barge boardA sloping board along a gable covering the ends of roof timbers

Bark borerWoodworm found only in bark and sapwood and generally harmless

BattenA strip of timber, as used for the fixing of coverings to a pitched roof

Bay windowA window formed in a projection of a wall beyond its continuous line

BearerA horizontal timber used to spread loads

BenchingConcrete finish provided at the bottom of a manhole

BitumenTar like material used in sealants, mineral felts and damp proof course

Bituminous feltMaterial often used for damp proof courses

BlockworkMasonry or precast concrete blocks

BlownDefective render of plaster

Breather membraneTimber frame construction wall membrane allows moisture to escape

Breeze blockBuilding blocks often made of cinders and cement

BressumerA lintel, usually timber

Building RegulationsNational regulations specifying minimum standards of construction for new buildings, extensions and alterations enforced by the local authority

Building SurveyStructural Survey

Built-up roofingTwo or more layers of felt laid in bitumen, used on flat roofs. Normally has a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years

Calcium Silicate BricksSubject to thermal expansion and contraction resulting in cracking

Capillary actionUpward movement of moisture in walls and floors

Casement windowA window hinged to open

Cast-in-situConcrete or other material cost on site within timber or other formwork

CaulkingSealing to edges around baths and showers

Cavity trayA damp proof course across a cavity wall, sloping downwards from the inner skin to the outer skin to prevent dampness crossing the cavity

Cavity wallA wall, normally constructed of a brick outer skin and a block work inner skin, separated by a continuous gap, normally 2″ wide. In modern buildings the cavity is often filled with insulating material

Cess pitA pit in which sewage collects and which has to be emptied regularly

CheekThe side of a dormer

CladdingCovering to the walls of a building, often of slate, tiling or timber

Code of Measuring PracticeRICS recommended rules for calculating floor areas etc

CollarA horizontal tie beam joining rafters, half way up

ColumnAn upright post, generally of concrete, stone, brick, steel or timber supporting load from above

Combination boilerA boiler in a central heating system which has a built-in cistern and may not require a separate hot water cylinder

Common Furniture BeetleWoodworm commonly encountered in older UK buildings

ComparablesOther properties sold or values to which reference is made when valuations are prepared

CondensationWater condenses on surface when it is colder than the dew point of the surrounding air

Consumer unitFuse or circuit breaker box controlling electricity supply

Conventional flueBoiler takes oxygen from air in room in which it is located with combustion gas discharged via flue or chimney

ConversionProperty now used differently, e.g. flat within former house

CopingA brick, stone or concrete protection to the top of a wall

CorbelA brick or masonry projection from the face of a wall

CorniceA moulding at the top of an outside wall or where an inside wall abuts the ceiling

CovingA concave moulding at the abutment of an inside wall with the ceiling

CowelA tile or metal cover, often fixed over a chimney

Creasing tileOne or two courses of plain tiles laid under brick copings, projecting slightly from the face or the wall to prevent moisture running down

CreepSpreading and folding of lead or asphalt

Curtain wallLightweight thin outer panel wall 

CurtilageEnclosed area belonging to dwelling

DadoA border or panelling over the lower half of the walls in a room

Damp proof courseAn impervious layer in a wall to prevent rising dampness

Damp proof membraneAn impervious membrane in a concrete floor typically

Death Watch BeetleLarge wood boring beetle found in hardwoods

DormerA vertical (window) through a pitched roof

Dry liningA lining to the inside of a wall, usually plaster board fixed to battens or dabs

Dry rotA form of decay in timber

EasementA legal term referring to the right a person has over another persons land

EavesThe lowest overhanging part of a sloping roof or the area under it

EfflorescenceSalt deposits where dampness evaporates

FacadeFront of a building

FasciaA vertical board fixed under the eaves of a roof to which gutters are often fixed

FibreboardSoft porous building board

FilletA narrow strip fixed at the angle between two surfaces

Finlock guttersProprietary name for interlocking concrete gutters

FirringA timber strip laid along a joist to provide a gradual slope

FlashingA strip of impervious material such as lead or zinc which seals the junction of a roof with a wall, chimney stack or other projection

FlaunchingCement mortar bedding around a chimney pot

FlueA duct in a chimney or leading to it for the discharge of fumes from a boiler or fire

Flying freeholdIn England and Wales the ownership of airspace over another freehold

FoundationsThe below ground construction supporting the walls

GableThe triangular part of the end wall of a building 

Filling of joints in paving and tiling

GulliesExterior drains into which water discharges


HeaderBrick laid with end showing

HeaveLifting of foundations due to clay swell or other expansion of support below

HipFormed at the junction of two roof slopes near ends of roofs which do not end with a gable

Hip IronMetal bracket holding bottom hip tiles

Hot water cylinderA cylinder for the storage of hot water, often fitted with an electric immersion heater

InvertBottom of manhole or drain

JambVertical side face to window or door opening

JoistA timber or steel beam

Joist hangerA steel semi box which supports the end of a joist

Lath and plasterThin timber strips with wet plaster covering

LintelA small beam over a door or window opening, supporting the wall above

Newel postA post in a flight of stairs supporting the ends of a balustrade

No fines concreteAggregate without fines or other small particles

PantilesUndulating shaped interlocking tiles

ParapetA low wall around the edge of a roof or balcony

Party wallOn boundary between properties in separate ownership

PilesConcrete columns driven or cast in subsoil as foundations

PlateHorizontal timber on wall to spread load of joist and rafter ends

PondingWater lying on flat roofs

PurlinA horizontal beam in a roof supporting the rafters

RafterA sloping timber in a roof extending from the ridge to the eaves

RenderA coat of sand and cement applied to a wall

Retaining wallHolds back land behind and may support structures

RevealThe visible part of a jamb in a door or window opening, not covered by the frame

RidgeTop of pitched roof

RiserThe upright face of a step

Sarking feltBituminous felt laid under slates or tiles on a roof

Sash windowA window in which two opening lights slide up and down in a cased frame

ScreedA layer of mortar laid over a concrete floor to provide a smooth finish

Septic tankA sewage purification system consisting of a number of chambers from which water can be allowed to soak into the ground, where no main sewer is available

ShinglesThin timber tiles used for roofs and wall cladding

ShiplapOverlapping boarding as cladding to external face of wall

Sleeper wallA low brick wall supporting the floor joists of a suspended timber ground floor

SoakawaysLand drains and sumps allowing water to drain into soil

SoakerA small piece of metal placed at the edge of roof slates or tiles beneath flashing to prevent rainwater entering the junction of a roof and wall

SoffitThe undersurface of eaves

Soil stackAbove ground pipework taking waste water

Soldier archBricks laid on end as a lintel

StringSloping board at either side of the treads on a staircase, supporting the treads and risers

StrutsAngled timbers supporting purlins and rafters

SubsidenceDownward shift of building due to movement in ground beneath

SubsoilMaterial below topsoil which supports foundations

TankingHorizontal and vertical water proof membrane beneath the floor and up the walls typically in a basement

TingleA strip of flexible metal used to hold a replacement slate in position on a roof

TreadThe horizontal part of a step

Trimmer joistA short timber which encloses one side of a rectangular hole in a floor or ceiling, such as that found around a loft hatch or stairway

TrussA steel or timber frame usually with metal plate fasteners

UndercloakA course of tiles supporting the verge of a gable roof

UnderpinningInsertion of new foundation beneath existing foundation


ValleyThe intersection between two sloping surfaces of a roof

VergeThe edge of a sloping roof which overhangs a gable

Wall tieMetal fixing in cavity wall connecting two skins

WeatherboardOverlapping boarding used as external wall cladding

Weep holesHoles installed to allow drainage from wall cavity or from behind a retaining wall

Wet rotDecay of timber in alternate wet and dry conditions caused by fungi. Less difficult to eradicate than dry rot

WoodwormFurniture beetle and other wood boring insects

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