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a.c.p.h. air changes per hour (see Air tightness)
Accumulator usually a large water tank used to store surplus heat (from say a wood fired boiler or thermal solar collector – see Heat Stores)
AECB the Sustainable Building Association
Aggregate gravel, crushed stone and other coarse material used in concrete or as hardcore
Airbrick a perforated brick used to allow ventilation
Anchor bolt Used to secure part of a structure to masonry. Typically timber framing is fixed to concrete foundations using expanding or chemical anchors
Approved Documents These are a part of the Building Regulations which ensure, if you follow them, that your plans will be automatically approved. These are what are most often used. However there may be other ways of fulfilling the conditions and these are mentioned in the regulations
APR Air permeability rate, expressed as m3 of air flow per hour per m2 of dwelling envelope area at a pressure differential of 50 Pascals, m3/(h.m2) @ 50Pa
Arris External angle (often 90 degrees) where two planes meet. E.g. the corner where two walls meet or the edge around a door opening.
Back drop manhole Used where the gradient of a foul drain would otherwise be too steep.
Backfill Material used to refill an excavated area
Balanced flue A combined flue, usually serving a gas heater or boiler, which handles both incoming combustion air and outgoing waste gas.
Ballast Part of the control gear in a fluorescent light
Baluster One of the vertical elements of a balustrade, usually linking to or supporting the handrail
Balustrade A railing made of balusters and a top (and maybe bottom) rail
Barge board A decorative board fixed to edge of a gable roof
Bat a half brick
Batt A ‘slab’ of mineral fibre insulation stiff enough to be mainly self supporting (see Insulation properties)
Battens Narrow strips of wood used to cover joints in sheet materials. Roof battens are narrow strips used to fix slates and tiles onto
BCB Building Control Body- either the local authority building inspectors or an approved inspector
Beam Substantial, usually horizontal structural member. Often distinguished from joists which will be smaller and whose ends will be supported by the beam
Bed joint Horizontal mortar joint between courses of bricks or blocks. (perpends or perps are the vertical ones)
Bellcast A slight, usually curved thickening out of the lower edge of render in order to shed water away from the masonry or DPC below
Benching Also known as haunching is the sloping concrete at the bottom of a manhole or inspection chamber
Bifold door A door hinged down the middle so that it can be opened in a restricted area
Bill of Quantities A list of all the materials etc. required for a building. The items may be priced. (see Tenders and contracts)
Blockboard A board made by sandwiching and gluing softwood strips between two sheets of veneer. It is strongest in the direction of the strips.
Bond The arrangement of bricks in a wall. This partly determines the strength and stability of the wall. It can also produce interesting patterns such as with diagonal bond.
Brace A usually diagonally fixed piece of timber used to stiffen a structure, either temporarily during construction or permanently
BRE Building Research Establishment
BREEAM The (now defunct) Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method
Bressumer A beam or lintel, usually timber giving support over a bay window or fire place
Brick veneer A brick facing fixed to a supporting structure such as timber frame
BS British Standard (these are slowly being replaced by Eurocodes which are CEN standards)
BSI British Standards Institute
BSRIA The Building Services Research and Information Association. ‘BSRIA offers a wide range of services to help companies improve the design, build and operation of buildings’
Building Control the local authority department which deals with the Building Regulations
Building paper strong kraft paper used to prevent thermal bypass in wall insulation
Building Regulations These are the legal regulations which govern how a house is constructed. (not to be confused with Planning Permission which is about whether you are allowed to build the house at all or what it might look like)
Built up roofing Multi layer roofing usually composed of 3 layers of felt bonded together with bitumen
Butt joint Where two pieces of timber are joined with a square cut end
Buttress A masonry support to a wall used to prevent lateral movement
CAD computer aided design
CARES Community And Renewable Energy Scheme
Casement window A side hung window opening similarly to a normal door
CAT Centre for Alternative Technology
Cavity tray A tray, usually of plastic or metal, built into a cavity wall to deflect any water back out of the cavity
CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) A fungicide and pesticide used to protect timber by pressure impregnation
cfl compact fluorescent light
Chalk line method of marking a straight line by snapping a chalk powder covered string against the surface
CHP Combined heat and power – where the heat which is produced when electricity is generated is used within a heating system rather than wasted. This can happen at different levels – within a single house, a housing development, a town etc.
Chase A trench or groove cut into a masonry wall to take services
CIBSE The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
Circuit breaker An electronic device which acts like a fuse to cut off an electric circuit
CIRIA Construction Industry Research and Information Association
CO2 Carbon dioxide is a gas which is given off when carbon based materials such as fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) are burned. It is called a greenhouse gas because it works like the glazing of a greenhouse and causes global warming
Column A vertical compression member, similar to a post
cold bridging this is a pathway where heat can easily escape through some part of the structure. It is usually caused by some element of structure such as a steel lintel or wooden studwork
Combination boiler A boiler which heats both domestic hot water and central heating water instantaneously (i.e. without requiring a hot water storage tank)
Comb/finger jointing A method of end jointing lengths of timber by cutting them to interlock. Similar to finger jointing
COP Coefficient Of Performance. Applied to heat pumps this indicates the ratio of how much energy they can shift compared with how much they use to do it. So for instance, a ground source heat pump with a COP of 3 will be able to get 3kW of heat out of the ground for every kWh it uses
Cornice A decorative molding
CSH Code for Sustainable Homes. A now withdrawn standard for eco-houses developed by the Building Research Establishment. It covers a wide range of criteria
Condensation The water which forms when steam or water vapour comes in contact with a cold surface
Condensing boiler A boiler which is very efficient because it extracts latent heat from its exhaust gases
Conductivity Measurement of how easily heat is transmitted through a material
Convection The transmission of heat by air moving upwards
Conduit Electrical: A metal or plastic tube which carries and protects wiring
Coping The top layer of stones or flags in a wall often used to protect it from rain
Corbel One or more bricks or stones cantilevered out to carry a beam
DC Direct Current (the sort of electricity that comes out of batteries rather than Alternating Current which is in the mains)
Cornice Decorative moulding at the top of a wall or between wall and ceiling
Counter batten Battens which cross other batten, studding or joists
Coving Concave moulding between a wall and floor or ceiling
Dado the lower part of a room’s wall, when it is decorated differently or panelled
DECC the government Department of Energy and Climate Change
Damp Proof Course A strip of (usually) plastic built into walls to prevent damp rising.
Damp proof membrane A sheet of (usually) plastic used to prevent dampness rising up through a floor or in through an underground wall
Deathwatch Beetle The lavae of the beetle  (Xestobium rufovillosum) can be very destructive of hardwood
Decrement delay This relates to the lag time that insulation itself takes to heat up or cool down. It introduces a delay into the effect of the insulation. This can help level out peaks and troughs of temperature
Dedicated circuit An electrical circuit which serves only one set of uses such as for smoke detectors, immersion heater, cooker etc
Delamination The separation of various layers of a material such as plywood, usually due to moisture ingress
Density The mass per unit volume of a material measured in kg/cubic metre or gm/litre
Dew point Warm air contains (invisible) water vapour. If you cool the air down you will reach a temperature where this vapour turns to liquid water. This is called thedew point.
DHW Domestic Hot Water
Dormer window one that projects from a roof
DPC Damp Proof Course – a strip of (usually) plastic built into walls to prevent damp rising.
DPM Damp proof membrane – a sheet of (usually) plastic used to prevent dampness rising up through a floor or in through an underground wall
Drip An extension, groove, projection or overhang of a material to shed water away from what is below
Dry lining An internal lining such as plasterboard which is applied in sheets (also known as drywall)
Dry rot A fungus  (Serpula lacrymans) which attacks timber
Drywall An internal lining such as plasterboard which is applied in sheets (also known as dry lining)
DTI was the Department of Trade and Industry but is now the BIS (Department for Business Innovation and Skills)
Duct A channel or passage for conveying gasses, or for carrying services
Dumpy level An instrument for measuring relative vertical levels. Used with a tripod
Easement A legal agreement allowing one party to use part of another party’s property. E.g. to run an electric cable
Eaves The lower projecting edge of a pitched roof
Efflorescence Accumulation of natural salts on a material, especially where rising damp has dried out
Egress Exiting from a building, particularly used about escape from fire
Embodied energy the total amount of energy it takes to make a material (or a building)
Engineering brick A very hard dense brick, often blue in colour.
English bond A pattern of brickwork with alternating courses of stretchers and headers
EP expanded polystyrene insulation
EPC energy performance certificate
EPDM ethylene-propylene-diene monomer. often used as a roofing membrane
EPS Expanded polystyrene
Escutcheon Small, usually metal flap which covers a keyhole
EST Energy Savings Trust
Estimate The amount of money a builder thinks a job might cost. Not to be confused with a tender or quotation which might form part of a contract
Expansion joint Most masonry materials expand with temperature and require a moving joint to take up the movement every few meters
Fascia board a flat horizontal board covering, for instance, the edge of a roof. Also on gables
Facing brick The external face of brickwork on a building, with a high quality or decorative finish
Findhorn Foundation A large community near Inverness. There is a strong emphasis on sustainable building and living.
Finger joint A method of end jointing lengths of timber by cutting them to interlock. Similar to comb jointing
Fire brick A brick which resists high temperatures, used in fire places and some stoves and boilers
Fire stop A way of preventing fire spreading between dwellings, particularly in cavity walls
First fix Electrical and plumbing installation: Refers to the fixing of pipes and cables before the outlets, switches, taps etc. are fitted
Flag stone Flat stones used as paving. Usually between 50mm and 100mm thick
Flashing Sheet material, usually lead, zinc or plastic used to cover and waterproof joints, particularly where roofs meet walls
Flaunching Mortar used around the base of chimney pots to hold them in place and shed water
Flue The actual tube through which gasses pass, as opposed to a chimney which might contain several flues
Flue liner Ceramic or metal lining to a chimney or flue designed to protect the flue from excessive heat and/or corrosive combustion products
Footings Often used as a synonym for foundations but strictly speaking it refers to a broadening out of the wall below ground level, as was the method before concrete came into general use
Formwork Temporary structure to contain concrete while it sets
Foundations The part of a building which spreads the load on the ground. Usually concrete strips, blocks, steel screws or a concrete slab
French windows A pair of hinged windows which can act as doors
Frog The indentation on the lower face of a brick. It helps the brick sit more evenly when laid
FSC Forest Stewardship Council (who accredit timber)
Furniture Joinery fittings including handles, catches, locks, knobs, stays etc.
Furrings Also furring pieces. Strips of wood, diminishing in width along their length used to create a slope on an othewise flat roof
Gabions Cuboid containers made of wire and filled with rocks. You see them protecting river banks, acting as retaining walls and, more recently as walls in buildings
Gable The triangular wall beneath a double sloped roof
Gang nail plate Steel plates each with multiple nails used to connect members of roof trusses
Gauge The distance between slate or tile battens on a roof
Gauged brickwork Brickwork with very thin mortar joints
General contractor A building contractor who takes on a building contract and then uses his own employees or sub-contracts the work or both
Geotextile A strong fabric, usually plastic and non-woven, placed in the ground to keep differing substances such as gravel and soil separate but to allow water to flow through
Grey water This is the waste water that comes from the baths, basins, showers and washing machines. Kitchen sink water is known as black water.
Glulam engineered laminated timber used to make structural members such as beams, joists and column
GRP glass reinforced plastic, also commonly known as fibre glass
Grounds Something such as timber battens which acts as a fixing for another layer of material
Groundwater The water which makes up the water table
Grout A fine mortar used to finish off masonry or tilework joints
GSHP ground source heat pump. A heat pump which extracts heat from the ground
Gulley An opening at ground level, connected to a drain and designed to catch rainwater from a fall pipe. Also a longer channel for collecting surface water
Gutter A channel used to collect water at the bottom of a roof and convey it to a fall pipe
Gusset A flat plate, usually plywood or steel, used to connect structural members such as parts of a roof truss
Hardcore Broken brick, stones etc. usually graded to size and compacted, used as a base beneath concrete
Haunching Also known as benching, is the sloping concrete at the bottom of a manhole or inspection chamber
Header A brick positioned so that its end, not side, is showing
Header tank An open water tank used to pressurise and top up a system such as central heating or domestic hot water
Hearth The fireproof (and maybe decorative) area directly in front of a fireplace or stove
Heartwood The central part of a tree, excluding the sapwood
Heat meter A meter capable of measuring how much heat has passed through it, usually in the form of hot water. Units in kWh
Heat pump A machine to move heat around. Usually they increase or decrease the temperature of the heat at the same time, as with air conditioning
Hectare 10,000 square metres (ie. 100m x 100m) A hectare is very nearly 2.5 acres
Hip roof A four sided roof having sloping ends and sides
Hopper An open box, usually attached to a wall, for collecting water from waste pipes and gutters and funnelling it into a fall pipe
HSE Health and Safety Executive
I beams prefabricated timber beams with a web of OSB and softwood flanges. They are very light, efficient and regular. See Structural timber
Incandescent lamp The traditional light bulb with a wire fillament
In situ concrete this is concrete cast on site in its final position rather than being fabricated elsewhere
Inspection chamber A chamber like a manhole to give access to a section of drain. Previously of brickwork but now mainly plastic or concrete ring
Intumescent strip a strip of material, usually set in a groove round a door, which swells and seals the gap to prevent fire and smoke getting past it
Invert level The lowest level of the internal surface of a drain at any given position, usually at a manhole or inspection chamber
IP Ingress Protection
ISES Inter Seasonal Energy Storage
Jamb The vertical side member of a door or window
JCT Joint Contracts Tribunal
Joists Timber beams, running parallel and supporting floors and/or ceilings
Joist hanger A ‘U’ shaped metal strap supporting the end of a timber joist by fixing it to a wall or other member
Key The roughness of a material which provides a grip for an overlaying material such as plaster or render
Keystone (or brick) at the centre of a brick or stone arch
Kiln dried timber Timber which has been dried in a kiln down to about 12% moisture content (or any other value specified)
Kilowatt 1000 watts. A measure of electrical flow rate. Amounts of electricity are measured in Kilowatt hours (kWh)
Kneeler stone A specially shaped stone at the eaves of a roof to support coping stones
Knotting A special varnish used on knots to seal them and prevent the resin coming through and spoiling the finish
kWh Kilowatt hour. The measurement of an amount of electricity
kWp kW peak. This is the output of a PV solar collector in bright sunshine (rather than a cloudy day)
Ladder Ladder shaped timber construction which supports the roof overhang at a gable end
Land drain Perforated plastic or sections of clay pipe with gaps at joints to collect and remove ground water
Landing A platform at the top, bottom or part way up a stair
Latch a door fastener which holds the door when it is pushed closed and requires some kind of lever action to open it. E.g. the common lever latch on a door
Lath A key for plaster and traditionally of timber strip. Now expanded metal lath may be used especially for forming curved areas
Lath and plaster The traditional way of building internal walls using strips of timber nailed to studs and then covering with plaster. The strips act as a support and a key
LCA Life Cycle Analysis (also sometimes called ‘Cradle to Grave’ or ‘Cradle to Cradle’ assessment)
LEDs light emitting diodes
Ledger strip A strip of timber, maybe about 75mm x 50mm fixed near the bottom of a structuralbeam to act as a bearer for floor joists (instead of joist hangers)
Light Sometimes used to mean ‘window’ as in roof light
LILI Low Impact Living Initiative. ‘LILI is a network of great organisations with lots of ways to help you change your life and the world for the better’
Lintel Structural joist, usually steel or timber, over a window or door or other opening.
Living roofs A roof with a covering of soil or growing medium and plants. They tend to be divided into turf roofs with a 150mm layer of soil and sedum roofs with a thinner layer (about 40mm).
Louvre A framed opening with a number of parallel slats which will admit air but not rain. Moveable louvres can adjust the amount of view and light admitted
Lumen A measurement of an amount of light. See Wikipedia on this
Mansard roof A roof with two pitches, the lower one being steeper. Often used to create more space for rooms in the roof
Masonite structural timber beams made with a web (the middle part) of masonite (a type of hardboard) and with top and bottom members made of finger jointed softwood glued to the web. Very strong, light and regular in size.
Mastic A general sealant, usually gunned to seal around windows doors etc. Also Sand mastic which is applied by trowel
Matchboard Usually softwood tongued and grooved board with bevelled edges used as an internal lining. Various thicknesses- 8,10,12,14mm
MDF Medium Density Fibreboard
MDPE Medium Density PolyEthelene. (the type of plastic used in water supply pipes etc.)
Metal lath Expanded metal is used as a base for gypsum plaster, particularly on curved surfaces
Mezzanine An extra floor or half floor sometimes inserted in a tall room area and left partly open on one side. Sometimes more like an internal balcony
Microporous Used about paint and other surface finishes which allow vapour, particularly trapped water vapour to escape
Mitre joint A corner joint formed by cutting two adjoining pieces of material at the same angle and fixing them together. E.g. the architrave joint around a door is often formed with two 45º angles
Modulating a modulating boiler is able to gradually turn itself up and down depending on how much heat is required. This is more efficient than cycling on and off.
Mortar A mixture of sand, cement and water used for joints in masonry
Mortise Usually a square edged hole cut into timber to make a tight joint with a tenon inserted tightly into it. E.g. the traditional way of building framed doors
Moulding A decorative edge cut on timber or formed in plasterwork
Mullion The vertical divider between individual panes in a window
Muntin The vertical timber member between two panels in a door
MVHR Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery
n 50 This is the number of air changes per hour, monitored at 50 Pa. pressure differential.
NaCSBA National Custom & Self Build Association
Natural England Natural England is the government’s advisor on the natural environment. It ‘provides practical advice, grounded in science, on how best to safeguard England’s natural wealth for the benefit of everyone’
NHBC National House Building Council. It’s purpose is raising the construction standards of new homes in the UK to protect homeowners. It offers warranties to self builders.
NBS National Building Specification. This is a company specializing in specification writing. It’s owned by the RIBA.
Net metering this is a special type of electrical tariff which rewards you if you sell electricity you produce back into the national grid (effectively making your meter go backwards)
Neutral Electric wiring: The wire which is at or very near zero volts. It is now coloured blue but was previously black
Newel The newel posts of a stair are the large ones at the top and bottom of the flight and usually carry the handrail
Nosing The rounded edge on the front of steps which projects beyond the riser
OPC Ordinary Portland Cement
Oriented Strand Board A particle board made of flakes or strands of timber glued together
OSB Oriented Strand Board
Oversite The rough concrete on the ground surface beneath suspended ground floors
Pantile Overlapping roof tiles, S shaped in section. There are many traditional designs
Parapet A protective wall around the edge of a flat roof
Parging A traditional special plaster finish to protect the inside of a chimney from acid condensates
Parting bead The thin central vertical wooden moulding between the upper and lower sash
Party wall The dividing wall between two neighbouring properties
Passivhaus The PassivHaus Institute has pioneered a standard for low energy buildings. It includes very low energy usage and ways of achieving this. The word is derived from the idea of buildings which are fundamentally low energy and passive solar heated rather than using extra gadgets to heat them
PC Sum Prime cost sum
PC Sums Prime Cost sums
PE Polyethylene or just plain old polythene
PELV Protective Extra-Low Voltage (where the protected items are connected to earth)
Permaculture Permaculture is the practice of a sustainable way of living in all its forms. In the UK the coordinating body is the Permaculture Association
Permeability The rate at which water can penetrate a material
Perpend (or simply perp) the vertical joints in masonry construction
PEX Cross linked polythene. A stronger form of polythene much used in water pipes
PHPP Passivhaus planning package
Pico hydro very small scale hydro electric generation – up to 5 kW.
Pier A column of masonry, usually square in cross section
Pigment A fine dry powder which gives colour to paint
Pitch The steepness of a roof or a flight of stairs etc, usually measured as the angle from the horizontal
Planning consent the legal basis for being allowed to do some form of development such as building a house. (not to be confused with Building Regulations which is all about whether the building is properly constructed)
Planning permission the legal basis for being allowed to do some form of development such as building a house. (not to be confused with Building Regulations which is all about whether the building is properly constructed)
Plumb Vertical. From Plumb bob which is a string with a weight on the end to check for verticality
POU Point of Use (for instance an electric water heater right next to a tap)
Primer First coat of paint or varnish
P trap Plumbing: A ‘P’ shaped water trap, usually below a sink or basin to prevent sewer gasses escaping
Purlin A large roof beam whose job is to support the roof joists half way down the roof to reduce their span
PV Photo Voltaic. referring to the generation of electricity from sunlight
PVC Poly vinyl chloride. An oil based plastic with the recycling code number 3
Quarry tile Hard wearing clay tile often used on floors. Usually 150mm square
Quoin The external corner of a building or the stones used to build it which were often larger than the other stones
Racking The tendency for a rectangular element of structure to stretch sideways under pressure and form a parallelogram. Often prevented by attaching a sheet material such as plywood to maintain the correct shape
Radiant heating Heating which relies on high temperature radiation rather than convection or conduction. E.g. an electric bar fire
Radon Naturally occurring radioactive gas. Protective measures may be required in the design of ground floors
Rafter A main member in the roof structure (an ill defined word)
Rain screen this is a (usually thin) outer cladding on a wall which prevents rain, snow, etc getting at the structure of the wall behind
Raked Slanting or sloping
RCD Residual Current Device. This is a device which protects against electrocution.
REA Renewable Energy Association
Ready mixed concrete Comes by lorry ready to use
Rebar An American shortening of reinforcing bar
Reinforcing bar Steel bar used to strengthen concrete
Relative humidity The weight of water held in air (as vapour) as a percentage of the maximum weight the air could hold at the same temperature
Remediation (of ground) the cleaning up of contaminated or polluted ground
Render A wall coating based on lime or cement and usually sand or small pebbles, decorative chippings etc. Known in Scotland as harling
Resorcinol Glue A high quality waterproof glue, used for glueing timber joints. Cascamite is a common make
Retaining wall A wall used for holding back earth, soil etc.
Retention money Money which is held back from payment to a builder until the work stage is complete, or longer if agreed
Reveal The edge of an opening in a wall where a window, door etc. occurs
RHI Renewable Heat Incentive
RIBA Royal Institute of British Architects
RICS Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Ridge board The board at the top of a sloping roof where the joists meet
Ridge tile Angled or curved roof tiles capping the ridge of the roof
Riser on a stair – the vertical part between the treads
Rough cast A rough wall render
RSJ Rolled steel joist. One of the commonest types of structural joists
Sanding sealer A sealer for timber which dries quickly and readily sands smooth
SAP Standard Assessment Procedure – the method used in the building regulations for calculating the energy use of a house
sash The part of the frame of a window immediately around the glazing, often hinged or sliding
Sash weight The counterweight which balances a sliding window sash
Scratch coat The initial coat of plaster which is scratched to form a key for the next coat
Screed The usually thin final coat of a floor to form a smooth finish. Often a cement sand mixture (on concrete)
Scribing In joinery: marking and cutting a piece of timber to accurately fit against an irregular surface or moulding
Sealer A liquid applied to a surface such as timber, screed or plaster to seal the surface before applying a final coat. It prevents the next coat from being absorbed too readily
Seasoning The process of air drying timber over months or a couple of years
SEDBUK Seasonal Efficiency of Domestic Boilers in the UK. The measurement of how efficient central heating boilers are
SELV Separated Extra Low Voltage – 12 volts maximum
Septic tank A method of dealing with sewage which partly decomposes it to mainly water, methane and CO2. There is still a residue which requires occasional emptying
Settlement Downward movement of walls and structure usually due to inadequate foundations
Sewer a drain serving more than one property
Sewage The affluent from toilets and waste water
Sewerage A system of sewers
Shake A naturally occurring split in timber. While often visually problematic, it does not often impair the structural qualities
Shakes Wall or roof tiles made of split, moisture resisting timber such as cedar or oak (rather than shingles which are sawn rather than split)
Shellac A type of varnish, often used in traditional french polishing.
Shingles Wall or roof tiles made of sawn, moisture resisting timber such as cedar or oak (rather than shakes which are split rather than sawn)
Shiplap Exterior cladding of horizontal boarding
Sill The lowest member of an item of framework (often timber) such as a window frame or structural frame
SIPs Structural Insulated Panels – prefabricated (usually in a factory) timber panels usually forming part of an integrated building system and aimed at fast site erection
Skeiling The sloping part of the ceiling in some attic rooms
Sleeper wall A low wall under a suspended ground floor, giving support to the floor
Sliding sash window Where two sashes, one above the other, can slide in a track to open and close
Soakaway An underground pit, usually filled with hardcore or gravel, used to allow rain water or waste water to disperse into the ground
Soffit The underside of part of a building which is too small to be termed a ceiling
Soil pipe A pipe, usually about 100mm in diameter for carrying sewage and grey water
Soil stack A vertical section of soil pipe running up the inside or outside of a building
Specifications Detailed written descriptions of building materials and method of construction etc.
SSSI Site of Special Scientific Interest
Soldier course A band of bricks laid vertically, often over a door or window
Sole plate A horizontal timber member at the base of a timber structure
Stile A vertical member of a frame or panel such as in a door or sash of a window
Stop bead Plastering: A metal bead used to form a neat straight edge to an area of plaster
Stop cock (or stop tap). A valve on a water or gas circuit which can shut off the supply to the whole system
Stretcher A brick laid lengthways (as in stretcher bond)
String board A board which either supports the ends of stairs in a flight or it covers the ends
String course A decorative horizontal band of bricks
Strutting Solid or herringbone wooden or steel members fixed between floor joists to provide rigidity
Studding Timber uprights which support a stud wall
Stud wall A lightweight wall made of sheeting such as plasterboard fixed to studding (timber uprights with noggins between)
Subfloor A loadbearing floor beneath the floor finish
Subsoil The soil immediately below the top soil
SUDS Sustainable urban drainage systems. Various ways of holding back rain water and allowing it to percolate into the ground instead of taking it to a drain and sewer. This helps prevent flash flooding
Sump A waterproof container set below floor level (especially in basements) to catch any water run-off from drains etc.
Sump pump A pump set in a sump for emptying it
Suspended ceiling A ceiling suspended on rails set below the structure above
SVP soil and vent pipe
Take off A list of materials required for a job
Tempered Tempered (or toughened) glass is toughened to withstand a degree of impact
TER Target emission rate. The minimum energy performance for a new dwelling as defined in the Building Regulations.
Terra Cotta Hard wearing ceramic material with red/orange colour such as is used in quarry tiles
Thermal bridging this is a pathway where heat can easily escape through some part of the structure. It is usually caused by some element of structure such as a steel lintel or wooden studwork
Thermal mass this is about how much heat something can absorb – so it involves its specific heat capacity and its volume. It can be useful for levelling out the peaks and troughs of temperature within a house
Threshold The sill area of an external door. Often a strip of wood
TMP Thermal Mass Parameter – the heat capacity of the dwelling in kilojoules per m2 of floor area per degree, kJ/(m2K)
Tongued and grooved A method of side jointing timber boards such as floor boards and matchboard
T&G Tongued and grooved (see above)
TPO Thermoplastic polyolefin. Often used as a roofing membrane
TRADA Timber Research and Development Association. A trade association with a strong reputation for research and publication on all things timber
Trap Waste and soil plumbing: A bend in the pipe which contains water and prevents sewer gasses escaping
Trapion similar to a gabion but with a trapezoid shape. A gabion is a wire basket used to contain rocks
Tread The step part on a flight of stairs. It’s depth is known as the going
Trimmer A short floor or ceiling joist which forms an opening for a stair well or chimney
Truss A factory made roof frame
TRV Thermostatic radiator valve.
Underpinning A way of strengthening inadequate foundations from below
uPVC Unplasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride. Used as a replacement for wood in windows, doors, gutters, boarding etc and for plumbing waste pipe
U value measurement of how much heat escapes (or gets in). The units are W/sq.m./degree celcius. It is what the Building Regulations uses to rate building materials of a given thickness.
Valley gutter The gutter where two downward sloping roof areas meet
Vapour barrier A membrane used to prevent movement of water vapour within a structure
Verge Area of slates or tiles at the gable end of a roof
Vermiculite A lightweight mineral used as insulation and fire proofing around flues
VOCs Volatile organic compounds
Wainscot Panels, usually timber, applied to the lower metre or so of a room, sometimes to cover areas of rising damp
Wall plate Horizontal timber rail at the top of a wall onto which the roof structure is fixed
Wall tie Metal, plastic or ceramic tie for structurally connecting the two leaves of a cavity wall
Walter Segal The architect who devised a simple timber frame self build system (often simply known as ‘Segal self build
Waste pipe Drainage pipe used to carry away grey water
Water table The level of the naturally occurring groundwater
Weep holes Small holes in walls to allow water to exit
Winder A triangular shaped step in a flight of stairs which allows a turn
Window board The internal shelf at the sill of a window
Zone valve A central heating control valve which controls radiators within a certain zone of the house


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