Glossary of Building Terms

A.C.C:Is an authority to commence construction. (See letter of commencement).
Aggregate:Gravel or rocks that are used in concrete
Architrave:Timber strips on face of all around windows and doors.
Australian Height Datum (AHD):In 1971 the mean sea level for 1966-1968 was assigned the value of zero on the Australian Height Datum at thirty tide gauges around the coast of the Australian continent. The resulting datum surface, with minor modifications in two metropolitan areas, has been termed the Australian Height Datum (AHD) and was adopted by the National Mapping Council as the datum to which all vertical control for mapping is to be referred. Elevations quoted using this datum are normally followed with the acronym (AHD).
Australian Standard:A voluntary national standard code or specification prepared under the auspices of Standards Australia (SA). Australian Standards are mandatory when referred to in building regulations, and are enforceable in contracts when call up in contract documents.
Awning window:A window usually timber hinged at the top. The bottom moves out on spiral screw.
Balcony:A balustraded platform with access from an upper floor level.
Baluster:One of the vertical pieces of a stair or porch railing.
Balustrade:Railing fixed from stair treads, landing, balcony or bridge.
Bargeboard:A wide timber piece or more recently metal piece at the end of the gable screen off ends of tiles, batterns etc.
Bay window:A projecting compartment that is glazed and has windows all around.
Beam:Large solid member of timber or steel to carry loads.
Bearer:A sub-floor structural timber member which supports the floor joists.
Bi-fold doors:A door consisting of a number of hinged leafs folding to one or both sides of a door opening.
B.O.S.:(Building over sewer). Sometimes the location of the sewer pipes makes it necessary to build over them. In order to do that we need to estimate the additional cost and that requires that we have a Water Board inspector meet on site and tell us exactly how big the pipe is and how deep down it is. The pipe is then encased in concrete (See zone of influence).
Bottom plate:Timber plate at the bottom of a wall frame.
Box gutter:A roof guttering which is not on the exterior edge of the roof.
Brace:A member usually a diagonal which resists lateral forces and/or movements of a framed structure.
Brick ties:Galvanised steel wire (or plastic) ties built into brick walls at regular intervals to link internal and external portions of a cavity brick wall.
Bricks:Used on outer wall of brick veneer homes. Made of clay and fired in a kiln. May vary in colour and a wide range of types and textures are available. This outer wall is not load bearing but is cladding or “skin” only.
Brick veneer construction:A method of construction in which a single leaf non-load bearing wall of brickwork is tied to a timber or metal framed load-bearing structure to form the external enclosure.
Building agreement:(contract). The document signed by both customer and the builder that governs relations between the two. It sets out what is to be done and how much it will cost.
Building Code of Australia:A set of national requirements for the use in the design, construction, alteration or demolition of buildings, setting out procedures, acceptable methods or material and minimum or maximum values. Each state has its own variations to the national document.
Bulkhead:Lowered portion of a ceiling usually to hide a beam, a drainage pipe or as a decorative feature.
Cathedral ceiling:See Raked Ceiling.
Cavity:The space between the brick skin and the timber frame in a brick veneer wall.
Ceiling:The top or overhead portion of a room or building.
Ceiling Joist:The structural member spanning the room to support the ceiling lining which also ties the roof to the rest of the structure at wall plate level.
Cement render:A wall finish where cement mixture is plastered onto a wall surface. May be smooth or patterned.
Certificate of Title:Document issued by the Land Titles Office that confirms the registered owner of the land.
Charged Stormwater System:A system consisting of sealed PVC stormwater piping, including the down pipes, that provides for the discharge of roof water to a termination point which is above its base (eg kerb outlet/water tank inlet located above the building platform). 
The system is designed to hold water with flow and is activated by an increase in head pressure as a result of rain/storm conditions.
Check Survey:A survey to confirm that the home is positioned on site as per the approved plans.
Column:A free standing vertical load bearing member usually stone, brick, aluminium or another compound. Sometimes only decorative.
Construction Certificate (C.C):The final component of approval to construct. It follows Development consent and ensures compliance with any statutory items conditioned there in.
Construction insurance premium:Insurance taken out by the builder to insure against theft, damage, fire, public risk etc.
Construction joint:A joint provided in structure to allow for movement in the structure due to expansion and contraction.
Contour Survey:A survey of the building site that identifies the amount of rise/fall represented by lines of equal level and relates to a datum (starting) point, normally a front corner.
Cornice:Mouldings fixed to the junctions of walls and ceilings.
Council:The local government authority with responsibility for administering building codes and assessing and approving development in its local area by means of development and building approvals.
Course step down:(3 course). The stepped down edge of concrete slab on which the outer brick wall rests.
Cut and fill:The method often used to provide a level area on a sloping site, where part of the sloping surface is cut away and used to provide fill on the portion of the slope immediately below it.
D.A.:(Development Application). The plans submitted to be approved by the Local Council. Usually approved with a large number of conditions, all of which must be met by the builder and/or the owner and subject to the issue of a Construction Certificate (C.C) before construction may commence.
Damp-proof course (DPC):A continuous layer of an impervious material placed in a masonry wall or between a floor and wall to prevent the upward or downward migration of moisture (usually bitumen coated aluminium, pvc, copper or lead).
D.A.R.:Dressed all round – timber that has been planed on all sides.
D.E.B.:Drop Edge Beam. (See Stepped Edge Beam).
Detention pit:A pit designed to slow down the flow of stormwater from private property into the public drainage system. Pits can be required for each individual lot or may be provided, by the land developer, for the subdivision as a whole.
Door furniture:All fittings on the door except the hinges.
Door jambs:The vertical sides of the door opening.
Double Hung window:A window where two sashes fill the opening, and both are vertically sliding, balanced by cords and weights, springs or balances.
D.P.:(Deposited Plan). A copy of the plan held by (deposited with) the Land Titles Office. This shows the exact bearings and dimensions of the block of land and any easements on it.
Driveway gradient:The gradient of the driveway between the garage floor and the front boundary. The maximum gradient is governed by Councils to ensure suitable vehicular access.
Dual water:Where a block is serviced by town water and grey water services. Grey water is connected for toilet flushing and gardern watering.
Ducts:Large pipes used to distribute air from a central heating or air-conditioning system.
Ducted exhaust fan:Fans that have been connected to ducts that will direct kitchen and/or bathroom fumes to the outside of the home.
Earth leakage safety switch:A device designed to prevent electrocution and some fires. Installed in the meter box and it measures loss of current flow and switches off the power instantaneously if significant loss is detected. Important safety features to avoid electrocution.
Easement:A restriction on the title to your land which means that part of the land is to be left free for some purpose. 
Generally easements are placed over into allotment drainage lines, electricity cables and rights of way etc.
Eaves gutter:A preformed gutter fixed to the fascia board or the face of rafters.
Efflorescence:A white, powdery substance that sometimes appears on brick walls.
Effluent:A liquid discharge from sewerage or septic systems.
Electrical earth:A safety circuit built into the electrical system, which is intended to save life, so that any fault in wiring will then cause electric current to flow to earth, usually a wire connected to the water pipe at the first point of entry into the house, which should never be left disconnected.
Escutcheon plate:A plate surrounding or covering a keyhole.
  
Facade:The front (face) of a house. Commonly referred to by style names – eg. Traditional, Colonial, Federation, Classic, Classique, Executive, Regency, Riviera, Tuscany, Vogue and more.
Fanlight:A semicircular transom window over a door or window.
Fascia:Timber board to which the gutter is fitted metal or timber edge capping of the roof to which the rain water gutter is fixed.
Fibreglassing:A waterproofing process for the wet areas where required.
Fibrous plaster:Gypsum plaster cast in sheets, which is reinforced with sisal or fibreglass fibres.
Final account:The final statement of account prepared prior to the handover of completed home.
Finial:Decorative finish at the top of the gable.
Flashing:A strip of impervious material (such as galvanised iron, lead or bitumen coated aluminium) dressed or fitted to cover a joint or cavity where water would otherwise penetrate.
Flight:An uninterrupted series of steps between floors or between a floor and a landing.
Flood Study:A study completed by a registered surveyor to determine the degree of inundated effect of a flood way and/or over land flow condition.
Floor space ratio:Amount of floor space divided into size of land eg 4:10 or 40% of gross land area.
Footing:A structural element generally consisting of concrete construction in either strip or pad form or integrated into the design of a concrete slab.
Foundation:The natural or built-up formation of soil, sub-soil or rock upon which a building or structure is supported.
Frieze:Continuous band of decorative panelling under the edge of a verandah or decorative panel around the top of the wall.
P.A:(Provisional Allowance). An estimated sum allowed for the completion of a particular item of work eg. rock excavation.
Panelled door:Door with sunken raised panels on its faces.
Panel lift doors:Trade name for sectional lift panel garage doors. Doors roll up in 4-5 sections.
P.C.s:(Prime Cost Items). Generally items like baths, toilets, stoves etc. and “white goods”.
Pediment:Projecting triangular gable over an entrance, door or window or forming the gable end of a roof.
Peg off set:The distance from the house to the surveyors pegs.
Pest Treatment:Treatments to the underside of the slab, around the perimeter of the slab and to the lower portion of the timber frame. Designed to prevent the intrusion of termites.
Pier:A column or post supporting a superstructure, such as beams, floor or verandah bearers.
Piering:Columns of concrete, usually poured into drilled holes in the ground, on which the concrete slab will rest. This ensures that the slab is ultimately resting on the ground sufficiently solid to support the weight of the home. The size and extent is determined by a civil engineer.
Pitch:The angle of a sloping roof, usually expressed in degrees eg. 22 degree pitch.
Plaster:A mixture of lime or cement and sand used to cover walls or ceilings.
Plasterboard:A plasterboard wall and ceiling lining sheets.
Plate:A horizontal member, usually on flat and supported throughout its length.
Plumb:Vertical and even, 90 degrees to level.
P.O.F:(Proof of Funds). Evidence furnished by the client to the builder that sufficient funds exist to pay the contract sum. This may take the form of a copy of a bank passbook, copy of fixed term deposit documentation or solicitors letter.
Pointing:The filling of joints in brickwork or masonry.
Quarry Tile:Machine-made, unglazed tile often used for floors.
Quoin:A decorative stone or brick corner of a wall.
Quote:(Tender). The document provided by the builder that details what work is to be done and the costs included. Forms part of the contract.
Raked Ceiling:Where the ceiling line, follows the line of the roof timbers often referred to as a Cathedral Ceiling and may have the roof timbers exposed.
Rafter:A sloping member in a roof providing the principal structural support for the roofing material.
Raft slab:A concrete floor slab designed with integrated edge and internal beams (where necessary) to support the full load of the structure above.
Reactive Soils:Soils generally containing clay, that are subject to varying degrees of swelling and shrinkage due to changes in moisture content.
Render:A hardwall finish such as cement or plaster applied to brick or masonry walls.
Reinforcement:(Reinforcing). Rods, bars or prefabricated mesh, usually of steel, embedded in concrete for the purpose of resisting particular stresses.
Reinforced concrete:Concrete which has been strengthened by the inclusion of steel reinforcing mesh, bars and rods.
Restrictive covenant:Restrictions placed on the title of the land which prevent the owner from doing certain things eg. It may prescribe the kind of material the home is to be built from or whether you are allowed out building on the land or not.
Ribbed Raft Slab:See Waffle Pod Slab.
Ridge:The highest edge of a roof, usually horizontal.
Riser:The vertical surface of a stair between two treads.
Roller doors:Metal garage door that roll up on drum , manually activated or motor driven.
Roof:The upper enclosing element of a building or area which gives protection to the covered space from the external environment.Gambrel roof (Dutch Gable): A roof having a small gable near the ridge of a hipped end.Hip(ped) roof: A roof or part of a roof which is pyramidal in shape with sloping surfaces and level eaves all round.Skillion roof: A roof sloping on one direction only, without a ridge or peak.
Roof tile:Usually of concrete or terracotta. Wide range of patterns and colours.
Roughing in:The preliminary stage of installation of plumbing, wiring etc.
R.O.W:(Right of Way). A restriction on the title that grants vehicular access for adjoining properties over your land but within the area described.
Sarking:The silver like membrane laid on over the roof timbers and immediately under the roof tiles.
Sash:Framework that holds the panes of glass in a window.
Scaffolding:A tubular steel structure assembled on site which provides a working platform for tradesmen – usually bricklayers. Required by law.
Scale:The relationship of an object to the human body (human scale); the relationship of the size of a drawing to the size of the actual object , eg. 100:1
Seasoned Timber:Timber dried to a stable moisture content prior to use. Unseasoned timber will shrink over time as the timber dries, causing movement in the building structure.
Second Site Inspection:A reinvestigation of a building site to consider matters not able to be assessed during the initial inspection eg. site levels after demolition.
Section:Elevation view through a cut away.
Sediment Control Barrier:A barrier placed around the boundary of the land on the low side to prevent silt or soil washing from the block of land into the street drainage system.
Septic system:A sullage disposal system, either site disposal or pumpout for unsewered blocks.
Set back:The distance from the front boundary to the front of the home. Council has minimum standards in this regard.
Shadow Diagram:A diagramatic representation of the shadowing effect on adjoining properties by the proposed new home.
Side set back:As above for side boundaries.
Sill:The lower horizontal portion of a window or door.
Site:The block of land on which the home is to be built.
Site Analysis:Site analysis examines and records the existing characteristics of the site, and its surroundings and indentifies the opportunities and constraints for the site in relation to Council’s policies.
Site costs:Those costs that arise from placing a chosen home on your land and the cost of connecting to services. Includes levelling of the building area, connection of sewer and stormwater, removal of trees, piering under the slab, deep edge beams, connection to power, material handling costs etc.
Site coverage:The percentage of the site covered by the new home. Imposed to prevent buildings being out of scale (too big) with the surrounding neighbourhood and to ensure sufficient open space, play area and off street parking. You may be allowed to cover 40% – 60% of the site.
Site inspection:An inspection of your new building site to assess the typography, service locations and all characteristics that are to be assessed in preparing a quotation.
Skillion:A roof sloping in one direction only with rafters pitching from, or leaning against the wall.
Skirting:Narrow and horizontal timber or customwood strips around the bottom of internal wall where it joins the floor.
Slab:A flat concrete foundation that rests directly onto the ground, sometimes called slab-on-ground.
Slab in brick work:A flooring system where by before the concrete slab is poured a perimeter wall of brick work is constructed, filling brought on and the slab laid on top of the brick work. Usually used where its necessary to raise the finished floor levels.
Soil classification:A system to gauge reactivity of soil. 
“S” means stable ground – not much expansion or contraction. 
“M” means moderately reactive soil – some expansion or contraction. 
“H” means highly reactive – large measure of expansion and contraction. 
These conditions are determined by engineers and foundation systems are designed to meet the appropriate classifications.
Soffit:The underside of eaves.
Span:The horizontal distance between two supports of a beam bridge or other structural element.
Square set opening:An opening that does not have timber facings. The plasterboard is squared off or “square set”.
Stormwater Management System:A system designed to manage the collection and controlled distribution of all roof and surface water generated on a building site.
Stringer:The two pieces of timber between which the stairs are set. These can be painted or stained.
Stud:An upright supporting member of a timber wall frame to which wall covering (plasterboard) are fixed.
Sub-floor:The open space below an elevated floor.
Terracotta:A reddish-brown, fired clay often used to make flowerpots, flooring tiles, roof tiles and other decorative ornaments.
Tiger Tails:Black and yellow striped warning covers cupped over existing aerial powerlines for the protection of workers on a building site.
Tilt-a-doors:One piece garage door. Usually timber on metal frame that tilts up in one piece to permit passage. Spring assisted, manual or motor assisted opening.
Top plate:Timber plate at the top of a wall frame.
Transom:A horizontal member dividing window or door frame units at the top of the frame.
Transom light:A sash or light above a door or window, usually fixed.
Tread:The horizontal part of a stair upon which you step.
Truss:A structural frame made up wholly of members in tension or compression lying in the same plane. (co-planner) for the bridging of long spans and/or the support of superimposed loads. Members are usually arranged in a series of triangles to form a rigid framework.
Valley gutter:A metal gutter built into the roof valley to carry water to the eaves guttering.
Variation:An alteration to standard design or specification. Generally not accepted by the builder after Building Agreement signed.
Vault:A space with an arched ceiling.
Verandah:A long covered porch.
  
Waffle pod slab:(or Ribbed Raft Slab). An engineered slab design featuring a grid of internal beams created around polystyrene pod formers. High strength and thermal efficiency.
Washable paint:Internal wall paint that can be lightly washed to remove grime and finger marks – not scrubbable.
Weepholes:Formed holes or openings placed in the perpend joints of a masonry wall above the level of a flashing or at the bottom of a cavity to permit the drainage of any accumulated water. Weepholes may be installed in a retaining wall to drain water from behind the wall for relieving hydrostatic pressure.
Wind load:All forces on a building or structure caused by or imputed due to wind pressure, which have to be taken into account in the design of the structure. Most wind loads on dwellings are uplift loads on roofs.
  
Zone of influence:A term used to describe the area adjacent to sewer pipes or stormwater lines. Building within these zones will require engineered designed upgrades to the foundation.
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