Chartered Surveyors for property solutions

Twitter Linkedin

Property Services

Choose from our comprehensive range of professional property services


Commercial Search

Search our commercial property listings for your specific requirements

Exclude Sold
Exclude Under Offer
Exclude Let



Like this content? Subscribe to receive news & knowledge updates direct to your inbox.

Building Surveying – Glossary of  Terms


Aggregate Material mixed with Portland cement to form concrete. Fine aggregate is sand, course aggregate is gravel.
Anaglypta Thick embossed lining paper for walls and ceilings
Anobium Punctatum The Common Furniture Beetle, generally the most usual form of woodworm in the UK.
Architrave Trim fixed over joint between plaster and door frame
Artex Decorative textured coating for walls and ceilings
Asbestos Fibrous mineral with fire resistant qualities. Airborne fibres are a known health hazard
Ashlar Close fitting square cut building stones, often of thin section used as a facing to other materials.
Asphalt A mixture of p, fine and coarse aggregate used for covering flat roofs.
Back addition Projecting rear wing of house, termed an outrigger in some areas.
Back boiler A boiler fitted at the back of the hearth of an open fire or behind a gas fire to provide hot water and/or central heating.
Back land Site with no road frontage surrounded by other development or land in other ownership
Balanced flue A metal flue terminal for the inlet of air and outlet of fumes through a wall from gas boiler or heater.
Balustrades Staircase and landing handrails and spindles.
Barge board A sloping board along a gable covering the ends of roof timbers.
­Bark borer Woodworm found only in bark and sapwood, generally harmless.
Batten A strip of timber, as used for the fixing of slates and tiles to the roof.
Bay window A window formed in a projection of a wall beyond its general line.
Bearer A horizontal timber used to spread loads, for example across ceilings or floors.
Benching Concrete finish provided around the drainage channels in a manhole.
Binder A timber beam such as that used horizontally across ceiling joists to reduce the span of a ceiling.
Birdsmouth Triangular cut out of roof strut to tightly wedge purlin.
Bitumen Tar like material used in sealants, mineral felts and damp proof course.
Bituminous felt Sheeting based on asbestos, fibreglass or other fibres impregnated with bitumen, used in various forms for covering flat roofs or for damp proof courses.
Blackash mortar Industrial ash used instead of sand with dement and lime.
Blockwork Masonry of precast concrete blocks.
Blown Defective render of plaster lifting from base, hollow and loose.
Bonding Various patterns for laying bricks to maximise wall strength.
Borrowed light Window in internal wall between rooms, often over door.
Breather membrane Timber frame construction wall membrane allows moisture to escape.
Breeze block Building blocks made of cinders and cement used for internal partitions and inner skin of cavity walls.
Bressumer A long heavy lintel, usually timber, supporting brickwork or masonry, often over a shop window.
Building Regulations National regulations specifying minimum standards of construction for new buildings, extensions and alterations enforced by the local authority.
Building Survey Formerly Structural Survey.
Built-up roofing Two or more layers of bitumous felt laid in bitumen, used on flat roofs. Normally has a life expectancy of approximately 15 years.
Calcium Chloride Additive mixed in concrete may result in loss of strength.
Calcium Silicate Bricks Subject to thermal expansion and contraction resulting in cracking
Calorifier Heating coil of pipework within copper hot water cylinder.
Capillary action Upward movement of moisture in walls and floors.
Carbonation Loss of strength to concretes associated with chemical changes and rusting to steel reinforcement.
Casement window A window in which one or more lights are hinged to open.
Cast-in-situ Concrete or other material cost on site within timber or other formwork
Caulking Sealing to edges around baths and showers.
Cavity tray A damp proof course across a cavity wall, sloping downwards from the inner skin to the outer skin to prevent dampness crossing the cavity above door and window openings.


Cavity wall A 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 pit A pit in which sewage collects and which has to be emptied regularly.
Cheek The side of a dormer.
Cistern A water storage tank such as that installed in the roof of a house or the tank containing the water to flush a WC.
Cladding On-load bearing covering to the walls or roof of a building, often of slate, tiling or timber.
Cob Thick rendered walls built of earth or clay often mixed with straw.
Code of Measuring Practice RICS recommended rules for calculating floor areas etc.
Codes of Practice Non statutory recommendations for the use of building materials and techniques
Collar A horizontal tie beam joining rafters, half way up their length.
Column An upright post, generally of concrete, stone, brick, steel or timber supporting load from above.
Combination boiler A boiler in a hot water/central heating system which has a built-in cistern and requires no separate hot water cylinder.
Common Furniture Beetle Woodworm commonly encountered in older UK buildings
Comparables Other properties sold or values to which reference is made when valuations are prepared.
Concrete A hard, stone like mass consisting of a mixture of sand and stone by cement.
Condensation Water condenses on surface when it is colder than the dew point of the surrounding air.
Coniophora puteana A common form of wet rot fungus.
Consumer unit Fuse or circuit breaker box controlling electricity supply.
Continuity of Cover Insurance cover against subsidence or other risks carried on from one property owner to the next.
Conventional flue Boiler takes oxygen from air in room in which it is located with combustion gasses discharged via flue or chimney.
Conversion Property now used differently, e.g. flat within former house.
Coping A brick, stone or concrete protection to the top of a wall.
Corbel A brick or masonry projection from the face of a wall
Core sample Drilled out section of concrete or other material taken for analysis.
Cornice A moulding at the top of an outside wall or where an inside wall abuts the ceiling.
Coving A concave moulding at the abutment of an inside wall with the ceiling.
Cowl A tile or metal cover, often fixed over a chimney.
Creasing tile One or two courses of plain tiles laid under brick copings, projecting slightly from the face or the wall to prevent moisture running down.
Creep Spreading and folding of lead or asphalt on roofs and steps especially due to heat from sun.
Cross wall Wall running from side to side.
Cruck Irregular sections of tree trunk used for rafters and other rough carpentry.
Curtain wall Lightweight thin outer panel wall.
Curtilage Enclosed garden area belonging to dwelling.
Dado A border or panelling over the lower half of the walls in a room.
Damp proof course An impervious layer of material in a wall, usually 6″ above ground level to prevent rising dampness.
Damp proof membrane A wide impervious sheet laid beneath the slab or finish of a floor to prevent rising dampness.

Death Watch Beetle

Large woodworm found in damp oak and other hardwoods
Dentil Tile fillet to seal joint at base of stack or parapet.


Detailing Flashings, upstands, soakers and other roof joint weather sealing.



Sagging to centre of floor or roof slope.

Dormer (window) A vertical window through a pitched roof, usually provided with its own flat or pitched roof.


Double glazing Sealed units have two panes of glass factory sealed; Secondary double glazing has additional window fixed to main window, usually inside.


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


Dry rot A form of decay in timber due to a particular type of fungus which needs relatively low moisture to develop and is difficult to eradicate.


Easement A legal term referring to the right a person has over another person’s land such as a ‘right of way’ or a ‘right of drainage’.


Eave The lowest overhanging part of a sloping roof or the area under it.


Efflorescence Salt deposits on masonry or roof tiles where dampness evaporates.


Electro-osmosis Proprietary system for preventing rising damp by electrically earthing wall.


Endoscope Borescope for inspecting inside wall cavities, etc.
Eyebrow window Set into roof slope under curving rows of tiles.
Façade Front elevation of building.
Fascia board A vertical board fixed under the eaves of a roof to which the rainwater gutters are often fixed.


Fibreboard Soft porous building board used for insulation and lining.
Fillet A narrow strip fixed at the angle between two surfaces, eg. cement fillet where a chimney stack abuts roof tiling.


Finlock gutters Proprietary name for interlocking concrete gutter system.
Firring A timber strip laid along a joist to provide a gradual slope to a flat roof.
First fixing Installation of services and fittings prior to plastering.


Flank wall The wall at the side of a building.


Flashing A strip of impervious material such as lead or zinc which seals the junction of a roof with a wall, chimney stack or similar projection.


Flaunching Cement mortar bedding/weathering around a chimney pot.


Flight Straight run of staircase
Flue A duct in a chimney or leading to it for the discharge of fumes from a boiler or fire.


Flush door A smooth faced door, normally of plywood or hardboard with either a hollow or solid core.


Flying freehold In England and Wales the ownership of airspace over another freehold.
Flying shore Temporary support in gap between buildings, generally during redevelopment.
Foundations The below ground construction supporting the walls.


Gable The triangular part of the end wall of a building with a sloping roof.


Gallopers Temporary timber struts under converging chimney brickwork in roof space.



Galvanic corrosion

Rusting of galvanised steel in presence of lead and copper.


Gang Number of sockets or switches.


Gang nailed trusses Prefabricated roof timbers fixed with metal plates.


Going Staircase distance between risers.


GRP Glass fibre reinforced plastic.
Gravity circulation Wide bore heating circulation without pump.


Grout Filling of joints in paving and tiling.


Gullies Exterior drains into which water discharges.


Gutter A channel along the edge of a roof to carry rainwater.


Gypsum Modern plaster material used in plasterboard and for plaster skim.
Haunching Cement work used to support drain work and manholes below ground.
Header Brick laid with end showing.


Heave Lifting of foundations due to clay swell or other expansion of support below.
Herringbone strutting Timbers laid in X-pattern between joists.
Hip Formed at the junction of two roof slopes near ends of roofs which do not end with a gable.
Hip hook Metal bracket holding bottom hip tile in place.
Hoggin Hardcore.


Honeycombe wall Bricks laid with gaps to allow ventilation.


Hopper head An enlarged top to a vertical pipe into which rainwater or waste water discharges
Hot water cylinder A cylinder for the storage of hot water, often fitted with an electric immersion heater.


Infill Hardcore laid under solid floor
Interceptor A trap fitted between a house drain and a main sewer to separate in the air in each.
Invert Bottom of manhole or drain. Invert level is distance below ground.


Jack rafter A short rafter between the hip and the eave of a roof.
Jamb Vertical side face to window or door opening.


Joist A timber or steel beam directly supporting a floor, ceiling or flat roof.


Joist hanger A steel shoe which supports the end of a joist.


Lath and plaster Thin timber strips with wet plaster coatings.


Lintel A small beam over a door or window opening, supporting the wall above.


Mansard roof A roof which has a relatively flat top slope and a steeper lower slope on each side.


Mastic Any permanently plastic and sticky waterproof material used for sealing exterior joints in buildings.


Microbore heating Narrow flexible pipework
Mineral felt Flat roof covering, usually bitumen based.


Mono pitch roof Has only one slope from high wall to low wall.


Mortar Sand with a mixture of cement and/or lime used for joining and pointing brickwork, blockwork and masonry.


Mullion A vertical dividing member of a frame between the lights of a window or door.


Newel post A post in a flight of stairs supporting the ends of a balustrade.
No fines concrete Aggregate (gravel) without sand (fines) or other small particles.


Noggins A short horizontal timber which stiffens the vertical studs in a framed partition.
Nosing The overhanging edge of stair tread.
Oriel Underside of projecting window bay, shaped or rounded.
Oversite concrete A concrete slab laid over the earth beneath the ground floor of a house.


Panelled door A door built of a framed surround with the spaces between filled with panels of thinner material, normally timber.


Pantiles Undulating shaped interlocking tiles.


Parapet A low wall around the edge of a roof or balcony.


Parging Cement lining around inside of chimney flue.
Parquet Tongued and grooved, secret nailed, hardwood flooring.
Partition A non-load bearing wall between rooms.
Party wall On boundary between properties in separate ownership.
Piles Concrete columns driven or cast in subsoil as foundations.
PIR Sensor (Passive InfraRed Sensor A Pyro Electric InfraRed Sensor is an electronic device which measures InfraRed (light radiating from objects in its field of view).
Plasterboard Gypsum plaster sandwiched between two sheets of cardboard.
Plate Horizontal timber on wall to spread load of joist and rafter ends.
Plinth Widening at base of wall, typically cement rendered.


Plumb Vertical. Hence plumb line to test for verticality.
Pointing The finish of the joints between bricks in a wall.


Ponding Water lying on flat roofs.


Purlin A horizontal beam in a roof supporting the rafters.
Quoin External corner of wall.
Rafter A sloping timber in a roof extending from the ridge to the eave.
Render A coat of mortar applied to the inner face of a wall prior to plastering or the external face as weathering.


Retaining wall Holds back land behind and may thus support structures behind also.


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


Ridge Top of pitched roof.


Riser The upright face of a step.


Roughcast Unevenly finished external render.
Sarking felt Bituminous felt laid under slates or tiles on a roof as a secondary barrier against rainwater.


Sash window A window in which two opening lights slide up and down in a cased frame, balanced by weights on sash cords over pullies.


Screed A layer of mortar usually 2″ to 3″ thick laid over a concrete floor to provide a smooth finish.
Scrim Hessian type material used to seal joints in plasterwork.
Septic tank A sewage purification system consisting of a number of chambers from which water can be allowed to soak into the ground, where no sewer is available.
Sets Small stones used for paving.


Settlement Downward movement of structure on site.
Shear Vertical crack due to part of wall moving down.
Shelling Breaking away of surface to plasterwork or other finish.


Shingles Thin timber tiles used for roofs and wall cladding.


Shiplap Overlapping boarding as cladding to external face of wall.


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


Sleugh Land drain with pipes butted together.


Snagging Minor building works to be finished off after practical completion.


Soakaways Land drains and sumps allowing water to drain into soil.


Soaker A 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.


Soffit The under surface of an eave, stair or beam.
Soil stack Above ground pipework taking waste water.


Soldier arch Bricks laid on end as lintel to opening
Spalling Cement render finished with small white stones.


Spindels Vertical uprights to balustrades and staircase handrails.


Spine wall Internal wall running front to back.


Sprocket Angled timber at end of rafter which lifts bottom tiles.


Stitch bonding Repair to brickwork, cutting in new bricks.


Stretcher Brick laid sideways
String Sloping board at either side of the treads on a staircase, supporting the treads and risers.


Strutting Angled timbers supporting purlins and rafters.
Stucco Smooth cement rendering as external finish.


Stud Vertical member of a framed partition.
Subsidence Downward shift of building due to movement in ground beneath.


Subsoil Material below topsoil which supports foundations.


Tanking Horizontal and vertical water proof membrane beneath the floor and up the walls of a basement.
Tell-tale Gauge fixed over crack to monitor movement in wall.


Tie bar Metal restraint inserted in buildings with end plates on wall.
Tingle A strip of flexible metal used to hold a replacement slate in position on a roof.


Trada Timber Research and Development Association.


Trap A U-shaped bend in a waste pipe forming seal to prevent foul air escaping from the pipe.


Tread The horizontal part of a step.


Trimmer joist A 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.


Truss A steel or timber frame such as that found in modern houses, to replace the more conventional roof frame consisting of rafters and purlins.


Undercloak A course of asbestos cement or natural slate or clay tiles supporting the verge of a gable roof.


Underpinning Insertion of new foundation beneath existing foundation.


UPVC (Unplasticised polyvinyl chloride) A fairly stiff plastic material from which rainwater gutters and other building components are often made.


Valley The intersection between two sloping surfaces of a roof.
Vapour barrier An airtight skin such as metal foil or polythene used to prevent vapour passing from the warm side to the cold side of insulation and condensing within the element of a building
Verdigris A green chemical formed on the surface of copper when exposed to the air.


Verge The edge of a sloping roof which overhangs a gable.


Wainscot Wood Panelling on boards up to dado height in a room.


Wainscoting Material used to make wainscot.
Wall plate A horizontal timber along the top of a wall to which rafters or joints are fixed.


Wall tie Metal fixing in cavity wall connecting two skins.
Weatherboard Overlapping boarding used as external wall cladding.


Weep holes Allow drainage from wall cavity or from behind retaining wall.


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


Woodworm Furniture beetle and other wood boring insects.

News & Knowledge Categories

Read our latest blogs


Click to view industry comment, top…
Read Kempton Carr Croft news here

Our news

Click to view KCC business activity,…
View our area guides

Area Guides

Click to find out more about…
View our property services brochure

Resource Downloads

Subscribe to receive downloads from Kempton…
  • Most Read Posts

  • Archive

Latest Tweet

Follow on Twitter

Get in touch

We provide property solutions. Let us know how we can help with your requirements as follows.

Follow us

We have plenty to say on property. View the latest updates using your preferred method below.


We want to offer the best service possible. Help us deliver this by sharing your honest feedback.

logo2logo1    Association of leasehold enfranchisement practionersEWI logologo11