Glossary of building terms

This glossary of common building terms will assist with understanding the meaning of words relating to architectural elements when using or compiling a logbook for the purposes of heritage property maintenance.

 
Term Meaning
ant cap (ant capping or termite shield)

A metal shield, usually made of galvanised iron, that is placed on top of a wall, pier or stump supporting timber members. Ant caps extend on all open sides and are turned down at 45 degrees to expose and delay the movement of termites (white ants) from the soil to timber portions of a building.

architrave (cover mould or door/window lining)

Moulding surrounding a door- or window-opening to cover the joint between the frame and the wall finish.

baluster

A small post, often turned or decorated, used to support a handrail or fill the space below a handrail.

balustrade

A series of balusters supporting stair handrail, landing, platform or bridge. They are also used as the collective name for the entire framed enclosure guarding the side of a stair, landing or platform.

barge or gable boards

Sloping boards along a gable covering the ends of roof timbers and protecting them from rain. Old barge boards can be scallop shaped or otherwise decorated.

batten

Timber member of small, rectangular cross-section. Sometimes used to screen the undercroft area.

box gutter

A gutter often with both sides built along the roof slope. Used in valleys or behind parapets.

bearer

Sub-floor structural timber member supporting floor joists.

cap (capping)

Uppermost part on top of a piece of work, often used to provide a cover (ie. ridge capping).

chimney breast

Wall of the chimney that projects into the room and contains the fireplace and flues.

cornice

Externally - overhanging moulding at the top of a wall to deflect dripping. Internally - plastered moulding covering the joint between the wall and ceiling.

dado

Finishing of the lower part of an interior wall from skirting to waist height, usually in a darker colour then the rest of the wall.

damp-proof course

Impermeable barrier just above ground level at the base of the wall to prevent rising damp. Modern damp-proof courses are generally made from 0.5mm thick black polyethylene sheeting. One of the oldest types of damp-proof courses is made up of tar and sand. Another type of impermeable barrier that was traditionally used was glazed hard-burnt ceramic, similar in size and shape to bricks.

door furniture

Metal accessories for a door, including hinges, handles, locks, bolts, latches and escutcheons (a metal plate surrounding the keyhole, sometimes covered by a metal key drop for protection).

dormer

Vertical window through a sloping roof, usually provided with its own pitched roof.

drip moulding

A groove or projection under an overhanging edge designed to throw water off at the outer edge so it does not flow back to the building.

eaves

Lower edge of a roof which projects beyond the wall as an overhang.

fanlight

Glazed opening over the door but within the doorframe.

fascia board

Board set on edge, fixed to the rafter ends, wall plate or wall to carry the gutter under the eaves.

flashing

Strip of impervious material, usually flexible metal (such as galvanised iron, lead or copper) used to cover a joint where water could otherwise penetrate.

fretwork

Wood cut into decorative patterns (with a fret or jigsaw).

gable

Triangular part of the end wall of a building with a sloping roof. A roof with a gable at one or both ends.

hood (window hood)

Protecting and projecting element over the outside of an opening to throw off water.

joist

Wooden or steel beam supporting a floor (floor joist) or ceiling (ceiling joist). Steel beam sections are generally called rolled steel joists (RSJs).

mortar

Mix of sand, lime and sometimes cement used for rendering, pointing or laying bricks or stone.

mullion

Vertical dividing member of a frame between door or window lights.

parapet

Low wall guarding the edge of a roof, bridge, balcony, etc or part of a wall that extends above the roof.

pediment

Gable-shaped, decorative feature above a parapet, portico, doors, windows, etc.

pointing

Raking out mortar joints and pressing into them a surface mortar to finish a masonry wall.

quoins

Dressed stones at the corners of buildings, usually laid so that their faces are alternately large and small. Originates from the French word ‘coin’ (corner)

rafter

One of the sloping pieces of timber forming the roof framework and supporting the roof covering.

rainwater head (rainwater sump)

Funnel or box-shaped rainwater fitting for collecting and discharging roof water from a gutter into a downpipe.

s-trap

A trap in which the outlet leg is vertical and parallel with the inlet leg.

sarking (sarking membrane)

Pliable, water-resistant membrane located beneath the roof covering or external wall cladding to collect and discharge water that may penetrate. often combined with reflective foil to provide thermal insulation benefits.

sill

Lowest horizontal member at the bottom of a window or door frame.

sash

Glass-fitted framed window unit which can be moved by pivoting or sliding, can be divided into smaller panes and is identified as top and bottom sash in a double-hung window.

string course

Decorative, usually projecting, thin horizontal course of brick or stone, often continuing the line of the masonry window sills.

threshold

Step or sill of timber or other material at the foot of an external door.

transom

Horizontal dividing member of a frame between window lights or separating a door from a fanlight above.

truss

Framework of timbers or metal bars, usually based on a series of triangles to create a rigid beam to the roof or span a space or form a bracket.

ventilator

An implement for ventilating a roof to allow hot air to escape.

wall plate

Timber laid longitudinally on top of the wall where ends of rafters are placed.

weep hole

Small drain hole for water used to drain water collecting behind retaining walls and prevent hydrostatic pressure developing.

window furniture

Metal accessories for a window which include hinges, locks, stay bars (to hold casement windows in an open position) etc.

More information on conservation

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For more information contact Council's Heritage Unit.

18 July 2014