Jargon Buster

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Like many industries, builders use a variety of jargon − words and phrases that act as shorthand when people who work within it talk to each other.

At John O’Connell Building Solutions we know that people outside the industry in most cases won’t understand these terms, so we try not to use them when talking to customers. Despite this, we’re aware that we may occasionally include some of this jargon when we’re talking about what we do.

So, along with our Glossary we’ve come up with our own ‘Jargon Buster’ to help you learn more about some of the language commonly used within the construction industry.


Acro Prop: A device that can be extended to provide temporary support to walls.

Aggregate: This is a general term for material such as building sand or sharp sand, etc.

Arris: Usually refers to a 90 degrees external angle.


Baluster: A normal person would use the word banister.

Bib Tap: A tap that has a horizontal supply running to it.

Bodge: Something you don’t want to hear. If a job has been bodged, it has been poorly done.

Buttress: A term that refers to the thickening of a wall to strengthen it.


Chippy: Nothing to do with fish. A chippy is a slang term for anyone who works with wood, such as a joiner or a carpenter.

Closer: This term refers to a brick that has been cut in half lengthways.

Coping: The finish applied to the top of a wall to protect it from the elements.

Course: A ‘course of bricks’ is a single horizontal row of bricks.


Damp Proof Course: A layer of material that stops damp rising up a wall.

Dob and Dab: Slang for dry lining.

Drip: A moulding in an overhanging sill that prevents water from seeping back to the wall.


Eaves: The overhang of a roof from the wall.


First Fix: Everything that needs to be done before the plastering such as the installation of wires.

Flashing: A metal sheet that waterproofs junctions such as between a wall and a roof.

Formation Level: The deepest excavation point when constructing pathways or driveways.


Gable: Triangular upper part of a wall that supports a pitched roof.

Glazing Bar: A bar that has been shaped for a pane of glass.

Gobbo: Slang term for mortar.


Header: The end of a brick.

Herringbone: A zigzag pattern of brickwork that is popular for driveways and patios.

Hipped Roof: A pitched roof with sloping ends.


Knotting Solution: A special varnish that covers the knots in wood. This is important as resin from knots can change the colour of paintwork.


Loose Fill Insulation: Any form of loose material that is used to fill wall cavities, etc. for insulation purposes.


Make Good: Repairing the plaster and paintwork after some form of interior construction work.

Mansard Roof: A pitched roof that is designed and built to have rooms directly underneath.

Mezzanine: A floor that juts out between the floor and ceiling of a room. Used to create more floor space in tall rooms.

Muck: Slang term for mortar.


Newel: The posts that support a hand rail at the top and bottom of a staircase.

Nogging: Small strips of wood that provide extra support between two joists.


Party Wall: The partition wall between to separate properties, such as in terraced houses.

Pitch: The angle of a sloping roof.

Plinth: A base for external walls.

Purlin: A horizontal beam halfway up a roof that gives extra support.


Racking Back: Building the two ends of a brick wall first in order to get the correct level.

Raking: Removing old mortar from brick or masonry work before applying new mortar to the existing bricks.

Relieving Arch: An arch that bears the weight of a wall.

Render: The external cement covering for walls.

Reveal: The vertical side of a window or door.

Roof Truss: A timber framework that supports a roof.


Screed: A layer of concrete that provides a very smooth finish to a floor.

Sarking Felt: A layer of waterproof felt used in roofs.

Second Fix: Everything that happens after plastering is finished.

Skim: The very last coat of plaster.

Soldier Course: A row of bricks that have been laid vertically instead of horizontally.

Span: A horizontal distance. Usually used when referring to beams and joists.

Sparky: Slang term for an electrician.

Stack: A vertical waste pipe from sinks and toilets.

String: The board that goes up the side of a staircase.


Toothing In: When an existing wall is being repaired or lengthened the vertical side has alternate rows of bricks jutting out to form a strong bond with new work.

Tread: The horizontal parts of a staircase. The parts you tread on.

TRV: Thermostatic radiator valve.


Voussoir: Brick shaped like a wedge that is used for constructing arches.


Wainscot: Traditional interior wooden lining to walls.


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Then don’t forget to check out our Glossary, you might find it there.

If you would like to discuss any building work or project ideas with our team, please call us on 01206 396667 or email us at enquiries@jdoconnell.co.uk for a FREE, no-obligation discussion.