YOUR GUIDE TO COMMON BUILDING TERMS
Building a home is a stressful experience that involves wading into a pool of unfamiliar acronyms and lingo that is utterly foreign to most of us. Cantilever?
Corbel? What on earth are they? And while most of us are pretty savvy when it comes to kitchen trends and basic DIY (thanks, Bunnings), understanding the nitty gritty of a new build is another story.
Home-renovation television shows have increased people’s building vocabulary to some degree, but as Kristin Brookfield, of the Housing Industry Association of Australia (HIA), points out, “it is the sort of area people only become truly well educated in when they’re faced with it”.
In a bid to get better educated, she recommends people visit the HIA site, housinglocal.com.au, and download the guides and fact sheets to building and renovating.
Old-style building manuals and the internet are also great places to look.
“I would also recommend people head to a housing estate and just have a good look around at some of the display homes,” she says. “They often have brochures and people to talk to and you will get a better sense of the terminology.”
And remember: “The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask.”
To help you on your way, we have talked to the experts and compiled a list of common building terms and their definitions that you will need to get your head around.
Nail that builder speak
ARCHITRAVE A moulded frame around a door, arch or window. Used for visual appeal.
BALUSTRADE A railing supported by balusters that is designed to protect people from falling at an elevated height. Often seen on balconies, bridges or terraces.
BAY WINDOW A window of varying shapes, projecting outward from the wall of a building to form a recess in a room.
BIFOLD DOORS Hinged doors that fold in and slide open. Often used to divide the living area and alfresco zone. Can be timber or aluminium framed.
BOX GUTTER An enclosed rain gutter that is usually rectangular in shape. Usually concealed deep within the structure of the roof.
BULKHEAD A false wall between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. Often used in kitchens to prevent having to clean the ‘dead air’ above cabinets.
CANTILEVER A protruding element, such as a beam, that is seemingly suspended midair without a post. Often, it’s part of a roof that extends past the main part of the building.
CATHEDRAL OR RAKED CEILING A ceiling that matches the angle or line of the roof. This type of ceiling may or may not have the beams exposed, and it gives a feeling of space.
CAVITY WALL Two separate walls that are built close together with a space of between 2.5cm to 5cm between them. More efficient at insulation than a single wall.
CEMENT RENDER A layer of sand and cement that is applied to brick, cement, stone or mud bricks to create a smooth finish. It is usually placed on the outside of houses to help spruce them up.
CLERESTORY WINDOW A window with no crosspiece, to allow maximum light or air in. Often used as high-level windows, they are a great way to illuminate large spaces.
CORBEL A structural piece of stone, wood, brick, or other building material, projecting from the face of a wall like a bracket. Generally used to support a cornice or arch, corbels can be quite elaborate.
CORNICE Attractive moulding finishes at the junction of the
wall and ceiling, which can be quite simple and streamlined, or ornate and flowery.
DOORJAMB The vertical portion of the frame on to which a door is secured; it carries the weight of the door on its hinges.
FASCIA A visible piece of roof trim or board that is mounted on the exposed ends of rafters to hold the gutter in place and create a layer between the edge of the roof and the outside. It creates an attractive exterior and protects the roof from weather damage.
GABLE The triangular end of a house formed at the end of a pitched roof.
LINTEL The timber, stone or concrete support above your door or window.
LOUVRES A set of angled slats, usually hung to form windows, for air or light to pass through.
MEZZANINE A low-storey platform separating two other levels, usually the ground and first floor.
NEWEL POST Situated at the end of a staircase, a newel post supports a handrail.
PREFABRICATION The off-site manufacture of parts of buildings, such as individual rooms, walls and roofs.
RETAINING WALL A wall that is designed to retain soil, rock or other materials in a vertical condition behind it.
SKILLION A roof shape consisting of a single sloping surface.
SKIRTING BOARD A panel that runs along the base of an interior wall.
TRUSS Framework, usually consisting of rafters, posts and struts, to support a roof or other structure.