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Building Terminology

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I often have clients describing their building problems to me. Sometimes, their terminology is less than accurate and, invariably, I have to make a physical on-site inspection of the problem. I try to write reports in straightforward English.

However, over many years the ‘language’ of buildings has evolved and this often causes confusion. Here below are a few terms, some of which are commonly known whilst others less so.

Chris Ennis, Property Doctor, Chartered Surveyor
Chris Ennis, Property Doctor

Water bar – a horizontal steel or rigid bar set into the door or window sills to prevent water ingress.
Weep hole – an opening above a horizontal damp-proof course designed to direct moisture within a cavity wall to the exterior of a property.
Wall tie – a metal connector spanning the internal and external skins of a cavity wall.
Boot lintel – a concrete section above a door or window opening, L-shaped – rather like a boot.
Composite lintel – not dissimilar to a boot lintel, formed in steel and concrete.
Soldier course – usually seen above a door or window opening, where bricks are laid vertically and not horizontally.
Voussoir – a wedge-shaped brick or stone section, often used at the head of a brick archway.
Camber arch, segmental arch, drop arch, centre arch – all forms of archway, often seen above windows and doorways.
Lime mortar – a traditional mix of lime, sand and water used in older buildings to form bed joints in brickwork.
Portland cement – a mixture of clay and limestone, all burnt and the resulting clinker crushed and bagged. First commercially produced in the 1920s.
Pediment – the decorative triangular area of a gable end, often seen in classical architecture and typically supported by columns.
Purlin – the horizontal beam seen on the inside of a cut roof frame, typically in a 1930s house.
Flitch beam – a composite supporting beam incorporating a steel plate, sandwiched between two timber sections and bolted together.
String – the diagonal timber affixed to the wall in a stair construction.
Firring piece – a section of timber laid horizontally above flat roof joists to give the roof a slight gradient in order to discharge storm water.
Bird’s mouth – a joint in timber roof construction where rafters meet wall plate.

Chris Ennis FRICS is a Chartered Surveyor Tel: 01903 261217 email: surveyor1@talktalk.net www.propdoctor.co.uk