Useful Terms & Tips.

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Terms:

AGGREGATE
Pebbles, shingle, gravel etc. used in the manufacture of concrete, and in the construction of "soakaways".

AIRBRICK
Perforated brick used for ventilation, especially to floor voids (beneath timber floors) and roof spaces.

ARCHITRAVE
Joinery moulding around window or doorway.

ASBESTOS
Fibrous mineral used in the past for insulation. Can be a health hazard ¬ specialist advice should be sought if asbestos (especially blue asbestos) is found.

ASBESTOS CEMENT
Cement with 10-15% asbestos fibre as reinforcement. Fragile ¬ will not bear heavy weights. Hazardous fibres may be released if cut or drilled.

ASHLAR
Finely dressed natural stone: the best grade of masonry.

ASPHALT
Black, tar-like substance, strongly adhesive and impervious to moisture. Used on flat roofs and floors.

BALANCED FLUE
Common metal device normally serving gas appliances which allows air to be drawn to the appliance whilst also allowing fumes to escape.

BEETLE INFESTATION
(Wood boring insects: woodworm.) Larvae of various species of beetle which tunnel into timber causing damage. Specialist treatment normally required. Can also affect furniture.

BENCHING
Smoothly contoured concrete slope beside drainage channel within an inspection chamber. Also known as Haunching.

BITUMEN
Black, sticky substance, related to asphalt. Used in sealants, mineral felts and damp-proof courses.

BREEZE BLOCK
Originally made from cinders ("breeze") ¬ the term now commonly used to refer to various types of concrete and cement building blocks.

CARBONATION
A natural process affecting the outer layer of concrete. Metal reinforcement within that layer is liable to early corrosion, with consequent fracturing of the concrete.

CAVITY WALL
Standard modern method of building external walls of houses comprising two leaves of brick or blockwork separated by a gap ("cavity") of about 50mm (2 inches).

CAVITY WALL INSULATION
Filling of wall cavities by one of various forms of insulation material:
Beads: Polystyrene beads pumped into the cavities. Will easily fall out if the wall is broken open for any reason.
Foam: Urea formaldehyde form, mixed on site, and pumped into the cavities where it sets. Can lead to problems of dampness and make replacement of wall-ties more difficult.
Rockwool: Inert mineral fibre pumped into the cavity.

CAVITY WALL-TIE
Metal device bedded into the inner and outer leaves of cavity walls to strengthen the wall. Failure by corrosion can result in the wall becoming unstable ¬ specialist replacement ties are then required.

CESSPOOL
A simple method of drain comprising a holding tank which needs frequent emptying. Not to be confused with Septic Tank.

CHIPBOARD
Also referred to as "particle board". Chips of wood compressed and glued into sheet form. Cheap method of decking to flat roofs, floors and (with formica or melamine surface) furniture, especially kitchen units.

COLLAR
Horizontal timber member intended to restrain opposing roof slopes. Absence, removal or weakening can lead to Roof Spread.

COMBINATION BOILER
Modern form of gas boiler which activates on demand. With this form of boiler there is no need for water storage tanks, hot water cylinders etc..

COPING/COPING STONE
Usually stone or concrete, laid on top of a wall as a decorative finish and to stop rainwater soaking into the wall.

CORBEL
Projection of stone, brick, timber or metal jutting out from a wall to support a weight.

CORNICE
Ornamental moulded projection around the top of a building or around the wall of a room just below the ceiling.

COVING
Curved junction between wall and ceiling or (rarely) between ceiling and floor.

DADO RAIL
Wooden moulding fixed horizontally to a wall, about 1 metre (3ft 4in) above the floor, originally intended to protect the wall against damage by chair-backs.

DAMP-PROOF COURSE
Course Layer of impervious material (mineral felt, pvc etc.) incorporated into a wall to prevent dampness rising up the wall or lateral dampness around windows, doors etc.. Various proprietary methods are available for damp-proofing existing walls including "electro-osmosis" and chemical injection.

DEATHWATCH BEETLE
(Xestobium Refovillosum.) Serious insect pest in structural timbers, usually affects old hardwoods with fungal decay already present.

DOUBLE GLAZING
A method of thermal insulation usually either:
Sealed unit : Two panes of glass fixed and hermetically sealed together; or
Secondary : In effect a second "window" placed inside the original window.

DRY ROT
(Serpula Lacrymans.) A fungus which attacks structural and joinery timbers, often with devastating results. Can flourish in moist, unventilated areas.

EAVES
The overhanging edge of a roof.

EFFLORESCENCE
Salts crystallized on the surface of a wall as a result of moisture evaporation.

ENGINEERING BRICK
Particularly strong and dense type of brick, sometimes used as a damp-proof course.

FIBREBOARD
Cheap, lightweight board material of little strength, used in ceilings or as insulation to attics.

FLASHING
Building technique used to prevent leakage at a roof joint. Normally metal (lead, zinc, copper) but can be cement, felt or proprietary material.

FLAUNCHING
Contoured cement around the base of chimney pots, to secure the pot and to throw off rain.

FLUE
A smoke duct in a chimney, or a proprietary pipe serving a heat-producing appliance such as a central heating boiler.

FLUE LINING
Metal (usually stainless steel) tube within a flue ¬ essential for high output gas appliances such as boilers. May also be manufactured from clay and built into the flue.

FOUNDATIONS
Normally concrete, laid underground as a structural base to a wall: in older buildings may be brick or stone.

FROG
A depression imprinted in the upper surface of a brick, to save clay, reduce weight and increase the strength of the wall. Bricks should always be laid frog uppermost.

GABLE
Upper section of a wall, usually triangular in shape, at either end of a ridged roof.

GROUND HEAVE
Swelling of clay sub-soil due to absorption of moisture: can cause an upward movement in foundations.

GULLY
An opening into a drain, normally at ground level, placed to receive water etc. from downpipes and wastepipes.

HAUNCHING
See Benching. Also term used to describe the support to a drain underground.

HIP
The external junction between two intersecting roof slopes.

INSPECTION CHAMBER
Commonly called "man-hole". Access point to a drain comprising a chamber (of brick, concrete or plastic) with the drainage channel at its base and a removable cover at ground level.

JAMB
Side part of a doorway or window.

JOIST
Horizontal structural timber used in flat roof, ceiling and floor construction. Occasionally also metal.

LANDSLIP
Downhill movement of unstable earth, clay, rock etc. often following prolonged heavy rain or coastal erosion, but sometimes due entirely to sub-soil having little cohesive integrity.

LATH
Thin strip of wood used in the fixing of roof tiles or slates, or as a backing to plaster.

LINTEL
Horizontal structural beam of timber, stone, steel or concrete placed over window or door openings.

LONGHORN BEETLE
(Hylotrupe Bajulus.) A serious insect pest mainly confined to the extreme south-east of England, which can totally destroy the structural strength of wood.

LPG
Liquid Petroleum Gas or Propane. Available to serve gas appliances in areas without mains gas. Requires a storage tank.

MORTAR
Mixture of sand, cement, lime and water, used to join stones or bricks.

MULLION
Vertical bar dividing individual lights in a window.

NEWEL
Stout post supporting a staircase handrail at top and bottom. Also, the central pillar of a winding or spiral staircase.

OVERSITE
Rough concrete below timber ground floors: the level of the oversite should be above external ground level.

PARAPET
Low wall along the edge of a flat roof, balcony etc..

PIER
A vertical column of brickwork or other material, used to strengthen the wall or to support a weight.

PLASTERBOARD
Stiff "sandwich" of plaster between coarse paper. Now in widespread use for ceilings and walls.

POINTING
Smooth outer edge of mortar joint between bricks, stones etc..

POWDER POST BEETLE
(Bostrychidae or Lyctidae family of beetles.) A relatively uncommon pest which can, if untreated, cause widespread damage to structural timbers.

PURLIN
Horizontal beam in a roof upon which rafters rest.

QUOIN
The external angle of a building; or, specifically, bricks or stone blocks forming that angle.

RAFTER
A sloping roof beam, usually timber, forming the carcass of a roof.

RANDOM RUBBLE
Primitive method of stone wall construction with no attempt at bonding or coursing.

RENDERING
Vertical covering of a wall either plaster (internally) or cement (externally), sometimes with pebble-dash, stucco or Tyrolean textured finish.

REVEALS
The side faces of a window or door opening.

RIDGE
The apex of a roof.

RISER
The vertical part of a step or stair.

RISING DAMP
Moisture soaking up a wall from below ground, by capillary action causing rot in timbers, plaster decay, decoration failure etc..

ROOF SPREAD
Outward bowing of a wall caused by the thrust of a badly restrained roof carcass (see Collar).

SCREED
Final, smooth finish of a solid floor; usually cement, concrete or asphalt.

SEPTIC TANK
Tank Drain installation whereby sewage decomposes through bacteriological action, which can be slowed down or stopped altogether by the use of chemicals such as bleach, biological washing powders etc..

SETTLEMENT
General disturbance in a structure showing as distortion in walls etc., possibly a result of major structural failure. Sometimes of little current significance.

SHAKES
Naturally occurring cracks in timber; in building timbers, shakes can appear quite dramatic, but strength is not always impaired.

SHINGLES
Small rectangular slabs of wood used on roofs instead of tiles, slates etc..

SOAKAWAY
Arrangement for disposal of rainwater, utilising graded aggregate laid below ground.

SOAKER
Sheet metal (usually lead, copper or zinc) at the junction of a roof with a vertical surface of a chimney stack, adjoining wall etc.. Associated with flashings which should overlay soakers.

SOFFIT
The under-surface of eaves, balcony, arch etc..

SOLID FUEL
Heating fuel, normally coal, coke or one of a variety of proprietary fuels.

SPANDREL
Space above and to the sides of an arch; also the space below a staircase.

STUD PARTITION
Lightweight, sometimes non-loadbearing wall construction comprising a framework of timber faced with plaster, plasterboard or other finish.

SUBSIDENCE
Ground movement, generally downward, possibly a result of mining activities or clay shrinkage.

SUB-SOIL
Soil lying immediately below the top-soil, upon which foundations usually bear.

SULPHATE ATTACK
Chemical reaction, activated by water, between tricalcium aluminate and soluble sulphates. Can cause deterioration in brick walls and concrete floors.

TIE BAR
Heavy metal bar passing through a wall, or walls, to brace a structure suffering from structural instability.

TORCHING
Mortar applied on the underside of roof tiles or slates to help prevent moisture penetration. Not necessary when a roof is underdrawn with felt.

TRANSOM
Horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window or top of door.

TREAD
The horizontal part of a step or stair.

TRUSSED RAFTERS
Method of roof construction utilising prefabricated triangular framework of timbers. Now widely used in domestic construction.

UNDERPINNING
Method of strengthening weak foundations whereby a new, stronger foundation is placed beneath the original.

VALLEY GUTTER
Horizontal or sloping gutter, usually lead- or tile-lined, at the internal intersection between two roof slopes.

VENTILATION
Necessary in all buildings to disperse moisture resulting from bathing, cooking, breathing etc., and to assist in prevention of condensation.
Floors : Necessary to avoid rot, especially Dry Rot; achieved by airbricks near to ground level.
Roofs : Necessary to disperse condensation within roof spaces; achieved either by airbricks in gables or ducts at the eaves.

VERGE
The edge of a roof, especially over a gable.

VERGE BOARD
Timber, sometimes decorative, placed at the verge of a roof: also known as barge board.

WAINSCOT
Wood panelling or boarding on the lower part of an internal wall.

WALL PLATE
Timber placed at the eaves of a roof, to take the weight of the roof timbers.

WET ROT
(Coniophora Puteana.) Decay of timber due to damp conditions. Not to be confused with the more serious Dry Rot.

WOODWORM
Colloquial term for beetle infestation: usually intended to mean Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium Punctatum): by far the most frequently encountered insect attack in structural and joinery timbers.

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Tips:

ROOF

  • Roof Slopes and coverings, for example tiles, slates - particularly after severe weather conditions check for slipped, cracked or badly damaged tiles.
  • Cement pointing at the roof edges. Make sure that this is kept in good condition.
  • Remove lichen and other moss growth from tiles/slates if this becomes heavy.
  • Flat roofs, normally covered in felt or metal are prone to defects. Felt in particular has a limited life. Whenever possible try to avoid walking or standing ladders on flat roofs as the covers can be very easily damaged.
  • Check flashings and valley gutters or hidden gutters for blockages and leaks. Valley gutters are particularly prone to defects and should be cleaned out at regular intervals.
  • Make sure that the chippings to your flat roof remain evenly laid and clear away any heavy moss or lichen growth as this can retain moisture.
  • Keep chimney pots and cowls in good order and ensure that the brickwork cement joints are in good condition.
  • Gutters often become blocked with leaves, weeds or debris and should be cleaned out on a regular basis. Replace or repair any missing or defective sections immediately in order to protect the property.

LOFT

  • Check for bird ingress or wasp' nests. In very rare cases where you find bats, remember that they are a protected species so you will need specialist advice.
  • Check condition of water storage tanks and pipework and ensure they are properly covered and lagged.

WALL

  • Dampness can penetrate through defective mortar joints or hairline cracks in the rendering. Although very fine surface cracks may appear insignificant, it is always sensible to fill them to be on the safe side.
  • Ensure that the cement mortar around the waste pipes is in good condition.
  • Use a pliable waterproof mastic sealant to close any gaps around the window or doorframes.
  • Never bridge a damp course by building up external paving levels or garden borders. A sensible guide is to keep external levels at two brick courses below damp course level, or inside floor level.
  • Never render walls down to external ground level as this is likely to bridge any damp proof course. Always finish the rendering in a properly formed bell cast.
  • Water may get behind poor rendering which could lead to dampness. Any cracked or loose areas of rendering should be repaired or replaced.
  • Remove ivy or other climbing plants in particular from walls and gutters. Such plants can damage stone/brickwork and retain moisture in the wall.
  • Do not allow any sub ground floor air bricks to brick become blocked. Failure to do so will prevent adequate air flow and could lead to decay.
  • Check water downpipes fro splits or leaky joints.

EXTERNAL WOODWORK

  • Paint/restain window frames and other joinery at regular intervals.
  • Periodically check window and door frames and repair any timbers affected by wet rot. Regular painting will help avoid the timber becoming rot affected.
  • Replace broken or damaged sash cords or window latches.
  • Renew cracked or broken panes of glass and replace missing or loose putties before redecoration.

ELECTRICS, HEATING AND PLUMBING

  • We strongly advise that you have the electrical installation checked by the electricity board at least every three years as the system can deteriorate with age and Regulations are being constantly updated.
  • Ensure that you obtain qualified advice before making any alteration to the electrical wiring system.
  • Ensure that you know how to get to internal and external stopcocks in the event of an emergency.
  • Check your plumbing pipework and wastepipes for joint leaks and from time to time clean out bath, sink and washbasin traps. Reseal joints around shower bases and other appliances.
  • Clean through overflow pipes from water tanks or cisterns.
  • Arrange for central heating boilers, water heaters and heating appliances to be regularly serviced to maximise efficiency.
  • Clear blocked soakaways or gulleys. Blockages in a drainage system may be cleared by rodding or pressure hosing.

IN THE GARDEN

  • Shrubs and trees can be damaging to the fabric of the property and so their growth needs to be restricted. Keep soil, trees and shrubs away from outside walls wherever possible.
  • Cut back any wall climbing plants as they can damage walls and can encourage damp penetration.

EXTENSIONS / ALTERATIONS

  • Before you start any structural alterations or extensions check with your local council as to whether Building Regulation or Planning Approval is necessary. (Building warrants in Scotland.)
  • If you live in a Listed Building remember that Listing Building Consent may be necessary even in the case of minor alterations to the appearance of the building.

ENERGY CONSERVATION

  • The thermal efficiency of your property can often be improved for a relatively modest cost. These measures can often result in an improved internal environment, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and lower fuel bills. Such measures include:

    - Draught exclusion to windows and external doors.

    - Proper insulation of hot water cylinders and lagging of water pipes.

    - Check that your loft insulation is thick enough but make sure that gaps are left at the eaves to allow   sufficient ventilation of the roof space, and remove from below water storage tanks.

    - Ensure that your heating controls are effective, e.g. consider the use of automatic time clock controls, thermostatic radiator valves, thermostatic cylinder controls etc.

    - Double or secondary glazing of windows.

Kings Group.

Kings GroupOne of the largest independent property companies, with services that include, residential sales, lettings, property management, financial services and conveyancing.

Thomas Oliver.

Thomas OliverThomas Oliver are specialists in Wealth Management and Retirement Planning.

Temple Chambers.

Thomas OliverTemple Chambers Chartered Surveyors provide professionally produced photography of properties, along with 2D and 3D floor plans, audio-visual tours and also provide EPC certificates.

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