Glossary of Building Terms

UNDERSTANDING WHAT your new home designer or builder is explaining to you is very important if you want to absorb all the details of your new home plans.

To help you out, we've put together this Glossary of building industry terms and phrases, based on the Brisbane City Council Glossary.


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.


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

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.

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.

Sub-floor structural timber member supporting floor joists.

Concrete blocks

Panels or rods in various locations inside walls that stiffen the structure so it can withstand wind loads.

Kiln fired clay bricks


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

CFC sheet
Compressed fibre cement sheet – same as FC sheet but higher strength and often used as flooring underlay.

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

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


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).

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.

drop edge beam
Where a concrete slab steps, with a change in level of up to 500mm.


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

exposed aggregate
Concrete finish where the small stones (aggregate) are exposed on the surface.


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.

FC sheet
Fibre cement sheet – cladding panel, usually used as a substrate (backing) for something else, applied vertically.

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

Concrete filled trench that provides structural support to a slab and/or anchors a post.

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


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


The section of a conventional roof which slopes down to the eave.

hood (window hood)
Protecting and projecting element over the outside of an opening to throw off water.


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


A beam placed above openings such as windows and doors, designed to take load of bricks or another building element above.

LVL Beam
Laminated veneer lumber beam. A type of structural timber beam.


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

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


Bit of tread that noses out over the riser – often has a rounded edge.


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

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

Column of concrete or metal post that sits underground and transfers load from the structure to bedrock or similar stable medium.

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

privacy screen
Either an external screen or window treating required to screen windows that look out of you house and into your neighbour's private external space.


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)


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.

Vertical part of stairs.


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.

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.

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

Flat roof slopping in one direction

The ceiling material between the facia/gutter and the wall.

stack stone
Cladding panels that give the appearance of very thin stones, stacked on one another.

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

Angular beam that supports the tread and risers.

open stringer
The stringer is under the tread and risers
closed stringer
The stringer is on the side of the tread and riser.

Vertical timber member in a wall frame.


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

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

Horizontal part of stairs.

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.


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.