Tim Stubbs Limited Chartered Surveyors Derby specialising in the RICS HomeBuyer Report




Aggregate                  Broken stone, gravel or sand used with cement to form concrete.  Aggregates may be coarse or fine and are often used in the construction of 'soakaways'.
Airbrick   A perforated brick built into a wall for the purposes of providing air for ventilation purposes.  Used for instance, to ventilate the underside of a wooden floor or a roof space.
Architrave A moulding around a doorway or window opening.  It usually covers the joints between the frame and the wall finish, thus hiding any shrinkage gaps which may occur.
Asbestos   Material used in the past for insulation and other uses. Asbestos is a deleterious material which should only be removed or worked upon by a licensed contractor. Whilst items remain in good condition and are left undisturbed, the current informed view is that they present no significant hazard to health. However, some potential purchasers may be deterred by their presence and in the event of damage or disturbance, the applicants should anticipate potentially significant costs to have them removed safely.
Asbestos Cement  Cement mixed with 15% asbestos fibre as reinforcement.  Fragile - will not usually bear heavy weights.  Hazardous fibres may be released if cut, drilled or otherwise damaged or disturbed. See comments above in relation to Asbestos.
Asphalt   Black, tar-like substance, designed to be impervious to moisture.  Used on flat roofs and floors.
Barge Boards    See 'Verge Board'.
Balanced Flue Common metal device normally serving gas appliances which allows air to be drawn to the appliance whilst also allowing fumes to escape.
Baluster     A post or vertical pillar supporting a handrail or parapet rail.
Balustrade A collective name for a row of balusters or other in filling below a handrail on a stair or parapet.
Beetle Infestation  (Wood boring insects, eg. woodworm).  Larvae of various species of beetle can tunnel into timber causing damage.  Specialist treatment normally required.  Can also affect furniture.
Benching  Shaped concrete slope beside drainage channel within an inspection chamber.  Also known as 'haunching'.
Bitumen  Black, sticky substance, similar to asphalt.  Used in sealants, mineral felts and damp proof courses.
Bond  The regular arrangement of bricks or stones in a wall so that the units may be joined together.  The principal types of "bond" used in domestic construction being English, flemish, header, stretcher, diagonal or garden wall bond.
Breeze Block  Originally made from clinker cinders or ('breeze') - the term now commonly but incorrectly 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 in some cases.
Casement Window  A window composed of hinged, pivoted or fixed sashes.
Cavity Wall  Traditional method of building external walls of houses comprising two leaves of brick or blockwork usually separated by a gap ('cavity') of about 50 mm (2").
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 foam, mixed on site, and then pumped into the cavities where it sets.  Can lead to problems of dampness and make replacement of wall ties more difficult.

Fibreglass: Inert mineral fibre pumped into the cavity.

Cesspool   A simple method of drain comprising a holding tank which needs frequent emptying.  Not to be confused with 'septic tank'.
Chipboard    Often 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.
Cleaning Eye Sometimes known as an 'access eyes' or 'rodding eye'.  An opening in a drain or ventilation pipe, covered by a plate, the removal of which allows the drain to be rodded to clear blockages.
Collar Beam   A horizontal tie beam of a roof, which is joined to opposing rafters at a level above that of the wall plates.
Collar  Horizontal timber member designed 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 usually within a pressurized system.  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 designed to stop rainwater soaking into the wall.
Corbel   Projection of stone, brick, timber or metal jutting out from a wall to support a weight above it.
Cornice  A large moulding at the junction between an inside wall and a ceiling.  Can also include a moulding at the top of an outside wall designed to project and throw raindrops clear of the wall.
Coving  Curved junction between wall and ceiling.
Dado Rail A wooden moulding fixed to the wall or capping paneling and forming the top most part of a dado.  Originally designed to avoid damage to the wall where people or furniture brushed against it.
Damp Proof Course (or DPC)  Layer of impervious material (mineral felt, PVC, etc) incorporated  into a wall and designed to prevent dampness rising up to 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.
Death-watch Beetle  (Xestobium Refovillosum).  Extremely serious insect pest which attacks 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' positioned inside the original window.

Double Hung Sash Window 

A window in which the opening lights slides vertically within a casement window, counter balanced by weights supported on sash cords which passes over pulleys in the frame.

Dry Rot  (Serpula Lacrymans).  A very serious form of fungas which attacks structural and joinery timbers, often with devastating results.  Can flourish in moist, unventilated areas.
Eaves  The overhanging edge of a roof.
Efflorescence Powdery white salts crystallized on the surface of a wall as a result of moisture evaporation.
Engineering Brick  Particularly strong and dense type of brick, often used as a damp proof course in older buildings.
FENSA  The Fenestration Self Assessment Scheme. FENSA Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Glass and Glazing Federation.
Fibreboard  Cheap, lightweight board material of little strength, used in ceilings or as insulation to attics.
Flashing Building technique designed to prevent leakage at a roof joint.  Normally ,metal (lead, zinc, copper) but can be cement, felt or proprietary material.
Flaunching    A cement mortar weathering on the top of a chimney stack surrounding the base of the chimney pots to throw off the rain and thus prevent it from saturating the stack.
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 appliances such as boilers.  May also be manufactured from clay and built into the flue.  Other proprietary flue liners are also available.
Foundations  Normally concrete, laid underground as a structural base to a wall: in older buildings these may be brick or stone.
Frog An indentation, usually V shaped in the bedding face of the brick to reduce it's weight.  'Frog down' or 'frog up' are the generally accepted ways of describing how the bricks are laid.
Gable   Upper section of a wall, usually triangular in shape, at either end of a ridged roof.
Gas Safe Register This replaced CORGI as the official stamp for gas safety in Great Britain and the Isle of Man on 1 April 2009. CORGI registration is not valid or recognised by law in these regions. To work legally on gas appliances and installations, a contractor must be on the Gas Safe Register https://engineers.gassaferegister.co.uk
Ground Heave Swelling of clay sub-soil due to the presence of moisture: can cause an upward movement of foundations in extreme cases.
Gulley  An opening into which rain and waste water are collected before entering the drain.
Gutter   A channel along the eaves of a roof or the edge of a path for the removal of rainwater.
Hardcore     Broken bricks or stones which, consolidated, are used as a foundation for paths, drives or solid floors.
Haunching See 'Benching'.  Also term used to describe the support to a drain underground.
HETAS Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme
Hip The external junction between two intersecting roof slopes.
Hip Tile     A saddle shaped or angular tile fitting over the intersection of those roof tiles which meet at a hip.
In Situ  'In position' - applied to work done in the position where it is finally required, eg. concrete may be precast in sections which are later taken to the position where they are required or it may be cast 'in situ'.
Inspection Chamber    Commonly called the 'manhole' - access point to a drain comprising a chamber (of brick, concrete or plastic) with the drainage channel at it's base and a removable cover at ground level.
Jamb Vertical side face of a doorway or window.
Joist   A timber or steel beam directly supporting a floor and sometimes alternatively or additionally supporting a ceiling.  Steel beams are usually referred to as RSJ's (rolled steel joists).
Key  The roughness of a surface which provided a bond for any application of paint, plaster, rendering, tiles, etc, or spaces between laths or wire meshes which provide a grip for plaster.
Landslip  Downhill movement of unstable earth, clay, rock, etc, often following prolonged heavy rain or coastal erosion, but sometimes due to sub-soil having poor cohesion.
Lath    Thin strip of wood used in the fixing of roof tiles or slates, or as a backing to plaster.
Lintel   A horizontal beam over a door or window opening usually carrying the load of the wall above.  Often lintels can be partially or completely hidden from view.
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, water and sometimes lime used to join stones or bricks.
Mullion    Vertical bar dividing individual lights in a window.
Newel   Stout post supporting a staircase at top and bottom.  Also, the central pillar of a winding spiral staircase.
NICEIC  National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting
OFTEC  Oil Firing Technical Association
Oversite  Rough concrete below timber ground floors.
Parapet  Low wall along the edge of a roof, balcony, etc.
Parapet Gutter    A timber gutter of rectangular cross-section usually provided with a flexible metal or other impervious lining.  Used behind a parapet or sometimes at a valley.
PCA 'Property Care Association' formerly known as the 'British Wood Preserving and Damp-proofing Association' (BWPDA).
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  Outer edge of mortar joint between bricks, stones, etc.
Powder Post Beetle  (Bostrychide 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   Basic early 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 pebbledash, stucco or Tyrolean textured finish.
Reveals   The side faces of a window or door opening.
Ridge  The highest part or apex of a roof, usually horizontal.
Ridge Tile  A specially shaped tile for covering and making weather tight the ridge of a roof.  These tiles may have a rounded or angular cross section.
Riser   The vertical part of a step or stair.
Rising Damp   Moisture soaking up a wall from below ground, by capillary action which can cause rot in timbers, plaster decay, decoration failure, etc.
Roof Spread   Outward bowing of a wall caused by the thrust of a badly restrained roof framework (see 'Collar').
RSJ   Frequently used abbreviation for a rolled steel joist.
Screed    Final, smooth finish of a solid floor: usually cement, concrete or asphalt.
Septic Tank   Drain installation whereby sewage decomposes through the action of bacteria, which can be slowed down or stopped altogether by the use of chemicals such as bleach, biological washing powders, etc.
Settlement   All properties settle to some extent, and this can show as cracking and/or distortion in walls.  Very often minor settlement is not of great significance to the building as a whole.
Sewer       A large underground pipe or drain used for conveying waste water and sewage.  The Local Authority is usually responsible for the sewers, which collect the effluent from various drains, the drains being the responsibility of the land owners.
Shakes   Naturally occurring cracks in timber: in building timbers, shakes can appear quite dramatic, but strength is not always impaired.
Shaling  Damage to roof slates and tiles caused by weather action (see 'Spalling').
Shingles Small rectangular slabs of wood used on roofs instead of tiles, slates, etc.
Soakaway   A pit, filled with broken stones, etc, below ground to take drainage from rainwater pipes or land drains and allow it to disperse.
Soaker   Piece of flexible metal fitted to interlock with slates or tiles and make a water tight joint between a wall and a roof or at a hip or valley.  Stepped flashings are used over the soakers at a joint against a wall.
Soffit    The underside of an arch, beam, staircase, eaves or other feature of a building.
Soil Pipe/Soil Stack A vertical pipe which conveys sewage to the drains.  It's upper end is usually vented above the eaves.
Solid Fuel  Heating fuel, normally wood, coke or one of a variety of proprietary fuels.
Spalling    Deterioration of brickwork through the action of weathering caused by freeze/thaw action, especially during inclement weather conditions.
Spandrel  Space above and to the sides of an arch: also the space below a staircase.
Stopcock  A valve on a gas or water supply pipe which is used to cut off the supply.
Stud Partition   Lightweight, sometimes non load bearing wall construction comprising a framework of timber faced with plaster, plasterboard or other finish.
Subsidence  Ground movement, generally downwards, possibly a result of mining activities or failure of the sub soil.
Sub-soil  Soil lying immediately below the top-soil.
Sulphate Attack   Chemical reaction, activated by water, between tricalcium aliminate and soluble sulphates which can cause deterioration of brick walls and concrete floors.
Tie Bar     Metal bar passing through a wall, or walls in an attempt 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 in 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 Rafter     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 intersection between two roof slopes.

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 the 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 or around a dormer window or skylight.
Verge Board  Timber, sometimes decorative, placed at the verge of a roof; also known as 'barge board'.
Wall Plate Timber placed at the eaves of a roof, designed to take the weight of the roof timbers and coverings.
Wall Tie See 'Cavity Wall Tie'.
Waste Pipe A pipe from a wash hand basin, sink or bath to carry away the waste water into the drain.
Weather Boarding Horizontal overlapping boards nailed on the outside of a building to provide the finished wall surface.
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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