Glossary of buildings terms

We have compiled this list of common names, terms and materials used in old and new buildings, and have also added a short definition of each term. This list is almost certainly not complete, and is to be used as a work in progress. Hopefully it will help modellers to know each part of a building.

We have to thank the many sources, books and websites where the information in this list was found. Many thanks to all.

If you notice an error, or there are any omissions please help us by letting us know. We, and other modellers will appreciate your help with this list.


Broken stone, gravel, sand or slag used with cement to form concrete and tarmac. Aggregates may be coarse or fine and are measured by the size of a screen or mesh through which they will pass.
Air Brick:
A perforated brick for building into a wall to allow the passage of air for ventilation purposes. Used for instance to ventilate the underside of a wooden floor.
A curved structure built to distribute weight over an opening in a wall.
A moulding round a doorway or window opening. It usually covers the joint between the door frame and the wall finish, thus hiding any shrinkage gaps which may occur.
Material used in the past for insulation and fire protection. Can be a health hazard. Specialist advice should be sought if asbestos is found.
Smooth sawn stonework used in a wall.


A post or vertical pillar supporting a handrail or parapet wall.
A collective name for a row of balusters or other infilling below a handrail on a stair, bridge, or parapet.
Term used in Scotland and several other areas for a baluster.
A gable board or verge board. The inclined board on a gable end of a building which covers and protects the ends of the roof timbers. Old barge boards were often decoratively carved.
A part of a brick used in bricklaying which has been cut crosswise and refereed to by size.
Used in Carpentry and Roofing and can be a length of square sawn softwood or a length of treated softwood used as fixing for roof tiles, slates, or sheet materials. A vertical board in a batten door sometimes called Counter Batten.
Batten Door or Ledged Door:
A door composed of vertical boards or battens fixed to three or more horizontal ledges at the back, which are often diagonally braced. There is no frame round the edges.
A horizontal member that carries vertical loads along its length.
Thickening out of render in a curved shape to form a drip to deflect water which is usually found at the base of a wall and above the damp-proof course.
Building unit of a regular size usually made of solid or aerated concrete.
A built-up board, having a core of wooden strips up to 25mm (1 inch) wide laid with alternating grain and glued between outer veneers whose grain runs in the opposite direction. this gives the board good rigidity and dimensional stability.
Wall build using blocks.
The regular arrangement of bricks or stones in a wall so that the units are held together in a solid, stable mass. Recognised patterns or bonds are used, the principal ones being English, Flemish, header, stretcher, garden wall and diagonal.
Diagonal support in a timber door.
The arrangement of timbers spanning across roof trusses to provide lateral stability.
The spreading of mortar on the vertical face of a brick before laying, an important part of bricklaying if the wall is to be well bonded.
A lintel, often timber, over an opening such as a fireplace or bay.
A brick or stone support to a wall designed to resist lateral movement.


The lead bars in leaded light windows:
The weather-proof finish formed with tiles, or stone or concrete copings, over a wall, parapet or chimney.
The hinged, pivoted or fixed sash part of a window.
Cavity tray:
A moisture barrier inserted above a window or door opening to deflect moisture that transfers across the outer leaf of brickwork back to the outer face rather than letting it cross the cavity at lintel level causing dampness internally. In many cases, the lintel itself acts as a cavity tray though this arrangement is not always appropriate.
Cavity Wall:
Wall constructed of two separated thicknesses or leaves (skins) separated by a gap and forming a single wall. The gap between the two wall skins are normally filled with wall insulation. The leaves are connected at intervals by wall ties and may be of equal thickness or may have a thicker inner leaf to take the floor loads.
Ceiling Rose:
A decorative plate, boss or trim through which an electric light flex hangs from a ceiling.
Cement Fillet:
A weatherproofing joint between roof slopes and abutting brickwork such as walls or chimneys.
Chair Rail:
A wooden moulding fixed horizontally on a wall to prevent damage by chair backs. The development of hard plasters made such rails unnecessary.
A brick or stone cut to complete the bond at the corner of a wall.
Rounded or square stones used for decorative paving.
Collar Beam:
A horizontal tie-beam of a roof, which is joined to opposing rafters at a level above that of the wall plates.
A finishing to the top of a wall, made of hard bricks, stone, concrete, metal or terra cotta, designed as a protection against the weather. It often has a sloping, or weathered, top surface, projects beyond each face of the wall and has grooves or drips on the underside of the projection to help to throw off the rainwater flow clear of the wall face.
Projection of stone, brick, timber or metal jutting out from a wall to support a weight above.
A large moulding at the junction between an inside wall and the ceiling.
Counter Battens:
In roofing, battens fixed parallel to the rafters on top of boarding and felt. Slating or tiling battens are then nailed over them. In this way any rain or snow blown under the roofing slates can escape when it flows down the roofing felt instead of being held by the horizontal battens as it might otherwise be. Because of the cost, this type of construction is used only in high quality work.
A concave moulding at the junction between an inside wall and the ceiling or, less frequently, between an inside wall and a floor. The ceiling cove may be of fibrous plaster, plasterboard or expanded polystyrene in pre-formed sections and is useful in concealing the cracks which often occur in plasterwork at this junction.
A terminal to a flue pipe to aid discharge of gases and exclude the weather.
Projecting course of tiles to a wall or chimney to prevent rain from running down the face of the brickwork.
Cruck Beams:
Pairs of curved timbers in period buildings which run from ground level and meet at the ridge.
A dome or lantern shaped feature built on top of a roof.


The lower part of a wall, usually from the skirting to about waist-height, which is panelled or decorated differently from the upper part of the wall. Originally designed to avoid the soiling or damage of the wall where people or furniture brushed against it.
Dado Rail:
A wooden moulding fixed to the wall or capping panelling and forming the topmost part of a dado.
Damp-Proof Course or DPC:
A layer of impervious material. Placed in walls, usually at 150mm. above ground level and below any ground floor timbers, to prevent moisture from rising. Also used round door and window openings, in solid ground floors and in parapet walls above the junction with a roof, to prevent moisture penetration to the inside of the building.
Damp-Proof Membrane:
Horizontal layer of impervious material (usually polythene or bitumen) incorporated into floors or slabs.
Double-Hung Sash Window:
A window in which the opening lights slide vertically within a cased frame, counterbalanced by weights supported on sash cords which pass over pulleys in the frame (sash pulleys).
A construction with a window that projects from a sloping roof.


The lower edge of a roof.
A powdery white appearance on a wall surface to be seen when the wall dries out, caused by dissolved alkaline salts from the wall crystallising on the surface as evaporation takes place. On an outside wall, although unsightly, the salts will eventually be washed away by rain.
Engineering Brick:
Particularly strong and dense type of brick, often used as a damp proof course in older buildings.
English Bond:
Brickwork with alternating courses of headers and stretchers.


Fascia Board:
A wide board set vertically on edge and fixed to the lower ends of the rafters, to the wall plate or the wall. It carries the fixing brackets for the gutter round the eaves.
A thin strip of wood, cement, slate etc. used to fill a narrow joint.
A strip or sheet of impervious material, often flexible metal, used to prevent water from penetrating the joint between a roof covering and another surface (such as, for instance, a chimney stack). The upper edge of a flashing is usually wedged tightly into a raked out mortar joint.
A cement mortar weathering on the top of a chimney stack and surrounding the chimney pots) to throw off the rain and thus prevent it from saturating the stack.
Flemish Bond:
Brickwork with alternating headers and stretchers in each course.
A smoke duct in a chimney, or a proprietary pipe serving a heat producing appliance such as a central heating boiler.
Older, usually shallow, form or foundation of brick or stone.
Normally concrete, laid underground as a structural base to a wall. In older buildings these may be brick or stone.
Framed and Ledged Door:
A door composed of stiles, top rail and battens, all seen on the face side, with horizontal bottom and middle ledges on the back of the door.
Framed, Ledged and Braced Door:
A framed and ledged door with the addition of diagonal braces to give greater rigidity and prevent the striking edge of the door from dropping. (The lower corner of the brace, therefore, is always the one nearer the hinge).
An indentation, usually V-shaped, in the bedding face of a brick to reduce its weight. Frog down or frog up are the generally accepted ways of describing how the bricks are laid.
In building terms, the handles, knobs, locks etc. fitted to doors and windows.


Upper section of a wall, usually triangular in shape, at each end of a ridged roof.
Used for filling the joints between wall and floor tiles.
A channel along the eaves of a roof or the edge of a path or road for the removal of rainwater.


Half Bat:
A half of a brick, cut crosswise.
A brick so laid that the end shows on the face of the wall. The term is also used to describe the end of the brick.
The outstanding angle formed by the intersection of two inclined roof surfaces.
Hip Hook:
A metal bar fixed to the hip rafter and projecting in a hook at the foot of the hip to prevent the slipping of the lowest hip tile.
Hip Tile:
A saddle shaped or angular tile fitting over the intersection of those roofing tiles which meet at a hip.
Hopper Head:
An open funnel or hopper shaped head at the top of a rain or waste pipe to collect rainwater and/or waste from one or more pipes.


Interlocking Tiles:
Tiles which lock together to form a watertight roof with only minimal lapping.


(1) The vertical side of an opening in a wall, extending the full thickness of a wall.
(2) The vertical post of framing fixed to the jamb, as door jamb, window jamb.
The mortar bedding between bricks or stones.
A wood or steel beam directly supporting a floor and sometimes alternatively or additionally supporting a ceiling. Steel beams are usually referred to as RSJs (rolled steel joists).


Kicking Rail:
The bottom rail on a door.
King Closer:
A brick used as a closer and having one corner cut off along a vertical plane which joins the centre of one side to the centre of one end.


The overlap of slates, tiles and other coverings.
A sawn or split strip of wood of small section for carrying plaster work. Usually about 1m long and up to 10mm x 32mm in cross section the laths are nailed with narrow gaps between them across the underside of joists and provide a key for the plaster.
The horizontal timbers on the back of a batten door.
A horizontal beam over a door or window opening, usually carrying the load of the wall above. Sometimes a concrete lintel has a shallow projection along its foot to carry the facing brickwork behind which the greater depth of the lintel is concealed. This is known as a boot lintel.
Lock Rail:
That rail of a door which carries the lock.
Slats laid at an angle incorporated into a door or window. Can be hinged to allow ventilation and light.


A roof made with slopes of different pitches, usually providing an upper floor of useable space within a roof structure.
A subsidiary vertical member in timber framing, framed into the rails and usually of the same thickness as the other members, e.g. the vertical member which separates the panels in a panelled door.
A board that has a groove cut into one edge and a tongue cut into the other so they fit tightly together.
A floor between the ground and first floors, often accessed off a half landing.
Mixture of sand, cement (or lime), and water used to join stones, blocks or bricks, and for pointing and general filling.
Vertical bar dividing individual lights in a window.


A short timber or steel beam passed horizontally through a hole in a wall and supported on dead shores, to support the wall above during structural alterations.
Newel Post:
A post in a flight of stairs which carries the end of the outer string and the handrail, supporting them at the foot of the flight or at a corner.
A small projection for fixing purposes, as, for instance, at the upper end of a roofing tile.
Noggin or Nogging Piece:
A short horizontal timber placed between studs in a partition for stiffening purposes.


A specific shape where a concave arc flows into a convex arc. An ogee gutter has particular profile, is usually formed in cast iron, and is still very common in Victorian housing.


A curved roof tile which hooks over adjoining tiles, typical in some 1930 s construction.
Parapet Gutter, Parallel Gutter or Box Gutter:
A wooden gutter of rectangular cross-section with a flexible metal or other impervious lining. Used behind a parapet or sometimes at a valley. The depth varies according to the length and the number of drips or steps used. Occasionally it is constructed with a taper towards the lower end because of the roof slope, in which case it is known as a tapered parapet gutter.
Parquet Flooring:
A wooden floor covering formed of hardwood slips or shallow blocks laid in geometrical patterns, glued to the floor and polished. It is now obtainable already fixed to a plywood base for ease and speed of laying.
Party Wall:
The wall which separates, but is shared by, adjoining properties.
A low pitched gable.
A vertical joint in brickwork. It goes across the wall, the end of the joint appearing on the face of the wall.
A vertical column of brickwork or other material, used to strengthen the wall or to support a weight.
The angle of slope to a roof.
The projecting base of a wall.
Outer edge of mortar joint between bricks, stones etc.
The hole near the foot of a pulley stile in a double hung sash window frame. It gives access to the sash weights when new sash cords are to be fitted, but is normally closed by the pocket piece which fits in the hole flush with the rest of the stile.
A horizontal beam supported by the principal rafters of a truss (and sometimes, additionally, by one or more cross-walls) and itself supporting the common rafters at some point between the wall plate and the ridge.


Queen Closer:
A half of a brick, cut vertically lengthwise.
The external angle of a wall.


An inclined timber extending from the eaves to the ridge of a roof. A common rafter carries the roof covering, a principal rafter is part of a truss, and carries the purlin.
(1) A horizontal member, framed into vertical stiles. In a door the bottom rail is known as a kicking rail and that which carries the lock is known as the lock rail.
(2) A horizontal member of a fence.
Rebate or Rabbet:
A long rectangular recess forming a step along the edge of a piece of timber (or other material) to receive another piece of material.
Reinforced Concrete:
Concrete made with a number of steel bars, a steel mesh or other reinforcement built into it to provide extra strength against tensional forces. For this reason the position of the reinforcement in the concrete is important and must be carefully designed.
Applying stucco, cement mortar or the first and second coats of plaster to the face of a wall. The term is also used to describe the finish thus applied.
Retaining Wall:
A wall built to hold back a bank of soil.
The vertical side of an opening in a wall, between any frame built in the opening and the outer face of the wall, and usually at right angles to the face of the wall.
The highest part or apex of a roof, usually horizontal.
Ridge Board:
The horizontal board set on edge to which the top ends of rafters are fixed.
Ridge Tile:
Specially shaped tile for covering and making watertight the ridge of a roof. These tiles may have a rounded or angular cross-section.
(1) The upright face of a step.
(2) In a snecked rubble wall, a deep stone which builds up the masonry higher than does its adjacent stone on the same bedding plane.
Frequently used abbreviation for rolled steel joist.
(1) Broken bricks, old plaster and similar waste material.
(2) Stones of irregular size and shape used in walling. They are sometimes squared and coursed but are never smoothed.


Sash Window:
A layer of mortar to give a finish to a jointless floor or other concrete slab to provide a smooth surface which will be suitable to take floor tiles, linoleum, roofing felt, under floor heating, etc.
Small square blocks of stone which are often granite and used for paving roads or paths.
(1) The section at the end of a downpipe which is angled to direct rainwater away from the building and into a gulley.
(2) A metal socket enclosing the end of a timber such as a post.
A temporary support, often made of wood but sometimes of other material. This may be vertical (a dead shore), sloping (a raking shore) or horizontal (a flying shore).
Sleeper Wall:
A dwarf honeycomb wall supporting ground floor joists in buildings without basements. In addition to being economical in its use of bricks, the wall allows ventilating air currents to pass under the floor.
A window set into a roof slope.
Sliding Sash:
A sash which opens by a sideways, horizontal movement.
In a snecked rubble wall, the small squared stone which has its top surface level with that of an adjoining riser.
Snecked Rubble Wall:
A rubble wall, built of uncoursed squared stones of irregular size, in which snecks are used.
A pit filled with broken stones, clinker, etc., to take the drainage from rainwater pipes or land drains and allow it to disperse.
A 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.
The underside of an arch, beam, staircase, cornice, eaves or other feature of a building.
Soil Pipe or Soil Stack:
A vertical pipe which conveys sewage to the drains. Its upper end is vented above the eaves.
Soldier Course:
A horizontal course of bricks set on end over a window or door opening.
The triangular infilling under the outer string of a staircase or at each side of an arch to the level of the crown. The term is sometimes used to describe the rectangular infilling between the sill of one window and the head of the window below in a multi-storey building, or similar in filling panels.
A socket outlet connection from a ring main , having a single cable which forms a branch off the ring main.
The outer vertical members of a frame into which the rails are tenoned.
A brick or block laid lengthways.
Stretcher Bond:
A masonry bond with all courses laid as stretchers and with the vertical joint of one course falling midway between the joints of the courses above and below.
Striking Plate:
A plate with a rectangular slot in it , screwed to a door post, against which the door latch strikes when the door closes and within the slot of which the latch engages when the door is closed.
An inclined board supporting the ends of the treads of a staircase.
String Course:
A course of brickwork that projects beyond the face of an external wall.
An inclined member of a frame, which takes compressional forces.
A vertical member in a framed partition , to which lathing, wallboards or other materials are nailed.
Stud Wall:
Lightweight wall construction comprising a framework of timber faced with plasterboard.
Swan Neck:
An S-bend, as in the topmost section of a rainwater pipe where it joins the eaves gutter.


A long strap-like hinge, with its tapered length fixed on the face of a door, and its cross bar screwed to the door frame.
The end of a rail or other piece of wood which is cut and stepped to give a reduced area so that it can be inserted into a recess or mortise in another piece of wood.
Tie Bar:
Metal bar passing through a wall, or walls in an attempt to brace a structure suffering from structural instability.
Strips of lead or other metal used to hold slipped slates in position.
Horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window or top of door.
The horizontal part of a step or stair.
A support for scaffold boards, used in pairs to form a working platform, or for a large board to form a work table. Each trestle consists of two broad, ladder-like structures hinged at the top and often braced with cords to prevent the feet from spreading too wide.
A prefabricated triangular framework of timbers used in most modern roof constructions.


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


The recessed angle in a roof where two roof surfaces meet and towards which rainwater flows. Where the junction is angular there is a gutter, but the roofing material may be laid in a continuous sweep, (a swept valley) when there is no need for a gutter.
Valley Gutter:
A gutter in a roof valley, usually lined with flexible metal though other impervious material may be used.
Vertical damp-proof courses:
Known as tanking and is used to keep basements dry. The material used for this purpose is asphaltic, but other damp-proof courses may be of flexible sheet metal, vitreous engineering bricks, plastic sheet or other impervious material.
Ventilation Pipe:
The pipe which provides ventilation at the top of a soil drain. This may be a continuation of the soil stack, extended above the eaves.


Wall Plate:
A horizontal timber laid along a wall to distribute the load from joists or rafters which sit upon it.
Wall Tie:
A piece of twisted bronze or galvanised steel plate or a twisted piece of galvanised wire with two loops for building into the bed joints of the two leaves of a cavity wall to strengthen the wall. The twist is intended to prevent any moisture from the outer leaf of the wall from travelling along the tie to the inner leaf.
Waste Pipe:
A pipe from a wash-basin, sink or bath to carry away the waste water into the drains. It has a bend or trap in it which always retains a sufficient amount of water to fill the bore of the pipe and thus prevent smells from the drains from penetrating the building.
A moulding or piece of wood planted along the bottom of an external door to keep out driving rain.
Horizontal, overlapping boards nailed on the outside of a building to provide the finished wall surface. They are painted, varnished or treated with a preservative stain.