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mortar 1 part cement 1 part lime and 6 parts sand by volume.
mortar 1 part cement 1 part lime and 9 parts sand by volume. 1:2:9 is prone to premature failure, 1:1:6 is a better option.
2-way switching
A method of wiring switches so that a lamp can be turned on or off from more than one switch.
mortar 3 parts sand to 1 part cement by volume.


a/c or a.c.
  1. alternating current
  2. air conditioning
  1. Type of plastic
  2. Type of Paint
  3. Type of adhesive/sealant (typically marketed as 'solvent-free' gripfill/no-more-nails/etc)
  4. Clear sheet material aka perspex
Across Flats. Most commonly used imperial nut & spanner measurement system.
Brick or block containing many ventilation holes. Used to ventilate underfloor cavities, rooms containing a gas fire, and less often chimney stacks and cavity walls.
Trapped airbubble preventing water flow
the chemistry of most oil based household gloss paints.
Alkyd putty
a glazing putty
Allen key
hexagonal profile L shaped bar used for driving screws with a hexagonal recess.
Aluminium oxide
a low cost grit widely used for sandpaper and grinding wheels.
Angle grinder
a high speed hand held disc grinder used for grinding, cutting, and with wire brushes, mortar rakes etc.
  1. semicircular curve
  2. electrical conduction across insulation breakdown, often through air.
A corner of something - typically timber.
Aris Rail
A triangular cross section of timber, typically made by rip cutting a square sectioned length of timber in two across the diagonal. Often used for fence rails since they do not allow moisture to sit on the wood.
A filler/plaster material popularly used to create stippled and combed ceiling finishes. Its popularity arose from the absence of any plastering skill needed to create such finishes, and the consequent lower cost of artexed ceilings compared to plastered.
Asbestos is any one of several tough natural fibres. The word is usually used to refer to asbestos cement. Asbestos is usually chrysotile (white), crocidolite (blue) or amosite (brown), though other less often used asbestos fibres also exist.
An obsolete plastic cable, a precursor of pvc.
Hardwearing flooring made from bitumen and clay.
  1. a self feeding drill bit for wood. Designed for very low rotational speed with high torque. A good choice for hand drilling wood. Commonly available in sizes of 6mm and up.
  2. Type of earth drill bit


Baby oil
Mineral oil with added perfume. See Mineral oil
Back siphonage
Balanced Flue
Ball pein hammer
Hammer with ball shaped striking face. Possibly named as a result of indiscriminate use.
  1. Stone & other rubble used to form a hard stable base
  2. Current control device used to run a fluorescent tube or other discharge lamp.
Barge Board
  1. Lock barrel. The part of a nightlatch (lock) mechanism that accepts the key.
  2. Oak barrel. Wine making barrel used as a planter
Strip of wood applied to wall or ceiling, to which usually plasterboard is applied. Used to even up uneven walls and to permit insertion of insulation behind plasterboard.
Bayonet Cap, most popular type of lightbulb connection.
joist, rafter, purlin, or any other large wooden, steel or concrete structural member.
Bench grinder
A bench mountable grinder used primarily for sharpening tools.
  1. Mechanical type of thermostat. Reliable, low cost, and lacking extra features. Need a neutral connection to avoid excess hysteresis. Compare electronic thermostat.
  2. saw tooth type used on handsaws
2 pin connection used on fluorescent tubes & halogen lamps.
a black sticky gloop used to waterproof and preserve.
Blind grommet
grommet with the central hole closed by a thin layer of plastic. This is pierced when threaded.
2 thin wood veneers with strips of wood glued between. One of the many ways to convert low value material into useful sheet material.
broken away, happens to render, plaster, brick
Flame lamp used for soldering, paint stripping, etc. Usually gas, but historic paraffin blowlamps are also used occasionally. Sometimes confusingly referred to as a torch.
Extra wide masonry chisel.
  1. adhesion
  2. pattern of brickwork
  1. adhering
  2. a type of plaster
to make a hole
building regulations.
Pointed tool used to mark a point on wood for drilling.
Breeze Block
Lightweight aerated concrete block.
Brick acid
Hydrochloric acid solution
Brilliant white
A cold bright white. Has a very slight blue tint when compared to white, which helps to disguise slight Paint discolouration.
British Standard
A published performance standard. Many are obligatory, some are not.
Broken white
White which has had a small amount of a dull colour added to remove the intensity of the whiteness.
An uncommon imperial nut measurement system.
Bubble wrap
Insulation. Deteriorates in the presence of UV.
Building line
String or rope stretched in a straight line to mark position of building works.
Small amounts of material sticking out from the workpiece where a cut has been made. All metals & many plastics produce a burr on cutting.
Burnt sand mastic
a sand & linseed oil mastic used between wood frames & masonry.
topcoat of render
Butyl putty
another glazing putty.
Butyl rubber
a long lived plastic used as pond liner, flat roof covering and sometimes as heat resistant electrical wire insulation.
Bright Zinc Plated


Cabinet Scraper
Electrical wire not intended for regular flexing. Has solid single core copper conductors. See also flex.
Cable clips
Clips that hold cable in place. Usually a plastic clip fixed in place with a small masonry nail, but other types also exist.
Cable ties
Self locking plastic strap to hold cables
Camber is a slope downwards from the centre of a road, used to shed rainwater.
Camber Beam
A curved beam
Lead strip used in leaded windows.
Card level
low cost replacement for a spirit level
Carpet tape
Tough tape for joining carpet. See Tapes and Duct Tape Review
Car body filler
A tough durable filler made from polyester resin with inert fillers.
see nozzle
Popular way to buy various sealants, glues, caulks etc. Cartridge gun needed for use.
Cartridge Gun
Tool that enables controlled squeeze-outage of materials in cartridges.
Timber lining of a door or window opening.
Cast Earth
Earth and gypsum mix, used to construct walls etc.
Catslide roof
Pitched roof with asymmetric shape
Caustic Soda
a strong alkali. Hot caustic solution clears drains blocked by grease & removes hard to remove sticky kitchen grease.
Cavity Wall
An external wall built with a gap/ cavity between the 2 leaves of the wall. Different sizes of cavity are encountered, but 2" is by far the most common. Contrary to popular belief, cavity walls were sometimes used in the 1800s, but to prevent damp ingress rather than as insulation.
Cellulose thinners
A strong solvent mixture.
Cement Dye
These are added to cement mixes to colour them. Colours vary in their durability, black becomes washed out and streaky in time, whereas iron oxide (dull red) is permanent.
Cement mixer
Powered machine for mixing cement. Many alternatives exist.
Central Vacuum
A vacuum cleaning system using a fixed vacuum pump plus built in plumbing to convey this vacuum around the building. Popular in the states, it has several advantages over a portable vacuum cleaner.
Compact Fluorescent Lamp. Energy saving lamp used in place of filament lamps.
aka sill.
circular fluorescent tube
Circular saw
Saw using a large circular saw blade. Fast cutting, but unable to cut curves.
Water storage container.
A channel cut usually in masonry for cables or pipes. Also used as a verb, meaning to cut a chase.
Cherry picker
High access machine. Consists of a small work platform on an extending arm on a wheeled vehicle.
A low cost low performance sheet material made from wood sawdust & wood chips stuck together with glue.
Also see cold chisel, plugging chisel, bolster,
Chocolate block, choc block
screw connector strip for mains cables.
Device to hold 2 or more items together. Often used while glue dries. Many types of clamp exist.
Clay walling board with paper surfaces. Superior sound absorption to plasterboard. See also: plasterboard
Club hammer
Canadian Lumber Stock. A standard wood size with rounded edges used as general purpose timber. Now sourced from many countries.
a hardened chalk & clay stone occasionally used for building.
  1. Carbon Monoxide, a lethal odourless colourless gas produced by combustion with insufficient oxygen
  2. Conservation Officer, local authority employee who decides what works are permitted on listed buildings.
Various types of earth based walling.
Cobbles, cobblestones
small rounded top stones used for paving and roads. Gives a very poor surface, uneven and slippery. Long superceded for most uses, but still used where it is desirable to keep people away.
Cold chisel
Chisel for masonry use
Common brick
Lower cost type of brick used where it will not be seen.
Compression joint
Pipe joint that grips pipes by compression. Has a nut at each end of the joint.
  1. Machine delivering compressed air.
  2. Delivers compressed refrigerant in a fridge, freezer, air conditioner or dehumidifier circuit.
  1. A usually hard tough bulk building material usually made from cement, sand and stone. Other ingredients are sometimes also used.
  2. Less often the term is used to describe any hard masonry-like composition material, which need not contain cement.
Water deposited by the air on cold surfaces, such as windows or walls.
Condensed water produced by condensing boilers, dehumidifiers, fridges, freezers and. Gas boiler condensate is acidic.
a tubing system of some sort for carrying something around a building, usually electrical wiring.
Relay (electrical)
Core drill
Bit that drills a hole by cutting around the edge only. The core is left in one piece. Mostly used for very large holes. Different types are available for different materials.
A gas fitter accreditation body.
Decorative moulding where the wall meets the ceiling. Generally made from wood, polystyrene, moulded plaster strips, or plaster applied in situ, but other materials are occasionally encountered.
Corrugated fixing
to cut a recess for a bolt head.
to cut a tapered recess for a bolt head.
A plain style of cornice.
Circuit Protective Conductor, earth conductor, earth wire.
Crescent Wrench
the most common type of adjustable spanner
Crosscut saw
saw blade optimised to cut at right angles to wood grain. Used in electric mitre saws.
Crossover Switch
Type of switch used in 3 or more way switching.
A type of warping of wood planks that makes the side edges raised or lowered compared to the centre of the plank.
Primary source of inconvenience, payments and senseless complaints. Person expecting owt for nowt.


The lower section of an interior wall, upto around waist height
Dado rail
A rail, usually horizontal and wooden, run at around waist height on a wall. Reduces wear & chair damage to the wall decorations.
Damp proof course
  1. an impermeable layer intended to stop rising damp. Usually plastic, but slate, bitumen and waterproof coatings have also been used.
  2. a chemical injection intended to form an impermeable layer, but which more often do not.
Damp proof membrane
An impervious membrane laid usually in the floor to prevent transmission of damp.
earth plaster. See wattle & daub
A physical point of reference from which other positions are measured.
'direct current'. Unidirectional voltage.
Defects liability period
The period for which the builder remains liable for defects occurring. Defined in contract.
Machine for extracting humidity from the air. See also: humidistat
the separation of layers of a material. Plywood and other laminated products may fail in this manner.
Domestic Hot Water
Diamond disc
Die grinder
commonly called a Dremel
device for reducing the efficiency of filament bulbs.
A lime based interior Paint now coming back into favour due to its soft matt appearance and low manufacturing cost. Removed by washing with hot detergent, making it ideal for detailed cornicing, as it avoids Paint build up and loss of detail.
Looking knackered. A deliberate style of Paint finish.
Device to divert rain from a downpipe to a barrel. Usually includes water level limiting.
Dog clamp
A [ shaped clamp hammered into 2 pieces of wood to hold them together during glue setting.
Door Chain
A short chain allowing partial opening of a door, while retaining a limited amount of security.
Door Viewer
Small wide angle lensed lookout hole fitted to exterior doors for security. See also Door Chain.
A straight stick of (usually) wood used to accurately locate 2 pieces of wood together, and to fix them together, usually with glue.
Dowel bit
aka Lip & spur drill bit, which see.
Drain Heat Exchanger
Heat exchanger recovering heat from waste water.
Also known as a die grinder. A brand name, but widely used to mean any brand of small high speed rotary tool, typically taking tools of upto around 1" diameter with 3.2mm shank. Many types of tools are used with these.
Drip groove
Groove in the underside of a window cill. Prevents rain running back onto the brickwork.


  1. Soil. See topsoil, subsoil.
  2. Electrical connection to earth / ground.
Earth plus cement powder. Used to stabilise soil before laying gravel. Also see Papercrete
Earth leakage
the flow of mains current to earth, sometimes via a human. Earth current is often fault current, though not always.
Earth wire
electrical wire connected to earth
The part of a roof structure that overhangs the walls. The underside cladding of the eaves being the "soffits" and the outwood cladding being the "facia".
Earthed Equipotential Bonding and Automatic Disconnection of supply. An electrical installation capable of cutting the power when a live to earth short occurs. All post 1950s isntalls should be EEBAD, the non-EEBAD setups occasionally found have a serious safety problem.
White salt deposits on the surface of brick, plaster, stone or mortar. Harmless & common on new brickwork, it brushes off and cures itself over time.
An oil based paint with a semi matt finish. Harder wearing than emulsion.
Device to cut electrical power in the event of certain earth leakage faults. There are 2 significantly different types of ELCB, current operated (aka RCD) and voltage operated. Now superceded by RCDs, the designation 'ELCB' indicates an old device.
Death by electric shock.
expanded metal lath, sometimes called gauze. Used mainly to support plaster & render.
popular wall paint based on PVA, titanium dioxide and pigment.
any type of hard surfaced paint
Engineering brick
A hard dense frost resistant brick.
a tough synthetic 2 part resin mainly used as a glue. Araldite is a well known brand.
Epoxy mortar
mortar based on epoxy resin & sand. For small concrete repairs.
Equipotential bonding
Connection of metal items together so that they stay at the same voltage even in a fault situation
Edison Screw. The most common size of screw-in lightbulb base. See also SES, MES, M14
Essex Flange
see also: Surrey flange
Guess at a price. Expect the real price to be higher. Estimates are best avoided in favour of a binding quote for most jobs.
synthetic roofing slate, asbestos cement based.
Fire extinguisher, either portable or permanently fixed types, eg a sprinkler.
fan that moves air from building interior to the exterior. See also: HRV


Facing Brick
Brick with a fair face, used where they will be seen.
rate of downward slope. Mostly applies to plumbing waste pipe & guttering.
Board fitted to the outer face of the top of house walls. Supports guttering
  1. to taper down something so the stepped edge is diminished and not noticeable.
  2. bird feather used for faux marbling
Horizontal boarding for exterior use. The boards are of tapered thickness. Mostly used on sheds & fence. Compare weatherboard.
Feeler gauge
Tool containing a set of assorted thicknesses of metal sheet. Used for measuring very small gaps.
  1. non-woven wool cloth
  2. Roofing sheet used under tiles to reduce dirt and water ingress.
guiding edge attached to a tool to keep the blade a certain distance from the edge of the workpiece
Fibre cement
a fibre reinforced cement, usually found in sheet form. Asbestos used to be the most common fibre used, now glass fibre is probably the most common choice. Fibre cement is often called 'asbestos.'
Glass fibres & resin, used mainly for baths, roof coverings and rigid pool liners.
Fibro cutters
asbestos cement cutters. Not suited to use with modern asbestos replacements.
Filament lamp
Traditional light bulb containing a white hot filament. See also CFL, Fluorescent, LED, Halogen, Discharge Lighting.
Filling loop
Fire cement
A brittle aluminous cement able to handle very high temperatures.
Flap wheel
A disc with abrasive flaps attached. Used with an angle grinder.
Metal strip used to shed water at roofing joins. Usually lead but may also be copper or aluminium.
Flat bit
A low cost, low performance, easily made drill bit. see Drill Bits
flexible electrical cable. The flexibility results from using stranded conductors. See also Cable
Flitch Beam
Steel and wood sandwich beam.
Float glass
The flat defect-free glass used for domestic glazing today.
Fluorescent lamp
A highly energy efficient type of lighting.
  1. Groove in a drill bit used to clear debris
  2. Fluting is carving along the length of wood
several materials used to enable solder to wet the metal being joined.
Flying Freehold
Part of a house that sits above another building owned by someone else. Common in old buildings in some regions. The owner of the lower supporting property is responsible for providing the support for the upper one.
Free Of Charge. Means we're gonna steam you some other way.
Base of wall. Nothing to do with dancing.
proprietary name for a combination hot water cylinder and (small) storage tank formed on top of the cylinder, connected together. The result is too often a system with poor hot water pressure.
wood powder made by woodworm beetles.
Framing square
An L shape tool used to give an accurate right angle. Squares come in many sizes, framing squares tend to be fairly large.
Outright ownership of house & land. See leasehold.
  1. hard water deposits
  2. tapered wood strip used to level an unlevel floor
  3. ...roof
Thin piece of wire which melts when excess current is passed, thus breaking the circuit. A fuse's rated current is the current it will pass indefinitely, not the current at which it fuses, which is significantly higher.
Box with switch & fuses. see also CU.


triangular section of wall at the end of a roof.
galvanised, which see.
zinc coated. A low cost corrosion inhibiting coating for steel.
G clamp
  1. having a shiny surface
  2. Paint that has a shiny surface when set.
see adhesive. A glue uses a solvent to let it melt into the adjoining substrates, then sets hard, making a solid lock. An adhesive grabs both surfaces while not intruding into them. An adhesive will work on non-porous surfaces but a true glue won't. Glues take a longer time to cure.
Protective eyewear. See 'direct vent' and 'indirect vent'
On stairs, the distance from front to back of each tread
initial adhesion of an adhesive. Nomore nails, sticks like sh!t etc are high grab adhesives.
see angle grinder, bench grinder, die grinder.
rubber ring-shaped item that protects cables etc from the sharp edges of a hole. Also see blind grommet
Ground rent
see leasehold
wooden wedges inserted into masonry joints for fixing skirting & framing to. Generally found in old buildings, wallplugs are a lot less labour.
Glass Reinforced plastic, fibreglass. See fibreglass
a pink powder widely used as plaster. See also lime plaster, mud plaster.


High alumina cement
animal hair used to reinforce plaster. Not often used today.
Halogen lamp
a high temperature filament lamp. Popularly used as downlighters.
Thin woodfibre sheet material. Lacks good rigidity. See also: Pegboard, MDF.
mixed hard pieces used as a sub base. Typically includes any of broken concrete, brick & stone.
height of surface of water above appliance. Head is proportional to water pressure at zero flow.
Header tank
Heat exchanger
Transfers heat from one liquid or air stream to another, without allowing the 2 to mix.
Used in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps. Used in many ways, from geothermal spas to car radiators to wine coolers to computer chip radiators
upswell of ground due to water content. A Bad Thing
Rotary saw tool that cuts the perimeter of a hole. For wood & other relatively soft materials. See also core drill. Available in a few different patterns.
Hose clip
Any one of a number of types of clip designed to attach a hose firmly to a tube. See also: Jubilee clip.
Hose Pipe Collector
Low cost solarthermal collector. Primarily used for pool heating.
Heat Recovery Ventilation. Forced ventilation which recovers some of the otherwise lost heat using a crossflow heat exchanger.
High Temperature Insulation
Device that switches electrical power according to humidity level. Usually switches power on when RH goes above its threshold value. See also fan, Dehumidifier
Hydraulic lime
a fast setting lime used to make mortar for exposed locations and in permanently wet situations. Sets in wet conditions.
Hydrochloric acid
A strong acid used to remove cement, limescale, grease, pipe blockages, and organic matter. Sold as brick acid.
a heating system that uses water (or steam) as the heat transfer fluid. Most British central heating systems are hydronic.


  1. Corrosion Inhibitor: chemicals introduced into a heating system (e.g. Central Heating) to prevent or reduce corrosion of steel and other components by the system water, and oxygen present in it.
  2. Scale Inhibitor: chemical or electrical and/or magnetic device intended to prevent or reduce the deposition of limescale from hard water in a plumbing system
Material that swells during a fire to provide fire & smoke resistance.
Intumescent strip
Strips fitted to some doors that swell during a fire to seal the door to frame gap.
Intumescent Paint
Paint that swells in a fire to delay burning. Also available as varnish.
Iron oxide
low cost pigment used to give dull red or brown colour. Iron oxide is what makes red bricks red.
Isolating valve
Isolation valve
(also known as Servicing Valve and Service Isolation Valve)
a valve, usually small and operated by means of a screwdriver or Allen key but sometimes by a small handle, fitted in pipework to fittings such as taps and cistern filling valves, allowing the fitting to be isolated for servicing. The most common size is 15mm with 22mm also found. The valve inlet may be a compression or push-fit fitting, and the outlet may be the same as the inlet or a tap-connector for fitting directly to a tap or cistern valve. Some isolating valves have a tap-connector outlet at right angles to the inlet. Washing machine valves are usually similar in construction, with a handle and with a 3/4" BSP male thread on the outlet for connection to a washing machine hose.


Japan black
a tough low cost black Paint. Wikipedia
building storey jutting out further than its supporting walls. Common feature of medieval wood frame buildings.
Jeweller's screwdriver
Miniature screwdrivers mainly used for repairing appliances.
An electric saw with low cutting speed and in most cases not very good ability to follow a straight line. Best used for cutting curves.
wood beams supporting floor or wall.
Jubilee Clip
A tightenable metal band designed to attach a hose firmly to a tube. The device is tightened with a screwdriver.
Junction box
Box containing connection points for cables. Fire resistant.


Knockdown joint
aka 'KD' joint. 2 plastic blocks held together by a screw. Used to make joints where repeated disassembly is desired.
Knotting Compound
Painted onto knots before primer to ensure adhesion


Lath & plaster, a construction of walls & ceilings.
(thermal) insulation
layered material. Most often used to describe wood flooring laminate, which is generally a thin layer of real wood on a chipboard base.
Lamp black
Soot, a formerly widely used black pigment.
Lightweight material used as a semirigid backing for plasterwork.
* Wood: Thin strips of wood, usually oak or other hardwood.
* Metal: EML.
* Reed roll is also sometimes used as lath. See L&P.
Machine for turning and working wood or metal, or sometimes other material. Often confused with 'lath.'
A dull grey soft malleable metal used for roofing, flashing, and previously for gas & waterpipes.
Lead paint
any paint containing lead. Some lead paints are now banned.
see ground rent
LED (light emitting diode)
Solid state light emitter. Very low-power miniature devices available in white and assorted monochromatic colours, for use as indicators; small low/medium-power devices for use as in torches; higher-power devices for general illumination. Not to be confused with Laser.
A white powder, Calcium hydroxide. Makes mortar, Paints, plaster, stabiliser, and cement mortar modifier.
A cement plaster containing cement, lime and chopped fibre. Not an equivalent substitute for lime plaster or lime mortar.
Lime plaster
A plaster mix based on lime. Usually also contains either sand or chalk.
Lime putty
A putty made by mixing bagged (hydrated non-hydraulic) lime and water, and storing while excluding air. Mainly used to make mortars & paints.
A soft light coloured stone.
Paint made from lime putty & water. Suitable for ceilings & outdoor walls.
  1. Live wire
  2. Rope
  3. String used for marking position
  4. ...
normally refers to linseed oil, extracted from flax seeds and used in a minority of Paints, mastics, varnishes and putties. The pleasant smell of linseed is characteristic. Raw oil is used to preserve wood, traditionally used for cricket bats made of willow. Can be used on white-wood furniture, usually outdoors.
Lip & spur
A drill bit for wood that doesn't wander. Also known as a dowel bit.


M3, M4, M6, M8, M10, M12
metric bolt thread types. The number after the 'M' is the width of the thread in millimetres.
the size & thread of screws used with standard UK electrical accessory faceplates.
A pretty but weak stone.
Marine Ply
A grade of plywood with greater water resistance than WBP.
no surface shine or glossiness
Miniature Circuit Breaker, a pushbutton overcurrent cutout that replaces a fuse
Medium Density Fibre. A uniform wood fibre sheet material. Very vulnerable to water damage. See also: Hardboard
A plastic. The term usually refers to melamine veneered chipboard.
Mercury Lamp
A highish efficiency white discharge lamp with poor light quality. Were popular as white streetlights 20-30 years ago.
Miniature Edison Screw: screw-in bulb base widely used on torch bulbs.
Metal Halide Lamp
High efficacy white discharge light available in various versions of white.
see multimeter, water meter,
Machine oil
oil for lubricating machinery & preventing rust on steel goods during storage. Mineral oil.
Masking tape
A low tack tape that may be peeled off without residue or damage. Most masking tapes will not peel cleanly if left on for long.
Masonry drill
Drill bit for masonry.
Mineral insulated copper cable. A very high temperature rated rigid cable. Widely used for fire critical circuits. Known as pyro. Hygroscopic.
Mineral oil
A light stable oil with various uses. See machine oil. See Baby oil.
a well known brand of high quality Victorian floor tiling
Mitre saw
  1. A handsaw with cradle enabling accurately angled cuts to be made in wood etc. Typically only 2 or 3 angles are provided for.
  2. A powered circular saw mounted on a turntable able to cut wood etc at selectable accurate angles. A continuous range of angles is normally provided for.
Mole grips
A common type of large locking pliers. Has an adjustable bolt and a 3rd lever to assist in releasing grip.
Monkey wrench
An old type of adjustable spanner. See also Crescent Wrench.
Monumental Mason
Stonemason whose primary speciality is gravestones.
Mortar rake
An abrasive coated rod fitted to angle grinders and used to remove mortar between bricks. See Drill Bits
A means of ensuring you pay over twice the price for your house, but can pay over many years.
Tiling typically made with lots of very small tiles. Mosaics may also be made with stones.
Moulding plane
A plane that produces a moulded shape in the workpiece instead of a flat finish. Mostly replaced now by routers and spindle moulders.
Mud plaster
Earth containing clay used as plaster.
electrical meter that measures voltage, current (amps) and resistance. A worthwhile purchase for almost any DIYer.


Nail fatigue, nail sickness
When many nails are corroding through on a slate roof. Causes an increased rate of slate falls.
Nail plate
A metal plate with many nail-like spikes used to join wood rafters and joists.
Neon screwdriver
Simple voltage indicator. It is unsafe to rely on these when dealing with mains, as they give both false positive and false negative results.
These screw onto cartridges. Tip hole shape determines the size & shape of extruded material. 2 part glues require special self mixing nozzles.
Not Very Qualified


grinding stone intended to be used with oil. Some oilstones don't survive long if used without oil. See also waterstone
A copper gland forming a waterprof joint when compressed against copper pipe. Used in compression joints. Not edible.
Ordinary portland cement. Cement.
Open time
Time until it begins to set. Applies mainly to Adhesives & Mortar Mixes
Oriented Strand Board.


Paint guard
Handheld plastic strip used to keep paint off nearby surfaces or objects while painting. Simple ones may be made from strips of 2 litre soft drink bottles.
Paint kettle
small handled paint container. Makes holding & moving the paint easier, reduces the amount of spillage in case of accident, and avoids drying and contamination of the main reservoir of paint.
novel building material made from paper, clay, cement, sand, and sometimes other materials.
  1. Wood: planed all round. Compare PSE.
  2. Glass: polished all round.
  3. Lighting: Parabolic Aluminised Reflector. Spotlight bulbs
PAR38 & other numbers

Spotlight bulbs.

  • PAR number gives diameter in 1/8ths of an inch
3d decoration in external plasterwork. Traditional in East Anglia.
Portable Appliance Test, electrical goods safety test.
Patio Cleaner
Cleaner based on hydrochloric acid and/or oxalic acid.
Backbox for electrical accessories (light switches, sockets, etc)
Pea shingle
Hardboard with a matrix of holes. Metal hooks may be inserted into the holes for hanging tools. See also: Hardboard.
A clear plastic sometimes used for window glazing, especially of sheds.
Pulverized Fly Ash. The ash from coal burning that goes up the chimney. Used in cement mixes. See also bottom ash.
a tough black non-rusting finish used on some screws.
Picture rail
Rail normally above head height for hanging pictures. Similar to dado rail but with a different profile and higher up.
Piece rate
payment per task, not per hour.
Piss coat
watered down first coat of Paint.
  1. number of turns per inch of a screw thread
  2. variety of pine
  3. bituminous black gloop
  4. Slope of stairs
Tool for smoothing wood
An indoor smooth wall finishing coating. Based on gypsum, or less often lime, cement or mud.
Plaster floor
an unusual type of suspended floor made from composite plaster
flat sheet of plaster with paper surfaces.
Plasterboard fixing
Fixing designed for use with hollow plasterboard walls. Also see hollow wall anchor
Plasterboard Nail
A short stubby small headed nail intended for fixing plasterboard to wooden studs. Not recommended.
Plasterboard screw]
screw for fixing plasterboard. Has bugle head to avoid rucking, sharp hard point to pierce steel framing, non-rusting finish, and philips head to disengage from driver once home.
Plate Heat Exchanger
Type of heat exchanger, which see.
plastic resin Paint for exterior use.
  1. electrical plug-in connector, such as mains plugs used on electrical appliances
  2. expanding plastic sleeve placed in masonry hole to enable a screw to grip. Plugs made from fibre, wood or metal are also used.
  3. to fill a hole
Plumb bob
Weight with a central point on a string, Indicates the vertical.
The outer layer of mortar between bricks, blocks etc. Usually shaped for aesthetic effect & rain resistance.
a type of high performance plastic foam insulation. Kingspan is a well known manufacturer.
a tough plastic
a plastic used as a lower cost type of plastic foam Insulation.
substance that changes the set of lime to produce a harder mortar. Examples include clay, ground tiles, brick dust, trass, flyash, etc. Pozzolan may also be used with cement, which contains free lime, allowing some reduction of cement use.
period property
a proprietary name for a type of hot water cylinder where the primary water is kept apart from the potable secondary water by an arrangement which creates an air gap inside the cylinder separating the two bodies of water (c.f. a conventional indirect cylinder in which the primary water is confined to a heating coil within the cylinder)
Profile gauge
Tool containing a row of blunt needles used for copying or transfering profiles
Programmable thermostat
A combined programmer and thermostat that allows different temperatures to be set for different times. Normally electronic. Used with central heating and air conditioning.
Timer for central heating and hot water. May be electronic or mechanical.
Planed Square Edge wood. Planed all round with corners all 90 degrees. Compare with PAR.
A thin slippery soft non-stick tape used to make threaded plumbing joints watertight or gastight.
* Yellow PTFE tape: PTFE tape approved for gaswork.
polyurethane, a type of glue
Saw that cuts on the pull stroke. Permits use of a thinner blade. A thinner cut equals less energy use, if other factors are equal.
see also letter punch
Type of pipe joint assembled by pushing the pipes in. Some are disassmeblable and reusable.
a stiff setting mixture. See lime putty, linseed putty, alkyd putty,
Solar PhotoVoltaic, an electricity producing solar panel.
multipurpose building glue.
A common plastic. See also: upvc
PVC Pipe Clamp
a simple spring clamp. See Clamps & Make Things from PVC Pipe


Unslaked lime. Can catch fire when water is added in some cases.
Quick Release Clamp


50mm diameter spotlight bulb.
63mm diameter spotlight bulb.
80mm diameter spotlight bulb.
Raft Foundation
A type of building foundation used on unstable ground. Floor and sides of the foundation are all tied together with reinforcement. The intent is that in case of ground movement, the whole structure will move as one, avoiding any damage.
wood beams supporting a roof
A coarse file used for shaping wood.
a brand of wall plug, which see.
an MCB & RCD in one device. See Electricity Basics & Rewiring Tips
device that cuts the power if it detects earth leakage. See also Rewiring Tips. Compare ELCB.
R clip
R shaped clip used to hold things on a shaft.
Reciprocating saw
Powered saw with linear blade supported at one end that moves back and forth.
Reed Roll
Reeds joined with metal wire to make a flexible sheet. Sold for fencing. Sometimes also used as lath for walls & ceilings.
Electrically controlled switch. The first electrical computers were made from thousands of relays.
mortar coating on wall. Usually a cement mortar, sometimes lime mortar.
Repair plate
Metal plate with holes in, used to repair woodwork by fixing in place with screws.
Replacing the outer edge of mortar between bricks, blocks or stone in a wall.
tough durable glues, including epoxy resin, vinyl ester resin,
Resin Terrazzo
A modern type of terrazzo comprising a thin layer (typically a quarter inch) of stone in resin.
Relative Humidity. Amount of water vapour in air as a percentage of vapour saturation. How much vapour air can hold varies with temperature.
Saw blade optimised to cut along the grain of wood.
  1. Pipe (or similar) emerging from underground. May carry water, gas, oil, electricity etc
Road base
Various material mixes used for road bases
* ABC MAG: A specified road base mix of stone, sand clay and dirt that can be used to make an [economical interior floor].
Clearing a drain with drain rods.
Rodding eye
waste pipe fitting that permits rodding access.
Steel beam. {Rolled Steel Joist.) Also see UB.
Rub down
sand down
scrap broken masonry.
Rubble bag
heavy duty version of plastic bin bag, suitable for disposal of rubble.
A low cost floor surfacing compound
Rust Converter
Phosphoric acid gel used to turn rust into a stable paintable compound. All loose rust must be removed first.


see silver sand, building sand, sharp sand, epoxy sand.
Sanding Block
Water shedding boarding under the roof covering.
Opening part of a window, containing glass.
Sash Cord
Cord used to counterbalance the weight of window sashes
Small Bayonet Cap. Miniature version of the more popular bayonet cap used on mains light bulbs.
making a stone into a rough rectangle with axe or hammer
paint scraper, cabinet scraper
Top layer of cement mortar used to give a smooth floor surface.
An easy shoe modification giving better grip on sub-zero sites.
Scutch hammer
used for chopping bricks
A handled blade for cutting grass and crops.
* Short handles scythes have a small single handed handle
* Long handles scythes have a 2 handed handle several feet long
A drilling system which uses hammer blows directly onto the end of the drill bit for better drilling performance. SDS uses its own type of chuck and bits, which are incompatible with conventional drills. Not all hammer drills are SDS.
Self Levelling Compound
A self levelling gloopy setting compound for levelling uneven floors.
Small Edison Screw. The 2nd most common size of screw-in lightbulb base, smaller than ES.
Service Valve
Servicing Valve
Service Isolation Valve
see Isolation valve

Set square
see cobbles
  1. garden building, often wooden
  2. diy merchant or retailer
a soft synthetic plastic much used for sealing around baths, showers and sinks. Silicone contains acetates which encourage mould growth. See also Putties & Mastics
A natural stone widely used for roofing.
  1. electrical outlet into which a plug can be inserted.
  2. tool which grips a nut or bolt. Fits on the end of a socket bar, of which a few types exist.
Sodium Lamp
2 different types of very high efficacy yellow and pink lighting. Much used for road lighting. Low pressure sodium lighting has the best energy efficiency of all lighting types.
Soil pipe
A vertical pipe ventilating sewage plumbing. Dissipates explosive gases and relieves pressure buildup.
Metal alloy used to join pipes and sometimes wiring. Lead & tin solder has long been used, but is no longer permitted for potable water piping.
Bottom horizontal member of a wood framed wall.
Solvent weld
plastic pipe joined by applying a solvent. This melts the plastic together.
Spiral saw
Saw using a thin spinning blade
Spirit level
indicates level accurately. Consists of a vial of liquid fixed to a bar. Some indicate vertical as well as horizontal, and some also fixed angles between the 2. Some have a series of vials indicating various angles close to horizontal, such as 1 degree, 2 degrees etc
Spring Clamp
See door viewer.
Sulphate Resisting Portland Cement. Cement used where it may come into contact with ground water, which often contains sulphate, which damages ordinary portland cement.
Presenting a house to make it appeal to buyers.
Stainless steel
various types of non rusting steels, which vary in their rust resistance.
Large type of wrench. It grips when turned one way and loosens when turned the other.
Skilled stone worker.
See knotting compound
Street Elbow
Angled pipe connector with male connection on one side & female on the other. Usually 90 degrees.
The side part of a staircase that supports the treads and risers.
A short joist or strut used to transfer the load from the cut end of a joist or rafter to the adjacent joists/rafters. Typically used when creating an opeing in a floor or roof that is wider than the spacing of a single joist / rafter.

Linear lamp, either fluorescent or filament
  1. Woodwork in a wood framed partition wall.
  2. Threaded metal rod
Soil below top layer, does not contain humus. Does not support plant growth on its own. May be converted to topsoil by mixing in a generous amount of organic matter, such as weeds, grass clippings, paper, food scraps, manure, etc, and giving the material time to break down to form humus.
Suffolk Pink
A traditional pink colour. Traditionally a lime Paint pigmented with blood.
Sugar soap
Used for cleaning paintwork before repainting. Not edible, does not contain sugar,
Sulphamic acid
A descaler
Sulphuric Acid
used to unblock drains
Stabilised earth, or other material fill, in plastic cloth tubing used to construct dome shaped buildings.
Surrey flange
See also Essex flange
Bank of 2 or more switches. Permits much greater control over lighting etc than just a single switch. Compare 'dimmer.'
Switch & fuse. Historic forerunner of the fusebox
She Who Must Be Obeyed
Originally from the novel She by Rider Haggard but used (and popularised) by Rumpole of the Bailey in reference to his wife, and now commonly used on uk.d-i-y to mean a poster's female partner.


Twin & Earth. 3 core PVC cable used for most fixed house wiring.
Tack Cloth
A rag treated so that dust sticks to it. Designed to remove dust etc from surfaces before painting.
to hit mortar to compact it & drive out air voids.
Total cost of ownership. This includes costs of purchase, operation, servicing, consumables, repairs and disposal.
Tungsten Carbide Tipped. A very hardwearing fast feeding cutting material. Used widely on power saw blades & masonry drill bits.
an implied part of payment for all jobs.
T shaped pipe connector with 3 ports.
Teeth sucking
Indication of high costs ahead, usually warning sign of a rip off.
Tenon saw
  1. row of joined houses
  2. stepped ground
  3. bad news kids (or is that 'terrors'?)
Stone set in concrete, cut and polished to give a perfectly smooth surface in which sections through the stone are visible at the surface. Horizontal metalwork is sometimes incorporated into the surface. Terrazzo makes a beautiful flooring, and the ingredients are low cost, but a little care is needed over cleaning materials and methods to avoid permanent staining.
Textured paint
A bulk forming Paint.
Device that switches at a set temperature. Mostly used to maintain an approximately constant temperature.
* Electrical: Used to switch on heating or cooling at a predetermined temperature
* Plumbing: used to blend hot and cold water to achieve an approximately constant output temperature.
Thermostatic Shower
Shower containing a thermostat. Reduces output temperature swings as inlet temperatures & pressures change.
see cable ties, wall ties,
Sheet material made from strips of wood glued side by side.
A device that switches something on & off at preset times
Titanium Aluminium Nitride
an extra hard drill bit coating.
Titanium Nitride
an extra hard drill bit coating. Gold coloured. See also Drill Bits
Titanium Oxide
White pigment used in modern paints and white bar soap.
* Expansion fixing
* Hollow wall fixing
Tongue & groove
A tongue/groove profile used on the edges of boards to make them interlock in use. This blocks smoke access and reduces misalignment when boards shrink or warp.
The final coat of Paint
Top hat washer
A plastic tophat shaped washer used when fitting taps
top layer of soil containing organic matter. Supports plant growth.
  1. hand held light.
  2. blowlamp.
Torque Wrench
Socket bar allowing a predetermined torque to be used. These either measure or limit torque, depending on the type.
Tower shaped access scaffolding. Usually freestanding.
  1. Low grade road for vehicular access
  2. line of conductive carbon across an electrical insulator
Vehicle or machine using tracks in place of wheels, enabling movement over very rough ground.
plumbing device that catches solids. Mostly found underneath sinks, baths and showers. Need occasional emptying.
a pozzolan used with cement and lime mixtures.
Any button or switch operated electrical cut-out, such as MCB, RCD, RCBO. A colloquial term.
Earthing system using a local earth, usually a rod but may sometimes be a pipe or grid.
Tuck Pointing
A style of pointing in which the bulk of the pointing mortar matches the wall colour, and a thin straight line of contrasting mortar is embedded into the bulk mortar. Traditionally used to make uneven irregular walls look neater.
Twist drill
most common type of drill bit.


Universal Beam. Steel beam. As RSJ, though with minor differences in detail
A method of creating a very low resistance local earth connection, and eliminating potential differences between concrete floors and CPC during fault conditions, all at no significant cost.
to deepen a building's foundations.
refers to upright timbers, eg in a partition wall.
A rigid plastic, easily scratched and brittle when cold. Discolouration is occasionally seen.


Volts multiplied by amps gives VA. This equals power for some loads, but is not equal to power for non-resistive loads.
device admitting fresh air, ie something with a hole in it.
A plastic found in film form and invariably used for nasty purposes
Vinyl Dye
India rubber electrical wiring. Common half a century ago.
Simple voltage indicator. It is unsafe to rely on these when dealing with mains as they give both false positive and false negative results. See also neon screwdriver & Multimeter
wedge shaped brick or stone used in an arch


Wallpaper paste
A low cost glue that dries clear.
Wall plate
piece of plastic, wood or fibre that is inserted into a drilled hole in masonry to allow a woodscrew to be fitted. The wood screw expands the plug, causing it to grip the masonry firmly. Often called a 'rawlplug,' which is a tradename.
Wall ties
Ties that link the 2 leaves of a cavity wall. Usually metal, but stone or brick ties may be found on some older properties.
Warm air
a heating system using warm air as the heat transfer medium. Fanned vents are used instead of radiators. Popular in the states, but not in Britain.
Large water collection barrel, usually plastic.
Water hammer
grinding stone intended to be used with water. See also oilstone.
Water table
The level of groundwater in the locality
woven twig wood partition
Wattle & daub
woven twig wood partition coated with earth based plaster.
Water & Boil Proof. A grade of plywood. Not the same grade as marine ply.
Exterior wood boarding mainly used on some historic buildings. The boards are rectangular: compare with featheredge.
Weep Hole
Small holes in a wall for any water in the cavity to drain out. Also used with retaining walls to relieve the extra weight of water that would otherwise build up behind the wall.
Weld cement
a high strength high cost cement mortar
chalk & glue Paint
fine chalk powder. Used in paints, mastics, & some plaster.
A nut size measurement system standard from the 1800s, still occasionally used.
Wire brush
Brush with steel or brass bristles.
* Steel: used for removing cement smears, and sometimes for raising the grain of wood
* Brass: mainly used for removing dirt from suede
Wire wheel
A wire bristled wheel used in drill or angle grinder to remove rust, paint, etc.
A textured wallpaper consisting of 2 sheets of paper with wood chippings sandwiched between them. Used to disguise rough wall surfaces.
any of a number of wood boring insect species



Yorkshire fittings
Solder ring plumbing accessories


More Glossaries

Lighting Glossary

Listed Building Basics

Nuts & Bolts FAQ

Wood finishing FAQ

Glossary of Conservation Terms

Glossary of Architectural Terms

Roofing Glossary

Bosch Power Tool Glossary

Trade Terms Glossary

Castle Terms Glossary

Glue Terminology

another glossary

See Also

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