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Your Guide to Building Terminology

Building a new home can be a wonderful life experience. It can also be a complicated one. For many of us, building a home is an entirely new experience, one in which you’ll likely encounter a bunch of unfamiliar buzzwords and technical industry terms. They’ll crop up in contracts, blueprints, and conversations and may leave you feeling overwhelmed with information. Knowing a few keywords can ensure you receive the home you want and help you to visualize the end result before the foundations are even poured.

Remember, when in doubt about a term, never be afraid to ask for clarification from your builder or real estate consultant – preferably in writing. It’s better to find out now than be surprised later! In the meantime, here’s a quick guide to some common - but tricky – home building terms.

Architrave – Simple or fancy moulded frames designed to hide uneven and untidy edging around doors and windows. Also called moldings.

Allotment – A lot or block of land divided from a larger piece of land that is allowed for sale and can be built on.

Backfill – Refill an excavated hole. It also describes the material used to fill it.

Balustrade – Installed at the edge of a staircase, balcony or terrace to prevent people from falling. Also called railing, rail, banister, handrail or parapet.

Bevel – An edge that is sloped to avoid a sharp or 90-degree angle. It can be done for safety or aesthetic reasons.

Crown Moulding – A decorative border or trim applied to where ceilings and walls meet.

Easement – A section of land on your property that certain others have the right to access. Eg. Water authorities may need access to maintain pipes or neighbours may need to use your driveway to enter their own property. Depending on the circumstance, it can sometimes be unwise to build over the top.

Eaves – A section of roof that overhangs the wall. It can be used for shade, diverting rainwater, passive cooling and appearance.

Elevation – A two-dimensional drawing of the exterior faces of a building. These are helpful to help you envision what your new home will look like!

Flashing – Thin material used to weatherproof areas where there may be gaps in the joining parts of a building.

Gable – The part of the exterior wall of a house that is made triangular by the roofline. Gabled roofing types are most commonly used in places with cooler climates like Melbourne.

Joinery – Non-structural timber or metal elements in a house that are made off-site including stairs, doors, cupboards and window frames.

Masonry – Building a larger structure from smaller elements bound by mortar. This usually refers to brickwork or stonework.

Party Wall – A wall that divides two buildings, which separate owners must share. Also called a parti-wall, parting wall or common wall.

Retaining Wall – A wall that holds back earth or occasionally water.

Ridge – The uppermost point of the roof where at least two planes of the roof meet. It also refers to the part used to make the ridge.