Common terms used in construction

Wednesday January 29 2014

By Julius Eryenyu Jojo

If you are building a house, you are going to hear some of these words. There is no reason their meaning should get lost on you.

In construction, there are many terms used that make it easy for the technical people to do their work.
Getting to know some or most of the construction terms, will enable you understand your project very well and this in turn would probably enable you have meaningful input to your project.

Please note that the terms presented here have been randomly picked and do not represent all the common terms used. Always get proper interpretation from your consultant. Some of the definitions are quoted from the Concise Oxford Dictionary (11th edition), and the dictionary of Architecture and Building construction.

Also called a floor layout, this is a drawing of the horizontal section of a building which shows the relationship between different spaces.

It’s a “cut-through” representation of the internal composition (components) of a building or its structure. Normally showing how the building is constructed, from foundation to roof.

It’s a two-dimensional representation of any side of the building


It is a contract document prepared by a quantity surveyor, containing itemised list of all materials, and the method of application (workmanship) for a given construction project.

Commonly used to refer to both sand and crushed stone (gravel) where fine aggregate commonly refers to sand, and coarse aggregate refers to crushed stone.

This is to refill excavated (dug up) trenches or holes.

It is a horizontal structural member of a building that transmits the weight above it. Commonly used beams consist of reinforced concrete, running on the main walls of the building at a height above the doors and windows.
A line established by the local council which is the minimum distance that must be maintained between the building and the street or road boundary.

Horizontal protruding part of a building that is supported on one side. Example: the balconies that have no pillars or columns supporting them.

Material used to face a building, usually as exterior or interior finishing. It can be with concrete, masonry, wood or glass.

A building material made by mixing given proportions of cement, sand, gravel and water, which sets to form a hard material normally used to make slabs, columns, staircases, beams and many other structures.

This is concrete which has been given extra strength by adding either steel bars or mesh.

Usually abbreviated as DPC, this is a watertight layer, built into masonry (brickwork, stone work, etc) to prevent moisture rising up from the ground.

A measure of distance between two points.

A roof with two sloping planes that meet at a central ridge.

A mixture of lime, and or cement, sand and water used for bedding and jointing in masonry work.

Polyvinyl Chloride in full, this is a widely used plastic . It is mainly used to make water pipes, waste pipes and floor covering.

This is a strip of material that covers the joint between the floor and wall in a room.