Bluffers guide to builders’ jargon

The construction industry, like all industries, is awash with jargon and we thought it might be useful to put together a list of the most commonly misunderstood expressions and give our readers a quick explanation of what they refer to.

It might even save our teams some time in not having to explain the terms to our customers onsite!

1. Manifold

A manifold is the bit of kit that connects your underfloor heating pipes to the hot water source. There is normally one for each floor of the house. Not only does it divert the flow between the zones but monitors the temperature of the water flowing through it.


2. Invert level

This expression relates to how far underground your sewerage and drainage pipes run and is particularly important when moving manholes, digging foundations or constructing a basement .


3. Spring balance window

The pros and cons of a spring balance sash window should be the subject of a separate article in its own right. A spring balanced sash window is a modern replacement for the traditional lead weighted windows.


4. Nosing

Nosing is a bit of wood (it could actually be made of anything but is normally used with wooden floors) that forms the end of a step and "hides" the junction between the horizontal and vertical finishes.

It is important when considering what type of floor to choose that customers think about nosing as not all floors have matching nosing details, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.



DPM and DPC stand for damp proof "membrane" and "course" respectively. Very simply a DPM is a bit of water impermeable material and is used to waterproof your house. There are many different types but they are most commonly plastic. A DPC is the construction technique used to prevent rising damp in a wall. Very simply it relates to the "course" of bricks or blocks that have a DPM in.


6. Gang

You will almost certainly hear your builder and an electrician in particular talk about 2 gang switches. The term simply relates to how many circuits are controlled from any one switch plate and how many switches are required for the plate. Below are examples of one, two and three gang dimmer faceplates.

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7. Helifix

Whilst not as commonly heard as Sellotape, Helifixing has become a generic word for a system of tying loose bricks and cracks together. The principle is that a routed metal rod is inserted along a course of bricks and fixed in place with special adhesive and mortar forming a strong bridge across a crack and establishing stability for loose bricks. Sellotape would definitely not work as well as Helifixing!


8. Screed

Not to confused with scree, which is what you find on the side of a mountain, a screed, most commonly, is a thin (40-75mm) layer of sand and cement that is typically laid on top of the insulation in a floor to provide a firm base for fixing floor finishes (tiles, wooden floor etc). It also often covers or encases water underfloor heating pipes allowing for a more even dissemination of the heat. We call it a screed layer as the tool used to spread it out is called a screed.


9. Mixer

A mixer, in the context of plumbing, is the bit on a shower or set of taps where the hot and cold water are mixed. The expression is most commonly used as a "shower mixer" or "mixer taps". Its presence on site, especially shower mixers, is almost always required at the time of first fix. Shower mixers are either "surface mounted" (easier to service) or "concealed" (very hard to service without smashing tiles etc but apparently look better!).


10. Ball-o-fix

A ball-o-fix is a wonderful invention and is something that should be fitted to all hot and cold water pipes just before they reach their destination ie just before a sink, bath, cistern. They provide a very simple mechanism for isolating (turning off) the supply of water and can be operated very easily with just a screwdriver or coin. If the line of the groove is parallel to the pipe it is open and conversely if the line is perpendicular then supply is cut off meaning only a quarter turn is required.


The above list was chosen from a list of literally hundreds so if you found the above useful please let us know and we will address another set terms in the newsletter in future.

If you have any questions relating to this article, why not ask our Build team?

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