Have you ever been hopelessly confused when a tradesperson has discussed the intricacies of your project? Worry no longer: a new trade term dictionary has been created to help you tell your ball cocks from your flanges. 

Tradespeople comparison site HaMuch.com has compiled a trade term dictionary that is perfect for those whose common response to a tradesperson is “Err…” or “What?”, and will help you keep track of what’s happening in your home. 

If you are planning a self build or home improvement this year, make sure you memorise these terms to ensure you understand any tradespeople you might use.

While the dictionary defines more standard terms, such as aggregate, Party Walls and first fix, it also defines more obscure terms.

Obscure Trade Terms

There are some trade terms that you’d be understandably concerned at hearing your tradesperson say but, more often than not, there is meaning behind these phrases. 

The phrase ‘on the p*ss’ actually refers to a line, cut or edge that is far from straight, while ‘POETS day’ translates to ‘P*ss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday’.

And while space balls sound great fun, they are actually just small rubber balls used to centre panels in cabinet doors.  

And lastly, a flange is an external or internal designed to add strength to a structure; a plumb bob is a weighted object that establishes a straight line; and a pickled finish is the process of finishing wood in a lighter colour. 

The full trade terms dictionary via HaMuch.com:

Dictionary Term Definition
Aggregate Crushed stone or rock – it can mean sand, ballast, gravel, or other loose building material.
Bricky A brick-layer / builder.
Carcasses Refers to kitchen cabinets. In builder/carpenter terms, carcasses are any item of storage furniture shaped like a box, as opposed to something that has a surrounding frame, like a table or a chair.
Catch Usually describes the mechanism that helps keep cupboard doors shut.
Chippie Chippie is a quick way of referring to softwood boards, often known as chipboard. However, it is also often used as a term for a joiner/carpenter or anyone who works with wood.
Cladding The thin layer of material applied to the outside of a building, usually for decorative reasons. It can consist of natural or man-made materials. It involves the application of one material over another to provide a layer. In construction, cladding is used to provide a degree of thermal insulation and weather resistance, and to improve the appearance of buildings.
Drafting Getting blueprints or architectural plans drawn up for a given structure/design.
Eggshell A type of paint used by decorators. Comparing it to more commonly found finishes, it has less of a sheen than satin or silk but more than that of matt emulsion paint or satinwood.
First and second fix The first fix comprises all the work needed to take a building from the foundations to putting plaster on the internal walls. This includes constructing walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as inserting cables for electrical supply and pipes for water supply. The second fix comprises all the work after the plastering to a finished house. Electrical fixtures are connected to the cables, sinks, and baths connected to the pipes, and doors fitted into frames. The second fix requires a neater finish than the first fix.
Grain The direction of wood fibres in a piece of timber – thus it is bad to ‘go against the grain’.
Grout The material used to fill in the gaps between tiles in bathrooms and kitchens. Grout is generally a mixture of water, cement, and sand, and is used in pressure grouting, embedding the mixture in masonry walls, connecting sections of pre-cast concrete, filling voids, and sealing joints such as those between tiles.
Jigsaw The name of a tool used to intricately cut wood. It consists of an electric motor and a reciprocating saw blade.
Lagging The insulation that covers pipes to regulate temperature. Pipe lagging is a special type of insulation fitted around water pipes. It keeps heat within the pipes – thus being useful for saving energy as well as preventing pipes from freezing and bursting. Lagging also prevents condensation from forming on cold pipes.
Party Wall A shared property boundary, such as a wall in a semi-detached house, that both sides have legal rights to. It is a wall that stands along the boundary of land belonging to two (or more) different owners.
Quoin Quoins are both the corners of walls and the specific blocks used to construct the corner, even if they are only decorative and not structurally important. Some quoins are structural, providing strength for a wall made with inferior stone or rubble, while many of the other blocks merely add aesthetic detail to a corner.
Rafter A series of sloping, diagonal, wooden beams that hold the structure of a typical pointed house roof. They are designed to support the roof and its associated loads. A pair of rafters is called a couple. In home construction, rafters are normally made of wood, while exposed rafters are a feature of some traditional roof styles.
Skim A final layer of plaster. It provides a smooth finish to be subsequently painted/decorated.
Snags Any minor issues during the project or even after work has been done – ideally, the tradesperson will rectify these to finish off the project.
Soldier course Bricks that are laid vertically rather than horizontally.
Sparky An electrician.
Throat The narrowed part of a chimney above stoves or fireplaces. It is a part of a chimney immediately above the fireplace where the walls of the flue are gathered or brought close together to increase the draft.
Ball Cock A mechanism used to fill water tanks, mostly found in toilets.
Flange An internal or external rim used to add strength to a structure.
Plumb Bob A weighted object to establish a straight line.
Pickled Finish Finishing wood with a lighter finish rather than a dark varnish.
Access Panel An entry point within a wall to allow you to reach any pipes or wiring.
Space Balls Small, hard rubber balls used to help centre the panels in frame-and-panel cabinet doors and prevent them from rattling.
Sweating a Joint ‘Sweating’ and ‘soldering’ are synonymous home improvement terms used to describe the process of using heat and solder to join copper pipe and fittings to one another.
On the p*ss When a line, edge or wall is skewed rather than straight.
POETS day P*ss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.

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