Glossary

Below we explain the terms commonly used on www.renovate.org.nz. By turning on the ‘jargon buster tool’ on each page of this site, you can see these definitions in context.

Acceptable Solution

According to the Building Act 2004, an acceptable solution is a building solution that must be accepted as complying with the Building Code.

Alternative method

A building product or method that is not certified and is partly or completely different from the products or methods described in acceptable solutions or verification methods.

Alternative Solution

A building product or method that complies with the Building Code but is partly or completely different from the methods described in Building Code compliance documents or certified products or methods.

Anaglypta

An embossed wallpaper used on ceilings and above dado rails.

Architrave

The moulded timber surrounding a door or window.

Art deco

A style of housing from the 1930s, often associated with parapets, flat roofs and plaster finishes to exterior cladding.

Asbestos

A naturally-occuring mineral used in construction materials including roofing, insulation around hot pipes, and some flooring and textured ceilings. No longer used because when fibres are inhaled they can cause potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Baby iron

Iron sheets with small corrugations.

Bakelite

An early plastic, often used in light fittings and electrical switches.

Balloon framing

An older style of framing where very long studs run from the bottom plate to the eaves, with the first floor structure fixed to the studs.

Baluster

Vertical support for a staircase handrail or railing at the edge of a balcony or veranda. Balusters are usually timber.

Balusters

Vertical supports for staircase handrails or railings at the edges of balconies or verandas. Balusters are usually timber.

Vertical supports for staircase handrails or railings at the edges of balconies or verandas. Balusters are usually timberVertical supports for staircase handrails or railings at the edges of balconies or verandas. Balusters are usually timber.

Balustrade

The handrail and balusters beside a staircase, or at the edge of a balcony or veranda.

Barge board

The flat board at the edge of a gable roof, sometimes shaped or decorated.

Barge boards

The flat boards at the edges of gable roofs, sometimes shaped or decorated.

BCA

Building consent authority.

Bearers

Structural subfloor timber members that sit on the piles, and in turn carry the joists.

Bell cast

A curved flare at the base of a gable.

Bevel-backed

Style of timber weatherboard common from 1910 onwards.

Bird’s mouth

A v-shaped cut in framing timber for fixing another part of framing to it.

Bungalow

A style of housing taken from the west coast of the United States and Canada, often with timber cladding and a lower-pitched roof than a villa. The bungalow was the most common style of house built in New Zealand from the end of World War 1 to the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Califont

A gas water heater often mounted on a wall above a sink or a bath.

Capping board

Timber in a decorative shape.

Cast iron

Objects formed by pouring molten iron into moulds. 

Cavity

Described in E2/AS1 as a 20 mm bottom-vented cavity behind lightweight wall claddings, a cavity is an air space between cladding and underlay designed to dry and/or drain any water that might penetrate the cladding.

Certified

A product or method that is certified under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s CODEMARK™ scheme as complying with the Building Code so long as it is used according to CODEMARK™ instructions.

Coal range

A cast iron coal range was the primary means of cooking and also used for other purposes such as heating a clothes iron. It was typically built into a wide brick enclosure in the kitchen with a brick chimney.

Cob

A mixture that may contain clay, earth, animal manure and straw, formed into building bricks or walls.

Compliance document

An old term for an Acceptable Solution or Verification Method

Contingency sum

A sum of money available to cover unexpected building or renovation costs.

Copper boiler

A large copper bowl with a fire beneath, built into a fire-resistant enclosure, for boiling water for laundry washing.

Corbels

A projecting timber or stone element on a wall that supports (or appears to support) a beam or shelf.

Cornice

An ornamental timber or plaster moulding along the junction between wall and ceiling.

Cornices

Ornamental timber or plaster mouldings along the junction between wall and ceiling.

Cupping

Where a material such as a timber weatherboard curls up at the long edges.

Dado

The lower part of a wall, between the skirting board and a decorative rail or moulding around the circumference of a room.

Decorative mouldings

Timber or plaster in a decorative shape.

Dentil

A small rectangular block in a series projecting from below a moulding or cornice.

Dentils

Small rectangular blocks in a series projecting from below a moulding or cornice.

Direct-fixed cladding

Exterior cladding that is fixed over a wall underlay and directly to the framing, not over a cavity.

Dormer

A small attic window with its own small roof that stands above the main roof.

Dormers

Small attic windows with their own small roofs that stand above the main roof.

Double-hung

Windows that slide open vertically, sometimes also called sash windows, where each sash window is offset by a weight in the window surround.

DPM

Damp-proof membrane, often polythene sheeting, typically used under a concrete slab to prevent ground moisture entering the slab, or used as a ground cover under suspended timber floors.

Dwang

Short piece of timber tightly fixed between the vertical studs in wall framing.

Dwangs

Short pieces of timber tightly fixed between the vertical studs in wall framing. Sometimes also referred to as nogs or noggings.

Efflorescence

Crystallising water-soluble salts on a masonry surface as moisture evaporates from it.

Escutcheon

A protective plate around a keyhole often made of metal in a decorative shape.

Fanlights

Small opening windows that are above larger windows.

Fascia

The board that runs along the edge of the roof at the eaves. Guttering is usually attached to the fascia.

Fenestration

The arrangement of windows on a building.

Finial

The decorative vertical timber spike at the end of a gable roof.

Finials

A finial is the decorative vertical timber spike at the end of a gable roof.

Frieze

A narrow decorative element that runs along a wall and may be wallpaper or a painted design.

Galvanised

With a thin layer of zinc on an iron sheet or element to help protect the iron from corrosion.

Galvanising

A thin layer of zinc on an iron sheet or element to help protect the iron from corrosion.

Gas caliphont

A water heating device with a gas burner inside a water jacket, typically installed on the wall above a basin or bath. Also called a geyser.

Gauged

Sized to a standard measure such as thickness of sheet iron.

Hardboard

A high density fibre board sheet material.

Hip rafter

The timber rafter that runs from a corner of the building to the centre of the roof.

Jack framing

Jack studs or jack framing are typically shorter than regular studs but still play a critical support role. Commonly found in subfloor framing.

Jamb

The vertical sides of a door or window opening.

Joists

Horizontal framing timber that supports a floor or ceiling. Floor joists sit above the bearers.

Kauri

New Zealand native pine often used in villa framing and joinery.

Lath

Thin strips of wood or metal fixed to framing, which forms the base for a plaster finish.

Leadlighting

Decorative window of coloured glass set into lead strips.

Lime wash

A traditional type of paint made of water, slaked lime and pigments.

Linoleum

A floor covering made of ingredients that may include linseed oil, pine resin, wood, cork and others on a backing made of jute.

Lintel

A beam that spans a door, window, fireplace or similar opening and supports the wall above.

Lintels

A lintel is a beam that spans a door, window, fireplace or similar opening and supports the wall above.

Long-drop

A deep hole dug into the ground to receive human waste – also known as a cesspit.

Malthoid

A durable, waterproof bitumen- or tar-impregnated matting or paper used between timber and concrete to prevent moisture transfer.

Marseille Tile

Terra cotta (earthenware) roof tile.

Matai

New Zealand native timber (black pine) often used for flooring and occasionally for weatherboards.

Match lining

Timber interior wall lining, usually constructed as tongue and groove, which may be finished in varnish or shellac or covered with scrim and wallpaper.

MCBs

Miniature circuit breakers.

Metal lath

A metal mesh used to reinforce a cement plaster.

Mitre

A mitre is a right-angle join of two pieces of timber, typically at a 45 degree angle.

Mitred

Two pieces of timber joined at a right angle.

Modillion

An ornamental block or bracket such as that along the soffit at the roof eaves.

Monolithic cladding

Monolithic cladding is sheet-cladding material (such as fibre-cement) that is plastered and coated to give a seamless finish.

Mortice and tenon

A timber joint made up of a shape (the mortice) cut out of a piece of timber into which is fixed the similarly shaped end (the tenon) of another piece of timber.

Mouldings

Timber (or another material) in a decorative shape

Mullion

The vertical timber piece between two windows in a window frame.

Newel posts

The posts at either end of a staircase that hold the handrail.

Nominal

The size of the original timber from which finished timber is dressed.

Notched

V-shaped indentation or a nick cut into a material.

Oriel

A style of window projecting out from a wall, supported by brackets or corbals.

Picture rail

A moulded timber rail around the walls of a room that pictures were hung from.

Pilaster

A column or half column, usually rectangular, built into a wall.

Plaster

A render or mixture for spreading onto walls to form a smooth surface. It may be a cement–sand mix, a lime-sand mix or a gypsum-based mix.

Plaster of Paris

A hard white plaster produced when calcium sulphate powder is mixed with water, often used to produce decorative ceiling mouldings.

Purlin

Purlins are roof framing timbers that are fixed over the rafters and that the roof cladding is fixed to.

Purlins

Purlins are roof framing timbers that are fixed over the rafters and that the roof cladding is fixed to.

PVC

Polyvinyl chloride.

Quirk

An acute hollow between the convex part of a moulding and a fillet.

RBW

Restricted building work is work that must be carried out or supervised by a licensed building practitioner (LBP). RBW includes work on foundations and structure, wall and roof cladding and fire safety systems for houses.

Register

The cast iron grate of a fireplace.

Rimu

New Zealand native timber (red pine) used for framing, joinery and weatherboards, particularly south of the Auckland region.

Rising damp

Moisture drawn up from the ground into brick or masonry walls.

RMA

Resource Management Act 1991.

Rough sawn

Timber as it comes from the sawmill, with no smooth finish to the face of the board.

Rusticated

Style of weatherboard common in Victorian and Edwardian villas.

Safe

A safe is a cupboard let into an external wall. It is open at the back and has a mesh screen which lets in air to keep food cool.

Saltbox roof

A roof running down from the gable ridge above lean-to additional rooms.

Sarking

Timber boards, usually rough sawn, that support the roof cladding.

Sash

The frame holding the glazing.

Sashes

Timber frames holding glass.

Scriber

A piece of material, usually timber, shaped and cut to fit neatly against an adjoining surface. Commonly used with bevel-back weatherboard claddings.

Scrim

A rough, loosely woven hessian fabric applied over timber sarking on walls as a base for wallpaper.

Scullery

A small room beside the kitchen where dishwashing and other chores were done and utensils stored.

Shellac

A natural wood sealer and finish made from resin secreted by small insects living on the lac trees of India and Thailand. Hardened resin flakes are mixed with methylated spirits to give a clear finish.

Shingle

A thin piece of split timber used for roofing, gable ends or the wall below bay windows.

Shingles

A shingle is a thin piece of split timber used for roofing, gable ends or the wall below bay windows.

Skillion roof

A pitched roof where the roof cladding and ceiling lining are parallel and close to each other (there is no accessible roof space).

Skirting

A timber board running around the edge of the wall at floor level to hide the junction between wall and floor, often with ornamental moulding at the top.

Skirtings

Timber boards running around the edges of the walls at floor level to hide the junction between wall and floor, often with ornamental moulding at the top.

Soakhole

Drainage pit of gravel or rock covered by lawn or paving into which roof water is drained. 

Soffit

The underside of the eaves.

Softboard

A low density wood fibre sheet material used for wall and ceiling linings from the 1940s-1970s.

Soldered

Metals joined by a heated fusible alloy.

Spalling

Where pieces of concrete or stone break away at the edges of the material as a result of chemical action, weathering, or too-heavy loads.

Sparrow iron

Iron sheeting with very fine corrugations.

State house

Descriptor given to the style houses built during the 1940s and 1950s and later by the government.

Strongback

A structural timber framing member installed over the ceiling joists in the ceiling space to provide support to the joists from above.

Stucco

A painted, reinforced sand/cement plaster applied to a backing, often with a textured finish.

Tenon

A timber joint made up of a shape (the mortice) cut out of a piece of timber into which is fixed the similarly shaped end (the tenon) of another piece of timber.

Terracotta

Clay earthenware, orange or red-brown, often used as roof tiles.

Terrazzo

A hard composite material of marble or other stone chips mixed with plain or coloured cement and water. Used as flooring and occasionally seen in window sills or counter tops.

TG&V

Tongue, groove and v-joint - an interlocking system of flat boards where a tongue at the edge of one board fits into a groove cut into the next.

Thermally broken

Where aluminium windows have a very strong spacer with a higher level of thermal performance between the inner and outer parts of the aluminium frame. BRANZ testing has shown that frames with this feature can be almost 60% more thermally efficient than those without it.

Timber lath

Thin strips of wood fixed to framing, which forms the base for a plaster finish.

Tin

A white, malleable metal used mainly in alloys with lead and copper.

Tongue and groove

An interlocking system of flat boards where a tongue at the edge of one board fits into a groove cut into the next.

Toplight

A small opening window that is above a larger window, sometiems also known as a fanlight.

Totara

New Zealand native timber, used for flooring, window joinery and shingles, especially in Wellington.

Totara lath

Thin strips of wood fixed to framing, which forms the base for a plaster finish.

TPS

Thermoplastic-sheathed cable.

Transom

A horizontal timber bar dividing window openings.

uPVC

Unplasticised polyvinyl chloride, a hard plastic typically used for guttering and downpipes, pipework, some window frames and cladding.

Varnish

A mixture of resins, solvents and oils used as a finish on timber.

Varnished

A mixture of resins, solvents and oils used as a finish on timber.

Verification method

According to the Building Act 2004, a verification method is a method by which compliance with the Building Code may be verified.

Villa

The style of house built in New Zealand during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wetback

A water jacket fitted at the rear of an open fire or stove for providing hot water.

Window horns

An extension on the bottom of the stile of an upper sash window.

Wrought iron

Ironwork that has been forged and then bent or formed, often used for gates or fencing.

Zinc

Sheet metal used for roofing on porches and verandas, and flashings.