Homeowners, know your flanges, pickled finishes, ball cocks and space balls with the trade term dictionary

When the inevitably January DIY turns to failure and you need to turn to the help of a professional it can be a daunting experience if you don’t know your ball cocks from your flanges, and while we try to play it cool when a tradesman is in our house, we all get lost in a sea of trade lingo from time to time.

But not to worry, leading tradespeople comparison site, HaMuch.com, has compiled a trade term dictionary so you can converse like a pro and keep on top of what’s happening in your home.

Trades

Let’s start simple. Most of us will know the slang for different trades, but if your trade person advises you need a bricky, chippie or sparky, it simply means a builder, carpenter or electrician.

Unintended Connotations

You may think your tradesperson is being a tad rude with certain phrases but the chances are they’re not. A ball cock may bring a snigger, but it’s actually a mechanism used to fill water tanks, most commonly found in a toilet.

A flange may seem like the feminine term for a ball cock, but again, it’s not. It’s simply an external or internal rim to add strength to a structure.

A plumb bob? It’s just a weighted object on a line that establishes a straight line. A pickled finish sounds interesting but it’s just the process of finishing wood in a lighter colour rather than a dark varnish.

An access panel provides an easy route to any wires or pipes hidden behind walls, while space balls are small rubber balls used to center panels in cabinet doors.

If your tradesperson tells you they are sweating a joint, don’t be alarmed, they’re just soldering copper piping together.

If you hear your tradesperson say on the piss, don’t worry, they aren’t out drinking on the job, it means a line, cut or edge is far from straight. However, if they are talking about POETS day, you could be paying for a half days work as that translates to piss off early, tomorrow’s Saturday.

Materials

When discussing materials and methods, trade lingo may leave you lost. However, it’s often pretty simple. Aggregate is nothing more than crushed stone or rock in most cases, while cladding is a thin layer applied to the outside of a building, more often than not for decorative reasons.

Eggshell is a type of paint that sits between matt and high gloss finish, while grout is used to fill gaps between bricks or tiles. Lagging isn’t their state from a wild night before, it’s an insulation that covers pipes to regulate temperature, while quoin can be the corner of a wall or a specific block used to construct the corner of a wall.

Skim is a final layer of plaster to provide a smooth finish and a soldier’s course are bricks laid vertically rather than horizontally.

Structures

Don’t be alarmed if your tradesperson mentions a carcass, carcasses refer to kitchen cabinets or any other item of furniture shaped like a box. A catch is simply the mechanism that keeps cupboard doors shut.

A party wall isn’t as fun as it sounds, it simply refers to a shared boundary as you would have in a semi-detached property. A rafter is a series of sloping wooden beams typically found in a pointed roof and a throat is the narrowed part of a chimney above a fireplace.

The Rest

Other terms you may hear range from drafting, which means having architectural plans drawn up for a job. The first and second fix refers to the work needed to get a building from the foundation stage to plaster on the wall, with the second fix bringing a neater finish to the work.

Grain is nothing more than the direction of wood fibres and snags or snagging is taking care of any final minor issues to finish a project.

So there you have it, now you can converse with a tradesperson like a pro and avoid the awkward situation of nodding and smiling while having no clue what they are talking about.

Founder and CEO of HaMuch.com, Tarquin Purdie, commented:

“It’s no surprise that tradespeople across all sectors have their own industry lingo in the same way we all have in our respective areas of work. However, for some reason, the fact that they often conduct their work within our homes forces us to feel we should know this vast range of slang and industry terminology or risk extreme embarrassment.

While some of this stems from a desire to stay in the know and avoid being taken for a ride, it’s far less stressful to hire a trusted tradesperson and leave the work and chat to them, while you go about your daily life instead.”

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, for example, stone, 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. It can also be a fire risk based on design or material used.
Drafting
Getting blueprints or architectural plans drawn up for a given structure/design.
Eggshell
A type of paint used by decorators. It gives a glossier finish than matt paint but isn’t quite high gloss. 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 foundation 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 doorframes. 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
Hard rubber balls—about the size of a miniature pea—used to help center 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 piss
When a line, edge or wall is skewed rather than straight.
POETS day
Piss off early, it’s Saturday tomorrow.

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