Builder Speak and Building Terminology Explained

Picture of house with labeled components

In almost every industry there is a certain language used and terms that are specific to that industry. The Construction & Building industry is no different. In this article I endeavour to interpret a bunch of building terminology and translate it into ordinary English so that the everyday property owner can understand.

Building Terminology Explained:

Finishing Lines

The first area I will explain is around what we term as finishing lines. These are the moulded pieces that generally run along the bottom of walls at the joint with the floor, around doors and windows, and along the joint between the ceiling and the top of the walls.

The piece running along the bottom of the wall and above the floor is called a “Skirting”. The main reason for having a skirting is so that there is a stronger piece of wall to protect the plasterboard from bumps from a broom or vacuum cleaner etc.

Skirting Board
Architrave around a door

The piece running around the doors and windows is called an “Architrave”. Sometimes a house doesn’t have architraves and has what we call “Rebated Jambs” on the doors and windows. I will explain what “Jambs” and “Rebated Jambs” are shortly.

The piece running between the wall and ceiling at the top of the wall is called a “Scotia” or a “Cornice”. Some houses don’t have a Scotia or a Cornice and instead are “Square Stopped”. This means that the Plasterboard to the wall and the Plasterboard to the ceiling are joined together with a bead of plaster compound otherwise known as “Stopping Compound”.

Cornice in corner of ceiling and wall
Cornice or Scotia

Doors & Windows

The building terminology for exterior doors and windows is “Joinery” and is generally either Aluminium Joinery or Timber Joinery. Within the joinery configuration there are many types of windows but the two most common are “Casement” and “Awning”. The difference is that a Casement window is hinged on the side while an Awning window is hinged at the top.

Casement Window
Awning Window

A window unit or a door unit is the whole piece that fits into the hole in the side of the house. Each unit will generally have what is called a “Jamb” or “Reveal” fixed right around the perimeter. This Jamb is at a 90-degree angle to the rest of the window or door. It is the flat piece that you can sit your coffee mug on. There are generally two types of Jambs: 1) Flat jambs designed for architraves to fit around, and 2) Rebated or Grooved jambs designed for the plasterboard to slot into.

Timber jamb to edge of aluminium window
Window Jamb
Grooved Jamb
Grooved Jamb

A great place to get both timber exterior joinery and prehung interior doors is at Mahurangi Joinery here – http://mahurangijoinery.co.nz/


There are several types of roof configurations. The three most common types are “Gable”, “Hip” and “Mono-Pitch”. For simplicity of explaining we will use a simple rectangle shaped house.

Gable Roof
Gable Roof

With a Gable Roof there are two roof planes. At each end of the house the end walls run vertically to an apex point. This triangle piece of the wall between the two roof planes is called the “Gable End”. A Gable roof will only have spouting or guttering along the two long sides of the house.

A Hip Roof doesn’t have the triangle piece of wall at each end running up to the apex. A Hip roof has the spouting or guttering running around all four sides of the house and has an extra roof plane at each end. The joint between two roof planes is called a “Hip” when it sticks out or a “Valley” when it sticks in.

Hip roof and gable roof
Hip & Gable Roof
House with mono-pitch roof
Mono-Pitch Roof

A Mono-Pitch roof has only one roof plane sloping in one direction. The spouting or gutter only runs along one edge of the house. With a Mono-Pitch roof there will be one high side and one low side.

A “Ridge” is the top apex point between two roof planes.

I have heard a lot of people referring to a ceiling and calling it a roof. Here’s a little tip to remember – A roof is on the outside and a ceiling is on the inside.

Roof showing ridge, hip and valley


On the exterior of the house the various areas have different names. Obviously, there is the roof at the top which almost everyone should be familiar with. Then there is the board that runs along the lower edge of the roof. This is called a “Fascia” board or a “Barge” board. The way I look at it is that the spouting or guttering is attached to a Fascia board which is on a level plane. The Barge board, however, usually runs on an angle e.g. a roof with a Gable End.

Picture of house with labeled components

Next, we have the Soffit or Eaves. These two are basically the same thing. They are the underside of the roof that is on the exterior of the house. This is the bit that runs from the Fascia board or Barge board back to the exterior wall of the house.

“Cladding” is the building terminology for the material that lines the exterior of the house. Some examples of claddings used in Auckland are: Bevel Back Weatherboards, Board & Batten, Fibre Cement Sheet, Monolithic Plaster, Brick Veneer, ColourSteel, Palliside Weatherboards.

Man fitting cladding to house
Installing Weatherboards


In New Zealand the majority of homes are constructed using timber framing. Framing is like the house equivalent to bones. The various parts of the framing have different names. A “Truss” or “Trusses” are specially engineered roof framing components that are pressed together in a factory.

A “Stud” is the piece of framing that runs vertically from the floor to the ceiling and forms part of a wall. A “Nog” or “Dwang” is a short piece of framing that usually runs horizontally between two studs. In the North Island it is called a Nog but in the South Island it is called a Dwang. As I am an Auckland local I will refer to it as the building terminology “Nog”. Studs and Nogs are usually spaced out at a specific distance to suit the size of the Exterior Cladding and Interior Lining e.g. studs at 600mm centres or spacings to suit a standard sheet of Plasterboard which is 1200mm wide.

Stack of trusses
Interior timber framing
Framing Timber

Other Terms

In New Zealand builders often refer to Plasterboard as Gib or Gib board. Gib is a New Zealand brand name for the most commonly stocked brand of Plasterboard in New Zealand. You can check out the Gib website here – https://www.gib.co.nz/

Gib Board
Stack of Gib Board
Head Flashing
Head Flashing

A “Flashing” is a piece of material designed to make a weatherproof seal usually between two different materials e.g. A Head Flashing runs along the top of a window at the junction between the cladding and the window and is designed to channel any external moisture away from the building. Other flashings are – ridge flashing, barge flashing, apron flashing, sill flashing, saddle flashing etc.

I hope this article was useful in helping explain some of the more general building terminology used in Auckland, New Zealand.

If you are interested in building in the Auckland area and want to use a great building company then check out our building process here.

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