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Glossary of common terms

Access panel (cover)


An opening in flooring or ceiling or other part of a structure (such as service hatch, removable panel) to allow for entry to carry out an inspection, maintenance or repair. 


Accessible area


An area of the site where sufficient, safe and reasonable access is available to allow inspection within the scope of the inspection.


Accreditation is the procedure by which an authorised independent body gives formal recognition that a conformity assessment entity is competent and proficient to carry out calibrations, tests, inspections and/or certifications.


No longer in use, useful or functioning, as in most home inspection associations. Obsolete.


Appearance defect


Fault or deviation from the intended appearance of a building element.


While virtually anyone can draw up plans and call themselves a “building designer”, only a person registered by the Architects Board of WA can use the title “architect”. But the distinction is far more substantial than the just the title used.

Architects must have gained approved tertiary qualifications (or equivalent), have undertaken a two-year period of practical experience and have successfully completed both the written and oral parts of the Architectural Practice Examination before becoming eligible to apply for registration, and qualifying to use the title “architect”.



An open subsurface space adjacent to a building used to admit light/air or as a means of access to a basement.                        

Building element


Portion of a building that, by itself or in combination with other such parts, fulfils a characteristic function.


NOTE: For example supporting, enclosing, furnishing or servicing building space.

Associated waterproofing elements 


Include flashings, membranes, coatings, and sealants that protect the load-bearing components of exterior elevated elements from exposure to water and the elements.

Bay Window

Any window space projecting outward from the walls of a building, either square or polygonal in plan.


The Building Code of Australia (BCA), in the National Construction Code series, contains technical provisions for the design and construction of buildings and other structures. The BCA addresses the following matters: structural adequacy, fire resistance, access and egress, services and equipment, energy efficiency and sustainability and provisions for the health and amenity of occupants.

Blue Prints

Architectural plans for a building or construction project, which likely include floor plans, footing and foundation plans, elevations, plot plans, and various schedules and or details.


Ties and rods used for supporting and strengthening various parts of a building used for lateral stability for columns and beams.

Building Brick

Brick for building purposes not especially treated for texture or color, formerly called "common brick." It is stronger than face brick.

Building Inspection Engineer

Engineers who specialize in building design, construction, analysis, and forensics. If you are purchasing a home, you need to start with a pre-purchase home inspection typically performed by a Professional Engineer with expertise in building construction and systems (i.e. a Building Inspection Engineer). 

Building Surveyor

In Australia, a Building Surveyor is a professional who is tasked with understanding the building control process. A Building Surveyor has the authority to assess building plans to ensure that they comply with the Building Code of Australia, the Australian Standards referenced within it and any other relevant Building Acts or other legislation or requirements of the jurisdiction the building is in. Building Surveyors are either private or municipal.




The person or other entity for whom the inspection is being carried out.


A single layer of brick or stone or other building material.

Crawl Space

A shallow open area between the floor of a building and the ground, normally enclosed by the foundation wall.

Curtain Wall

A thin wall, supported by the structural steel or concrete frame of the building independent of the wall below. Also a metal (most often aluminum) framing system on the face of a building containing vision glass panels and spandrel panels made of glass, aluminum, or other material.




Fault or deviation from the intended condition of a material, assembly, or component.


(a) A member of a cornice or other horizontal exterior finish course that has a projection beyond the other parts for throwing off water. (b) A groove in the underside of a sill or drip cap to cause water to drop off on the outer edge instead of drawing back and running down the face of the building.

Exterior elevated element 


Means the following types of structures, including their supports and railings: balconies, decks, porches, stairways, walkways, and entry structures that extend beyond exterior walls of the building and which have a walking surface that is elevated more than six feet above ground level, are designed for human occupancy or use, and rely in whole or in substantial part on wood or wood-based products for structural support or stability of the exterior elevated element.


The front of a building. Frequently, in architectural terms an artificial or decorative effort.

Face Brick

Brick made especially for exterior use with special consideration of color, texture and size, and used as a facing on a building.


A general term covering a wide variety of screws and nails, which may be used for mechanically securing various components of a building.


The end of a building as distinguished from the front or rear side. The triangular end of an exterior wall from the level of the eaves to the ridge of a double-sloped roof. In house construction, the portion of the roof above the eave line of a double-sloped roof.




Close and careful scrutiny of a building carried out without dismantling, in order to arrive at a reliable conclusion as to the condition of the building.




Person or organization responsible for carrying out the inspection.

Internal inspection

Used to describe the job function done by an appraiser when they visit a property to inspect the building inside and out for the purpose of collecting or verifying the physical property characteristics.


A building material of wood, metal, gypsum, or insulating board that is fastened to the frame of a building to act as a plaster base.




Any factor that prevents full or proper inspection of the building.

Live Load

Loads produced by use and occupancy of the building or other structure and do not include construction or environmental loads such as wind load, snow load, ice load, rain load, seismic load, or dead load.

Load-bearing components 


Are those components that extend beyond the exterior walls of the building to deliver structural loads from the exterior elevated element to the building.


Major defect


A defect of sufficient magnitude where rectification has to be carried out in order to avoid unsafe conditions, loss of utility or further deterioration of the property.

Mansard Roof

A roof which rises by inclined planes from all four sides of a building. The sloping roofs on all four sides have two pitches, the lower pitch usually very steep and the upper pitch less steep.


Minor defect


A defect other than a major defect.

Modularisation (Modularization) 

Modular design is an engineering technique that a design of complete unit or plant divide into smaller units (system or subsystem) with tie-in provisions. Modularisation (or Modularization) is for difficulties in a skilled labour mobilisation at the site or remote areas and significantly disadvantages in economics for a traditional stick built construction method, requires large number of labour, construction equipment and supporting infrastructures, modularisation method is applicable. Modules are self contained and operated with essential utility supply. Module design and Engineering is slightly different form a normal engineering, reinforcement of structures for transportations and minimize ground spaces are executed, modules are fabricated (pre-fabricated) or manufactured at the module shop yard, tested, pre-commissioned, preserved and transported to the site for installation and connection (tie-ins) to other module or existing facility to complete a unit or plant. Modularisation plan develops in the beginning of the project, and perform a module design and engineering, procurement and construction. Optimum Module Size and Inclusions are depend on a transportation ability for inland and ocean, module erection and handling capacity at the site, module fabrication yard capacity as well as ability of skilled labour mobilisation and level of direct cost at the site, and a severity of project such as project duration, quality, safety and environmental requirement.
In general, a Modularisation project is shorter project schedule, but cost is dependent.


That part of the roof structure which extends horizontally beyond the vertical plane of the exterior walls of a building.

Punch Out

To inspect and make a discrepancy list.

Reflective Insulation

Sheet material with one or both sun faces of comparatively low heat emissivity, such as aluminum foil. When used in building construction the surfaces face air spaces, reducing the radiation across the air space.


Serviceability defect


Fault or deviation from the intended serviceability performance of a building element.


Significant item


An item that is to be reported in accordance with the scope of the inspection.


The structural covering, usually wood boards, plywood, gypsum or wood fiber, used over studs or rafters of framed buildings as the first layer of outer wall covering nailed to the studs or rafters.


The underside of an overhanging cornice of a building extending out from the plane of the building walls.

Stick Built

A house built without prefabricated parts. Also called conventional building.


Structural defect


Fault or deviation from the intended structural performance of a building element.


Structural element


Physically distinguishable part of a structure.


NOTE: For example wall, columns, beam, connection.


Subfloor space


Space between the underside of a suspended floor and the ground.


Roof space


Space between the roof covering and the ceiling immediately below the roof covering.




Allotment of land on which a building stands or is to be erected. 


The finish materials in a building, such as moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim) or at the floor and ceiling of rooms (baseboard, cornice, and other moldings).

Vapor Barrier

A membrane which is placed between the insulation and the roof deck to retard water vapor in the building from entering the insulation and condensing into liquid water.


The process where a building component is made totally resistant to the passage of water and/or water vapor.

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