How familiar are you with the standard groundwork Terms most used in the U.K? Here is a list of the most important engineering and building contractor terms used in the U.K currently.

Access Chamber: A subterranean space created to allow easy access to underground services, e.g drains.

Aggregate: A filler used in industrial mixes such as asphalt or concrete. Can be fine [e.g sand] or coarse [stones and grit], and may be mixed [see ballast].

Ashlar: Block of smoother hewn stone, usually square, for use in walling.

Back Addition: The rear wing of a house. Modern usage can be an addition, or built as part of the original plan. The name originates from the ‘addition’ at the ‘back’ of homes constructed without indoor plumbing, once such plumbing was added to the home.

Ballast: An aggregate with non-uniform components

Benchmark: Constructed by the Ordnance Survey, bench-marks are set up throughout the U.K, providing a point of known level against which other measurements can be established. During a project, a ‘temporary bench mark’ or TBM may be constructed on-site at convenient points.

Berm: The earth bank used to brace a retaining wall during the excavation process. Removed once the wall is propped.

Bill of Quantities [BOQ]: A tool used in larger projects [it may be non-cost effective for smaller projects] which easily allows for determination of the value of work done at any point. The BOQ lists detailed quantities of each physical product and action required through the project, making it simple to price the work and allow tenderers to work from the same base assumptions.

Blinding: A concrete layer used to cover the working surface. This allows steel reinforcements to be placed without contamination.

Block: Concrete or aircrete unit of regular size used for building.

Blockwork: Refers to something constructed with blocks

Bond: The way masonry units [usually bricks] are arranged in a wall, i.e the pattern used. Well known bonds include Flemish, Stretcher, English Garden Wall and English. Units must always overlap by ¼ of the unit length, and bonding bricks must keep the wall stable.

Bonding Plaster: A proprietary hygroscopic plaster with excellent adhesion. Vulnerable to spoiling by rising or atmospheric moisture.

Camber: The rise in the middle of a road for drainage, or shape applied to a beam so it will be level under its final loading weight.

Coarse Aggregate: Aggregate such as gravel, where the comprising particles are 10mm, 20mm or 40mm in size. Larger than fine aggregate.

Course: A single layer of blocks or bricks within a wall.

Crane: Mechanical aid to assist in lifting. May be mobile or fixed.

Damp Proof Course [DPC]: Impermeable layer incorporated near the ground in a wall. This guards against rising damp, and may be based on lead, bitumen or plastic or constructed from impermeable engineering bricks in two full courses. It must be at least 150mm above the ground level of the exterior.

Damp Proof Membrane [DPM]: The DPM is integrated into floors on the ground level to prevent rising damp issues. Usually made of plastic.

Design Check: The design must comply with safe engineering practices as well as the original brief. The design check ensures both of these conditions are met.

Development: The process of improving land for use. The developer may be the ultimate user of the land, or developing speculatively for profit. Development may adapt existing structures, improve them, or involve adding buildings and structure to the land.

Digger: Originally the brainchild of the J.C Bamford company, the hydraulic-transmission excavator known as a digger is now a mainstay of groundwork.

District Surveyor: In the U.K, this institution supervises Building Regulations, and has now been combined with the Building Control Officer. District Surveyors are borough officers, and were first appointed after the Great Fire of London.

Engineering Brick: This brick is incredibly strong and impermeable to water. Originally blue in design, they now come in a range of colours.

English Bond: Traditionally considered one of the strongest bond patterns, and used in works of engineering such as retaining walls and bridges. It consists of alternating rows of stretchers and headers, each row containing only one style.

English Garden Wall: Traditionally, the garden wall must be ‘attractive’ on two sides, vs the interior brickwork bond which could front one attractive finished face, and leave the other to be plastered. Thus the English Garden Wall bond- minimal headers are used so both sides of the wall are fair-faced.

External Works: Construction activities such as roads, paths or landscaping, created in the areas of the site not occupied by building structures.

Feather-edge Board: A board typically used in fencing, this board is thicker on one side then the other. Typically fixed vertically with overlapping edges, it can also be used horizontally in tiled roofs with the thick edge to the top. This allows for easier hanging of tiles.

Fine Aggregate: Typically sand, used in making mortar and concrete.

Flemish Bond: The typical bond pattern for brickwork exceeding 225mm thick. Stretchers and headers alternate, with the header in the middle of the stretchers below and above it.

Foot: Imperial unit comprising 304.8mm, or ⅓ of a yard.

Formwork: The mould for concrete

Foundation: The part of the structure which spreads load into the soil and anchors the structure. These may be comprised of reinforced concrete, mass concrete or stepped masonry.

Groundwork: All digging operations involved in the project, eg levelling, drainage and foundations.

Grout: A runny cement blend used to fill the spaces between wall tiles or fill gaps in the base of a steel column.

Honeycomb Brickwork: Brickwork designed with gaps, allowing ventilation.

Manhole: Access hole to underground areas, access chambers and underground services.

Mass Concrete:  Concrete which has not been reinforced, typically used in foundations or other areas where the added strength is not essential.

Pea Shingle: A shingle comprising rounded stones of no more than 10 mm diameter.

Pile: A form of foundation. A pile is a deep column driven into the ground, used to access a more stable [or stronger] support layer then the immediate sub-surface provides, such as in underwater applications. While the original pile was always hard timber such as elm, today they can be aluminium, steel, concrete or whatever is suitable. Piles of a pre-existing material [driven piles] are driven into the ground, where bored piles are made from pouring the concrete into a drilled hole. Piles may be used for new projects, or to strengthen and stabilise existing foundations. Piles which are contiguous are referred to as a retaining wall. Several ingenious proprietary systems exist for piling.

Pile Driver: The machinery used to force a pre-made pile into the ground.

Piling Rig: The machine which drills the hole for a bored pile [which will be cast-in-situ].

Post Stressed Concrete: Concrete reinforced with steel wire. The wire will be stressed once the concrete cures [compare to prestressed concrete].

Precast Concrete: Concrete components pre-made at a yard/factory, and transported to the site.

Prestressed Concrete: Concrete reinforced with steel wire. The wires are stressed before the pouring of the concrete [compare to post stressed concrete]

Ready-mixed Concrete: Concrete which is delivered by a ready-mix truck, having been mixed in a specialist batching plant.

Recessed Pointing:  When flat pointing is recessed from the surface of the brick.

Reinforced Concrete: This versatile structural material imparts great strength to situations of tension, shear, bending and compression. Standard [mass] concrete is strong only under compression. It is created by embedding steep bars in the concrete.

Reinforcement [Rebar]: The name given to the steel bracing bars of reinforced concrete. They will be bent and shaped in accordance with the Engineers bending schedule before being fitted by a specialist known as a steelfixer,

Render: A form of wall plaster based on cement

Retaining Wall: A retaining wall can be made from any traditional or proprietary structural system. The intent is to retain soil on one side of the structure. Retaining walls can be made of reinforced concrete, piles or masonry.

Sand: Where a fine aggregate has particles of less than 5mm, of mineral origin, this is referred to as sand. Grades of sand include soft, fine sharp and coarse sand.

Sand-lime Brick: A brick with a calcium silicate structure

Screed: Screeding is typically a sand-cement dryish mix laid over concrete floors, and trowelled and screeded to make the surface smooth. It also refers to a temporary rail used to ensure concrete is finished to the correct level.

Settlement: All foundations will ‘settle’ [move downwards] as the weight of the structure is applied. This is due to compression of the soil. Different soil types will be affected differently- clay typically doesn’t settle a lot, but sand will.

Sharp Sand: Sand used in screed and concrete. Lacking in clay or silt, it has no ‘soft’ characteristics.

Shingle: Shingle is the aggregate lying between fine and coarse. The stones will be of the 5mm-10mm size range. Shingle can also refer to a wooden tile for roofs.

Soil: The correct engineering term for all solid material below the surface of the Earth, regardless of actual composition. Soil can this refer to clay, sand, rock and much more.

Special Foundations: These are foundations which incorporate steel. The term was defined by the Party Wall Act.

Subsidence: The unexpected downward movement of foundations. Typically caused by clay soil shrinking as it dries out.

Ton: An imperial unit. The U.K [or ‘long’] ton is 1016kg or 2240 pounds. This is also 20 hundredweight. The US [or ‘short’] ton is 2000 pounds instead.

Underpinning: The process of deepening existing foundations downwards. Mass concrete is typically used, but there are several high- and low-tech solutions open to you.

A firm understanding of these typical engineering and building terms is needed for any construction work in the U.K. Make sure you have a firm understanding of each of these concepts.