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Building? Do you know all these common terms?

There is no user manual for all aspects of homeownership, from moving, to taking occupation and to maintaining and understanding common and uncommon defects. Albert van Wyk has more than 38 years’ worth of building experience and has put all he has learned into a concise, easy-to-use reference book entitled, The Proud Home Owner. He has granted HomeTimes exclusive access to republish portions of his book to help homeowners make better decisions around buying and selling, as well as maintaining their properties.


Bank’s minimum specifications

All building work must be completed to at least this specification as required by the bank.

Bill of quantitiesbuilding-materials-resize

A bill of quantities is a document in which material costs and labour rates are itemised. A quantity surveyor will calculate the quantities from the plan and the tenderers must add their labour rates and material costs.

Boundary wall

A wall which is erected between two properties. The wall must be on the stand which was developed first and never on both stands.

Building lines

This is the distance from the boundary of a property where a building cannot be erected. The building must be at least that distance away from the boundary.

DPC: Damp Proof Course

This is a plastic (vinyl) product which is used as a waterproof barrier in brickwork. It will prevent rising damp from reaching the floor level of a building.

Expansion joint

An expansion joint or movement joint is designed to safely absorb the expansion and contraction of construction materials, or to allow movement due to ground settlement.

Flood lineflooded-driveway-resize

The flood line of a property near a river or dam is recorded on the municipal plan of each such property.

It will indicate to what level the water can rise during every 50 or 100 years.


It should correctly be referred to as the foundation. This is the concrete in the trenches on which the brickwork will be done.

Interim interest

This is the amount of interest charged by the bank on the progress payment to the contractor during the construction period.

NBR: National Building Regulations

To provide for the promotion of uniformity in the law relating to the erection of buildings, and for the prescribing of building standards and for matters connected therewith.

NHBRC: National Home Builders Registration Council

It was established in terms of the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act in 1998 to regulate the building industry and to protect housing consumers.

Occupancy certificateoccupational rent and moving day - resize

A certificate issued by the municipality or council to the owner that the property is fit and safe for occupation. It is applicable to new houses as well as houses when alterations or additions are completed.

PC amount

Provisional Cost amount or Prime Cost amount.

This amount is included in the contract when the quantity is unknown or which product will be used.

This amount is for material or goods to be delivered on site and does not include the cost of fitting or installing it.

Plinthplinth foundation

Incorrectly referred to as the foundation. This is the structure from the footing to floor level of the building. The superstructure is built on top.

PS (Provisional sum)

This is an allowance in the contract for work not defined, and for which separate tenders will be called for. This amount will include the cost of installing or commissioning a product or item.

QS (quantity surveyor)

quantity surveyor manages all costs relating to building and civil engineering projects, from the initial calculations to the final figures. Surveyors seek to minimise the costs of a project and enhance value for money, while still achieving the required standards and quality.

Retaining wall

A strong wall which is usually designed by an engineer to retain soil or filling material.

Rodding eye

A rodding eye is a pipe fitting that provides access for cleaning and inspection of sewer or drain pipes. Also known as “inspection eye” (IE).


This is the layer (25mm to 40mm thick) of a well compacted mixture of cement and river sand on top of the concrete surface bed to provide a smooth level surface for the final floor finishes.


A servitude is a registered right that a person has over the immovable property of another. It allows the holder of the servitude to do something with the other person’s property, which may infringe upon the rights of the owner of that property. An example is the right of way to travel over a section of the other person’s property in order to reach your own property, or the municipality installs pipes or cables across a property.

Surface bed

This is the concrete slab on top of the plinth which is the floor of the building.



It is the step under an outside door. It divides the outside and the inside levels. The outside level must be lower to prevent water to get in.


Unemployed Insurance Fund.

Wavier of lien

The banks require a contractor to sign a document “Waiver of builder’s lien”. With this he waives his right over the building in favour of the bank. He has no right to retain possession of the building until he has been paid in full.


The zoning rights of a property stipulate what type of building and what type of activity can occur on the property.

For more, and to order your copy of The Proud Home Owner, click here, or visit Gauteng Home Inspections if you’re building, buying or doing maintenance


David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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  • Rudzani 15th December 2018

    I basically need to know the preferred thickness or depth of screed including tile finishing for sliding door channel guide flashing..