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Building Surveyor Glossary of Terms

Released On 27th Nov 2018

Before you go ahead and purchase your new home, you’ll need to hire a building surveyor to identify any underlying issues with the property. After all, buying a home is always going to be a substantial investment, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve carried out all the necessary checks before completing the purchase.

However, unless you’re particularly clued up on the industry, the confusing terminology of a standard building survey could have you scratching your head, as you try to make sense of it all. A full report will be an incredibly detailed and comprehensive document, which can become very frustrating if you just don’t understand what it’s telling you.  

Although we attempt to keep our reports free of any complicated jargon, reading up on common building surveyor terms will help you understand what kind of condition the property is actually in.

The Most Common Building Surveyor Terms Explained


A natural fibrous mineral which was a common form of insulation between the 50’s and 80’s. Disturbed and damaged asbestos is known to be harmful when breathed into the lungs, but a building surveyor would be able to identify its presence.


Concrete used to fill in the gaps between the drainage channels and brickwork. Always smoothly sloped to prevent a build-up of sewage, water or rats.

Boundary Disputes

A disagreement with the neighbours as to where the boundaries for each property begin/end. A surveyor will help you establish the boundaries before purchase and ultimately avoid any future disputes.

Building Survey

An incredibly detailed, in-depth report on the overall condition of a property. A building survey will identify any defects, suggest maintenance options and offer extensive information on all parts of the structure.

Cavity Wall

A wall comprising two layers of brickwork with a small gap (or cavity) between them. To prevent too much heat escaping through the gap, many homes require cavity wall insulation.

Condition Survey

An extensive examination of a building’s physical condition, identifying any issues and making sure the property is up to scratch.


Excess moisture in the structure of a building, usually resulting from condensation, heavy rainfall or leaking pipes. Damp causes mould on the walls, which always looks unsightly and can potentially result in long-term breathing problems.


The maintenance and repairs needed to restore a property to its original state, usually relating to cosmetic damage.

Dry Rot

A fungus which attacks the property and causes wood to rot. This is commonly a result of poor ventilation and high levels of humidity, and can cause significant damage to the structure of a property.


It might sound like a made-up word, but “gazumping” actually refers to a property seller who verbally agrees a sale with one buyer, and then accepts a higher offer from someone else at the last minute.

Party Wall

A wall that separates two properties owned by two different parties. This is a common cause of boundary disputes, especially when one of the parties involved wants to carry out some renovations. Of course, a building surveyor will make you aware of any party walls and help you avoid disagreements.


Also known as drywall in some parts of the world, plasterboard is essentially a layer of stiff gypsum placed between two sheets of paper. This is used in the interior lining of ceilings, walls and floors, becoming popular in construction due to its fire-resistant properties.

RICS Homebuyer Report

Although not quite as extensive as a complete building survey, a Homebuyer report involves a detailed examination of the property and will identify any obvious issues. Although this should identify the most urgent defects, it’s important to note the surveyor will only examine parts of the building which are immediately visible.

Rising Damp

Excess moisture which rises up the walls and floors from below the ground. Most commonly found in older buildings, rising damp can cause decaying skirting boards, black mould, and damp patches to break out on the walls.

Stamp Duty

A form of tax you have to pay if you’re purchasing a property in the UK for over £125,000. Your stamp duty rate will depend on the value of the property or piece of land you’re purchasing.


When part (or all) of the building’s foundations start to sink due to the ground collapsing underneath your property. Causes include poor ground, leaking pipes, extreme weather and the type of soil the property is sitting on.


A construction technique designed to strengthen the foundations of the property, underpinning involves building a sturdier foundation underneath the original. A popular way of combatting subsidence issues, the cost of underpinning will depend on the extent of the subsidence damage.


Referring to an infestation of wood-eating beetles, woodworm can usually be identified by tiny holes in timber surfaces, while more severe cases can see serious damage inflicted on your wooden floorboards.


Thinking of buying a new home? Then contact us today on 07711 491000 or email to arrange a jargon-free building survey!

Tags: Damp penetration, Shared party walls, Asbestos, Boundary disputes, Cavity walls, Plasterboard, RICS Homebuyer Report, Rising damp, Subsidence, Underpinning, Woodworm

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