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Maintain Your Church - Church terms
Category: Architecture and Buildings > Church building maintenance
Date & country: 16/01/2008, UK
Words: 293


A-frame
A form of building in which the principal rafters extend down to ground level, and rest on concrete pads. The ends of the building are triangular. Related Words: Rafter

Abutment
Used in two senses: 1. Point at which a roof meets a wallhead. 2. massive structure supporting the ends of a bridge Related Words: Wallhead

Aggregate
Crushed stone, gravel, sand, or other granular material used in making concrete, mortar and plaster. Coarse aggregate can be used to face pre-cast concrete panels, the product being known as 'exposed aggregate' panels. In some styles of pointing the surface of the mortar is brushed off to reveal the grains of aggregate on the surface. Related Word …

Aisle
Used in three senses: 1: a section of a church to one side of a main section, generally with a lower roof, and separated from it by a set of columns supporting the wall of the main section 2: a passage between sets of pews or chairs leading from the rear of the church to the chancel area 3: in Scottish churches, a subsidiary wing used for a specifi …

Algae, algal staining
Algae are very small, simple plants, which can colonise damp, rough surfaces. Because they are green, they are very visible, and can cause unsightly staining. Heavy local algal staining of walls is an indication of dampness, usually due to failure of, for instance, rainwater disposal.

Aluminium
This light, silvery, metal is relatively resistant to corrosion, except in salty environments. It is sometimes used to make gutters and downpipes. In sheet form it is occasionally used for ridging, but its lightness makes it vulnerable to high winds.

Apse, apsidal
A projection from the east end of a church, originally to house an altar, but more recently, in the Presbyterian churches, to house a Communion table. An apse-like (apsidal) extension is frequently used to house a pipe organ. Apses are usually rounded, or semi-octagonal. Related Words: East end (liturgical) (and north, south and west)

Arcade
An arcade is a row of linked arches. Inside a church arcades usually separate aisles from the nave or choir. Blind arcades are sometimes used as decorative features on the exteriors of churches. Related Words: Aisle

Arch
An arch is a curved structure spanning an opening. In a round arch the structure is semi-circular, and in a pointed arch the sides are less tightly curved, and meet at the top of the arch in a point. These are the most commonly-encountered forms of arch in church buildings. In a masonry or brick arch the stones forming it are usually wedge-shaped, …

Architect
A building professional with a degree or equivalent qualification in the design of buildings. A recognised architect will also be a member of a professional body, such as the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Major works of repair should be undertaken as specified by, and under the supervision of an architect with experience of conserv …

Architrave
In Classical architecture, the pieces of stone which link the capitals of columns in a portico or colonnade. Part of the entablature. Related Words: Classical; Column

Arris
The sharp edge of a building component, such as a window or door surround.

Ashlar
Masonry consisting of large blocks, with rectangular outer faces, laid in regular courses, and brought to a regular face, with fine mortar joints. Smooth ashlar is termed 'polished'. Other surface treatments are described as 'stugged' and 'droved'. Related Words: Masonry; Mortar

Asphalt
Traditionally a material made by mixing natural pitch with fine aggregate, and used for surfacing and waterproofing. In buildings, sometimes used to cover flat or low-pitched roofs. It is a durable finish, if properly cared for, but can crack, allowing water to penetrate it. Modern asphalt is usually made from the residues of petroleum refining.

Astragal
Part of a window frame. Specifically a strip, usually of wood or metal, separating two panes of glass.

Balustrade, baluster
A form of protection to the edge of a building or terrace, consisting of vertical masonry (or cast-iron or concrete) uprights with massive bases and copes. The uprights are 'balusters', and are usually shaped in an ornamental way. Balustrades are often divided into sections by 'dies', solid sections rising above the copes. Related Words: Cast iron …

Bargeboards
In a roof which overhangs the masonry of a gable, the boards on the outer edge of the roof, protecting the exposed ends of the purlins. Related Words: Gable, gabled; Masonry

Basecourse
A name given to the lower part of a wall, where it projects from the face of the upper part. The basecourse serves to thicken the wall where it meets the foundation, and also to shed water away from the base.

Batten
A thin strip of wood. Mounted vertically, battens serve to support the laths in a lath and plaster wall, and mounted horizontally, to support the tiles (and sometimes slates) on pitched roofs. Related Words: Lath and plaster; Tiles

Beads
In a sash-and-case window, the strips of wood which separate the sashes, allowing them to slide past each other. Also used to describe a rounded moulding.

Bedding
This word describes the placing of blocks of building materials on a layer of softer material (mortar or sand). Stones such as sandstones, slates, and flagstones were formed by depositing silt, or drifted sand, in layers. When building in sandstone these layers should be horizontal, or nearly so. If, in a stone built into a wall, the layers are ver …

Belfry stage
In a tower, spire or steeple, the section in which a bell or bells are hung. Provided with openings, usually louvred, to allow the bell(s) to be heard. Related Words: Louvres, Louvre; Spire, spirelet; Steeple

Bellcast
A term used to describe a roof in which the slope flattens out just above the wallhead.

Bellcote, belfry
Also belfry, a support for a bell or bells, usually mounted on a gable or wallhead. In churches with towers, spires or steeples the bell or bells are usually in a chamber at the top of the tower.

Biocide
A chemical preparation used to kill plants, fungi or animals which are damaging a building, or to control vegetation growth.

Bitumen, bituminous
A thick, tarry material, the residue of coal-tar or petroleum refining. In building it is used in making roofing felt, in coating materials such as brick, breeze block, or masonry to waterproof it, and, in bituminous paint, as a waterproofing material for local application

Blind (of arcades etc)
A term used to describe an arch, or arcade, or other feature which has solid infilling.

Block
When a church was being built of stone, some of the stones intended to be carved were frequently built in as roughly-shaped blocks. If the carving was not undertaken, the masonry is said to be 'in block'.

Blocking course
In classical buildings, the masonry above a cornice, whose mass gives stability to the latter.

Blockwork
Walls or other features built of pre-cast concrete or breeze blocks

Boss, bossed
When a rendered finish, such as harling separates from the underlying masonry or brickwork it is said to be boss, or bossed. If the affected section is tapped it responds by returning a dull sound.

Box gutter
A gutter of rectangular cross-section, usually on top of a wallhead. The gutter may be made of stone, wood or metal. Such gutters are sometimes referred to as 'secret' or 'parapet' gutters.

Breeze block
A building block made of some light aggregate bound with cement. Breeze blocks were originally made with 'breeze' - small pieces of gas-works coke. They are now made with foamed slag, a by-product from iron-smelting. Usually used to make internal walls

Brick
Five types of brick are likely to be found in church walls. 1. Blaes bricks. These are made from powdered coal measures clays, lightly fired. They usually have black patches on one or more faces. When used for external walls they should be rendered. 2. Clay bricks. These are generally red all over, and are heavier than blaes bricks. They do not nee …

Bricklayer
A building-trade craftsman who specialises in laying bricks, a skill by no means as easy as it looks.

Bronze grille
As the name suggests, a mesh of bronze wire, used to protect stained or leaded glass windows. If properly designed and made they are almost invisible in normal lighting.

Building surveyor
A building professional with training and experience in ascertaining the condition of a building, and recommending remedial action. Some building surveyors are specially qualified to examine historic buildings. Building surveyors can also estimate the value of buildings.

Bullnosed
Of masonry, made of blocks with curved outer faces. Also used to refer to the timber with lead capping at the edge of a flat roof

Buttress
A rib of masonry projecting from the face of a wall. Its primary purpose is to strengthen the wall, and to resist the outward thrust of roof trusses or masonry vaulting, but it also has a decorative purpose.

Cames
The grooved strips of lead which form the structure of a stained or leaded glass window Related Words: Lead; Leaded glass; Stained glass

Cap house
A structure covering the top of a spiral staircase giving access to the top of a tower or wallhead

Capital, cap
The top section of a column, in classical architecture. immediately under the architrave. In Romanesque and Gothic architecture the capital (often abbreviated to 'cap') is usually the point from which the arch begins to curve ('springs'). Related Words: Architrave; Classical; Column

Capping
A covering, usually of lead, applied to the top of a wall or other feature, to prevent water penetration. Related Words: Lead

Casement window
A window set in a frame which is hinged at one side, and opens sideways, or from the top or bottom as a hopper. Related Words: Hopper (window)

Cast iron work
Cast iron objects are made by melting iron and pouring it into moulds. The material is often used to make gutters, hoppers and downpipes. Sometimes it is used to make window frames, and internal supports, such as columns and beams. It is also used to make ornamental items, such as gates, railings, roof ridges, finials and weather-vanes. It can gene …

Cathedral glass
Leaded glass made with small regularly-shaped rectangular or diamond-shaped panes. The panes are usually translucent, and of a variety of pale colours

Cavity wall
Wall, usually of brick or blockwork, built with an inner and outer skin, having a space between the skins, known as the cavity. The two faces are linked by wall-ties. In modern construction the cavity may be fully or partly filled with insulation Related Words: Blockwork; Brick; Wall ties

Cement, cementitious
The term cement usually refers to Portland Cement, a substance made by roasting limestone and clay, and grinding the resulting mass into a powder. When mixed with water it sets to form a hard mass. When mixed with sand it can be used as a mortar, and with aggregate it forms concrete, or can be spread over a wall-face as a render. Cement mortars and …

Chamfer
The cutting off of the sharp edge of an arris at an angle, usually of 45 degrees. Serves to prevent damage to the edge, and in windows to increase the amount of light transmitted through them. Related Words: Arris

Chancel
The part of a church in which the altar or communion table is set. It should, in a Church of Scotland, also accommodate the font, and usually the pulpit. It is sometimes a separate chamber at the east end of the building, but is commonly simply an area at the east end of a rectangular worship space. Related Words: East end (liturgical) (and north, …

Chip carving
A way of decorating masonry by cutting holes and grooves into ashlar, to form geometric patterns. Related Words: Ashlar; Masonry

Choir
This term has two meanings. 1. A body of singers, used to lead worship and 2. A separate chamber at the east end of a church, housing the altar or Communion table, and sometimes seats for a choir (1). The choir (2) is usually narrower and lower than the main body (nave) of the church, and may be referred to as the chancel. Related Words: Chancel; E …

Cill (sill)
The bottom member of a window opening. It is usually made of stone or concrete, often with a timber cill on top. It generally projects beyond the face of the surrounding wall, and sheds water away from it.

Classical
Used of architecture inspired by Greek or Roman design, with the use of columns or pilasters. Classical churches are usually symmetrical. There are three basic detailed designs of columns, and of the other principal features of classical buildings, referred to as orders. These are the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders. Related Words: Column; Pilas …

Clerestorey
The row of windows in a nave or choir, set above the aisle roof. Also used to refer to any high-level windows above a roof Related Words: Aisle; Choir; Nave

Coarse stuff
A mixture of slaked lime and coarse sand, allowed to mature for several weeks, and then used as a constituent of lime mortar Related Words: Lime mortar, render, limewashing

Colonnade
A row of columns, other than those forming a portico Related Words: Column; Portico

Column
One of the structural elements of a classical building, a tall, circular-section object supporting the upper part of the building. Related Words: Classical

Concrete
A mixture of Portland cement, sand, gravel and water. Lime may be used in place of the cement, in which case the mixture is known as lime concrete. If rods of steel are embedded in the concrete it is reinforced concrete. It these are put under tension while the concrete is setting, it is pre-stressed concrete. Reinforced concrete made in a mould to …

Concrete cancer
If the outer skin of a concrete structure is badly affected by water it can break up, allowing moisture to penetrate the structure, and causing rusting of the steel reinforcement, which splits the concrete. This 'rotting' of the concrete is known as 'concrete cancer'. Related Words: Concrete

Copes, coping
In building terms, a cope is the covering for an exposed wallhead. Copes generally overhang the wall they cap, to shed water. Some are roughly triangular in cross-section, others almost flat. They are usually made of stone or concrete Related Words: Wallhead

Copper
Copper in sheet form can be used as a durable roof covering, and occasionally as a wall-cladding. Brownish when installed, it turns green. Copper is also the preferred material for lightning conductors. Related Words: Lightning conductor

Corbel, corbel table, corbelling
A corbel is a stone which projects from a wall-face, to support a floor or roof, or some other structure. A row of corbels, with spaces in between, at a wallhead, is known as a corbel table. A continuous row of such projecting stones is known as corbelling.

Corrugated iron
Sheet-iron or steel coated with zinc (galvanised), and rolled into a continuous wave form. This stiffens the sheet in one dimension. Corrugated iron was formerly extensively used for the walls and roofs of temporary buildings (see tabernacles). Sheets curved in the direction of the corrugations are remarkably strong, and were used in building Nisse …

Course, coursed
A course is a row of adjacent stones or bricks, of the same height. Coursed stonework has a series of such rows, with the vertical joints staggered

Cracking
Minor cracks occur in many buildings, due to expansion and contraction as the building warms and cools, or during slight settlement, usually soon after the building is completed. It is important to find out the reason for the cracking. Cracking is worrying if the width or length of the crack is increasing, or if the individual masonry elements frac …

Crenellation
The treatment of a parapet wallhead as in a mediaeval castle, with tall and short sections alternating. Common in early Gothic Revival churches. Related Words: Gothic (revival); Parapet; Wallhead

Cresting
The name given to ornamental cast-iron roof ridging. Related Words: Ridge, ridging

Crockets
Stylised leaves carved along the edges of pinnacles, or round doorways, in late Gothic and Gothic Revival buildings Related Words: Gothic (revival); Pinnacle

Crossing
In a cruciform church, the area where the four arms of the cross meet. In many cruciform churches there is a tower over the crossing Related Words: Cruciform

Crown steeple
A form of steeple in which the masonry of the corners of a tower is carried up in a curve to meet above the centre of the tower.

Crowsteps
The fashioning of the skews of a gable as a series of steps, a traditional Scots vernacular feature

Cruciform
Used to describe a building on a cross plan. Most cruciform churches are on a Latin cross plan, in which one arm of the cross is significantly longer than the other three. A cross with equal arms is known as a Greek cross.

Cupola
A domed top stage of a tower, often used as a belfry. Also used to refer to a large glazed rooflight over a hall or stairway. Related Words: Bellcote, belfry

Dado rail, panelling
A waist-height projecting rail, running along an inside wall. Commonly the area below the dado rail is covered with vertical boarding. Sometimes it is panelled. Wooden panelling is also commonly used round a chancel area (see wainscotting)..

Damp-proof course (DPC)
Used in two senses. A damp-proof course installed during construction is usually a layer of slate, concrete, or bitumen low down on a wall, to prevent ground water rising above that level. The damp-proof course should be about six inches (125mm) above ground level, as over time the earth round a building can build up, 'bridging' over the course and …

Delamination
Used to describe the decay of a stone by the peeling off of outer layers (as in an onion), especially common when a stone is face-bedded. Related Words: Bedding

Distemper
A traditional water-based paint, the application of which allows a wall to 'breathe' (to absorb and emit water). It is an unsuitable base for applying modern paints.

Distress
A term used to describe a building, or element of a building, which is suffering from a long-term problem.

Down pipe
Also known as a conductor, a pipe linking a gutter to a drain at the base of a wall. Related Words: Gutter

DPC
see Damp-proof course Related Words: Damp-proof course (DPC)

Drainpipe shoe
The curved, open-ended lower end of a downpipe, directing water away from the base of a wall. Also seen where water from an upper roof is discharged on to an aisle roof. Related Words: Down pipe

Dressings
A name given to the dressed (finely-finished) stones forming the edges of walls and window and door openings in a masonry building. Often emphasised by being made of different stone to the wall body, and sometimes by harling over the wall, except for the dressings. Related Words: Harl, Harling

Drip mould
A projecting strip of stone above a window or door, usually curved on its upper face, and grooved on its lower one, to shed water away from the opening.

Droved
A treatment of ashlar masonry in which a series of parallel grooves is cut along the face of individual stones. These are frequently at an angle, and may be very slight, or quite prominent. Related Words: Ashlar

Dry dash
A treatment used to finish the walls of modern buildings, in which a layer of cement render is applied to the surface. While it is still wet, crushed marble or white limestone is thrown (dashed) on to it, so that the chips are partly embedded in the render. It is not a suitable treatment for an historic building. Related Words: Cement, cementitious …

Dry rot
A fungus (scruple lacrymans) which lives on damp wood, destroying its cohesion. It needs dark, damp and unventilated space to thrive. Affected wood loses all its strength and breaks up into roughly cubic blocks. The fungus is aggressive, and can spread very rapidly. Early signs of an outbreak are red or brown dust (spores), dark tendrils in a veine …

Duckboard
Where a roof has lead or copper gutters or platforms, slatted wooden walkways - duckboards - should be fitted, to prevent damage to the metal covering during routine maintenance and inspection. Duckboards also allow water to drain away after heavy snow. Related Words: Copper; Gutter ; Lead

Duct
Here used to describe a channel within the thickness of a wall or other structural component, used to accommodate pipes or cables, or for ventilation or heating.

Eaves, eaves band
The eaves of a building with a pitched roof are the edges of the roof, where it meets the wallheads. If the roof overhangs the wallheads, the eaves are said to be 'open'. If the top course of the wall projects beyond the surface of the rest of the wall it is said to be an 'eaves (or wallhead) band'. This feature can also be described as 'corbelled …

Efflorescence
When white crystals appear on the surface of masonry, or plaster, these are referred to as 'efflorescence'. The phenomenon is due to the movement of mineral salts from the body of the stone to the surface, as a result of movement of moisture. It may be an indication of water penetration or condensation, and thus a need for repairs. Related Words: M …

Engaged columns
Half-columns applied to the face of a building. Related Words: Column

Entablature
In classical architecture, the mass of masonry above a row of columns, or above a door or window opening and below a pediment (if any). Related Words: Classical; Column; Masonry; Pediment

Erosion
This term is used to describe the decay of the body of a stone. It is usually the result, either of the use of a very soft stone, or of the decay of the bonding material that holds the stone particles together. It occurs as a long-term effect in a windy location (often on the side away from the wind), and is commonly accelerated by wetting and dryi …

Etched glass
Glass to which a pattern has been applied by roughening or removing part of the surface. Properly speaking, etching is done by dissolving the surface using chemicals, but glass may also be 'etched' by sand-blasting.

External stair
A stairway to the upper level of a building (usually a gallery or loft), and usually open to the elements.

Fascia
A band of timber or plastic boarding fitted below a wallhead on a building with a flat or low-pitched roof. It is sometimes decorative, but often functions as a weather baffle, or supports gutter fixings.

Felt (roofing)
A layer of fibrous material, impregnated with bitumen, and coated with a layer of bitumen, often with fine gravel applied to it. Used for covering flat and low-pitched roofs. Multiple layers can be used in exposed conditions, or to give longer life It is a good material if its limited life is accepted, and if is kept in good repair. Because it is i …

Fibreglass
A material made by impregnating a mat of spun glass (glass fibre) with some kind of resin. It has been used as a material for gutters, and as a lightweight substitute for metal structures. It is prone to attack by the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Lexan is a translucent fibreglass sheet sometimes used to protect windows suffering from considerable …

Fillet
A band of mortar, usually applied to the junction between a roof-covering and a skew. Also known as a 'parged fillet'. Related Words: Mortar; Parging; Skew, skewput