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Last edited 23 Apr 2021
Glossary of construction slang and other terms
The following terms, some slang, some general or outdated are frequently used or understood by those working on UK building sites. If you know others, click the 'Edit this article' button and add them to the list.
- Banker – a mason, typically involved in cutting and smoothing building stone.
- Banksman – a person qualified to direct vehicle movements
- Bagging – slang term for heavy duty hose (normally with bauer couplings) for temporary pumping.
- Brickie – a bricklayer.
- Brush hand – a young or untrained assistant to a professional painter, often with limited experience.
- Butcher – often applied to a carpenter with limited skills and abilities.
- Brunnel - bridge-tunnel.
- Chancer – a person who does work that would normally be undertaken by a skilled craftsman. They are typically not properly qualified, or have not completed the required training or apprenticeship for the work they are doing and so are taking a chance on their ability to do the work to the required standard.
- Chippy – a popular site term for a carpenter (i.e one who 'chips' wood).
- Cowboy – a charlatan, chancer, one who masquerades as a skilled craftsman but who in reality has few qualifications or skills to do the work. Cowboys often have more success with those of limited knowledge concerning building construction.
- Dirty money – given as additional payments to workers who undertake tasks that are of an unpleasant nature, e.g having to descend into a sewer to clear a blockage.
- Dyker – a builder of dry-stone walls, usually a mason.
- Fixer – someone who builds with stone provided by a banker (see above). The term can also apply to any site operative who fixes a component into position e.g skirting boards. OR sometimes short for "Steel fixer" see below
- Football - a 9"x9"x9" hollow concrete block
- Ganger – a foreman who supervises a gang of workers or general operatives; usually works under a general foreman.
- Jobbing builder – someone who undertakes small jobs for various people, usually to do with maintenance or repair.
- Making good – see 'snagging'.
- Mate – an unqualified or part-qualified assistant to a skilled operative such as a roofer or painter.
- Nappy – portable bund to contain spills
- Navvy – usually applied to manual labourers, especially those who dig trenches or excavations, and especially on civil engineering projects. The term derives from the ‘navigators’ who dug canals (navigations).
- Rubber duck – slang for a wheeled excavator (as opposed to a tracked excavator)
- Saw doctor – one who sharpens and repairs saws and cutting tools. Also applied to those performing the same task in a saw mill.
- Shoddy – work that is of dubious or low quality.
- Snagging – the identification and rectification of faults, defects, mistakes or omissions in a completed construction, whether new or refurbishment, and making them known to the contractor in a snagging list (or 'punch' list).
- Spark /sparky – an electrician, usually a skilled operative who is fully qualified to undertake the work.
- Spread – a plasterer.
- Steel fixer – someone who erects steel reinforcement for reinforced concrete structures.
- Tupper – a worker who carries the hod for a bricklayer.
- Waster – someone who does no or little work.
- Working on the lump – receiving wages ‘gross’, without any deductions for tax and national insurance. In other words, the money is received as a lump sum.
See also: Unusual construction terms.
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- Glossary of electrical terms.
- Glossary of paving terms.
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- Notation and units on drawings and documents.
- Symbols on architectural drawings.
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