Building a House : 25 Must Know Words for First time Home-owners


Every Industry has its keywords for communication, and the construction industry is no different. Building a home will expose you to many such terms that will often be a head-scratcher. What I indent to do is, assimilate critical words and provide you with context. 


You may find the meaning of these terms in many other articles, but you must understand its use for your home and how it can affect the overall outcome.


Scenario 1 :

If you are standing on your piece of land, the discussions will often involve plot area, FSI, Setbacks, Common Wall, and Built-up Area.

  • Plot area is the total Area of land on your agreement or legal paper. Mentioned in Sq.m or Sq.ft. ( though in India we are often exposed to local terms like gaj, guntha, decibel )
  • Setbacks are the distances between the boundary line of the plot and the constructible line. The Development Authority regulates the distance between two lines.
  • Common Wall is the shared boundary wall between your neighbor's plot and yours. Row Housing and Plotting Homes have this available.
  • FSI ( Floor Space Index ) is a number associated with your plot. The number can hover between 0.75 to 1.5. 

How does the number affect your plot? 

0.75 means if your plot is 1000sq.ft ( 10sq.m) you can construct 750sq.ft (7.5sq.m). 

Total Area Built = F.S.I x Plot Area

  • By now you can understand, built-up Area is the total Area you are permitted to construct.


Scenario 2:

You have taken a visit along with a professional to discuss the idea of your home. They may ask you questions that would include Soil Test, Water Table test, Surveyor.

  • Soil Test reveals the lands structural capabilities and limitations. Decisions related to the building's structure and the possibility of hosting a basement are only possible for a proper test. Pro-tip: people may quote for construction before asking for a soil test and later add on the cost as an excuse.
  • Every construction project is a water-intensive process. Having a source to provide an uninterrupted supply of water on site is a must. Water Table test can reveal the possibility of a bore well.
  • Surveyor, i.e. government certified, will draw up the correct site dimensions that match with government records. Never begin work on-site without having a proper survey done on-site.


Scenario 3:

Your sit-downs with an Architect or Engineer in the natal stages will involve multiple meetings. Your professional must understand the quality of life you expect from your home. Be open and honest in your expectations. You are working around words like Concept, Working Drawings, Services.

  • The concept is the way a designer summarises the entire process into a few ideas. Explore multiple Concepts to benefit from Strong Ideation. Every professional may have a unique approach. Choose the one that best suits your timelines and costs.
  • Working Drawings are also known as Construction Drawings. It has a material specification, dimensions of spaces and special instruction set for construction. A contractor can execute your home using them with accuracy. Pro-tip: Using Reference Images will lead to poor construction, inaccuracy and turn costly.
  • Services is the guts of any building. They involve your water supply, drainage, electricity, data connections, lighting, cooling and heating. 

Scenario 4:

As you invest time in exploring designs of the house, the idea starts taking a firm shape. Conversation shifts to various aspects of the house, which can involve Plinth, Sunk. Column and Sill & Lintel

  • Ground Floor of the house is also known as plinth floor. The plinth is associated with Area and height. Homes with coastal climate are better off with a higher plinth height.
  • Sunk is a portion of the floor with substantial dip to accommodate home services.
  • The column is the vertical member of the structure. In India, we use RCC ( reinforced cement concrete) to build our homes. A column can be steel and wood.
  • Sill and Lintel, the designer, will often discuss the size of doors and windows referring to Sill and Lintel heights. Just remember Sill is bottom and Lintel is top of the opening.


Scenario 5:

Once you enter the advanced stages of planning with your designer. Finalising a contractor, applicator and searching for vendors become essential.

  • Some agencies can execute certain aspects of building. Your contractor is often limited to completing the blueprint of the house. Hiring a different contractor to complete various elements is a prudent approach in planning. Speak with your design team to help you in the process.
  • Applicators are limited in their scope of involvement in the project. They are specialised skilled teams tasked with a single job on site. e.g. paint applicator, waterproofing applicator 
  • While sourcing for finished items or products, multiple outlets of the same brand are under different names or vendors, e.g. Daikin airconditioning can have various vendors. Always source multiple quotes to get the best rates.

Other Articles that may interest you :

  1. Checklist to build a house in India
  2. How to decide on a good Layout for your home?
  3. Checklist to build a house in India
  4. Building Codes Regulation


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