When we work on a construction site, we need to know about a lot of things. Most of the things we need to know about are tools and things we use to do our job. For instance a wire is a long, thin, usually round piece of metal, most often used to conduct electricity. In these cases it is usually insulated with plastic or rubber insulation to stop the electric current passing through.
Wood is a specific type of material, but we also use the word lumber to refer to all wood products on the site, or in British English, the discarded products! Wood is a very common material used to construct smaller houses or buildings - a beam is a piece of wood or steel that goes right across a room, at the top, and is usually used in roofing, and in ceilings, to hold up other parts of the ceiling or roof. Some of those other parts will be the rafters, which are the beams that are usually in triangle shape which makes the roof. If you look up at the roof or ceiling of a big building or room, you can sometimes see the cross beams going from one side to the other. Bricks are the most common material that houses and other buildings are made from, and they are usually red or orange. Clay bricks are used in some countries. Workers use trowels to spread the cement on the bricks before they are put together.
A backhoe is a machine that is often used to dig holes for the foundations of the building, which usually go much deeper than the building itself. If the building is going to be very big, the excavation site may be very deep. A backhoe has a very big shovel that it brings toward itself -using a big mechanical arm - to dig a hole, and is sometimes the same machine used as an excavator. The difference is that a shovel tip is used on the backhoe. A shovel is the tool used to dig holes, and is very often used by people to dig small holes, while a pickaxe is like a shovel but is 'T' shaped. People swing it into the ground to break the ground, because it is steel on top, with a sharp end and a slightly rounded end. It has a spade-shaped head, and a long handle. A shovel is often used to put sand or dirt in a wheelbarrow, which is used to take away the sand or to carry things - it has one wheel and two handles so a person can take the handles and move sand or other things to somewhere else. It does require some balance, especially with a heavy load!
Vans are types of car that have a closed in space at the back for carrying objects or people, and they usually have a roller-door on the side. That is different to a pickup truck which has an open space at the back for carrying objects. Of course, a van or pickup truck has to ask someone to move a barricade which may be blocking the road. Places where barricades will be set up may be written in the blueprints - which detail the design for the entire building, but usually the barricade is temporary and not in the blueprints.
The van, and the people in the backhoe, and the other construction workers who are working on the building site usually communicate by two-way radio. People on the scaffolding - which is put up around the building for people to climb up and down and is usually made of steel, or bamboo in some Asian countries, have to be very careful that nothing falls from their toolbelt, which is worn around the waist like a normal belt, but is used to hang tools off.
A lot of machinery is used on a building site. A cement mixer churns up cement, which is used to stick bricks together. A builder is a person who works on a building site, who might lay bricks, build things or knock down walls using a giant heavy hammer, called a sledge hammer. A bulldozer is a a powerful machine used to knock buildings down and push the rubble into a pile. A digger can then pick this up and drop it into a dump truck which will take the rubbish away. Diggers are also used to dig holes in an excavation site, which is an area that has large holes dug into the ground in which to put the buildings foundations. A cherry picker is a machine that is used to lift builders up to high places, such as to a tree or the roof of a house. If it isn't too high then a ladder will be used which is like a vertical set of steps. A crane is a huge structure, used to lift heavy objects, such as a crate of bricks, up very high, like to the tenth floor of a building.
A builder uses lots of small tools too. He uses a spirit level, which is a tool to make sure something is completely horizontal or vertical. A tape measure is a long flexible ruler which winds up into a small metal casing, and is used to measure things. A bigger tool he might use is a pneumatic drill which is a tool about one metre high that drills down into concrete to break it up. It is very noisy, so builders use ear protectors to cover their ears and muffle the loud noise. To stop people walking where builders are working a cone is used, which is a brightly coloured plastic marker that looks like an ice cream cone. They also use a hard hat, which is a hat that covers most of the head and is made out of strong plastic so that if something falls it won't damage their head. To make sure people don't walk in the way of a piece of machinery people wave a flag, which is a piece of brightly coloured material on a stick. The man who waves it is called a linesman.
A board is a large, flat piece of wood, used for things like mixing cement on. It is often made out of plywood, which is a type of wood made out of lots of pieces of old bits of wood that are stuck together with glue. Some other material builders use is a girder, which is a large, heavy beam made out of strong metal. It is used to hold a building up, especially over a doorway or other weak area. A pipe is a long circular piece of metal which is hollow, so that water or gas can be pumped through it. Shingle is the name of the smalls stones that is mixed with sand and cement to make concrete. A trailer is attached to the back of a car and is used to carry materials around.
Try our interactive hangman game about things you will find at a construction site.
You may also be interested in our vocabulary notes about Workshop Tools.
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