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Cracking the Construction Lingo: A Ripper Glossary of Formie and Reo Terms

Building sites and builders are famous the world over for their sense of humour and language or jargon, as many call it.  Every English-speaking country in the world has their own innuendos, jibes, but most importantly references for certain parts or tools of the everyday labourers' world. 

We are here to try and work through some of the most common words you’ll find on-site and help Decode them. Decoding the jargon of crews on a building site is like finding your way through Sydney traffic at rush hour. 

Two construction workers on site

But don’t worry. Here’s a Blinky Bill-approved guide to some of the most common words that you will hear – along with their meanings – as when things get ‘formiey’ on a major construction project in Australia…it means the form reo pour process! Didn’t you know that??

Right, let’s get into it!

Formwork (Formie Terms)

  • Formwork - This is the temporary or permanent edifice (usually a framework) or material (usually wood boards or plywood) into which concrete or other materials are poured. In the context of concrete construction, the formwork bears the weight of the structure prior to it being able to withstand the weight itself and to impart the shape of the structure. 

  • Shuttering - Shuttering is another type of formwork like formwork which is used as a mould for a structure. that is temporary to put concrete until it hardens and gains enough strength to hold itself.

  • Falsework - A temporary structure used in a building to support an arch bridge or other complex structure formed during construction. Falsework serves as support prior to the concrete or other material used gaining sufficient strength.

Formwork and reinforcement

Reinforcement (Reo Terms)

  • Rebar (Reinforcing Bar) - This is a solid bar that is an intertwined mesh of steel wires. Which is used in reinforced concrete and masonry construction to strengthen and hold concrete in tension. Important for the improvement of tensile strength.

  • Tie Wire - Hard, pliable steel wire used by ironworkers to bind reinforcing steel (rebar) to each other. Sold in the form of rolls that can be cut off using a cutting tip at the end of a stubby handle dispenser, which attaches to the worker’s belt for easy access.

  • Stirrup - They are key components in reinforced concrete structures and are loops of steel bars that retain the main reinforcement bars. They are generally U-shaped or square.

  • Trench Mesh - A reinforcing mesh specifically designed for residential footing trenches and concrete beams used to reinforce concrete. It is laid in a trench to improve the strength of the foundation.

Pouring Concrete (Pour Terms)

  • Slump (in concrete) - The measurement of the ‘fluidity’ or workability of a concrete mix before it sets (ie goes hard). A concrete mix with a high slump number is more fluid.

  • Curing - Curing is the process of holding enough moisture, temperature and time for concrete to reach its required strength and durability. The concrete optimises its properties after good curing.

  • Screed - A flat board or a specialised aluminium bar. This tool is used to create a flat, even upper surface for concrete that has been placed over an old surface (e.g. old concrete) while it is still wet enough to be moulded (though it is past the point when aggregate can be removed with a screeding bar).

  • Trowelling - This process is carried out using a trowel, a hand tool with a flat steel blade for flattening and smoothing. Trowelling is done over the concrete after screeding to give a level and hard-finish surface even without surface cracks. 

Construction workers pouring concrete into reinforced formwork

General Construction Terminology

  • Chippie - It’s the Aussie term for a carpenter.

  • Dado - The part of the wall in a room at or around waist height, often with contrasting surface treatment to the rest of the wall.

  • Eaves - It’s what overhangs the walls. You know this from the lower portion and edge.

  • Gabled Roof - A roof consisting of two sloping surfaces.

These processes and tools are fundamental to the structural integrity and longevity of concrete-based constructions. Every one of them is performing a discrete role in the intricate dance of concrete construction.

If you are on a building site and do not know what on earth is going on then hopefully, our little guide here should help universalise the complex codes of the everyday construction language you find in Sydney and all over this country. 


So if you’ve been struggling and stumbled across us on here, then you’re in luck, mate. To achieve absolute bliss on your building site, you’ll need to UNDERSTAND THESE TERMS. Why? Without them, there’s NO WAY anyone will be on the same page, and the job will suck like a squashed, sun-dried tomato in August So, like the lovable curmudgeon you are, make sure your words are exactly as you like them. And make all the others speak your language. So learn the lingo onsite, and you’ll be good as gold.


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