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Construction Jargon and Batter Boards

Posted by Cassie

In addition to the Puerto Rican Spanish I am learning, I am also learning Construction Spanish AND English vocabulary! :-)  I am learning all about rebar (varilla) and these things called aros (not sure in English what these little squares of rebar are called) and all the varieties of sand (arena and arenon), concrete (concreto, hormigon, concrelisto), lumber (madera, palos), sizes and types of nails (clavos galvinizados o de acero), sweet wire? (alambre dulce) saws (sierras), hammers (martillos) and sledgehammers (marrón o majón depending on the person), pickaxes (picotas), cutting shovel and others (pala de corte y otras palas) hoses (manga o manguera) etc.

This is because we spend a lot of our time in hardware stores (ferreterías) and with the guys that work with us on our projects. Our most recent step in the cabin project has been batter boards (Spanglish: bater bors). I had never even heard this term in English, but apparently it is essential to assure a square and level structure. That would have been nice to know when we built the chicken/turkey coops, but instead we have very “custom” coops, haha (hey, they ARE level at least!).

The cleared site

Britton (and sometimes I) worked every day for a couple of weeks cutting and clearing the space. It was hard, hot work! The site was finally deemed ready and cleared of enough trees and brush that they could start building the batter boards. So the first step in the batter boards is to set about measuring.


The next step is to build a wooden frame around the actual footprint of the structure that is level and squared. And finally, it is to drop the plumb bob (plomada) to determine exactly where to place the columns.

Building on a slope, we knew we would need poles/columns for a foundation because excavation and a slab foundation wouldn’t be feasible in this remote location. We even figured that we wouldn’t probably be able to use the poles from the wood house because they would be too short. What we didn’t figure was just how steep the slope was. We have learned that anything with walkable land in Puerto Rico is not considered steep. People often remark at how “flat” our land is. Flat is relative. On the plains of Colorado, we know flat. Flat as a fricken pancake. Here, though flat just means you can walk it without slipping over a cliff. So even though this site was “flat” by Puerto Rico standards, the batter boards don’t lie. Our front columns will be 8-10 feet high and the deck even more.

Way above my head  

Batter boards
And Britton’s too!

Site with batter boards
Batter boards, complete!

Next up, diggin’ holes in rocky soil under a hot sun for the columns. I am sure the vocabulary for THAT will be quite enlightening! :-)

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