Unless you live in a block of flats or a bungalow (one-storey house with or without an attic), British houses normally have two or three floors or stories. On the ground floor you're likely to find the living room, kitchen and dining room, while on the first floor you'll probably find bedrooms and a bathroom.
On the second or top floor is the attic, or loft. On the roof of many houses you can still see a chimney and chimney pot – even if the house now benefits from central heating.
The floors of a house are connected by stairs, with a landing (area) on the upper floor which leads to the upstairs rooms.
Most British houses are made of brick and cement. In a row of terrace houses (houses joined together), the interconnecting walls are cavity walls: they have a space between them to allow air to circulate. On the interiors, the walls are covered in plaster, and then either painted or decorated with wallpaper. The internal walls of a house fall into two categories: load-bearing walls (those that are structural and support the weight of the floors) and partition walls (those walls that divide rooms, but can be knocked down.) Floors and roofs are supported by strong>beams, which are long, heavy pieces of wood or metal.
Floors can be covered in a variety of materials, such as parquet (wooden squares), laminate flooring (a type of thin wooden plank), or tiles (either ceramic or vinyl). In living rooms and bedrooms, the floors are generally covered with carpets.
Houses are normally connected to local utilities, such as mains water, electricity and gas supply. In the countryside, not everyone is connected to mains gas, and some houses have gas tanks in their gardens. The vast majority of people are connected to the local sewage system (for waste water), but some people have their own septic tanks in their gardens to treat waste water. Houses that are connected to utilities have separate meters to show how much they consume. Representatives of these utility companies visit houses regularly to take meter readings – with which they can then bill their customers.
Some electrical jobs (such as wiring or rewiring = installing the electrical cables) should only be done by professional electricians, although you can still change a plug, or change a socket (the hole in the wall where you put the plug in to connect to the electricity supply). For safety reasons, the wiring in the house is on more than one circuit: lighting usually is on one circuit, and the sockets are on another circuit.
Some plumbing (water piping) jobs should also be done by professional plumbers. For example, although you can change taps, you should get a professional to install a gas boiler.
Some building work can be done without supervision. Many people enjoy doing DIY, such as putting up shelves, fitting cupboards and doors, assembling furniture and so on. However, for the big jobs, such as loft conversions and building extensions, you need to first apply for and obtain planning and building permission (from the local authorities) then employ a firm of builders.
In Britain, damp winter weather causes many problems to houses. For example, some houses can suffer from damp (humidity) or dry rot, caused by water seeping into walls and timber (wood). For this reason, houses have gutters (tubes attached just under the roof that run along the length of the house to catch rain water) and some may need regular damp proof treatment (special chemicals to prevent damp from spreading). Window sills (the piece of the wall – internal or external – in which the window is set) and window frames (the wood that goes around the window) should be made waterproof (so that water cannot get in), and most people have central heating via radiators to keep the air inside warm and dry. Special thermostats set on the wall help to regulate the temperature in the room. In addition, most people have insulation in the loft to keep warm air in, and cold air out.