and Renovation Glossary of Terms
“110” volt is a standard voltage household
circuit that can support most appliances,
lighting and more.
A “220” line is a high-voltage circuit designed
to support appliances requiring higher amperage;
for example, a 220 line is necessary to support
an electric dryer.
A type of paint with high pigment levels and
good color retention. Acrylic paint is made
up of a synthetic resin and is similar to
latex. It is fast-drying, and the end result
can be compared to a watercolor or oil painting.
An amount of money, or budget, captured within
the construction contract that is set aside
for expenses that will arise during the course
of the construction project. It is typically
used for details that will be decided after
work has begun, such as type of tile to be
used, cabinet fixtures, and similar details.
A type of paint with a metallic-looking finish.
This finish comes from aluminum particles
contained within the paint base.
Stop or Angle Supply
A shut-off valve that connects the water pipes
within the wall to the fixtures (faucet, toilet,
etc) on the exterior of the wall.
A professional who designs buildings or assists
in the renovation and planning of commercial
or residential spaces. An architect also oversees
and advises on creation of the design. An
architect must complete a course of study
and pass a test to be licensed by the state.
Architects are often needed any time you do
structural changes to a building, like removing
or adding walls.
Asbestos (or magnesium silicate) is a material
which was previously used in construction
and insulation products. Asbestos was an attractive
material due to its stability and fire-resistance.
Exposure to asbestos over long periods of
time has been proven to cause various types
of lung cancer.
A type of window that is hinged at the top
and the bottom panel, or sash, swings outward.
To prime, or apply paint to, the back or exterior
of a piece of woodwork. Back Priming helps
to prevent wood grain from contracting or
A board that runs along the base of the floor;
a baseboard covers the gap between the floor
and the adjoining wall.
A type of sink, circular in shape that has
sloping or curving sides.
A three-window unit, the Bay window usually
contains one large middle panel and two smaller
side panels. A bay window projects outward
from the walls of the home.
A written offer of a price that describes
the project, the work entailed, and the specified
cost for which the contractor is willing to
perform the work.
A bathroom fixture with hot and cold running
water which is used mainly for cleansing the
posterior parts of the body. Bidets originated
Bubbling that can form on a newly-painted
surface. Blistering is sometimes caused by
excessive heat, early application of a second
coat of paint (before the first coat is dry),
or moisture in the painted surface.
Mechanical drawings, prepared by an architect,
that show precise detail of a building or
space. Blueprints are used during the planning
and construction of a project.
Occurs on painted surfaces and is caused by
the presence of moisture during drying. Blushing
can occur with any type of paint but most
notably distorts gloss coats or clear lacquer.
A bond is an amount of money which secures
a contractor’s license with a certified governmental
agency. A bond can be used to pay unpaid bills
held by the contractor, or as a guarantee
or contingency that a project will be completed
A window unit composed of several window panels
that form a bow shape; each panel is typically
configured at a 10 degree angle. A bow window
projects outward from the walls of the home.
The space between the top of the upper cabinets
and the ceiling in kitchens. The soffit forms
a boxed framework in this space.
A single-window unit, the casement window
is usually hinged on the side, and opens outward.
The trim or molding that forms the frame around
doors and windows.
Used to seal gaps between surfaces, typically
in a kitchen, bathroom, or outdoor siding.
Caulking helps to prevent water leaks and
acts as a seal in general against the elements.
A modification made to the original contract;
this change is typically to the price, the
plans or other specification of the project.
The change order must be in writing.
A device located within the main electrical
panel or in a circuit breaker box. The main
purposes of the circuit breaker are: to regulate
the amount of power that flows through a given
circuit, and to shut power off to some or
all areas of a house.
The dye or pigment used to tint paint. Colorants
can be added to prepared paints or a base
in proportionate amounts to achieve a desired
A hard building material made by mixing a
cementing material (such as portland cement)
and sand or gravel with water. Commonly used
in construction of sidewalks, building foundations,
Board or Wonder Board
Typically used as the foundation for a tiled
surface, concrete board or wonder board is
a flat panel made out of concrete and fiberglass.
A legal agreement between the homeowner and
the contractor. A construction contract outlines
the details of the project, and usually contains
a project description, outline of the work,
timing, cost details, any blueprints or plans,
specifications, payment schedules, allowance
details, and a warranty
The timetable of a project. This timetable
should detail the dates of commencement and
anticipated completion of a project, and also
include a description of each phase in the
project and how long it will take relative
to the completion time of the entire project.
A legal agreement between the homeowner and
contractor that states the contractor’s compensation
for the job will be a percentage of the total
cost of the project’s labor and materials.
The time of a flush cycle for a toilet. The
cycle time begins when the toilet lever is
flushed and ends when the water supply shuts
A signed and sealed legal document that is
used to transfer a title; typically used for
real estate, automobiles, and other larger-scale
A professional (typically non-licensed) who
designs houses or elements of a residence,
including interior design, landscaping and
Valves, used in several plumbing fixtures
that divert water to different outlets. Diverters
are used in faucets, showers, bathtubs, and
A beam that redirects the weight, or load,
from above a door to the side door studs.
A window that utilizes two panes of glass.
Double glazing can help to improve energy
efficiency in a home and can provide similar
benefits as household insulation.
A window made up of two panels that slide
vertically to open. This window style is a
classic design and is typically constructed
or Drop Cloth
A sheet used to cover and protect furniture,
floors, and valuables during interior painting
Sometimes called “fungal wood rot”, dry rot
is a fungus that can eat away at wood fibers,
turning them to powder. Dry rot thrives in
moist and damp conditions.
or Gypsum Wallboard
A manufactured wall surface of plasterboard
or other material encased in a thin layer
of cardboard. Typically comes in panels.
A type of paint finish, or gloss. The finish/sheen
of eggshell is somewhere between flat (no
gloss) and semi-gloss (some gloss).
An alternative to the standard round toilet
bowl shape. The elongated toilet bowl is oval
in shape and is about 2” longer than a round
A type of paint. Enamel paint dries to a smooth,
hard finish. Enamel paint comes in a range
of finishes/ gloss levels.
A program supported by the U.S. EPA (Environmental
Protection Agency) that recognizes products
that are energy efficient. Energy Star labels
can be found on products ranging from air
conditioners to home heating equipment and
The process of determining the cost of a project.
Estimating typically results in a ballpark
cost estimate and usually occurs prior to
signing a final contract.
A joint that allows wood to contract and expand
during seasonal temperature fluctuations.
Glass in a fibrous form used in making various
types of products including bathtubs.
When painting, a top or final coat.
A type of contract that holds a set, agreed-upon
price for the work.
A term which is used to describe many items
within the home, typically in bathrooms and
kitchens. Examples include sinks, faucets,
bathtubs; almost anything exterior to the
A type of paint finish. Paint with a flat
finish has virtually no gloss or shine; it
is known to be less durable than paint with
a higher gloss.
The square footage of a building or space.
A drawing of a building or space that shows
the current or proposed design and specifications
of the room or rooms. Typically, a floor plan
will also show windows, doors, walls, and
A type of heating with natural gas, oil, electricity
or propane as fuel. The process involves heating
air in a furnace and distributing it via a
set of ducts to several areas of the house.
A wall that is part of the structure of a
building. A structural wall is made of studs,
a bottom and top plate, and a wall covering
such as drywall.
Hinged doors with multiple glass panes that
extend for most of the door’s lengths. French
hinged doors also have wider panel members
around the glass.
A decorative band, typically horizontal, that
can be found on the interior or exterior of
a building or home. It originates in architecture
dating back for centuries; a common style
of frieze is the egg-and-dart design.
A device that regulates the current of electricity.
A fuse, typically found in older homes, will
“break” and interrupt the circuit when the
current exceeds certain amperage and the fuse
A company or individual that is capable of
managing several types of construction and
renovation projects. A general contractor
will typically hire subcontractors and specialists
to work on various phases of a project; ultimately,
however, the general contractor holds responsibility
for completing the job.
A machine which converts mechanical energy
into electrical energy.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device
that is used to protect from injury caused
by contact with stray electrical currents
that could be the result of faulty appliances
or wiring, or water getting into an outlet.
GFCI’s are required in most new home construction.
Commonly referred to as GFI for short.
Describes the finish, or shine, of paint.
There are several levels of gloss, including
flat, velvet, eggshell, low luster, semi-gloss,
and high gloss. Typically, paint with a high
gloss level is more durable.
or Gallons Per Flush
A measure that describes the water consumption
To create the appearance of wood grain on
a surface through specialized painting techniques,
staining, or specially prepared paint colors.
A thin mortar that is typically used to fill
the spaces between floor or wall tiles and
other types of masonry.
A moveable showerhead that is connected to
the water supply with a hose. Hand showers
are an alternative to a fixed showerhead,
especially in bathtub showers.
A dense fiberboard made by first reducing
natural wood to fibers, and then pressing
the fibers together. Hardboard is available
in various sizes and thicknesses.
The floor area in front of a fireplace, or
the actual floor of the fireplace. The hearth
is usually constructed of brick, stone or
Radiator heating system. Hot Water Heating,
or Hydronic Heating, uses various types of
fuel to heat water; the water is then distributed
through pipes and radiators to provide heat
throughout the home.
Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning;
all appliances of the system used to condition
the air within the home.
A type of beam constructed of iron, steel
or wood that is shaped like the letter I at
its cross section.
“Professional-strength” paint; typically industrial
paint would be used for specific purposes,
or in commercial environments. It is usually
highly durable and ultra-resistant to chemicals
or environmental exposure.
A window or door construction that combines
two or more panes of glass. The spaces between
the panes are hermetically sealed.
Material used to prevent heat loss in a structure.
Insulation is usually placed within ceilings
and walls, and sometimes floors. Quality home
insulation can help to reduce heating or electricity
Vertical pieces of wood (or other material)
that line the sides of door and window frames.
A feature of a toilet that is designed to
start the siphoning action quickly by directing
water into the trap way. Jets are also used
in bathtubs to create a whirlpool type effect.
A knot is a part of a tree limb or branch
that is sometimes visible on the surface of
a plank of wood.
A level part of a stairway, either between
flights of stairs or at the end of a flight
Paint that uses latex as a binder. Latex paint
can be removed with water while it is wet.
A drying oil, derived from flaxseed, that
used in paint, lacquer and varnish products.
Toilets designed to use a small amount of
water per flush; currently only 1.6 gallons.
A style of toilet, usually glass or china,
where the bowl and tank are manufactured together
as one fixture.
A type of toilet seat rim, usually used in
commercial environments. An open-front toilet
seat has a space, at least 2-3 inches wide,
in the front of the rim. The seat resembles
a horseshoe in shape.
A board, typically rectangular in shape that
is set in a frame. Usually refers to the panels
within a door frame or cabinet.
A schedule of payments, usually included in
the contract, that describes at what point(s)
the customer will pay the contractor. May
include a deposit, periodic payments for materials,
work performed, and of course a final payment.
Authorization from local or state government
officials to perform work. Various types of
permits are needed in order to begin a project,
and may include zoning permits, building permits,
electrical permits, plumbing permits, and
A building material made of thin sheets of
wood that have been glued and pressed together.
A drain mechanism in which the stopper pops
up and down; this is controlled by a piece
within the faucet that pushes the stopper
either up or down.
A mixing valve within shower plumbing that
automatically maintains a constant water temperature;
this is done by regulating the changes in
pressure from incoming cold and hot water
supplies. The temperature remains constant
despite changes in hot or cold water pressure.
Used on a hot water heater or boiler. This
device is used to prevent the build-up of
steam within the tank by releasing steam when
pressure reaches a certain threshold.
A list of unfinished items, created toward
the end of a project, that must be completed
or corrected before the last and final payment
A type of pipe, typically used for water supply
or plumbing, made of a white, water-insoluble
A contractor that specializes in larger, more
involved home renovation projects. A remodeling
contractor has expertise with simple and complex
renovations, home additions, room and home
expansions, and more.
The upright piece of a step that sits between
one stair tread and the next.
The standard shape of a toilet bowl. A round
toilet bowl has dimensions of 14 inches wide
by 16 1⁄2 inches long, and is about 2 inches
shorter than an elongated bowl.
A measure of thermal resistance. The R-value
gauges the effectiveness of different types
of home insulation; the greater the R-value,
the greater the level of insulation quality.
A rough drawing of a room or building that
shows the general size and shape of the space.
The description of a project that includes
in-depth details and describes the work to
A programmable thermostat that can be set
to different temperatures at specified times
of the day or week.
Use of single panes of glass in a window.
An alternative to double glazing but not as
The suction or pulling action that occurs
in the trap-way of a toilet as it is flushed.
Siphoning is critical to the flushing functionality
of a toilet.
The visible, finished underside of a structural
part of a building; may include the underside
of staircases, eaves, arches, beams, or a
A contractor that is licensed to perform specialized
types of jobs or tasks; examples include electrical,
plumbing, appliance installation, and more.
A list of materials, model numbers, features
of appliances, colors, or other details that
supplements the contract or other document
detailing the scope of work.
Practices of the Trades
Minimum construction standards. Dictates that
the work will be performed in accordance with
set standards of the industry as established
by professionals in the field.
A General or Specialty contractor who works
for another General contractor. Most general
contractors will hire subcontractors that
specialize in certain areas (electrical, plumbing,
painting), to work on certain portions of
a given project.
Electrical switch that enables you to turn
a fixture on or off from two different locations.
Commonly used at the top and bottom of a flight
& Materials Contract
A contract which itemizes in detail the cost
of labor (billed hourly in this case), overhead,
A carpentry joint on a board or plank in which
the jutting edge (tongue) of one board fits
into the grooved end (groove) of another board.
Typically used in hardwood flooring.
The horizontal piece of a step.
Decorative woodwork typically used around
the edges of a room or building; usually trim
is found around windows, doors, or the baseboard.
& Knob Wiring
A common type of electrical wiring used prior
to World War II. Suitable for small fixtures
or electrical appliances that have low amperage
A standard toilet style that includes two
pieces, the tank and bowl, which are connected.
A layer of paint applied before the topcoat;
also called the base coat or primer.
A type of storage cabinet for bathrooms that
sits under the sink/counter.
A style of sink that is not fully installed
into the counter; it sits partially above
the counter. This type of basin is often glass
or porcelain and can be very colorful and
The designer, architect, contractor and/or
subcontractors meet at the project site to
evaluate the project and scope of work.
Toilets designed to use a minimum of 1.6 gallons
of water per flush and a maximum of 3.5 gallons
The measure of the electrical requirement
of an appliance or fixture. Wattage is calculated
by multiplying voltage by amperage.
The process of sealing openings or cracks
around windows and doors with metal, wood
or plastic materials. Weather-stripping prevents
air and water from getting in through such
gaps or openings.
Governmental specifications detailing how
certain property may be used. Examples include:
commercial, residential, high rise residential,
single or multi-family homes, etc.