Home Renovation Glossary

Last updated: Aug 05, 2022

Renovations can be overwhelming and confusing — especially if you're unfamiliar with some of the industry lingo that experts use. So, we’ve compiled a list of terms that will help you better understand the renovation process and start building your dream home.

Glossary of Terms

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110 Line

“110” volt is a standard voltage household circuit that can support most appliances, lighting, and more.

220 Line

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.

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AC stands for an air conditioner which is a system for controlling humidity, ventilation, and temperature to maintain a cool atmosphere in warm conditions.

AC Condenser

Located outside your home, the AC condenser uses a fan to remove heat from the freon gas and turn it back into a liquid that is pumped into the indoor unit.


ADA stands for Americans with Disabilities Act, which explains accessibility guidelines for building design.


An additon includes either new rooms or square footage that is added to a home.


ADU stands for accessory dwelling unit, which is also known as a mother-in-law apartment. It is used to designate any additional legal residence that is incoporated into a single-family home.


Aggregate can be made up of sand, gravel, or crushed rock. It is used to create a strong fondation by being mixed into concrete.


This is a part of the construction budget that reserved for items that still needs to be selected. For example, if a homeowner is still undecided about tiles, the building contract would account for that with an allowance.


An apprentice is a construction professional (e.g. plumber or electrician in the making) who is training and working under the supervision of a licensed individual


This is the vertical trim board under a window.


Architects are licensed professionals who design buildings, both residential and commercial.

Area Wells

This is the metal or concrete holding back the earth to make space for basement windows.


Asbestos is a mineral material that was used for fireproofing, but was found to be a dangerous carcinogen. If you're renovating an holder home, be cautious about distrubing materials that contain asbestos.

Awning Window

It is a window that hinges at the top and usually operated with a crank.

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Holes and exposed areas that occur during construction when laying down a foundation or running underground pipes are backfilled with dirt.


Supportive framing lumber was installed between studs and behind drywall for towel holders, cabinets, and railings.


A waterproof surface installed behind a kitchen countertop that is easy to clean, such as tile.


The baseboard is a trim board around a room that connects between the wall and the floor.

Basement Finishing

You can increase your living space by expanding downwards as you insulate and add finished flooring and drywall to your basement.


Wooden or steel structures are used as replacements when a wall is removed to support the weight of a home.


A legally binding contract that lays out specific work that a contractor must fulfill as part of a construction project.


A crane truck for transporting heavy construction items and elevating them to the right floor level.

Building Codes

Building codes are international stipulations that state how a home must be constructed. Though these rules are standardized almost everywhere, cities and municipalities may add on their own codes as well.

Building Permit

An authorization issued by your local government, city, or municipality approving a construction project to allow contractors to move forward with it.


A one-story small house or cottage is usually accompanied by large front porches and verandas.

Built environment

It is the space that people have created for themselves in which they can live, work, and enjoy leisure activities.

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Cabinet Refacing

A more cost-friendly alternative to cabinet replacement where existing cabinets are repainted or have a veneer applied to them.


Computer-aided design (CAD) is a design that has been created using software instead of pen and paper for a project. This allows plans to be made in 3D.


Carpeting is a floor covering made of thick woven fabric, such as nylon, polyester, or natural wool.


Caulk is used to fill gaps. It is a flexible material that is designed to stretch before hardening during the drying process.


An individual who possesses wood craftsmanship.

Ceiling Joist

Resting on load-bearing walls, ceiling joists are parallel framing structures that support ceiling loads.


Cement is the adhesive element of concrete.

Ceramic Tile

A fire or glazed clay tile is used for flowing, showers, and/or walls.

Certificate of Occupancy

A municipality-issued document certifying that a building is in compliance with building codes and can be lived in.

Change Order

Change orders are modifications made to a project during construction or alterations to the terms of the renovation contract that need to be approved by the homeowner.


A concrete or steel vertical structure that supports the weight of the building.


Used for foundations, slabs, and structural columns, concrete is a material made out of the sand, gravel, portland cement, and water.

Concrete Block

A hollow concrete brick (also known as cinderblock)


When it comes to home renovations, a contract is a legal document between the homeowner and a construction professional (e.g. designer, architect, general contractor) outlining the details of the project.


A contractor will oversee most aspects of a construction project, but is not usually licensed to do specialized work. The contractor will hire subcontractors who are skilled in that certain trade to work on those tasks, such as plumbers or electricians.

Cosmetic Upgrade

While maintaining the current layout of a room, cosmetic upgrades involve a remodeling project where paint and other surfaces are refreshed.

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A Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU) is a small home that is constructed on the same lot of a single-family home which can sometimes be build on a garage.


Demo stands for demolition, which is construction work to remove existing fixtures, walls, or other structures to prepare a space for renovation.

Design Build

A design build approach combines design and construction functions together under one company who will be entirely responsible for the success of a renovation project.

Design Review

During a design review, local authorities will verify building plans to ensure building code compliance for the issuance of building permits.


A draw involves progress billings that a contractor can make at each stage of a project for work that has been completed.


A drywall is a gypsum plaster panel used in homes.


Ducting are light metal tubes that are part of the HVAC system and help move conditioned air around the house.

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Egress Window

Egress windows are large windows that can double as an emergency exit. They also have specific requirements according to building codes.


A construction professional specialized in the installation and fixing of electrical equipment.


A project's costs of labor and building materials as estimated by a contractor — the latter can be subject to change depending on the project's final scope of work.

Existing Conditions

A home's existing conditions refer to its original layout to differentiate it from suggested renovations from building plans.

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Field Measurements

As opposed to blueprint dimensions, field measurements are taken on the home itself.

Finish Carpentry

Finish carpentry includes finishing touches such as installing trim, doors, cabinets, stairs, and flooring after the main structural construction is completed.

Floor Plan

The basic layout of a building is drawn on a horizontal plane.


The foundation is the concrete structure that is laid out below the first floor of a home.


An entry hall of a home


Lumber is used to build the structure of a building, such as joists, studs, and rafters.

French Drain

A perforated drain pipe covered by gravel located outside the perimeter of a home to keep its basement dry.

Full Review

Authorities verify proposed building plans to ensure that they meet all zoning, safety, and building codes when it comes to large construction projects.

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General Contractor

A general contractor will supervise most aspects of a construction project. Though they may have a more hands-on role at times, they are not usually licensed to do specialized work, such as plumbing or electrical. The contractor will hire subcontrators who are skilled in that certain trade to work on those tasks.


Grade refers to the level of the ground. A basement is usually considered below grade.

Green Building

A building designed to reduce or eliminate negative impacts on our climate and environment.


A filler for the space that exists between tiles.

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