At some point in time, people who love where they live still want a major refresh for the home. Most home owners choose to focus their investment on kitchens and bathrooms, but certainly many choose to do the entire home or a necessary addition. If you’re looking to hire professionals to take on a major remodel, in addition to learning how contractors work, acquire a command of their lingo. Here are ten common construction terms to help get you started!

Blueprint. A blueprint is the drawn, architectural guide for construction. In older days, the architectural plans for a new home or remodeled construction were white lines printed on blue paper, hence the name. Nowadays, the plan for construction can come in digital formats and the term is interchangeable with “floor plans” and “drawings.”

Building Inspector. A building inspector is a government employee who is hired to ensure that any new construction or remodel is performed according to local building codes. Such codes are designed to uphold a level of health, safety, and compliance for plumbing and electric work. An inspector can put work on hold if it doesn’t meet set standards.

Building Permit. Think of a building permit as a green light to go forward with your construction plan. It’s a stamp of approval required for any type of remodel that includes changes such as taking down weight-bearing walls, cutting in new windows, or adding a room. Decks, fencing, and some plumbing and electrical work might each require permits. Check with your local building permit office to confirm if you need one. Failure to receive a permit for certain improvements could affect the future sale of your home.

Contractor. Also known as a General Contractor, this person is hired to oversee all aspects of your remodel, including costs, acquisition of materials, and hiring subcontractors who will perform the work. Choose a licensed and insured contractor.

Contractor’s Option. This may be part of the construction contract you sign to begin work. It’s a stipulation that allows the contractor the option to choose specific materials, methods, or systems from an approved list without needing to alter costs.

Double Glazed. This term refers to a type of window unit that is two to four panes of glass separated by a vacuum or inert gas. These type of windows (also used on doors) provide superior insulation for heat, cold, and sound.

Fixture. Many items that are attached to a wall are considered a fixture, such as chandeliers, sinks, bathtubs, handles, and built-in ovens. Items that are attached with screws or nails, such as shelving or paintings, are called fittings.

GFCI. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter is a device that breaks an electrical circuit to protect you from harm if exposed to a stray current. GFCIs are now required in all bathrooms, kitchens, garages, laundry rooms, and other areas where there’s a water source.
Roughing-In. This is a phase that involves basic installations and prep for initial inspection for all electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work. Each type of rough-in must be scheduled not to conflict with another.

MDF. Medium Density Fiberboard is often used in shelving and cabinetry. It’s sturdier than particle board but weaker than plywood and is ideal for sawing and drilling. Note that MDF is chemically treated with formaldehyde but is not a banned product in the U.S.

Now for one last clarification. While remodel and renovation are words most often used interchangeably, there’s actually a difference. Generally, renovating means updating without a change in purpose or function, such as painting walls or trading out tile countertops for quartz. Remodeling refers to a more invasive process of altering function of a room and often its configuration. Remodeling also tends to be more expensive, requires permits, and is better suited to construction professionals.

Real Estate Term of the Week

Penalty Clause: A clause in a construction contract that imposes a specified financial penalty on the owner or contractor for failure to fulfill their obligations.

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