The Quickie Guidebook to Contractor-ese

Whether the project is a simple addition or a large-scale renovation, talking with a contractor may seem like talking with someone from another country, one with a common linguistic root. If it’s re-laminating a floor or replacing the roof, speaking contractor-ese is one way that homeowners can ensure they’re doing their job to code and to spec – and keep their contractor honest. (Source:

10 Common Remodeling Terms

1. Flashing: this refers to the weather-stripping used to prevent water damage in between joints, such as where the chimney and roof meet, usually sheet metal.

2. Easement: this refers to a contract permitting the use of another’s property for a limited and specified purpose. A typical example might an agreement to pass sewer lines through a neighbor’s yard.

3. Egress: this refers to the means of exiting a place. Any building must comply with regulations addressing proper egress, which ensures that people can safely escape in the event of an emergency.

4. Joists: this refers to the construction material ran parallel to one another to support floors, roofs, and ceilings (beams). Generally made of wood.

5. Load-Bearing Walls: this refers to the walls that are designed to support the weight of a building. These are not outside the purview of homeowners, who can determine which walls these will be by reviewing the original building plans for their home. Exterior walls and center walls in the interior are generally designed to be able to support the home’s weight.

6. Molding: refers to decorative wood (or imitation wood) boarders that hinge the tops of walls to ceilings, with crown molding connecting ceilings and walls and base molding joining floors and walls.

7. Setback: this refers to the space between your property line and the road and is generally regulated by government-set building codes. Limitations may exist as to how far a fence or landscaping can be placed, so check with the city zoning department before you start any extension of your property.

8. Stair Rise: this refers to the vertical distance between stair steps or treads.   A stair rise should not exceed 7.5 inches.

9. Sub: this one is simply an abbreviation for subcontractor (or specialty tradesman). On a construction project team, the general contractor manages it, and generates the contract with the homeowner. S/he then will hire subcontractors of varying specializations to work on related aspects of the job.

10. Tongue and Groove (T&G): refers to a wood joint in which edges are fit together to form a level surface, kind of like pieces of a puzzle. These are often used for flooring.