A Remodeling Terminology Glossary for Homeowner Projects

Julissa Arangure
Written by Julissa Arangure
Updated January 7, 2022
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Highlights

  • Remodeling and renovating have two different definitions

  • A home remodel averages from $5,000 to $150,000

  • A general contractor manages the remodeling project

  • You may also need an architect or an interior designer for remodel planning

  • The home’s exterior and the kitchen are the most common remodeling jobs

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A home remodel can come with a lot of rewards. You can enhance your home’s aesthetic and function, increase its value, and more. Whether you have a professional in mind or plan to DIY, you may come across a variety of terms that you are not familiar with but are important to know in order to make the right decisions for your home. Refer to this glossary of common remodeling terms to get started on your big plans.

Remodel vs. Renovation Definitions

Couple plans home renovation.
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You will often hear people use these two real estate terms, which sound similar but have two different meanings. Renovation means restoring something that already exists. A renovation project can include painting a bathroom, upgrading your flooring, or switching out kitchen cabinets for newer ones. The function of a room in a renovation doesn’t change.

A remodeling project is a little more involved. The structure and functionality often change. These types of projects could include construction to remove a wall, rearrange the layout of your kitchen, or turn a bedroom into a home office. 

Cost of a Remodel

According to HomeAdvisor, a home remodel can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $150,000, depending on your needs. Factors that can change the price are your location, the quality of materials, and the size of your home or space. The exterior of your home is the most popular remodeling project and the costlier of the bunch; the kitchen and bathroom are pretty common areas to reinvent as well. All of these projects are high contributors to improving your home’s resale value.

Remodeling Terminology Glossary

Alterations

Alterations are additions or improvements made to homes through contractors or DIY work. This can include any task, from rearranging furniture or adding a door to installing a bigger sink in the kitchen.

Blueprint

A blueprint is a technical way of showing a design with details that can guide the remodeling team.

Building Inspector

A building inspector reviews plans and visits the construction site to ensure all regulations and codes are met. An inspector can also examine electrical and wiring, HVAC, and plumbing to check for proper standards and code compliance. A building inspector can shut a project down if requirements aren't up to par.

Building Permit

The city must grant building permit authorizations before starting construction on any property. Check with your contractor about permits before signing a contract; you can also contact your municipal building department for more details.

Ceiling Joist

A wood or steel beam positioned horizontally between the top sides of the wall frame. Finished ceiling material and rafters are nailed to these beams for support.

Construction Contract

A construction contract details the scope of work, subcontractors, project pricing, and any additional terms agreed with the property owner.

Consultant

A consultant provides professional and expert advice in a particular field. When it comes to remodeling, this could be an architect or interior designer. 

Demolition

Demolition entails destroying a structure or element. For example, removing a wall to achieve an open floor plan or tearing down an old shed to make room for a new build.

Drywall

Drywall consists of material used to create ceiling and wall surfaces and can also be used to create arches and many architectural custom-designed structures.

Estimate

The cost estimate is a document that includes the cost of materials, equipment, job scope cost, and transportation.

Finish or Finished Carpentry 

A type of carpentry that focuses on cabinetry, model building, fine woodworking, joinery, parquetry, and other similar projects that involve acute attention to detail.

Fixed Fee

Fixed costs don't change, no matter the quantity of goods or services produced. These costs are agreed upon with your contractor.

Fixture

In real estate, a fixture is any object permanently attached to a property, whether using bolts, nails, cement, or other methods.

Floor Plan

Review floor plans on tablet
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A floor plan is a visual representation of a home's interior as viewed from above. It details elements of the house, such as walls, doors, windows, stairs, and certain appliances and HVAC systems. 

General Contractor 

A general contractor oversees a construction project and crew members and is responsible for building a contract directly with the property owner.  

Gutting a Home

In real estate, "gutting a home" means a complete remodel. Wiping the home's slate clean may entail removing windows, doors, plumbing, cabinetry, fixtures, and more.

HVAC

HVAC is an abbreviation for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. HVAC includes elements like your home’s heating and cooling appliances and vent systems.

Insulation

Insulation reduces the transfer of outdoor temperatures to inside your home; it also protects against sound and moisture. Insulation provides a barrier between your home's walls and comes in several formats depending on its usage and R-value. Types of insulation include cellulose, fiberglass, spray foam, and radiant barriers.

Load-Bearing Wall 

​​Any wall in the structure that acts as foundational support for a load resting upon it. These walls are usually composed of sturdy materials, such as wood, steel, block, or concrete.

Punch List 

A construction project list that helps organize deliverables by detailing all of the tasks.

Remodeling Contract

A remodeling contract is a thorough contract that includes all of the details and pricing of a project to avoid miscommunication between the client and the project manager or work crew.

Rough Carpentry

Involves roofing, framing, form work, and other complex, large-scale structural projects that do not necessarily have to be polished or finely designed.

Specs

Specs is an abbreviation for "specifications." Specs list finishes, materials, sizes, and methods used to complete your project.   

Subcontractor

Subcontractors are people or companies hired by your general contractor—like an electrician or plumber—to do a specific job. 

Trim

This finishing element includes moldings for interior rooms and exteriors, as well as windows, doors, and shutters. 

Walk-Through

A walk-through is usually the last thing property owners and contractors do to ensure that everything was done correctly and that the property is in better condition since the last viewing.  

Hire the Right Person for a Remodel 

Who you hire to remodel your space depends on what the job entails and if you want to make a lot of structural changes to your space. Many homeowners turn to architects and interior designers to complement the licensed general contractor who is in charge of overseeing the job. Look for a contractor in your area to get started on your dream home. 

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