Jul. 21 2023

Innovative Home Renovation's Terms and Definitions For Your Seattle Home Remodel!

by Bennett Bottorff

For those embarking on a Seattle home remodel and grappling with unfamiliar terminology, this dictionary of terms comes to the rescue. Within this comprehensive guide, you'll find an extensive collection of words and phrases commonly used in the remodeling, architecture, interior design, and construction industries. With remodelers and designers often speaking their own language, it becomes crucial to grasp these terms, especially when making a significant investment in your home.


AC - Air conditioner or alternating current (the standard current in homes).

AC Condenser - The outdoor unit of the air conditioning system that removes heat from the freon gas, converting it back into a liquid and allowing it to be pumped to the indoor unit.

ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act. It sets guidelines for accessibility in building design, ensuring equal access for individuals with disabilities.

Additions - Additional rooms or square footage added to a home.

ADU - Accessory dwelling unit, also known as a mother-in-law apartment. It is a separate legal residence incorporated into a single-family home, typically with its own entrance, electrical service, and egress.

Air Gap - This plumbing technique prevents backflow through a pipe by allowing air to enter to break a siphon.

Aggregate - Sand, gravel, or crushed rock used in concrete to create a strong foundation.

Allowance(s) - A sum of money set aside in the construction contract for items that have yet to be selected and specified in the construction contract. For example, selecting tile as flooring may require an allowance for an underlayment material or an electrical allowance, which sets aside an amount of money to be spent on electrical fixtures.

Anchor Bolts - Heavy galvanized bolts that securely attach the wooden sill plate to the concrete foundation.

Appliance Garage - A kitchen cabinet, usually at counter level, dedicated to storing small appliances, like the toaster, stand mixer, microwave, and coffee maker.

See also: Ditch the Messy Kitchen Pantry with These 5 Steps to Pantry Envy.

Appraisal - An expert valuation of the property.  


Apprentice - A trainee in a trade profession, such as plumbing or electrical work, who works under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Apron - The vertical trim board under a window.


Area Wells - The metal or concrete that holds back the earth to make space for basement windows.


Architect - One who has completed a course of study in building and design and is licensed by the state as an architect. One who draws up plans and designs buildings.

Asbestos - (magnesium silicate)

Assessment - A tax levied on a property or a value placed on the worth of a property.


Attic Access - An opening in the ceiling providing passage to the attic, typically accessed via fold-down wooden stairs or a ladder.

Attic Ventilator - An exhaust fan and vent system are installed on the exterior of the attic, allowing fresh air circulation and helping to cool the home.

Awning Window- A window that hinges at the top. Often, it operates with a crank.



Backfilling - The process of filling in holes or trenches created during construction with soil or other materials.

Backing - Framing lumber installed between studs and behind drywall to provide support for fixtures, cabinets, towel holders, etc.

Backsplash - A waterproof surface, usually made of tile, installed behind a kitchen countertop to protect the wall from splatters and spills.

See also - 6 Ways to Upgrade the Look of Your Kitchen for Less Than $100.

Balloon Framing - A construction technique where wall studs run from the bottom plate to the roof plate, allowing for uninterrupted vertical framing. Second-floor joists rest on a horizontal ledger attached to the studs.

Balusters - The vertical slats or spindles between the railing and the stair treads.


Balustrade - The entire assembly of railing, balusters, and posts that borders a stairway or walkway.

Barge - A horizontal rafter in the roof of a home that supports shorter rafters.

Baseboard- A Board that runs along the base of the floor; a baseboard covers the gap between the floor and the adjoining wall.


Basement Finishing - The process of converting a basement into a livable space by adding insulation, finished flooring, drywall, and other amenities.

Batt - A piece of insulation—usually fiberglass, rock wool, or cotton—that fits between studs in a wall. Standard widths are 15" or 23". Batts can be 4' or 8' long or come in longer rolls. They are available in various thicknesses to fit walls framed with 2x4 or 2x6 studs. 

Batten - Narrow strips of wood used to cover joints between plywood sheets or wide boards, commonly used in board-and-batten siding.

Bay Window - A window that projects out from the side of the house, often forming a square or polygonal shape.

Beams - These wooden or steel structures run horizontally to support the structure. When a wall is removed, a support beam is put in its place, either recessed in the ceiling or directly beneath it, to support the weight of the home.

Bearing Partition - A wall that helps support the structure above. Also referred to as a "bearing wall."

Bearing Point - A point in a structure where heavy loads are concentrated and transferred to the foundation via a column or other support.

Bearing Wall - An interior wall that not only supports its own weight but helps carry the weight of the floors above or the roof. In contrast to a non-bearing wall, which has no structural role and can usually be removed.

Bid - 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 job.


Bifold door - Doors hinged in the middle for opening in a smaller area than standard swing doors are often used for closet doors.


Blackwater - Wastewater from toilets.

Blistering - 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.


Blocking - These small wood pieces are attached to the framing members to brace or provide a place to nail drywall into.


Blown-In Insulation - Loose fiber insulation that is laid down using a blower system. It is commonly used in attics and walls, where placing insulation batts can be difficult or impossible.

Board Foot - A unit of measure for lumber, equal to a piece measuring 12" x 12" x 1". For example, a 16-foot 2" x 12" board would be 32 board feet.

Boom - A crane truck used for lifting and placing heavy construction items, such as roof trusses.

Bottom Plate - The boards that sit on the subfloor and to which vertical studs are attached to construct a wall.

Brace - A diagonal piece of wood that supports or reinforces a wall structure, often used temporarily during construction.

Breaker Panel - An electrical box that houses the circuit breakers for a home's electrical system.

Broom Finish - A rough concrete surface finish is achieved using a stiff broom on wet concrete, commonly seen on sidewalks, driveways, and stairs.

Building Codes - Regulations that specify construction standards and requirements for buildings. These codes ensure safety and compliance with local building regulations.

Blushing - Occurs on painted surfaces and is caused by moisture during drying. Blushing can occur with any type of paint but most notably distorts gloss coats or clear lacquer.


Building Paper - Coated or impregnated paper that comes in rolls, used in construction for various purposes. Sometimes it is heavy felt and often placed under shingles when roofing.


Building Permit - Official approval granted by the local government to proceed with a construction project after reviewing the building plans.

See also: Do You Need a Permit for Your Remodel?

Bull Nose - A type of rounded corner treatment on drywall.


Bull-Nose Tile - Tile with a finished edge, typically rounded, to provide a smooth transition from tile to the wall.

Bump-Out Addition - A small addition to a house that protrudes from the side, providing extra space. It can be smaller than a complete room addition or, in some cases, larger.

Bungalow - A small house or cottage, usually one story, with an optional upper floor set into the roof with dormers. Bungalows often feature large front porches and verandas.

Bypass doors - Doors that slide by each other and are commonly used as closet doors.


Cabinet Refacing - The process of renewing existing cabinets by repainting or applying a veneer, sometimes including adding new cabinet doors and hardware.

CAD - Computer-aided design refers to using software for project design, offering speed, accuracy, and the ability to create three-dimensional models.

Cantilever - A section of the house that overhangs the foundation.

Carpenter - A person who works with or repairs wood in homes.

Carpeting - A thick woven fabric floor covering with a stiff backing, typically installed wall-to-wall. It comes in various materials, including nylon, olefin, polyester, and wool.

Case Goods - Non-upholstered furniture, such as desks, tables, chairs, and storage chests.

Casement Window - A window that hinges on the side and opens like a door.

Casing - The trim or molding that forms the frame around doors and windows.


Cathedral Ceiling - A slanted ceiling that rises through more than one floor.


Caulking - A flexible material used to fill gaps. Some caulk dries hard, but most are designed to stretch. Some caulk can be painted, and other types are formulated to be waterproof and resist mold in damp environments.


Cedar Shakes - A shake is split from a log, sometimes by hand, into a wedge shape. It can be used for roofing or, more commonly, for siding. It is different from a wood shingle, which is milled from a solid wood block.


Ceiling Joist - Parallel framing members that span ceiling sections to support loads. These usually rest on load-bearing walls.


Cement - The adhesive element used in concrete, typically Portland cement in powder form.

Ceramic Tile - A Clay tile, usually fired and glazed, used for flooring, shower enclosures, and walls.

Certificate of Occupancy - An official document issued by a municipality certifying that a building complies with building codes and is deemed habitable.

CFM - Cubic feet per minute, a unit of measurement for the volume of air moved by a blower or exhaust fan.

Chair Rail - A trim piece installed 3 or 4 feet above the floor protects the wall from chair backs.

Chalk Line - A straight line created by stretching a string covered in chalk dust between two points and snapping it, often used to align walls or mark cuts.

Change Order- When homeowners decide to change a construction project or alter the contract terms, they must sign a written change order to record their approval.

Chase - An enclosed space that is framed into a wall for plumbing or electrical wires to pass through, unobstructed.

Chip Board - Also known as oriented-strand board (OSB), a manufactured wood panel made from compressed wood chips and glue, commonly used for exterior sheathing.

Circuit Breaker - Found in the home’s electrical panel. They are designed to trip automatically if there is a dangerous short.

Clean Out - An opening through which a drain line can be accessed and usually closed with a threaded plug, which can be opened and closed as needed.

Cold Air Return- The ducts that carry cool room air back to the furnace, where it is reheated.


Column - A vertical support structure, typically made of concrete or steel, that carries the weight of the building above it.

Concrete - A mixture of sand, gravel, cement (typically Portland cement), and water. It is commonly used for foundations, slabs, and structural elements.

See also: Don't Waste Your Money on These 5 Trendy Kitchen Remodeling Ideas

Concrete Block - Also known as a cinder block, a hollow concrete brick typically measuring 8" x 8" x 16", often reinforced with rebar.

Conduit - A small metal pipe used for running electrical wiring.

Construction Contract - A legal agreement between the homeowner and the contractor. A construction contract outlines the details of the project. Usually, it contains a project description, outline of the work, timing, cost details, blueprints or plans, specifications, payment schedules, allowance details, and a warranty statement.


Contract - A legally binding document between two or more parties, such as a homeowner and a contractor, specifying the terms and conditions of a construction project.

Contractor - A licensed company or individual responsible for general or specialty construction work, often overseeing various aspects of a project and hiring subcontractors for specialized tasks

Control Joint - Lines cut into a concrete slab to control and direct where cracking occurs.

Copper Pipe - A common material used to plumb the supply side of homes. Other materials used in place of copper are PEX and galvanized steel.


Corbel - The triangle-shaped piece that holds up a shelf or mantel. It can sometimes be decorative.


Corner Bead - An L-shaped piece of metal that is placed on the outside corners of drywall where two walls meet. It creates a perfect right-angle corner that can be coated with drywall mud.


Cosmetic Upgrade - A remodeling project in which paint and other surfaces are renewed, but the rooms' layout and the appliances' positioning remain the same.


Cost Plus - The owner agrees to pay the cost of the work, including all trade subcontractor work, labor, materials, and equipment, plus an amount for the contractor’s overhead and profit.


Countertops - The horizontal surfaces are installed in kitchens, bathrooms, and sometimes laundry rooms. These can be made from many different materials, usually ones that are easy to clean and durable.

Cover - commonly referred to as drywall or sheetrock. Wall and ceiling interior covering material, unusually gypsum panels.


Craftsman Style - A home-style originating from the Arts and Crafts Movement, characterized by covered front porches with tapered columns, exposed rafter tails, built-in cabinetry, deep roof eaves, single dormers, handcrafted woodwork, and an open floor plan.

Crawlspace - The small space below the home's bottom floor is enclosed by the foundation wall. Usually, the crawlspace has a dirt floor, but some have been paved with concrete or otherwise sealed and insulated. 

Crown molding - A molding used on a cornice or wherever an interior angle is to be covered, especially at the roof and wall corner.

Curb Appeal - Landscaping, the front door, hardscaping, plantings, and other elements that make a home attractive from the outside, looking in from the street.

Curbless Shower - Also called a walk-in shower. A shower that has no curb to step over to enter it. They are an important element of universal design, but they are also a convenient feature for anyone.


DADU - Detached accessory dwelling unit. A small home built on a lot of a single-family home. Sometimes built atop or combined with a garage, also called a backyard cottage, a carriage house, or a backyard stud.

Daylight Basement - A basement with windows and a door on one end. It can be built on a lot with a slope. Also called a walk-out basement.

See also: Seattle Basement and ADU Remodels with CRD Design Build.

Dead Light - The section of a window unit that does not open.

Demo - Demolition. The removal of existing fixtures, walls, and other structures and materials to make a space ready for renovation.

Design-Build - An approach to remodeling in which design and construction functions are all under one roof. The benefits of the design-build approach are that accurate running estimates of construction costs can be made throughout the design phase and that all responsibility for the success of the project falls on one company instead of on two companies, neither of which will want to take the blame if something goes wrong.

Design Center - A builder or remodeler's showroom where product samples are displayed.

Design Review - The process by which local authorities check building plans to ensure they comply with building codes. If the design review is approved, a building permit will be issued.

Dimension - The distance between points.

Disconnect - A large switch that disconnects an electrical circuit. Commonly, a disconnect is placed next to the air conditioner unit.

Doorjamb - The wooden frame that is installed into a wall and into which the door is placed. Doorstops are attached to the side and top doorjambs to keep the door from swinging the wrong way and to aid in air sealing. Often, doors come prepackaged with their jambs.

Dormer - An opening in a sloping roof, out of which a small roof section protrudes. The dormer has a vertical wall that can house a window or windows. Dormers can help create more living space in a room with sloped walls.  When renovating an attic space, dormers can be added to create a functional room.

Double Glazing - A window that utilizes two panes of glass. Double glazing can help improve energy efficiency in a home and provide similar benefits as household insulation. (aka Insulating Glass)


Double-Hung Window - Windows in which both the upper and lower sections of glass can be slid up and down


Double Vanity - A vanity in a bathroom with two sinks.


Dovetail Joint - A flaring mortise-and-tenon joint that creates a sturdy right-angle connection between two pieces of wood. Dovetails are the quality standard for drawers.

See also: 5 of the Most Durable Kitchen Materials.

Downspout - A metal pipe that carries rainwater from the roof gutters to ground level.

Draw - Progress billings for projects being built under a fixed-price contract. A contractor will make regular draws from the construction budget as each project stage is completed. Only completed work is paid for.

Drip Cap - A piece of exterior metal flashing or other molding placed above a door or window that keeps rainwater from dripping down over it.

Dry In - When the tar paper or roofing felt is installed on a roof, a home is considered dried in since it relatively impervious to rainwater at that stage.

Drywall (Gypsum Wallboard, Sheet Rock) - A manufactured wall surface of plasterboard or other material encased in a thin layer of cardboard. Typically comes in panels.


Ducting- Light metal tubes that carry conditioned air and return unconditioned air through a house. An integral part of the HVAC system.


Dust Control - A system put in place by a remodeler to keep dust from accumulating or getting into the air. It may mean dust collection at the source, such as a vacuum attached to a saw or an active air filtration. Some systems use portable plastic barriers to separate the area under construction from the rest of the home. Systems may include negative pressure so that dust that is created doesn't drift into other rooms.

See also: Why the "During" Is as Important as "Before" or "After" the Home Remodel.


Earthquake Strap - A metal strap that attaches a water heater or other fixed appliance to the wall so that it doesn't tip in case of an earthquake.

Eased Edges - A corner profile for countertops. Eased-edge countertops are slightly rounded on the top-front edge to prevent chipping and make them safer and more comfortable to use.

Easement - A legal contract that allows someone to use a portion of another's property, usually for a specific use, like to run a sewer line or a driveway. When purchasing a property, it is part of your due diligence to check for any easements.

Eaves - The overhang of the roof past the vertical walls.

Egress Window - A large window that can be used to exit a home in case of emergency. Building codes have specific requirements for egress for every part of the home.

Electric Resistance Heater - Baseboard or cove heater that produces heat by passing an electric current through metal wires.  Not as efficient as a heat pump, for instance.

See also: Best Heating System for Your Seattle Home.

Electrical Rough - A phase of work performed by the electrician. Wires are run, and electrical boxes are installed, but the finish plates are not. Electrical rough typically occurs after the plumbing rough.

Electrical Service - A term that describes the connection from the main electrical utility to the first point of contact in a home, usually the main breaker box.  

Electrical Trim - The electrician's final steps to prepare a home for electrical inspection. Switches, plugs, covers, bath fans, and other items are installed.

Electrician- A person who installs and fixes electrical equipment. In most cases, a licensed electrician must go through an apprenticeship program.

Electric Resistance Heater - Baseboard or cove heater that produces heat by passing an electric current through metal wires. Not as efficient as a heat pump, for instance.

Electrical Rough-In - Work performed by the Electrical Contractor after the plumber and heating contractor complete their work phase. Normally all electrical wires, outlets, switches, and fixture boxes are installed (before insulation).

Electrical Service - A term that describes the connection from the main electrical utility to the first point of contact in a home, usually the main breaker box.

Electrical Trim - Work performed by the electrical contractor when the house is nearing completion. The electrician installs all plugs, switches, light fixtures, smoke detectors, appliance "pigtails," and bath ventilation fans, wires the furnace, and "makes up" the electric house panel.

Elevations - A scaled drawing that shows the building as if a vertical plane were passed through the structure. It is the orthographic projection of the exterior faces of a building that may also include openings such as doors and windows or key dimensions like wall lengths and heights.

Elongated Bowl - An alternative to the standard round toilet bowl shape. The elongated toilet bowl is oval-shaped and is about 2″ longer than a round toilet bowl.


Enamel Paint - A type of paint. Enamel paint dries to a smooth, hard finish. Enamel paint comes in a range of finishes/ gloss levels.


See also: A Primer on Paint.

Energy Code - A subset of building codes that refer specifically to insulation, windows, doors, lighting, and HVAC equipment efficiency requirements. The goal of energy codes is to build buildings that have lower energy requirements.

Estimate - The costs of labor and building materials that a contractor speculates a project will require. Often, a written estimate does not necessarily determine the final cost. On the other hand, a fixed-price contract sets the estimated cost as the actual price the homeowner pays for the decided-upon work.

Existing Conditions - On remodeling building plans, the home's original layout is labeled "existing conditions" to distinguish it from the proposed renovations.

Existing Plans - A scaled drawing of an existing home or room. The Proposed Plans are created from the Existing Plans.

Expansion Joint - A piece of fibrous material placed in gaps in and around concrete slab sections and the foundation to allow it to expand and contract with the seasons and not crack.

Exterior - The finish materials on the exterior of a building, such as moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim), siding, windows, exterior doors, attic vents, crawl space vents, shutters, etc. Also, the physical work of installing these materials.


Face-Frame Cabinets - A style of cabinetry. If you picture cabinets as a series of wooden boxes, all grouped together. Looking at them head-on, each box has four sides. Following the practices of traditional joinery, cabinetmakers attached a narrow frame of wood to the front of those four edges of the box. This creates a more substantial cabinet, hides the edge of the cabinet box, and provides a place for the door hinges to attach to, in contrast to Euro-style cabinets, which don't have the front frame.

FAR - Floor area ratio. The ratio of a home's total floor area to the size of the lot. Someone in Seattle with a 5,000+ square-foot lot would only be allowed 35% of that lot to be covered by a home and any accessory buildings, like a garage or DADU.

See also: Can I Build a Backyard Cottage? Seattle's 2019 Rules Make It Easier

Fascia - The boards that are attached to the ends of your rafters at the eaves. Gutters are often linked to the fascia boards.

Felt - A type of building paper, also called tar paper. Usually laid under the shingles in a roofing assembly. 

Fenestration - The arrangement of windows on a façade. It may also refer to the design of the windows themselves.

Fiberglass Windows - Windows made of fiberglass are considered very durable and are often among the most energy-efficient. Unlike vinyl windows, fiberglass windows can be easily repainted. Unlike wood windows, fiberglass doesn't rot, warp, or degrade. 

Field measure - To take measurements (cabinets, countertops, stairs, shower doors, etc.) in the home instead of using blueprints. An essential first step in designing a remodel is to take field measurements of the existing spaces.

Finish Carpentry - Refers to the final touches that make a house a home. Finish carpenters install baseboards, molding, stairs, doors, windows, cabinets, and hardwood floors.

Fire Block - Horizontal blocks of wood nailed between the studs to prevent fire from traveling up through the walls.

Fixed Price Contract - A type of contract that holds a set, agreed-upon price for the work. This Is in contrast to a time-and-materials contract, in which the final cost is unknown when the contract is signed. The risk of cost overruns is placed on the contractor.


Fixture - A term used to describe many items within the home, typically in bathrooms and kitchens. Examples include sinks, faucets, bathtubs, and almost anything exterior to the wall.


Flagstone - Flat pieces of stone used for walkways and drives and sometimes as a veneer on walls.

Flashing - Sheet metal bent into shape to protect the roof and walls from water seepage.

Flatwork - Common word for concrete floors, driveways, basements, and sidewalks.

Flat Paint - Paint without any sheen. Usually used in living areas and bedrooms but not common in kitchens and bathrooms because it is more difficult to clean. Most paints used in homes are not completely flat but have some level of sheen.

Floor Drain - A drain built into the floor designed to remove any standing water.

Floor Plan - A scaled drawing showing the layout of a building. The illustration shows the above view of the relationships between rooms, spaces, and other physical features at one level of the building.

See also: Our Process to Excellence.

Float Finish - A float is a tool used to make poured concrete smooth and flat. It is used after the surface has been made level using a screed (long wooden plank drawn over the surface). Concrete that has been floated will be smoother, more compact, and have had most surface imperfections removed.

Floating Floor - A type of floor where the material is not nailed or glued down. Often, laminate click-together floors are designed to float in place. 

Floating Wall - A unique wall built on a concrete floor with two bottom plates that can move independently. The "float" space between the two bottom plates allows the wall to stay true even as the concrete floor beneath moves up or down. Usually found in basements and garages.

Floor Drain - A drain built into the floor designed to remove any standing water.

See also: Intro to Basement Drainage Systems

Floor Plan - The basic layout of a building, as drawn on the horizontal plane. In contrast to an elevation, which shows the structure on the vertical plane.

Footing - Or footer. A thick concrete pad that supports the foundation wall.

Forced-Air Heating - A form of central heating in which a furnace heats the air, which is distributed to every room via ducts.  It can be powered by natural gas, propane, electricity, or a heat exchanger connected to a heat pump.

Form - A temporary structure into which concrete is poured. After it hardens, the forms are removed. 

Foundation - The concrete structure below the first floor of a home, including the concrete footings.

See also: Foundation Problems 101

Foyer - An entry hall or area in a home or other building.

Framing - Lumber used to construct the skeleton of the building, such as joists, studs, and rafters.

French Drain - Sometimes called a perimeter drain. It is a perforated drainpipe in a trench that is covered with gravel. Usually, these go around the outside perimeter of a building to keep the basement dry.

Full Review - Larger construction projects trigger what's called a full design review. City officials carefully check proposed building plans to ensure they meet all zoning, safety, and building codes. 

Furring Strips - Small strips of soft wood used to shim and level out a wall or ceiling sub-surface.


Gable - The triangular-shaped part of a wall that encloses the end of a pitched roof.

General Contractor - A company or individual that can manage 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, the general contractor is responsible for completing the job.

GFCI - Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. A device that is used to protect from injury caused by contact with stray electrical currents that could result from faulty appliances or wiring or water getting into an outlet. GFCIs are required in most new home construction. Commonly referred to as GFI for short.

Glazing - Installing glass. This term may also refer to the windows in a finished home or a design.

Gloss Paint - Paint that has a high sheen. Not commonly used on walls in homes but is more likely found on furniture or other high-touch surfaces. 

Glulam - Glued laminate beam. These structural beams are made of thinner pieces of wood glued together under pressure. More robust than a solid wood beam.

Grade - The process of leveling dirt. It can also mean the level of the ground at a certain point. For instance, most of a basement is "below grade."

Granite - A type of igneous rock. They are commonly used as a countertop material in homes. 

See also: Three Reasons to Choose Quartz Over Granite for Kitchen Countertops

Greywater - Waste water from sinks, tubs, and washing machines. It is sometimes recycled to use for irrigation.

Green Building - A building designed to reduce harmful impacts on the environment through its design, materials, and reduced ongoing energy needs.

Green board - A type of drywall with some water-resistant properties and is commonly used for walls in damp areas. It is no longer used as a direct backer for tile in shower surrounds because it was found not to be water resistant enough.

Graining - To create the appearance of wood grain on a surface through specialized painting techniques, staining, or specially prepared paint colors.

Grout - A thin mortar typically used to fill the spaces between floor or wall tiles and other types of masonry.

Gutter - A metal or vinyl conduit that carries rainwater from the roof to downspouts. It is typically attached to the fascia board.


Handyman - Someone who specializes in small home repairs and improvements. Usually, a sole proprietor. A handyman may or may not be a licensed general contractor.

Hardscaping - In landscaping, elements are made of stone, concrete, tile, or brick. Paths, walkways, driveways, etc. As opposed to plantings.

Hardware - All of the "metal" fittings that go into the home when it is near completion. For example, door knobs, towel bars, handrail brackets, closet rods, house numbers, door closers, etc. The Interior Trim Carpenter installs the "hardware."

Hardwood - Wood from broad-leafed trees, such as oak, ash, maple, etc. As opposed to softwood, which comes from coniferous trees.

See also: The Top Colors and Wood Stains to Consider for Your Kitchen Remodel.

Header - A beam that spans a window, door, or stairway opening.

Heat Pump - A mechanical device that uses compression and gas decompression to heat and cool a house. A device that transfers heat from the outdoors into your home. Think of it as an air conditioner working in reverse.  Some heat pumps can cool the indoor air as well as heat it. Heat pumps are much more efficient than standard resistance-electric heat.

Heating Load - The amount of heat energy that needs to be added to a space to maintain the temperature and used in caculating the size of the furnace required to heat a home.

Hip Roof - A roof with four inclined sizes instead of just two on a gabled roof.

Hose Bib - A plumbing fitting that a hose can be attached to. It usually has a valve. It is commonly placed around the outside perimeter of a home so that irrigation hoses can be connected.

House Lifting - The process of jacking up a house to rebuild the foundation or add extra space below.

HVAC - Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning; all system appliances used to condition the air within the home.

HVAC Rough-In - Work performed by the Heating Contractor after the stairs and interior walls are built. This includes installing all duct work and flue pipes. Sometimes, the furnace and fireplaces are installed at this stage of construction.

HVAC Trim - Work done by the Heating Contractor to prepare the home for the municipal Final Heat Inspection. This includes venting the water heater, installing all vent grills, registers, and air conditioning services, turning on the furnace, installing thermostats, venting ranges and hoods, and all other heat-related work.


I-Beam - A type of beam constructed of iron, steel, or wood that is shaped like the letter I at its cross-section.

Infiltration - Air that slips into and out of a home through cracks and crevices, causing drafts and wasting energy. A primary goal of a home energy retrofit is usually to reduce infiltration.

Induction Stove - An electric stove that uses magnetic fields to heat the pan itself rather than the stovetop.  It is an efficient way to cook, and home chefs like it because it mimics a gas stove's quick heating and cool-down without harmful fumes. Induction stoves have a flat glass surface and are usually easier to clean.

See also: Top Ten Design Features for Your Next Kitchen Remodel

Inspections - The local government employs building inspectors to come out to job sites to ensure the building is being built to code. Specialty inspectors, such as electrical and plumbing inspectors, may also be involved in the inspection process. Typically, inspections occur before an area of the building is closed in and hidden from view. Inspectors will check the forms of the footers and foundation before concrete is poured, and they will check the construction methods, plumbing, and electrical before the walls are "closed in" or covered over in drywall. Usually, the price you pay for building permits includes the necessary inspections.

Insulation - 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 bills.

Interior Decorator - A person whose job is to choose furnishings, finishes, and other elements that lend an interior of a home or other building a specific look.

Interior Designer - Interior designers are professionals who specialize in the art and science of planning spaces (both inside and out) that address the safety and well-being of occupants. Designers identify, research, plan, and implement creative solutions that make areas function and look better.

Interior Finish - Material used to cover the interior framed areas of walls and ceilings

Irrigation System - A system that delivers water for plants, such as a sprinkler system for your lawn. It can be set up to operate automatically.


Jack Post - A metal replacement for an old supporting post. Most have pins to make their height adjustable. They are typically used in basements to prop up sagging first floors.

Jack-and-Jill Bathroom - A bathroom that has entrance doors on each end from two different rooms. They are commonly used between kids' bedrooms.

Jamb - Vertical pieces of wood (or other material that line the sides of the door and window frames.

Jib Door - A door designed to blend into the wall or wainscoting. It creates a hidden-room effect. 

Jobsite - An area of work in a construction project.

See also: Should I Remodel My Kitchen and Bathroom at The Same Time? 

Joist - Wooden 2 X 8's, 10's, or 12's that run parallel to one another, support a floor or ceiling and are supported in turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls.

Joist Hanger - A U-shaped piece of metal that is nailed into a beam. The ends of the floor joists are supported by it.


Laminate Flooring - An engineered flooring product consisting of multiple layers of synthetic materials fused together. It is often made to look like hardwood flooring with a photographic layer applied to the top and is usually installed as a floating floor. It can be durable but is generally susceptible to water damage. 

Landing - A stairway platform, either between flights of stairs or at the end of a flight of stairs. They are often used when stairs change direction.

Layout - Show the plan of a building’s foundation on the ground surface according to its drawings so that excavation can be carried out exactly where required and the position and orientation of the building is specified.

Landscaping - The process of beautifying a yard with plantings, ornamental features, and regrading.

Laundry Room - A room that houses a washing machine, dryer, and folding area. 

Lead paint - A now-outlawed formulation of paint that contained the toxic heavy metal lead. When remodeling a home, remodelers must test for lead paint and carefully contain or remove it.

Leech Field - Part of a septic system. They are used in rural areas where a connection to a city sewer system is not feasible. A leech field is a large area of land into which filtered sewage is discharged gradually so that it can leech into the soil.

Lead “Poisoning” in Paint - Occurs when lead builds up in the body and can be a severe or sometimes fatal condition. Lead can be found in paint on the walls of homes.

Lien - A right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged.

Lineal Foot - A way to measure lumber. Each lineal foot is equal to 1" thick by 12" wide and 12" long., So a 2" x 12"  x 16' board would be 32 lineal feet.

Load Bearing Wall - (bearing wall or structural wall) Bears the weight of the house from top to bottom. This wall helps disperse the building’s weight from the roof down to the foundation, and its removal could cause the structure to collapse.

LOI - Letter of intent. In design and construction, it is a document that states the intent of two parties (the builder/designer and the homeowner) to work together. Later in the process, it is replaced by a more formal contract laying out the specific price or other terms.

Lot - A plot of land on which a home is situated.

Louver - A cover for an exterior vent in a home with diagonal slats that keep out water while allowing airflow.

Lumens - A unit of measurement for light output.  For instance, a 100-watt incandescent light bulb produces about 1,600 lumens. An LED bulb can produce the same number of lumens but use only about 15 watts of electricity.

See also: 5 Key Kitchen Lighting Ideas For 2021.

LVT - Luxury vinyl tile. A flooring material that comes in tiles that can be glued down or floated. Surfaces are usually printed to look like wood or stone with a photo-realistic, textured image. LVT is considered very durable and is resistant to moisture and temperature changes.


Main Water Shutoff - A valve that turns off the main water supply to the house so plumbing work can be done.  Most commonly found in basements, on the exterior of the home, or underground for city access.

Mansard Roof - A four-sided roof in which the bottom half has a steeper slope than the top half. It was popularized by French architects during the Baroque period.

Mantel - The shelf above a fireplace. Usually decorative in its design.

Manufactured wood - A wood product such as a truss, beam, glulam, microlam, or joist is manufactured from smaller wood pieces and glued or mechanically fastened to form a larger piece. Often used to create a stronger member, which may use less wood.

Marble - A natural stone with a porous surface, commonly used for countertops and tile.

See also: How to Choose the Best Countertop for Your Seattle Kitchen

Marmoleum - Forbo-Nairn's brand named linoleum flooring. Marmoleum is LEED certified because it is hypoallergenic and made with all-natural products.

Masonry - Brick, stone, and other building materials bonded with mortar to form a wall.

Master Suite - To be considered a master suite, the room must have enough space for a sitting area or in-room office and an en-suite bathroom. The term commonly refers to a master bedroom with a private bath attached.

MDF - Medium-density fiberboard is a wood material comprising hard and softwood residuals denser than plywood but not as strong. It is commonly used for baseboards and other interior trim.

Membrane - A layer of material that is impermeable to water. Typically used on flat roofs. It can be made of synthetic rubber or PVC.

Mid-century Modern - A design popularized between 1930 and 1960 involving sleek lines and a futuristic yet organic style.

Millwork - Generally, millwork is all building materials made of finished wood and manufactured in millwork plants. Includes all doors, window and door frames, blinds, mantels, panel work, stairway components (balusters, rail, etc.), moldings, and interior trim. Does not include flooring, ceiling, or siding.

Mini Split - Heating and cooling systems that allow you to control the temperatures in individual rooms or spaces.

Miter Joint - When two pieces of material are cut and joined at a 45-degree angle to form a 90-degree corner, it is a miter joint.

Molding - A wood strip having an engraved, decorative surface.

Mortar - A stone binding paste commonly used to join brick, concrete blocks, and decorative stones.

Mother-in-Law Apartment - An accessory dwelling unit that is either separate from the primary living quarter or attached.

Mud Room - An entryway found at the front or back door, often with a coat closet and easy-to-clean flooring, like linoleum.

Mudding - Applying drywall compound (mud) to cover and smooth out joints and screw indentations in drywall.


Nail Inspection - An inspection by a municipal building inspector after the drywall material is hung with nails and screws (and before taping).

Natural finish - A transparent finish that does not seriously alter the original color or grain of the natural wood. Sealers, oils, varnishes, water-repellent preservatives, and similar materials usually provide natural finishes.

Natural Gas - A gas mixture mainly containing methane. Used to heat some homes and provides flame to gas-powered ovens and stovetops.

Net-Zero-Energy - Homes that produce as much renewable energy as they use over the course of a year. Energy comes from solar panels, and the home's energy needs are reduced with super-insulated walls and windows.

NKBA - National Kitchen and Bath Association. A nonprofit trade association representing the kitchen and bath industry with a large membership base. 

Nonbearing Wall - A wall that offers no structural support to the building.


On-Demand Hot Water Heater - An energy-efficient tankless water heater.

Open Hole Inspection - When an engineer (or municipal inspector) inspects the open excavation and examines the earth to determine the type of foundation (caisson, footer, wall on the ground, etc.) that should be installed in the hole.

OSB - Oriented strand board is a wood product engineered by compressing wood strands and adhesive.

Overhang - Outward projecting eave-soffit area of a roof; the part of the roof that hangs out or over the outside wall.


P-Trap - A water seal made by the curved portion of a drainpipe to block sewage gasses from entering the home.

Paint - A permanent decorative liquid wall coating. It can be oil or latex based.

See also: How to Incorporate Viva Magenta Into Your Home - Pantone 2023 Color of the Year.

Painter - A person hired to apply paint to the exterior or interior of a building.

Panel - A thin flat piece of wood, plywood, or similar material, framed by stiles and rails as in a door (or cabinet door) or fitted into grooves of thicker material with molded edges for decorative wall treatment.

Particle Board - A more affordable substitute for plywood. It is engineered from sawdust and resin.

Partition - A wall that divides a room into multiple parts.

Paver - Pieces of masonry laid flat to make a pathway.

Payment Schedule - A schedule of payments included in the contract that describes at what points the customer will pay the contractor. This may include a deposit, periodic fees for materials, work performed, and final payment.

Pedestal Sink - A sink basin supported by a column. 

Percolation Test - A test performed by a soil engineer to determine if the ground can absorb liquid from a septic system.

Perimeter Drain - The drainage system installed in the ground surrounding your home's foundation. The perimeter drain is usually connected to a sump pump that pumps out excess water.

See also:  Intro to Basement Drainage Systems.

Permeable Pavement - Paving material that allows stormwater to pass through. Often done with porous concrete or separated paving stone.

See also: Consider a Permeable Driveway.

Permit - 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 permits for zoning, building, electrical, plumbing, and more.

PEX - A plastic tubing system used for water supply pipes. Made of cross-linked polyethylene, PEX is flexible and heat resistant.

Pitch - The measurement of the steepness of a roof slope. It tells you how many inches the roof rises for every 12" of roof depth. A 12/12 roof would be very steep, while a 6/12 roof would be much less steep.

Plan view - Drawing of a structure with the view from overhead, looking down.

Plan Set - In architecture and design, plans are a set of documents that include drawings of the proposed building, specifications, and more. It is a complete set of guidelines needed to complete construction.  A plan set is required as part of the permit application.

Plumb - A perfectly vertical line. 

Plumber - A person hired to install or repair sewage of drainage piping, and potable water.

Plumbing rough-In - Work performed by the plumbing contractor after the Rough Heat is installed. This work includes installing all plastic ABS drain and waste lines, copper water lines, bathtubs, shower pans, and gas piping to furnaces and fireplaces. Lead solder should not be used on copper piping.

Plumbing Stack - A main plumbing pipe that runs vertically through multiple levels of flooring. Horizontal pipes on every floor connect to it. It can be a vent pipe to the roof or a drainage pipe that carries sewage down.

Plumbing trim - Work performed by the plumbing contractor to get the home ready for a final plumbing inspection. Includes installing all toilets (water closets), water heaters, sinks, connecting all gas pipes to appliances, disposal, dishwasher, and all plumbing items.

Plywood - A building material made of thin sheets of wood glued and pressed together.

Pocket Door - A sliding door that, when completely open, is hidden in the wall.

Porcelain Tile - A dense, less-porous clay formed and colored into flat sheets and often used for countertops and other bathroom surfaces.

Portland Cement - Cement is created by heating crushed limestone and clay into a solid brick and then grinding the brick into a powder. It hardens after getting wet and is the main binder in many concrete and mortar mixtures.

Post and Beam - A support structure made of a few columns rather than that of stud framing support.

Post and Pier Foundation - Foundation system with short wooden support beams rather than concrete footers.

Primer - The first layer of paint that is applied when multiple layers will be added. Primer helps hide minor imperfections in the surface and provides a layer to which the finish paint can bind.

Proposed Plans - a scaled drawing of a proposed home or room as viewed from above. It will show the placement of rooms, doors, windows, major fixtures and appliances, etc. It can be used to calculate square footage or as a guide in planning, choosing specific construction materials, and guiding your contractor in estimating the cost of your project.

Punch list - A list of discrepancies that need to be corrected by the contractor.

PVC - Plastic piping made of Poly Vinyl Chloride.


Quarter round - A small trim molding with a quarter circle cross-section.

Quartz - A natural mineral made of silicon and oxygen. In interior design and construction, it usually refers to an engineered countertop surface made of crushed quartz and a small amount of hard-wearing resin. It is very resistant to staining.

Quartzite - A tough natural metamorphic rock that contains quartz. It can be mined and milled into stone slabs for countertops.


R-Value - A measurement of how well a wall, layer of insulation, or other surface can resist a conductive heat flow. Often, the R-value of an entire wall assembly can be calculated.

Radiant Heating - Heat that is transmitted by electromagnetic waves rather than conduction or convection.  It is a gentle, even form of heat that most people find very comfortable. Radiant heat systems are commonly installed underneath flooring, either with an electric mat or hot-water tubing. Radiant heat panels can also be installed on a ceiling for an instant feeling of warmth. Radiant heat can save energy because it doesn't require the air in a room to be as warm for an occupant to feel warm.

Radon - A dense radioactive gas naturally occurring in many parts of the world. A common source of lung cancer. Homes in radon-prone areas need to be tested for radon, and steps must be made to ventilate the radon out of the home. 

Rafter - 2x10 or 2x12 studs installed horizontally to support the roof load.

Rebar - Textured steel bars set in concrete to support concrete structures like foundations, footers, and walls.

Reclaimed Materials - Materials from a previous building that are reused for a new project.

Recycled Materials - Materials from products that have reached the end of their useful life and have been reprocessed to make a newer product.

Reinforced Concrete - Concrete that has been set with steel mesh or rebar to enforce strength.

Remediation - The act of stopping or reversing environmental damage.

Retaining Wall - A structure built to retain soil. Commonly installed on properties that are on a slope.

Reglaze - To replace a broken window.

Reinforced Concrete - Concrete set with steel mesh or rebar to enforce strength.

Rim Joist - In relation to the framing system of a deck or flooring, a Rim Joist is Installed perpendicular to the joist and offers lateral support.

Risers - The vertical boards are set in place to fill the space between stair treads.

Romex - A cable that is made of two or more wires encased in rubber tubing.

Rough Carpentry - Base work done for a building like framing. As opposed to finish carpentry, which is the installation of trim and other items once the main structural work is done.

Roughing-in - The initial stage of a plumbing, electrical, heating, carpentry, and other project, when all components that won't be seen after the second finishing phase are assembled. See also Heat Rough, Plumbing Rough, and Electrical Rough.

Rough Opening - The opening made for a doorway or window before shims, drywall, trim, or siding is installed.


Sanitary Sewer - A sewer system that collects sewage from the interior pipes. It is not meant to hold storm drainage.

Schedule - A blueprint key with information on doorway, window, and mirror sizing.

Schematic Estimate - The total estimated cost for a project before the construction adjustments have been made.

Schluter - A name brand of tile edge protector with a symmetrically rounded corner profile.

Scope of Work - The description of a project that includes In-depth details and describes the work to be completed

Scribing - The act of fitting and cutting woodwork to go on an irregular surface

Second-Story Addition - Removing the roof and adding another level to a single-story home. 

Section drawings - When looking at building plans, a section drawing is one that shows a vertical slice of the home.  Section drawings show ceiling heights.

Semigloss Paint - Paint that, when dry, has a moderate amount of shine. Semigloss paint is often applied to bathrooms and kitchens because it is easy to wipe down.

Sewer Stub - The connecting point between your home's sewer line and the city's main sewer line

Septic System - An underground wastewater treatment tank. Built on site and sized depending on the number of bedrooms in the home. The septic system promotes the organic breakdown of solid waste through an anaerobic process. 

Setbacks - The minimum distance a building is to be placed from a street, alleyway, or sidewalk. This is partially a safety measure to protect the building.

Sewer Stub - The connecting point between your home's sewer line and the city's main sewer line.

Shake - A wooden shingle created by splitting wood at the grain line. Most commonly made with cedar or redwood.

Shaker Style - A traditional furniture style with tapered legs and clean lines. Although it is a traditional style, it has also enjoyed contemporary popularity.  Shaker-style kitchen cabinet doors and drawer faces featuring a flat center panel and square edges have become very popular.

Sheathing - The installation of wood paneling on the exterior of the building's framing structure. This is usually done with plywood or OSB.

Sheen - A level of gloss or luster a surface has after the paint has dried.

Sheet Metal Duct Work - Metal ducts, round or square that push hot or cold air from the furnace through the rest of the house.

Sheet Rock - A brand name of drywall paneling that encases the interior of the building. The drywall is made of calcium sulfate dihydrate and is layered front and back with thick sheets of paper.

Shim - A piece of scrap wood or metal that is wedged into a tight spot, pushing a beam or frame into place.

Shingles - Roof coverings made of asphalt, wood, slate, or tile cut to size and layered in a way that protects the roof from natural elements.

Shower Pan - A waterproof barrier that is installed under the shower basin to prevent leakage.

Side Sewer - The portion of the sanitary sewer line that runs from the house to the public sewer line. The line is buried several feet underground and is maintained by the homeowner.

Siding - The finished exterior covering of the outside walls of a frame building. Also known as cladding

Sill - The wood plate framing that lays flat against the foundation wall, installed with anchor bolts.  This is usually done with treated lumber.

Single-Hung Window - A window with one opening pane or vent.

Site Plan - The Initial page of a Plan Set which includes: the project address, design-build company information, table of contents, and neighborhood street plan.

Skirting - Installing a wooden board along the base of an interior wall.

Skylight - A lighting and sometimes ventilation structure installed on the roof. Occasionally referred to as a ceiling window, skylights come in many shapes and sizes for all roof shapes.

Slab - Another term for a paved concrete surface. For example, a driveway, garage floor, or basement floor.

Smart Home - A home with a built-in automation system that controls the lighting, temperature, electronics, appliances, and security systems. 

Soaking Tub - A soaking tub is a freestanding tub that is deep enough for you to be completely submerged. This is preferable to bathing in a standard tub where your shoulders and knees are exposed.

See also: Remodeling Your Seattle Bathroom? Don't Let Resale Value Stop You from Ditching the Tub.

Soffit - The underside of the roof that extends past the exterior wall.

Soft Goods - Textiles with a soft texture, like carpets, linens, or curtains.

Softwood - Wood that is sourced from gymnosperm trees, such as conifers.

Soil Stack - The vertical plumbing that carries sewage away from toilets and down to the drain.  It usually is also extended up to the roof to vent.

Solid-Surface Countertops - A countertop made of marble dust and plastic resin. This creates a pore less surface.

Sound Attenuation - The act of soundproofing a wall or floor with insulation and other products.

Space Planning - A part of the design process that determines where furniture and appliances should be placed to work effectively with each other.

Specifications (Specs) - A list of materials, model numbers, features of appliances, colors, or other details that supplement the contract detailing the scope of work.

Spray Foam Insulation - A chemical foam that can be sprayed directly onto the framing of a home. Spray foam is made of isocyanate and polyol resin, two chemicals that, when added together, expand and solidify 30 to 60 times the volume of the original liquid.

Square Footage - The area within the original floorplan, calculated by multiplying the width in feet by the length in feet.

Standing-Seam Metal Roof - Roofing in the form of large metal sheets with raised vertical ribs that are set about one foot apart from each other. An extremely durable roofing material.

STFI - Standard fire and allied perils insurance. This type of home insurance covers fires, lightning, aircraft damage, explosion, sprinkler leakage, and many other adverse events.

Storm Window - A temporary or permanent second window layer installed on the exterior of the original window to offer protection from the elements.

Strike - The metal plate into which the bolt of a door's latch is slid. The strike is mounted on the door frame.

Structural Engineer - Analyze, design, plan, and research structural components and structural systems to achieve design goals and ensure that buildings are safe and capable of withstanding the elements to which they are exposed.

Stucco - A plaster coating used on the exterior of buildings.

Stud - A 2x4 or 2x6 installed vertically on the framing system, also known as a wall stud. The stud is attached to both the top and bottom horizontal support plates.

Subcontractor - A specialty contractor who works for another General contractor. Most general contractors will hire subcontractors that specialize in certain areas (electrical, plumbing, painting, etc.) to work on certain portions of a project.

Sump Pump - A pump that is used to remove water that has accumulated in a sump or shallow depression. Sump pumps are common in basements that are prone to water intrusion.

See also: Intro to Basement Drainage Systems

Superintendent - The person leading a remodel or building project who works on site.

Supply Lines - The part of the piping or electrical system that runs from the city supply to your home.

Switch Plate - The plastic (or metal) plate that covers interior wiring but allows the toggle of a switch to protrude.


Take-Off - The process of looking at a set of building plans and listing all the items needed to complete its construction. It is commonly used for estimating and ordering purposes.

Taping - The act of sealing the cracks between drywall sheets. This is done with paper tape and joint compound.

Teardown - The act of demolishing a home and clearing the lot to start new.  A teardown is sometimes necessary when there is extensive damage or rot if the value of the lot is far greater than the home that currently sits upon it. In real estate, a teardown can also refer to a house in bad shape that a new owner will most likely demolish.

Tempered Glass - Strengthened glass that has undergone intense heating followed by a rapid cool down, which forces the glass into compression. Tempered glass is about four times stronger than standard glass and "pelletizes" rather than shatters.

Termites - A colony of ant-like bugs that tunnel through wood. Termite infestations can quickly cause severe structural damage to a home.

Terrazo - A flooring mixture of quartz, marble, granite, or glass chips bound with resin and then polished to a smooth surface. Terrazzo is either poured in place or precast to fit a specific spot.

Thermostat - A device that detects and controls the temperature of an area. A thermostat can be manually or automatically adjusted.

Time-and-Materials Contract - A type of construction contract that does not have a fixed price for the job. The final price will be calculated (usually at each billing cycle) based on the number of hours the contractor put in, the cost of materials, and the cost of subcontractors. The risk of cost overruns is placed on the homeowner.

Toe Nailing - Driving a nail in at an angle to hold floor joists to the plate.

Top Plate - A horizontal piece of the frame wall located at the top of the wall. The top plate is responsible for supporting rafters, ceiling joists, or other members of the frame.

Townhouse - A multi-level home on a small footprint that adjoins the adjacent home or homes.

Trades - An umbrella term for skilled tradespeople, many of whom are licensed, such as electricians and plumbers. Other skilled trades may or may not require professional licensing, such as demolition, concrete work, and roofing.

Trade Only - Also "to the trade." Refers to dealers that sell furniture, fabrics, and other furnishings to designers only. Items are typically sold at a discount, and the designer marks them up in contrast with retail stores.

Trap - A plumbing fitting responsible for holding water to prevent air, gas, and vermin from backing up into the home through a fixture.

Treads - The top surface piece of a stair step.

Trim (plumbing, heating, electrical) - The work that the "mechanical" contractors perform to finish their respective aspects of work and when the home is nearing completion and occupancy.

Trim- Interior - The finish materials in a building, such as moldings applied around openings (window trim, door trim) or at the floor and ceiling of rooms (baseboard, cornice, and other moldings). Also, the physical work of installing interior doors and interior woodwork, including all handrails, guardrails, stairway balustrades, mantles, light boxes, bases, door casings, cabinets, countertops, shelves, windowsills, aprons, etc.

Truss - A premade assembly of beams and other elements that make up a part of a building. The most common is a roof truss.

Turnkey - A term used when the subcontractor provides all materials (and labor) for a job.

Two-Story Addition - An addition to the side of a home. Often, the bottom floor of the expansion will be an additional living space, while the top floor is an extra bedroom or master suite.


U-Value - The measurement of heat lost, usually through a window.  The lower the U-value, the more energy-efficient the window

Undercoat - A layer of paint is applied before the topcoat. (aka base coat or primer)

Underlayment - A material placed under flooring and roofing that protects the sub-layer from water damage and provides a smooth, even surface.

Universal Design - A design that makes the property and building accessible to all. Including older adults, children, and people with disabilities.

Urethane Paint - A paint coating with more elastic properties than polyurethane with a more complex structure. The elastic properties of urethane paint help provide a glossy finish.


Vanity - Bathroom cabinetry that holds the sink and fixture while providing excess storage space.

Valuation - An inspection carried out for the mortgage lender's benefit to ascertain if a property is a good security for a loan.

Veneer - A very thin sheet of wood. Veneer is used in woodworking to make doors, flooring, and other finishes. 

Vinyl Windows - Windows made of PVC material. Originating in the 1970s, vinyl windows are more affordable and need less maintenance than wood windows.

VR - A virtual reality hologram used to portray remodel designs.


Wall-Hung Toilet - A toilet installed with the tank hidden behind the interior wall. Wall-hung toilets are considered a modern and minimalist design.

Wallpaper - A decorative sheet of paper that is applied to an interior wall in many different ways. Some wallpapers have adhesive backing, while others require glue.

Walk-In Closet - A closet that extends farther than that of a standard closet, allowing a person to enter. Walk-in closets are usually large enough for two people to share.

Walk-In Shower - A shower that does not have an attached bathing tub. You can walk directly into it because it is level with the floor.

See also: Seattle Laurelhurst Updated Look Bathroom Remodel.

Walk-Through- The designer, architect, contractor, or subcontractors meet at the project site to evaluate the project and scope of work.

Warranty - A contract that covers an appliance or labor done to a home that offers protection from an assembly flaw. Most warranties offer free replacement and labor within a specified time frame.

Waste Pipe - The pipe that carries waste from the home to the city's sewage system.

Water-Based Paint - Pigment and binder dissolved in water to be applied to interior walls.

Water Closet - A small room that has only a toilet. Water closets are often attached to master baths.

Water Main - The pipe that delivers water from the city supply pipe to the home.

Waterproofing - Adding barrier material or sealant that protects your foundation's exterior from water damage caused by direct contact with soil. This involves excavating around the foundation down to the bottom, applying a sealant, and then routing the excess water through a drainage system. 

Weather-Stripping - The process of sealing openings or cracks around windows and doors with metal, wood, or plastic materials. Weatherstripping prevents air and water from getting in through such gaps or spaces.

WC - An abbreviation for water closet. (See water closet.)

Weatherization - The act of improving the exterior of your home to offer better insulation to keep energy consumption low. This involves caulking, adding new insulation, storm windows, storm doors, and weather stripping.

Weatherstrip - The thin plates of metal or other material around doors and windows to keep excess air from flowing in and out of the home.

Weep Holes - Small holes that allow moisture to escape.

Wet Bathroom - A bathroom that has a shower without water barrier walls or floor lips.  The walls and floor of a wet bath are usually tiled.

See also: What Is a Wet Bathroom?

Whitewood - A term that cabinetmakers use for secondary utility lumber. It is used for unseen things like toe kick framing, cleats, webbing, and brackets.  There are several different tree species that are considered whitewood, such as pine, poplar, and spruce. When whitewood is used for framing, it should be stamped "SPF."

Whole-House Fan - A ventilation system that involves a vent and tube that takes cool air from throughout the house and pushes it into the attic to support the even distribution of cool air throughout the home.

Whole-House Remodel - Renovation of an entire home, down to the studs. This is commonly done on outdated homes with strong framing structures.

Woodwork - The wooden parts of a home, including framing, trim, doors, etc.


Zone - Some HVAC systems have zones, which are areas of the home that are independently temperature controlled.

Zoning - Governmental specifications detailing how specific properties may be used. e.g., single-family use, high-rise residential use, industrial use, etc. Zoning laws may limit where you can locate a structure.

There's No Such Thing as Too Many Questions.

At Innovative Home Renovations, we specialize in kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in Seattle. If you are ready to remodel your bathroom and would like to partner with a company to help, please contact us to schedule your complimentary Introductory Meeting to discuss your project.  

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