Get to Know Contractor Lingo: Renovation & Construction Terms

There’s enough to think about when starting a home renovation - you don’t need extra confusion trying to understand jargon used in the construction industry.

Here’s our guide to some of the most common construction terms you might hear.


A rough estimate of cost for materials and labour. If there are items like countertops and appliances that have not been decided on, your contractor will often add an allowance for these items to your contract.

An apprenticeship is an agreement between an apprentice who wants to learn a skill and an employer who needs a skilled worker. The apprentice will be earning while earning, combining on the job experience with technical training. One the apprentice has completed the necessary training and acquired the skills, they become a journeyman and receive a certificate of qualification.

A contractor will give you a bid which is a formal offer specifying the amount of work to be done, under what conditions (ie timeline) and an estimation of cost.

Blueprints are design plans or technical drawings of structures created by architects or designers. They help with planning, estimating and securing permits for home construction or renovations.

Building Codes:
Building Codes are standardized rules established by local jurisdictions that govern how a house can be built or modified. They vary based on your geographical locations.

Framing Carpentry:
Framing Carpentry takes care of the framing of a building. A framing carpenter will construct walls, roofs, and floors to meet building codes and engineering specifications. They'll make sure the framing of your home is safe and built well.

Finishing Carpentry:
The finishing carpenter is responsible for the final steps of the renovation, installing features like crown moulding, baseboards, windows, stairs and other design elements. They take care of the aesthetic details to make it beautiful.

General Contractor:
A general contractor is a licensed construction company that supervises all aspects of the building process, including overseeing the day to day processes of a construction site, management of vendors and trades professionals and communicating Information to all involved parties throughout the course of a project.

For our tips on how to choose the best contractor for the job, click here.

HVAC is short for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. HVAC systems encompass all the units, materials and techniques used to heat and cool your home.

Live Edge:
Live edge describes building materials that incorporates the raw, natural edge of a cut of wood.

Millwork means finished or “milled” woodwork. This work may be completed in a factory or on site. Examples of millwork include decorative products, interior and exterior trim like cabinet mouldings, window sashes, cornices, door casings, mantles, baseboard mouldings and crown moulding.

Mud is a semi-fluid material that coats, seals or adheres to other materials. Mud can refer to mortar, plaster, stucco and concrete.

You must obtain a permit to have authorization from a government authority to build a house or execute an addition or renovation. There are various permits required for different construction applications including zoning, demolition, grading, septic, building, electrical and plumbing.

Red Seal:
The Red Seal is the inter-provincial standard of excellence for tradespeople in Canada, en endorsement awarded to qualified journeymen upon completion of a rigorous exam. The Red Seal endorsement of a tradesperson provides reassurance and certainty that this individual is qualified to a standard of knowledge and competency that has been defined by industry. There are 55 trades included in the Red Seal program.


A soffit is an exterior or interior architectural feature, generally the underside of any construction element. A structure to fill the space between the ceiling and the top of cabinets mounted on the wall is called a soffit, as is the material connecting an exterior wall to the edge of the roof under the eaves.

Trim is described by the finish materials in a building like window, door, baseboard, cornice and other mouldings.

Trim-out refers to the installation of these fixtures.

A subcontractor is a person who is hired by a general contractor to perform a specific task as part of the overall project.

Bartop with Waterfall Edge

Waterfall Edge:
This refers to a slab countertop that rolls over continuing to one side. It is most commonly seen when the horizontal surface of the countertop miters vertically downward and terminates at the floor. It usually is cut from the same slab, so the grain continues from horizontal to vertical, creating a ‘waterfall’ effect. This bar top in our kitchen renovation has a waterfall edge.

Tandem Construction is a general contracting, project management and carpentry company delivering luxury home renovations in Vancouver and the North Shore. From kitchen, bathroom or living room renovations, creating an income producing suite or a total home renovation, our team of project managers, carpenters and a network of trades professionals are focused on taking your dream home from vision to fruition. It all starts with a free consultation so we can determine your goals. Contact us today!