Having contractors work on your house gives an experienced touch to a project, but it can be hard to have a conversation when industry jargon comes into play. Some professionals, no matter their industry, rely too heavily on jargon when speaking to a customer. They may be unaware that the customer is not fluent in jargon the way they are, or they might be inserting “inner-circle” lingo in order to give the veneer of authority.
A good contractor speaks to their customer empathetically, describing things in comprehensible terms. They want as transparent a dialogue as possible so that every step and budget decision is fully understood. This will make for a much happier client at the end of the project, and prevents disputes from happening over mismanaged expectations.
Still, if you’re the handy type and want to take on some contractor terminology for the learning experience, or if you simply want to make sure you’re not absently nodding your head when these industry terms are coming your way, read on. We’ve outlined some contractor lingo that will help you understand what your contractor is saying and make you a more informed customer.
Bid: The official, written offer outlining the scope of work to be done during the project and the monetary cost.
Change Order: A change made to the initial contract. It could refer to the price being asked, the timeframe required to complete the project or additional steps to be added. Change orders must be submitted in writing and agreed upon by both parties.
Drop Sheet/Drop Cloth: A protective sheet that’s thrown over furniture and other household valuables during an interior design.
Elevation: a detailed, flat view of one side or area of the building.
Estimating: How contractors project the cost of a project. An estimate is a ballpark guess at the overall cost of a project and is finalized for contract purposes. A change order may occur as the project goes along, however, making it more or less expensive.
Fixed-Price Contract: A contract in which the agreed upon price is firm and cannot be altered down the road.
Floor Area: The square footage of your building, or a single room within.
Floor Plan: A drawing of a space that shows the existing or proposed design. A floor plan will illustrate all the features of a space, including doors and windows.
Glazier: Glaziers are a special type of contractor whose expertise is cutting, fitting, installing, and shaping glass. This could be inside or outside commercial or residential buildings, or for retail purposes such as crafting furniture.
Insulating Glass: A window or door that combines multiple panes of glass. The panes are hermetically sealed together (meaning they’re made airtight). The air gap between the two panes of glass provides increased insulation vs. a single pane of glass.
Lite: a single piece of glass.
Scope of Work: An outline of the entire project, listing every step in detail. The scope of work helps contractors make the most efficient plan and helps customers understand just what is going on. It also demystifies pricing, allowing the customer insight into the number of hours to be worked and the extent of raw materials to purchase.
Tempered Glass: A form of heat treatment which increases the strength of glass and provides increased safety in certain circumstances.
Weather Stripping: Sealing the space around doors and windows with strips of metal, wood, or plastic materials. This keeps the elements out and climate control in. Weather stripping greatly cuts down on your energy bills and ensures no drafts or rain enter the house.
Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor to explain their terminology in more detail if you don’t understand something they say. It’s their job to make sure you have realistic expectations at the outset and understand every step along the way. A contractor who cares about securing repeat business and earning accolades from previous customers doesn’t discount the importance of proper dialogue. Armed with the terms listed here, you can assert yourself more confidently in the discussion and experience less confusion throughout the entire project.
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