Brush up on your home renovation knowledge with our glossary of commonly used renovation and remodeling terms.

If you’re not entrenched in the world of home renovation and remodeling every day like we are, you’re bound to have at least a few questions about commonly used terms here on our site. Refresh your knowledge, or learn something new, by exploring the list below. If you have a question about a term that isn’t defined here, or would like additional information about one that is, feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to discuss in detail.

  • A

    Access Panel

    Doors or panels that can be easily opened or removed to provide access to a part to which you need occasional access in order to make a repair.


    Americans with Disabilities Act. Sets rules for certain accessibility guidelines to be used during building design.


    New rooms or square footage that is added to a home.


    Vertical trim board that is found under a window.

    Arc Fault Breaker

    A device that breaks the electrical circuit when it detects electric arcs in the home’s wiring in order to prevent fires.


    Documents that compare and contrast between the designed versus final specifications.

  • B


    The official offer from a company with the pricing and scope of work for a specific project.


    Waste water from toilets.

    Blown-In Insulation

    Used in hard to reach places like walls and attics, loose fiber insulation that is laid down using a blower system.


    A technical schematic used to plan a design for a home remodel or building project.

    Brick and Stone Veneers

    While they have the same applications, stone veneers are cut from real stone, and brick veneers are manufactured. The versatility of these materials allows them to be used with excellent results in both the interior and exterior of your home.

    Building Inspector

    A person employed by a city or township that verifies whether a building meets local legal requirements.

  • C

    Case Goods

    Furniture that is not upholstered.  Pieces like chairs, bookshelves, tables, etc.


    A material used to fill gaps. Designed to be flexible as to keep a seal year round in any weather or temperature.

    CDX Plywood

    A type of plywood. Basically, plywoods are thin veneer sheets that are glued and held together with linking plies. Plywoods are known for their strong resistance to cracking, breaking, or twisting.

    Certificate of Occupancy

    A certificate issued by a municipality that certifies that the home is compliant with building codes and is legally habitable.

    Change Order

    When the terms of the remodeling project or the contract are changed any alteration must be in writing and signed.


     Cladding is used in construction to provide additional insulation and weather resistance for buildings, and to improve the appearance of a structure. Like siding, cladding can be made of a wide range of materials, including brick, vinyl, metal, wood, or composite materials.


    A support that carries the weight of the building.


    Material made from a combination of other materials. (See Fiber Cement)

    Composite Materials

    These materials are engineered from two or more individual materials with different chemical or physical properties by taking their characteristics and combining them to create a strong, durable building material. Examples of composite building materials include concrete, cement, reinforced plastics, and composite wooden beams.


    Metal piping that carries electrical wiring.


    A general contractor will oversee almost all aspects of a construction job but is not commonly licensed to do specialty work, like plumbing, electrical, or asbestos abatement. The general contractor will then hire specialized subcontractors to complete these tasks.

    Cultured Stone

    Cultured stone, also known as man-made stone, faux stone, or manufactured stone, is a man-made product that resembles natural stone. This material was initially created as an alternative for heavier natural building stone, and is made by pouring concrete into a mold and then coloring it to look like real stone.

  • D


    Also known as razing, demolition is the act of tearing down buildings or other structures.

    Design Build

    A project delivery system used to deliver a project design.


    A dormer is a roofed window that is often set on the sloping roof of a home and may be built into the home’s roof or wall. Dormers come in many shapes and sizes, and they can add curb appeal to your home when placed appropriately.

    Double Vanity

    A vanity in a bathroom that contains two sinks.

    Double-glazed Windows

    This type of window is a closed unit made using two pieces of glass that are separated by a sealed air gap filled with gas to increase the insulation between the pieces. Double-glazed windows are highly efficient and can greatly reduce heat loss when compared with single-glazed windows.


    Metal pipes that carry rainwater down from the roof gutters to the ground level.

    Drip Cap

    An L-shaped flashing that goes over windows and doors after they’re installed.


    A portable waste container.

  • E


    The part of the roof that hangs over the walls.

    Enclosed and/or Screened Porches

    Enclosed or screened-in porches are typically covered by a roof with sides that can be completely enclosed or partially open to the elements. This type of porch allows you to enjoy many of the benefits of being outside without being exposed to bugs or bad weather.

    Energy Star Rating

    Energy Star ratings indicate that a product meets a set of federally mandated guidelines regarding energy efficiency. These guidelines vary depending on the product.

  • F

    Face-Frame Cabinets

    A type of cabinetry style. 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 stronger 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.

    Fiber Cement

    A building material used on exteriors of residential and commercial buildings typically made of a composite of cement, sand, water, and cellulose fibers.


    Sheet metal used to protect walls and roofs from water leaks.


    Typically made of concrete with rebar reinforcement, footings support the foundation of a building to prevent settling.

  • G

    General Contractor

    An individual or a company that supervises construction. The role is generally that of project manager. In some cases, the GC will also have a hands-on role in construction, but in many cases, the GC will hire subcontractors and tradespeople (like plumbers and electricians) to do most of the physical work.


    A type of electrical outlet that is designed to guard against electrical shock.


    Waste water from bathtubs, washing machines, and sinks.  Able to be recycled for certain purposes.


    Window grilles are decorative strips of metal, wood, or vinyl used to visually separate window glass into “panes.” They are not necessary for the structure of the window but are instead purely for aesthetics.

    Gut A Room

    The act of reducing a room or structure to its bare framing.


    Metal piping that removes rainwater from the roof through downspouts.

    Gutter Cover

    Covers placed over the gutters on a roof to prevent being clogged or filled with leaves and other natural debris.

  • H

    Handy Man

    An individual that specializes in small home repairs and adjustments. A handyman can sometimes be a licensed general contractor.

    Home Renovation

    Interior or exterior renovation changes the look and feel of a room or home without drastically altering the floorplan of the space, and includes anything from repainting walls and replacing cabinets to installing new light fixtures and updating windows.

    House Footprint

    The perimeter of a building is measured at the outer edge of the outer walls.

    House Lifting

    When the house is lifted up on jacks to allow for work to be done on the foundation.


    Abbreviation for heat, ventilation, and air conditioning.

  • I


    Material that resists heat transmission that is placed in the walls, the attic, the ceiling, beneath the slab, around the foundation, or anywhere else in a home. Common insulation materials include fiberglass, mineral wool, cellulose, rigid foam panels, and spray-on foam.

    Interlocking Pavers

    Interlocking pavers are manufactured pavers that are easier to install than traditional pavers and don’t require mortar to achieve a tight fit. They are typically made out of concrete or cement, and can simulate the look of cobblestone pathways.

  • J


    The location of an in progress construction project.


    Beams made of timber, metal, or concrete that support floors, ceilings, and other parts of a structure.

  • K

    Kilowatt Hour

    A measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour.

  • L

    Low-E Coating

    Low-E, or low-emissivity, coatings were developed to minimize the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light that can pass through glass without compromising visibility and the amount of light that enters your home. This coating helps to keep your home’s temperature consistent and can improve its energy efficiency.

  • M


    Masonry is an extremely durable construction technique that has been popular around the world for many years. This technique consists of building structures from pieces of brick, stone, or concrete that are sealed together with mortar.


    Medium density fiberboard consists of thin panels made from resin, wood fiber, and wax.

  • O

    Open Concept Kitchen

    Referring to a kitchen that is not enclosed by walls and is typically separated from the living area by a bar or countertop rather than full sized walls.

  • P


    Pieces of masonry used to make a walkway or pathway.

    Paver Base

    A form of aggregate used in construction of walkways and patios.


    A document issued by the local town/city that allows for a specific project to be completed.


    A type of piping that is a cheaper alternative to copper piping and easier to install.

    Pocket Door

    A door that slides into the wall when opened instead of opening outwards/inwards.


    A portico is a structure, consisting of a roof supported by columns, typically serving as a porch leading to the entrance of a building. These structures allow the home or building’s residents to prepare before going out or coming in from the elements. This idea was first widely used in ancient Greece and remains popular today.


    This building material is the most commonly used plastic material for many building and construction products, including pipes, flooring, roofing, cables, and window profiles. PVC has greatly improved the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of construction materials.


    Polyvinyl chloride is the world’s third-most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer.

  • R


    Internal beams that extend from the eaves to the peak of a roof to constitute the framework.


    The process of improving a broken, damaged, or outdated structure.

    Retaining Walls

    Retaining walls are structures that hold or retain soil behind them. There are many types of materials that can be used to create retaining walls, including concrete blocks, poured concrete, treated timbers, rocks, and boulders.


    The boards set vertically that fill space between stair treads.

    Roofing System

    A roofing system consists of a variety of elements, including the roof’s structure, sheathing, flashing, ventilation, covering, drainage, and accessories. Different types of roofing systems include metal roofing; asphalt or wood shingle roofing; clay, concrete, or slate tile roofs; and flat roof coverings like tar, gravel, or rubber.

    Room Additions or Bump-Outs

    Room additions, or bump-outs, are single room structures built onto the side of existing homes. These additions are typically meant to serve a single function, such as an additional bathroom or bedroom, or expand the size of an existing room. This type of addition is less expensive than a full-size addition but is still subject to building codes, permits, and inspections.

  • S


    The minimum distance a building can be relative to the street, sidewalk, or other public area.


    Material that covers roofs to protect the home from natural elements such as rain.  Typically made from wood, tile, or asphalt.


    Siding is any material that covers or protects the exterior walls of a home or residential-style building, excluding brick, stucco, and masonry. It typically comes in many shapes and styles, including clapboard style, shingles, and vertical pieces or panels, and it can be made with a variety of materials, including vinyl, wood, steel, asphalt, and aluminum.

    Siding Collection Catalog

    A window or ventilation installed in the roof.  Skylights allow for sunlight to fall directly from the ceiling rather than a window installed in a wall.

    Soffit Leader Pipe

    Commonly referred to as a downspout or leader, this piece is designed to drain the water from the roof gutter to the ground.

    Solid Backed Siding

    Siding that has the foam core connected directly to each siding sheet as oppose to hollow siding with the foam placed behind it.


    Specific details about your project, including design drafts, subcontractors, signed agreements, and other important information needed to carry out your home remodel.

    Spray Foam

    A chemical product that can be sprayed in between walls to provide insulation.


    Typically a 2×4 that is installed in the framing of the home.

    Sub Contractor

    Outsourced contractors that do not directly work for Magnolia, but assist with your kitchen remodel.  Typically used to reduce cost and construction time.


    The subfloor is the thick flat surface on which all other layers rest.

  • T


    A person who works in the building industry in a job that involves physical work and a practical skill.

    Treated Lumber

    Wood is treated with special chemicals for long term preservation to prevent degrading over time.


    A main line of a railroad, telephone system, or other network.

  • U


    The thin layer of material helps cushion, sound absorption, insulation and reduce wear with your flooring.

  • V


    Cabinetry in the bathroom that contains the sink, fixtures, and storage space.

  • W


    The final inspection of the project to verify the quality and completion of the project.

    Water Closet

    A small room containing only a toilet, often attached to master baths.

  • Z


    A label issued by the local government that limits the use of the property for specific types of construction. ie: residential, high-rise, single-family use, etc.