Modern Home Renovation Terminology and Definitions

When you are about to remodel your house, you will hear a bunch of unfamiliar terms and phrases. Home renovation terminology is full of its own languages. It may leave many homeowners bewildered. They may scratch their heads when they hear terms like “U-value” or “DADU.”

To solve this problem, we will provide definitions of almost all terms regarding home renovation. As a reader, you will have better clarity and understanding of these terms.

Modern Home Renovation Terminology and Definitions- Everything You Need to Know

Knowing the home renovation phrases may come in handy before starting the process. But you should start with the home renovation definition or home renovation meaning. For your concern, we have made the following remodeling terms cheat sheet:

Glossary of Terms

#A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L |M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


110 Line:

A standard voltage household circuit. It supports most appliances, lighting, and more.

220 Line:

A high-voltage circuit for appliances with higher amperage, like electric dryers.


  • AC (Air Conditioner): Abbreviation for air conditioner or alternating current (standard home current).
  • AC Condenser: The unit outside the home removes heat from the freon gas. It turns heat into liquid for indoor cooling.
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Guidelines for accessibility in building design.
  • ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit): Additional legal residence within a single-family home. It is popular in home improvement terminology. Often, it is called a mother-in-law’s apartment.
  • Air Gap: It is an innovative plumbing technique. It prevents backflow through a pipe by allowing air to break a siphon.
  • Aggregate: Sand, gravel, or crushed rock is mixed into concrete for a strong foundation.
  • Allowances: A portion of the construction budget is set aside for items not yet selected. It expedites project progress.
  • Asbestos: Mineral material is used for fireproofing. It was later found to be carcinogenic. Caution is needed when remodeling older homes.
  • Appliance Garage: Kitchen cabinet for storing small appliances at counter level.
  • Architect: They are licensed designers of buildings. They are involved in home and remodeling projects.
  • Anchor Bolts: Galvanized bolts attach a wooden sill plate to a concrete foundation.
  • Apprentice: Trainee plumber, electrician, or building professional working under supervision.
  • Apron: Vertical trim board under a window.
  • Area Wells: Metal or concrete holding back earth. Also, it creates space for basement windows.
  • Addition: New rooms or square footage are added to a home.
  • Attic Access: Opening in the ceiling for passage to the attic, often using fold-down stairs or a ladder.
  • Attic Ventilator: The exterior exhaust fan and vent system allow fresh air through the attic, cooling the home.
  • Awning Window: Window hinging at the top is often operated with a crank.


  • Backfilling: Filling holes dug during construction with dirt.
  • Backing: Framing lumber behind drywall supports towel holders, cabinets, railings, etc.
  • Backsplash: A waterproof surface (commonly tile) behind a kitchen countertop. It is easy to clean.
  • Balusters: Vertical slats or spindles between railings and stair treads.
  • Balloon Framing: Wall studs run the entire height of the building, from the bottom sill plates to the top roof plates.
  • Balustrade: Complete assembly of railing, balusters, and posts edging a stairway or walkway.
  • Batt: Insulation pieces fit between wall studs in various widths, lengths, and thicknesses.
  • Baseboard: It is a trim board around a room where the wall meets the floor.
  • Basement Finishing: Insulating and adding finished flooring, drywall, and amenities to add cost-effective living space.
  • Basin: Circular sink with sloping or curving sides.
  • Bay Window: This is a three-window unit projecting outward. Usually, it has one large middle panel and two smaller side panels.
  • Bow Window: This type of window unit forms a bow shape with panels configured at angles. It projects outward from the home’s walls.
  • Barge: These are large horizontal rafters. They support shorter rafters on a home’s roof


  • CAD (Computer-Aided Design): A common term in home renovation terminology. It is a type of design created using software for 3D plans. CAD is replacing traditional pens and paper.
  • Cabinet Refacing: A budget-friendly alternative where existing cabinets are repainted or veneered instead of replacing them.
  • Concrete Block: Hollow concrete brick, also known as a cinderblock.
  • Carpeting: A thick woven fabric floor covering. It is made of materials like nylon, polyester, or natural wool.
  • Ceiling Joist: Parallel framing structures resting on load-bearing walls. Basically, it supports ceiling loads.
  • Caulk: It is a flexible material used to fill gaps. It can stretch before hardening during the drying process.
  • Cement: Adhesive elements of concrete are used for foundations, slabs, and structural columns.
  • Ceramic Tile: Fire or glazed clay tile for flooring, showers, and walls.
  • Certificate of Occupancy: Municipality-issued document certifying a building’s compliance with codes for occupancy.
  • CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute): Unit measuring the volume of air a blower or exhaust fan can move.
  • Chair Rail: Trim is installed 3 or 4 feet above the floor to protect walls from chair backs.
  • Change Order: Modifications to a project during construction. It requires homeowner approval.
  • Column: A vertical structure (concrete or steel) that supports the building’s weight.
  • Crown Molding: An interior trim piece where the angled ceiling meets the vertical wall.
  • Countertops: Horizontal surfaces in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are made from various durable materials.
  • Carpenter: A skilled individual with wood craftsmanship expertise.
  • Contract: A legal document outlining project details between the homeowner and construction professional.
  • Contractor: Oversees construction projects, hiring specialized subcontractors for specific tasks.
  • Cosmetic Upgrade: Refreshing surfaces without changing room layout in a remodeling project.
  • Curb Appeal: Elements like landscaping, front doors, and hardscaping make a home attractive from the street.


  • DADU (Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit): Small homes are constructed on the same lot as a single-family home, sometimes on a garage. You will often notice this term in home renovation terminology.
  • Draw: Progress billings by a contractor at each project stage for completed work.
  • Design Build: Approach combining design and construction under one company for a renovation project.
  • Design Review: Local authorities verify building plans for code compliance during a design review for building permits.
  • Demo (Demolition): Construction work to remove existing fixtures, walls, or structures for renovation preparation.
  • Ducting: Light metal tubes in the HVAC system move conditioned air around the house.
  • Dormer: It is an opening in a sloping roof with a protruding roof section. It creates more living space.
  • Dust Control: System to prevent dust accumulation or airborne particles during renovation. It uses barriers, filtration, and negative pressure.
  • Downspout: A metal pipe carrying rainwater from roof gutters to ground level.
  • Double Vanity: Bathroom vanity with two sinks.
  • Drywall: Gypsum plaster panels are used in homes.
  • Dovetail Joint: The flaring mortise-and-tenon joint creates a sturdy right-angle connection between two wood pieces.


  • Egress Window: Large windows serve as emergency exits with specific building code requirements.
  • Electrician: A professional specializing in installing and fixing electrical equipment.
  • Estimate: Projected costs of labor and building materials by a contractor. Estimation is subject to change based on project scope.
  • Existing Conditions: A home’s original layout. It distinguishes it from suggested renovations in building plans.


  • Field Measurements: These are taken directly from the home. They are opposed to blueprint dimensions.
  • Finish Carpentry: Final touches like trim, doors, cabinets, stairs, and flooring after structural construction.
  • French Drain: It is a perforated drain pipe, covered by gravel outside a home’s perimeter. It keeps the basement dry.
  • Foyer: Entry hall of a home.
  • Floor Plan: The basic building layout is drawn on a horizontal plane.
  • Framing: Use of lumber to build a building’s structure, including joists, studs, and rafters.
  • Foundation: Concrete structure laid below the first floor of a home.
  • Full Review: Authorities verify proposed building plans for compliance with zoning, safety, and building codes in large construction projects.


  • Green Building: Designing a building to reduce or eliminate negative impacts on the climate and environment.
  • Grade: Ground level; a basement is typically considered below grade.
  • Grout: Filler for the space between tiles.
  • General Contractor: Supervises most aspects of a construction project, hiring specialized subcontractors for specific tasks.


  • HVAC (Heat, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning): System for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in homes.
  • Hardscaping: Elements made of stone, concrete, tile, or brick in landscaping, including paths, walkways, and driveways.
  • Hardwood: Comes from broad-leafed trees like oak, ash, and maple. It is different from softwood and coniferous trees.
  • Header: Beam extending across a window, door, or stairway opening.
  • Heating Load: The amount of heat energy needed to maintain an acceptable temperature in a space. It determines furnace size.
  • Heat Pump: A device pumps outdoor heat into a home. It is more energy-efficient than standard resistance-electric heat.
  • Hip Roof: This roof has four inclined sides. It slopes upward from all sides of the structure.
  • Hose Bib: Plumbing fitting with a valve for hose attachment. It is commonly placed around a home’s perimeter for irrigation.
  • Handyman: Performs specialized work on small home repairs and improvements; may or may not be a licensed general contractor.
  • House Lifting: Process of lifting a house to rebuild the foundation or add extra space below.


  • Induction Stove: Electric stoves use magnetic fields to heat the pan efficiently, mimicking gas stove heating without harmful fumes.
  • I-Beam: A strong steel beam resembling an “I”. It is used to support the weight of the roof and upper floors across long spans.
  • Inspections: Building inspectors ensure construction complies with codes, covering footers, foundations, construction methods, plumbing, and electrical work.
  • Infiltration: Air slips through cracks and crevices in a home, causing drafts and wasting energy. It is reduced through a home energy retrofit.
  • Insulation: Heat-resistant materials should be placed on walls, attics, ceilings, beneath slabs, or around foundations. They are composed of fiberglass, mineral wool, cellulose, rigid foam panels, and spray-on foam.
  • Interior Decorators: Professionals select furnishings, finishes, and elements for a desired design look in homes or buildings.
  • Interior Designers: Experts plan spaces, research, and create creative solutions for aesthetics and functionality. They ensure occupant safety.


  • Job Site: Construction work area.
  • Jack-and-Jill Bathroom:
  • Bathroom with entrance doors on each end from two different rooms.
  • Jack Post: These are adjustable metal replacement supporting posts. Commonly, they are used in basements to support sinking first floors.
  • Jib Door: Flush the door with the wall or wainscoting. It creates a hidden room effect.
  • Jamb: Wood pieces lining the side posts or surface of a door or window.
  • Joist: Horizontal lumber planks supporting a floor or ceiling, typically resting on bearing walls, girders, or other large beams.
  • Joist Hanger: U-shaped metal pieces are used to anchor decking, floors, and ceilings.


  • Knob-and-Tube Wiring: This method was popular in the United States from 1880 to 1940. It uses single-insulated wires supported by knobs.
  • Kilowatt Hour: Unit of measurement for electricity consumption. It is equivalent to 1,000 watts of electricity for one hour.


  • LOI (Letter of Intent): Document stating the intent of the builder and homeowner to work together. Later, it was replaced by a more formal contract. It is an important term in home renovation terminology
  • Landscaping: Process of enhancing outdoor spaces with plantings, ornamental features, and regrading.
  • Leech Field: The area where subsurface disposal facilities are placed for filtered sewage to percolate into the soil. Often, it is used in rural areas.
  • Lead Paint: This type of paint has hazardous lead. It is currently prohibited. When remodeling a home, testing and cautious containment are necessary.
  • Lumens: Unit of measurement for the quantity of light emitted by a source per unit of time.
  • Lineal Foot: Measurement for lumber. It is equal to 1″ thick, 12″ wide, and 12″ long.
  • Load-Bearing Wall: Exterior and certain interior walls are designed to support the weight of the floor or roof structure above.
  • Louver: It is a cover for an exterior vent with angled horizontal slats. It lets in light and air while keeping out water and direct light.
  • LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile): Flooring material with a realistic 3D photo layer resembling wood or stone. It is known for durability, water resistance, and temperature stability.
  • Lot: The plot of land on which a home is placed.


  • MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard): These are engineered wood products. They are made of hard and soft wood, wax, and resin binder. They are commonly used for baseboards and interior trim.
  • Main Water Shutoff: A valve that turns off the main water supply to the house. Usually, it operates in basements, exteriors, or underground for plumbing work.
  • Membrane: A thin synthetic rubber layer. It forms a barrier to prevent water penetration.
  • Mansard Roof: A roof with four sloping sides. It is steeper on the bottom half than the top half.
  • Marble: A limestone-based material. It is used for countertops and tiles.
  • Mantel: Decorative shelf above a fireplace.
  • Marmoleum: Forbo-Nairn’s LEED-certified linoleum flooring. It is hypoallergenic and composed of natural products.
  • Mortar: Material binding various stone types.
  • Masonry: Building materials like brick and stone are bound together by mortar.
  • Millwork: Wood-mill-produced materials, including molding, doors, and trim.
  • Master Suite: It is the largest bedroom. It often has a sitting area and an en-suite bathroom.
  • Mini Split: A type of heating and cooling system. It allows a controlled temperature in each room.
  • Miter Joint: A perpendicular joint. It is made by cutting and joining two pieces at a 45-degree angle.
  • Molding: These are wood, plastic, or stone materials. They are used as decorative frames.
  • Mudding: Apply thin coats of drywall compound (mud) to cover gaps. Also, use smooth joints and screw indentations.
  • Mud Room: Dedicated space at the front or back door for removing footwear and outerwear.
  • Mullion: A vertical framing bar between panes of glass in windows. It supports window glazing.
  • Mid-Century Modern: Design from the 1930s to the 1960s. This type of design is characterized by clean, organic forms and minimal embellishment.


  • OONKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association): A nonprofit trade association representing the kitchen and bath industry.
  • Natural Gas: A gas mixture, mainly methane. These are used for heating homes and gas-powered ovens and stovetops.
  • Nonbearing Wall: Interior wall without structural weight, also known as a “curtain wall.”
  • Net-Zero-Energy: Applicable to homes that produce energy through solar panels. It creates an equilibrium in energy usage over a year.


  • OSB (Oriented Strand Board): These are engineered woods. They are made by combining adhesive and compressed layers of wood strands in a specific placement.
  • On-Demand Hot Water Heater: Tankless water heater using high-powered burners fueled by electricity or gas.


  • Plan View: An architectural plan view from above. It provides a view as if you are looking down at the home or building.
  • Plans: Technical drawings showing space layout, specifications, and more in architecture and design.
  • Permit: A city-issued document allowing project work.
  • Particle Board: A wood product made of sawdust and adhesives. Often, it is used for furniture, underlayment, and substrate.
  • Punch List: Document prepared at the end of the construction. Listing corrections a contractor must make before final payment.
  • Percolation Test: A test determining the ground’s liquid absorption capacity from a septic tank. Typically, it is done by a soil engineer.
  • P-Trap: A U-shaped section in a drain pipe. It prevents sewer gases from entering a home.
  • Partition: A wall that divides a room into parts.
  • Paver: It is a paving stone, tile, or brick-like concrete. It is used for pathways.
  • Perimeter Drain: It is a perforated pipe with a mesh cover. It is installed around a home’s perimeter so that water can drain away.
  • Pedestal Sink: Sink with an upper basin and lower shaft.
  • Permeable Pavement: Paving material made of porous concrete. It enables stormwater to flow through.
  • PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene): Plastic tubing system used in building water supply pipes, heating and cooling systems, and domestic water piping.
  • Pitch: Measurement of roof slope steepness. It conveys a ratio of inches per horizontal foot.
  • Primer: This type of paint is applied before adding multiple layers. It remains underneath the layer.
  • Plumb: Completely vertical line.
  • Plumber: Professionals who specialize in installing or repairing sewage and drainage piping.
  • Plumbing Stack: Main plumbing pipe where all other pipes connect. Usually, it runs vertically throughout the home.
  • Plumbing Rough: Installation of vents, waste lines, shower pans, bathtubs, and gas piping to prepare the home for use.
  • Plywood: A wood material that is composed of thin veneer layers pressed together.
  • Pocket Door: A sliding door that disappears into a wall when fully opened.
  • Porcelain Tile: Tile with a low water absorption rate. Typically, these are used for countertops and bathroom surfaces.
  • Portland Cement: This type of cement is created by combining limestone and clay. It hardens fast when wet.
  • Post and Pier Foundation: It is a foundation system that supports the house’s weight. It provides support through wooden posts or concrete piers.
  • Post and Beam: Support structure with columns instead of stud framing support.
  • PV (Photovoltaic): These are solar panels that generate renewable energy from sunlight. Often, they are installed on home roofs.
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): This is a special type of plastic piping composed of polyvinyl chloride.


  • Quartz: A crystalline mineral of silicon and oxygen. Commonly, it is used in engineered countertops made of crushed quartz.
  • Quartzite: A hard, decorative stone containing quartz. It is used for walls, flooring, stair steps, and countertops.


  • Reclaimed Materials:
  • Recycled materials from a deconstructed building for reuse in new projects.
  • Radiant Heating: These systems deliver heat to floors, ceiling panels, or walls for instant warmth and energy efficiency.
  • Rebar: Steel reinforcing rods in concrete to support foundations, footers, and walls.
  • Rafter:
  • Types of wooden beams installed horizontally to support roof weight.
  • Reinforced Concrete: A type of concrete embedded with steel mesh or rebar for increased strength.
  • Remediation: Reversing or stopping environmental damage.
  • Retaining Wall: Required for holding back soil. This type of wall is often used on sloped properties.
  • Rim Joist: It is attached perpendicular to the joists. It provides lateral support in deck or flooring framing systems.
  • Romex: Cable with two or more wires sheathed in rubber tubing.
  • Rough-In: The stage where mechanical, electrical, and plumbing lines are laid out but not yet installed.
  • Rough Carpentry: Basic building work, including framing.
  • Rough Opening: Framed opening for a planned doorway or window before adding drywall, trim, or siding.
  • R-Value: A measure of insulation effectiveness. It indicates how well a material resists heat flow. A higher R-value means greater insulation effectiveness.
  • Risers: Vertical sections between staircase treads.


  • Setbacks: The recommended distance of a building from a street, alleyway, or sidewalk. It varies based on the zoning district.
  • STFI Policy: This is standard fire and allied perils insurance. It covers various damaging occurrences in home insurance.
  • Schematic Estimate: Total estimated project cost before construction adjustments.
  • Sanitary Sewer: Underground sewer system transporting sewage to a treatment plant.
  • Second-Story Addition: Adding a second level to a single-story home by removing the roof.
  • Shaker Style: Traditional furniture style with minimalist designs, tapered legs, and clean lines.
  • Section Drawings: Specific views of the home within building plans. These drawings feature ceiling heights.
  • Semigloss Paint: Paint with a moderate sheen. This kind of paint is often applied in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Stucco: A plaster that is used to coat the exterior walls of buildings.
  • Sheathing: Protective covering for a building’s framing structure exterior.
  • Shingles: These are flat and rectangular tiles made of asphalt, wood, or slate. They are layered on the roof for protection.
  • Shower Pan: A waterproof pan is inserted on the shower floor to prevent water leakage.
  • Sheet Metal Duct Work: Round or square metal pipes that distribute hot or cold air from the furnace.
  • Single-Hung Window:
  • Window with a bottom operable sash and a top secured sash.
  • Storm Window: A temporary window that is placed outside the original for protection against winter or bad weather.
  • Siding: Material on the exterior of the house. It protects against exposure to the elements.
  • Skylight: Window installed on the roof.
  • Solid-Surface Countertops: A countertop that is composed of mineral dust. It creates a seamless surface look.
  • Soaking Tub: Freestanding tub with enough depth for complete submersion.


  • Time-and-Materials Contract: A construction contract quoting hourly labor rates and material costs instead of a fixed job price.
  • Teardown: The act of demolishing a home to replace it with a new one. It is often done for replacement or due to poor condition.
  • Two-Story Addition: Adding a second floor to a home by removing the roof.
  • Take-Off: The process of creating a materials list for a construction project to estimate its cost.
  • Trim: Finishing materials installed by mechanical contractors on the building exterior. This includes moldings, doors, guard rails, shelves, etc.
  • Tempered Glass: A special kind of safety glass that is strengthened through controlled thermal treatment. They are almost four times stronger than standard glass.
  • Terrazzo: Flooring material made of quartz, marble, granite, or glass chips. It is set in concrete and polished for a smooth surface.
  • Treads: A top surface of a stair step where a person walks.
  • Truss: Assembly of beams arranged in connected triangles. It assists in forming a single, sturdy structure.


  • Universal Design: Design of buildings and environments accessible to all, regardless of age, ability, and other factors.
  • U-Value: Measurement of heat transmission through a wall or window. A lower U-value indicates a more energy-efficient window.
  • Underlayment: Usually, special material is placed between underflooring and finished flooring to ensure a smooth and even surface.
  • Urethane Paint: Type of paint made with a mix of pigment and polyurethanes. It can hold pigment molecules together for a glossy finish when dry.


  • Vessel: A sink type that sits on top of the bathroom counter. It is usually made of glass or porcelain.
  • Veneer: A thin sheet of wood commonly applied to coarser wood on doors, floors, and other finishes.
  • Vanity: Bathroom furniture that combines the sink, countertop, and mirror. They offer additional storage space.
  • Vinyl Windows: These windows are made of PVC. They are cost-effective and require less maintenance than wood windows.


  • Walk-Through: A final inspection of a nearly completed project to catch any errors before officially marking it as complete.
  • Walk-in-Shower: A shower level with the floor, with no steps, and no attached bathtub.
  • Walk-in-Closet: These closets are larger than standard ones. They enable a larger entry. Plus, they provide ample room for two people to share.
  • Wall-Hung Toilet: A modern toilet type that saves space. Here, the bowl is mounted to the wall, and the tank is installed inside the interior wall.
  • Warranty: A contract protecting work performed on a home from defects. You can get free replacements within a specific time frame with a warranty.
  • Wet Bathroom: A bathroom with no barrier between the shower and the rest of the bathroom.
  • Water Closet: A room containing only a toilet.
  • Water Main: The pipe that brings water from the main city source to the home.
  • Water-Based Paint: Paint that uses water to combine pigments and binders. It is mainly used for interior walls.
  • Waterproofing: Applying material or sealant to a home’s exterior to protect against water infiltration.
  • Weatherstrip: Thin strips of metal, rubber, etc. They are applied to the edges of doors and windows to prevent excess airflow.
  • Weatherization: Protecting a home from various weather conditions by adding insulation, storm windows, caulking, and other enhancements. This can improve insulation and decrease energy consumption.
  • Whole-House Fan: A ventilation system that distributes air throughout a home by pumping cool air from the house into the attic for circulation.


  • X-Bracing: A structural engineering practice using two supports in a diagonal fashion to create an X-shape. It assists in distributing a building’s load.
  • Xeriscaping: Landscaping that doesn’t involve irrigation.


  • Yard: A measurement of a two-dimensional area. A cubic yard measures a three-dimensional volume.
  • Yard of Cement: The volume of concrete. One cubic yard can cover 27 square feet at one foot thick when poured on an even surface.


  • Zone: The area around an HVAC system. It has its own controlled temperature compared to other parts of the home.
  • Zoning: Local laws or regulations determining allowable changes to a property in a specific region.

Final Words

Knowledge is power when you dig into home renovation terminology. If you have come this far, you must have learned the essential insights to transform your living space. As a result, you can communicate with contractors and professionals more effectively. In addition, you will be able to make informed decisions about remodeling your home.