The Building Lingo

Posted by Richard Dickson on Princeton Online 


contractor3If you spend any time on a construction site, you’re likely to hear words that sound like a foreign language. Worse yet, you may hear words that you thought you knew but which have some specialized meaning to the people around you.Don’t worry! You aren’t really on another planet. Like any profession, the home building community has a language all its own. Because we believe effective communication is a critical element in meeting our clients’ expectations, we make it a priority to help clients understand the building process. This includes some familiarity with the language of building. Here are several common building terms that, when understood, can help us communicate effectively.

1. “Cycle time”

The number of days between the first day on the job site and a project’s completion. We work with our materials suppliers and subcontractors to determine a reliable cycle time so that our clients can move into their home on time, as promised. Controlling cycle time also enables us to provide accurate estimates and helps us stay within budget.

2. “Rough-in”

The “rough” stage of construction is the behind-the-wall structural and mechanical work, the parts you don’t see when the building is complete. That includes work such as framing the walls, pulling the wiring through the studs, and installing pipes and heating ducts. During this point of the construction process, we can “rough-in” a system or product that provides an upgraded or extra service, such as wiring for a high-speed Internet or digital cable network. Installing a system’s “backbone” during the rough-in stage of construction costs significantly less than installing it once the house is finished.

3. “Staging”

To help reduce costs, we stage or organize and schedule the delivery of materials as we need them, rather than receiving a huge load all at once. Staging may also refer to the way we place loads of materials on the job site to make them more accessible to various workers. Both practices help us reduce waste and theft, save time, and keep better track of costs — all of which keeps budget and cycle time on track.

4. “Tape and texture”

To create a finished wall, our drywall contractor applies tape and texture to hide nail or screw heads and conceal the joints between panels of drywall or gypsum wallboard. The contractor uses a mud-like compound to fill and cover the nail heads and secure a fibrous tape that bridges the joints between adjacent drywall panels. The mud is allowed to dry and is then sanded smooth before applying paint, wallpaper, or other finishes. A quality tape and texture job ensures that cracks or nail heads won’t show through finished surfaces.

5. “Punch list”

There are literally thousands of details that go into the construction and finishing of every home renovation or newly constructed home. Although we monitor every phase of the building process to ensure each home reflects our promise of excellence, there are always a few final details that need extra attention.

To take care of any loose ends we schedule a final inspection with our clients, from which a “punch list” of incomplete or unsatisfactory items may develop. Our goal is to address every item on the punch list as soon as possible.

Many people are familiar with punch lists that are developed just before or after they move into a new house. However, punch lists are often used throughout the building process to track items that need additional attention. In this way, an absolute minimum of finish items remain when a house is completed and ready for final inspection with the owner. We welcome our clients’ questions, comments and input during the entire building process.

6. “Certificate of Occupancy “(or CO)

Before any homeowner can move in we must obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, or CO. This is a required approval by the local building authority certifying that the house meets all code requirements and is ready to occupy. We arrange for the CO at the end of construction. It’s a good idea to keep the Certificate of Occupancy in a safe and secure place, such as a safe deposit box.

7. “Implied warranty”

Under state law, an implied warranty makes the builder responsible for the condition and building code compliance of each new house the builder completes. Put another way, an implied warranty provides assurance that the home has been built to basic safety and health standards.

8. “Expressed (or explicit) warranty”

In addition to the implied warranty, high-quality builders across the country also offer an expressed (or explicit) warranty. This warranty, which differs from builder to builder, outlines the terms, procedures, and responsibilities for maintaining the home after the sale or finish of renovation. The warranty also offers a procedure to be followed if the homeowner experiences problems with the structure, finishes, or mechanical systems of the house within a specified time frame, which may be anywhere from one to perhaps 10 years. As part of the DDC contract we include such a written warranty.

9. “Closing”

is the slang term for ‘close of escrow’ — the process for transferring the deed and title to the house and property from us to our clients who buy a home from us. Before closing, we make sure we have completed the house to everyone’s satisfaction. The closing marks the end of the home building and buying process. For our clients for whom we do contract renovation work to their home there is no official “closing.” However, we view our satisfactory completion of the renovation work and our client’s use of the space as a “closing.”