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10 for 10 Series: 10 Construction Terms You Must Know


Navigating the world of construction can be like learning a new language. Whether you're a homeowner embarking on a renovation project or a new entrant in the construction industry, understanding the jargon is crucial. That's why we've created this "10 for 10" series, where we break down complex topics into 10 essential points. In this installment, we're drilling down on 10 construction terms you absolutely need to know. These terms are the building blocks of any construction project and understanding them can save you time, money, and a lot of headaches.

1. Change Order

  • Definition: A change order is a modification to the original construction contract, usually involving an alteration in the scope, price, or schedule.

  • Why it's important: Understanding change orders helps you manage budget and timeline changes effectively.

  • Real-world example: If you decide to upgrade your kitchen countertops, a change order would be issued to reflect the new material costs and installation time.

2. Lien

  • Definition: A legal claim made by a contractor or supplier for unpaid work or materials.

  • Why it's important: Liens can affect your property ownership, so it's crucial to settle them promptly.

  • Real-world example: If a subcontractor isn't paid, they could place a lien on your property until they're compensated.

3. Punch List

  • Definition: A list of tasks and fixes that need to be completed before a construction project is considered finished.

  • Why it's important: The punch list ensures that all work is completed to your satisfaction.

  • Real-world example: Before final payment, you and your contractor will walk through the project and create a punch list of any outstanding tasks, like paint touch-ups or hardware installation.

4. RFI (Request for Information)

  • Definition: A formal request for additional information from contractors, suppliers, or vendors during a project.

  • Why it's important: RFIs clarify details and prevent misunderstandings.

  • Real-world example: If a contractor is unsure about the type of material specified in the plans, they would issue an RFI for clarification.

5. Scope of Work

  • Definition: The detailed description of the work to be performed under the contract.

  • Why it's important: It sets the boundaries and expectations for what will be delivered.

  • Real-world example: The scope of work for a home renovation might include specific tasks like electrical rewiring, plumbing, and cabinetry installation.

6. Subcontractor

  • Definition: A secondary contractor hired by the primary contractor to perform specific tasks.

  • Why it's important: Knowing who your subcontractors are can help you understand who is responsible for each part of the project.

  • Real-world example: In a home build, the general contractor might hire subcontractors for specialized work like roofing or electrical installations.

7. Bid vs. Allowance

  • Definition: A bid is a fixed cost for work, while an allowance is an estimated cost subject to change.

  • Why it's important: Understanding the difference helps you manage your budget effectively.

  • Real-world example: Your contractor might give you a bid for the kitchen but an allowance for landscaping, as those costs can vary.

8. OAC (Owner, Architect, Contractor Meetings)

  • Definition: Regular meetings between the key stakeholders in a construction project.

  • Why it's important: These meetings facilitate communication and keep everyone on the same page.

  • Real-world example: During an OAC meeting, you might discuss project progress, upcoming milestones, and any challenges that need addressing.

9. Elevation

  • Definition: A flat drawing of the exterior or interior faces of a building.

  • Why it's important: Elevations help visualize the finished project.

  • Real-world example: An elevation might show the front of your house, including the placement of windows and doors.

10. Grade

  • Definition: The level of the ground on a construction site.

  • Why it's important: Proper grading ensures adequate drainage and structural integrity.

  • Real-world example: Before construction begins, the site will be graded to ensure it is level and ready for building.


We hope this "10 for 10" guide has shed some light on the essential construction terms you're likely to encounter in any building project. Knowledge is power, and understanding these terms can empower you to communicate more effectively with contractors, subcontractors, and other professionals in the industry. Whether you're planning a small home renovation or a large-scale commercial build, these terms are your key to a smoother, more efficient construction process. Stay tuned for our next installment of our "10 for 10" series, where we dive into 10 design ideas to give your home a luxurious feel.



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