Contractor Jargon Glossary

To an outsider, sometimes it’s hard to know what a contractor is talking about when he gets passionate, excited, or hung up on the details of a project. Using industry jargon is second-nature to a contractor – he’s spent years learning the trade, getting his hands dirty, managing projects, and serving homeowners. If you’re a contractor, it’s easy to get lost in a world of jargon and slang.

Any good contractor in Myrtle Beach should be happy to clarify terms or rephrase a sentence in plain English. No matter how many questions you have, a worthy contractor has an answer you’ll understand.

Sometimes, though, you want to engage a contractor on their level. Whether it’s for the sake of brevity, or for the sake of educating yourself further, you want to understand your contractor’s native language.

Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of commonly used technical, jargon, and slang terms your contractor might use. When it’s time to start your next home improvement project, you’ll feel more comfortable knowing what your contractor and his crew are saying the first time around. And to make sure your next contractor is properly qualified to work on your home, download our FREE “8 Minute Contractor Qualifier” today!

Above Grade – The parts of a building above ground level.

Aggregate – Water-worn gravel, crushed stone, slag, or any mixture thereof, used in surfacing built-up roofs. Aggregate is available in many sizes and varieties. Your roofer should already know what kind of aggregate they plan on using.

Airway – A space between roof insulation and roof boards, designed for airflow.

Bearing Partition – A partition, or internal, subdividing wall, that bears the weight of any vertical load, as well as its own weight.

Bearing Wall – Any wall that bears the weight of a vertical load, as well as its own weight.

Below Grade – The parts of a building below ground level.

Blind Nailing – A method of nailing that hides the nail head.

Blocking or Nailer– Small pieces to brace framing members or to provide a nailing base for covering materials.

Board and Batten – A siding method, in which the joints between vertically placed boards or plywood are covered by narrow strips of wood, called battens.

Butt Joint –  The joint between two sheets of drywall and/or sheetrock is called a butt joint. They are generally taped and plastered together before a corner joint is installed.  

Casement Window – A window with hinges on one of the vertical sides and swings open like a door. Available in wood, metal and vinyl.

Counter Flashing – The metal material that is installed over roof-top base flashing systems.

Crickets – A peaked water diverter installed behind chimneys and other large roof projections. Effectively diverts water around projections.

Dead Load – The regular design-weight of a roof, including any fixtures attached to it, either above or below.

Deck – The substrate over which roofing is applied. Usually plywood, wood boards, or planks.

Dormer Window –  A vertically rising window embedded into a sloping roof.

Drip Edge – A metal flashing or other overhanging component with an outward projecting lower edge, intended to control the direction of dripping water and help protect underlying building components.

Eave – The part of the roof that meets or overhangs a wall or walls.

Emulsion – In roofing terms, emulsion refers to a coating of asphalt and filters that’s suspended in water.

Fascia – A cover that protects the edges and corners of a roof assembly, placed at the edge of eaves or overhanging roofs.

Fasteners – In the world of contractors, screws and nails are referred to as fasteners.

Flashing – Materials used to waterproof a roof around any projections.

Footer – A footer, used to help distribute the weight of a structure, is the bottom part of a foundation.

Hardware – A catch-all term for door knobs, towel bars, toilet paper holders, cabinet handles, etc.

Hatch – An access opening in a floor, roof, or deck.

Header – Headers run perpendicular to the floor and ceiling, and are placed over doors, windows, and other openings for framing purposes.

Hiccup – Slang for a minor flub or mistake;something that has to be redone.

Hip – The external angle formed where two sloping sides of a roof meet.

Infiltration – The process of air leaking into a building, resulting in undesired temperature changes.

Inside Drain – Roofing term; an inside drain is positioned on a roof somewhere other than the perimeter, where it drains surface water into a drainage system.

Jamb – The molding around a window frame.

Job Site – Your home.

Joist – Horizontal framing elements that carry floor and ceiling loads.

Lite – Refers to a single pane of glass within an individual window.

Low Slope – Roof pitches that are less than 4:12 are considered low slope roofs. Special installation practices must be used on roofs sloped 2:12-4:12. Shingles cannot be installed at slopes less than 2:12.

Membrane – Sheet materials used for built-up roofing installation and repair.

Mud – In a contractor’s vocabulary, mud refers to spackle, plaster, concrete, stucco, or other liquid-like materials used to coat or compose ceilings, walls, or foundations.

Mullion – A strip of wood, placed vertically, that separates adjacent windows.

Nailer or Blocking – When walls or decks cannot have nails driven through them, a piece of lumber is secured to them by bolts; roofing components are attached to the nailer.

OSB (Plywood) – A sheet material made up of an odd number of layers of wood. Each layer has the grain running perpendicular to the last, giving the sheets great strength. Standard size is 4’x8’, in thickness ranging from 1/4” – 1”. Used typically for roof and wall sheathing.

Overhang – Part of the roof which extends horizontally over a structure’s exterior wall.

Parapet Wall – A short wall that encompasses the perimeter of a roof deck.

Pitch – The incline slope of a roof; the ratio of the total rise to the total width of the house.

Ponding – Pooled water on a roof.

Prefinished Floor – Flooring that requires no finishing, only installation. 

Ridge – The horizontal line where the top edge of two sloping roof surfaces meet.

Roof System – A roof’s waterproof covering, insulation, vapor barrier, and deck, when referred to as a single entity.

Sash – The parts of a window that hold the glass and keep it in place.

Soffit – The area where a roof meets the side of a home, usually ventilated to provide circulation to the attic and let the roof “breathe.”

Squares – A 10×10 square foot area; the shingles needed for a roofing project are measured in squares.

Standing Seam – A kind of joint used on metal roofs.

Step Flashing – Metal flashing pieces installed at sidewalls and chimneys for weatherproofing.

Stud – A vertical structural element, made of wood or metal, attached to two top plates and one bottom plate within a wall.

Subfloor – Finished floors are laid on top of subfloors, which are boards are plywood mounted over joists.

Top Plate/Bottom Plate – Horizontal structural elements at the top and bottom of walls; each wall generally has two top plates and one bottom plate.

Truss – A single structural support composed of multiple load bearing elements.

Underlayments – Rolled materials designed to be installed under main roofing material to serve as added protection.

Valley – The place where two roof surfaces meet at a downward, or “V,” angle.

Weatherstrip – Thin metal strips that help prevent air infiltration and keep the proper amount of moisture around doors and windows; weatherstripping can also act as counter balance.

As a contractor in Myrtle Beach, we hope this glossary helps you feel more comfortable the next time you interact with a contractor.

If you have any questions about the glossary, or are ready to get started on your next home exterior remodel, contact Contract Exteriors in Myrtle Beach today!

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