92 Construction Terms Everyone Should Understand

Mar 3, 2023 10:25:26 AM

Here at CostCertified, we deal with all kinds of construction professionals, contractors, tradespeople, and more every day. We’ve been in the business long enough to encounter most construction terms, but we also know that not everyone understands all of them. Here are some of the more important terms you should know: 

  1. A/C is an abbreviation for air conditioners or air conditioning units. You might also see parts and equipment like the A/C condenser referred to using this term.  
  2. Acoustics is the science of sound. In the construction world, this is usually used to dampen sounds in homes, and to soundproof rooms. There are also specially designed acoustic foam and other materials that are used for this.  
  3. ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which sets out many of the rules and regulations for accessible buildings and properties. 
  4. Aggregate is the name for sand and stone that is used in concrete. Sand is usually known as fine aggregate, while stone or gravel is known as coarse aggregate.  
  5. Allowances are amounts that are built into a contract to cover costs that can’t be estimated or calculated before the start of the project.  
  6. Alteration an alteration could refer to changes made to a building without creating an addition, or it could refer to alterations that are made to the construction contract.  
  7. Alternative quote or bid is a separate quote or bid that is offered in addition to the main quote or bid that is to specification. This is usually done when the contractor has a solution that might work better, or that may save time or money.  
  8. Application for payment is a formal request for progress payments by a contractor. This usually includes a breakdown of the payment amounts and the amount of work done.  
  9. Appraisal is a valuation of a property, often by a bank or insurance official. 
  10. Architect is a trained construction professional who specializes in designing buildings. Architects also sometimes act as the owner’s representative on a project team.  
  11. Architect-Engineer is a professional or firm of professionals who provide both architecture and engineering back-charges. 
  12. As-built drawings are also known as “drawings of record.” They are drawings of the work that are usually done after everything is completed as part of the project’s closeout submission package.  
  13. Back charge is an extra charge for something that was not included in a bid or quote. Contractors might back-charge their clients for extra work, or they may be back-charged by their service providers and subcontractors.  
  14. Backfill is the process of filling an excavation or depression with soil and then usually compacting it so that it can be built on. 
  15. Beam is a structural element of a building. Beams can be reinforced concrete, structural steel, wood, and other materials. Their purpose is to help carry and distribute the load of the building.  
  16. Bearing capacity is the amount of weight or force a beam or structural element can carry.  
  17. Bearing wall or load-bearing wall is a wall that is designed to carry some of the structural load of the home or building. Bearing walls can be removed, but they must be replaced by an engineered beam that can transfer the load to other walls or support posts.  
  18. Bedrock is solid rock that lies below sandy or clay soil.  
  19. Bid is an official offer to complete specified construction work for a specific price.  
  20. Bid bond is a written guarantee that a bid is correct and complete and that it will not be withdrawn before the date of award. Usually, there are financial penalties if a bid that is covered by a bid bond is withdrawn before award.  
  21. BIM or building information management software is a special type of software that includes 3D modelling and other features. It’s usually used by architects, engineers, and project managers on large projects.  
  22. Blueprints is an old-fashioned term that refers to building plans. These drawings used to be printed on blue paper, which is where the name comes from.  
  23. BOQ or Bill of Quantities is a list of quantities and unit rates that are used to calculate a bid price and during a project for billing and measuring work.  
  24. Builder's risk insurance is a special type of insurance that construction companies need to cover their business as well as the public in the event of damages or injuries.  
  25. Building code is a documented list of building regulations that must be met for any new builds and most renovation projects. These codes will differ by location.  
  26. Building line is the closest point you can build to the property line or edge of a property. If you want to build closer to the building line, you first need to get permission to do so, and it’s not always granted when requested.  
  27. Building permit is formal written permission to start construction on a building project. It is usually issued by the municipal building department. If you are doing several types of building work, you may need several kinds of permits for one project.  
  28. CAD or Computer Aided Drawings are technical drawings that are generated on CAD software like AutoCAD.  
  29. Cantilever is a building design that includes a floor or platform that extends over the outer wall or foundation.  
  30. Cement is a grey, powdery substance that is an ingredient in concrete, mortar, and other construction mixtures.  
  31. Certificate of occupation is issued after all construction work is completed, and it is a legal document that allows the building to be occupied by people.  
  32. CFM or cubic feet per minute is a term that refers to the capacity of machines like concrete pumps and how much concrete they can place in a minute.  
  33. Change order is a formal change to the cost and or timeline of a project, which is often made based on a change order request or COR from a contractor or sub-trade.  
  34. Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand, and stone in various proportions, with carefully measured amounts of water. Concrete is available in many different mix designs and strengths and is usually specified by the architect or engineer.  
  35. Construction budget is a written budget accounting for construction materials, labor, equipment and other costs associated with completing a project.  
  36. Construction documents are all the documents that are created before and during a construction project, which may include specifications, scopes of work, drawings, conditions of contract, and so on.  
  37. Contract over-run is an extra cost that is incurred during a construction project.  
  38. Contract under-run is a cost saving that occurs during a construction project.  
  39. Cost-plus agreement is a method of pricing construction projects where the client pays the actual material, labor, and equipment costs as well as a predetermined markup percentage.  
  40. Cure (concrete) is the chemical process during which concrete hardens. Even though concrete can set in as little as a day, it will continue hardening for many weeks or months after that.  
  41. Cut and fill is a process where some areas of a site are excavated to lower the grade, and other areas are filled and compacted to raise the grade.  
  42. Daily progress report is a record of how much work was completed on a job site on a particular day. Often includes information about deliveries, visitors, and meetings that were held too.  
  43. Dead load is a fixed load that does not move.  
  44. Design-build construction is a type of construction where the contractor does not price based on a specified design but rather is given the parameters of the project and is responsible for both design and pricing of all construction.  
  45. Draw is another word for a progress payment that contractors get for a project.  
  46. Drawings are technical drawings that are used to complete a construction project to specification. This may include plans, cabinet drawings, electrical drawings, and other specialist drawings.  
  47. Duration refers to how long something takes in construction. A project will have an estimated duration, but each task and milestone will also have a specific duration.  
  48. Elevation is a term that refers to the side view of something. Construction drawings have elevation views that show what different sides of the building will look like.  
  49. Estimate is the name given to the process of calculating a construction quote. Construction estimators use plans and specifications to do a material take-off and then estimate how much labor will be required to complete the work in order to calculate a price.  

    92 Construction Terms Everyone Should Understand

  50. Excavation is any type of digging or hole that takes place or is found on a construction site.  
  51. Falsework is temporary work that is done during the course of a construction project that will be removed when the project is completed.  
  52. Fast-tracking or accelerating a project is usually done when the project falls behind schedule and is used to get the work back on track.  
  53. Field work order is an instruction for additional work that is usually of a low value and is usually issued on-site.  
  54. Final completion is the point at which a construction project is fully complete, and there are no remaining punch list items or remedial work required.  
  55. Fixed fee is another term for a lump sum quote or bid. The amount for this kind of project is quoted as a single figure based on the specification and scope of work.   
  56. Formwork are temporary structures that are constructed on-site to form concrete into slabs, beams, or walls as necessary.  
  57. Foundation is the underground structure on which a building rests. Usually, foundations are poured concrete, but there are other types of foundations available.  
  58. Gantt chart is a special diagram that is generated on software like MS Project, which outline the duration and sequence of work to be done on a project.  
  59. GMP contracts or Guaranteed Maximum Price contracts are contracts where no matter what happens on-site or during a construction project, the owner will not pay more than the agreed amount for the work.  
  60. Grade refers to the ground level on-site. You might also hear some things referred to as below grade (underground) or above grade (above ground.) 
  61. Holdback is a percentage of the contract value that is withheld from each draw, usually until a certain percentage of the contract value is reached, which is usually held until all punch list items, remedial work, and project closeout documents are submitted.  
  62. HVAC is the acronym for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems.  
  63. Inspection is a formal inspection by building inspectors and other officials. Most construction projects will need to pass several inspections during the progression of the work.  
  64. Invoice is the formal tax invoice a contractor provides to their contractor for each draw.  
  65. Lien is a legal process where someone with a bona fide financial claim against a construction project can lay a claim to the property. This usually means the project cannot be sold until the lien is removed. Most commercial construction clients request documents such as statutory declarations of payment of suppliers and service providers and waiver of lien to protect themselves from this kind of legal action.  
  66. Live load is a weight or load that is not static and that can move and change.  
  67. Lump sum bid is another name for a bid or quote where there is one price for all the specified work.  
  68. Masonry refers to any brick, stone, or cinderblock work that is done during building, usually including mortar bedding.  
  69. Milestone is a major point in the construction process. For instance, completing the foundation is a milestone because it allows the walls and floors to be built.  
  70. Non-bearing wall is usually an interior wall that is not carrying any of the load of a structure.  
  71. On center or O/C refers to a measurement that is taken from the center of one object to the center of another.  
  72. Penalty clause is a clause in a contract that allows the customer to charge the contractor for certain infractions. This usually applies to contracts that are not completed by the contractually agreed completion date.  
  73. Performance bond is a written guarantee that the work will be completed as quoted. If the contractor defaults, there are financial implications.  
  74. Plan view is a type of drawing that is created from an overhead perspective, looking down on the building or object.  
  75. Project manager is a construction professional whose role is primarily to ensure that work is completed correctly and on time.  
  76. Punch list is a list of outstanding work and finishes that is usually completed during the substantial completion inspection. This list must be completed before final completion can be reached.  
  77. Quantity take off is the process of calculating the quantity of construction materials that are required to complete a construction project. 
  78. RFP or Request for Proposal is usually used for pricing larger, often commercial projects.  
  79. RFI or Request for Information is a written request for information that is usually sent from the contractor to the architect or project team. In some cases, work might not be able to continue until a response is received.  
  80. RFQ or Request for Quotation is usually used for smaller residential projects.  
  81. Rough-in is the term that refers to plumbing and electrical that has been brought into a structure and roughly to where each point, light, or outlet is required but is not yet completed.  
  82. Scope creep refers to extra work or changes that are made to a project without change orders or additional payment.  
  83. Scope of work or SOW is the formal written description of what the construction project entails.  
  84. Section drawing is a drawing of an imaginary “slice” through an object or building, showing what it would look like inside.  
  85. Specifications are a formal written description of how each part of the construction project will be completed and with which materials.  
  86. Staking is the process of marking the corners of a construction project, usually before excavations for foundations or basements happen.  
  87. Standing time is the time that construction crews are on site, but that construction work cannot continue. Depending on the cause of the standing time, clients may be charged extra.  
  88. Substantial completion is the point at which a construction project has been inspected and deemed to be complete enough to be functional for the purpose it was designed. There may still be some finishing and remedial work to be done, and these will be included on the punch list.  
  89. Time and materials is a method of pricing construction projects where the client pays for the actual cost of labor and materials.  
  90. Unit rate bid is a quote or bid that is based on individual rates for different items that make up the work. Each line item will have a quantity, description, unit price, and total price.  
  91. Voids refer to gaps or spaces. In some cases, this might be a void in the earth under a foundation or wall, or it might be a void or bubble in concrete. Unplanned voids are always bad news on a construction project!  
  92. Zoning refers to the purpose for which a property may be used. For instance, land that is zoned for residential use cannot be used for commercial purposes and so on.  

Hopefully, these definitions will help you to make a little more sense of the construction process. But if you’re looking for help streamlining your construction estimating process, we’d love to chat more, and explain how the CostCertified construction estimating software can make things a little easier for your business.