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Renovation Lingo Guide

If You are Preparing for a Home Renovation or a Little Remodel Here are a Few Terms That Will Come in Handy as you Navigate the Job and Speak to Your Design Team.


The designer-produced technical drawings that provide the plan for a remodel. The blueprints show how the project will be built and include dimensions, materials, and types of fasteners.

Cabinet Refacing The process of repainting or applying a veneer to existing cabinets. Sometimes new cabinet doors are added. Door hardware is often replaced at the same time. Can be an economical alternative to replacing cabinets.

Cabinet Soffit The space between the top of the upper cabinets and the ceiling in kitchens. The soffit forms a boxed framework in this space.


The trim or molding that forms the frame around doors and windows.

Change Order

A modification made to the original contract this change is typically to the price, the plans or other specification of the project. The change order must be in writing.

Change the House Footprint

The footprint is the overall dimensions of the house, including attached garages and the porch. Changing the footprint means altering the dimensions, which usually happens when building an addition.

Face-Frame Cabinets A style of cabinetry. If you picture cabinets as a series of wooden boxes, all grouped together. Looking at them head on, each box has four sides. Following the practices of traditional joinery, cabinetmakers attached a narrow frame of wood to the front of those four edges of the box. This creates a stronger cabinet, hides the edge of the cabinet box, and provides a place for the door hinges to attach to. In contrast to Euro-style cabinets, which don't have the front frame.


A term which is used to describe many items within the home, typically in bathrooms and kitchens. Examples include sinks, faucets, bathtubs; almost anything exterior to the wall.


Rebar-reinforced concrete that sits under the foundation to provide support for the overall structure. Footing size and depth are guided by building codes.

General Contractor

The person responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the remodeling project. Most states require the general contractor to be licensed, bonded, and insured. This is usually your point person for questions and communications.

Subcontractor A specialty contractor, like a plumber or electrician, who's hired by the general contractor to perform specific work.


The wood flooring that's installed over the joists to provide stability. The floor covering like carpeting, tile, or plank flooring is installed over the subfloor.

Tongue & Groove A carpentry joint on a board or plank in which the jutting edge (tongue) of one board fits into the grooved end (groove) of another board. Typically used in hardwood flooring.


People who specialize in a skilled trade, such as roofing, tile, or electrical work. These folks are usually hired as subcontractors on projects.

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