10 Remodeling Terms You Need To Know Before Meeting A General Contractor


Before you start anything new, it’s a good idea to have a general understanding of the terms used in that industry. Why? Because people love throwing around industry jargon and knowledge of some basic terms will help in communicating with your contractor. Before reading this article, you could be forgiven for not knowing what a GFCI outlet is, so let’s get you up to speed on a few terms a general contractor might use when talking about your project.
General contractor
What is a general contractor anyway? The general contractor (GC) is going to be your main point of contact on the project, will put together a project quote, and is typically responsible for the day to day management of the project. Most general contractors were tradesmen who climbed up the ranks and started their own business. They should have a strong understanding of all aspects of the construction process but will typically utilize outside subcontractors, or “sub-out”, for specialty trades such as plumbing and electrical. Most states require general contractors to be licensed and insured, so check your state laws and, most importantly, make sure the contractor can provide you with the necessary documentation.
Gut renovation
You may want to undertake a larger project and start from scratch. This is what we call a gut renovation. You remove everything from the room, leaving only the framing, subfloor, and anything in the walls like plumbing and electrical intact.
Load-bearing wall
Understanding the difference between a load-bearing wall and a non-load bearing wall is vital. A load-bearing wall carries the weight of the structure above it down to the foundation below. Say you plan to renovate your kitchen and want to knock down a wall to create a more open living space. Removing a load-bearing wall can add thousands of dollars in additional cost and complexity, so be sure to discuss this with your contractor.
Update: Read our article on load bearing walls!
Knowing what the letters LVL stand for, Laminated Veneer Lumber, isn’t as important as knowing what an LVL is used for. An LVL is a strong wood structural element with greater span capabilities than traditional lumber and is commonly used as a beam. If you are thinking about knocking down a load-bearing wall to open up living space, there’s a good chance an LVL will be required to carry the weight from the structure above down to the foundation below.
The mechanicals is any systems that are contained within your walls. These can include HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. Some homes feature a mechanical room where essential parts for each of these systems reside, such as a hot water heater, electric panel, or furnace.
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. These systems are used to heat, cool, and ventilate the home. HVAC contractors install these systems.
Most towns will require that the homeowner or general contractor acquire a building permit before starting any work. A local building inspector will review your plans before issuing the permit and will inspect the work at various stages of completion to ensure the work is done according to local building codes. Building permits aren’t free, so don’t forget to include this cost in your budget!
The subfloor is wood flooring, typically plywood, that is installed over top of the floor joists. The subfloor provides support and structure for your floor covering such as carpet, tile, or hardwood flooring.
GFCI is another acronym whose name, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, is less important to know than what it does and where it’s used. A GFCI is a type of outlet that shuts off a circuit when it detects an imbalance in the outgoing and incoming current. These outlets are identifiable by the “test” and “reset” buttons located in-between the two outlets and are typically required in kitchens and bathrooms to prevent electric shock from a wet appliance.
PEX is a type of flexible plastic tubing used in plumbing. It offers cost savings over copper and is easier to install. PEX is typically color-coded, red for hot water and blue for cold water.
Now that you have these terms down pat, find your general contractor with Remodel It and complete your project with confidence!