Common Home Renovation Terms You Should Know!

So, you want to undertake a home renovation? There are some terms and titles you should familiarize with before you get started. Once you’ve learned all the lingo and inside information you should be equipped with enough renovation knowledge to get you started.


Millwork is used when discussing various types of craftsmanship work on a renovation. The kitchen cabinets, any trim in the house, specialized ceiling work, built in desks and shelves, and some types of flooring are all different types of millwork.


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Most people are familiar with this one. Blueprints are a set of technical drawings created by designers and architects that shows the layout of a building, living space or renovation.

Modern day blueprints for a renovation or new construction typically include: a site plan with survey points, floor plans, elevations, cross sections, and a materials specifications page.

Historically, this drawing would be created on blue paper – hence the name “blueprints”. The lines were white. Whereas in the present day, blueprints are Typically on white paper with black lines and have other details in different colours. In the age of iPhones blueprints are often stored on iPads or iPhones as opposed being printed out.


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Building, Plumbing and Electrical Inspectors

The term that strikes fear into the heart of home renovation undertakers is building inspector. Building inspectors are hired by the local government and they ensure that any type of renovation is done in compliance with all of the local rules and legislation.

One benefit of a building inspector is that it is on their shoulders to ensure that health and safety measures are met and that all of the work is completed to code including the plumbing and electrical and any work that is done that would involve building code regulations to be considered. Sadly, they have the power to halt your renovation until they’ve inspected everything, and all of the work has been completed to their approval.

Building Permit

This greatly coveted piece of paper is permission or approval given by your local ministry that allows you to remodel, renovate or build on your property. Building permit applications require a complete set of blueprints and a structural engineer’s stamp of approval in order to be processed. You may not need a building permit depending on your project and that depends also on where you live as there are different rules for different cities and provinces. Regardless, whether or not you believe you need a building permit we recommend you find out for sure because if you do need one and you have not secured one the authorities can halt your renovation and force you to make costly changes if not cancel your project out right. The changes they order may or may not be easy things to change.

Site Services

Often the term site services is used when referring to a site services permit from a city. A site services permit allows you connect your home’s water and sewer services to the city’s services. A site service may also refer to connecting your home to a public or private utility such as gas, telephone, electricity, internet or cable.

General Contractor

You would likely hire a general contractor to manage your renovation. The general contractor will coordinate the entire project as well as provide a quote on the total cost and on the timeframe of the project. A general contractor will very often hire subcontractors to take care of specific types of work such as electrical, plumbing and millwork. Any general contractor you hire should be fully licensed as well as insured. A good rule of thumb when it comes to hiring a general contractor is to check with your local Better Business Bureau and read Google reviews to verify that the person you are considering hiring has a positive work history with previous clients. A good general contractor has enough respect in the community with trades vendors and other professionals that he can easily resolve issues and get things done.


As mentioned above a subcontractor is typically hired by a general contractor to complete a specific part of the job such as electrical, plumbing, etc.

Some common subcontractors are:

  1. Plumbing
  2. Electrical
  3. Gas
  4. Drywall
  5. Insulation
  6. Tile
  7. Millwork
  8. Framing
  9. Roofing
  10. Finishing

unlike A general contractor who may have a wide range of skills, a subcontractor typically specializes in one or two trades only. For example, an electrician only does electrical whereas a plumber will do hot and cold water drainage and gas. As you can see even a subtrade who specializes in more than one trade will have closely related trades. You won’t or at least shouldn’t see a plumber installing drywall. All sub trades are performed under the supervision of the general contractor and his staff.


The term fixture may be used to describe components that are set in place and affixed to a wall. Some examples of this type of fixture would be chandeliers as well as decorative features that are attached to the home. When speaking about a renovation, a fixture typically refers to items such as sinks, faucets, shower controls, bathtubs and even a built-in oven.

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This term is an acronym. GFCI, also known as GFI is an acronym for ‘ground fault circuit interrupter’. A GFCI is a device that interrupts an electrical circuit in order to protect you and your family from any harm if you were somehow exposed to an electrical current in or near water. GFCI’s are generally required in every home in laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, garages as well as any location that has a source of water. A GFCI Is a component that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that your family is protected from any nefarious rogue electrical currents.


You are probably familiar with this term, though you may not recall exactly what the acronym stands for: heating, ventilation and air conditioning.  HVAC systems Are very helpful when regulating the temperature and humidity level in your home. As with any appliance an HVAC system should be properly maintained and inspected on a regular schedule.


This term is used frequently when discussing carpentry and woodworking. ‘Medium-density fiberboard’ – MDF — Is a type a board or panel that is made with sawdust and shavings as well as wax and resin. It is generally used in place of plywood and similar wood products. MDF is cut to size and created with a silky-smooth finish and unlike real wood contains no grain or not. When using a saw on MDF it doesn’t splinter or tear like real would often does. MDF is ideal for low impact carpentry projects such as trim and shelving. A downside of MDF is that it is heavier than plywood. Also, it gets damaged more easily and scratched more easily than real wood does. If MDF is left untreated and it is exposed to a small amount of water, it can swell up in size and break. There are types of MDF available today that are moisture resistant. The biggest concern with MDF is that most of it contains urea formaldehyde. This is a suspected carcinogen, so when working with MDF we advise you to do so outside or in a very well-ventilated area. Wearing a respirator would be a great idea as well.


You have probably heard the terms remodel and renovation used interchangeably. The term remodel is typically used in the United states whereas the term renovation is typically used in Canada. Essentially speaking renovating/remodeling refers to upgrading or updating or completely changing a living space. The term new construction is typically used to denote the building of a brand new home\Garage\studio shed from scratch. The only area that blurs the lines is home additions. Although a home edition is typically all new construction, because it is connected to the existing home it is generally considered a renovation in Canada. Kitchens are often remodeled/renovated and during that process the kitchen layout may remain the same with new appliances and cabinets or it may change dramatically with new locations for appliances and a new floorplan. During a renovation/remodel It is very likely that plumbing fixtures will be replaced with new ones, and the electrical system could be upgraded to compensate for new and additional lighting.