Get Quotes From Local General Contractors

Zip code:      Type of work:
<- Home Improvement Basics

Home Improvement Terms

Before you meet with a contractor, get to know the jargon. In order to understand how a contractor thinks and works you better know the language they speak. Here a some of basic terms used by contractors today. Spend some time learning the terms and become a more informed consumer.


AFUE stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency. It is a measure of the efficiency of a furnace. The higher the value, the more efficient the furnace is. It is expressed as a percentage with 100% being the best.


An allowance is a specific value allocated by the contractor for a specific item in a contract for which the details or pricing is not known.


A proposal from the contractor to do work for a certain price, based on plans and specifications for the project.

Building Permit

A signed document issued by a governing authority, such as a the town or county building department, granting permission to undertake a the home improvement project.

Change Order

A change order is written authorization to the contractor to make a change or addition to the work detailed in the contract. The change order includes any changes in price.

Cost-plus Contract

It is also known as a time-and-materials contract. It is a contract based on the actual cost of labor and materials plus a percentage for profit and overhead. In this type of contract the workers get paid by the hour not the job. So it allows the home owner to make changes to the project without needing a change order.


A pre-set payment that is taken from the total project budget to pay for services completed to date. A draw schedule typically is established in the contract. Typically it is done at the start of the project, the end of the project and at a few set intervals in between.

Energy Advisor

An energy advisor is a professional that can perform and energy audit on your home. They can evaluate certain features like insulation, windows and doors, airtightness and water fixtures. They can also provide advice on how to reduce consumption of resources. They are also very knowledgeable on what types of rebates and tax benefits are available.

Home Energy Audit

Also known as an energy assessment. The purpose of a home energy audit is to evaluate how energy efficient your home is today. Then you can determine with the help of an energy advisor what steps you might take to improve that efficiency. An energy advisor visits your home to provide an energy audit.


HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. It includes systems such as your furnace, boiler or heating appliance (such as a heat pump), central air conditioning, blower fans, and ductwork.

Lien Release

A Lien Release is a signed document that voids the legal right of a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier to pull a lien against your property. A lien release also assures the homeowner that the professional has paid subcontractors and suppliers in full for labor and materials.


An unpaid subcontractor or supplier through the courts obtains a lien. If enforced, the property or home can be sold to pay the subcontractor or supplier.

Plans and Specifications

Drawings and plans for the project. Includes a detailed list or description of the known products, materials, quantities, and finishes to be used in the project. An architect or home designer usually produces such documents.

Punch List

A punch list is a list of outstanding work that needs to be completed for the project to end.

R value

The R value is a way to measure of the effectiveness of home insulation. The higher the value means the greater the insulation value.


SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. It is a measure of the efficiency of an air conditioner. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient it is.


A person or company hired by the contractor to do specific work at the job site. Also know as a trade contractor.


VOCs stands for volatile organic compounds. VOCs are compounds released into the air by some new fabrics, carpets, paints and other products. VOCs contribute to outdoor smog formation as well as indoor air pollution. VOCs are suspected to contribute to respiratory and allergy-related health problems.

Our service is a 100% free and fast way to get estimates from local contractor pros in your area!
Get started today to take advantage of this incredibly easy and free service.