Construction Terms

Construction Terms

Terms Commonly Used in Architecture & Interior Design

ACCESS PANEL: A small metal or wood door flush with a wall or ceiling surface which provides a closure over a valve or other operable device which is recessed into the wall or located above a ceiling. The access door may be keyed and lockable.

ACCESS FLOOR: Removable metal or concrete floor panels about 18″ to 24″ square which are supported on short steel pedestals so that wiring and ductwork may be installed, changed and maintained below the floor. The raised floor may be carpeted or tiled to create a finished floor surface.

ACOUSTICAL TILE, ACOUSTICAL PANEL: A ceiling or wall tile finishing material with an inherent property to absorb sound; usually made of mineral, fiber or insulated metal materials. Not “Acoustic Tile” or “Acoustical Board.”

ACRYLIC (PAINT), ACRYLIC LATEX: A paint composed of acrylic resins, thinned with water.

ADDENDUM: Written or graphic instruments issued prior to the execution of the contract which modify or interpret the bidding documents, including Drawings and Specifications, by additions, deletions, clarifications or corrections. Addenda will become part of the Contract Documents when the Construction Contract is executed. (Plural-“Addenda”.)

ADHESIVE: A sticky substance to bond one material to another. Use the term “Adhere” instead of “Glue.” Do not use “Glue,” “Cement,” or Mastic.”

ADMIXTURE: A chemical which is added to concrete to accelerate or retard the setting process or to create air bubbles in the concrete, called “accelerators,” or :air entraining agents.”

ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIDS: Published public notice soliciting bids for a construction project. Most frequently used to conform to legal requirements pertaining to projects to be constructed under public authority, and usually published on newspapers of general circulation in those districts from which the public funds are derived.

AGGREGATE: Any of various hard, inert materials, like sand, gravel, crushed stone, or pebbles added to cement to make concrete, mortar, or plaster.

AGREEMENT: (1) A legally enforceable promise or promises between two or among several persons. (2) On a construction project, the document stating the essential terms of the Construction Contract which incorporates by reference the other Contract Documents. (3) The document setting forth the terms of the Contract between the Architect and a consultant.

AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM: The process of treating air for simultaneous control of temperature, humidity, cleanliness, and distribution.

ALKYD (PAINT): A paint composed of a chemically synthesized, alkyd derived base, thinned with mineral spirits. The current version of “oil” based paints.

ALTERATION: A planned or executed change to an existing building, short of complete demolition of the building. See also DEMOLITION and SELECTIVE DEMOLITION.

ALTERNATE: Mechanism used in Bid Documents to seek separate bids for a different design than the “Base Bid” design. May be “Additive” or “Deductive” alternates.

APPROVE: The term “approved,” where used in conjunction with the Architect’s action on the Contractor’s submittal, applications, and requests, is limited to the Architect’s duties and responsibilities as stated in General and Supplementary Conditions.

APRON: (1) A finish strip applied below the stool of a window to cover the rough plaster or dry wall edge. (2) A paved or hard packed area abutting a garage door or other opening.

AREAWAY: An uncovered space next to the fountain walls of a building, for entrance of light and air to the basement.

ARRIS: Sharp edge of a finished member.

AS-BUILT DRAWING: A drawing or print marked by the Contractor to show actual conditions of a project as constructed after construction.

ASHLAR: A rectangular pattern of stone used in a wall.

ASPHALTIC CONCRETE: This is the term used for paving for roads and driveways. Not “Asphalt” or “Bituminous” Concrete.

ASTRAGAL: A small molding attached to one or both meeting stiles of a double door, used to provide a tight, draft-free fit.

AWARD: The acceptance of a bid or negotiated proposal by an owner.

 

BACKFILL: The material (earth, gravel, or sand) used for refilling around a foundation wall.

BACKUP: The inner portion of a masonry wall, usually finished with face brick, stone ashlar, stucco, or other decorative or protective veneer on the outside.

BALUSTER: Any of a number of closely spaced vertical supports for a railing or balustrade.

BATT INSULATION: A preformed section of flexible fiberglass or mineral wool insulation with or without a vapor barrier covering on one side (either kraft paper or aluminum foil) sized to fit snugly in a framed cavity between studs or joists.

BATTEN: A narrow strip of wood or metal used to cover vertical joints between boards or panels.

BAY: An opening in a wall; a horizontal area division of a building, usually defined as the space between two columns or piers.

BEAM: A horizontal load-supporting member of a building which directly supports a floor; may be of wood steel, or concrete; transmits load horizontally to vertical columns or bearing walls. Normally beams are larger and are spaced further apart than “joist.”

BEARING WALL: A wall which supports any vertical load in a building (such as floors, roofs, joist, beams or girder) as well as its own weight.

BEARING: The area of contact between a structural member (beam, girder, footing) and its underlying support (column, bearing wall, load bearing ground).

BELT: A horizontal course of decorative stone or brick exposed to the exterior face and encircling a masonry building.

BEVELED WOOD SIDING: Horizontal wood boards of varying widths, (usually 4″, 6″, 8″, or 10″) with lower edge thicker than upper edge.

BID: A complete and signed proposal to do the construction work or designated portion thereof for the dollar amount stated in the bid.

BIDDER: One who submits a bid for a prime contract with the Owner, as distinct from a sub-bidder who submits a bid to another bidder. Technically, a bidder is not a contractor on a specific project until a contract exists between him and the Owner.

BIDDING DOCUMENTS: The advertisement or invitation to bid, instructions to Bidders, the bid form the drawings, the specifications, and any Addenda issued prior to receipt of bids.

BLANKET INSULATION: Roll type fiberglass insulation for installation over ceilings or on wall surfaces either laid flat or secured with impaling pins.

BOARD FOOT: A unit of measure represented by a board one foot long, one foot wide and nominally one inch thick, or 144 cubic inches.

BOARD MEASURE: A system of cubic measurement for lumber; the basic unit is a board foot.

BOND: The arrangement of bricks in certain overlapping patterns to give the finished structural unit additional strength and to allow the individual elements to act together as a cohesive, integrated unit. Commonly used bonds are Running, common, English, and Flemish bonds.

BORROWED LIGHT (OR “LITE”): An interior window between rooms which allows light from one room to enter another – It is an older term, but not entirely out of use – use instead “glazed opening.”

BRACE: A structural member which reinforces a column, beam, or truss.

BRACKET: A horizontally projecting support for an overhanging weight such as cornice.

BRIDGING: A method of bracing wood or steel floor joists by providing lateral members between the joists. Cross-bridging forms an “x” shape between joists. The purpose of bridging is to distribute loading to several joists.

BUDGET: The sum established by the Owner as available for the entire Project, including the construction budget, land costs, equipment costs, financing costs, compensation for professional services, contingency allowance, and other similar established or estimated costs.

BUILDING PERMIT: A permit issued by a village, town, city, county, state or federal governmental authority allowing construction of a project in accordance with approved Drawings and Specifications.

BUILDING TYPE: A classification of a building according to principal activities or uses for which it was constructed, such as housing, jail, shopping center. This is not the same as an “occupancy type” of building codes.

BUILT-UP ROOFING: roofing system used on relatively flat surfaces – hot asphalt or coal tar pitch mopped on with several plies (3 to 4) of roofing felts. May be smooth surfaced, painted with fibrated aluminum paint, or graveled on top.

BUTT JOINT: The cut ends of sheet or boards placed adjacent to one another with no overlap.

BUTTRESS: An external structure usually brick or stone, built against a wall to support or reinforce it.

BY OWNER: The term “by Owner” means that work shown or described in the contract documents and labeled with this designation is not included in the General Contractor’s contract, but will be completed under a separate contract with another contractor by the Owner. Coordination and scheduling of the work thus described shall be the responsibility of the General Contractor.

BY OTHERS: The term “by others” means that work shown or described in the contract documents and labeled with this designation is not included in the specific sub-trade’s contract, but will be required to be done within the General Contractor’s contract.

 

CAISSON: A deep foundation type which is constructed by boring a large diameter hole in the ground and filling it with concrete.

CAMBER: A slight upward arching given to a beam, girder, or truss to prevent sagging due to weight.

CANT STRIP: A slanted or angled board laid at roof-wall intersection or in back of a parapet, to transition from horizontal to vertical for a roof membrane.

CANTILEVER: A structural member projecting horizontally well beyond its vertical support.

CASE WALL: A partition to enclose mechanical and plumbing systems.

CASEMENT: A type of window having a sash with hinges on one side allowing the window to open. Most contemporary casement windows swing outward.

CASING: The exposed trim molding, around a door or window; may be either flat or molded.

CASING BEAD: A plaster stop – do not use for gypsum wallboard trim.

CAULK: An archaic term meaning to fill small cracks with a linseed oil and whiting compound called “caulk” which is not very flexible and will not provide a water tight joint — use the term “seal” or “sealant” instead.

CEMENT: Portland Cement for use in concrete, grout, mortar, cement plaster and stucco.

CEMENT PLASTER: Material made from Portland cement sand and water for use on exterior walls and soffits, and on high use interior surfaces or in high humidity interior spaces. “Stucco” is cement plaster.

CERTIFICATION FOR PAYMENT: A signed statement from the Architect to the Owner confirming the amount of money due the Contractor for Work accomplished and/or materials and equipment suitably stored.

CHALKBOARD: Do not use the term “Blackboard” which is archaic since contemporary chalkboards are not normally black.

CHAMFER: To bevel or round off a right angle corner.

CHANGE ORDER: A written order to the Contractor signed by the Contractor, Owner, and the Architect, issued after the execution of the Contract, authorizing a Change in the Work or an adjustment in the Contract Sum or the Contract Time. The Contract Sum and the Contract Time may be changed only by Change Order.

CHIPBOARD: Type of wood panel manufactured from wood chips and glue – not a correct term – use the term “particle board” instead.

CLERESTORY WINDOW: A window or series of windows in a wall above the eye line, for lighting and/or ventilation of the building.

CMU: Concrete Masonry Unit – Do not use “Cement Block” or “Cinder Block.”

CODES: Regulations, ordinances or statutory requirements of a village, town, city, county, state, or federal government relating to building construction, adopted and administered for the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.

COLUMN: A vertical load-carrying structural member supporting horizontal members (beams, girders, etc.).

COMPLETE: The term “complete” means all surfaces or areas of a construction item.

CONCRETE: A mixture of Portland cement, large and small aggregate, water and admixture.

CONDUCTOR: See “down spout”.

CONDUIT: A protective metal tube for electric wiring.

CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS: The term “Construction Documents” means the Scope of Work list and reference drawings contained within the Volume by that name.

CONSTRUCTION JOINT: A joint in concrete flatwork or walls which is necessary for stopping the pour for the day – sometimes referred to as a “cold joint,” but do not use that.

CONSTRUCTION MANAGEMENT: The combined operations for the authorization, purchasing, supervision, accomplishment, and acceptance of a construction project.

CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS: Working Drawings and Specifications.

CONSULTANT: An individual or organization engaged by the Owner or Architect to render professional consulting services, supplementing the Architect’s services. Types of consultants could be Engineers, acoustical, energy, or cost consultants.

CONTRACT DOCUMENTS: The term “Contract Documents” means all of the documents which make up the Contract between Owner and Contractor, including the Contract itself, the General and Special Conditions, the Technical Specifications, the Construction Documents (Scope of Work and Drawings), all Addenda issued prior to signing of the Contract and Change Orders issued by the Owner and agreed to by the Contractor after the signing of the Contract.

CONTRACT ADMINISTRATION: The duties and responsibilities of the Architect during the Construction Phase, which includes observation of construction, checking shop drawings, and approving pay requests.

CONTRACT DOCUMENTS: The Owner-Contractor Agreement, the Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), the Drawings, the Specifications, and all addenda issued prior to execution of the contract

CONTRACTOR: In construction terminology, the person or organization responsible for performing the Construction Work and identified as such in the Owner-Contractor Agreement.

CONTROL JOINT: A groove which is formed, sawed, or tooled in a concrete or masonry structure to regulate the location and the amount of cracking and separation resulting from the dimensional change of different parts of the structure, thereby avoiding the development of high stresses.

COPING: Top of a parapet, usually stone or metal, to prevent water from getting into the parapet.

COR-TEN: Proprietary name for a brand of weathering steel made by the Inland Steel Company – use the generic term “weathering steel” instead.

CORBEL: Masonry which is stepped out from each course to project from a wall.

CORNICE: A horizontal molding along the top of the wall or ceiling.

COURSE: A continuous horizontal layer of masonry.

CRAWL SPACE: An unfinished, accessible space below the first floor, generally less than full story height, but at least 1′-6″ high clear under the joists or beams.

CRICKET: A small saddle on a roof used to divert water around a chimney or other small projection (see saddle).

CRIPPLE: A short supplemental wall framing member used between the door or window header (or window sill) and sill plate.

CURB: (1) The stone or concrete edging of a side walk or paved street;                     (2) the raised edge of a floor or well opening.

CURTAIN WALL: An exterior wall which encloses but does not support the structural frame of the building.

 

DAMPPROOFING: An impermeable coat or coats of asphalt brushed or sprayed on the foundation basement wall to prevent the passage of moisture.

DATUM: A reference elevation to which other elevations are measured.

DEAD LOAD: The part of the total building load contributed by the structural building elements and materials.

DEFLECTION: The displacement in a structural member that occurs when a load is applied to the structure.

DELETE: To take something out of the building or contract – do not confuse with “omit” which means not to install something in the first place.

DEMISING WALL: An interior wall or partition used to sub-divide tenant spaces from one another.

DEMOLITION: Removal of an entire building — see also “alteration” and “selective demolition.”

DETAIL: A drawing, at a larger scale, of a part of another drawing, indicating in detail the design, location, composition and correlation of the elements and materials shown. (Usually referring to a plan detail.)

DIRECTED: Terms such as “directed,” “requested,” “authorized,” “selected,” “approved,” “required,” and “permitted” mean “directed by the Architect,” “requested by the Architect,” and similar phrases.

DIVISION (OF THE SPECIFICATIONS): One of the sixteen organizational subdivisions used in the specifications and in construction information filing. (List them).

DOUBLE HUNG WINDOW: A type of window containing two movable sash sections which slide open vertically.

DOWNSPOUT: A pipe to carry rainwater from the gutter or roof to the ground or the sewer — can be sheet metal, plastic, or other type of piping material.

DRAWING: do not use “print,” “blueprint,” or “sheet”

DRIP: A projecting part of a sill or cornice that sheds rain water and protects structural parts below.

DRYWALL: Gypsum board for interior wall and ceiling finish material.

DUCT: A rectangular or round sheet metal or fiberglass pipe used to convey warm or cooled air.

DUMBWAITER: an elevator too small for a person – used for vertically transporting food, mail, dishes, trays, etc.

 

EGRESS:  Another word for “exit”, and is used in building code to refer to the means by which somebody can exit a building

EAVES: The lower or outer edge of a roof which overhangs the side wall of a building.

ELASTOMERIC: A material which is inherently rubbery for sealants, flashings, and waterproof membranes.

ELEVATION: (1) A drawing of the front, side, or rear of the building drawn to scale. (2) The height above surface of the earth or the vertical distance from a given reference elevation.

ENGLISH BASEMENT: A basement with half its height above grade level.

EVACUATION: The removal of earth from its natural position, or the depression resulting from the removal of earth.

EXPANSION JOINT: A joint in concrete, masonry, or metal designed for movement – expansion and contraction — not a “control joint,” or “construction joint.”

EXPANSION SHIELD: a drilled-in lead shaft, into which a bolt is screwed, expanding the shaft tight against the hole — used for anchoring materials onto concrete or masonry surfaces.

 

FACADE: The front of a building.

FACE BRICK: A good grade of brick used to finished the exterior of building walls.

FASCIA: (1) Any relatively broad flat vertical surface like that on the outside of a cornice.  (2) A finishing board used to conceal rafter ends.

FEASIBILITY STUDY: A detailed investigation and analysis conducted to determine the financial, economic, technical or other advisability of a proposed project.

FEE: A term used to denote payment for a professional service, (not including compensation for reimbursable expenses, such as travel, long distance telephone calls, photo copy, printing or mailing).

FELT PAPER: Archaic term – an asphalt-impregnated used as a covering for wall sheathing or for plys of built-up roofing, usually weighing 15 lbs. per 100 square feet — use the term “building paper” for use over wall sheathing, and “ply” for roofing felts.

FENESTRATION: The design and disposition or arrangement of windows or other openings in a building wall.

FIBERBOARD: A building board of wood or other plant fibers compressed and bonded into a sheet, usually 4′-0″ x 8′-0″ x 1/2″ thick.

FIBERGLASS: Fine-spun filaments of glass made into a yarn, used in blankets as insulation; or it may by added to gypsum or concrete products to increase tensile strength — do not use the term “glass fiber.”

FILL: Soil, gravel, or sand used to equalize or raise the surface of the earth.

FINISHED FLOOR: The top or wearing surface of a floor system, of hardwood, vinyl, terrazzo, or ceramic tile.

FIRE RESISTANCE: The ability of a wall or floor assembly to maintain structural stability and act as an effective barrier to the transmission of heat for a stipulated period of time. Measured in hours, such as 1hr, 2hr, 3hr, or 4hr.

FIRE STOPPING: Solid wood members placed between studs to retard the spread of flame within the framing cavity.

FIREPROOFING: The use of incombustible materials to protect steel structured membrane of a building so it can withstand a fire without losing structural integrity, for a stipulated period of time. Measured in hours, such as 1 hr, 2hr, 3hr, or 4hr.

FLAKE BOARD: use the term “particle board” instead.

FLAME SPREAD CLASSIFICATION: A standard measurement of the relative surface burning characteristics of a building material when tested by ASTM E 84. Classes are A, B, or C.

FLASHING: The strips of sheet metal, copper, lead, or tin used to cover and protect structural angles and joints, to prevent water seepage or leaks.

FLOAT FINISH: The surface of concrete finished by a continuous spreading of the material with a flat board.

FLUE: The duct or open space within a chimney through which combustion gasses and smoke are allowed to escape.

FOOTING: The projecting course at the base of a foundation wall which distributes the building load over a wider area of the soil.

FOYER: The entrance hall of a house or other building type.

FURNISH: The term “furnish” is used to mean “supply and deliver to the Project site, ready for unloading, unpacking, assembly, installation, and similar operations.”

FURRING: The strips of wood or metal applied to wall or other surface to make it plumb or true to line, which will provide a fastening surface for a finish covering — be more precise by using the terms “wood furring” or “metal furring.”

FURRING CHANNEL: cold rolled steel channel for suspension of plaster or drywall ceilings – usually 3/4″ or 1 2″ deep.

 

GABLE: The triangular-shaped wall at the end of a building between the slopes of a roof.

GAGE: Same as “gauge” — thickness of metal.

GAMBREL ROOF: A ridged roof, with sides having two pitches or slopes.

GENERAL CONTRACT: (1) Under the single contract system, the Contract Between the Owner and the Contractor for construction of the entire Work. (2) Under the separate contract system, that Contract between the Owner and a Contractor for construction of architectural and structural Work.

GENERAL CONDITIONS (OF THE CONTRACT FOR CONSTRUCTION): That written part of the Contract Documents which sets forth many of the rights, responsibilities and relationships of the parties involved.

GIRDER: A Horizontal load supporting member of a building which supports a beam or beams.

GIRT: A secondary horizontal framing member extending between columns or studs to stiffen the framing system; also to provide support for the siding or sheathing.

GLAZED OPENING: glass window in an interior wall or partition — do not use the term “window,” “vision panel,” “light,” “lite,” or “borrowed light.”

GRADE BEAM:  A horizontal load-bearing foundation member but end-supported on piles, piers, or caissons like a standard beam; not ground-supported like a foundation wall.

GRADE: Level of the earth’s surface.

GRILLAGE: A system of beams, laid crosswise to form a foundation to evenly distribute the load.

GROSS AREA: The total enclosed floor area of all floors of a building measured from the outside surface of the exterior walls.

GROUNDS: The strips of wood or metal placed around a wall opening to establish the finished plane for the palter or concrete.

GROUT: A thin, fluid mortar mixture of Portland cement, fine aggregate and water used to fill small joints and cavities in masonry work — do not use mortar in place of grout.

GUARD RAIL: A protective railing around an open raised platform.

GYP BOARD: See gypsum wallboard.

GYPSUM WALLBOARD: A prefabricated sheet used in drywall construction made of gypsum covered with paper which can be painted, or wall papered — use the term “drywall” instead.

 

HANDRAIL: Single railing on wall at stair — use “railing” for a protective barrier.

HANGER: Any suspended structural member to which other members are attached.

HARDBOARD: manufactured flat wood panel used for interior finish material — do not use the terms “Masonite,” or “pressed board.”

HARDWOOD: wood obtained from deciduous trees, mainly used for finished wood trim, doors, panels, and furniture — no specific species, could be oak, birch, ash, poplar, teak, mahogany, butternut, etc.

HEAD ROOM: The distance between the top of a finished floor and the lowest part of the floor above.

HEADER: In masonry, a brick laid across the thickness of a wall with one end toward the face of wall. In carpentry, a wood beam set at right angles to joists at a floor opening to provide a support for joist which are interrupted by the opening.

HEARTH: The floor of a fire place, and the projection of noncombustible flooring material in front of the fireplace.

HIP ROOF: A room whose four sides slope to a common point or to ridge; has no gabled ends.

HOISTWAY: shaft for elevators and dumbwaiters.

HOLLOW METAL: break-formed sheet metal used for doors, windows and frames.

 

IN KIND: The term “in kind” means of the same type, size, material, etc. as the existing item.

INDICATED: The term “indicated” refers to graphic representations, notes, or schedules on the Drawings, other paragraphs or schedules in the Specifications, and similar requirements in the Contract Documents. Where terms such as “shown,” “noted,” “scheduled,” and “specified” are used, it is to help the reader locate the reference; no limitation on location is intended.

INSTALL: The term “install” is used to describe operations at project site including the actual “unloading, unpacking, assembly, erection, placing, anchoring, applying, working to dimension, finishing, curing, protecting, cleaning, and similar operations.”

INSTALLER: An “Installer” is the Contractor or an entity engaged by the Contractor, either as an employee, subcontractor, or sub-subcontractor, for performance of a particular construction activity, including installation, erection, application, and similar operations.

INSULATION: Any material used to slow down the transfer of heat.

 

JACK RAFTER: The diagonal sloping ridge rafter of a hip roof.

JALOUSIES: Adjustable glass louvers in doors or windows to regulate light and air or exclude rain.

JAMB: The side framing or finish of a doorway or window.

JOINT FILLER: material which fills the entire depth of a joint and in itself does not form a waterproof joint — may be topped with sealant to provide water tightness.

JOIST: A horizontal closely spaced framing member supporting a floor or ceiling.

 

KERF: A narrow slot cut in to the face of a material such as wood or metal.

KEYSTONE: The central topmost stone or brick of an arch.

KING POST: The vertical member at the center of a triangular truss.

KNEE: A brace placed diagonally at the center of a triangular truss.

 

LALLY COLUMN: A steel pipe column which is encased in concrete and another steel jacket on the outside to provide fire proofing.

LATH: Strips of wood (in older existing construction) or expanded metal used as base for plaster walls.

LATTICE: Any openwork panel of crossed strips, rods, or bars of wood or metal, used as a screen.

LEADER: archaic term — use “down spout” instead.

LIEN: See “mechanic’s lien”.

LIGHT (OR “LITE”): A window pane or section of a window sash for a single pane of glass.

LIGHTWEIGHT CONCRETE: concrete which uses lightweight aggregate such as expanded shale or clay instead of crushed stone — normally weighs about 110 pcf.

LIGHT WELL: An open area within a building or in a subsoil space around a basement window, which provides light and air.

LINTEL: A piece of wood, stone, or steel placed horizontally across the top of door and window openings to support the wall above the opening.

LITE: See “light”.

LIVE LOAD: That part of the total load on structural members that is not a permanent part of the structure. it may be variable, as in the case of loads contributed by people, furniture, wind, snow or earthquake loads.

LOAD-BEARING PARTITION: A vertical structural interior wall supporting a floor or roof.

LOFT:(1) An attic-like space below the roof of a house or barn; (2) any of the upper stories of a warehouse or factory, (3) A type of apartment unit which is usually built within an old factory and which provides the occupant with large, open, high-ceiling spaces. Usually only a bathroom is enclosed and plumbing is minimal. Interiors are finished by occupant.

LOUVER: A slatted ventilator pitched to keep out fain or snow.

 

MANSARD ROOF: A roof with two slopes or pitches on each of the four sides, the lower slopes steeper than the upper.

MASONRY: Brick, concrete block, or stone.

MECHANIC’S LIEN: A legal charge on property in favor of persons supplying labor or materials for a building for the value of labor or materials supplied by them. Clear title to the claim for the labor, materials or professional services is settled through the “release of liens” which is accomplished through a form given to the owner by the contractor.

METAL: used to denote products fabricated from thin sheet steel.

METAL LATH: Expanded metal used for plaster lath — do not use the terms “mesh” or “chicken wire.”

METAL TRIM: edge trim for drywall — do not use the term “casing bead” which is for plaster.

MEZZANINE: An intermediary floor having less than 1/3 of the area than the floor below.

MILL CONSTRUCTION: A type of “slow-burning” construction made of masonry walls, heavy timber framing, and planked or laminated wood floors.

MILLWORK: Doors, windows and door frames, mantels, panel work, stairways, and woodwork.

MITER: A joint formed by to pieces of material cut to meet at an angle.

MOLDING: A finishing piece to cover construction joists or edges, usually a long narrow strip of plain or curved wood; may be ornamented.

MONITOR: A raised rectangular and roofed structure on a roof having windows or louvers for ventilating or lighting the building.

MOP BASIN: Floor mounted sink for building maintenance purposes — do not use terms “slop sink” or “service sink,” which are wall-mounted sinks.

MORTAR: A bonding agent in masonry work, made of lime, sand, and cement mixed with water.

MUD: A common term for drywall joint compound products.

MULLION: Vertical framing which divides windows into major sections.

MUNTIN: The vertical or horizontal bars which divide lights (panes of glass) in a window.

 

NEWEL: The vertical post around which the steps of a winding staircase turn; the post at the top or bottom of a staircase, supporting the handrail or a balustrade.

NOSING: The rounded projecting edge of a stair tread or landing.

 

OAKUM: A loose fiber from hemp or rope, used as a backing for caulking joints in cast iron drain piping.

OFFSET: A ledge formed by a difference in the thickness of a wall.

OMIT: to leave something out by intention.

ON CENTER (O.C.): The distance from the center of one structural member to the center of another, term used for spacing studs, joists, rafters.

OPTION: term used in construction documents to indicate that contractor may use one of several products at his or her choice.

 

PARAPET: An exterior low wall along the edge of a roof, balcony, ridge, or terrace.

PARGING: A coating of cement mortar (Portland cement, sand, and water mix), on a masonry wall, used to waterproof the outside surface of an exterior wall or masonry foundation.

PARQUET FLOOR: A hardwood floor laid in small rectangular or square patterns, not in long strips.

PARTY WALL: A wall built along the dividing line between adjoining buildings for their common use.

PATCH: The term “patch” means to remove any damaged or defective material within the area to be patched, and to replace it with new material, fitted in a workmanlike manner so as to provide a continuous plumb, level, and/or true to line surface, uninterrupted by flaws, defects, or blemishes.

PARTICLE BOARD: A wood and glue composite panel for sheathing, underlayment, subflooring, and substrate for veneers and plastic laminate for millwork.

PARTITION: A non-bearing wall which divides space and supports only its own weight.

PENTHOUSE: A building on the roof of a building to enclose mechanical or elevator equipment; also, an apartment on the roof of a high-rise apartment.

PERFORMANCE BOND: An insurance document purchased by the contractor from a bidding company (a “surety”) which guarantees that the work will be performed in accordance with the Contract Documents.

PERMEABILITY: The property of material to permit a fluid (or gas) to pass through it; in construction, commonly refers to water vapor permeability of a sheet material or assembly and is defined as Water Vapor Permeance per unit thickness.

PERMIT: A document issued by a local, state, county, or federal governmental authority having jurisdiction to authorize specific work on a building.

PIER: A column; a foundation type shaped like a column underground, created by drilling a hole and filling it with concrete.

PILASTER: Half-column attached to or projecting from a wall.

PILE: A timber, steel, or concrete pole which is driven into the ground to serve as support for the foundation.

PITCH: The slope or incline of a roof, expressed in inches of rise per foot of length, or by the ratio of the rise to the total roof span.

PLANK: A piece of unfinished structural lumber 2 to 4 inches thick and at least 8 inches wide.

PLASTER: A mixture of gypsum, sand, and water, used as a finished surface for walls and ceilings, applied over gypsum, metal or wood lath.

PLASTIC INSULATION: Generic term for polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) or urethane insulation.

PLASTIC LAMINATE: Thin sheet material of plastic composition used for finishing of interior millwork – do not use the terms “Formica,” or “Melamine.”

PLATE: A horizontal woo framing member which provides bearing and anchorage for wall, floor, ceiling, and roof framing.

PLENUM: An enclosed chamber for horizontal distribution of ventilation air, such as the space between a suspended finished ceiling and the floor above.

PLINTH: A square block at the base of a column, pedestal, or door casing.

PLY: A term to denote the number of thickness or layers as “3-ply”; for roofing felt, veneers, etc.

PLYWOOD: A fabricated wood product constructed of three or more layers of veneer joined with glue, laid with grain or adjoining plies at right angles.

PORTALS: A door, gate, or entrance, especially one of imposing appearance.

POST: A vertical wood structural column.

PRESTRESSED CONCRETE: A method of giving tensile strength by stressing the reinforcing in the concrete before it sets, then releasing the tension after the concrete has hardened.

PRIMER: A first base coat of paint to seal the surface of the finished material and equalize suction differences.

PROJECT SITE: The term “Project Site” is the space available to the Contractor for performance of construction activities, either exclusively or in conjunction with others performing other work as part of the Project. The extent of the Project Site is shown on the Drawings and may or may not be identical with the description of the land upon which the Project is to be built.

PROJECT MANUAL: The 8 2″x 11″ paper size bound book of written documents prepared by the Architect for a Project, including the bidding requirements, Conditions of the Contact and technical Specifications, used by the Contractor in bidding & building the project.

PROPRIETARY PRODUCT: A product produced by only one manufacturer to his own design, and not available from competing manufactures.

PROSCENIUM: In a theater, the front area of the stage still visible to the audience when the curtain is lower; the curtain and the opening that surrounds it.

PROVIDE: The term “provide” means “to furnish and install, complete and ready for the intended use.”

PURLIN: A structural roof framing member laid horizontally across the roof beams to support a roof deck.

 

QUANTITY SURVEY: Detailed analysis and listing of all items of material and equipment and quantities of each necessary to construct a Project.

QUARRY TILE: Thick type of ceramic tile which is composed of fired clays and shales used for floors and bases.

QUEEN POST: Either of two vertical members of a triangular truss, each being equidistant from the apex.

QUOIN: The external corner of a building; any of the large square stones by which the corner is marked.

 

RABBET (ALSO REBATE): A longitudinal channel, groove, or recess cut out of the edge or face of a member to receive another member, or one to receive a frame inserted in a door or window opening; the recess into which glass is installed in a window sash.

RACKING: Lateral stress exerted on an assembly. See test Procedure ASTM E 72.

RAFTER: A closely spaced sloping framing member supporting a roof.

RAIL: The cross of horizontal piece of a door, window sash, or panel. The top horizontal member of a balustrade.

RAKE: A board or molding placed along the sloping sides of a frame gable to cover the ends of the siding.

RANDOM: Without uniformity of dimension or design; e.g., masonry wall with stones placed irregularly, not in a straight course.

REBUILD: The term “rebuild” means to reconstruct a portion or portions of the building completely and properly using new or salvaged materials acceptable to the Owner and Architect.

RECORD DRAWINGS: Sometimes called “as-built” drawings, these are normally modified from the construction documents to conform to all changes made during construction.

REFINISH: To put finish back into its original condition — do not use the terms “refurbish,” “rehabilitate,” “remodel,” “renew,” or “renovate.”

REGULATION: The term “Regulations” includes laws, ordinances, statutes, and lawful orders issued by authorities having jurisdiction, as well as rules, conventions, and agreements within the construction industry that control performance of the Work.

REINFORCEMENT: A system of steel rods or mesh cast into concrete for accepting stresses.

RELOCATE: To move an item from one location and install in another location.

REMODEL: use the term “alter” instead.

REPAIR: The term “repair” means to fix and restore a portion or portions of the building to a sound, acceptable state of operation and serviceability or appearance. Repairs will be expected to last approximately as long as a replacement.

REPLACE: The term “replace” means to remove an existing element or elements from the building and install a new element of like kind or a salvaged element acceptable to the Owner and Architect, completely and properly anchored to the substrate and surrounding materials; also the term can mean to provide a substitute or replacement for an item.

RESET: The term “Reset” means to remove an existing element or elements from the building and reinstall it completely and properly anchored to the substrate and surrounding materials.

RESILIENT BASE: wall base material — use this term generically instead of “vinyl base,” or “rubber base.”

RESILIENT FLOORING: Either tile or sheet goods for flooring material made from vinyl or rubber.

RESILIENT TILE: Floor tile — use this term generically instead of “vinyl composition tile,” “vinyl tile” or “rubber tile.”

RETAINING WALL: A wall built to keep a bank of earth from sliding.

RIDGE: The top horizontal edge or peak of a roof.

RIGID INSULATION: High density fiberglass or cellular glass insulation.

RISER: The vertical part of a stair step; a vertical HVAC, plumbing, or electrical run or extension.

ROLL ROOFING: A roofing material made of compressed fibers saturated with asphalt, and coated with small gravel supplied in rolls.

ROOF HATCH: use this term instead of the archaic term “scuttle.”

ROOFING FELT: See “felt paper”.

RUNNER CHANNEL: Cold rolled steel channel 1 2″ deep used for suspended ceiling framing.

 

SADDLE: A roof crossing between two adjoining roofs to the ends of the valley.

SANITARY SEWER: A sewer designed to carry sewage from bathroom, toilet room, and kitchen waste, not usually storm water.

SASH: The framework which holds the glass in a window or door.

SAWTOOTH ROOF: A roof composed of a series of single-pitch roofs whose shorter or vertical side has windows for light and air.

SCORE: To cut a surface of a material part way through with a sharp blade before braking; glass and ceramic tile are cut using this method.

SCRATCH COAT: The first coat of plaster applied to a wall, scratched or scored to provide a bond for the second coat.

SCREED: (1) A metal or wood strip placed at intervals on a wall or floor to gauge thickness of plaster or concrete. (2) To level, as in pulling a straight edge across a concrete slab within the formwork.

SCRIBE: To score or mark along a cutting line.

SCUTTLE: A framed opening in a ceiling or roof, fitted with a lid or a cover.

SEAL COAT: A fine thin coating of asphalt paving with bituminous material to provide water resistance.

SEAL: (1) An embossing device or stamp used by a design professional on his Drawings and Specifications as evidence of his registration in the state where the Work is to be performed. (2) To provide sealant at a joint to make it water tight.

SEALANT: A semi-liquid or “elastomeric” water proofing material placed in a joint between materials to create a water tight joint or to fill small openings in wall or ceiling systems to prevent leakage of sound or to create a finished appearance and seal between dissimilar materials.

SEALER: A base coating of paint to seal and equalize suction differences and prevent absorption of subsequent coats.

SEAMLESS FLOORING: Sheet flooring material with joints field welded or sealed.

SECTION (DRAWING):  A drawing of a surface revealed by an imaginary plane cut through the project, or portion thereof, in such a manner as to show the composition of the surface as it would appear if the part intervening between the cut plane and the eye of the observer were removed.

SECTION (MATERIAL): Sometimes loosely used to describe a rolled steel shape, such as “W section” — use the term “W member” instead.

SELF-EDGE: Plastic laminate edging in which the horizontal surface overlaps the vertical edge surface and is cut off flush with the vertical surface — this will expose a dark brown edge of the plastic laminate material and will be visible.

SEPTIC TANK: A covered tank in which waste matter is decomposed by natural bacterial action, draining into a drainage field.

SERVICE SINK: Wall-mounted sink for building maintenance purposes — do not use the terms “slop sink” or “mop basin.”

SEWER: An underground system of pipes which carry off waste matter or storm water to a sewage treatment plant or to an area of natural drainage.

SHAKE: A shingle formed by splitting a short long into a number of tapered sections.

SHEATHING: The first covering of boards, plywood, or wallboard placed over exterior wall studding or roof rafters — not “sheeting.”

SHEET FLOORING: Resilient linoleum, vinyl or rubber flooring installed wall to wall.

SHEET METAL: Usually thin steel sheets.

SHEET PILING: Planking or steel plates driven close together vertically, to form a temporary wall around an excavation.

SHIM: To build up low areas; to level or adjust height.

SHINGLE: A roofing type using tapered pieces of cedar or asphalt composition pieces nailed one overlapping the other.

SHOP DRAWINGS: Drawings, diagrams, illustrations, schedules, performance charts, brochures and other data prepared by the Contractor or any Subcontractor, manufacturer, supplier or distributor, which illustrate how specific portions of the Work will be fabricated and/or installed.

SHORING: Structural bracing used as temporary support for a building during construction.

SILL: A horizontal piece forming the bottom frame of a door or window.

SITE: Geographical location of the Project, usually defined by legal boundary lines.

SLEEPER: A strip of wood anchored to a concrete floor or nailed to subflooring and to which the finishes floor is nailed.

SLUMP: A concrete test method to evaluate water/cement ratio consistency.

SOFFIT: The undersurface of a building member, as of a cornice, arch or stairway.

SOFTWOOD: Type of lumber from conifer evergreen trees, such as pine, fir, larch, cedar, and redwood.

SOIL: Use this term instead of “earth” or “dirt.”

SPAN: The horizontal clear distance between supports, as those of a bridge, or between two piers.

SPANDREL BEAM: A beam which lies in the same vertical plane as the exterior wall.

SPANDREL: A portion of an exterior wall between a window on one floor and a window on the floor above.

SPECIFICATIONS: (1) A detailed description of requirements, composition and materials for a proposed building; (2) Apart of the Contract Documents contained in the Project Manual consisting of written descriptions of a technical nature of materials, equipment construction systems, standards and workmanship. Under the Uniform System, the Specifications comprise sixteen Divisions.

SPRAYED FIREPROOFING: Mineral fiber composition applied to structural steel members by spraying with an applicator gun used to obtain a specific fire rating for the structure to comply with building code requirements.

SQUARE: (1) 100 Square feet of roofing surface; (2) edges of an object which are at a right angle to each other.

STAGGER: To offset building members or fasteners in a horizontal or vertical plane in alternating sequence.

STAGING: A temporary scaffolding to support workers and materials during construction.

STANDARD: An approved criterion governing the quality of a construction material, operation, functional requirement, or method of assembly.

STICK BUILT: Constructed by means of building stud-by-stud and joist-by-joist in the field from raw materials.

STICK BUILDING: Lightweight wood framed building — type 5 construction by the BOCA/National Building Code.

STILE: The upright or vertical outside piece of a sash, door, or panel.

STOCK: Standard size raw building materials or standard equipment.

STONE: Granite, marble, limestone, slate used for fabricated interior or exterior finishes.

STORM SEWER: A sewer carrying only storm water (but never sanitary waste).

STORY (A CODE TERM): A horizontal division of a building; that portion between one floor and the floor above.

STRETCHER: A brick laid lengthwise in a wall.

STRIKE: In stone setting or bricklaying, to finish a mortar joint with a stroke of the trowel, simultaneously removing extruding mortar and smoothing the surface of the mortar remaining in the joint; strike off.

STRINGER: The inclined structural framing member supporting the treads and risers of a stair.

STUCCO: Plaster made from Portland cement, sand, and water used as an exterior wall surface finish; usually applied over a galvanized metal lath or wood lath base.

STUD: A vertical wood or metal framing member to which sheathing and finished surfaces are nailed, as the supporting elements in walls and partitions.

SUB STRUCTURE: That part of a building structure below the ground.

SUBCONTRACTOR: A person or organization who has a direct Contract with a prime Contractor to perform a portion of the Work at the site.

SUBFLOOR: A floor laid on top of the floor joists, to which the finished floor is fastened.

SUBSOIL DRAIN: Also called a “footing drain”. A perforated 4″ diameter pipe which is installed on the outside of the footing surrounded by pea gravel, which allows storm water in the soil to drain into it and be carried off to the sewer system or to a sump pit inside the basement, and from there pumped out back to the gravel surface or into the sewer.

SUBSTANTIAL COMPLETION: The term “Substantial Completion” means the date on which the Architect issues a Certificate of Substantial Completion based on an inspection of the Work, by which it can be determined that the Work is sufficiently complete in accordance with the Contract Documents so that the Owner can occupy or utilize the Work for the use for which it is intended. A Certificate of Substantial Completion may be issued for each individual building as it is completed, if this is in the Owner’s best interests.

SUPERSTRUCTURE: That part of a building structure above the foundation or ground level.

SUPPLIER: A person or organization who supplies materials or equipment for the Work, including that fabricated to a special design, but who does not perform labor at the site.

SURVEY: Boundary and/or topographic mapping of a site.

 

TACKBOARD: A bulletin board, made of cork or other resilient tackable surface.

TERRA COTTA: A hard, brown-red fired, clay product, typically used as exterior ornament. Can be glazed, or unglazed.

TERRAZZO: A durable floor finish made of small chips of colored stone or marble, embedded in cement and polished in place to a high glaze.

TESTING LABORATORIES: A “testing laboratory” is an independent entity engaged to perform specific inspections or tests, either at the Project Site or elsewhere, and to report on and, if required, to interpret results of those inspections or tests.

THERMAL BRIDGE: A thermally conducive area of an exterior enclosure which will allow heat to transfer from the interior of the building to the exterior at a greater rate than the other parts of the enclosure.

THERMAL BREAK: A separation between exterior and interior materials by an insulation material. Typically refers to a feature of a window wall system.

THRESHOLD: A strip of wood, stone, or metal placed beneath a door to cover a change in floor materials, to receive weather-stripping and, sometimes, an automatic door closer.

THRU: Short version of the word “Through” as used in drawings.

TOEBOARD: Raised protective edge (usually 4″ high) at edges of landings, balconies, mezzanines, etc. where there is no wall or knee wall, but only a guard rail.

TOE SPACE: Recess at base of cabinets.

TONGUE AND GROOVE: A factory formed notch and mating projection on wood flooring or deck.

TOPSOIL: Soil used for planting trees, shrubs, ground cover, or grasses.

TRADES: Use of titles such as “carpentry” is not intended to imply that certain construction activities must be performed by accredited or unionized individuals of a corresponding generic name, such as “carpenter.” It also does not imply that requirements specified apply exclusively to trades persons of the corresponding generic name.

TRUSS: Triangular structural framing members formed into a single plane for supporting loads over long spans, in wood or steel, or both.

TYPICAL: Means that the item referred to is repeated several times in similar circumstances and locations.

 

UNDERLAYMENT: A smooth, hard sheet material, such as hardboard, cement board, plywood, or particle board, placed over rougher substrates to achieve a surface suitable for application of finishes such as resilient flooring or ceramic tile.

UNDISTURBED EARTH: Soil which has not previously been excavated.

 

VAPOR RETARDER: A plastic sheet used to retard condensation in walls, floors, and ceilings, applied on the warm-in-winter side of the wall or ceiling structure or over the ground surface in a crawl space — do not use the term “vapor barrier.”

VERMICULITE: An inorganic mineral product that expands several times its initial volume when exposed to a high temperature (about 1000 degree F).

VITRIFIED TILE: A pipe made of clay, baked hard, then glazed so it is impervious to moisture; used particularly for underground drainage.

 

WAINSCOT: The lower part of an interior wall when its surface finish is different from that of the upper.

WAIVER OF LINEN: An instrument by which a person or organization who has or may have a right of mechanic’s lien against the property of another relinquishes such right. Waivers of linen are provided to the owner by the general contractor and his sub-contractors & suppliers, at the time a pay request is submitted.

WALL: Vertical enclosure of a building or occupancy separation, usually load bearing.

WALL BEARING CONSTRUCTION: A structural system in which the floor and roof systems are carried directly by the masonry walls rather than by structural framing system.

WALLBOARD: A manufactured fibrous compressed material cut into sheets, used for sheathing (may be particle board, hardboard, or similar product).

WARM AIR SYSTEM: A heating system in which furnace-heated air moves to living space through a series of ducts, circulated by natural convection (gravity system) or by a fan blower in the ductwork (forced system) to registers in the floor, walls or ceilings.

WATERPROOFING: A procedure to make a material impervious to water or dampness, designed to resist a head of water (water pressure). Any of the material used to waterproof — do not use the terms “roofing,” “membrane,” or “damp proofing.”

WEATHERING STEEL: Steel designed to rust to a certain extent on its surface, then stop rusting — Cor-Ten is one manufacturer’s trade name for weathering steel.

WEATHERSTRIP: A thin strip of metal, felt, wood, etc., used to cover the joint between a door or window sash and the jamb, casing, or sill; to keep out air, dust, rain, etc.

WINDOW WELL: See “light well”.

WOOD: Use the term for solid softwoods only, otherwise use the terms “hardwood,” “plywood,” or “particle board.”

WROUGHT IRON: A soft, pure form of iron easily molded into bars and worked into ornamental shapes; widely used for decorative railings, gates and panels.

 

ZONING ORDINANCE: The control by a municipality of the use of land and buildings, the height and bulk of buildings, the density of population, the relation of a lot’s building coverage to open space, the size and location of yards and setbacks, and the provision of any ancillary facilities such as parking. Zoning, established through the adoption of a municipal ordinance, is a principal instrument in implementing a master plan

Jefferson County Building Department Training Session in an ElkStone Basement

Jefferson County Building Department Training Session in an ElkStone Basement

One of our project managers, Phil, called to get his inspection ETA today for a basement in Littleton, and they told him they’re having a training session for the entire building department at 9AM at the basement!

train

 

Phil raced over there and good thing, too, because after all the building officials arrived there were no more parking spaces! All up and down the street were Jefferson County building inspector trucks. After he introduced himself to the chief building officer and all the other inspectors, he led them to the basement where 12 inspectors with flashlights combed over every part of the basement as part of their training.  This went on for over an hour!

Interestingly, in JeffCo you cannot call in your framing inspection until after you’ve passed your electrical inspection, so it’s a two day process.  When the training was over all twelve inspectors couldn’t find one thing wrong and unanimously passed all roughs and framing inspections at the same time without one correction notice. 

Each inspector one by one shook Phil’s hand on the way out and congratulated him on a very well-built basement.  Some of inspectors comments to Phil as the filed out the door:

  • “[Ryan] the plumber was genius on how he ran the underground.”

  • “Really like how [Juan] the insulator spray foams all the fire-blocking insulation so it stays in place and won’t move.”

  • “The framer [Marco] did a great job.”

  • “This is a perfect example of how a basement should be built.”

  • “The electrician [Boris] did a good job with his ground bonds.”

  • “This a not a really good training session because this is how everything is supposed to be built.”

Congratulations to our all our employees, subs, and vendors who do this kind of work day-in and day-out.  I’m so proud of the entire ElkStone team – well done!

Framing a basement in Denver

Framing a basement in Denver

The question often comes up on how ElkStone frames our basements.  One issue that is whether to frame the studs at 16 inches on center or 24 inches on center.  Typical structural construction requires studs to be framed at 16 inches on center.  The basement walls however are not structural and most of the time in the Denver metro area the walls are actually floating.  The soil in the front range of Colorado often contains bentonite which if it becomes wet will contract and expand.  Because of this condition, the building code requires the basement walls to literally be hung from the first floor joists above.  The bottom of the wall is anchored to a floor plate by extra large 60D nails.  If the floor does heave or settle the wall will float or slide on the 60D nails.  The floating walls are structural only in that they keep the drywall and trim in place but they won’t push up on the floor joists above which would cause significant structural damage on the floors above and throughout the house.  Symptoms of structural problems from non-floated walls are sticking windows and doors, and cracking drywall.

 

When a lot is in consideration for new home construction one of the first things a builder does is order a soil survey.  A geoscience company will drill several test holes on the property where the home will be placed and submit the dirt core to a lab for testing.  If the test results contain a certain amount of bentonite then the engineer will recommend a floating basement floor and a foundation supported by piers instead of a footer.  You would recognize this if your basement floor is wood or if you have a concrete basement floor with a crawl space below it.  You can identify this if there is an access panel in your basement floor that opens to a crawl space below.

 

Back to framing.  A stud is defined as a dimensional lumber that has a specific length.  Most often we purchase studs but because we’re working in a confined space between the basement floor and the bottom of the 1st floor joist above, we can rarely use the full length.  Studs are intrinsically not straight because they are cut from a tree which has a grain.  The studs are kiln dried and often twist and bow in the drying process according to their grain.  Because of this it’s my theory that the less you sample the studs the straighter the wall.  In other words, the drywall we attach to the wall comes in contact less with the studs framed on a 24 inch on center wall than a 16 inch on center wall thereby making the wall straighter than if you attached it more frequently to the studs.

Another reason we choose to frame basement walls at 24 inches on center is that it uses less lumber.  This has several benefits. First, since it requires less lumber this conserves natural resources.  It also keeps costs down and is less work for the framer.  It’s also less work for the electrician and plumber who have to run their wires and pipes through the studs so they don’t have to drill as much.  Because framing the studs 24 inches on center it makes easier it’s also faster which also costs less.  In theory you could frame the studs at 8 inches on center but this is silly.  It costs more in materials and labor, takes longer, and isn’t necessary.  So why go through the expense if it’s not needed.  Some will argue that the walls are sturdier.  I’d agree with that but it’s not a practical matter.  There’s no instance I can think of that the walls need to be sturdier throughout the basement space.  Obviously there are certain places where we beef up the wall with extra studs for a wall mounted TV or wall cabinets but from a day to day practical matter, I don’t see where you’d need the walls to be sturdier than what 24 inches on center provides.

ElkStone will frame a basement 16 inches on center but only on request.  So in summary, our default method is to frame basement studs 24 inches on center for the following reasons:

  1. Uses less lumber which conserves natural resources
  2. Costs less
  3. Takes less time to build
  4. Is easier and faster for the framer, electrician, plumber, insulator, and drywaller
  5. Makes walls straighter because the drywall is coming in less frequent contact with the studs
  6. And is completely adequate and sufficient

 

Have a different view or angle to consider?  I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Homeowner’s buying guide to finishing the basement

Homeowner’s buying guide to finishing the basement

Homeowner’s Buying Guide to Finishing the Basement

You can use the following questions to qualify the basement builders that you’re receiving bids from.  ElkStone’s answers are included below…

Homeowner’s Buying Guide

Question 1 – “On what day does trim carpentry start?”

Answer – For ElkStone it’s always the third Wednesday after we start. We know this because we have a standard schedule for every job. In fact, we can tell you what’s happening every single day – who’s going to be there and what they’ll be doing. This question gets after the builder’s schedule: Do they have one? A schedule window like “8-10 weeks” is really not a schedule – it’s a guess. I know because I used to do this myself! Typically in this practice they’ll call their subs just prior to starting in hopes they’ll be available. With ElkStone, all our workers know weeks ahead of time what day they need to start your job, what day they need to finish your job, and exactly what to bring to complete your job. This is one of the reasons ElkStone consistently completes quality basements in less than four weeks with happy customers. ElkStone has been doing this since January 2008 so we’re really good at it.  Cutting the completion time by 66% makes a huge impact towards a very pleasant construction experience.  Just think, you can be enjoying your new space, watching the movie on the big screen and getting drinks from the bar – but with other contractors you’d have two more months of noise & dust.

ElkStone consistently completes quality basements in less than four weeks with happy customers.

 

Question 2 – “How many studs are you planning to use to frame my basement and long are they?”

Answer – This question gets after how detailed is the builder’s estimate. ElkStone will give you an answer something like 323 studs 92-5/8” long. We calculate exactly what it takes to build your basement. We can even tell you how many sheets of drywall and linear feet of baseboard we’ll need specifically for your project. ElkStone measures the wall length from the plan and inputs that data into our worksheet, which uses a formula to calculate exactly how many studs are required. This means two things:

  1. We won’t charging too much or too little for the materials
  2. We won’t cover our mistakes with change/add orders or cutting corners. If the builder doesn’t estimate your job correctly, you become a liability and they’ll prioritize other jobs over yours or compromise the quality and service of your project.

 

Question 3 – “Will my basement receive the attention it deserves during construction?”

Answer – This question will allow you to get an idea of how experienced your builder is and what resources they’ll allocate for your job. ElkStone has a full-time Project Manager who is assigned to your job and runs your basement from start to finish. Our Project Managers are pros at their job and critical to our operation.  Kind of like an orchestra conductor, our Managers keep the work site humming and makes sure you’re in-the-know and satisfied. With our proprietary scheduling timeline we are able to stagger our start dates which allow us to build your basement in 5 weeks and still give you and your basement all the attention they deserve.

 

Question 4 – “How long have you been working with your dry waller & electrician?”

Answer – This question gets at the relationship with trade partners. Our answer is 12 & 13 years respectively. Our relationships mean everything to us. Our philosophy is that once we find a trade partner who shares our values in terms of service, quality and reliability, we hold onto them! And because we pay fairly and promptly (every Friday) they demonstrate extreme loyalty to ElkStone.

 

Question 5 – “How much tile do I need to purchase, where do I purchase it, how much will it cost, and when do I need it by?”

Answer – This question addresses what we call the ‘Project List’.  This is a document we generate specifically for your project and it includes everything you need to know as it relates to items you are personally responsible for selecting such as tile, carpet, & electric/plumbing fixtures. We provide you with three tile vendors with seven locations throughout the metro area that we recommend. We also let you know what quantity to purchase for each area being tiled, who provides ElkStone discounts, how much you can expect to spend on your tile, and the date you need to have it purchased.  We do this not only for tile but every item you need to purchase.

 

Question 6 – “What is your pay schedule?”

Answer – We require no money down, no money to start, no money to schedule, and no design fee. In fact, the first invoice isn’t due until three days after we start. ElkStone has a very equitable pay schedule because neither you nor ElkStone is too extended at any one point in time. Our pay schedule is based on progress payments:

1st payment: Due three days after we start, so you know we’re committed to the job and we’ve allocated all our resources in terms of materials, labor & scheduling.

2nd payment: Due after drywall completion.

3rd and final payment: Imagine walking into your basement and you smell the fragrance of new carpet and Pine Sol cleaner. The windows are almost invisible because they’ve been Windexed and the whole basement looks and feels like a brand new model home. It’s only at this point when we’re totally complete and you’re completely satisfied that final payment is due.  So I would think twice about paying a contractor before work has begun and settling up before your basement complete.

Question 7 – “How many basements did you finish last year?”

Answer – ElkStone finished exactly 200 basements 2015.  This question addresses a company’s serviceability and reputation. ElkStone has a lot of satisfied customers because we deliver what we promise. We don’t charge extra for the benefit to move into your basement two months early, but that feature is unique to ElkStone and is a significant value to you. One of our company core values is: ‘All of our customers refer us always’ and this is only possible because your satisfaction is our number one goal.

Question 8 – “Have you finished every job you’ve started?”

Answer – Yes!  ElkStone is proud of our reputation and we take it very seriously because it means to world to us. Not only have we finished every job we’ve started, but ElkStone also has paid out in full to all our subs and vendors.  In fact, we pay our subs in full every Friday.

 

Question 9 – “Will you be on time and promptly return my calls?”

Answer – Keep in mind, the other contractors bidding on your basement are on their best behavior trying to make a good impression. If they’re slow in getting back to you now, how are they going to act after they deposit your first check? I always ask my clients if they’ve already received other bids and I can’t tell you how many times their answer is, “I’ve left messages, but you’re the first one I’ve talked to.”  ElkStone’s responsiveness up front is indicative of our service throughout the project. It’s our way of life evident in our work.

Reasons To Finish Your Basement in Denver

Reasons To Finish Your Basement in Denver

Reasons To Finish Your Basement in Denver

 

To finish, or, not to finish? This IS the question many homeowners are asking these days.

Life doesn’t come with an itinerary and so the home that you bought ten years ago, when it was just the two of you lovebirds, was more than enough room.

But now you have acquired 2.5 kids and a dog named Spot and it seems as though you are all living right on top of one another. You need more space so obviously the first thought that comes to mind is: MOVING.

Picture7

I know, it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. People enjoy moving about as much as they enjoy root canals. Instead of moving, have you ever considered renovating that dreary, useless stuff-filled, space below your house? Some people refer to them as dungeons or “storage” but it’s really a basement, and it can be used for so much more than hiding old, embarrassing family photos and the sweaters grandma sends in the mail every Christmas!

So now that you are seriously pondering this, here are some really good reasons to finish your basement INSTEAD of moving into a new home.

1. Money, money, money. Depending on what you want to do with your unfinished basement space, renovations could cost considerably less than relocating your life entirely. The current average cost for a basic basement renovation is around $35 per square foot. So this would equate to about $35,000. Obviously the more amenities you include the more your price will increase, but it will still cost less than a new home.

2. Again, with the money. Finished basement areas are a desirable feature to prospective homebuyers. If you decide to finish your basement and create a useable and versatile space, this could mean a decent return on your investment if or when you decide to sell your home. The key is to make your basement functional and somewhat neutral. Obviously, if you decide to create a floor-to-ceiling replica of the moon landing in your basement, this might not appeal to many buyers, if any. Just try to think ahead!

3. Wait, you mean there’s MORE money? As lonely as an empty nest can be, every parent can find a reason to enjoy an empty home. The question is; what to do with all of that space? Well, why not make money off of it? That’s right. Many homeowners rent out their unused basement space and, according to Remodel Magazine, many basements can be rented out at anywhere between 50-75% of the monthly mortgage cost if zoned for multi-tenant use.

4. SPACE. That is what you are looking for, right? Think about all of the amazing things you could do with it! A well-constructed basement space can be used for so many things. Obviously the most popular choice is a space for the kids. Whether it is a movie room, a play room or a room or a room used specifically for arts and crafts, you will finally be able to reclaim your living room! Or, you could go the other direction and create a LARGER family room in your basement and save the space on the main level for grown-up entertainment. The options really are limitless!

5. Designed space. Yes, there is a difference. Most basement spaces in homes do come equipped with the necessary plumbing and electrical outlets to create additional living space. So, if you are thinking about expanding your family, whether you’re thinking of a brand new addition or a comfy space for your mother-in-law, if you have the space then you definitely have the option of creating more bedrooms and bathrooms.

6. Yard sale! A basement renovation will finally give you an excuse to clean it out! How much storage do you really need? Your home should be a LIVING space not a storage space. If you find yourself in a position where you need space to accommodate inanimate objects in place of people or family, then you should consider adjusting your priorities.

7. An unused space is a haven for unwanted guests! A dark, damp and unoccupied basement is precisely the type of environment in which insects, rodents and mold thrive. And if you’re never down there, with your vast amounts of stuff, then how would you know you even had these unwanted guests? No, you are not in any mortal danger from suffering a spider bite or a run-in with a mouse, but these creatures aren’t exactly pleasant. Some can cause mild illnesses and if you get an infestation, they can be costly to remove as well.

8. And lastly… MONEY. According to the 2010 U.S. Employment Census the average, annual income for a “full-service” mover is about $60,000. There is a reason for that and it is because moving is a loathsome and stressful experience. Oh, not to mention, EXPENSIVE. After acquiring three different estimates it was discovered that the average cost for a full service move, for a 2,100 square foot, 4 bedroom home, with 4 occupants, is about $7,000-$10,000. So, if you add up the cost of moving expenses (which doesn’t include your preparation expenses), mortgage and loan fees, closing costs and realtor fees, you could be close to spending the same amount on a move to a new location that you would on a basement renovation.

Convinced yet? If this has sparked your interest and you want to take a basement addition or renovation into consideration, contact us to start your free estimate. You might just be surprised how much basement you can get for your buck!

How To Choose A Denver Basement Contractor (part 1)

How To Choose A Denver Basement Contractor (part 1)

No doubt there are plenty of contractors out there, and choosing the right one for your basement finish project is a question everyone wants answered. If there could only be a way to just know you’re choosing the right basement finisher, then that would be so much easier and give you peace of mind.

How to Choose a Denver Basement Contractor

The task of finishing your basement is huge.  Next to the cost of your home or vehicle, turning your unfinished basement into extra finished living space is a huge expense – not to mention the time commitment needed on your part and the amount of time it takes for the basement project to be completed. It can be a daunting task.

Back to the car analogy, how do you know if you’re getting a Kia at a Mercedes price? Wouldn’t it be great to buy a BMW at a Chevrolet price? I’ll give you some pointers and an easy basement contractor qualifying system.

Categories to consider when choosing a Denver basement Finishing Company:

  1. Service
  2. Quality
  3. Timeline
  4. Price

 

You might arrange those differently and that’s totally fine depending on your particular priorities. Service tends be underrated but it’s a major component, particularly when you consider the cost of the project and how long it takes. It’s quite dissimilar from life insurance, for example.  Working with someone you can trust and who cares about your opinion can make the difference between a fun experience and a living nightmare. Imagine making a check out for the largest amount you’ve ever written, and not hearing again from your basement contractor for days on end.  That can be downright scary even if they did eventually come back. This is not worth the stress if you chose someone because price was your top priority.

Basement Finishing Tip: ElkStone’s pay schedule is based upon our progress in your basement. The first payment is due three (3) days after we start your project, so you know we are committed to your basement.

 

Close up of tile joints

Trim detail

Close up of wood-to-tile floor transition

ElkStone assigns a full-time Project Manager to your job, like an orchestra conductor who keeps everything flowing smoothly. He’ll be your point of contact and he runs the project every step of the way. One of the criteria we look for when hiring a basement Project Manager is a sense of ownership. We want them to act like it’s their business and even their own personal basement. ElkStone’s Project Managers are the single most important person to ElkStone as it relates to the customer’s image of ElkStone. If our customers love our Managers, then they’ll love our company! So we only hire the best and maintain high expectations because our reputation as a basement finisher means everything to us.

Basement Finishing Quality

Quality cannot usually be judged by photographs. You may see something that looks incredible in a photo, but in reality the walls are not plumb, straight, or square. The best way to determine this for you is to visit a job yourself. It’s a chore for sure, but you just can’t rely on photos or even someone else’s  opinion such as another satisfied client. They may have completely different standards than you. This task is best done when you’ve narrowed your project down to one or two basement finishers. This also gives you an opportunity to see how willing a basement contractor is to show his work. Be sure to arrange a time with the homeowner in person and maybe without the basement builder present so you can get an objective opinion from them.

There are three things to look for to determine quality basement finishing; drywall finish, trim carpentry, and painting. If one of those three areas is compromised it’ll ruin the entire project.

 

Drywall

For drywall, the place to look is the transition from the existing stair wall into the new wall. A good drywaller will finish this so you can’t tell where the old stops and the new begins. The other drywall standard is the consistency of the texture. First, does it match the upstairs with the same heaviness or thickness of texture? Secondly, is the texture pattern consistent? It shouldn’t change from the top of the wall to the bottom of the wall. This happens because of how the drywaller is holding the applicator as he applies it.

Trim Carpentry

Trim carpentry for basement finishing is the same for new home construction. Look to see that doors open and close properly. Does the door rub against the jamb and does the door make full contact all the way up and down the jamb when it’s closed? The tell tail sign is if the door touches the bottom or top of the jamb first.  It should make contact with the jamb all at once. Another item to check is mitered corners on the baseboard. As the basement baseboard wraps around an outside corner inside corner it should keep tight to the wall. The joints should be tight with no gaps or very little gaps. We often say our basements are tight and we mean this quite literally! It should be well put together with no gaps in the trim or anything else.

Painting

Paint is probably the easiest of these three to judge. Here, you’re looking for where the walls meet the trim and the ceiling. The line transitioning the two surfaces together should be crisp, straight, and clean. It shouldn’t wander or have dips. Also the patch work, whether its staining or painting the nail holes, should almost be invisible or barely noticeable. Lastly, check for any flashing. Flashing is when the wall surface receives the paint differently and will show up in a splotchy pattern. It will look as though parts of the wall are painted with a different sheen. This is a little tricky to spot sometimes and may be easier to discover with the lights off and only the natural light from the windows coming in.  ElkStone prevents flashing by back rolling the wall surface. This is where the painter sprays the paint on and then rolls over it. too. This also makes for great touch-up because when a wall is back rolled, touch-up is not noticeable.

 

Paint transition and trim miter joint

Close up of vanity faucet

Granite joint

Quality Standards

We’ve had some very particular customers with very high standards – and that’s okay, because we’re up for the challenge and are perfectionist with high standards ourselves. We’ve seen people crawl around on their hands and knees, twelve inches from the wall. And again, that’s okay but maybe not necessary. One of our mottoes is ‘Uncompromising Craftsmanship’, so our standards are higher than yours most of the time. I will say, however, that when you’re doing a quality check, the industry standard is from an observation distance from three to five feet as you walk around the room. If you have to get closer than that to detect a problem, then it shouldn’t concern you too much.  Granite and plumbing could be exceptions to that guideline.

Basement Tip: ElkStone recommends flat or eggshell paint for your walls & ceiling. If the sheen of paint is too glossy, it may appear institutional much like a school or hospital. The trim and doors should be gloss or semi-gloss.

Contact us if you’d like a free quote or have any questions about what to look for in a basement contractor.

How much does a basement finish cost?

How much does a basement finish cost?

The answer is… it depends – but let me explain.

When an estimator from ElkStone visits your home for a free comprehensive consultation for a basement finish (sometimes referred to as a basement remodel or basement refinish) they’ll ask you a number of questions. What they want to find out is exactly what you want and need for the new finished basement space. Then your estimator will walk the unfinished basement with you to see what you have in mind; they’ll also provide suggestions based on hundreds of basement designs they’ve drawn previously.

How much does a basement finish cost

Interestingly, a medium sized basement of about 1000 square feet is usually pretty simple to plan for because there are only so many places to locate the bedroom and bathroom. The basement bedroom has to be located next to an egress window, or a new egress window has to be cut in. We like to “go with the flow” to keep it simple and keep costs down. Typically a basement finish will include a bedroom, bath, and rec area. There are a plethora of other items you can add like a wet bar, fireplace, theater, billiards area, and the list goes on.

To see photos of a variety of basement options, please visit our Gallery.

Ironically, small basements and large unfinished basements are more of a challenge to design. With large unfinished basements, there are so many options that it can become a little overwhelming. However, what we like to do is a design a rough draft for your basement plan and see what you think. Most of the time when you’re considering a basement plan, it’s an ongoing process. Occasionally we’ll get it right the first time but oftentimes we go back and forth with you to discover exactly the plan you’ll be satisfied with.

The design is one of the most important issues to consider when finishing your basement. Make sure you’re comfortable with that before building because you’re the one who has to live with it and see it every day. ElkStone can render your basement design plan in 3D so we can fly over it and walk through it to help you conceptualize the basement space. ElkStone’s basement estimators have designed hundreds of basement plans so they’re experts and have clever ways to design around challenging features in the basement such as structural posts and furnaces.

Once you approve a rough draft, they’ll complete the estimate which is a 400-line item basement cost worksheet. This is ElkStone’s way of determining exactly what it will cost to build your basement. We can tell you how many linear feet of baseboard we’ll need, the exact number of light switches, and even how many sheets of drywall it’ll take for us to build your basement. We like to be precise when it comes to pricing your basement! Once we give you a price to finish your basement, that price won’t change. Our basement proposal priced is fixed and won’t change.

Once we give you a price to finish your basement, that price won’t change.

Our comprehensive basement estimate does two important things for us. First, since we know exactly what it will cost to build your basement, we can be more competitive since we don’t have to add in more margin because of uncertainty. Second, we know we’ll always be profitable as a business which allows us to provide the full level of service which you deserve.

When contractors don’t do their homework and find out during construction that they aren’t making any money on your job, they’ll switch priorities to other jobs and leave your basement project neglected and you frustrated. In extreme cases, they’ll cut corners and or walk off your job. I know, because we’ve finished basements where another basement contractor started the job and then went missing. The appeal of their low price they offer can be irresistible, and if they have references that’ll seal the deal – and the unfortunate circumstances that will follow. But since ElkStone knows exactly what it will cost to build your basement we can competently complete the basement project while making the job mutually satisfying.

Now, back to the original question:
“How much does a basement finish cost?”

Okay, so now you know how we get to our pricing – but here are some guidelines that will further explain basement prices. A price per square, or PSF, is a common means of quoting a basement price. The only problem with this is that it’s not accurate. It’s merely a ballpark price. ElkStone does, however, track PSF – but only after we have completed our comprehensive worksheet, then we look backwards to see what is the basement PSF. We use PSF as a point of reference and not a means to price a basement. The smaller the basement, the higher the PSF cost because of large fixed costs such as a bathroom, fireplace, or wet bar for example. Regardless of size, the price for these items doesn’t change so if you put them in a small basement there will be a high PSF and inversely with a large basement. There might be a linear equation if all basement costs weren’t fixed but that’s simply not the case. Take the cost of a basement bathroom for example. It’s a large fixed cost that will be same whether it’s in a 2500 square foot basement or a 500 square foot basement so that’ll throw off the PSF formula.

If you receive a basement estimate price in the $20.00 PSF range – beware! It is possible, but you’ll need to do your due diligence and there’ll be a few items you’ll have to compromise on. Check for licensing and insurance. If a contractor offers you a cheap basement finish price then asks you to pull the permit or put the basement finish permit under your name, then they’re not licensed. This could also mean they’ll be doing work only licensed contractors are permitted to do such as electrical wiring and plumbing.

You wouldn’t believe some of the safety hazards and absurd building methods we’ve seen over the years!

We ask ourselves, “What was this guy thinking when he built this?” Just ridiculous stuff! It would seem an electrical fire and plumbing flood would be imminent with some of the stuff we’ve seen. What is compromised is the timeline and maybe the quality, too. Usually the low price guys do all the work themselves which may seem appealing at first because you’re only working with one or two guys, but that also means your basement will take forever – six month or more.

The one unique feature that makes ElkStone special and stand out from the one guy who does it all as well as all basement contractors in Denver is that ElkStone will finish your basement in FIVE (5) WEEKS. This is three times faster than normal! The others typically take 8 – 12 weeks. So you get to move in two months early with ElkStone, and we don’t charge extra for that, either. Three months is a long time to have contractors coming in and out of your house, making noise and dust. You will be so ready for that to be over that it often makes for a bad experience.

ElkStone will finish your basement in FIVE (5) WEEKS.

This brings me to another side note, the “ElkStone Experience.” We provide uncompromising craftsmanship at a great price, and we try and make the construction a good experience as well. What other contractor has that as one of their top priories? We can’t guarantee a pleasant experience because when you’er working with people and dealing with construction – things can go wrong. But we pride ourselves on how we handle that. I’ll cover this in another basement and remodeling blog.

Back to pricing; the other end of basement cost is upwards of $80 PSF. This price could be from a really small basement with a lot of features or a high end custom basement. You would typically see a high price like this from a basement contractor who has a showroom with full time architects and interior designers or a basement finisher who’s taking advantage of you because they think you have unlimited money. Our basements simply don’t get this high because our pricing is fixed based on cost plus markup. Regardless of the home you live in or your budget amount, our price “is what it is.” ElkStone believes in offering you our “best price first” so there won’t be any gimmicks to get you to “sign up with us today” or a “sale, today only”.

So in conclusion, you should expect to pay between $40 and $60 per square foot – but it totally depends on how many square feet you’ll be finishing in your basement and how many features you choose to include.

If you’re interested in having a free basement finish estimate then please feel free to email me at info@elkstone.com or call 303-656-9006, or contact us today.