Top 100 Construction Terms You Should Know

Construction Terms
Mastering construction jargon can take a lifetime but it doesn’t have to. We’ve gathered together the 100 most important construction terms you should know so you can begin to take your business to the next level.

Learn the Lingo That’s Essential for Your Construction Success

Construction projects are taking place in your local communities and around the world. As you compete for jobs and begin work on projects, you’ll be meeting general contractors, subcontractors, engineers, and architects. During meetings or when documents are shared, you might come across certain terms and acronyms that you’re not familiar with. If you don’t know these terms, you’ll be unable to keep up with the conversation, putting you at a disadvantage. Not being able to keep up with a conversation, especially when you’re negotiating a contract, will have a negative impact on your bottom line. Moreover, you simply don’t have the time to waste hours trying to Google construction terms–time better spent on your construction tasks.

But no worries–we’ve got you covered! We’ve gathered together the 100 most common words used in the industry and placed them in a list so you can easily look up and review their meanings. In this glossary of construction terms, we’ve included words, phrases and acronyms that cover building structures, architectural plans, bidding phases, and contracts. And if you don’t find a word you’re looking for, leave a comment and let us know about a word you think we should include in our next version.

Common Construction Terms

1. All-In Rate: Total expenses for a project that includes all direct and indirect costs.

2. Architect-in-Record: The name of the architectural company that is listed on the issued permits, yet who may not actually do the design for the construction project.

3. ASTM (American Society of Testing Materials): An International standards organization that offers technical standards for products, materials, systems and services in a range of industries, including construction standards.

4. Best Value Method: A construction procurement method where contractors are awarded the bid based on prices and quality measurements from previous work performance.

5. Bid: Price proposal typically based on the design specification and documents.

6. Bid Package: Construction documents where the pertinent portions of information are placed into a suitable bidding package by the contractor.

7. Bid-Hit Ratio: Ratio involving where you have successfully bid on a construction project.

8. Bid Package: Construction documents where the pertinent information is placed into a bidding package by the contractor.

9. Bid Selection: The process of examining and comparing contractors’ bids to select the right one based on price and services provided.

10. Bid Solicitation: Notifying potential bidders regarding a bid opportunity as it may be a request to submit a bid or obtain a request for proposals.

11. BIM (Building Information Modeling): A 3-D modeling process that feature the details of the building.

12. Blocking: A construction technique to join, fill or reinforce the building structure.

13. Blueprints: A 2-dimensional technical drawing that has all of the project’s details.

14. BOQ (Bill of Quantities): An itemized contract document featuring all the materials and workmanship used to help price out the project.

15. Box Crib: A temporary structure used to add support or to reinforce heavy objects that are used during the construction process.

16. Building Engineer: An expert in design, construction and assessment technologies.

17. CAD (computer-aided design): Architecture software used to create detailed building models.

18. Cant: An angled surface or line that cuts a corner off.

19. Catastrophic Failure: An accident in the construction process that causes severe damage that creates a permanent loss.

20. Change Order: A written document that modifies or changes the project’s plans, price or specifications in the construction contract.

21. Concrete Cover: Reinforced concrete as it is the least distance between the outer concrete surface and the reinforcement.

22. Concrete Slab: A horizontal platform used to construct the ceiling or the floor of the building.

23. Construction Build Out: Changing or modifying the existing commercial space to make it usable for business functions.

24. Construction Drawings: The final preconstruction drawings of the whole building.

25. Construction Estimate: Forecasting the construction costs for the building as it may be used to determine the feasibility of the project.

26. Construction Management at Risk (CMAR): Project delivery method where the construction manager commits to delivering the project at within the guaranteed maximum price.

27. Construction Management Software: An application used by construction managers to efficiently run the project as it features accounting, documentation and team workloads.

28. Contract Formation: A contract in the construction industry that indicates the offer and the acceptance between to agreeing parties as the agreement is signed.

29. Cost Codes: Codes used to track budgets and expenses of labor activities.

30. Cost-Plus Contract: A contract where the contractor is paid for all of their allowed expenses as well as an additional profit payment.

31. Course: Concrete blocks, stones or bricks in a continuous masonry row.

32. Cross Bracing: Reinforcements in an X-shape that provides enhanced durability to a structure.

33. Daily Report: A report that documents materials installed, crew information, safety incidents and work completed as the document is created by the foreman at the end of each day.

34. Damp Proofing: A procedure used to keep the drywall interior dry and to prevent moisture absorption.

35. Design-Bid-Build: A traditional project delivery method where the owner or agency contracts separate firms to design and construct the building.

36. Design-Build: A project delivery method where the owner or agency hires a single firm or company to handle both the design and construction of the building.

37. Diagrid: Structure reinforcement technique using steel beams placed in diagonal grids.

38. Encasement: The encasing of underground pipes in concrete or when encasing hazardous materials that have been installed.

39. Falsework: A temporary structure used to support an arch or bridge during the construction or repair process.

40. Field Measure: Measurements taken inside the structure that do not rely on the blueprints.

41. Field Work Order: The general contractor’s document given to the subcontractor regarding the completion of work that is not included in the original scope of the project.

42. Floor Plan: Drawing of the building’s layout as it provides details of each room space from an above view.

43. Foreman: The leading supervisor at the construction site who is in charge of the work crews. He ensures workers perform daily tasks based on established schedules while creating documents regarding completed work.

44. Elevation Drawing: A drawing of a structure that shows the front or side of the buildings facades; it is a first angle projection.

45. General Contractor: The main contractor for the building construction. Their main responsibility is the oversight of the project as they manage subcontractors, handle scheduling and monitor the budget.

46. GMP (Guaranteed Maximum Price): A contract where the contractor is paid for the actual costs that are incurred in addition to a fixed fee that has a price ceiling cap.

47. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning): Abbreviation used to signify the heating, ventilation and cooling structures and systems of the building.

48. IFB (Invitation for Bid): Request given to contractors for them to submit a project proposal regarding their provided services and products.

49. Integrated Labor Delivery: A construction model where the project labor is brought in at the design phase as subcontractors perform roughly 80% to 100% of the labor.

50. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD): A construction model where a single multi-party contract is established between the owner, architect and builder. The contract outlines that all stakeholders will share both the risks and incentives of the project.

51. Job Costing: Accounting method used to track construction work that is completed and measures whether the amount of activity aligns to the project budget.

52. Joint: A construction interface between two separate building elements that do not have a physical connection to each other but may overlap or align to the other element.

53. Joist: Horizontal elements that are connected to beams perpendicularly to provide load transfer functions.

54. Lean Construction: A construction methodology where all stakeholders share relationships and goals to manage the project so as to reduce waste while maximizing the project’s value.

55. Lease-leaseback: A project delivery method where a school will lease a site to a contractor who will construct a building to be used by the school. The contractor will then lease the constructed building back to the school. At the end of the lease, the title of the building would be vested to the school.

56. Lien: A property claim made by the contractor against the owner when they are not paid for the completed work.

57. Lift Slab Construction: Construction method where concrete slabs are cast on the ground level and then are lifted into place using hydraulic jacks.

58. Low Bid Procurement: A construction bedding method where the lowest bid is automatically accepted and awarded the job.

59. Lump Sum Contracts: A contract where a single price is quoted for the entire construction project.

60. Moling: A pneumatically-driven device inserted into the ground to create holes for construction elements such as pipes and heat pump systems.

61. Monocrete Construction: A construction method that uses precast concrete panels which are bolted together to make concrete structures.

62. Negotiated Procurement: A government procurement method where a contractor is chosen without formal price competition or formal advertising.

63. Pay Applications: A construction document that details how the contractor will be paid.

64. Performance Gap: A performance gap is an instance where the expected work progress does not match to the results that are given.

65. Precast Concrete: Concrete elements created offsite that are transported to the construction site for final assembly.

66. Project Manager: The project manager handles the entire management of the construction project. They oversee project deliverables, schedules and budgets.

67. Public-Private-Partnership: A project delivery method where a government agency and a private sector company collaborate to fund, build and maintain construction projects as the private generates income from the project.

68. Punch List: A document listing construction work that does not meet the customer’s specifications. It is made at the end of the project as the contractor needs to complete the job to receive the payment.

69. Purchase Orders (PO): In construction, a purchase order is a document from the buyer that indicates their intent to purchase services and products from the seller, such as a supplier.

70. Purlin: A horizontal and longitudinal beam used on the roof structure to support the rafters.

71. RFI (Request for Information): This preliminary document contains general information about the capabilities provided by potential vendors or suppliers.

72. RFP (Request for Proposal): A document request to vendors to obtain an overview of their costs and offerings for specific services.

73. RFQ (Request for Quote): A document featuring predetermined specifications for the project as it requests the vendor’s costs to fulfill these specifications.

74. Rim Joist: In flooring, a rim joist is attached to the end of the main joists to give lateral support.

75. RTT (Request for Tender): A formal invitation to vendors to submit their bid to supply products and services to the construction project.

76. Rubblization: During the construction project, unwanted concrete is broken down into small pieces that are used in the base for new surfaces.

77. Schedule of Values: A project’s work item list that corresponds the items to their value as the list represents the entire amount of the work project.

78. Scope Creep: Scope creep involves when continuous changes and modifications are made or when the work grows uncontrollably beyond the original scope of the project.

79. Scope of Work (SOW): A detail in the agreement outlining the work that will be performed for the project.

80. Section Drawing: A drawing that shows the building’s view as if cut on a vertical plane.

81. Shiplap: Wood panels on the sides of buildings, barns and other structures.

82. Shop Drawings: A contractor’s drawings that details the fabrication of components.

83. Shoring: A construction method that uses wood or metal props to support the structure while it is worked on.

84. Soil Stockpile: A pile of soil created when bulldozers excavate the site as the soil may later be used for grading purposes.

85. Soul Source Procurement: A procurement method where only one contractor is selected without a competitive process to fulfill all the project’s requirements.

86. Specifications: The specifications provide details regarding the materials and work quality desired for the building design.

87. Subcontract: An agreement made with the contractor and subcontractor that outlines the specific work services for the project.

88. Subcontractor: The subcontractor is specialized in a specific construction or building trade, such as electrical or plumbing. They are contract workers who are hired by the general contractor.

89. Submittals: Material data, shop drawings, and product data for architects and engineers so they can verify that the correct products were installed.

90. Superstructure: A structure that is built on top of another structure.

91. Takeoff: A document that lists the types and quantities of materials that will be required for the construction project.

92. Target Value Design: This design method involves all key stakeholders — including the owner, subcontractors, designers and contractors — who will design the construction project to meet the owner’s goals and budget.

93. Tender: A contractor’s or supplier’s submission response about the supplies and services that they can offer to the project when receiving a bid invitation.

94. Tie: Construction elements used to tie to separate materials together inside cavity walls.

95. Time and Materials Contracts: A contract method where the contractor is paid for the actual costs, which include time and materials.

96. Underpinning: Construction technique to strengthen the foundation of an existing structure with the use of beams, concrete or base pining.

97. Unit Price Contracts: A contract where the contractor is paid based on the estimated quantity of items for the project and their unit prices.

98. Virtual Design and Construction (VDC): All of the multi-disciplinary project models which can include the analysis model, visualizations, costs, and engineering modeling.

99: Voided Biaxial Slab: Concrete blocks with voids inside that maintain their strength and durability while using less concrete.

100. Zoning: Government regulations that dictate how property areas can be used.

By understanding the above construction terms and acronyms, you can further understand the meaning of certain construction methods, projects, and contracts. You may also hear many of these terms used in other industries such as engineering, architecture and cost estimating. 

For more information about the construction industry, as well as the construction bidding process, contact 1build.

  1. I didn’t know general contractors are in charge of subcontractors. This sounds like a good idea to me because it keeps the world site organized. The general contractor can make sure the subcontractors are getting everything they’re assigned to, done.

  2. It’s helpful to understand that blueprints are just the 2-D plans for the building. My spouse and I are trying to get a home addition on our home this year. We need to find the right contractor to work with and this article will really help us communicate more effectively.

  3. It’s good to know that the all-in rate is going to include all the costs for the entire project. My sister is trying to get some new concrete around her property this fall. She needs to find a contractor that can help her understand how to do this whole job properly.

  4. It’s good to know that the pile of soil created during the excavation process is referred to as the “soil stockpile.” Now that I think about it, I’d be interested to learn how soil stockpiles are handles during excavation for larger-scale projects such as civil developments. Your article provided a lot of helpful and easy-to-understand info about construction, so thanks for taking the time to share!

  5. It’s good to know that blocking helps the foundation of the building so that it lasts longer without major issues. My brother is trying to get some major work done around some buildings in the area. He needs to make sure that all the equipment he uses has been inspected as well so there aren’t any accidents.

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