Home Renovation Glossary


Abrasion Wear – Distress or blemishes on a surface due to friction.

Accent Color – Color which contrasts other colors in a room to create a visual focus.

Accent Lighting – Lighting which highlights specific decor or structural elements, such as art, stairs, or shelving.

Alcove – Small recess in a room, often used as a lounge area such as a reading nook.

Allowance – Budget set aside for mid-renovation decisions and purchases.

Antique Finish – Wood staining or weathering used to make an object appear aged.

Arched Window – Window shaped with a rectangular bottom half and a rounded top half.

Awning Window – Window which is hinged at the top, allowing the window to swing outward.


Backfill – Gravel or soil filled around the home’s foundation.

Backsplash – Strip of material, often tile or wood – behind a kitchen sink.

Baluster – Pillar used to support a railing. Can be decorative as well as functional.

Baseboard – Narrow strip of wood that runs along a wall, covering the joint between the wall and the floor. Also known as base molding.

Bay Window – Window that projects outward from the wall, often with three sides at 120-degree angles.

Bid – A written offer detailing the services of the renovation company and the price they will charge.

Bow Window – Similar to a bay window but often with five sides instead of three, creating a less angular design.

Built-in – Cabinetry permanently attached to a wall


Ceramic Tiles – Clay tiles which have been hardened in a heating process. Often decorated with shapes or glaze.

Change Order – Modification to the original contract made in writing. Often results in a change to the price, timeline, or other elements of the project.

Colorfast – The degree to which a pigment, paint, or dye maintains its color despite aging and exposure to light.

Construction Contract – A legal document detailing the work to be done. Should include the contractor’s registration number, a description of the quality of work, any blueprints, specifications, allowances, timeline, pricing, payment schedule, details on dispute processes, and warranty information.

Covenant – Rules set forth by the community prohibiting certain changes to the appearance of a home. Meant to maintain the character or historical value of the area.


Designer – Artist or artisan who concepts

Double Glazing – Window that uses two pane of glass with gas between each pane. Improves efficiency and heat retention within the home.

Double Hung Window – Window with two vertically sliding sections, opened by sliding the bottom section up or the top section down.

Dry Rot – Decay of wood caused by fungal growth in poorly ventilated areas.


Earth Tone Colors – A relatively neutral color palette usually using desaturated greens, browns, and greys, creating a natural or organic look.

Eggshell Finish – Paint finish that falls between matte and semi-gloss.

Emulsion Paint – The most popular paint for walls, as it is easy to apply and dries quickly.

Enamel Paint – Paint that dries to a smooth, glossy finish. Often used for decorative details rather than large surfaces.

Energy Star Products – Appliances that have been proven to be energy efficient.


Finish Coat – The final coat for a wall, which can define the lustre of the surface, from matte to gloss.

Fixed Price Contract – Contract which specifies a price that cannot be modified.

Fixture – Functional, non-furniture items such as sinks, bathtubs, toilets, etc.

Flat Paint Finish – A dull finish. Also known as matte finish. Contrast with glossy finish. Less durable than glossy finish.

French Doors – Doors with glass panes throughout most of the surface.

Fungal Wood Rot – See “wood rot.”


Glass Tile – Most often used for kitchens and bathrooms. Non-porous material makes them durable, easy to clean, and resistant to moisture. Often have an iridescent or glossy appearance.

Gloss Finish – Highly reflective finish. Contrast with matte finish. Easier to clean than matte finish.

Graining – A process to create the appearance of wood grain through painting techniques.

Granite – Stone material often used for countertops. Comes in a variety of colors and patterns.

Grout – Mix of water, cement, and sand that fills the spaces between wall and floor tiles to secure them to the base.


Hardwood Flooring – Flooring of wood with a urethane finish, as opposed to carpet. Available in a variety of species such as maple, oak, cherry, birch, and walnut. Can be arranged in a variety of patterns such as straight, herringbone, and parquet.

Hearth – Floor in front of a fireplace, often made of brick.

Hopper Window – Window jointed at the top, which opens inward and into the home. Popular for basements and bathrooms.


Insulating Glass – Window or door glass with gas hermetically sealed between panes. See “double glazing.”


Jamb – Lining of a doorway or aperture. A door jamb bears the weight of a door, as the hinges are attached to this area.


Labor Hour – A timeframe and equivalent cost by which a single person works on a renovation.

Lacquer – Hard, protective coating for wood. Most often used on furniture. Can result in a glossy sheen.

Latex Paint – Paint that dries quickly but isn’t particularly durable. Best used on walls and ceilings.

Limestone – Stone material sometimes used as countertop. Wears very easily, especially from acids, including citrus.

Lining Paper – Layer of wallpaper applied as a base on top of which decorative wallpaper is applied. Great for hiding cracks.

Load Bearing Wall – Wall that supports some other element of the structure such as the ceiling or roof. If a load bearing wall is removed, those other elements must be supported in some other fashion.


Main Vent – Central vent through which all other vents are connected.

Manufactured Wood – Construction elements created by are fastened together to form a stronger component.

Marble Tile – Porous stone tile with a swirling pattern. Must be cleaned regularly. Best suited for floors, as opposed to walls.

Marbling – Decorative finish mimicking the swirls of marble stone.

Matte Finish – Flat, non-reflective surface, as opposed to a glossy finish.

Molding – Ornamental detailing, usually applied at the top (e.g., crown molding) or bottom (e.g., base molding) of a wall.

Monochrome – Color palette that uses various tints of a single color. Creates a minimalist but stylish look.

Mosaic Tiles – Durable glass tiles designed in a variety of decorative polygon-based patterns. Can be somewhat fragile and slippery when wet.

Motif – Decorative theme for a room or entire home. Can be based on a color palette or decorative style.


Natural Finish – Finish that keeps wood grain and color exposed.

Neutral Colors – Colors of various shades of grey.

Niche – Recess in a wall. Can be used for displaying objects or as a sitting area.


Panel – Large piece of wood used as a decorative feature on a wall.

Parquet – Wood flooring panels arranged in a geometric pattern, most often a repeating chevron shape.

Pastel Colors – Desaturated colors that create a soothing appearance. Can be used as the main color palette or as accents.

Payment Schedule – Mutually decided-upon timeline of payments often based on project milestones.

Permit – Government-issued document allowing for renovations. Can be related to building, electrical, plumbing, septic, grading, or zoning.

Picture Window – Windows that do not open but feature a low profile frame and a large pane of glass which is uninterrupted by rails or muntin. Can’t be opened or closed.

Porcelain Tile – Type of ceramic tile which is very resilient. Rarely used in residential settings.

Primary Colors – Color palette that uses shades red, blue, and/or yellow. Often creates a bold look and feel.

Punch List – List of tasks to be finished or revised before the final payment is made.


Quote – Final price presented by the contractor for materials and labor. Not to be confused with an estimate, which is an approximation presented before the quote.


Remodeling Contractor – Person responsible for the day-to-day renovation tasks, as well as management of the team and materials. Communicates with all team members and clients.

Resilient Flooring – Engineered flooring made of both natural and synthetic materials that is designed to look like wood or tile flooring. Very durable and easy to clean. Also known as vinyl flooring.

Round Window – Circle-shaped, decorative window. Usually does not open.


Schematic – A rough line drawing of a room displaying its shape and dimensions.

Scope of Work – In-depth list and description of renovation work to be done.

Secondary Color – Purple, green, and orange colors created from mixing two primary colors.

Single Glazing – Window which uses only one pane of glass, rather than two. Less energy and heat efficient than double glazing.

Single Hung Window – Window with a stationary top sash and a sliding or tilting bottom sash.

Skylight Window – Windows placed on a roof, allowing a significant amount of sunlight in.

Slate Tile – Extremely durable natural stone tile resistant to scratches or cracks. Must be sealed to protect against staining. Relatively high cost. Comes in a variety of colors. Does not retain heat well.

Slider Window – Two- or three- panel window. Panels slide horizontally to open.

Staining – Application of colorants to wood, creating a darker, aged, or otherwise more pleasing color to the wood grain. Can be applied to unfinished wood flooring or wooden furniture.

Standard Practices – Basic construction standards by which contractors perform their work.

Stationary Window – See “Picture Window.”

Stoneware Tile – Classification that includes porcelain, ceramic, and other tiles made of stone. Contrast with glass and mosaic tiles.

Subway Tile – Ceramic tiles with a heavy glaze. Most often used in bathrooms but also used in kitchens. Very durable.


Terracotta Tile – Oven-fired, brownish-red stoneware tile used for flooring. Must be properly sealed to prevent wear and staining. Quality of terracotta tiles is extremely varied, which can necessitate revisions to the work.

Tertiary Color – Color created by mixing equal parts of primary and secondary colors. Creates a more subtle look than primary or secondary colors.

Time & Materials Contract – Contract which details and itemizes materials, labor, and overhead costs.

Transom Window – Thin, horizontal window above a door.

Travertine – Lightly colored limestone tiles which are cheaper than but similarly durable to other stoneware tiles. Porous surface can create wear over time. Somewhat easily tarnished, especially by acids.


Veneer – Thin layer of wood or stone placed on top of and hiding lower quality wood. Creates a particular look without the associated costs.

From The Blog

The design, look, and feel of the bathrooms in our homes have a greater impact on how we feel than many people realize! That’s because these are the spaces where we begin and end every day. A beautiful, clean, and comfortable bathroom can make a positive difference in your routine.
Basements are often a missed opportunity. They’re one of the largest spaces in a home, yet they’re often relegated to one or two purposes. Take, for example, this 1922 Wellesley colonial’s formerly unfinished basement. Our client wanted to transform this space – which was then used as a typical storage and utilities area – into its own multifunctional apartment.
Scroll to Top