Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Remodeling Terms by Letter

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A

 

AFCI

An acronym for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter, a device designed to protect against fires by breaking the circuit when a dangerous electrical arc is detected. This type of circuit breaker protects against fires caused by low level arcing currents that are not detected by conventional devices that protect against excess current.

Things you need to know: Arc faults are a major cause of electrical fires due to wiring. In fact 50%-75% of home electrical fires in the United States were due to arc faults.

 

AFUE

An acronym for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, a measurement that shows how efficient a furnace is at generating energy from the fuel it uses. A unit with a higher rating is more fuel efficient than a unit with a lower rating.

Cost Considerations: Units with a higher rating may not be the most cost-effective, because the most energy-efficient types of fuel can also be the most expensive.

Things you need to know: Some types of fuel are more energy efficient than others, but their cost can also vary. For example, electric is one of the most efficient fuels, but it is also one of the most expensive.

 

Acrylic Stucco

A type of stucco made from acrylic resins and/or polymers, with crushed quartz and sand to give it definition. An acrylic stucco finish looks very similar to a traditional stucco finish.

Cost Considerations: Acrylic stucco costs more than traditional stucco; $0.25 to $0.50 per sq. ft. vs. $0.05 to $0.10.

Things you need to know: Acrylic stucco is easy to match, so there is little color variation from one bucket to the next, whereas with traditional stucco, it must all be mixed at once to keep the color uniform, which usually requires a cement mixer. Acrylic stucco also requires more skill to apply, because it dries faster.

Also known as: Synthetic stucco, elastomeric stucco finish

 

Air Handler

A unit that distributes heated or cooled air to the different areas of the home. Air handlers do not heat or cool the air, but instead pull the heat out of the air and direct it outside in the summer and inside in the winter. Air handlers are often part of a heat pump system.

Things you need to know: Most air handlers cost between $1,000 and $3,500; the average price is $1,700.

Also known as: AHU (Air Handling Unit)

 

Air Terminal

It is a metal rod with a pointed or round tip that allows the lightning to be caught and safely diffused through conductor cables to ground rods buried in a safe place. All three components together make up a complete lightning protection system.

Cost Considerations: Aluminum is a much cheaper material than copper, and its price is steady, whereas the price of copper is generally higher and fluctuates wildly. For example, the price of copper has varied from $2 to $4.50/lb over the last 5 years, and aluminum has varied between $0.65 and $1.25/lb. According to a national survey, the price difference between copper and aluminum for lightning protection for residential properties was $1.34/$1.18 per sq. ft. of roof and $0.80/$0.71 per sq. ft. of floor.

Things you need to know: Aluminum has been related to failures in the past, but new alloys offer improvements in conductivity, creep resistance, strength, and workability. Aluminum connections must be installed more precisely than copper, but if they are, aluminum actually runs at a lower temperature. Aluminum cable is not able to carry as much load as copper cable, so the wires would have to be much bigger for the same purposes.

Also known as: Lighting Rod, Finial, Strike Termination Device

 

Air-to-air Heat Pump

A type of heat pump that pulls the heat out of the indoor air in the summer and redirects it outside, and in the winter pulls heat energy from the outside air and redirects it indoors.

Cost Considerations: Air-to-air heat pumps cost less to install than geothermal heat pumps, but they can cost more to run because air temperature varies widely, whereas ground temperature remains relatively constant. Air-to-air heat pumps cost around $1,000, compared with $3,000 for geothermal heat pumps.

Also known as: Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP)

 

Alder

A type of wood commonly used for cabinets. Alder can have a knotty texture, which gives a rustic look.

Cost Considerations: Alder is one of the softer woods used for cabinets, and is therefore easier to dent. It is also less expensive than cherry, which is much harder.

Things you need to know: Different species of alder are named with colors, (white, gray, etc.) but the furniture made from them can be finished with various colors. For example, alder cabinets with a gray finish are not necessarily made from gray alder.

Also known as: European Alder, Black Alder

 

Angle Bracket

A type of hardware used to reinforce the joints of two pieces of wood or other building material.

 

Asbestos

A group of fire-resistant silicate minerals found in construction materials including paint, particularly in older homes. When the asbestos deteriorates, particles can become airborne and this is a serious health hazard.

Cost Considerations: Asbestos removal costs an average of $200 to $400 per hour.

Things you need to know: If asbestos is present, it should be removed or contained by a trained professional prior to beginning a renovation project. When asbestos fibers are disturbed, they can become airborne. They can then be inhaled and lead to fatal respiratory illnesses.

 

Audio Out Jack

Socket that allows a device that produces sound, such as a TV or video camera to be connected to one that plays the sound, such as a speaker or headphones.

 

AutoCAD

A range of software programs by Autodesk that enable architects and designers to use a computer to create, test, and make changes to digital models of what they want to build before they build it.

Cost Considerations: Blueprints designed using CAD are cheaper than hand-drawn blueprints because the process is much faster. 99% of blueprints are made using CAD.

Things you need to know: CAD is an acronym for Computer-Aided Design.

 

Automatic Transfer Switch

A device that automatically switches the power source to a backup generator in the event the primary power source fails.

Cost Considerations: Transfer switch installation typically runs between $200 and $300. Larger 10 circuit switches made for 7500 watt generators are slightly more expensive ($350 to $400).

Things you need to know: Automatic transfer switches come in various sizes to match the size of commonly used generators. Installation typically takes 3-4 hours.

Also known as: ATS

B

 

BTU

An acronym for British Thermal Unit, a standard unit of measure for heat. 1 BTU is approximately 1.055 kJ (kilojoules). It is the amount of work needed to heat 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at sea level.

Things you need to know: Using one kilowatt of electricity for an hour would be the same as 3,400 BTU.

 

Backsplash

The upright surface, often made of tile, behind a kitchen counter, sink, or stove, that protects the wall from damage from splatter due to kitchen activities.

Cost Considerations: Lower-grade ceramic tiles are one of the cheaper backsplash materials, at around $10 per sq. ft. Stainless steel is one of the more expensive backsplash materials, and can cost $25 per sq. ft.

 

Baluster

Small pillars that are used to support a railing, such as on a staircase.

Cost Considerations: Wrought iron balusters and wood balusters are often similar in cost and strength. Solid iron generally costs more than hollow iron and also costs more to ship because it is heavier. Balusters can run from about $1,200 to $1,600 for a home staircase.

Things you need to know: These are often decorative in appearance.

Also known as: Spindle

 

Bandwidth

The amount of data that electronic communications systems can send and receive within a certain time period. Bandwidth is measured in bps (bits per second).

 

Barometric Flue Damper

A device installed in the flue between the boiler and the chimney to regulate the flow of air up the chimney.

Cost Considerations: They cost less than $100 to install, and they can lower your energy bill by as much as 5%.

Things you need to know: Different fuels require a different type of damper. For example, gas burners usually use double-acting dampers, and oil-fired burners usually use single-acting dampers.

 

Bathtub Jet

In a bathtub, one of several spouts that shoot water, air, or both into the tub at fast speeds to provide a massage effect.

Things you need to know: Jetted bathtubs usually have several bathtub jets around the tub that work together to provide the massage effect.

 

Bay Window

A set of 3 or more windows that projects beyond the outside wall of a building. These are great for allowing light into a room.

Cost Considerations: The cost of permits and taxes must be factored into this project. Bay windows can range from $2,000 to $3,000, depending on the size, type and material.

 

Berkey System

A recognized brand of gravity-based home water purification systems that offer various options to meet families' needs.

Cost Considerations: Berkey systems can range from about $150 for a Travel Berkey system to $650 for a Crown Berkey system.

Things you need to know: Berkey is famous for its portable water filters, which purify much more water than a standard pitcher filter.

 

Bermuda Sod

A type of grass available in various versions that offer a deep-green color, drought-tolerance, dense foliage, and are great in warmer climates. Sod is carpet-like squares of grass with a layer of roots and soil that can be laid down to create a lawn much quicker than using seed.

Cost Considerations: Sod installation requires little expertise, but it is time consuming and will require specialized equipment. This should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to pay for installation. Bermuda sod costs between $0.40 and $0.85 per square foot.

Also known as: Bermuda Grass

 

Bi-Fold Door

A door with panels connected by hinges, that slide along a track and fold together when opened. They are often used for closets.

Cost Considerations: There is a wide range in prices for interior doors. A wood bi-fold door averages $125 to $175, which is on the cheaper end. Higher-end doors such as an aluminum barn door can be as much as $1,400.

Things you need to know: Bi-fold doors make it easier to see into a closet than sliding doors, because they fold back completely out of the way, whereas a sliding door will always block at least half the closet.

Also known as: Bi-folding Doors, Folding Sliding Doors, Accordion Door

 

Bitumen

A viscous, black mixture of hydrocarbons often used for roofing and waterproofing. It is also used in asphalt for paving roads.

Also known as: Asphalt

 

Black Locust

A type of wood that is commonly used for fences. It can also be used for furniture, flooring, decking, and other applications. It is hard, heavy, and very durable.

Cost Considerations: Black locust is very durable and low-maintenance, but the material itself is more expensive than other options. A split-rail locust fence can cost $20 to $30 per foot.

Things you need to know: It is one of the heaviest and hardest woods in North America and it is commonly used to give a rustic look. It is resistant to shocks, decay and termites. In fact, black locust fences can last up to 90 years.

 

Blower

An accessory that makes a fireplace more efficient by circulating the warm air in the fireplace to other areas of the home.

 

Blueprint

A technical drawing of an architectural design. Traditionally these were made using a printing process that produced a white line on a blue background. They can also be made with CAD software and a large-scale printer.

Cost Considerations: Traditional blueprints take the most time because they must be drawn by hand. Using CAD software makes the process faster and therefore cheaper. It may also be possible to make changes to an existing blueprint if the project is a minor addition to an existing structure. This would save money compared with having an entire blueprint drawn. A draftsperson usually charges $100 to $130 an hour, and drawing a CAD blueprint for a 1,000 square foot space takes about 8-16 hours.

Things you need to know: A whiteprint is a similar type of drawing, but with a blue line on a white background. Whiteprints replaced blueprints because they were easier and safer to produce.

 

Bracket

A support that projects outward from one surface to hold another surface to it, such as attaching a shelf to a wall or piece of furniture. Brackets can also be used to strengthen joins between two materials.

Things you need to know: Different types of brackets are needed for different types of applications. Brackets can be used to bear weight and also for decoration.

 

Brick Paver

Bricks that can be laid together in a pattern to create a path or patio.

Also known as: Paving Stone

 

Bubble Sprinkler Head

A sprinkler nozzle that releases water slowly in a single place, rather than spraying it over a wide area. They are placed near the base of trees and shrubs and in flower beds, and soak the ground around them, allowing water to penetrate into the soil.

Cost Considerations: Installing a sprinkler system designed for trees will increase the price around 45%, whereas sprinklers designed for flower beds are 15% less expensive than the standard sprinkler system. A standard sprinkler system for an 8,000 sq. ft. lawn costs about $2,500 to $3,500.

Things you need to know: Bubblers are best used in tree wells, planters, for shrubs, and in areas where sprinkler spray cannot reach.

 

Bucket Test

A method to test for a leak in a swimming pool. It involves placing a bucket on a step in a filled pool, and marking the water level both inside and outside the bucket. If after a period of time the water level on the outside has reduced more than the water level on the inside, there is probably a leak.

Things you need to know: Due to the varying environmental conditions during the tests, the results may be wrong.

 

Built-in

An item of furniture, such as a bookcase or set of cabinets, that is built directly into the structure of the room. Built-ins are therefore customized to the room and not detachable.

Cost Considerations: Built-in furniture generally costs more than freestanding furniture because it has to be designed and built specifically for each customer. Since every built-in project has to be customized to the home and the homeowner's specific requirements, it is best to get quotes from a few professionals to get a good idea of what a certain project will cost.

 

Buyer Beware Policy

Policy that a home buyer is accepting the property as-is when they sign the paperwork for it, and should therefore thoroughly examine and inspect the property before they finalize the purchase. One way to achieve this is to hire a home inspector.

Cost Considerations: The price of a home inspection can range from $175 to $600, and will require anywhere from one to six hours to complete.

C

 

CAD

An acronym for Computer-Aided Design, a software that enables architects and designers to use a computer to create very precise drawings and models of what they want to build, and then test and modify their designs.

Cost Considerations: CAD can offer cost savings compared with having it drafted by hand.

Things you need to know: CAD can improve the designer's productivity and the quality of the design by allowing them to test it out in advance and make changes easily using a computer.

 

CFM

An acronym for Cubic Feet per Minute, the measurement of the rate at which air moves into or out of a space.

Things you need to know: The measurement CFM is ambiguous because gas can be compressed. This means that the volume of the gas changes based on the pressure applied to it. Therefore, to be more specific, the terms ACFM (Actual Cubic Feet per Minute) and ICFM (Inlet Cubic Feet per Minute) are used because they refer specifically to the actual delivery of gas at the inlet.

 

CSST

An acronym for Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing, a stainless steel pipe with an inner layer made of corrugated steel, and covered by a yellow or black plastic coating. The pipe is flexible, so it is easy to run through walls and floor joists. It is used to provide fuel to buildings, such as propane and natural gas.

Cost Considerations: The tubing is more expensive than traditional black iron pipe, but it is much faster to install, taking only 1/3 of the time that would be needed to install black iron pipe. Therefore, when taking labor cost into account, CSST is often cheaper. CSST is $2 to $4 per linear foot, compared with $5 to $8 for black iron pipe.

Things you need to know: CSST has been linked to fires and natural gas leaks in the past, so it is important to make sure it is properly bonded and grounded to minimize this risk.

Also known as: Flexible Gas Line

 

Caller ID

A phone service that displays a caller's phone number and often their name before the call is answered.

Cost Considerations: Caller ID on a landline has an initial startup fee and a monthly payment of $3 to $10. Caller ID is provided automatically to cell phones at no additional cost.

Things you need to know: This requires a device where that information can be displayed. Often the phone itself has that capability. Otherwise a separate box can be purchased.

Also known as: Calling Line Identification (CLID), Calling Number Delivery (CND), Calling Number Identification (CNID) or Calling Line Identification Presentation (CLIP)

 

Canister Lighting

A type of recessed lighting where the light is installed into a hole in the ceiling, giving downward light.

Cost Considerations: Installing recessed lighting costs about $100 to $200 per light. If there are obstacles in the ceiling such as joists or heating ducts that get in the way of installation, this will add to the cost.

Things you need to know: There are two parts to a canister light: the housing, which surrounds the light itself, and the trim, which is the finish for the hole in the ceiling.

Also known as: Recessed Lighting, Can Light, Pot Light

 

Capillary Sensor Tube

A thin tube attached to a larger sensor bulb, filled with a liquid or vapor that expands and contracts as the temperature changes. These are used to control an electrical circuit, which can, for example, start or stop a heater.

Also known as: Capillary Thermostat, Capillary Tube, Cap Tube

 

Casement Window

A window that is attached to the frame by hinges on the side of the window, allowing them to open like a door.

Cost Considerations: Casement windows open wide, which is good for views and ventilation, but they are one of the more expensive types of window, ranging from $650 to $1,480.

Things you need to know: They can be on their own or in pairs, with two windows in the same frame.

 

Casing Pipe

Pipe commonly used underground to surround utility lines to protect them from damage.

Also known as: Encasement Pipe

 

Cat 5 Cabling

Cables used to create a home computer network. These cables can work at up to 1000Mbps at 100MHz and can also carry telephone and video signals.

Cost Considerations: Cat 5e cables offer some cost savings over the newer Cat 6, but spending a little more now could avoid the need to have the cables replaced when they are no longer fast enough. Cat 5e cable costs about $0.20 to $0.30 per linear foot.

Things you need to know: These work fine for standard applications, but consider that as internet speeds continue to rise, they may no longer be fast enough.

Also known as: Class D Cabling

 

Cat 6 Cabling

Similar to Cat 5e cables, but better at reducing crosstalk/system noise. They are a later generation of network cable, suitable for up to 10 gigabit Ethernet at 250 MHz. They are backward compatible with Cat 5/5e.

Cost Considerations: Cat 6 is no longer that much more expensive than Cat5e, but offers better performance and is capable of handling faster speeds. Cat 6 cable costs about $0.40 to $0.60 per linear foot.

Things you need to know: These are able to handle Gigabit ethernet, and the faster speeds should make their future usefulness better than Cat 5e.

Also known as: Class E Cabling

 

Cat 7 Cabling

A new standard for network cabling. It is similar to Cat 5e and Cat 6 cabling, but can handle up to 10 gigabit Ethernet at 600 MHz.

Cost Considerations: These cables are fast and future-proof, but also more expensive. Consider what speeds are necessary for the network before paying extra for capacity that may never be needed. Cat 7 cable costs about $0.98 per linear foot.

Things you need to know: Individual wire pairs have shielding, which makes them even better than Cat 6 at reducing crosstalk/system noise. They are backward compatible with Cat 5/5e and Cat 6.

Also known as: Class F Cabling

 

Cattail

A tall reed-like plant that grows in marshland or at the edge of ponds, with a brown, cylindrical stalk that is made up of many tiny flowers.

Cost Considerations: Price wise, at $7 to $10, cattails are similar in price to irises, which is another common pond plant suitable for shallow water.

Things you need to know: These are best in shallow water ponds, and actually improve the quality of the water as they grow.

Also known as: Punks, Bulrush, Reed Mace, corn Dog Grass

 

Caulking

A chemical sealant used to fill in and seal gaps where two materials join, for example, the tub and tile, to create a watertight and airtight seal. The term "caulking" is also used to refer to the process of applying this type of sealant.

Things you need to know: Different types of caulking have different pros and cons, such as price, durability, workability, fumes released during curing, etc. For example, silicone caulking is good for sealing tubs and sinks because it resists water, and latex caulking expands to fill gaps, so it is good for baseboards and crown molding.

Also known as: Caulk, Caulking Compound

 

Cellular Shade

A fabric shade that folds flat when collapsed and expands into a honeycomb pattern. They are good for keeping heat out in the summer and keeping it in the winter.

Cost Considerations: Single cell shades are usually cheaper because they use less materials, but double cell shades are more energy efficient because they have two rows of cells to trap air and insulate the window. Cellular shades range between $40 and $220 per standard window.

Things you need to know: Cellular shades are available in a cordless variety, which is safer for children and pets because cords on shades can pose a strangulation hazard.

Also known as: Honeycomb Shade

 

Channel Molding

Molding that has 3 walls to create a channel, such as in a U or C shape. It is used to protect seams in aluminum trim and to protect edges and corners in drywall and other materials needing to be joined.

 

Child-Proof Latch

Special metal bar to lock a gate around a swimming pool to prevent children getting through. They are often designed so that the release for the latch is out of reach of small children.

Cost Considerations: Child-proof latches for a swimming pool can range from $50 to $150.

 

Chlorine

A chemical added to the water in a swimming pool to kill bacteria and microorganisms that can make people sick.

Cost Considerations: When it comes to types of chlorine, the different types are best suited to different types of pools, such as small or large, indoor or outdoor, etc. The 3 inch tablets are the cheapest by weight ($2 to $4 per lb), but may be too large for smaller pools, and also take longer to dissolve than smaller tablets.

 

Cobblestone

Smooth, flat stones set closely together with sand or mortar to hold them in place. They are used for paving.

Cost Considerations: Paving with cobblestones costs an average of $1,100-$1,800 per 100 sq. ft. installed depending on the quality of the materials, compared with $850 to $2,000 for flagstone.

Things you need to know: Traditionally these were used to make roads that were more resistant to wear and tear than dirt roads. Cobblestone pavers are not just made from one specific type of stone, but rather they can be made from a variety of materials, such as granite, limestone, and basalt, and even porphyry, a type of igneous rock.

 

Code of Professional Ethics and Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice

Guidelines that govern professional real estate appraisers in the valuing of properties. These standards help make sure appraisals are done consistently and ethically, thereby protecting the consumer.

Things you need to know: The Appraisal Institute has two documents: the Code of Professional Ethics and Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. See http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/professional-practice/ethics-and-standards/

 

Communication Panel

A control panel that houses a security system's controls, communicates with the system's sensors, and is also used to communicate with a security system's monitoring service.

Cost Considerations: Communication panels are a basic feature of a home security system, which cost between $1,500 and $2,200 to have installed, plus a $500 annual monitoring fee.

Things you need to know: This is a great feature for an elderly or disabled person living alone, and offers peace-of-mind to parents, who can know that their kids will be able to contact a well-trained professional should an emergency occur.

 

Composite Roofing

Synthetic roofing shingles made to look like natural roofing materials such as wood or slate. Composite shingles look just like the materials they are meant to resemble, but cost much less, and some even provide better durability and fire resistance.

Cost Considerations: Composite roofing is cheaper than natural wood or stone, but still more expensive than asphalt shingles. The longevity of the material should also be taken into account as well as the upfront cost of the materials and installation. Composite roofing costs between $400 and $1,100 per 100 sq. ft. installed, whereas asphalt cost about $350 and slate can go as high as $1,600.

Also known as: Composition Roofing

 

Concrete Pad

A flat area of concrete that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as a patio or a driveway.

Cost Considerations: A concrete pad costs between $1.37 and $1.77 per sq. ft.

Also known as: Concrete Slab

 

Condensing Coil

One of two heat exchangers in an air conditioning unit. The condensing coil works together with an evaporator coil. The former receives heat energy collected by the latter from inside the home and releases it outdoors.

Cost Considerations: Copper coils use up to 3 times as much of the material as aluminum coils, making them a more expensive option. Replacing a condenser coil can cost $500 to $750.

Things you need to know: Aluminum coils are very difficult to maintain and almost impossible to repair. Copper coils are the standard, and more durable, though they tend to also be more expensive. A broken condenser coil may be first noticed if the air from the AC is coming out hotter than what is indicated by the thermostat.

Also known as: Condenser Coil

 

Crabgrass

A type of unwanted grass found in lawns. It keeps growing and spreading seed throughout the warm season, which makes it difficult to kill.

Cost Considerations: Treating crabgrass costs $75 to $150.

Things you need to know: Crabgrass is most effectively treated using a pesticide that kills the seedlings as they germinate. This is called a preemergent pesticide.

Also known as: Digitaria

 

Cripple Wall

Short walls, less than a full story in height, that run between the foundation and the first floor, creating a crawl space. These must be properly braced to enable them to withstand an earthquake.

Cost Considerations: Bracing a cripple wall costs $1,000 to $2,000.

Things you need to know: When an earthquake occurs, the most common type of damage is due to a cripple wall collapsing, which causes the main floor to drop. To protect against this, the cripple wall should be braced.

 

Crown Molding

A decorative finish that adds interest to the area where the top of a window meets the wall, or lines the area where the wall meets the ceiling.

Cost Considerations: Crown molding varies widely in cost depending on the material, from less than $1 per linear foot for wood, to $50 per linear foot for plaster.

Things you need to know: If you are using a material that dents easily, or if you are painting or staining it, it is a good idea to purchase extra in case of mistakes.

 

Crystalline Module

Solar panels made of crystalline silicon. These are currently the most common type of solar panel, with proven reliability.

Cost Considerations: Monocrystalline is the more efficient of the two types, and costs about $0.75 per watt, but polycrystalline is much cheaper to produce, and costs about $0.62 per watt. Therefore overall it is the better value.

 

Custom Colored Wallpaper

Wallpaper that is custom printed to match the buyer's specific requirements.

Cost Considerations: Custom wallpaper can cost over $100 per double roll, compared with $30 to $80 for pre-printed wallpaper.

D

 

DVR

An acronym for Digital Video Recorder, a device that records digital video to a storage device, such as a hard drive, memory card or other data storage device.

Cost Considerations: Storage capacity is an important feature for DVRs. Generally, the greater the storage capacity, the more hours of video that can be recorded, the more expensive the unit. It is also important to consider that for an HDTV, a higher quality of video is necessary. This means that more of the space on the hard drive will be used per hour of video recorded.

Things you need to know: They are often used in homes to record television for the user to watch at a later time. They can also be used to record the feed from digital cameras.

 

Dental Fluorosis

A change in the appearance of tooth enamel, such as discoloration or white spots, caused by using too much fluoride when teeth are still forming under the gums.

Things you need to know: The U.S Public Health Service recommends a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L (parts per million [ppm]) to protect against cavities and still reduce the risk of dental fluorosis.

 

Desuperheater

In geothermal heating systems, it is a secondary heat exchanger that transfers heat from the ground to the hot water heater to heat the water. In the summer, it uses the heat removed from the indoor space.

Cost Considerations: Using heat removed from a home's interior to heat its hot water makes the cost of hot water very inexpensive in the summer.

 

Distillation

A method to remove the impurities in water by boiling the water and then recondensing the steam.

Cost Considerations: A distillation system can cost $150 to $200.

Things you need to know: Distillation is not recommended as a way to purify water because contaminants that evaporate easily can be recondensed back into the water and would therefore not be removed.

 

Docking Station

A device to which a portable device, such as a cordless phone, laptop, or mobile phone can be connected to charge its battery.

Cost Considerations: Before choosing a docking station, it is helpful to consider what types of devices and peripherals are to be connected, to be sure the docking station is the right size for the user's needs. Also consider that mobile devices get replaced reasonably often, so choosing a universal dock may avoid the cost of having to buy a new docking station when a mobile device gets replaced.

Things you need to know: Each type of device requires a dock that is compatible with its type of charger.

Also known as: Port Replicator, Dock

 

Double Hung Window

A type of window with two sash, so that you can open the window at either the top or the bottom by sliding the correct sash in the opposite direction. For example, you would move one sash up to open the bottom of the window, or move the other sash down to open the top of the window.

Cost Considerations: Double-hung windows are available in a wide range of prices, ranging from $50 to $540 per window.

Things you need to know: Newer models have latches that release the window, making it possible to clean both sides from the interior of the home. Double hung windows do partially obstruct the view.

 

Drain Field

The part of a septic system that is used to remove pollutants and impurities from the fluid coming out of the septic tank.

Cost Considerations: Drain fields can become plugged if the septic tank is not pumped often enough. Pumping can cost $200 to $400. By the time a drain field is clogged, it is too late to fix it and it needs to be replaced. This can cost between $5,000 and $20,000.

Also known as: Leach Field, Leach Drain, Septic Drain Field

 

Drain Line

The pipe through which the condensation removed from your home by the AC unit drains out of the house.

Cost Considerations: Cleaning a drain line is something that can be done by the homeowner. There is also the option to hire a professional, which can start at $75.

Things you need to know: The drain line can become clogged, but can be cleaned with vinegar. A wet/dry vac can be used to remove bigger clogs.

Also known as: Condensate Line, Condensate Drain

 

Drywall

A solid panel made of gypsum plaster with thick paper on both sides. It is used in most modern homes to construct walls and ceilings.

Cost Considerations: The materials needed for drywall installation are relatively inexpensive. The most expensive part of the job is the labor. A sheet of drywall costs about $9, and the average labor cost for installation is $30 per sheet.

Things you need to know: Using thicker drywall ot two layers of drywall can help to keep sound from traveling from one room to the next.

Also known as: Sheet Rock, Wallboard

E

 

EV Charging Station

A point where you can connect an electric car to 240 volt power, which charges the car up to four times faster than the charging cable that comes with the car.

Cost Considerations: If you are going to hire an electrician to install the dedicated wiring and circuit, have them make it able to carry at least 50 amps. This will only cost a little bit more and can future-proof your charging station by making it able to work with cars that can charge faster than those available currently. Installation of an electric vehicle charging station costs $1,100 to $1,200, with about half that cost going to the charging station itself, and most of the rest toward installing the necessary 240V circuit.

Things you need to know: The types of cars that can be charged at an electric vehicle charging station include plug-in electric vehicles such as cars and NEVs, and plug-in hybrids.

Also known as: Electric Vehicle Charging Station, EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment), Electric Recharging Point, Charging Point.

 

Eave

The edge of a roof that connects with the wall of the building. Usually this part of the roof comes out further than the wall.

Things you need to know: Eaves overhang the roof mainly to allow rain runoff to land further away from the building to protect the walls and foundation. They also can be adjusted to control solar penetration, and may contain vents to help air flow under the roof.

 

Elbow

An L-shaped fitting used to connect two straight pipes to enable their flow to go around a corner.

Things you need to know: Short radius elbows are best used when space is tight because they take less space to make the turn.

Also known as: 90 bend, 90 ell, 45 bend, 45 ell, etc.

 

End Cap

A separate piece of finished material that covers the unfinished edges of a countertop.

Cost Considerations: Installing an end cap costs $150 to $200.

Also known as: Endcap

 

Endless Pool

A swimming pool that generates a current, enabling the user to continue swimming "endlessly" without making forward progress. This allows the size of the pool to be much smaller than a traditional pool.

Cost Considerations: An endless pool, which starts at $22,900, is smaller than a traditional pool, so less space will be needed to accommodate it. This makes it a lower-cost option than a traditional pool, which costs an average of $165,000 to $200,000 for the pool and enclosure.

Things you need to know: Endless Pools is also a brand name for a pool of this type.

Also known as: Current Pool

 

Epoxy

An adhesive, plastic, paint, or other material made from polymers containing epoxide groups. Epoxy is best used for bonding or for creating a protective coating.

Cost Considerations: The cost of epoxy depends on its application. For example, a professionally-done epoxy-coated garage floor costs $3 to $12 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: Epoxies are known for being adhesive and resistant to heat and chemicals. Epoxy plastics are used to make industrial molds, and epoxy resins are also used in electronics.

 

Epoxy-Based Paint

Not actually a paint, it is a plastic-like coating containing epoxy resin, that provides strength and durability and is resistant to staining and chemicals. It comes in a variety of colors and is also available as a clear coating.

Cost Considerations: Different epoxy paints contain different levels of the solids that give them their strength. Cheaper versions contain less solids, which makes them thinner and easier to apply. Versions containing a higher percentage of solids will cost more, but they will create a thicker layer, and therefore last longer. Epoxy-based paint averages $35 to $55 per gallon.

Things you need to know: Two-part epoxy paint contains one part epoxy resin and one part polyamine hardener that must be mixed together just prior to application. It must be applied within a certain amount of time after mixing or it will dry out.

 

Epoxy-Set Bolt

A bolt set in concrete, brick or masonry, that is anchored into its hole using an epoxy adhesive to secure it.

 

Ethernet

A system used to connect computers to form a local area network (LAN). A LAN allows computers in the same area to access shared data. It is also used for metropolitan area networks (MANs), such as for an entire city or campus.

Things you need to know: Ethernet connections are commonly made using twisted pair cable or fiber optic cable.

 

Evaporative Cooling

A system for cooling the air in a home by passing warmer outdoor air over wet pads. This causes the moisture on the pads to evaporate, cooling the air. The cooler, moister air is then directed into the house.

Cost Considerations: Evaporative coolers cost half as much to install and 1/4 as much to run as air conditioners. Their cost ranges from $360 for a window unit to $940 for a whole house unit that cools up to 1,100 sq. ft. They do however require much more frequent maintenance, and as many evaporative cooling units are located on the roof, this means it will be necessary to go on the roof to do the maintenance.

Things you need to know: Unlike air conditioners, evaporative coolers add moisture to the air rather than remove it. This is very useful in dry climates, however, it is not recommended in humid climates. They also provide constant fresh air to the house rather than recirculating the same air. They require a window to be open slightly to allow the warmer air to escape out of the house.

Also known as: Swamp Cooler, Desert Cooler, Wet Air Cooler

 

Exhaust Port

An opening through which exhaust gases escape.

 

Exhaust pipe

A pipe through which the by-products of gas combustion, such as in a gas engine or a gas fireplace, for example nitrogen, water vapor, and carbon dioxide, are released outside.

Cost Considerations: An exhaust vent for a gas fireplace can cost from $500 to $1,000, which is much cheaper than a chimney for a wood-burning fireplace. Installing a wood-burning fireplace and chimney can cost upwards of $8,000.

 

Expansion Tank

A receptacle that relieves the extra pressure caused by the water in a boiler becoming hot by creating more space for the extra water to flow.

Cost Considerations: Expansion tanks are fairly inexpensive and fairly easy to install. They can protect against expensive damage caused by excessive pressure in the boiler.

Things you need to know: The increased pressure from when the water is heated can put pressure on the boiler and pipes, leading to wear and burst pipes. Adding an expansion tank provides somewhere for that extra pressure to go, thereby increasing the life of the tank and pipes.

Also known as: Expansion Vessel

F

 

FHA Water Test

An acronym for Federal Housing Administration water test, series of analyses performed on the water of a house with a private water source, such as a well, that are required for obtaining an FHA loan before the sale of the house can take place.

Things you need to know: A conventional loan will not require all of these tests, but a buyer can still request them for their own peace of mind.

 

Fastener

Hardware used to attach two or more objects to each other. A common example is a nail.

Cost Considerations: Make sure to choose the best fasteners for the job even if they cost more, because removing and replacing rusted ones will cost more than buying corrosion-resistant fasteners to begin with.

Things you need to know: Fasteners used in outdoor applications should be able to stand up to the weather conditions to avoid rust and corrosion. Some examples include galvanized, ceramic, and polymer coated fasteners.

 

Faux Stone

A building material made from concrete set in molds and then painted to look like stone.

Cost Considerations: Faux stone veneer is less expensive than using natural stone, about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost. It is also lighter, which can make it possible to use without the footings or structural needs that would be required to support the weight of full-sized stone. Faux stone is more porous than natural stone, and will absorb more water and transfer it to the wall being covered, which can lead to damage that would cost money to be repaired.

Things you need to know: Faux stone is available in more colors and styles than natural stone.

Also known as: Stacked Stone Veneer, Manufactured Stone, Manufactured Stone Veneer

 

Fence Post

A sturdy pole set securely in the ground, that is used to support a fence. Fence posts are placed at regular intervals, and the other parts of the fence are attached to them.

Things you need to know: Fence posts can be set in gravel, or in concrete for extra stability. The sturdiness of the ground they are being set in should be taken into account.

 

Fescue

A coarse, resilient grass that stays green all year. Fescue is considered a cool-season grass, so it does well in cooler temperatures but can turn brown quickly in the heat. This means that it must be watered frequently in the summer.

Cost Considerations: Compared with other lawn grasses, the cost to establish fescue is in the mid to low range. It costs $0.25 to $0.70 per sq. ft.

 

Fiber Cement

A building material made with cellulose fiber, concrete, and recycled materials such as glass.

Cost Considerations: Fiber cement is currently recouping 84% of its cost when the property is sold, making it a good value home improvement. Special insulation is made for fiber cement siding, which adds to the initial cost but should lower energy bills.

Things you need to know: Fiber cement is used to make a new type of siding that is both durable and stylish. It can be painted or stained like wood, but is much more durable than wood.

Also known as: Fiber Cement Board

 

Fiber Mesh

Synthetic fibers mixed in with cement to help hold it together as it dries.

Cost Considerations: Using fiber mesh instead of a metal reinforcement may be cheaper initially, but can lead to more expensive repairs being needed later on.

Things you need to know: Fiber mesh is intended to stop the cracks that form in the concrete as it dries. Metal reinforcement of the concrete, such as welded wire mesh or rebar may still be needed.

 

Fiber Optic Cable

A type of cable through which the information signals are transmitted through a strand of glass the thickness of a human hair. Fiber optics are capable of carrying data longer distances at high speeds, and are replacing traditional copper wire cables.

Cost Considerations: Fiber optic networks require special equipment and are therefore not cost effective for smaller networks.

Things you need to know: Fiber optics take up less space and weigh less than their copper wire counterparts.

Also known as: Optical Fiber

 

Fiberglass

Plastic that is reinforced with glass fibers. The fibers may be mixed randomly throughout the plastic, or come in the form of a flat sheet, or be woven into a fabric.

Cost Considerations: There are cheaper options than fiberglass for swimming pools, such as vinyl and concrete, but those options usually require components to be replaced more often, which could lead to higher cost overall. A fiberglass pool can also do more to improve a home's resale value than the other options. A fiberglass pool costs from $20,000 to $45,000 installed.

Also known as: Glass-reinforced Plastic (GRP), Glass-fiber Reinforced Plastic (GFRP), Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic

 

Firebox

The chamber in a fireplace that contains the fire. It is usually lined with firebrick so it can withstand the extreme heat that it is exposed to. Manufactured fireplaces have fireboxes made of sheet metal.

Cost Considerations: A factory-built fireplace costs about $2,000 to $5,000, making it a more affordable option than adding a masonry fireplace, which can cost $10,000 or more. It is also less expensive to repair.

Things you need to know: A firebox not only has to withstand the extreme temperatures of a fire, it must also be able to withstand the expansion and contraction that happens when the firebox heats up and cools off.

 

Firebrick

A block of refractory ceramic material that is used to line fireboxes and other areas designed to contain fires. They are resistant to heat, and insulate the firebox by keeping the heat from escaping through the material.

Cost Considerations: Firebricks cost about $3 to $7 per brick.

Things you need to know: Standard clay bricks cannot be used in fireboxes because they are not able to withstand the temperatures that they would be exposed to. It is important to use a type of brick suitable for the application, even if it is more expensive. Firebrick comes in a variety of colors and can be laid in decorative patterns.

Also known as: Refractory Brick

 

Flagstone

A piece of rock, usually sedimentary, that has been split into layers. It is commonly used for paving and walkways, and is also used for fences and roofing.

Cost Considerations: Flagstone costs an average of $15 to $30 per sq. ft. Laying flagstone with the space between the stones filled with gravel can be as cheap as $10 per sq. ft., but it is not as durable or attractive as a path with the stones held together by mortar.

Things you need to know: Different types of flagstone require different maintenance, so different types are common in different areas. For example, sandstone is cool in the summer, but can be damaged by too much water, so it is a great choice for the southwest.

 

Flashing

Pieces of sheet metal used on roofs to cover joints, such as where the roof meets the wall, or around a chimney or skylight, to protect them and prevent water leaking through.

Things you need to know: Using flashing to cover joints on a roof will protect against weather-related water damage by preventing water from passing through those joints into the house. It is important to be aware of galvanic corrosion and not put two metals in contact that will corrode. This means taking into account the building materials that the flashing will touch.

 

Floodlight

A large, artificial light used to provide broad, uniform light to outdoor areas.

Cost Considerations: The average cost of floodlights is $75 to $150 each. If wiring is needed, it will add an average of $200 per fixture.

Things you need to know: Floodlights can be used outside of homes for security purposes. Some can be activated by a motion sensor.

 

Flue

A duct or pipe through which exhaust gases from a fireplace, stove or boiler are released to the outdoors.

Things you need to know: Flues can be opened and closed. Leaving them open too wide will draw the warm inside air up the chimney, wasting heat and making the room colder.

Also known as: Vents (boilers), Breeching (water heaters and modern furnaces)

 

Fluoride

A mineral that protects against tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel.

Things you need to know: Fluoride is added to the water supply to protect against tooth decay. It is also toxic at high levels, and is often removed by water purification systems. It is good to take the recommended levels of fluoride into account when selecting a water purification systems.

 

Foam Underlay

A thin layer of foam put under laminate flooring to soften the feel of the floor, provide a sound barrier, and keep the imperfections in the existing flooring from being visible through the new flooring.

Cost Considerations: Foam underlay is a basic, inexpensive product. Other than thickness, there is not much difference between the options, so spending more doesn't add much real benefit.

Also known as: Foam Underlayment

 

Footer Drain

A method of protection against water entering the basement. It runs along the footer - the structure below the basement's floor that supports a house's foundation, collecting excess water and running it through pipe into a sump or away from the house.

Cost Considerations: Footer drains are the most effective method for foundation drainage, and easy to install when building a house, but they are expensive to retrofit.

Also known as: Footing Drain, Foundation Drain

 

Footing

A support for the foundation of a house that also helps prevent settling. It is typically made of concrete reinforced with rebar, but can also be made of masonry or brick. It is usually built under a heavier part of the house like a wall or column, to distribute the weight of the house over a larger area.

Things you need to know: A footing may be needed for other types of construction, such as a deck, pergola, or retaining wall. Different types of soil have different load-bearing capacities, so this must be taken into account when installing a footing. In some cases a pier may be needed to prevent or reverse settlement of the foundation. They transfer the load from the unstable soil down to firmer soil or bedrock below.

Also known as: Footer

 

Footprint

The entire area of ground covered by a building, including the exterior walls and porch or patio areas.

Also known as: Gross Floor Area

 

Formica

A brand name laminate very commonly used for countertops, made of several layers of paper or fabric with melamine resin. Formica solid surfacing is a different type of material. It is a single layer, made of acrylic resin mixed with mineral fillers. It is non-porous and durable.

Cost Considerations: Traditional formica countertops are inexpensive and easy to buy and install, however they are prone to damage from heat or scratches, and it is difficult to replace only the damaged section.

Things you need to know: Formica's heat resistance and ease of cleaning make it a good choice of material for countertops. It is also available in a wide variety of colors and styles.

 

Foundation Bolting

Strengthening a home's attachment to its foundation by adding a piece of wood called the sill, and reinforcing it with bolts.

Cost Considerations: Having the home bolted to its foundation, in addition to potentially saving thousands in repairs should an earthquake occur, also increases the home's value. This is not a job to do yourself. It must be done by a licensed contractor. The cost for foundation bolting ranges from $250 to $5,000.

Things you need to know: To determine if the home has been bolted to its foundation, go into the crawl space and check for the anchor bolts coming up through the sill. If you don't see them at regular intervals, the home has not been bolted to its foundation.

 

French Drain

An outdoor buried drain line that leads water away from the house. Water runs through a trench filled with gravel into a perforated pipe underneath, which leads the water downhill to a safe area.

Cost Considerations: The cost of a French drain depends on how deep and how long it is. A shallow, exterior French drain costs about $10 to $15 per linear foot, whereas a deeper, interior drain costs an average of $50 to $60.

Things you need to know: Buildup of sand and soil can clog the pipes in french drains. Building a wider drain will make it last longer before getting clogged up.

Also known as: Trench Drain, Blind Drain, Rubble Drain, Perimeter Drain, Land Drain, Sub-soil Drain

 

Freon

A brand name for the types of refrigerant commonly used in air conditioning systems. It is also often used as simply another word for "refrigerant".

Cost Considerations: Some of the new types of refrigerant can be used in the same appliances that use R-22, which avoids the cost of replacing those appliances as this type of Freon is phased out.

Things you need to know: Freon is a gas at room temperature and becomes a liquid when compressed, for example in the compressor of an AC system. Freon R-22 is toxic to the ozone layer and is being phased out. The Freon brand also includes other safer types of refrigerant, some of which can be used in the same appliances that use R-22. Newer types of refrigerant are not only safer for the environment, but some are also more energy-efficient.

G

 

Galvanized Steel

Steel that has had a protective zinc coating applied to it to make it resistant to rusting.

Cost Considerations: Galvanized steel makes it possible to use steel for applications where it is necessary to minimize rusting, without having to substitute another, more expensive metal, such as aluminum or stainless steel.

Things you need to know: The most common method for galvanization is hot-dipping. This is where the metal is immersed in a bath of molten zinc.

 

Gasket

A seal that fills the space between two or more surfaces that are joined together, allowing a tight seal even when the surfaces do not fit against each other perfectly.

Things you need to know: Gaskets are often used to seal pipes to prevent liquids from leaking. Some gaskets contain asbestos.

 

Geothermal Heating System

A heating/cooling system that transfers heat from the ground, which remains at a constant temperature of between 45°F (7°C) and 75°F (21°C) depending on latitude, and uses it to control the temperature of the home.

Cost Considerations: Geothermal pumps can also be more cost-effective to run because ground temperature is constant and air temperature varies widely. A geothermal heating system for the average home costs about $7,500.

Things you need to know: Compared with air-to-air heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps cost more to install, but they are quieter, longer lasting, and need less maintenance.

Also known as: Ground Source Heat Pump, GeoExchange, Earth-coupled

 

Grading

The process of evening out the ground's surface, making it either flat or sloped.

Cost Considerations: Grading the land to slope away from the house is important to prevent water from pooling around the foundation, which would lead to costly repairs. Grading costs about $2.35 per sq. yd.

Things you need to know: Grading should always flow downward away from the house to prevent water from collecting near the foundation. Grading also needs to be done before construction work such as pouring a foundation.

Also known as: Leveling

 

Grasscloth

A natural, textured type of wallpaper, made from various types of grass or other natural materials. It is attached to a rice paper backing. Grasscloth is environmentally friendly because the material is renewable.

Cost Considerations: Since grasscloth is hard to clean, and can be expensive to buy, mistakes can be costly. It may be cheaper to hire a professional paperhanger than waste expensive paper because of mistakes. Grasscloth wallpaper averages $80 to $120 per roll.

Things you need to know: Grasscloth does not withstand water and can only be cleaned by vacuuming. It is therefore not suitable for areas that are likely to get moist, such as bathrooms.

 

Gravity System

A septic tank system that uses gravity to make the wastewater flowing out of the tank run downhill through pipes to the drain field or collection network.

Cost Considerations: Factors such as how level the ground is, the quality of the soil, and where the house is located will affect the cost of a gravity system. The project can range between $4,000 and $25,000.

Also known as: Gravity-fed Septic System, Gravity-fed System

 

Grid work

A network of horizontal and vertical beams that supports the acoustic tiles.

Cost Considerations: To hang a 10' x 12' acoustic ceiling, the grid work would cost about $36 for 6 beams and about $18 for 12 cross tee sections.

Things you need to know: Often, uneven joists and sagging ceilings can easily be concealed by installing an acoustic ceiling.

Also known as: Ceiling Grid

 

Grout

A fluid form of cement used to seal the joints between tiles. It also makes the surface stronger because it bonds the tiles together.

Cost Considerations: Smaller tiles will require more grout for the same surface area. It will also take more time to apply the grout. This will add cost for both materials and labor. Grout will cost $75 to $125 for a 30-40 sq. ft. area.

Things you need to know: Properly applied grout is waterproof, but it's still a good idea to go over it with a grout sealer to protect the grout against stains.

 

Grub

The larva of a beetle. While the adult beetle poses little threat to a lawn, the grubs can ruin a lawn by feeding on the roots of the grass.

Cost Considerations: To get the best results for your money, be sure to apply the right type of insecticide at the right time of year. Applying it at the wrong time will make it less effective at removing the grub problem. A DIY grub treatment costs about $20 to $30. Professional grub control services typically cost $60 to $75. Grub treatment usually needs to be done once a year.

Things you need to know: Preventive grub control methods work best. They don't kill existing larger grubs, but will prevent the next generation from taking hold. Curative grub control is the only thing that works right away to kill larger grubs, but preventive measures are best for reducing their numbers overall.

Also known as: Grub Worm, Lawn Grub

 

Guano

Droppings from bats, birds or seals.

Things you need to know: Guano may be infected with the histoplasma fungus, which can cause histoplasmosis in humans that breathe in the spores.

 

Gunite

A type of concrete used for building concrete pools, lining tunnels, and structural repair. It is applied by being sprayed through a pressure hose, and produces a dense, hard layer of concrete.

Cost Considerations: Gunite is one of the most expensive choices for an in-ground swimming pool, but it is also the most durable. It ranges from $20,710 for the pool only, to $35,900 for a higher end pool with extras.

Things you need to know: In pool construction, the term "gunite" refers to dry mix and the term "shotcrete" refers to wet mix. In other contexts, "shotcrete" is the common term for both dry mix and wet mix. "Gunite" is a trademark name for dry mix shotcrete.

Also known as: Dry Mix Shotcrete

H

 

HEPA Air Cleaner

An acronym for high-efficiency particulate arrestance air cleaner, a device that is built into the HVAC system, that uses a HEPA filter to remove pollutants such as dust, mold, and microscopic toxins out of the air.

Cost Considerations: Adding a HEPA air cleaner to an HVAC system prevents the dirt and debris from building up inside the unit. This makes the system last longer. However they are expensive to purchase, costing about $400 to $800.

Things you need to know: Since air cleaners are located between the air return duct and the furnace or air conditioner, they filter all the air as it flows into the home's ductwork.

 

HEPA Air Filter

An acronym for high-efficiency particulate arrestance air filter, a mechanical filter that filters air by forcing it through a fine mesh, which traps pollutants such as dust mites, mold, pollen, etc.

Cost Considerations: HEPA air filters are the best at removing airborne particles, but they may restrict the airflow to the HVAC system too much or be too large to fit the space intended for them. Fixing this problem will probably require a retrofit done by a heating and cooling professional. A HEPA air filter for an electric-fired boiler system costs $100 to $300.

Things you need to know: For a filter to be a HEPA filter, it must remove 99.97% of particles over 0.3 µm from the air that passes through it.

 

HOA

An acronym for Homeowners' Association, it is an organization in a housing development that makes the rules for the properties in that development.

Cost Considerations: HOAs charge regular fees to each property and provide certain services, such as upkeep of common areas, swimming pools, etc. to those communities. They also have the right to levy special assessments against each property should funds be needed for special projects. HOA fees can range from $20 per month to several hundred, depending on the property size, location, services provided, and many other factors.

 

HVAC

An acronym for Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning, the standard system that controls the temperature and quality of air in buildings.

Cost Considerations: Keeping up with HVAC system maintenance can save 5%-40% on HVAC energy costs depending on the type of unit. It can extend the life of the components, and keep them performing at optimal levels.

Things you need to know: For new buildings, HVAC systems are the required standard.

 

Hand-Split Shake

Wood shakes used for siding or roofing. They have the natural texture of hand-split wood rather than being perfectly smooth like sawn wood.

Things you need to know: Shake roofs provide twice as much insulation as asphalt roofs, which makes them energy efficient. However, they don't last as long as other types of roofs, so plan to replace at least some of the shakes every five to ten years.

 

Handrail

A long bar designed for a person to hold onto, giving them support. They are usually found on the sides of staircases, and can also be found in bathrooms, for example, to help persons with disabilities.

Also known as: Banister, Balustrade, Railing

 

Hard Water

Water that is high in mineral content. It often leads to a buildup of scale.

Cost Considerations: Hard water can damage the equipment it passes through, such as boilers and pipes. Therefore softening the water can help avoid costly repairs.

 

Hardboard Door

A door finished with a surface made of high-density fiberboard, an engineered wood product also called hardboard, and factory painted to look like wood. This term can also refer to a door with a solid hardboard core and wood veneer panels.

Cost Considerations: A hardboard door costs an average of $178, and requires 4 hours of installation.

Things you need to know: A hardboard door can be either solid or hollow core with hardboard panels, or a solid-core door with a hardboard core and wood veneer panels.

Also known as: High-Density Fiberboard (HDF), Isorel, Masonite

 

Heat Pump

A device used to heat or cool the air in a home by moving hot and cold air to where it is needed. The unit pulls hot air from inside the home in the summer and directs it outdoors, leaving the inside air cool, and pulls heat from outdoors in the winter and directs it into the home, thereby warming it.

Cost Considerations: Heat pumps are best for moderate climates. Another heat source may be needed in areas that get very cold. Geothermal pumps cost about $3,000, and air-to-air cost about $1,000.

Things you need to know: Air-to-air heat pumps rely on the heat present in the air, whereas geothermal heat pumps pull heat from deep in the ground where the temperature is usually constant, between 45°F (7°C) and 75°F (21°C). This means that less heat needs to be pulled from the air to achieve an optimum temperature.

 

Heater Core

A device that allows heat from one fluid to be transferred to another fluid without the two fluids coming into contact. The heat is transferred through the walls of the pipe that keeps the two fluids separate.

Cost Considerations: Older heater cores may be harder to find and therefore more expensive. It may make more sense to replace the entire furnace in an older system. Replacing a standard heater core costs $1,000 to $1,700. Installing a new electric furnace can cost $2,000 to $4,000.

Also known as: Heater Exchanger

 

Heavy Gauge Copper

Thick sheets of copper that can be used for flashing on roofs, backsplashes, arts and crafts projects, electrical uses and other applications.

Cost Considerations: Copper roofing tiles cost $250 to $500 per square ($100 sq. ft.)

Things you need to know: Gauge is a measure of the thickness of the material. The higher the number, the thinner the material. Different thicknesses are best for different applications.

Also known as: Roofing Copper

 

Hinge

A type of joint that attaches two items together but allows one of them to swing back and forth, such as a door attached to a door frame.

Things you need to know: Some hinges work on either side of the door (left or right), but for some it is important to know which way the door is to open before choosing the hinges.

 

Hollow-core Door

A door made from two thin exterior panels with some structural materials holding the two panels together. The rest of the space between the two panels is empty.

Cost Considerations: Hollow-core doors are much cheaper than solid doors. They can be as low as $30. When considering how many interior doors there are in a home, using hollow-core doors is a good way to cut costs.

Things you need to know: Hollow-core doors are good for interior use only. They are lightweight, however they don't block sound as well as solid doors.

 

Hydroseed

A slurry of grass seed and mulch that is sprayed over an area of prepared ground as a method of planting grass.

Cost Considerations: Hydroseed is the least expensive method of installing grass, costing $0.50 to $1 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: Hydroseeding is an efficient way of planting grass over large areas and is also effective on sloped surfaces.

Also known as: Hydraulic Mulch Seeding, Hydro-mulching, Hydraseeding

I

 

I-Beam

A long, sturdy piece of structured steel or other construction material that is shaped like the capital letter I (with serifs) or H if turned sideways. Its shape allows it to support heavy loads without bending.

Cost Considerations: The main factor in the cost of an I-beam is its height and weight per linear foot. The smaller that number is, the less expensive the beam will be.

Things you need to know: Steel beams can bear more weight than wood, making it possible to construct large open spaces that would not be possible using wood.

Also known as: Universal Beam (UB), Rolled Steel Joist (RSJ)

 

IC Lighting

An acronym for Insulation Contact lighting, this term refers to recessed lights with a protective cover over the can. This prevents the heat generated by the light from coming in contact with insulation or other flammable materials in the ceiling, thereby protecting against fires.

Cost Considerations: If insulation is present, it may still be possible to use non-IC lights, but they will be more expensive to install because the insulation will need a baffle to hold it back at least 3 inches from the light fixtures. This not only costs money to install, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the insulation, meaning an increase in energy costs.

Things you need to know: The housing generally does not allow heat to dissipate as well as non-IC lights, so lower wattage bulbs will have to be used.

Also known as: Recessed Light Cover

 

Ignitor

The element of a boiler system that starts the process of converting the boiler's fuel type to energy used to heat the home. A common example is a pilot light that ignites the gas from the burners to start the heating process.

Cost Considerations: If the pilot light is out, re-lighting it can be done easily by the homeowner. Dirt and grime can cause problems with the pilot light, so cleaning the area around the ignitor may save the cost of having to call out an HVAC professional. A new ignitor can cost from $25 to $100, depending on the type of boiler.

 

Intercom

A communication system allowing a person to speak into a microphone and be heard through a speaker in another location.

Cost Considerations: Adding an intercom to a basic phone system increases the overall cost by $100 to $150.

Things you need to know: Intercoms can allow either one-way or two-way communication.

 

Ion Exchange

A method of water purification that exchanges the ions of dissolved contaminants for similarly-charged ions of more neutral substances.

Cost Considerations: An ion exchanger water purification system costs about $50 on average.

Things you need to know: Ion exchange is a method commonly used to soften water in homes.

 

Ipe

A dense hard wood most commonly used for decking and flooring. Its color varies from reddish brown to blackish brown.

Cost Considerations: Ipe wood is a good long-term investment. It is very resistant to decay, fungus, termites, and fire. It is suitable for different climates, can withstand harsh weather conditions, and can last up to 25 years. Ipe decking costs about $20 to $30 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: Ipe is mainly used for decking and flooring, but can also be used for furniture and turned objects.

Also known as: Brazilian Walnut, Ironwood™, Pau Lope™

 

Island

A kitchen counter that is not attached to walls or other surfaces, and that can be accessed from all sides.

Cost Considerations: Inexpensive options for a kitchen island are freestanding worktables or rolling carts, at about $200. Built-in islands can range from $600 to over $5,000.

Things you need to know: Kitchen islands should be in proportion with the rest of the space, and there should be plenty of space to walk around it.

J

 

Joint Compound

A material used to fill and smooth over gaps between sheets of drywall to produce an even, flat wall. It is made of gypsum, clay and latex resin that is then mixed with water.

Cost Considerations: Most carpenters estimate the amount of joint compound needed by dividing the square footage of the space by 7.25. They would then buy that many pounds of joint compound. Each 45 pound pail costs around $14.

Things you need to know: Joint compound can also be used to cover screw heads and fill small holes.

Also known as: Drywall Compound, Mud

 

Joist Hanger

A type of hardware used to attach a wood joist to structural beams or girders, providing additional strength.

Cost Considerations: Joist hangers are available inexpensively at most hardware stores for under $5. Given the stability they add to the structure, this is a worthwhile investment.

Things you need to know: To ensure that the joist hanger will offer the expected stability, it is important to use the largest size that fits the lumber, and the correct type of nails.

K

 

Key Fob Control

A keychain with a remote control button that can arm or disarm a home security system. They may also include a panic button, making it easier to sound the alarm from anywhere in the home. Key fobs are also used for other purposes, such as to lock and unlock car doors.

Cost Considerations: Key fobs usually come included in a home security system. Additional units cost about $25 to $60 each.

Things you need to know: Multiple key fobs can be programmed for the same home security system, which makes it possible to give them to houseguests or older children without sharing the system's security code.

 

Kick Plate

A section of metal added to the base of the door on the push side, that protects it against scuffing or damage, such as from being pushed open by a person's shoe.

Cost Considerations: Adding a kick plate to a storm door will cost about $20 to $50.

Things you need to know: Kick plates are usually 10"-16" tall and the width of the door. Taller kick plates should be used where wheelchairs are frequently used, so that the foot rests come into contact with the kick plate and not the door surface above.

Also known as: Kicking Plate

 

Kid Tile

Soft interlocking tiles, usually made of rubber, used as a safe flooring for children's playground areas.

Cost Considerations: Rubber tiles, at a cost about $8 to $12 per sq. ft., are the easiest type of solid playground surfacing to repair because it is possible to replace only the damaged tiles rather than replacing the entire surface. Poured-in-place rubber surfacing is also more expensive initially, costing about $11 to $17 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: Playground tiles are available in different thicknesses, which should be selected according to the fall height of the playground.

Also known as: Interlocking Rubber Floor Tile, EPDM Playground Surface Tile, Playground Tile, Rubber Tile

 

Kitchenette

A small kitchen area, such as in hotels or studio apartments, usually consisting of a mini fridge, hotplate or microwave, small sink, and some cabinets.

Cost Considerations: The cost to install a kitchenette varies widely depending on what is included, what materials are used, how big it is, and whether the plumbing and electrical connections are already available. It can range from $5,000 to $15,000.

Also known as: Compact Kitchen

 

Koi

A Japanese variety of carp which is bred for decorative use, such as in outdoor or indoor ornamental ponds.

Cost Considerations: Koi cost $25 to $50. They are one of the more expensive type of fish to add to a pond. Koi breeding is an art, and some special varieties can be much more expensive.

Things you need to know: Koi require a large pond of at least 1000 gallons. Koi keeping is a hobby with enthusiasts worldwide.

L

 

Lawn Aeration

The process of putting small holes into a lawn to break up compacted soil so that air, water, and nutrients can more easily reach the roots of the grass, allowing them to grow deeper.

Cost Considerations: Lawn aeration costs $120 to $150 on average and should be done two to three times per year.

Things you need to know: Aeration can be done either by a solid spike that creates holes in the lawn, or by removing small plugs of grass. The latter method is most beneficial.

 

Lead

A naturally occurring heavy metal that is highly toxic to humans, and has been used in paint, gasoline, piping, and other applications.

Cost Considerations: The average cost for lead paint abatement ranges from $8 to $15 per sq. ft. Encapsulation is also an option, and is 80% cheaper, however encapsulation does not actually remove the lead paint, and it may eventually become exposed again.

Things you need to know: Lead was used in paint in buildings prior to 1978, and if exposed lead paint remains, it must be removed by trained professionals due to its high toxicity. Traces of lead can also leach from lead pipes into drinking water and can be found in soil near the home.

Also known as: Pb (chemical symbol)

 

Limestone

A type of sedimentary rock, made up of mostly calcite and aragonite.

Cost Considerations: For a fireplace surround, limestone usually costs less than granite or marble, and it is easier to cut, which may also save on installation costs. It is, however, more easily damaged, and therefore should not be used with wood-burning fireplaces.

Things you need to know: Crushed limestone is commonly used as a building material, it is also part of cement, and it can be used as facing stone or flooring tile.

 

Line Voltage

The standard voltage of an electrical system. For example, the line voltage in the US and Canada is 120V.

Things you need to know: To run a low voltage light fixture, the line voltage must be transformed down to the lower voltage required, otherwise it would burn out the low-voltage bulb immediately.

 

Liner

A covering, usually made of vinyl, for the walls and floor of a swimming pool, used to keep the water in and protect the pool's surface.

Cost Considerations: Vinyl liner pools can cost over $10,000 less to install than fiberglass or concrete pools. The liner must be replaced every 5-9 years, at a cost on average of $4,000, meaning they may not be cheaper in the long run.

Things you need to know: Pool liners provide a clean look, and they also come in a variety of designs, allowing the owner to express their style.

 

Linoleum

An inexpensive flooring material made from linseed oil, resins, recycled wood flour, cork dust, limestone and mineral pigments, on a canvas or jute backing.

Cost Considerations: 200 sq. ft. of linoleum cost between $500 and $700.

Things you need to know: Linoleum is good for high traffic areas such as hallways, and wet areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and mud rooms. Vinyl tile is sometimes mistakenly referred to as linoleum, but these are different materials.

Also known as: Lino

 

Liquid Siding

A vinyl-based exterior wall covering that is sprayed either directly onto the wall or over existing siding. It gives the look of paint without as much maintenance.

Cost Considerations: Liquid siding is inexpensive $3 to $6 per sq. ft. However, the cost of surface preparation must be taken into account, and can run between $1,000 and $10,000.

Things you need to know: If liquid siding is incorrectly applied, water can become trapped behind it and cause mold and mildew to form. It is also a relatively new product, meaning that it is difficult to be sure how long it will really last.

Also known as: Liquid Vinyl Siding

 

Load-Bearing Wall

A wall that supports the weight of the house, transferring it to the foundation.

Things you need to know: Load-bearing walls are often perpendicular to floor joists. All exterior walls are load-bearing.

Also known as: Structural Wall, Bearing Wall, Supporting Wall

 

Lobby Lounge

A comfortable seating area in a public place where people can go to wait or relax.

Cost Considerations: An inviting lobby lounge could be an opportunity for a hotel to make an extra profit through any food and drink it sells. The cost of building a hotel with a lobby lounge varies widely depending on size, quality, and location. A mid-priced hotel with 115 rooms and a lobby lounge can cost around $22,2 million to build.

Things you need to know: Lounges often include a bar, and may also serve food.

 

Lock-In-Deck

Removable pool fencing where the fence posts are installed by being twist locked into a sleeve embedded in the deck. This feature is available only from the Protect-A-Child pool fence company.

Cost Considerations: Generally speaking, pool safety fencing costs $15 to $20 per linear foot. For removable fencing, the cost of a pool safety cover should also be factored in. They can cost from $400 to over $1,200 depending on the size and material of the cover.

Things you need to know: When the pool fence is not in place, there should be a sturdy cover over the pool to prevent anyone from falling in. Normal pool covers are not designed to support the weight of a person, and are therefore not sufficient.

M

 

MDF Composite

An acronym for Medium Density Fiberboard composite, a type of board made from wood fibers that are mixed with wax and resin binders, and formed into boards using high temperatures and high pressure.

Cost Considerations: One of the major advantages of MDF over wood is that it is 1/4 to 1/10 the price.

Things you need to know: Particle board is a similar product, which is less dense and less smooth than MDF.

 

Macadam

A paving material made up of similar-sized pieces of broken stone that is compacted, and usually bound with bitumen.

Cost Considerations: Macadam treatment costs about $2 per sq. ft., and is required every six to ten years to maintain the appearance and durability of the asphalt.

Also known as: Asphalt Pavement, Blacktop, Tarmac, Asphalt Concrete, Bituminous Concrete

 

Magnetic Contact

A sensor and a magnet that create a circuit when in contact, commonly used on doors and windows as part of a security system, to tell if they are opened.

Cost Considerations: Wired contacts are cheaper, but more difficult to install than wireless contacts, which can easily be moved to another location and reused. Wired contacts can cost anywhere from $3 to $20, and wireless contacts range from $20 to $70.

Things you need to know: In a security system, disrupting the magnetic contact, such as by opening the door or window, will trigger the alarm.

 

Mangaris

A trademark decking material produced from genuine hardwood.

Cost Considerations: This type of wood is durable, and if properly maintained, can last 20 years or more.

Things you need to know: It can be used for decks, flooring, sidings, fences, benches, exterior tables and furniture, and truck beds.

Also known as: Red Mangaris (Mangaris Red), Golden Mangaris (Mangaris Gold)

 

Mantel

A decorative construction that frames the opening of a fireplace. The term "mantel" can also refer to a shelf above a fireplace.

Cost Considerations: Adding a mantel can increase the installation cost by $800 to $3,000.

Things you need to know: There are many options available for mantels, which makes it possible to achieve a wide variety of desired looks.

Also known as: Mantelpiece, Mantelshelf, Chimneypiece

 

Manual J Assessment

A protocol for determining the correct size HVAC equipment needed for a home.

Cost Considerations: A system that is too large will cost more to run and not deliver any benefit for that extra cost. A system that is too small will become overworked and wear out faster.

Things you need to know: Modern systems are much more efficient, so when replacing the HVAC system, simply getting a new system of the same size may not be ideal.

Also known as: Heat Load Calculation, Cooling Load Calculation

 

Melamine

A common way to refer to melamine resin, which is a combination of the chemical melamine and formaldehyde that produces a smooth and durable hard surface. It is commonly used in Formica countertops and laminate flooring.

Cost Considerations: Refacing cabinets with melamine, which can cost less than $3,000, is a cheaper option than wood veneer, which can run $7,000 to $9,000 or more. It is also a good option for cabinet interiors because it doesn't require finishing.

Things you need to know: It is also found in dinnerware, and is used as the decorative surface material for flat-pack particleboard furniture.

Also known as: Melamine Resin, Melamine Formaldehyde

 

Metal Flashing

A thin sheet of metal used around the edges and junctions of the roofing material,such as around a chimney or vent, to prevent water from entering the structure through those joints.

Cost Considerations: Galvanized steel flashings are inexpensive and readily available, but they do not last more than about 15 years. In some cases they may even void the warranty on the roof.

Things you need to know: Galvanized metal has the best strength of any flashing material, but is prone to rust.

 

Metal Lath

Mesh made out of metal, that is used as a support for heavier siding materials like brick or stone veneer.

Cost Considerations: On average, metal lath costs between $1.03 and $1.27 per sq. ft. to install.

Things you need to know: Metal lath is also used to strengthen plaster and stucco, allowing it to ooze through the mesh and adhere to it.

 

Meter

A device that measures the energy used by a home.

Cost Considerations: Some meters can display usage information in cost as well as kilowatt hours, and can alert the user when they have reached maximum consumption targets.

Things you need to know: Some meters can measure energy use at different times of day, to record energy use during peak hours and less-expensive off-peak hours.

 

Mite

Small, often microscopic invertebrates that mostly live in the soil or water. Some mites are parasitic and live on plants and animals.

Cost Considerations: Extermination of dust mites costs $200 to $500 for the initial treatment.

Things you need to know: Most mites are harmless to humans, but some can cause itchy rashes or allergies.

 

Mold-Air Test

An assessment of the mold levels in a home. It can be carried out by a qualified professional, or it is also possible to test for mold with a kit sold at a home improvement store.

Cost Considerations: A professional assessment will cost an average of $200 to $600 to test a home. A diy kit can cost anywhere from $5 to $100.

Things you need to know: It is possible for DIY kits to become contaminated before they are used.

Also known as: Mold Inspection

 

Mortar

A mixture of Portland cement or lime or a combination of both, sand, and water used to bind bricks, stones, and concrete masonry units together.

Things you need to know: Mortar mix types are categorized according to compressive strength, flexibility, and bonding properties. Mortar mixes made without Portland cement are used solely in the repair of old buildings. Type N mortar is the most commonly used for general purposes and is of medium strength.

 

Mount

A support on which something is attached or hung.

Things you need to know: Gutter mounts are common in construction and are used to affix horizontal vinyl (PVC) gutter sections and vertical downspout sections to buildings.

Also known as: Attachment Bracket, Mounting Bracket, Mounting System

 

Mudsill

The lowest horizontal support of a building, typically made of wood, placed on the foundation, on the ground, or below ground level to protect the building slab and secure framing.

Also known as: Sill

 

Mullion Style

Window, door, or cabinet design feature having supportive or ornamental vertical bars used to divide panes of glass or paneling.

Cost Considerations: Mullions have traditionally been used to divide window panes into smaller, less expensive units of glass.

N

 

NADCA

An acronym for the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, a non-profit organization that issues evaluation, cleaning, and safety standards for heating, air conditioning, and ventilation ducts.

Things you need to know: Air ducts should always be cleaned by a company accredited by the NADCA. For further information, see the NADCA's website at: http://nadca.com

 

NAS

An acronym for Network Attached Storage, a computer data storage device that is generally accessed over an Ethernet connection using a mobile device or PC.

Cost Considerations: The average NAS costs $499 and is the best option for IP video camera surveillance.

Things you need to know: In the home, NAS devices are often used for multimedia files and automated backup. They can provide centralized storage for security systems, smart TVs, etc.

O

 

OSB Structural Sheathing

An acronym for Oriented Strand Board Sheathing, an intermediate layer of engineered lumber consisting of compressed wood strands bonded together with resin and used to attach siding to a building.

Cost Considerations: OSB sheathing is more economical than plywood (approximately $700 less for a standard 2,400 square foot home).

Things you need to know: OSB is more uniform than plywood, can be manufactured into larger panels, is considered more environmentally friendly, and doesn't delaminate like plywood in hot climates. On the other hand, plywood is lighter, easier to work with, and puts less stress on the construction.

Also known as: Sterling Board, Sterling OSB, Flakeboard, Aspenite, Smartply

 

Organic Fertilizer

A natural substance derived from plant, animal, or mineral matter that is added to soil in order to make it more fertile.

Cost Considerations: Due to the fact that organic fertilizers are less concentrated than synthetic fertilizers, their cost per square footage will generally be higher. However, this cost may eventually be outweighed since organic fertilizers improve the soil over time.

Things you need to know: In addition to fertilizing your plants, organic fertilizers feed the soil, improving its condition over time. Their nutrients are also released more slowly, giving plants a steady source of nutrition over longer time period. Using only synthetic chemical fertilizers causes the soil's structure and water-bearing capacity to deteriorate.

Also known as: Mulch, Compost, Manure

 

Outlet Tube

A long hollow cylinder which enables the escape or release of water, gas, steam, air, etc.

Cost Considerations: PVC, a plastic synthetic polymer, is fairly low in cost, lightweight, and low maintenance. It does not corrode like metal.

Things you need to know: In terms of home construction, outlet tubes are generally used to attach a gutter to a downspout.

Also known as: Outlet Pipe

P

 

PBX Phone

A Private Branch Exchange hosted phone, using digital technology, that is connected to the internet and has numerous business features such as call waiting, routing, hold, and extension capability.

Cost Considerations: A PBX phone typically costs between $20 and $100 per user per month, depending on the desired features.

Things you need to know: A PBX phone system is normally used by companies to connect internal business lines with one another and to provide access to the PSTN (public switched telephone network), SIP (session initiation protocol) Trunks, and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) providers.

 

PEX Piping

A type of tubing made out of high-density, cross-linked polyethylene used in plumbing and hydronic radiant heating systems.

Cost Considerations: The price for one hundred feet of appropriately sized PEX piping averages $40 per roll. It costs roughly the same amount as CPVC and is much less expensive than copper (about a third of the price).

Things you need to know: Compared to CPVC, PEX is more flexible and less likely to burst if it freezes. It does not require glue like CPVC, so you do not need to work in well-ventilated areas or use a respirator. Compared to copper, PEX is faster to install and does not corrode as might the latter.

Also known as: Cross-Linked Polyethylene Piping, PEX Tubing, PEX Tube

 

PH Testing Strip

A narrow piece of sensitized filter paper, composed of various colored dyes, used to visually determine the acidity or alkalinity of an aqueous solution based on color changes.

Cost Considerations: Between chlorine, pH testing strips, and other materials, the average pool owner spends roughly $80 per month for above ground swimming pools and $95 per month for inground swimming pools.

Things you need to know: The optimum PH for swimming pool water is 7.4. It is necessary to test in order to keep your pool safe and clean and prevent pool equipment damage. The more you use your pool, the more you should test, but 2-3 times per week is a good rule of thumb.

Also known as: PH Indicator Strip, Litmus Paper

 

PPM

An acronym for Parts Per Million, a measurement used to describe dilute concentrations of substances in water or soil.

Things you need to know: In terms of water treatment systems, the U.S Public Health Service recommends a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L (parts per million [ppm]) to maintain caries prevention benefits and reduce the risk of dental fluorosis.

Also known as: Parts Per Million

 

PVC

An acronym for Polyvinyl Chloride, a synthetic plastic material used to make a wide variety of materials including pipes, doors, windows, fencing, and plumbing/electrical cable insulation.

Cost Considerations: In terms of both its purchase price and long term-cost, products made with PVC are considered to be extremely economical.

Things you need to know: PVC is extremely versatile and, as such, is used in numerous applications. Type 1 is the most common and is extremely resistant to corrosion. Type 2 has less corrosion resistance, but greater impact strength. The rigid form is commonly used to replace metal during pipe manufacturing. The flexible form is often used in plumbing and electric cable installation.

 

Padding

A cushion placed under a carpet to absorb impact, thus extending the life of the carpet.

Cost Considerations: Bonded Urethane is the most economical. Prices vary depending on thickness and quality, but a 6 to 8-pound density Rebond pad generally runs about $0.39 to $0.45 per square foot. Flat rubber padding is generally the most expensive. It may last through one or more sets of carpet, but is often hard to find and may need to be specially ordered--adding to the overall cost.

 

Panic Button

An electronic device used to summon security, police, or emergency services in situations where there is a threat to persons or property.

Cost Considerations: Professionally monitored systems run approximately $1,500 for a 2,200 square foot home. Monitoring fees cost around $500 per year. Wireless systems are generally less expensive since they can be installed without a professional. A low-end wireless system may only cost around $20, but the best systems can run $500 and up.

Things you need to know: Some panic buttons are equipped with closed circuit television so that the emergency event can be recorded.

Also known as: Panic Alarm, Duress Alarm, Hold-up Alarm

 

Particleboard

An engineered wood product used in construction projects and composed of wood chips, sawmill shavings, and/or sawdust and a suitable binding agent, such as resin.

Cost Considerations: Particle board is cheaper than plywood. Custom closet systems made of particle board may run from as little as $75 for a prepackaged kit to $600 for a custom-designed laminate version with drawers and other additional features.

Things you need to know: Oriented strand board (OSB) is very similar, but offers more strength as it uses machined wood flakes. Particle board has more uniformity and is denser than wood and plywood. It will not bow or warp like the latter. However, it may swell and lose stability if exposed to water. Laminate and veneer are common finishes.

Also known as: Particle Board, Chipboard

 

Patina

A thin film, usually green or blue in color, that forms over time on certain metals (such as copper, brass, bronze, and aluminum) or wood and stone surfaces due to natural oxidation.

Things you need to know: On metals, patina is caused by carbonates, oxides, sulfides, and/or sulfates. If you dislike the look of patina, avoid using metals that are prone to developing it.

Also known as: Verdigris

 

Patio Cap

A cover used to block off the hollow tube or pipe components of patio furniture, fences, and children's toys in order to prevent wasp nests and damage from dirt, water, and other elements.

Cost Considerations: Patio caps are relatively inexpensive, but need to be factored into the overall cost of the project.

Things you need to know: Patio caps are often used for removable surrounds.

Also known as: Hole Caps

 

Pedestal Sump Pump

A mechanical device that stands on a supportive base and is used to remove water from wet areas, such as basements and crawlspaces, in order to help prevent flooding.

Cost Considerations: Pedestal sump pumps are more economical than submersible sump pumps. The average cost of installing a new sump pump is $550 to $1,100.

Things you need to know: Pedestal sump pumps work best in areas with a narrow or shallow sump pit. They have a longer lifespan and are easier to repair than submersible sump pumps. They are, however, louder, and not as effective at removing solids.

Also known as: Upright Sump Pump, Column Sump Pump

 

Pellet Stove

A heating device that burns either wood pellets or pellets made from other biofuels.

Cost Considerations: Pellet stoves run from $1,700 to $3,000, depending on the model and the BTU burn rate.

Things you need to know: A high-quality pellet stove offers an efficiency range of 75%-90%. Pellet stoves are generally more economical than electricity and propane. They provide ambiance as well as warmth. A 40,000 BTU pellet stove is sufficient to heat a 2,000 square foot home.

 

Peninsula

A metaphorical term for an extended kitchen counter space connected to the wall on only one side.

Cost Considerations: Peninsulas typically run anywhere between $600 and $2,500, depending on their size and the materials used. Granite countertops tend to be the most expensive, averaging between $50 to $250 per square foot (including installation). On the low end, tile counters can cost as little as $10 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Peninsulas are popular in C-shaped kitchens and in kitchen layouts where space constraints make a sizable island countertop space impractical.

 

Penny Tile

A small type of tile, usually between 0.75 inches and 1 inch wide, used to decorate kitchens, bathrooms, and pools.

Cost Considerations: Porcelain penny tiles sheets cost approximately $5 to $7 per square foot. Cork penny tiles run about $15 per square foot and are water-resistant. Metal penny tiles are the most expensive, costing an average of $65 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Penny tile comes in round, square, or hex shaped tiles.

Also known as: Penny Round

 

Pergola

An arched structure with an open roof and cross rafters, supported by posts or columns, typically installed in a garden, park, or backyard and usually covered with climbing plants or vines.

Cost Considerations: Do it yourself kits are available. A 10x10 ft vinyl pergola kit is approximately $1,500. A professionally installed 10x10 ft. cedar pergola cots approximately $3,500. Installations using teak or other high end materials cost around $6,000.

Things you need to know: Pergolas are used to form shaded sitting areas or paths. They must be made of weather-resistant material. Common choices are painted or stained redwood or cedar, vinyl, and PVC.

Also known as: Bower, Arbor

 

Picket Fence

A barrier or railing made out of pointed, spaced, vertical uprights (referred to as pickets), connected by at least two horizontal rails, used primarily for decorative purposes.

Cost Considerations: The total cost of a basic wooden picket fence is $2,300 to $4,600 per ¼ acre (around 209 linear feet). Using a higher quality wood such as white oak, or black locust will increase the material price by 20%-50%. PVC and aluminum fencing are both more expensive initially ($5,225 to $8,360 per 1/4 acre), but have longer lifespans and require less maintenance than wood fencing.

Things you need to know: Picket fences may be of any height but, since they are not typically chosen for privacy, they are usually 3 to 4 feet tall. They are most commonly made of wood.

Also known as: Paling Fence

 

Picture Window

An opening in the wall consisting of one large pane of glass that does not open.

Cost Considerations: The average DIY cost to install or replace a 48"x 48" vinyl picture window is $450. Wood picture windows of the same size run approximately $880. Labor costs are approximately $38 an hour for replacement and $30 an hour for removal.

Things you need to know: Picture windows provide an unobstructed exterior view and are thus often used to showcase the landscape. They are more energy efficient than other types of windows due to their airtight seal and to the fact that they allow more natural light into the room.

Also known as: Fixed Glass Window

 

Pigtail

A short section of wire that is used to connect other wires to one another or to an electrical device, or used to extend the length of wire.

 

Pitcher Water Filter

A carafe shaped device that removes impurities from drinking water using a carbon block filter.

Cost Considerations: Pitcher water filters are the most economical type of filter, generally running between $20 and $50.

Things you need to know: Pitcher water filters reduce lead and other contaminants. The amount of water they can hold is limited to 10 cups. Filters need to be replaced regularly.

Also known as: Water Filter Jug, Water Filtration Pitcher, Carafe Water Filter

 

Plaster

A paste composed of sand, water, and either lime, gypsum, or cement, which forms a smooth hard surface on walls, ceilings, and other structures upon drying.

Cost Considerations: On average, plastering a 100-300 square foot wall costs around $583. A 300-600 sq. ft. wall runs about $914; a 600-900 sq. ft. wall is around $1,721; and a 900-1,200 sq. ft. wall costs approximately $2,043. Wall height may affect pricing, especially if extra equipment is needed.

Things you need to know: Seasonal weather changes can cause plaster to freeze, thaw, and eventually crack.

Also known as: Pargeting

 

Pleated Shade

A window blind made of one layer of fabric that folds when it is drawn up and unfolds when it is drawn down.

Cost Considerations: Pleated shades run between $55 and $75 for a 27-inch window. They are less expensive than woven wood shades, but generally more expensive than honeycomb/cellular shades, roller shades, and fabric/Roman shades.

Things you need to know: Pleated shades supply a certain amount of insulation, but they are not as energy-efficient as honeycomb shades. In the summer, pleated shades protect against solar heat gain, but (consisting of only one layer of fabric) they are less effective at insulating against cold in the winter.

Also known as: Pleated Blind

 

Plumbing Snake

A thin, pliable tool used to clear difficult clogs in plumbing systems.

Cost Considerations: Plumbers typically charge between $100 to $300 to remove drain clogs using a mechanical plumbing snake.

Also known as: Auger, Pipe Snake, Drain Snake, Electric Eel, Toilet Jack

 

Plywood

An engineered construction material manufactured from thin slices of wood glued together in alternating grain patterns for strength.

Cost Considerations: Plywood is generally $3 to $5 more expensive per panel than OSB. This translates into roughly $700 more for a typical 2,400 sq. ft. home. Replacing fir faced plywood siding generally runs around $3.88 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: In relation to OSB, plywood is lighter and easier to work with. It swells less when wet/is stiffer than OSB; therefore, plywood floors are less likely to cause cracked tile or become spongy. It emits less off-gas formaldehyde (a carcinogen). However, it is less uniform than OSB and delaminates in hot climates.

Also known as: Plyboard

 

Polycarbonate

Thermoplastic polymer with high impact strength used in a variety of applications such as compact disks and bulletproof windows.

Cost Considerations: Polycarbonate prices are based on panel size. A 6MM x 48"x96" clear twinwall polycarbonate sheet generally costs between $48 and $67.

Things you need to know: Panels made of polycarbonate may be used to build various structures such as greenhouses, skylights, patio covers, patio enclosures, sunroom walls, and pergolas.

Also known as: PC

 

Polyethylene

A resilient, pliable, synthetic resin made by polymerizing ethylene and primarily used for containers, packaging, corrosion-resistant piping, and insulation.

Cost Considerations: Piping made out of polyethylene is generally very cost effective.

Things you need to know: High density polyethylene pipes are used in geothermal heating systems due to their superior rigidity, thermal properties, and chemical resistance.

Also known as: Polyethene, Polymethylene

 

Pool Enclosure

Artificial barrier that completely encircles a pool, protecting it from dirt, dust, insects, leaves, and other debris and also serving as a safety feature preventing those outside of it from falling in and possibly drowning.

Cost Considerations: Screened enclosures cost approximately $15 to $25 per square foot. Glass enclosures cost between $45 and $65 per square foot and high-end glass enclosures with retractable roofs often cost $100 to $200 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Many states have incorporated the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's guidelines for safety barriers into their codes due to drowning accidents. Check with local authorities to see the requirements for your area’s building code/regulations.

Also known as: Pool Cage

 

Pool Surround

Decorative border or edging around a swimming pool, often including a fence.

Cost Considerations: Regular concrete is the most economical pool surround option at $2 to $5 per square foot. Stamped concrete runs from $6 to $15 per square foot. Natural stone costs approximately $15 to $30 per square foot. The cost of wood decking ranges between $15 (for a lower-grade wood) to roughly $35 (for a higher-grade material). Composite decking is approximately $30 to $35 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Concrete, while inexpensive, is prone to cracking. It will need to be repaired over time. Stamped concrete, done professionally, can be mistaken for the real material it is patterned after. Natural stone is durable, as is wood, but the latter will require more maintenance.

Also known as: Pool Deck

 

Pop-Up Sprinkler Head

The outlet valve of a water-spraying device, used to provide a continuous stream of water to a small area.

Cost Considerations: A standard pop-up sprinkler head averages $2 to $4; most lawns use 10-15 sprinkler heads.

Things you need to know: Impact rotors are able to distribute water over a surface area of 20-150 ft. (often in a 40 to 360 degree arc). Gear-driven motors are best for small commercial areas or very large residential areas. Large-turf sprinklers are commonly used for parks and golf courses.

 

Popcorn Ceiling

A spray-on or paint-on treatment for the upper interior surface of a room which has a rough curd-like texture and is used to hide imperfections, absorb sound, and reduce echoes.

Cost Considerations: If installation of the popcorn ceiling took place before 1978, a small section is tested for asbestos ($50 to $100). The average cost of removing popcorn ceiling from a 10’x10’ area is $100 to $300. Most professionals charge $1 to $3 per square foot (including the cost of materials) depending on the room size, quality/age of the popcorn ceiling, and whether or not there is paint and/or asbestos.

Things you need to know: Formulations made before 1978 may contain white asbestos fibers.

Also known as: Cottage Cheese Ceiling, Stucco Ceiling, Acoustic Ceiling

 

Portable Water Filter

A small transportable device used to remove impurities, such as chemicals and bacteria, from drinking water.

Cost Considerations: Portable water filters cost between $150 to $275. Their price is roughly the same as other types of water purification systems (i.e. reverse osmosis, solid carbon filters, and distillation). However, they are much more costly than pitcher water filters and ion exchange systems.

Things you need to know: Portable water filters do not take up much room. Filters need to be replaced regularly.

Also known as: Point-Of-Use Water Treatment

 

Post Cap

An optional fence design detail, positioned on top of each fence post, used to give the fence a "finished" look and to prevent water from entering the posts.

Cost Considerations: Basic vinyl fence post caps average $3 to $6 per cap, although more intricate post caps can cost up to $20 to $30 each. PVC post caps average $4 to $8 each. Wood post caps typically run between $4 and $10, but it depends on the type of wood used. Metal post caps start at about $25 and glass or solar post caps typically run $30 and up. Lighted post caps can run anywhere from $25 to $200.

Also known as: Post Top, End Cap

 

Primer

Preparatory coat applied to materials (drywall, wood, metal, etc.) before painting to ensure paint adhesion, extend paint durability, and help seal and protect the surface to be painted.

Cost Considerations: Depending on the brand used, a gallon of primer runs between $9 and $25. On average, a five gallon bucket of high quality primer costs between $70 to $110.

Things you need to know: If the material to be painted is not water resistant/will be exposed to weather, primer is a necessity. Drywall, used in new construction, is routinely treated with primer not only because of the latter's adhesive and sealing properties, but also because it helps prevent mold. Primer is also used when a lighter color is being applied over a preexisting darker paint.

Also known as: Undercoat

 

Privacy Fence

A barrier or railing, typically composed of solid material, used to form a blockade around a yard, field, or other expanse of land to prevent encroachments from the outside.

Cost Considerations: Per linear foot: metal or vinyl fencing runs from $10 to $25; bamboo or aluminum fencing typically ranges from $15 to $35; wood or PVC runs from $21to $40. Wrought iron is typically the most expensive with a cost range of $20 to $100 or more.

Things you need to know: While privacy fences come in a variety of heights, they are typically 6-8 ft. tall. Wood and vinyl are the most common materials used for privacy fences. Wrought iron is the best material if a metal fence is desired.

 

Propane

A hydrocarbon gas used as a common fuel source.

Cost Considerations: Heating systems fueled by propane are considered quite economical. The cost of electric heat is more than twice the cost of propane. Propane is considered safe, clean, and dependable.

Things you need to know: Among its uses, propane commonly provides fuel for engines, oxy-gas torches, portable stoves, and residential central heating systems. HD5 grade propane is the highest grade/most common type available in the United States. It is approved for use as an engine fuel. HD10 and commercial grade propane are of a lower grade.

 

Pump

A device used to move air, liquid, or gas by mechanical means.

Cost Considerations: On average, a swimming pool water pump runs approximately $450 to $600 depending on the size required (based on pool volume). Water pumps for ponds and fountains are less (between $20 and $150 depending on the type). Many new water pumps have motors that are 93% energy efficient.

Things you need to know: Water pumps are used to circulate, filter, and (sometimes) heat the water in swimming pools. They are also used to circulate water in outdoor fountains and ponds.

R

 

RTF

An acronym for Rigid Thermofoil, a vinyl surface finish that is attached to particleboard, using intense heat and pressure, to achieve a strong, smooth, durable product.

Cost Considerations: RTF costs approximately $150 to $170 per linear foot.

Things you need to know: Rigid thermofoil is often used to make kitchen cabinet doors that are economically priced. Thermofoil is usually white or off-white. However, other solid colors or wood grain patterns are also available.

 

Radiant Flooring

A heating system using tubes or electric wires installed underneath the flooring.

Cost Considerations: A hydronic radiant floor heating system normally runs less than $3 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Hydronic radiant flooring is the most commonly used and most cost-effective type. It is generally more efficient than forced-air or baseboard heating. Electric radiant floors usually save money only if they are combined with a significant thermal mass (i.e. a thick concrete floor) and only if your local electric company offers time-of-use rates.

Also known as: Radiant Floor Heating, In-Floor Heating

 

Radon

A colorless, odorless, cancer-causing, radioactive gas.

Cost Considerations: Radon tests are relatively inexpensive. Most cost between $100 and $916 depending on whether you use a home testing kit or hire a professional company to come out and test all of the rooms of your home. You can typically correct most radon issues for $500 or less.

Things you need to know: High concentrations of radon can cause lung cancer; in fact, radon is the second leading cause of this disease in the United States. Radon gas forms when the uranium found in water, rocks, and soil breaks down. Radon is then released into the dirt beneath your home and may enter it through cracks, gaps, and spaces (in floors and foundation walls), exterior air vents, fireplaces, furnaces, construction joints, etc.

 

Ranch-Style Fence

A barrier or railing, often associated with ranches and farms, typically made of wood (or vinyl) and composed of posts and a varying number of horizontal rails.

Cost Considerations: Ranch-style fences are generally the most economical type of fence, costing roughly $3 to $6 per linear foot.

Things you need to know: Ranch-style fences are fairly short (2.5 to 3 ft. tall) and offer minimal privacy/security. They are generally used for decorative purposes, to keep horses and livestock from wandering, and to prevent large wildlife from entering pastures.

Also known as: Ranch Rail Fence, Split Rail Fence

 

Rebar

A mesh or bar made of alloy, used in construction projects to reinforce concrete.

Cost Considerations: Rebar costs approximately $0.75 per foot, or $1.12 a pound.

Things you need to know: Carbon steel rebar (basic black rebar) is the most common type and the least expensive, with the exception of European rebar.

Also known as: Reinforcing Bar, Reinforcing Steel, Reinforcement Steel

 

Redwood

Tree with reddish colored timber.

Cost Considerations: Redwood is one of the most expensive types of lumber. Depending on the type and grade, it generally runs $5 to $35 per sq. ft. It is also possible to stain your deck using a color that looks like redwood. On average, a good stain runs $25 to $30 per gallon.

Things you need to know: Redwood is a popular choice for decks due to its natural beauty and durability.

 

Reinforcing Mesh

Material made of interlaced steel bars or wire, welded together, used to reinforce concrete.

Cost Considerations: Rolled reinforcing mesh runs from $0.14 to $0.33 per sq. ft. Flat reinforcing mesh is slightly more expensive at $0.25 to $0.50 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: Rolled mesh is compact and sold in lengths of up to 150 feet. Flat sheets are better for smaller projects when storage is not a concern.

Also known as: Remesh, Welded Wire, Reinforcement Mesh, Steel Mesh

 

Removable Fence

A non-permanent barrier or railing, made of removable panels, used to enclose a pool, garden area, patio, or other outdoor space.

Cost Considerations: The average cost to buy temporary chain link fencing is roughly $120 per 6’x12’ panel and $26 per base, or $1,420 for a 6’x60’ package. The average cost to rent temporary chain link fencing is approximately $24 per 6'x12’ panel and $4 per base for 1 month ($12 per panel and $2 per base for each additional month).

Things you need to know: Temporary fencing is typically made of removable fence panels connected to weighted fence feet or posts. They are often made of chain link, wire, or mesh so that even the smallest children/animals cannot slip through. Most are at least 4 ft. high and can be easily disassembled within an hour and rolled up for storage.

Also known as: Temporary Fence, Removable Security Fence

 

Retaining Wall

A structure used to support vertical slopes of earth or to hold back water.

Cost Considerations: Retaining walls made of interlocking concrete blocks are usually the most economical option at $15 to $30 per sq. ft. Wood walls generally run $20 to $25 per sq. ft. Stone retaining walls cost approximately $25 to $40 per sq. ft. Poured concrete usually averages between $30 and $40 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: A retaining wall may be purely decorative or it can be used for reinforcement/to prevent soil erosion. Retaining walls can be made of concrete, interlocking blocks, stones, wood, and various other materials.

Also known as: Revetment

 

Retractable Awning

Sheet of canvas, or other similar material, stretched across a movable frame which can be extended outward to provide shade and cover outdoors.

Cost Considerations: Kits are available at various retail stores, but generally run small (4'x24'),and most are manually retractable. They run from $250 to $1,000. Retractable awnings that are motorized generally cost $1,000 to $4,000.

Things you need to know: When in use, retractable awnings can reduce energy costs in the home by lowering the indoor temperature. They can also protect against sun damage inside the home.

Also known as: Retractable Canopy, Retractable Roof Overhang

 

Reverse Osmosis

Water purification method by which water passes through a semipermeable membrane, from a solution of higher solute concentration to one of lower solute concentration (the reverse of natural osmosis).

Cost Considerations: The average cost to install a reverse osmosis water purification system is $150 to $300.

Things you need to know: Reverse osmosis removes molecules, ions, and larger particles from water. Such systems can purify large amounts of drinking water. The technique also removes bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, it also removes nutrient minerals. Most systems use three times the amount of water they treat.

Also known as: RO

 

Ridge Vent

Ventilation opening in a sloped roof, installed at its pinnacle to remove moisture and warm air from the attic area.

Cost Considerations: Ridge vent typically comes in 4 ft. sections. The typical home needs roughly 60 ft. at $10 per section, this adds up to about $150. This is the DIY price (without labor costs factored in). To have a 60 foot long ridge vent installed professionally, a roofing contractor will charge approximately $475 (including both labor and material).

Things you need to know: Ridge vents properly installed increase energy efficiency.

Also known as: Peak Roof Vent

 

Roller Cover

Material placed over a roller frame, used to absorb paint and apply it to a large flat surface.

Cost Considerations: Roller covers are not expensive, although all materials used for painting need to be factored into the cost of the overall paint job. Most roller covers are under $15. Wool is usually the most expensive option, followed by synthetic material. Foam is the cheapest.

Things you need to know: Foam roller covers are best for high gloss or latex paints. They can also be used with oil-based paint, but, ideally, should be used only on textured or smooth surfaces. Synthetic types are best when using a water-based paint. Wool works well for oil-based paints. Both the synthetic and wool versions can be used on any type of surface.

Also known as: Paint Roller Cover

 

Roller Shade

A window blind, mounted on a wooden or metal roller, that rolls up and out of the way when not in use.

Cost Considerations: Roller shades are the most economical type of blind, running from $20 to $60 for a 27 inch window.

Things you need to know: Blockout roller blinds are thus named because they block out light (as well as heat). They are therefore ideal for bedrooms. Translucent roller blinds reduce light/heat and are perfect for areas where privacy is desired but some light is still preferable. Transparent/sheer roller blinds reduce light/heat, but still enable a limited view. Finally, screen/sheer roller blinds reduce light, heat and glare, but maintain the view.

Also known as: Roller Blind

 

Roman Shade

A window blind that, when drawn up, forms a series of concertina folds.

Cost Considerations: Roman shades run between $50 to $100 for a 27 inch window. In terms of shade type, they generally cost more than honeycomb shades, are roughly the same price as pleated shades, and typically cost less than woven wood shades.

Things you need to know: Some types of Roman shades have sealed edges and layers of fiber batting. These types provide the best insulation.

Also known as: Roman Blind

 

Router

A device used to share data packets between computer networks.

Cost Considerations: Routers typically cost $25 to $200 depending on the features desired (speed, range, reliability, etc.).

Things you need to know: Broadband routers are necessary for most digital phone systems.

S

 

SEER

An acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, measure of heat pump and air conditioning efficiency (as defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute in its AHRI 210/240 standard).

Cost Considerations: Higher-SEER units are more expensive to buy. Therefore, when calculating operation costs, it is important to keep in mind how often you use your system.

Things you need to know: The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit. The more efficient the unit, the cheaper it is to operate (meaning lower energy bills). The U.S. Department of Energy rates 13 as the minimum for contemporary systems, but old units can have a SEER rating as low as 8 or 10. Highly efficient units have SEER ratings of 20-25.

Also known as: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating

 

SEF

An acronym for Solar Energy Factor, a method used to determine the efficiency of a solar water heater; in concrete terms, the energy delivered by the system divided by the electrical or gas energy put into the system.

Cost Considerations: Higher SEF systems are more expensive initially, so the money that you may save depends on several factors, i.e. how much hot water you use, the cost of conventional fuels in your area, available solar energy to be converted into solar power, etc.

Things you need to know: The higher the SEF, the more energy efficient the water heater. SEF ratings run from 1.0-11.

Also known as: Solar Energy Factor

 

SYP

An acronym for Southern Yellow Pine, a group of three-needled pines commonly used as construction materials in the United States.

Cost Considerations: SYP is abundantly available and competitively priced. It generally runs between $2 and $2.50 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Southern yellow pine is considered to be one of the strongest and most versatile types of wood.

Also known as: Southern Yellow Pine, Southern Pine

 

Sand Paper

Paper or cloth strip with coated abrasive glued to one side, used for smoothing surfaces, removing materials from surfaces, or making surfaces rougher.

Cost Considerations: Sandpaper is relatively inexpensive. Prices depend on the type and quantity sold per package.

Things you need to know: Macro grit sandpapers have larger (but fewer) grains than micro grit sandpapers.

Also known as: Glasspaper

 

Sanding

Process of removing the top surface of a material, such as wood, using sandpaper and/or a specialized sanding machine (for large surface areas).

Cost Considerations: Sanding costs run approximately $1.80 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Sanding is done to remove scratches in hardwood floors and prepare them for refinishing.

 

Sash Window

A wall opening made of one or several movable panels (referred to as sashes) that serve as a frame for holding glass panes.

Cost Considerations: In general, double-hung windows are more expensive than single-hung windows. (Single-hung windows typically cost 10%-25% less). Aluminum single-hung sash windows are usually the most economical (approximately $310 per unit). Vinyl single-hung sash windows are usually more expensive than their aluminum counterparts ($830), and wood tends to be the priciest option ($1240).

Things you need to know: Only one sash (normally the bottom panel) is movable in the single-hung version; both sashes are movable in the double-hung version. Double-hung windows are easier to clean.

Also known as: Hung Sash Window, Box Sash Window

 

Scaffolding

A temporary structure used during construction/maintenance/painting projects to raise and support workers (or one worker), required materials, and equipment.

Cost Considerations: Professionals typically have their own scaffolding. For DIY projects, scaffolding may be rented for $15 to $50 a day or $40 to $150 a week. These costs depend on the size/type of scaffolding as well as your geographical location.

Things you need to know: Scaffolding can be as simple as one plank secured between two ladders. Conversely, it may be as complicated as an erector-set-like structure (composed of wood, metal and steel or aluminum tubing).

Also known as: Scaffold, Staging

 

Screen Printed Wallpaper

Paper-like material, used to decorate interior walls, having a pattern that is created using a photographic process involving a silk mesh screen and stencils.

Cost Considerations: Hand printing is a fairly costly process. With the exception of custom-colored wallpaper, screen-printed wallpaper is the most costly type averaging approximately $60 to $80 for a double roll (21 inchesx33 feet, or 8316 square inches).

Things you need to know: Screen printed wallpaper is ideal for small spaces with limited sun exposure.

Also known as: Silk Screen Printed Wallpaper, Silkscreened Wallpaper

 

Seam

A fold, line, or groove where two pieces of material join together.

Cost Considerations: Installing channel molding for 200 linear feet of trim can cost between $130 and $160.

Things you need to know: When installing trim on the roof of your home, you should include appropriate channel molding for each seam.

Also known as: Joint, Juncture, Junction, Intersection

 

Sensor

Device that responds to a physical event or change in the environment by emitting an output signal.

Cost Considerations: Sensor prices vary widely depending on type and brand. Most sensors run between $15 and $70 on average.

Things you need to know: Sensors can be linked your security system.

Also known as: Detector

 

Septic Dye Test

Non-invasive procedure used to determine the condition of a home's sewage treatment system.

Cost Considerations: A septic dye test costs approximately $75.

Things you need to know: Septic dye tests are used to expose leaks and other sewage treatment system inadequacies so that repairs can be made. The test is sometimes required by a lending institution before granting home financing.

 

Sewer Drain

Exit-point for the removal of waste materials from a home or building.

Cost Considerations: A professional will charge between $150 to $175 to clear a drain that is backed up; the DIY price is around $55. Professional costs associated with odor problems generally run $100 to $150; the DIY cost is roughly $20 (for drain cleaner). If you need a drain line installed, you will generally pay between $450 and $600 per line.

Things you need to know: Common sewer problems include clogged drains, backed up drains, and foul odors.

 

Sewer Line

Principal pipe in a sewage system.

Cost Considerations: On average, the cost to have a clog in the the main line professionally cleared is $250. If you have broken or damaged pipes, pipe replacement costs anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000 depending on the pipe material and length and depth of the line.

Also known as: Sewer Main, Sewer Pipe

 

Shake

A rugged flat piece of wooden construction material with at least one grain-split face, generally made of either redwood or cedar, laid in a series of overlapping rows and used to cover the outside of roofs and walls to protect against weather damage and leaks.

Cost Considerations: Shake roofs are generally more expensive than asphalt shingles. A 10x10 ft. square generally runs around $300.

Things you need to know: Shakes are manufactured to be more irregular than shingles, so they don't lay as flat on the roof when installed. A layer of felt is typically used to block wind-blown precipitation from damaging a shake roof. With the exception of tapersawn shakes, shakes are typically split on one or both sides. Most types of shake are treated to prevent mold, moss, and mildew. Shakes are generally more durable than asphalt shingles.

 

Sheetrock

Type of plasterboard, commonly used to build walls and ceilings, composed of gypsum that is layered between sheets of heavy paper.

Cost Considerations: The cost to install drywall in a 12'x12'​ bedroom with a ceiling height of 8' is roughly $200 (including materials and labor).

Things you need to know: The type of drywall used often depends on the room it is to be installed in. For example, water-resistant drywall is good for bathrooms and kitchens; abuse-resistant drywall is good for playrooms; etc.

Also known as: Drywall, Wallboard

 

Shingle

A smooth, uniform, flat piece of construction material, available in a wide variety of materials and laid in a series of overlapping rows, used to cover the outside of roofs or walls to protect against weather damage and leaks.

Cost Considerations: Asphalt shingles are generally the most economical type, averaging between $80 to $100 per square. (A square covers approximately one hundred square feet). Fiberglass is roughly the same. Wood shingles are more expensive. Tile is comparable to wood, and slate is the most expensive type to both buy and repair.

Things you need to know: Shingles are less irregular than shakes. Generally speaking, shingles are sawn on both sides and are thinner than shakes at the butt end. Architectural shingles (shingles not made with cutouts) are not recommended for roofs with a low slope. Wind-driven rain can ruin these types of shingles.

 

Shower Pan

Waterproof base that protects the subfloor of a shower.

Cost Considerations: Shower pans generally run around $300. They are generally more expensive than tile flooring.

Things you need to know: Single-threshold shower pans are used for alcove showers (showers enclosed by walls on three sides) and double-threshold shower pans used for corner showers (showers enclosed by at least two pieces of perpendicular or angled doors or inserts).

Also known as: Shower Base

 

Single Hung Window

An opening in the wall, consisting of a frame fitted with a glass pane, having one stationary sash and one movable sash.

Cost Considerations: Single hung windows are generally 10%-20% less expensive than double-hung windows. If you are replacing the glass in your windows, expect to pay between $100 and $150 for a single hung window.

Things you need to know: Single hung windows are more difficult to clean.

Also known as: Vertical Sliding Style

 

Slab Foundation

A layer of concrete, poured over a prepared surface of soil or gravel, that supports a house or other building structure.

Cost Considerations: A poured slab concrete foundation typically costs $3 to $5 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Slab foundations provide a stable level surface for building and support the weight of walls and other construction materials.

Also known as: T-shaped, Slab On Grade (Floating), Frost-Protected

 

Slate

A fine-grained rock, typically bluish-gray in color, that can easily be split into thin layers and is commonly used as a roofing material.

Cost Considerations: Slate is one of the most expensive roofing materials available. It averages $10 to $20 per square foot ($15,000 to $30,000 for a 1,500 square foot roof). Slate that is very unique or thick can run up to $50 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Slate is very durable, has an extremely low water absorption index, and is resistant to frost damage. Slate used as a roofing material comes in a variety of colors. Slate is often named after the geographical region of its origin.

 

Sliding Window

An opening in the wall, consisting of a frame fitted with a glass pane, that opens by sliding horizontally.

Cost Considerations: A vinyl sliding window generally runs $760. They are more economical than bay and casement windows and generally cost a bit less than picture and sash windows. Aluminum windows are the most economical, and wood windows tend to be on the higher end.

Things you need to know: Single slider windows are equipped with one sash that slides open. Double slider windows have two sashes that slide open, providing even better air circulation.

Also known as: Slider Window

 

Soffit

Construction material, typically composed of vinyl or aluminum, used to enclose the underside of eaves and ceilings.

Cost Considerations: Soffit panels look similar to vertical siding.

Things you need to know: Soffit panels look similar to vertical siding.

Also known as: Roofline

 

Soil Test

Chemical analysis kit used to assess soil pH, and sometimes soil nutrients, for the purpose of making fertilizer recommendations (type, quantity, and frequency).

Cost Considerations: You can buy a DIY pH soil test kit from a hardware store for approximately $10 to $25. State university lab tests generally cost around $20. Commercial lab tests can cost more than $100, depending on how much information you desire. Professional soil testing starts at about $300 for most single-family homes.

Things you need to know: A soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is usually ideal. Most fertilizer packages come with charts to help homeowners determine how much fertilizer is required and how often it is needed based on the pH of their soil.

Also known as: Soil Analysis

 

Solar Blanket

Protective outdoor pool cover used to trap the sun's heat, thereby helping to keep pool water warm.

Cost Considerations: A solar blanket averages $150 to $225. Automatic types may be 2 to 3 times more. Manual versions are the least expensive option.

Things you need to know: Swimming pools that are located outdoors absorb up to 85% of the sun's energy in direct sunlight. In the shade, pool water quickly loses this warmth. A solar pool blanket helps to conserve this heat. Within approximately one week, this type of pool cover can raise the water temperature by up to 20 °F, saving on your pool heating costs.

Also known as: Solar Pool Cover

 

Solar Panel Mount

A support system used to attach a solar panel array to a surface such as a building facade, roof, or the ground.

Cost Considerations: Roof mounts are the most cost effective and are priced according to how much wind/snow load they can withstand. The greater the load requirements, the greater the cost. Ground mounts are made for structures without adequate roof space and are more cost effective than pole mounts.

Things you need to know: Fixed mounts are stationary. Those that move with the sun are called trackers. Trackers are all pole top mounts.

Also known as: Photovoltaic Mounting Systems, Solar Module Racking

 

Solid Carbon Filter

Type of water filtration system that uses a bed of activated carbon to remove contaminants and impurities from tap water.

Cost Considerations: Solid carbon filters run between $200 and $300. Along with reverse osmosis systems, they are the most expensive type of home water filtration system.

Things you need to know: Carbon filters are easy to install, effective, and remove unpleasant tastes/odors. They do not remove fluoride from tap water. Filters must be replaced regularly. Due to their increased surface area, carbon powdered block filters generally remove more contaminants from the water than granular activated filters.

 

Sone

A unit that rates sound level, used to define exhaust fan noise.

Cost Considerations: The lower the sone rating, the more expensive the fan.

Things you need to know: The lower the sone rating, the less noise the fan makes. One sone is roughly equivalent to the sound of a refrigerator in a quiet kitchen. Fans with a 2 sone rating are considered quiet.

 

Spackle

A paste, composed of gypsum plaster, glue, and water, used to repair holes and cracks in plaster before painting or wallpapering.

Cost Considerations: A quart of spackle typically runs between $5 to $10.

Things you need to know: Spackle can be bought as a premixed paste or as a powder (that must be mixed with water). Lightweight spackle is for small projects/imperfections. Standard (all-purpose) spackle is for larger projects/holes. The vinyl and acrylic versions are very flexible. Epoxy-based spackle is known for adhesion and strength and is often used for repairing wood.

Also known as: Spackling Compound, Spackling Paste

 

Spindle

One of a series of identical vertical supports, typically decorative, used between railing posts on decks and stairs.

Cost Considerations: Spindle prices vary widely depending on the type of material used. Wood is generally the least expensive option. Wrought iron is the most expensive. The cost to clean and stain a wood deck, complete with rails and spindles (including power washing, labor, and materials) averages roughly $2 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Wood is the most common material for decks.

Also known as: Stair Stick

 

Splash Block

Portable channel placed underneath a downspout to receive roof drainage and guide water away from a home or building.

Cost Considerations: Splash blocks are generally under $10 per piece, although decorative cast aluminum versions can run as high as $70.

Things you need to know: If a downspout is not connected into gutter drainage, a splash block is needed to prevent water from pooling around the foundation and seeping in. This prevents leaks and cracks in your foundation as well as soil erosion in your yard.

Also known as: Splash Guard

 

Sprinkler System

Set of equipment used to irrigate lawns.

Cost Considerations: The cost of installing a sprinkler system in a standard, landscaped 8,000 square foot lawn averages $2,500 to $3,500.

Things you need to know: Spray systems are the most common type used for home lawncare. They are best for flat surfaces.

Also known as: Irrigation System

 

Sprinkler Valve

Device used to deliver pressured water to the sprinkler heads when watering a lawn.

Cost Considerations: Sprinkler valves can be added to each sprinkler head to better control water pressure. They average $15 per piece.

Things you need to know: Inline valves use some type of mechanical obstruction to control or block water flow. Anti-syphon valves use an air gap to prevent siphonage when a backflow condition occurs.

Also known as: Irrigation Valve

 

St. Augustine Sod

A widely used, warm-season, perennial type of turf used for lawns.

Cost Considerations: Midgrade sods normally run $0.50 per square foot. For 450 sq. ft. of St. Augustine sod, expect to pay approximately $145 for the economy grade, $235 for the mid grade, and $320 for the high grade.

Things you need to know: St. Augustine sod is a popular wide-bladed grass used for lawns. It is a warm season grass and, as such, does not handle cold weather well. It does adapt well to heat and drought.

Also known as: Stenotaphrum Secundatum

 

Steep Pitch

Pitch of a roof having a vertical rise of 3 inches or more for every 12 inches of horizontal run.

Cost Considerations: The labor cost for roofing material installation is generally higher for steep pitch roofs than for flat or low pitch roofs. This is because steep slopes are more difficult to walk on and work on, and thus often require contractors to use scaffolding or roof jacks. Expect to pay an additional $25.50 per roofing square if you have a steep pitched roof.

Things you need to know: Steep pitch roofs are generally more durable than flat or low pitch roofs because they shed water more efficiently and receive less UV light.

Also known as: Steep Slope

 

Stencil

A design or pattern created by forcing paint or ink onto a flat surface using a thin sheet of perforated material (also called a stencil).

Cost Considerations: Stenciling averages $8 to $11 per square foot ($4,800 to $6,600 for a 12'x18' space).

Things you need to know: Acrylic and latex paints are generally used with stencils since they do not drip as much as other types of paint.

 

Storm Door

An additional door, installed outside an exterior access door, that provides insulation and damage protection during inclement weather.

Cost Considerations: In terms of price, self-storing doors tend to be the least expensive, followed by multi-vent panel doors. Full-view glass is generally the most expensive option. Storm doors average between $125 and $400, with labor costs for installation ranging from $75 to $125.

Things you need to know: Full-view storm doors usually have an interchangeable glass window panel and screen window panel to use depending on the season. You must physically change these out. Retractable types have a screen that rolls up into the storm door frame when it is not being used. Ventilating storm doors have two glass panels that adjust up or down to reveal the screen. Roll Screens are a cross between the full-view and ventilating versions.

Also known as: Screen Door

 

Storm Window

An additional window panel, mounted outside or inside a primary window, that provides insulation and damage protection during inclement weather.

Cost Considerations: Storm window units range from $100 to $300 depending on the type of material used. Plastic framed versions are the least expensive option, while wood tends to be the most expensive. Labor costs for installation generally run $70 $130 per window. Storm windows can help reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 33% or more.

Things you need to know: The windows, themselves, can be made of glass, rigid plastic panels, or flexible plastic sheets. Glass offers the best visibility.

Also known as: Storm Sash

 

Stringer

An inclined structure used to support the treads and risers in a staircase.

Cost Considerations: Steel stringer prices are based on horizontal run length. A 4-step stringer costs approximately $200 while a 10-step stringer costs roughly $600. Pre-made stairs often come equipped with steel stringers.

Things you need to know: A typical staircase usually has three stringers: one on each end and one in the center.

Also known as: String

 

Stucco

A type of durable plaster finish made of aggregates, a binder, and water (traditionally Portland cement, sand, and water) used on masonry, walls, ceilings, and decorative moldings.

Cost Considerations: At $6 to $9 per square foot, stucco siding is much more costly than other types of siding, including cement fiber and vinyl siding. Professional installation generally costs between $40 to $50 per hour and takes three to five days per 1,000 square feet.

Things you need to know: Stucco homes are quite energy efficient. Stucco is fire retardant and mold and mildew resistant. It also helps reduce sound transmission, making it a good option for those who live near a highway.

Also known as: Render, Rendering

 

Subfloor

The bottom-most layer of a floor, supported by joists, over which finished flooring material is laid.

Cost Considerations: Repairs made to a tilted, bouncy, or wavy subfloor typically average between $1,000 and $3,500.

Also known as: Underfloor

 

Submersible Sump Pump

A completely immersible mechanical device used to remove water from wet areas such as basements and crawlspaces in order to help prevent flooding.

Cost Considerations: Submersible sump pumps are generally more expensive than pedestal pumps. Not including the cost of installation and other necessary materials, a submersible sump pump generally runs $135 to $300. Plastic versions are less expensive than cast iron versions.

Things you need to know: Compared to pedestal sump pumps, submersible pumps are generally quieter, able to process greater quantities of water, and can handle particles or solids in the water.

 

Subway Tile

A flat rectangular piece of glazed ceramic, traditionally 3-by-6 inches, used to decorate indoor walls and serve as a backsplash.

Cost Considerations: Prices start around $2 per square foot. On the high end, handmade artisan tile may run $50 or more.

Things you need to know: Eight 3-by-6-inch subway tiles will cover one square foot. Some manufacturers use the term "subway tile" to describe any rectangular tile with a length twice its height (i.e. 4x8 inch planks or 1x2 inch mosaics).

 

Subwoofer

Component of a loudspeaker system designed to produce low end bass frequency sounds.

Cost Considerations: On average, subwoofers run between $150 and $500. Prices vary according to brand, type, and size.

Things you need to know: In general, the larger the surface area of the subwoofer, the deeper the bass sound.

Also known as: Sub

 

Sump Pump

A mechanical device used to remove water from wet areas such as basements and crawlspaces in order to help prevent flooding.

Cost Considerations: The average cost of installing a new sump pump is $550 to $1100.

Things you need to know: Pedestal sump pumps last longer and are less expensive than submersible pumps. Submersible pumps are quieter and able to process greater quantities of water. In terms of materials, plastic pumps are less expensive than cast iron pumps. However, they crack easier and are best used in small basements that have a minor risk of flooding.

 

Suspension System

A metal grid, composed of beams and cross tees, that hangs from the ceiling and supports acoustical panels or tiles.

Cost Considerations: Suspension systems for dropped ceilings generally run $2 per square foot.

Things you need to know: In the United States, suspension grid cells are usually 2 ft.×2 ft. or 2 ft.x4 ft.

Also known as: Ceiling Hanger System

 

Synthetic Fertilizer

An inorganic, chemically-derived, substance applied to soil/plants to increase soil fertility and aid plant growth.

Cost Considerations: Synthetic fertilizers typically run $25 to $80. Their initial cost is generally less expensive than that of organic fertilizers.

Things you need to know: Synthetic fertilizers are usually composed of different ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other elements. They act faster than organic fertilizers, but contribute little to soil health and may result in a toxic chemical build-up over time.

Also known as: Inorganic Fertilizer, Chemical Fertilizer

T

 

Tapersawn Shake

A cross between a shingle and a hand-split wood shake (a flat piece of rugged wooden construction material having at least one face that is grain-split).

Cost Considerations: Generally speaking, a tapersawn shake roof runs between $5 and $9 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Tapersawn shakes resemble shingles in their uniform appearance (both faces and all edges are sawn). However, they are thicker than shingles and have a heavier shadow line.

Also known as: Flat Sawn Shake

 

Thermostat

A device that senses and regulates temperature by turning heating and cooling devices on and off.

Cost Considerations: Manual thermostats are the least expensive type available on the market ($25 to $60). Programmable thermostats are more expensive initially ($90 to $150) but may save up to 33% on heating costs and 15%-25% on cooling costs. Smart thermostats are the most expensive option ($200 to $300).

Things you need to know: Manual versions are the simplest option available. Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically adjust the temperature in your home throughout the day (and therefore save on heating/cooling costs when you are not at home). Smart thermostats enable temperature to be controlled via computer, tablet, and smartphone.

 

Tin Snip

A tool used to cut sheet metal.

Cost Considerations: A good pair of tin snips generally runs $20 to $30.

Things you need to know: There are various types of tin snips. Some cut only in straight lines while others are designed to cut curves and circles. Universal tin snips can do both.

Also known as: Tinner Snip, Tinner's Snip

 

Top/Bottom Fence Rail

Horizontal structural member of the framework that runs continuously along the top/bottom edge of a barrier, railing, or other upright structure.

Cost Considerations: Top and bottom rails increase the cost of a fence by about 15%.

Things you need to know: Fence rails are attached to fence posts with brackets or nails. Top and bottom fence rails are used when a fence is installed on a sloped surface, as they help each section of fence act as a “step” down to the next level.

 

Trellis

A decorative architectural structure, often used to support climbing plants, comprised of intersecting pieces of wood, bamboo, vinyl, metal, or other such material.

Cost Considerations: Kits are available with costs ranging from $10 to $100 depending on size, design, and material. A customized trellis typically costs between $400 and $900, including both labor and materials. Wood trellises tend to run less than PVC and metal trellises.

Things you need to know: Some trellises are stand-alone structures while others are made to be attached to walls, fences, decks, or pergolas.

 

Tropical Hardwood

Timber from deciduous, flowering, seed-bearing trees that grow in tropical rainforests.

Cost Considerations: Tropical hardwoods are quite expensive compared to most other types of wood. Per board foot (144 cubic inches): mahogany runs between $8 and $18; wenge runs between $19 and $25, teak runs between $18 and $45; rosewood runs between $35 and $45; and ebony runs from $35 to $100.

Things you need to know: Tropical hardwoods are hard, durable, dense, and heavy.

Also known as: Exotic Hardwood

 

Truss

Structural framework used to support a roof.

Cost Considerations: Prices vary greatly by size, material, and type. Generally speaking, trusses run from $3.90 to $4.40 per square foot of building area.

Things you need to know: Trusses are typically made of wood, steel, or a combination of the two. They come in a variety of pitches and a vast quantity of styles.

 

Turn-Key Finishing

An arrangement by which a construction project is completed by a private contractor and put up for sale when it is ready to be lived in.

Cost Considerations: It typically costs between $64,575 to $86,100 per unit to construct a 12 unit apartment building having a normal foundation with a full basement, efficient doors and windows, all appliances, and "turn-key" finishing (using mid range materials).

Things you need to know: In turn key construction, the interior (down to the carpets and cabinets) are finished.

U

 

Underlayment

Roofing material laid underneath roofing tiles to seal the roof, preventing leaks.

Cost Considerations: Underlayment costs approximately $61 per square excluding labor.

Things you need to know: Replacing underlayment entails the removal and replacement of roofing tiles.

Also known as: Underlay

V

 

VOIP

An acronym for Voice Over Internet Protocol, a telephone technology that uses the internet for communication, rather than traditional copper telephone wire.

Cost Considerations: VOIP systems usually do not charge extra for long-distance or international calls. If they do, rates are usually much cheaper than they would be using a traditional analog phone system.

Things you need to know: Skype can be used on most smartphones, tablets, and laptops, however using a headset can improve the quality of the call.

Also known as: Internet Phone

 

Vapor Barrier Sheathing

A protective cover, commonly made of polyethylene, used for damp proofing walls and floors.

Cost Considerations: Vapor Barrier Sheathing costs approximately $1 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Vapor barrier sheathing can also improve insulation.

Also known as: Vapor Diffusion Retarder, Vapor Barrier

 

Vault

A container system, which replaces traditional gravel and perforated pipe drain fields in newer septic systems, used to remove contaminants and impurities from wastewater coming from the septic tank and discharge effluent into the soil.

Cost Considerations: Vault systems are more expensive than traditional drain rock. Plastic vaults cost approximately $85 per four foot section (installed).

Things you need to know: Plastic is the best material since it will not deteriorate or corrode.

Also known as: Effluent Filter cartridge Vault, Filter Outlet Vault, Infiltrator Chamber System, Leaching Chamber

 

Vellum Print

Traditional blueprint drawn on vellum, a paper made out of cotton, wood pulp, synthetic materials, or a combination thereof.

Cost Considerations: Draftsmen typically charge between $100 and $130 per hour for a blueprint. Architects may charge a bit more (i.e. $100 to $140 per hour).

Things you need to know: Vellum is durable, lightweight, and semi-clear. The background behind vellum paper can easily be seen, making this an ideal paper for blueprints.

Also known as: Vellum Blueprint, Drafting Vellum Blueprint

 

Veneer

A thin layer of decorative finishing applied to a coarser construction material.

Cost Considerations: It typically runs between $11 and $15 per square foot to install stone or brick veneer siding. Engineered wood veneer siding is generally less expensive at $6 to $9 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Veneer siding is cost effective, durable, and long-lasting.

 

Vinyl

A synthetic plastic made from ethylene and chlorine. Vinyl has many applications in the construction industry and it is widely used in sidings, window frames, roofing and gutters, among others.

Cost Considerations: Vinyl is quite economical compared to many other construction materials. Most sheet vinyl runs between $0.50 to $2 per square foot.

Things you need to know: Vinyl is strong, durable, and resistant to moisture and humidity. It has a long lifespan and is recyclable.

Also known as: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Resin

 

Vinyl Coated Wallpaper

Decorating material, used to cover interior walls, whose decorative surface has been treated with acrylic vinyl or PVC.

Cost Considerations: Vinyl coated wallpaper typically runs $40 to $60. A single roll of wallpaper averages 21 inches x 16.5 feet, for a total square footage of 4,158 square inches. Professional wallpaperers charge an average of $50 to $70 per double roll of wallpaper. Some wallpaperers charge per hour, with an average rate of $25 to $40 per hour.

Things you need to know: This type of wallpaper can be scrubbed and is somewhat resistant to grease and moisture. This makes it especially suitable for kitchens and bathrooms.

Also known as: Vinyl Coated Paper, Acrylic Coated Wallpaper, Acrylic Coated Paper

W

 

Water Purifier

A system that removes contaminants from water, such as chemicals, toxic metals, bacteria, viruses, VOCs and radioactive substances, to produce water that is pure enough for its intended purpose.

Cost Considerations: The cost of a water purifier depends on how clean the water needs to be. Generally, the more expensive the system, the cleaner the water. They start at $20 for a pitcher water filter, and go up to $2,000 for a whole house system.

Things you need to know: High-quality potable water can have a big effect on the overall health and happiness of your family.

 

Water Softener

A device that reduces the amount of calcium, magnesium, and other minerals in water using ion exchange.

Cost Considerations: Water softeners range from $500 to $1,500, depending on the quality and the capacity.

Things you need to know: Hard water causes scale to form around faucets, in kettles, and inside pipes. It reduces their flow and also causes clogs. Salt-free water softeners do not remove the calcium and magnesium that cause scale. They alter their form so that scale is no longer able to build up. Salt-based water softeners are the most effective at reducing hardness. However, they add sodium to the water, so it is advisable not to use the softened water for drinking.

 

Weevil

A small beetle with a long snout that causes damage to crops or to stored grain.

Cost Considerations: It costs $125 to $250 to hire an exterminator to get rid of weevils.

Things you need to know: If eaten by humans, weevils can cause disease and infection, and are known to transmit E. Coli.

 

Western Red Cedar

A very large tree native to the pacific northwest, whose wood is used primarily for outdoor applications such as roofing shakes and shingles, decks, posts, and siding.

Cost Considerations: In most parts of the country, western red cedar costs over three times as much as pressure-treated wood. On the west coast, it costs considerably less than in other areas.

Things you need to know: Western red cedar is a durable wood that is resistant to rot, decay, and insects. It is also versatile and can be finished many different ways.

Also known as: Thuja Plicata, Giant or Western Arborvitae, Canoe Cedar, Pacific Red Cedar, Shinglewood, Giant Red Cedar

 

Wet Bar

A small bar, usually in a home or hotel room, that has a sink with running water.

Cost Considerations: The cost of installing a wet bar varies greatly depending on the quality of the materials chosen, but an example cost using mid-grade materials would be about $3,700 plus the cost of plumbing.

Things you need to know: Common items to include when installing a wet bar are cabinets, countertops, a small fridge, a sink and faucet, and flooring around the wet bar.

 

White Oak

A higher-quality hardwood commonly found in eastern North America. It is used for construction, fencing, flooring, shipbuilding, making wine barrels, and in home interiors.

Cost Considerations: White oak flooring can cost between $3.69 and $5.09 per sq. ft.

Things you need to know: White oak is weather resistant, but it has the tendency to warp or bow. It is harder than red oak, and therefore more durable.

Also known as: Quercus Alba

 

Window Well

A semi-circular area around a window below the grade of the house, reinforced by a sturdy material such as galvanized metal or masonry.

Cost Considerations: Installation of a window well will cost from $500 to $2,000 depending on the materials used and the grading and drainage requirements. Covers cost about $600 to $800.

Things you need to know: Window wells allow for emergency escape from basements, and provide natural light, and ventilation to those areas. Covering window wells is useful to keep debris out and protect against people and animals falling in.

 

Woven Wood Shade

A window covering made from small strips of wood or natural fibers, arranged horizontally and woven together with cotton twine.

Cost Considerations: Woven wood shades can cost between $90 and $150 for a 27 inch window.

Things you need to know: Woven wood shades are environmentally friendly, made of 100% recyclable material.

Also known as: Matchstick Blind, Matchstick Shade, Natural Shade, Bamboo Shade

X

 

Xeriscape

Landscaping so as to avoid the need for watering by using native or drought-resistant plants, paving stones and gravel, and other methods to create an attractive yard that is ideal for dry climates or environmentally friendly in any area.

Cost Considerations: Xeriscaped yards use up to two thirds less water than yards with lawns. Over time, this cost savings can cover the cost of installation, especially in areas where lawns require regular watering due to rainfall not being sufficient to keep them watered. The cost of xeriscaping can range from $10,800 to $27,500.

Things you need to know: Some HOAs have had rules about landscaping that required a certain amount of lawn, but as environmental awareness is increasing, these rules are being overturned.

Also known as: Water-Conserving Landscapes, Drought-Tolerant Landscaping, Smart Scaping

Z

 

Zip Tool

A special hand-held tool that separates interlocking pieces of vinyl siding.

Cost Considerations: A zip tool can usually be purchased for less than $8.

Things you need to know: A zip tool allows siding to be removed with as little damage as possible.

Also known as: Ziptool, Zip Lock Tool, Unlocking Tool, Siding Tool, Siding Removal Tool

 

Zoysia Sod

A type of grass turf that is excellent in warmer climates, and grows thick, making it comfortable to walk on and resistant to weeds.

Cost Considerations: The cost of zoysia sod ranges from $0.40 per sq. ft. for the basic grade, to $0.59 per sq. ft. for the top quality.

Things you need to know: Zoysia grows slowly when it is hot, meaning it needs to be mowed less often than other grasses, and also requires less water. It is also able to repair damaged areas quickly because of its growth pattern.