Glossary of Construction Terms

Do you ever feel as if your contractor is selling you polyisocyanurate foam when what you really needed was a setback thermostat? Here is a handy guide to common (and not so common) construction terms. Scroll through the glossary below or sort by the letter that starts the word you're looking for. For example, to find polyisocyanurate foam, select P and click Submit.

A (7) | B (6) | C (18) | D (8) | E (9) | F (8) | G (2) | H (4) | I (1) | J (1) | L (4) | M (3) | O (2) | P (11) | R (10) | S (19) | T (7) | U (1) | V (1) | W (4) | Z (2)
Title Definition
Tankless Water Heaters

Used in many parts of the world for a long time and noted for their energy efficiency. Tankless water heaters heat the water as it flows to your tap. Once you turn on the hot water tap a gas flame or electric coil heats the water. There is no storage tank and no wasted energy to keep a bunch of water heated and waiting to be used.

See: Tankless Water Heaters

George's TipsThese water heaters provide as much water as you need, when you need it. There is a small delay when you first turn on the tap. The flow rate depends upon the size of the heater.

Time and Materials Contract

A construction contract which specifies a price for different elements of the work such as, cost per hour of labor, overhead, profit, etc. Such a contract may not have a maximum price or may state a 'price not to exceed...'.

See also: Topics: A Field Guide to Bad Home Repair and Remodeling Contracts, Q&A: Contractor Profit and Overhead

Title Insurance

Title Insurance is a title company's guarantee that the title to a parcel of real estate is affected only by matters shown on a written report.

See also: Topics: Real Estate Legal Terms

Torch Down Roof or Single Ply or Modified Bitumen

A newer roofing material mostly used on flat roofs. This material usually comes in rolls and is applied to the roof with an open flame or 'torch'.

See also: Topics: The Sound Roof

Treated Lumber

A wood product which has been impregnated with chemicals to reduce damage from wood rot or insects. Often used for the portions of a structure which is likely to be in ongoing contact with soil and water. Wood may also be treated with a fire retardant.

See also: Topics: Decks, Topics: Wood Decks, Q&A: Deck


A manufactured wood member often in the form of a large triangle which is used to form the ceiling joists and rafters on the top floor of a home.

Tube and Knob Wiring

A common form of electrical wiring used before W.W.II. When in good condition, it may still be functional for low amperage use, such as smaller light fixture.

 Tube and Knob Wiring

See also: Q&A: Electrical