An educated shopper is a smart shopper. This especially holds true when working with contractors to make improvements to your home.

Being able to understand the terminology they use can help you avoid miscommunication and ensure a smoother remodeling experience. Here’s a glossary of some of the common terms used by builders and remodelers to help you understand the language of your remodeling project:


Bid. A proposal to work for a certain amount of money, based on plans and specifications for the project.

Building Permit. A document issued by a governing authority, such as a city or county building department, granting permission to undertake a construction project.

Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR). A professional designation program offered through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers Council™. To attain the CGR designation, a remodeler must take a specified number of continuing education courses and must comply with a strict code of ethics.

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). The CAPS designation was developed by the National Association of Home Builders and AARP. CAPS professionals have been taught the strategies and techniques to meet the home modification needs of homeowners who want to continue living in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level.

Change Order. Written authorization to the contractor to make a change or addition to the work described in the original contract. The change order should reflect any changes in cost.

Cost-plus Contract. A contract between a contractor and homeowner based on the accrued cost of labor and materials, plus a percentage for profit and overhead — also known as a time-and-materials contract.

Draw. A designated payment that is “drawn” from the total project budget to pay for services completed to date. A draw schedule typically is established in the contract.

Punch List. A list of work items to be completed or corrected by the contractor, typically near or at the end of a project.

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Karen Nakamura is CEO of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.