Construction Management

38 Common Construction Terms Defined – A Handy Glossary

Published by in Construction Management

Make no mistake about it, the construction industry is complicated, with thousands of terms and jargon that are tough to grasp for anyone new to the industry.

If you’re just getting involved in construction management, or are trying your hand at your own home project, it’s helpful to understand some of the basic terms used by the industry.

We’ve put together this handy construction glossary that identifies some of the most common terms you’re likely to encounter as you get to work on your construction project.

1. Aggregate: A particulate material which is made up of sand or crushed stone. Aggregates are used in materials such as concrete and are a fundamental part of building foundations.

2. Backfilling: The process of refilling trenches or holes created during excavation, especially around foundations.

3. Beam: Beams run horizontally along the main walls of a building at ceiling level, supporting the structure.

4. BIM: BIM (building information modeling) is the process of creating a computer model of a building that includes all of the details of that structure, from its basic layout to the smallest measurements.

5. BOQ: The bill of quantities is a contract document that contains a list of materials and workmanship involved in a construction project. It is necessary for properly pricing a project.

6. CAD: CAD (computer-aided design) refers to using architecture software to create detailed models of buildings to speed up the design process, allow for more creativity, and ensure greater accuracy in measurements.

7. Caulking: A flexible, rubbery type of material that is used to seal gaps in a joint.

8. Ceiling joist: Parallel framing members that support ceiling loads and are themselves supported by load-bearing walls.

9. Circuit breaker: A switch in the electrical panel that shuts off power to certain parts of the building.

10. Concrete: A building material created by a hardened mixture of cement, gravel, sand, and water. It is used for slabs, columns, and other types of structures.

11. Construction management software: This software is designed for construction managers to help them more efficiently run a construction project; it can include features to manage accounting and financials, documentation, and team workloads.

12. Dimension: A dimension is used in the planning stage and refers to a measure between two points.

13. Drywall: A panel made from gypsum plaster that is wrapped in cardboard. It is commonly used as a fundamental material for framing a building.

14. Ducts: Piping that carries air throughout a structure.

15. Egress: A way of exiting a structure, such as a window or door. Laws require a certain number of egress windows in certain parts of a home.

16. Field measure: Taking measurements within the structure itself rather than relying on blueprints.

17. Floor plan: The floor plan refers to the layout of the building. It is a drawing of the horizontal section that shows how the different spaces relate to each other.

18. Girder: The main horizontal support of a structure that supports smaller beams.

19. HVAC: An abbreviation that stands for heat, ventilation, and air conditioning.

20. I-beam: A beam that has a cross-section that looks like the capital letter I. Girders often have an I-beam cross-section.

21. Insulation: Material that’s designed to prevent heat from leaving or entering a building. Insulation material is placed within the walls, ceiling, or floor of a structure.

22. Joist: The location where the surfaces of two components are joined.

23. King stud: A framing member that runs from the bottom to the top of a panel or sheet.

24. Lath: A metal wire on the frame of a building that serves as a base for laying down stucco or plaster.

25. Load-bearing wall (partition): A partition or load-bearing wall carries the load of the structure above it. As a result, they cannot be removed without compromising the integrity of the structure.

26. Mortar: In masonry, mortar is the paste that is used to bind stones, bricks, and other similar types of units used to construct the walls of a building. Mortar can be made up of a variety of things, such as asphalt, pitch, or clay.

27. Particle board: A substitute for plywood that is composed of sawdust mixed with resin.

28. Plywood: A panel of wood that is made from multiple layers of veneer, compressed together.

29. PVC: Short for polyvinyl chloride, this common plastic is used most commonly for water pipes and sometimes for flooring.

30. Rafter: A series of roof frame pieces that are connected to the supports and hold up the roofing and sheathing.

31. Reinforced concrete: Concrete that is strengthened by adding steel bars or mesh within the concrete.

32. Section: This is a drawing or model that shows what it would look like if you sliced vertically through a building and were able to see its various components or layers, showcasing exactly how a building is constructed top to bottom.

33. Skirting: Material that covers up the joint between the floor and a wall in the interior of a building, for aesthetic purposes.

34. Stucco: A material made from aggregates, a binder, and water. It is often used as a decorative coating on walls and ceilings.

35. Trim: The materials used to provide a clean finish of the building, such as moldings around window and door openings, or the baseboards in rooms, for example.

36. Veneer: A very thin sheet of wood. It is typically a finer wood that is used as a decorative cover for lower-quality wood.

37. Warping: A distortion of material, which can be a sign of water damage.

38. Zoning: A government regulation that involves restricting how a property is used. For example, industrial buildings cannot be constructed in areas zoned solely for residential.

Need to learn more about construction management?

Are you just getting involved in construction and want a deeper understanding of this complicated industry? You've come to the right place. We have lots of material to help you learn more about construction and how you can be an effective manager.

Check out our guides below:

Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.

About the Author

Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.


No comments yet. Be the first!

Comment on this article:

Comment Guidelines:
All comments are moderated before publication and must meet our guidelines. Comments must be substantive, professional, and avoid self promotion. Moderators use discretion when approving comments.

For example, comments may not:
• Contain personal information like phone numbers or email addresses
• Be self-promotional or link to other websites
• Contain hateful or disparaging language
• Use fake names or spam content
Your privacy is important to us. Check out our Privacy Policy.