A Glossary of General Contractor Terms

General Contractor Terms

There are several acronyms and terms that contractors will use during the course of a construction project. Some may be clear. Others may be vaguely familiar. Far more may be completely foreign to the homeowner’s ear. Regardless of the verbiage used, the general contractor in Los Angeles and the homeowner are speaking the same language.

Because both parties desire the same result, it’s important that the contractor and the homeowner have a dialogue that is effective and relatively easy to understand.

To help avoid making renovation mistakes, it’s best you have a better understanding of the terms used by general contractors. Though you will hear some of the terms used frequently, the ones you hear less often aren’t any less important to the success of your project.

The Most Common Terms Used by General Contractors

Whether you are renovating your kitchen, installing new plumbing in the basement or remodeling your entire house, the most popular home construction projects require you work closely with your general contractor. To make the process less intimidating, we have compiled a short list of the most common terms used by general contractors during the project.

Contract Related


This is also known as an add-on or change order. They address deletions, additions or any other modifications the homeowner makes during the contract negotiation process. They allow the homeowner to modify the agreement before the contract is signed. The agreement is altered between both the subcontractors and the contractor.


This refers to the monetary amount that is allocated for specific items outlined in the contract. For example, if there are appliances or countertops that the homeowner has not decided upon, the contractor can add an allowance to the contract for those items. The homeowner’s final choice will affect the cost of labor and materials. An allowance is an estimate of the price of labor and materials specified for the outstanding items.


A bid is the offer to perform a designated amount of work under specified conditions. Estimated costs are also a part of the bid. This part of the contract gives the homeowner the authority to reject or accept the contract’s conditions such as time or cost before moving forward with the project.

Contractor Related


The individuals responsible for planning, managing, and designing the project. They are the ones who oversee all of the stages of the project regardless of its size. They draw plans, estimate costs, acquire building permits and hire subcontractors.


Often referred to a “specialty” contractors, they are hired for specific tasks during a project. This may include electrical installation or repair, plumbing or heating, ventilation and air conditioning. A subcontractor must have the appropriate licensing from the state in addition to the trade qualifications that prove he/she is legally able to perform the work.

During the Construction Process

Back Out

This term is used when the contract is nullified by one party ending their agreement. With backouts, there is a penalty that must be paid unless there is a specified time where the backouts are allowed.

Change Order

Change orders are very similar to addendums. The difference is that change orders are modifications to the contract after the work has already started. They are agreements between the homeowner and the contractor to modify the schedule, scope, price or similar contract term.

The renovation of a home can be a lengthy process. But you can reduce your level of stress by choosing the right general for the job.

In no shape or form is this a complete dictionary of terms used by a general contractor in Los Angeles. However, it does contain the ones you are most likely to hear. They may be used daily or only during the essential parts of the project. There is no need to commit them to memory, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the words on the list. In doing so, the pieces of the puzzle that reveal your project will be more visible.

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