Home construction terms 101

As your new home is being built, you’re probably driving by to check on the progress. When you update your friends and family on the stage of construction, you’ll want to know a few key terms, so you don’t have to say, ‘they’ve put up a bunch of wood on top of a bunch of concrete blocks’. Understanding the lingo will also help in discussions with your builder or the tradespeople that might be doing the work.

The more you understand about the elements of your new home and how it is constructed, the better equipped you’ll be to protect your investment, your rights and your new home warranty.

Construction language – some key definitions

  • Foundation — the support system on which the home sits. The foundation may be constructed with concrete blocks, poured concrete walls, footings or a combination.
  • Footing(s) – help support the foundation and prevent settling. They are typically made of concrete with rebar (steel bars or mesh) reinforcement that has been poured into an excavated trench.
  • Cladding or exterior cladding — refers to all components of a building that are exposed to the outdoor environment and are intended to provide protection against wind, water or vapour. The exterior wall cladding may include aluminum, vinyl or wood siding and above-grade masonry, such as bricks, concrete or stucco.
  • Parging — is a method of applying a smooth cement-based layer to a masonry wall. Most often it is used to apply a smooth surface to the exterior of a masonry foundation so that a waterproofing compound can be applied more easily.
  • Studs, joists and rafters – together, these make up the frame of a house. Studs are the vertical pieces of wood used to frame walls. Joistsare pieces laid horizontally to become the structural base for floors and ceilings.  Rafters are the pieces of lumber that will support the roof.
  • Sub-flooring – is a rough floor, usually made of plywood, over which tile, hardwood or carpet is laid.
  • Flashing – material (often made of sheet metal) designed to waterproof the area around projections on your roof such as chimneys and vent pipes.
  • Sheathing — the boards that are fastened to rafters to cover a house or building.

Knowing what to look for

Even though most of your new home’s structural elements are not visible, your Pre-Delivery Inspection (PDI) is your chance to have a record of the state of your home at this important point.

During the PDI with your builder, you should check several of the home’s key elements. Take along our PDI checklist.

Walk across all floors. You should only hear a minimum amount of squeaking and notice a minimum amount of spring when walking on the floor.

Check the plumbing system functionality, including faucets, drains, showers, bathtubs.

If your home has siding, check that it appears secure and that it is not bowed or wavy. If there are bricks, check for any that are cracked or damaged. If there’s stucco, look to see that there are no cracks or other damage.

This is also a good time to ask your builder about their customer service policy and how to contact them if you identify any issues.

If issues arise after you move in

Your new home warranty can give you peace of mind but it’s important to know your one, two and seven-year coverage.

For example, the two-year warranty covers water penetration through the basement or foundation walls and defects in work or materials that result in the detachment, displacement or deterioration of exterior cladding. Major structural defects, such as foundation cracks, are covered for the full seven years of your warranty.

If you discover an issue that was not apparent during the PDI, you should carefully document this in writing and with photos, video or audio recordings to discuss with your builder. You can also detail the issue on your 30-Day, Year-End or Second-Year warranty form and submit it to Tarion online via our MyHome portal or MyHome app.

So, whether you know the proper term to use to describe the elements of your home or the issue you might be having with it, Tarion is here to help with advice on communicating with your builder and getting your issues resolved.