Say What? Translating Your Contractor

A helpful cheat sheet on contractor lingo

illustration of contractor speaking gibberish to homeowner
Illustration by Gary Clement
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If you've ever heard a contractor talking to his crew, you might think they're speaking a secret language. In a way, they are: Contractors often use tradesman terms that might be unfamiliar to the uninitiated. Use this helpful cheat sheet as a guide to some of the lingo so that you won't risk miscommunication on your next project.

If He's a GC...
What he said: "Once we put in a dutchman, you won't notice that this trim piece is a little. short."
What it means: He needs to add a filler piece, commonly called a dutchman in carpentry.

What he said: "I see a few holidays on that wall."
What it means: Someone missed several spots while painting with a roller.

What he said: We'll need to spackle over that catface."
What it means: He needs to cover an indentation in the wall left when a hammer missed a nail—commonly called a catface. Luckily, it's easy to patch.

What he said: "This wall's gonna come down, yes? Time for the persuader!"
What it means: Stand back! He's about to reach for a sledgehammer.
If you've ever heard a contractor talking to his crew, you might think they're speaking a secret language. In a way, they are: Contractors often use tradesman terms that might be unfamiliar to the uninitiated. Use this helpful cheat sheet as a guide to some of the lingo so that you won't risk miscommunication on your next project.

If He's a GC...
What he said: "Once we put in a dutchman, you won't notice that this trim piece is a little. short."
What it means: He needs to add a filler piece, commonly called a dutchman in carpentry.

What he said: "I see a few holidays on that wall."
What it means: Someone missed several spots while painting with a roller.

What he said: We'll need to spackle over that catface."
What it means: He needs to cover an indentation in the wall left when a hammer missed a nail—commonly called a catface. Luckily, it's easy to patch.

What he said: "This wall's gonna come down, yes? Time for the persuader!"
What it means: Stand back! He's about to reach for a sledgehammer.
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If He's an Electrician...

 

If He's an Electrician...

What he said: "Give me a second—I have to find my beater before I can get started with those wires."
What it means: He's looking for an electrician's flat-head screwdriver, used for everything from chiseling to prying.

What he said: "Do you want a wall-mount jack or a biscuit?"
What it means: The term biscuit refers to a surface-mount phone or data box.

What he said: "I think we need a home run for that circuit."
What it means: A "home run" is the circuit wiring that goes from the breaker panel to the first electrical box, plug, or switch in the circuit.
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If He's a Plumber...

 

If He's a Plumber...

What he said: "I'm running out to the truck for a cheater; this coupling is really on there tight.
What it means: A "cheater" is a large pipe slipped over the handle of a wrench for leverage.

What he said: "Good news: Most of this piping is still usable. I just need a pup."
What it means: No worries, he's not talking about Fido. In this case, a "pup" is a short length of pipe.

What he said: "You're welcome to watch, but wear goggles. I'll be using the gas axe."
What it means: A gas axe is a torch used for cutting metal. You might want to step back!
 
 

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