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Illustrated Dictionary of contractor, builder and construction trade related words and phrases.



Bobcat(tm) - small tractor, with optional front-end loader, back hoe, fork-lift, and other attachments available, often simply referred to as a 'bobcat' (a brand name of this style small tractor). Excellent for use where size of job or limited access does not call for heavy equipment.


c-clamp - shaped like the letter 'c', used for clamping objects together.

ceiling fan - fan mounted on ceiling used to draw hot air up and push cool air down in hot weather. Pitch on blades and motor rotation direction may be reversed to force warm air down and draw cool air up in colder weather.

cement mixer

cement mixer - (or concrete mixer), a machine which tumbles wet cement / concrete mixture to prevent curing while concrete is being delivered and poured.

portable cement mixer

cement mixer (portable) - motorized mixing tub for concrete, mortar, and other on-site cement mixing needs. Rated by motor and tub mixing capacity, may be electric or gasoline powered.

chisel, steel chisel, hand chisel

chisel - hand tool usually made of steel, used for removing material. Many types of chisels are used for specific purposes such as; hand fitting wooden materials, cutting block or brick, and may be varying weights and sizes for each specific job. Tool is used with hammer in a chipping manner.

cinder block

cinder block - a cement block, usually 8" x 8" x 16" in diameter with two square voids. Used for building masonary walls. Steel rebar is sometimes placed in voids to increase overall structural strength.

columns, structural support or decorative architectural design element

column - support structures which may be round, square, tapered or other vertical elongated building element usually ereted to support a cantilevered roof, or for interior truss support. May also be non-structural (ornamental). Columns may be simple extruded shape, or be constructed of wood, brick, metal or other materials and have decorative footings and finials (decorative topmost section).

combination square, builders square, level, rule

combination square - tool with fixed 45 and 90 degree angle and adjustable rule and level, used for measuring and reproducing angles on wood and other materials.


Concrete - In construction, concrete is a building material made from sand or other small stones (called aggregate), water, and cement. After mixing, the cement hydrates and eventually hardens into a stone-like material.




excavator, tractor for digging

excavator - tractor with wheels or tracks and digging arm with small clawed scoop type bucket. Used to excavate cellars, foundations, large footings, swimming pools, and other large digging jobs.


fluorescent light fixture

fluorescent light - usually used for overhead lighting in office, shop, or other work areas. Casts broad light evenly across open areas with lower heat and energy use than incandescent lighting.


forklift - small tractor like vehicle with special forks designed to move heavy loads from one elevation to another. Best suited for flat surface are use, although many new models feature wide wheelbase and offset balance weighting to operate in rough terrains.

residential wood house frame, framing

framing - building method for construction of (wooden) residential and commercial structures. Framing consists of sills, plates, wall stud, strair wells, door and window openings, headers, trussess and other stick built and pre-fabricated building components.

Gg - Kk


carriage style light fixture

light - coach or carriage style exterior light fixture


loader - tractor with large scooking bucket on front end, (also called a front end loader). Used for loading materials to and from different areas and elevations.



needle nose pliers

'needle nose' pliers - hand tool with pointed jaws, excellent for many precision grabbing or holding needs. With material held perpendicular to jaw, tool can hold a long length for bending or holding. Usually has cast and honed wire cutting blades at vertex of tool's jaw.




pick axe - landscape and construction hand tool used for breaking aparts soil, rock, and other materials. Useful for trenching, digging up roots, and other precision or rough digging.

pipe wrench

pipe wrench - heavy cast or forged wrench with threaded adjustment allows jaws to be placed around pipes and fittings. Slack hinged jaw tightens wrench as pressure is applied to lever like handle. Sometimes called a monkey wrench.


pry-bar - cast or forged metal bars available in size from a few inches to several feet long, useful for prying materials apart, as a lever for lifting or moving objects, and indipensible as a demolition tool, also called a wrecking bar.




roller - heavy equipment machinery also known as a 'steam roller', used to flatten substrates including soil, sand, asphalt, and other building materials. Made in various sizes for use in walkways, up to highways. Hand rollers are also available and are most often cylindrical drums with attached roller bearings and handle. Hand rollers are filled with water at the job site to add weight for work use, then drained for transporting or storage.



shed - small out-building usually used for workshop, garden tool storage, or other work or storgage uses.

steel i-beam

I-beam - beams where end of beam looks like the capital letter "I". Usually made of steel, can also be made from aluminum, other metals, wood, plastic or composite materials. Used as a structural support element in post and beam and other style applications. Lengths may be used for horizontal, vertical, or diagonal support, and are available in arched or custom shaped sections.

stick built

'stick built' - method of wood frame construction where walls, floors, trusses, etc.. are constructed on-site from dimensional lumber. This is traditional wood construction as opposed to the newer 'pre-fabricated' types in which buildings are assembled off-site and delivered as panels, room or building sections, or even fully constructed. There is a lot to be said of both methods in terms of quality, cost, and construction time.


survey - to accurately measure and plot the distances and elevations of a property.


track lighting heads and track

track lighting - lighting system consisting of electrical track system and movable heads. Used to provide targeted and wide area lighting options from a single electrical source and control.


trowel - hand tool used for spreading adhesives, mortar mixes, cements, and other paste like consitency materials. Available in a wide range of shapes and sizes each intended for specific purposes. Many spreading trowels are notched along one or more edges with shaped and sized notches that allow a pre-determined amount of material remain after troweling. See: Trowel Selection Guide for more info.


vice, bench vise, anvil vise

vice - sometimes called a bench vice, designed to be mounted to a workbench or truck mounted for mobile operation. Most bench vices allow rotation of the jaw for up 360 degrees horizontal. Some have replaceable pads in the jaws so you may change from steel to hold metals and other solid materials, and wooden pads for holding finish lunber. Many bench vices include a cast anvil surface at one end to provide a solid hammering surface.


Xx, Yy, Zz

x-acto knife

X-acto™ Knife - brand name razor knife, with many precision blades and attachments available, excellent for fine detail finishing work.


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