Say WHAT? Learning to Speak ‘Builder Lingo’

If you’ve ever watched Flip This House on A&E, you’ve probably noticed that builders speak their own language. When they talk about a “doghouse dormer” or a “header,” they’re not referencing canine housing or an Olympic dive.

Confused? Read on and we’ll break it down.

Dormers

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In general, a dormer raises a portion of the roof in a home, creating added interior space. When a home has a steeply pitched roof, so common in New England, this is a cost-effective way of increasing space without raising the overall height of a structure, a crucial consideration in adhering to zoning laws. In the photo above, a home we built, two “partial dormers” were used. The smaller one, on the left, allowed added windows and floor space in the bedroom shown.

A “shed” or “full” dormer, shown below, runs nearly the full length of a home, greatly increasing the interior living space. A “doghouse” dormer (beneath) adds visual interest to the exterior and is a great way of adding a nook with a window seat to an upstairs room.

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Cabinetry: Custom, Semi-Custom, Stock

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In virtually every kitchen, whether in a new home or renovation, cabinetry is the priciest element. Custom cabinets are the most expensive and allow complete flexibility in style and size. “Stock” cabinets, those that are pre-made, offer the least flexibility. But as available options have increased in recent years, stock cabinets, like those in the kitchen we built shown above, can be a great way to trim costs.

The middle ground in cabinets is “semi-custom.” These are also pre-made and then delivered to a job site, but have many, many options available for style and finish. With the variation in size increments of semi-custom cabinets less than one inch, compared to three-inch variations in stock — which can lead to wasted space — semi-custom cabinets are the perfect middle-of-the-road option for most homes.

Roofing & Siding

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When it comes to roofing and siding, shingles and clapboard are the primary materials used for homes on Cape Cod. Each has its pros and cons.

  1. Cedar Shingle Siding | Cedar Shingle Roof: Pros – This is the quintessential Cape Cod look. The shingles will weather to a natural silver color. Cons – Although they will last for decades, salty sea air can cause rot and curling; they need to be power-washed every couple of years to get rid of mold.
  2. Dipped Cedar Shingle Siding | Cedar Shingle Roof: Pros – With “dipped” shingle siding, you can opt for natural or a color; they last longer than untreated cedar shingles and are not prone to mold. Cons – They are pricier than untreated shingles.
  3. Dipped Cedar Shingle Siding | Asphalt Shingle Roofing:Pros – Asphalt roofing shingles like these come in a variety of colors and are the least expensive roofing option. Cons – They can look “flat” on a home.
  4. Clapboard Siding | Architectural Shingle Roof:Pros – Clapboard siding adds a regal look and works beautifully for both antique homes and more contemporary styles; architectural roof shingles are also made of asphalt, but they add depth. They also last longer. Cons – Clapboard siding needs to be painted every few years.

Decorative Woodwork

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Decorative woodwork — or “millwork” — is just what it sounds like: purely for aesthetic value, rather than serving any structural purpose.

  1. Beadboard: The ultimate Cape Cod add-on, beadboard can be used in virtually any room for added texture and visual interest (though it can warp in full baths because of steam).
  2. Shiplap: Chip and Joanna Gaines created a nation-wide love of shiplap with their show Fixer Upper.Like beadboard, shiplap is lengths of wood joined together, but the pieces of wood are much wider, and shiplap is often installed horizontally rather than vertically.
  3. Chair Rail & Crown Molding: While chair rails, wood trim installed at waist height around the entire perimeter of a room, can serve a practical purpose — they were initially used only in dining rooms so that chairs wouldn’t ding the walls — they are now primarily ornamental and work in most rooms. Crown molding wraps around a room where the ceiling meets the walls. Both add a rich finishing touch to a space.
  4. Coffered Ceiling: Woodwork arranged in boxes on a ceiling, creating the look of a grid. Always an exquisite addition to a space, coffered ceilings can help delineate spaces within an open floor plan living area.

Please let us know if we can provide you with additional information, or if you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation.