The 5 Most Common Items Found in Contractor Lingo

The 5 Most Common Items Found in Contractor Lingo

2 min read
Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is a full-time buy and hold and fix and flip real estate investor with over 15 years of experience. He and his wife Terron operate Kevron Properties, LLC, a boutique real estate investing company in Memphis, Tenn.

Kevin was a past president and is a current board member of the Memphis Investors Group. He’s also a blogger and writer who has authored hundreds of real estate investing articles on BiggerPockets and his own blog,, some of which have been featured on The Motley Fool and MONEY: Personal Finance News & Advice.

Kevin is also host of the SmarterLandlording podcast.

Originally from the Washington D.C. area, Kevin moved to Memphis to attend graduate school at The University of Memphis. After receiving his master’s degree in City and Regional Planning, Kevin climbed the planning career ladder to eventually become planning director of a county in the Memphis metro area. He “retired” from planning in 2003 to pursue real estate investing full-time.

Since “retiring,” Kevin’s main real estate investment strategy has been to buy and hold, otherwise known as landlording. Generally working in historic Midtown Memphis, Kevin is also known to fix and flip grand, historic homes when the right opportunity presents itself. He and his wife Terron (who is the principal broker at Perk Realty) have participated in dozens of real estate transactions in the Memphis metro area.

Kevin has the heart of a teacher and believes in helping others through education. An instructor of college-level geography for over 25 years, Kevin also regularly participates in seminars and panel discussions at such forums as the Memphis Investor’s Group and the Single-Family Rental Summit.

In addition, Kevin has been interviewed in publications such as the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Memphis Daily News, and the Foreclosure News Report.

Kevin earned a master’s in City and Regional Planning from The University of Memphis.

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Every industry seems to have its own lingo.

Lawyers have legalese (ugh!). Surveyors speak of chains, pins and rods. Medical professionals seem to speak another language all together.

We real estate investors also have our own lingo. Words such as deed, parcel, lease, cap rate and cash flow are fairly common to us. As investors though, we often need to learn and understand the lingo of other professions. And, since many of us deal or plan to deal with distressed properties in need of extensive repair, contractor lingo is not a bad thing to learn.

Just like everyone else, contractors can often speak in their own lingo. Many times we may have heard the words before, but since we did not or do not deal with those items every day, we never really understood them.

The 5 Most Common Items Found in Contractor Lingo

But learning the lingo can really make your job as an investor much easier. It’s like you and your contractor will be able to speak the same language. And, by knowing and speaking the same language, there is a much smaller chance for errors and misunderstandings later on down the road.

1. Roofers Speak in “Squares.”

A square is a 10 x 10 square foot area or 100 square feet. When getting a roofing estimate, a contractor will tell you how many squares of shingles are needed.

Related: The Investor’s Guide to Working with Contractors

2. Carpet and Padding Measurements

Carpet and padding is generally sold by the square yard, not the square foot and these numbers can be easily confused. To determine square yards simply measure the square feet and divide by 9.

3. Electric Service

The power lines running to your property generally attach above your roof through a weatherheard. These lines then feed into an electric meter and a circuit breaker panel. All of this taken together is called your electric service.

4. Circuit Breakers and Amps

Circuit breaker panels (and older fuse boxes) are often defined by amps. Amps are simply a measurement of the amount of power available. The lower the number, the less power you have available.

Older homes with older panels may only have 60 amps of service. In newer homes the standard is somewhere between 150 and 200 amps. Older homes generally do not have enough amps in their panels to serve all of the modern amenities like clothes dryers, air conditioning and other electric appliances. Often, the entire electric service has to be upgraded to accommodate modern amenities.

5. HVACs

HVAC people speak in tons. Tons describe the cooling capacity of an air conditioning system. As a general rule, 1 ton will cool about 500 square feet. So if you have a 1,500 square foot home, you will need to install a 3 ton system. Of course the more tons you need, the more expensive the system.

Related: 5 Tips for Installing an HVAC System

Of course there is much, much more. The above are only examples to get you thinking about the jargon you may need to learn.

What other contractor jargon should a real estate investor know?

What have I left out?

Be sure to leave your comments below!

Every industry seems to have its own lingo. Lawyers have legalese (ugh!). Surveyors speak of chains, pins and rods. Medical professionals seem to speak another language all together. We real […]