Construction Terms & Definitions


When specific items in your estimate/contract are unknown, and we want to start work, these unknown items become allowances. A dollar value is assigned to each item. When the actual item is chosen and the cost is known, the assigned dollar value gets replaced with the actual cost. The difference then adjusts the contract total either up or down.

Detailed Cost Estimate

A Detailed Cost Estimate is a customized document that describes the details of each phase of the project, including information on the materials, labor and costs of each. Making a detailed cost estimate involves reviewing plans, consulting with the architects, meeting with the subcontractors, obtaining quotes from suppliers, organizing it into a comprehensible package, and making revisions after your initial review. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 150 hours depending on the size and complexity of your project.

Joint Escrow Account

When you sign the contract and pay your deposit, you also place your final contract payment into a joint escrow account. This account has  two signers, you, the owner, and Sacred Oak Homes. Once the money is deposited both signers are needed to remove the money. Any interest accrued before contract completion goes to the owner. Any interest accrued after completion goes to Sacred Oak Homes. All of this is detailed in the contract.

Levels of Finish

There are varying degrees of finish, from museum-quality to college dorm quality, and everything in between. For example, the level of finish on the drywall in the garage may be lower than that of the living spaces. Wood floors can be hand-scraped and left bare, or they can be sanded in place and coated with a tough clear finish or stained another color, or they can be pre-finished from the factory. Siding nails can be set flush to the siding and painted over, or they can be set, filled and sanded and then painted. You can choose Belgian limestone tile at $300/SF or you can choose glazed ceramic tile at $10/SF. We can help you select the optimal finish quality for all aspects of the project with respect to your goals and priorities.

Punch Lists

As each stage of work nears completion, we will meet with your architect, the appropriate inspectors, and you (or your representative) and make a “punch list” of items that need completion or correction. Once all the items that can be addressed on the punch list are finished, that stage is considered complete and can be signed off by the inspector and architect. Sometimes, a few items may need to be carried onto the next punch list. The punch list system helps ensure that all details get addressed.

Substantial Completion

Your project reaches substantial completion when it has passed all safety inspections and you can move in to it, although there may be some details in need of completion or correction (e.g. incomplete painting in certain areas; a replacement for a damaged fixture or appliance hasn’t arrived or been installed yet; or exterior finishes cannot be applied until better weather arrives, etc).