Exterior Renovations Glossary

Embarking on an exterior renovation project can be both exciting and daunting. As you transform the outward appearance of your home or property, familiarizing yourself with common industry terminology will empower you to communicate effectively with contractors and designers. Understanding these terms is key to ensuring that your vision for your home’s façade, landscaping, or outdoor structures is realized to your satisfaction.

One of the first steps in mastering exterior renovation lingo is getting to know the structural components of your home’s exterior. Terms like ‘eave,’ which refers to the part of the roof that extends beyond the face of walls, provide a reference point for discussing changes to the roofline. Recognizing the various elements of the exterior, such as a ‘downspout’ that directs water from your gutters away from the foundation, or a ‘flange’ that aids in waterproofing around roof penetrations, is important for addressing functional aspects of renovation.

As you dive deeper into planning your renovation, you’ll also encounter terms describing aesthetic elements and design principles. Understanding what a ‘balustrade’ contributes to a balcony or what constitutes a ‘bay window’ can enhance your ability to achieve the desired look and feel. Being well-versed in this glossary of terms will facilitate a smoother renovation process and help in bringing about the outcome you envision for your home’s exterior.

Types of Exterior Renovations

In the realm of exterior renovations, certain upgrades can significantly enhance both the aesthetic appeal and functionality of your home. Focusing on roofing, siding, windows, and doors can yield a solid return on investment while protecting your property from the elements.


Your roof is a critical component of your home’s exterior defense system. Replacing or repairing a roof can not only prevent water damage but also improve energy efficiency. Choose materials like asphalt shingles or metal roofing for durability and longevity.


The siding on your home serves as both a shield against weather and a key element of your home’s curb appeal. Options to consider include vinyl, fiber cement, or wood siding, each offering a balance of protection and style.


Upgraded windows can transform your home’s exterior and provide substantial energy savings. Look for energy-efficient models that complement the architectural style of your house, and consider features like double glazing for enhanced insulation.


Your front door is the focal point of your home’s exterior. A well-chosen door should be sturdy and secure while aligning with the design of your exterior. Materials like steel, fiberglass, or wood can offer a combination of strength, efficiency, and aesthetic versatility.

Exterior Painting and Finishing

In your exterior renovation project, selecting the right type of paint and employing proper techniques are crucial for durability and aesthetic appeal. Finishing treatments further protect and enhance the appearance of your property.

Paint Types

Latex Paints: You’ll find these water-based paints are flexible and quick-drying, which makes them ideal for varying outdoor conditions. They resist fading and breathe better than oil-based paints, reducing blistering. Oil-Based Paints: These are known for their durability and rich finish. You should use them on surfaces that take a beating from the weather and require a more resilient coating.

Painting Techniques

Brush Application: This technique offers you precise control and is suitable for small to medium-sized areas or detailed trim work. For the best results, use high-quality brushes and work the paint smoothly to avoid brush marks. Spray Application: This is a fast method to cover large exterior areas. You need specialized equipment, but be mindful of overspray and the necessity for masking off areas to protect them from unwanted paint.

Finishing Treatments

Sealants: After painting, applying a sealant can offer your exterior surfaces additional protection from moisture and UV rays. Always ensure the sealant is compatible with the paint you have applied. Primers: You should apply a primer before the paint to enhance adhesion, increase paint durability, and provide extra protection for the material underneath. Select a primer based on your paint type and the material of your exterior surfaces.

Materials and Textures

Your home’s exterior is defined by the materials and textures you choose, which not only contribute to its aesthetic appeal but also to its durability and maintenance needs. Let’s explore the main materials and their associated textures used in exterior renovation.

Brick and Stone

Brick is a timeless and durable option for your home’s facade, typically held in place with mortar and sometimes secured with metal strips known as brick ties. The texture of brick can vary from smooth to rugged, and it comes in various colors and sizes. Stone offers a natural look with its own unique texture, ranging from the roughness of fieldstone to the smoothness of polished granite. Stone accents can be used as veneer, adding solidity and visual interest to your home’s exterior.

Wood and Composite

For a classic and versatile exterior, wood siding provides a range of textures from the traditional smooth clapboard to rustic rough-sawn shakes. Wood requires regular maintenance to prevent weathering but offers a warm, organic appearance. Composite materials, on the other hand, mimic wood’s texture and are often more durable and low-maintenance, with the added benefit of resistance to decay and insects.

Stucco and Plaster

Stucco is a plaster-like material typically made from cement, which can be applied in various textures, from smooth to a stucco lace finish. Its versatility lies in the ability to be tinted in numerous colors, eliminating the need for painting. Plaster techniques have also evolved to provide durable exterior finishes that can replicate the look and feel of more traditional materials.

Metal and Vinyl

Metal siding offers a modern and industrial appearance with textures that can be smooth or corrugated, providing durability and minimal upkeep. It’s commonly used for its reflective qualities and sleek finish. Vinyl siding is another popular choice due to its cost-effectiveness and variety in textures, from wood grain to smooth finish, and it never requires painting, making it a practical option for many homeowners.

Structural Components

In the realm of exterior renovation, understanding the structural components is crucial for both the integrity and safety of your property. These elements form the essential framework that supports the entirety of the building.


Your home’s stability begins with its foundation. It’s the solid base that supports the weight of the entire structure above. Foundations can vary from shallow forms like slab-on-grade to deep systems such as pile or pier foundations, each suited to different soil conditions and building types.

Beams and Supports

Beams and supports are critical elements that bear loads and distribute weight across the structure. In exterior renovations, pay attention to both the visible features like pergolas or decks and the internal support beams that strengthen the building’s frame. Materials commonly used for these purposes include steel, engineered wood, and concrete, chosen for their durability and load-bearing capacities.

Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts play a pivotal role in managing water runoff from your roof, preventing water infiltration into the foundation and protecting the structural integrity. Regular maintenance is key; ensure that gutters are clear of debris and that downspouts direct water effectively away from the building to avoid potential damage.

Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor spaces are a pivotal aspect of exterior renovation, enhancing both the aesthetics and functionality of your home. Whether you are building new areas or upgrading existing ones, understanding the components of outdoor spaces is crucial for an effective renovation.

Decks and Patios

Decks are typically elevated structures made from woods like cedar or composite materials which provide a durable, flat surface suitable for outdoor seating and dining. Patios, on the other hand, are ground-level areas constructed from concrete, bricks, or stone pavers that offer a versatile space for entertainment or relaxation in your garden.

Landscaping Elements

Your outdoor space’s visual appeal significantly relies on landscaping. It includes a variety of plantings from perennial beds and shrubs to trees. Don’t overlook the importance of structural elements like privacy walls or fences, which can define different zones within your garden, and features such as decorative water elements or statuary to create focal points.

Driveways and Walkways

A well-designed driveway not only provides a practical approach to your house but can also enhance the property’s curb appeal. Walkways, usually made of the same materials as patios, guide visitors to different areas and should integrate seamlessly with the overall landscape design, ensuring safe and easy navigation around your property.

Renovation Terminology

Renovating the exterior of your home involves understanding a variety of specific terms. This section provides you with essential terminology, distinguishing between restoration and remodeling, guiding you through permitting and zoning language, and clarifying common phrases used by contractors.

Restoration vs. Remodeling

Restoration refers to the process of returning a structure to its original condition using materials and techniques true to the time of its construction. In contrast, remodeling involves updating or changing the structure to meet modern tastes or needs, potentially altering the original design and materials.

Permitting and Zoning

Permitting involves obtaining the necessary approvals from local authorities before commencing renovation work. This ensures safety and compliance with building codes. Zoning refers to laws specifying what types of structures and uses are allowed in a particular area. Your project must adhere to these laws, which may impact the scope and design of your renovation.

Contractor Language

When working with a contractor, you’ll encounter terms like “bid” and “estimate.” A bid is a fixed offer to complete the work for a certain price, while an estimate is a rough calculation of the project’s cost that may change. The term “change order” signifies an agreement to alter the original plan, possibly affecting the project’s timeline and cost.