Construction Humor (If There Is Such A Thing)

I know I am dating myself, but it was at least 30 years ago, at least 30, when I stumbled upon these so-called “Construction Definitions.”

I have no idea where these came from, but I doctored them up and added a few of my own.

While these definitions definitely have a “woe-is-me” whine, they remind us that construction is a tough business. So with a sense of humor:


Contractor:  a gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut or deal.

Bid opening:  a poker game in which the losing hand wins.

Low bidder:  a contractor who is wondering what he left out.

Engineer’s estimate:  the cost of construction in heaven.

Architect’s estimate:  half the engineer’s estimate.

Project manager:  the conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union.

Subcontractor:  a musician in an acapella group.

Critical path method:  a management technique for losing your shirt under perfect control.

Delayed payment:  a tourniquet applied at the pockets.

Construction lender:  one skilled at applying tourniquets.

Completion date:  the point at which liquidated damages begin.

Liquidated damages:  a penalty for failing to achieve the impossible.

Change order:  seldom signed request from owner for free upgrades.

Plans:  a good idea at the time.

License board:  “I’m from the government and I am here to help.”

Punch list:  a free long-term maintenance contract.

Owner:  a dreamer with a champagne appetite on a beer budget.

Inspector:  another immovable hurdle in a race to the finish.

Warranty:  a one-year period that has no end.

Auditors:  people who go in after the war is lost and bayonet the wounded.

Lawyers:  people who go in after the auditors and strip the bodies. (ouch).


Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada.  Jim’s practice areas include:  real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters.  He may be reached at or  

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