Last edited 27 Jan 2021

Domestic v residential

The term 'domestic' applies to things realting to dwellings, whether a house, apartment, or whatever else may be used as a home. It is derived from the Latin word 'domesticus' which derives from 'domus' a type of house occupied by the wealthy during ancient Roman times.

While the words domestic and residential are mostly synonymous, they have come to be used in slightly different ways.

To use the terms ‘domestic housing’ or ‘residential housing’ would be seen as tautological (i.e superfluous) as the word ‘housing’ contains the concept of domesticity (i.e a house) as does the word ‘residential’. Usually, houses that are not domestic are differentiated by a prefix such as ‘publichouse (pub or tavern) or publishing house.

Similarly, some words have come to be linked by usage with the word domestic and not residential. For example, a domestic pet (such as a cat or dog), a domestic appliance, or home appliance, but rarely a ‘residential animal’, or residential appliance although if used in this way they would be understood. Much of the usage of words is based on convention and tradition.

When these words are used in conjunction the word sub-contractor there are a few subtle differences but they are more or less interchangeable without causing too many problems. Thus, ‘residential sub-contractor’ and ‘domestic sub-contractor’ can mean the same thing but the following very subtle differences may apply.

A residential sub-contractor is one whose work is connected to any aspect of housing, whether that is houses, mansions, flats or whatever type of dwelling in question. Their work may involve installing drains or patios, entertainment systems, alarms, windows etc. On the other hand, ‘domestic sub-contractor’ tends to have more internal connotations, so it may be used in the context of a sub-contractor whose work is to do with laying carpet, installing appliances, boilers and central heating, or alarm systems; or fitting kitchens and bathrooms or a host of other internal work connected with people’s homes. But the difference in meaning between ‘residential sub-contractor’ and ‘domestic subcontractor’ is very subtle and there may be a degree of interchangeability between the two uses.

For more information see: Residential definition.

NB Withing the construction industry, the term domestic subcontractor also has a specific meaning, referring to any sub-contractor, other than a nominated-sub contractor, that the main contractor sub-contracts to carry out part of the works. The work of the sub-contractoris the responsibility of the main contractor as far as the contract between the main contractorand the client is concerned. A sub-contractor can be considered domestic if they were freely selected by the contractor or they were selected by the contractor from a list of at least three possible sub-contractors. For more information see: Domestic subcontractor.

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