36 Home Improvement and Painting Terms to Know

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Whenever you’re planning a home improvement project, it’s helpful to get to know some of the commonly used terms. Having some background knowledge and vocabulary will help you more easily communicate with the contractors, specialists, and workers you hire and help you make informed decisions about your project.

Here’s a look at some of the painting and home improvement terms you should know!

1. Adhesion

In painting, the adhesion of a coating refers to the bond that exists between the paint and the substrate; in other words, it describes how well paint stays attached to the surface once it has dried.

2. Aeration

Aeration describes the process that occurs when paint comes into contact with the air. It’s commonly used to describe bubbles that can sometimes form in paints during the preparation stages. It can negatively impact the paint’s application.

3. Allowance

In construction and home improvement, allowance refers to the amount of money that has been set aside for purchasing specific materials. For example, in a kitchen renovation, there may be a set allowance designated for the purchase of countertops, cabinets, or flooring.

4. Atomization

When a paint gun turns paint into a spray or mist, it is called atomization. There are a variety of different types of paint guns (or paint atomization systems), and different technologies will yield specific results. 

5. Base coat

In a painting project that involves multiple applications, the base coat refers to the very first layer that is applied to the substrate.

6. Bleeding

Bleeding is a type of defect that can impact the paint. It’s used to describe the process of a soluble dye from a substrate that seeps, diffuses, or “bleeds” through the top-coat paint color. Bleeding generally causes a spotty discoloration. 

7. Blending

Blending is the process of merging or combining two paint colors together, either to create a smooth transition from one color to another (for example, to create an ombre effect for an accent wall) or to create a brand new solid color. 

8. Blistering

When bubble-like spots begin to appear underneath or within a coating of paint, it’s referred to as blistering. This indicates that the painted surface or the paint itself is defective.

9. Blushing

Blushing describes the milky, cloudy appearance of paint that’s caused by water or moisture mixing into paint that is in the process of drying; blushing is also sometimes called “grinning through.”

10. Bridging

Bridging describes a defect in a painted surface that occurs when a base coat doesn’t successfully fill in an existing scratch, chip, or another flaw.

11. Building code

A building code is a set of rules and regulations imposed by federal, state, and local governments to establish minimum trade practices that must be adhered to in order to ensure the safety and integrity of homes and other built structures.

12. Change order

When the terms of a remodeling or renovation contract must be altered or amended, a written document called a change order is used to delineate specific changes to the work performed, the contract sum, or the contract schedule. Change orders are typically used when contractors encounter unexpected issues, such as discovering dry rot after pulling up carpet.

13. Checking

Checking describes the process of small cracks forming in the paint surface. These cracks are also sometimes referred to as “crows feet.”

14. Color match


A color match refers to two colors of paint with no visible difference. It may also be used to describe other home-improvement items, materials, or pieces of furniture or decor that match in color.

15. Crocodiling

Crocodiling describes patterned cracks that form in paint layers, which cross over one another and sometimes resemble the scales of a crocodile. It is a defect that may be caused by applying a hard coating (such as an enamel) over a flexible, water-based primer.

16. Curdling

Curdling happens when paint is left partially open and exposed to air, causing it to become lumpy or chunky.

17. Curing

Curing is the process of paint creating a strong bond to a surface. Curing is not the same as drying; instead, it refers to the hardening of paint as it bonds to the substrate. Paint may feel dry to the touch in 2-12 hours, but takes weeks to finish curing.

18. Dry rot

Dry rot refers to the decayed condition of wood – caused by a common fungus – that occurs when it is exposed to moisture or lack of adequate air circulation over time. As it develops, dry rot can compromise the integrity of a built structure, and must be remedied when it’s discovered.

19. Drywall

Drywall refers to the boards that are used to finish interior walls after framing, plumbing, electrical work, and insulation have been installed. Drywall is also often referred to as sheetrock or plasterboard.

20. General Contractor

A general contractor is primarily responsible for the coordination and execution of a home-improvement project. Depending on the size and scope of a given project, a general contractor may only supervise or may perform some or all of the work themselves.

21. Hardness

In painting, hardness refers to a given paint’s resistance to damage; as you might expect, hard paint is more resistant.

22. Hiding Power

A paint’s hiding power – also called its “opacity” – describes how well it is able to cover the substrate or previous layer of paint.

23. Lap

Lap marks occur on a painted surface where wet and dry layers overlap during the process of application. Maintaining a “wet edge” and painting a surface quickly can eliminate the risk of lapping paint.

24. Lifting

Lifting appears when moisture makes its way under a layer of paint and swells an undercoat, making the top-coat appear wrinkled or withered.

25. Load Bearing

A load-bearing wall, beam, or other structure is one that is necessary to ensure the integrity of a home or other building, and should only ever be removed or altered by qualified contractors, architects, or engineers. A non-load bearing wall can be removed with no impact to the structural integrity of a building.

26. Masking

In painting, masking means using tape, drop cloths, and other protective coverings to prevent paint from being applied to or dripping onto certain areas, such as wood trim or baseboards.

27. Re-coat time

Re-coat time refers to the amount of time necessary for one layer of paint to dry before the next coat can be applied.

28. Remodel

A remodel involves re-purposing an existing space to have a new function. An example might be adding a bathroom to a basement or transforming an attic space into a loft bedroom.

29. Renovation

A renovation refers to updating an old space with new finishings. An example might be retiling a shower or replacing old, cracked countertops in a kitchen.

30. Restoration

A restoration is a home-improvement project that involves returning an existing space or feature in a home to its original state. Examples include refinishing and resealing original hardwood floors or repairing water damage.

31. Runs

A run is a thin ribbon of paint that forms on a vertical substrate when too much paint is applied to one area, creating a downward drip.

32. Specialty contractor

A specialty contractor is a contractor that is licensed in a specific trade, such as HVAC, plumbing, or electrical. Since most general contractors are not required to hold specialty licenses, it’s common for them to subcontract electrical or plumbing work to specialty contractors.

33. Priming

In painting, priming a substrate involves applying a specialized first-coat in order to ensure the selected paint color goes on smoothly. “Spot priming” means primer is only applied to small areas that require it.

34. Subcontractor

A subcontractor is a professional tradesman – such as a painter, finishing carpenter, or electrician, hired to complete a specific part of the contract/project.

35. Substrate

A substrate is a surface to which paint will be applied. A bare substrate refers to a surface that has no coats of paint applied to it.

36. Touch-dry

Paint is referred to as touch-dry when it has dried to the point where it no longer feels tacky when touched.


Comprehensive interior and exterior painting services in the Pacific Northwest

Repainting the exterior of your home or changing the color of your walls, cabinets, or other interior features can completely transform your property. The right paint color, applied with professional techniques and precision, can add aesthetic appeal and increase the resale value of your home.

Are you planning a home improvement project? Bluenote Painting is dedicated to providing the highest level of craftsmanship, attention to detail, and customer service. We take pride in the work we perform. We value quality, great service, and clear communication, and we want to ensure that you love the end result for years to come. That’s why we offer an industry-leading year warranty on all our projects.

Contact us to request a free estimate for your residential or commercial project today!

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