Light blue exterior paint on an Auburndale MA home, home painting glossary
Exterior Aluminum Painting-Green Suburban New-England-House, house painting glossary

Glossary of House Painting Terms

Communicate your Newton, MA, house painters with confidence.


Adhesion - How well dry paint stays attached to the surface. The three main factors impacting adhesion are local weather conditions, paint chemistry, and surface preparation. Here in Newton and Auburndale, May through September offer the ideal temperature conditions for optimal adhesion.

Aeration - Bubbles that form in paints during preparation which can affect the application.

Atomize - When a paint gun turns paint into particles or mist.

Bare Substrate - A surface without a coat of paint.

Base - The initial layer in a multiple-part paint application.

Blast Cleaning - Surface preparation of steel by use of compression-propelled abrasive materials.

Bleeding - Discoloration in a new coat of paint when the old application shows through. In Newton, Lexington, Cambridge, Watertown, and other Massachusetts areas, where there are many historical homes featuring darker paint jobs, it is vital to prepare the painting surface properly to avoid this phenomenon.

Blending - Merging two colors together so the difference is indiscernible. Also called feathering.

Blistering - Bubbles under the surface of a paint coat. This can occur when your local painters don't pay attention to humidity conditions. In Newton, Auburndale, Belmont, and anywhere in the Boston metro area, the humidity remains relatively stable at roughly 67%. Exterior paint can tolerate humidities of 40% to 70%. August requires special care, as humidity often rises above 70% during this month.

Blushing - A milky look caused by moisture mixing into drying paint. Also called grinning through. We want dry conditions to avoid blushing. In Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chestnut Hill, Jamaica Plain, or other local service area towns, July is our absolute safest month to paint, with just 3.4 inches of precipitation. Of course, that means it's also our busiest month, so if you want us to paint your home under ideal conditions, it's important to book early.

Bridging - When the base does not fill in a flaw or a scratch. We hate this, so our Newton homeowners can count on us to handle the light carpentry repairs that prevent this phenomenon.

Brittle - A dry paint coat lacking flexibility.

Checking - Small cracks marring the paint's surface. Also called crows feet or crazing. Caused by the natural aging of the wooden siding that is so common in Newton homes. Wood expands and contracts over time, and the paint moves. Checking is one of the reasons why no exterior paint job lasts forever, even if you hire the best painters in Boston.

Chipping - Removing paint and particles with a sharpened instrument. A service we perform for every homeowner in our Boston metro area service area.

Cissing - Retraction of paint into indents causes the surface to show through. Cissing only occurs when the home's surface is contaminated, so we pressure wash, sand, and prime every home we touch anywhere in our service area. Air pollution in Newton, Needham, Somerville, Wellesley, Weston, and the rest of the towns we visit is just too intense to leave anything to chance.

Color Match - Two colors with no visible difference. This allows us to offer our Newton homeowners color matching for their historic homes, even when the original paint color or brand has been discontinued.

Crocodiling - When wide, crossing cracks form in paint layers. Caused mainly by application mistakes, such as applying an oil-based paint over a water-based primer or applying a topcoat before the undercoat is dry.

Curdling - Partial drying of paint.

Delamination - Peeling of paint. Also called flake-off.

Grinding - Removing flaws by way of mechanical sanding.

Hardness - A paint's resistance to damage.

Hiding Power - A paint's ability to cover the surface or layer of paint underneath. Also called opacity.

Hold-Out - A paint's ability to resist the next coat soaking into it.

Jelling - When the paint dries before an application.

Lap - A section where an application extends over another coat.

Lifting - When moisture reaches and swells an undercoat, wrinkling the topcoat.

Livering - Thickening of paint that indicates it is jelling.

Mudcracking - Cracks formed by paint shrinking when it dries. Caused when a painter applies the paint too thick to hide imperfections rather than preparing the surface properly. This is why homeowners in Jamaica Plain, Needham, Roslindale, Waban, Winchester, Newton, and anywhere else in our service area can count on us to prepare the surface properly, use primer, and apply the paint evenly and at the proper thickness.

Masking - Using tape and other coverings to prevent paint from applying to certain areas.

Nap - Paint roller fibers.

Overspray - Sprayed paint that does not hit the surface.

Peeling - Curling and detaching of paint from loss of adhesion.

Recoat Time - Time necessary before a second application.

Runs - Thin, downward ribbons of paint. They are also called sags. This is caused either when a painter thins the paint too much before application or applies the paint too thickly. Choosing the highest quality paints, treating them right, and applying them correctly is the key to great results!

Spot Priming - Applying primer to small areas where the surface has become exposed.

Substrate - The surface to be painted.

Touch-Dry - The point where paint no longer feels tacky to the touch.

Water Spotting - Spots caused by a paint's reaction to water when drying. It can be caused by improper power washing or attempting to paint when prevailing weather conditions are too wet.


Additive - A chemical introduced to paint to change or add properties.

Acrylic - Paint created from a group of plastics known for its color and gloss.

Air Dry - Allowing paint to dry at room temperature. Air-drying paints are designed for this.

Alkyd - A synthetic material added to oil-based paints. Can modify other paint properties.

Anti-Condensation Paint - Paint that will minimize the effects of moisture. Thanks to the high humidity and precipitation levels, we often use anti-condensation paint in the Boston metro area.

Anti-Corrosive Paint - Paint designed to prevent corrosion on steel.

Basecoat - High-color paint that requires a clear finish.

Binder - A component in the paint that holds it together and allows adhesion.

Brushability - Ease of applying a coat with a paintbrush. Also called consistency.

Cast - A shade of a color.

Catalyst - An additive that speeds drying time and improves other elements. Also called an activator, accelerator, or curing agent.

Coat - A single application of paint.

Colorant - Pigment used to create the color in paint.

Colorfast  - Color able to retain its cast over time. Also called color retention.

Contrast Ratio - Ability of paint to hide the previous coat.

Coverage - How well a paint spreads over the surface.

Concentration - Ratio of elements that cause the sheen of the paint.

Cure - The process of paint drying.

Die-Back - The loss of gloss over time.

Durability - How well paint holds up to the elements. We choose the most durable paints we can find—Newton contends with many elements!

Fading - Loss of color and/or gloss over time.

Filler - Substance used to fill in dents and damage and smooth masonry.

Flex Agent - Additive that decreases brittleness.

Gloss - Amount that paint reflects light.

Gloss Retention - Ability of paint to maintain its shine.

Hard Setting - When solid paint collects at the bottom of a container.

Hue - The primary color of paint.

Intumescent Paint - Paint that swells when exposed to flame, allowing extra time for evacuation.

Lacquer - A clear coat of paint that dries quickly.

Metamerism - When two colors match under one but not all conditions.

Mildew Resistance - A paint's ability to prevent mildew growth.

Moisture Resistance - A paint's ability to withstand moisture and prevent the damage it can cause.

Pigment - Part of the paint that provides the color.

Primer - Paint designed to prepare a surface for other coats. It often protects the surface as well.

Resin - Binding agents in paint.

Sealer - Paint that prevents interactions between coats before and after it.

Sheen - Gloss level of paint.

Skinning - When a thick layer forms on top of paint in a can.

VOC - Volatile Organic Compounds; a component of some paints regulated by the EPA. Our Boston metro area and Newton, MA, clients often choose to take advantage of our low-VOC or no-VOC paint options instead.


Baseboards - The protective and decorative trim at the bottom edge of a wall.

Color Wheel - List of colors that helps in choosing paints. Of course, clients in our service area can simply meet with one of our color specialists and share their preferences rather than trying to match colors themselves.

Corrosion - Corruption of metal by other elements and materials.

Crown Molding - Molding that gracefully flares at the top edge of a wall. Quite common in Boston area historic homes.

Depth - Comparative lightness or darkness between shades of color.

Epoxy - A stain-resistant coat that fills some flaws.

E.P.A. - The government agency in charge of environmental regulations.

Humidity - The amount of moisture in the air.

Masonry - Structures made from minerals.

Mildew - Fungus that can grow on paint and epoxy, especially in damp, low-light conditions.

M.S.D.S. - Sheets with safety information on all chemicals, including paints.

Putty - Substance for filling imperfections.

Siding - Material used to create a home's exterior, usually wood, aluminum, or vinyl. In Newton and the surrounding areas, many historic homes have wood siding. Synthetic siding only appeared about 50 to 60 years ago. It can last a long time, but believe it or not, properly maintained wood siding lasts longer. There are buildings in the area that are 200+ years old that continue to maintain the bulk of their original wooden siding.

Trim - Finishing or decorative molding.