There is no end of painting and decorating jargon in our industry. If you’re having a little difficulty understanding the difference between cutting in and laying off, or distinguishing your fitch from your frog tape, we’re here to help.
Here’s our Paint my Home A-Z of terms, tools and decorator’s slang to help you navigate your way through the various products, instructions, and finishes.
Acrylic – A term describing water based decorating materials.
Anaglypta – Originally a trade name but now used to describe wallpaper with an embosses surface pattern.
Angled brush – A paint brush with angles bristles designed to give great accuracy when painting corners and edges.
Architrave – A moulding that frames a window or door.
Brushing out – Spreading paint or other liquid finishes to give an even coverage.
Caulk – A flexible mastic compound used to seal joints and fill small gaps around windows or architrave for example. Applied using a caulking gun to enabling a neat bead to be applied to seams and cracks.
Cornice/coving – An ornamental moulding around the wall of a room just below the ceiling.
Cutting in – Painting the hard to reach and fiddly areas at the edge of a wall. Especially applies where a paint roller or pad has been used that cannot reach the edges or corners. Where the wall meets the ceiling or around a window for example.
Drying time – The time it takes for a single coat of paint to dry fully.
Eggshell – An oil or water based paint with a low sheen finish. Eggshell refers to the finish – it looks like the shell of an egg! Sits somewhere between matt and a silk finish.
Emulsion – A water based paint normally used to paint large areas such as walls or ceilings.
Fitch – Small brush with a long wooden handle used to get to awkward or recessed areas.
Flat (paint) – Practically no sheen even when the surface is viewed from an angle. Often used to describe Matt emulsion, ‘Flat Matt’.
Flexible filler – A filler that is suitable for use between surfaces where movement occurs, due to its ability to absorb small movements in wood or plaster surfaces without cracking. It is often used for minor repairs that will be covered by paint.
Frog tape – Another name for decorators/masking tape, easily removed without damaging the surface or leaving a residue.
Gloss (paint) – A hardwearing, high sheen paint. Mainly used as a top coat for woodwork.
Key – Or ‘key in’. The roughening of a surface to provide a bond for the subsequent finish.
Knotting – A shellac based solution used to seal knots in untreated wood before priming.
Laying off – The final, gentle brush strokes that are applied to provide a smooth finish.
Liming – The application of liming wax in order to stain softwood a whitish colour.
Lining paper – A wallpaper used to cover poor surfaces prior to applying paint or wallpaper.
Low tac – A term used to describe types of masking tape that have a low level of adhesion. Thye can be removed easily without damaging the surface.
Make good – To prepre a surface for decorating by filling holes, sanding & smoothing surface etc… It is often said that ‘80% of the time is making good, 20% actual decorating’.
Masking/mask off – temporary covering of areas that are not being painted.
Matt (paint) – Smooth emulsion that helps hide imperfections as it doesn’t reflect the light. It has no sheen or shine.
Mist coat (paint) – A watered down, very thin coat of paint. The first coat applied over freshly dried plaster.
Non drip (paint) – A thixotropic paint that has a consistency similar to jelly, and so tends not to run or drip.
Oil (paint) – Paint based on an oil solvent. The final surface is hard wearing but the paint gives off a strong odour. Not regularly used in domestic painting and decorating.
Opacity – Refers to the covering power of paint.
Pigment – A component of paint that provides the whiteness or colour.
Plumbline/plumb bob – A device used to create a true straight line. A weight, piece of string and masking tape. Tie the weight to the end of the string, tape to other end to the top of the wall. Once the weight settles you can use this line as your guide, essential for hanging wallpaper!
Primer (paint) – A paint used to seal and stabilise a surface before further coats are applied. Different types are necessary for different surfaces. It will be followed with an undercoat for wood.
PVA – Polyvinyl acetate – the basis of various types of adhesive. Often used diluted as a stabilising solution for powdery surfaces.
Rag rolling – A paint effect that is produced by making a rag into a sausage shape and then rolling down a glaze or emulsion to produce a directional pattern.
Runs – The drips that appear in the finished painting of woodwork, caused by trying to apply the paint too quickly.
Scuttle – A rectangle bucket, used to decant paint form the tin. It has grooved sides enabling use for bulk application with a roller or easily with a brush.
Silk (paint) – This is a mid-sheen finish, meaning it looks like a slightly polished surface and will reflect a it of light. Silk finish is associated with walls and satin finish for woodwork.
Size – Thinned adhesive applied to walls to seal the surface before hanging wallpaper.
Soaking time – The time which wallpaper is left after painting before hanging. This allows the paste to soak in and prevent the formation of bubbles.
Stripper (paint) – A solution (liquid or paint) used to chemically remove old layers of paint from a surface.
Top coat (paint) – The final coat of paint which is ‘laid off’ to give the final perfect finish.
Trade paint – A formula that has higher opacity and better coverage than general DIY paint brands. It is usually more durable and tends to keep the colour longer. It I distributed by specialist decorator centres, preferred by professional painter and decorators.
Undercoat (paint) – The paint applied after the primer to mask the underlying material amd provide a key for the top coat.
Varnish – A resinous or water based solution that seals and protects surfaces.
Vinyl paint – An emulsion paint with good wearing and cleaning properties. Available in a number of finishes such as silk (semi sheen) and Matt (no sheen).
Wood stain – A wood finish which is absorbed into the outer surface to provide colour and protection.
Yellowing – Refers to the discolouration of oil based paint over time
If all that wasn’t enough, here’s a few slang terms commonly used by painter and decorators.
Beastie – 12 inch roller.
Flick over – Light coat of paint.
Gunning – Apply a bead of caulk with a caulking gun.
Lick – A touch of paint.
Lid – Ceiling.
Load up – Prime your brush or roller.
Paddle – 6 inch brush.
Rad roller – 4 inch mini roller.
Scratch – Use sandpaper.
Slinging – Hanging wallpaper.
Snots – Drips on the wall from poor application or poor quality paint.
Toshing/Bashing – Rough painting without care or attention.
Whites – Overalls.
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