Trade Terms for Commercial Painting, Wall Coverings and Decorating Professionals

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Our Professional Commercial Painting Contractors

have as one of our goals to help inform clients and potential customers alike, with information that may be helpful in what ever aspect or process they may be involved that would include our business or Industry.  

We hope the following  pages of information will be helpful:


Definition of Trade Terms – Provided by the PDCA Website.

5.3. ACCEPTANCE: An agreement, either by express act or by implication from conduct, to the terms of an offer so that a binding contract is formed. If an acceptance modifies the terms or adds new ones, it generally operates as a counteroffer. [Black’s Law]

5.4. ACCESSIBLE: Capable of being reached; being within reach [Merriam-Webster’s]

5.5. ADDITIONAL COATS: Extra layers of paint applied to a surface to overcome a deficiency of the mate- rial due to its hiding ability or the color selection. When additional coats are required the painting and decorating contractor shall be entitled to additional compensation. [PDCA Standard P3]

5.6. ADJACENT: Having a common endpoint or border; being in close proximity [Merriam-Webster’s]

5.7. AGGRESIVE ENVIRONMENT: Environments that will aggressively attack or cause severe corrosion of unprotected substrates. Examples include, but are not limited to: frequent chemical exposures (splash, spillage, fumes), immersion service, marine service and geographical regions with wide temperature ranges, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays and high humidity. In architectural, also treated as an aggressive environment are those conditions where the cost of re-do would be excessive. [MPI]

5.8. AIA: American Institute of Architects

5.9. ARCHITECTURAL CAULKING: The application of caulking (perhaps, but not necessarily, in an integral color) for aesthetic purposes to minimize joints created by construction design and/or deficiencies, and adjacent to painted surfaces, such as: the perimeter of windows or window walls, expansion joints, casework/cabinetry, countertops, prefinished door/window frames, prefinished trim, natural or stained wood, ceramic tile, wallcover- ing, rigid vinyl wallcovering, seamless floors, vinyl base, ceiling grid, floor tile, etc. More specifically, unless the caulking is between two (2) field painted surfaces as further defined in paragraph 5.76, it is not “painter’s caulk”, and is not the responsibility of the painting and decorating contractor unless explicitly specified as such. [PDCA]

5.10. ASTM: A nonprofit technical society (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) that develops and publishes standards, definitions of materials, methods for testing materi- als, recommended installation practices, and speci- fications for materials. [Dictionary of Architecture and Construction]

5.11. AS REQUIRED: A term requiring no action on the part of the painting and decorating contractor unless directed through references in the plans and

ATTIC STOCK: Extra materials indicated in the contract documents to be provided to the Owner for maintenance after completion of the project. [PDCA]

BENCHMARK SAMPLE: A sample that serves as a standard by which other work may be measured or judged. [PDCA]

CALIBRATE: To determine the indication of output of a measuring device with respect to that of a standard. [SSPC]

CERTIFICATION: Confirmation by document under hand or seal as being true, or as meeting a stand- ard or as being as represented. [SSPC]

CHANGE ORDER: An agreement to modify or alter the original contract work. This includes but is not limited to, corrective work for “damage caused by others” and “latent damage.” Adjustments to the contract amount and completion time should be part of this agreement. The contracting entity will issue the change order. See PDCA Standard P18. [PDCA]

CLOSELY-FABRICATED: Characteristic of an item consisting of interwoven components, such as chain-link fencing. [PDCA Estimating Guide Volume 1]

COAT: A layer of paint, varnish, lacquer or other material that is applied and then allowed to dry. To back roll or apply a wet-on-wet film still constitutes a single coat. [MPI]

COATING: Generic term for paints, lacquers, enamels, printing inks, etc.; a liquid, liquefiable or mastic composition which is converted to solid protective, decorative or functional adherent film after application as a thin layer. It also refers to films applied to paper, plastics or foils. [ASTM] [FSCT]

COATING APPLICATOR: An individual who applies a decorative or protective coating. In law, also a company engaged in the application of coatings. Can also be an application device. [MPI]

COATING DAMAGE: A reduction or loss of protec- tive, aesthetic or identifying characteristics result- ing from physical impact, intense heat, excessive moisture, chemical contact or other external factors. Damage includes, but is not limited to, blisters, rust bloom, chipping, cracking, peeling and other forms of delamination, color change and excessive wear. [PDCA]

COATING WORK: An all-inclusive term used to define all operations required to accomplish a complete coating system. The term shall be construed to include materials, equipment, labor, preparation of surfaces, control of ambient condi- tions, application of coating systems, inspection, etc. [SSPC]

COLOR: One aspect of appearance; a stimulus based on visual response to light, and consisting of three dimensions of hue, saturation and lightness. [FSCT]

COLOR RANGE: The extent of colors, tone or hue. Paint manufacturer’s systems of color tint bases used in conjunction with colorants to produce a wide range of colors, including pastel, mid-tone, deep-tone, ultra-deep tone and variations thereof. [Craftsman’s]

COLORANT: Any substance that imparts color to another material or mixture. Colorants can be either dyes or pigments. [Craftsman’s]

COLORS TO BE SELECTED: The designation of paint colors in accordance with PDCA Standard P3, Designation of Paint Colors. Allows for project pricing as long as the type and placement of colors and the product type have been clearly delineated. [PDCA Standard P3]

CONCEALED SPACE: An area, item or surface not visible from a position of normal use of the facility. [PDCA]

CONTRACTING ENTITY: The general contrac- tor, owner of the property, construction manager, developer or other entity legally responsible for the agreement or authorized agent of any of the above. [PDCA Standard P1]

COVERAGE: An ambiguous ter m that sometimes refers to hiding power and other times to spreading rate. (This term does not imply that a uniform color and/or sheen will be attained.) [SSPC]

CROWDING: More craft activity in a given area than can be accommodated efficiently. [PDCA Standard P7]

DAMAGE: Abuse or injury to a paint film or substrate which would blemish its appearance or impair its usefulness or value. [PDCA]

DAMAGE CAUSED BY OTHERS: “Damage” caused by individuals other than those employed by the painting and decorating contractor. [PDCA]

DECORATIVE (PAINT) FINISHES: Application of paints or glazes to adorn, decorate or embellish a surface as compared to a plain solid color, stain or varnish finish and as opposed to perform- ing a protective function. This general group of decorative paint finishes includes a number of “subgroups” some of which overlap and others of which have more than one name by which they are recognized.

These include:   seek to imitate products found in nature such as wood, marble, granite, stone, etc. These include wood graining, marbling, gilding, etc.

• Representative Finishes: These seek to imitate prod- ucts otherwise made like leather, parchment, fresco, Venetian plaster (itself a faux plaster), etc.

• Special Effect Finishes: Broken color effects (as opposed to imitation effects), such as ragging on, ragging off, sponging on, sponging off, strié, splat- tering, stippling, etc.

• Graphic Finishes: Detailed effects such as stenciling and graphics that are in accordance with “math- ematical rules.”

• Pictorial Finishes: Decorative effects such as murals, scenics, portraits, etc.

• Trompe d’oeil: In French, “trick of the eye.” That which creates such a strong illusion that it is difficult to ascertain whether it is real or a representation. Usually, but not always, threedimensional, giving the impression of depth and perspective. [MPI]

• Faux (false) Finishes: In French, “false” finish. These

DECORATIVE PAINTING: A coating applied more for its aesthetic or decorative function than for protective purposes. [MPI]

DEEP (COLOR): Intense, strong color with no appearance of black. Also called an accent color. [Craftsman’s]

DEEP-TONE BASE: Paint base used to develop deep colors. Might contain small amount of white. Also called an accent base. [Craftsman’s]

DEFECTIVE: Subnormal with respect to written specifications. [SSPC]

DESIGN DEFECTS: A physical condition, created by the design of a structure, vessel, etc., that prevents meeting the specification requirements for surface preparation and/or coating application to a surface by standard industry methods. [PDCA]

DEVIATION: Completed work that is not in accord- ance with the specification requirements. [SSPC]

DOCUMENTATION: The assembling and dissemi- nation of written information, communication directives or records in substantiation of work done or facts quoted. [SSPC]

ENVIRONMENT: The circumstances, objects or conditions by which one is surrounded; the complex of physical, chemical and biotic factors that act upon an organism or structure and ultimately determine its form and survival. [Merriam-Webster’s]

EXPOSED: A surface, area or object that is visible from a position of normal use of the facility. This term does not imply that that any finish will be applied by the painting and decorating contractor unless explicitly specified. [PDCA]

EXPOSED CONSTRUCTION: Basic materials of construction such as joists, pipes, ducts, studs, etc. that are not encased by a finished wall or ceiling. This term does not imply that that any finish will be applied by the painting and decorating contractor unless explicitly specified. [PDCA]

EXPOSED PAINTED/EXPOSED CONSTRUC- TION PAINTED: A term that implies that exposed construction will be painted with the coatings speci- fied for that particular surface or substrate. [PDCA]

FACTORY FINISHED: Finished at the point of manufacture, requiring no additional work or finish by the painting and decorating contractor. [MPI]

FAUX FINISH: In French, literally a “false” finish. A decorative finish applied to surfaces (wood, drywall, glass, etc.) to make them appear as different substrates. The general category may also include faux plaster (such as Ventian plaster) or faux brick finishes (which may use actual plaster formulations or brick facing) but which also can be simulated with decorative painted effects. Origi- nally, it meant an artificial finish that represented or imitated a finish of natural products such as wood, stone, marble, etc. for those who could not obtain the “real thing.”

It is also used today to match “real” adjacent items where cost or regulation would preclude the use of the “real” material. Faux marble (“false marble”) is marbling, faux bois (“false wood”) is wood grain- ing. There is also faux granite (“false granite”) and faux tortoiseshell (“false tortoiseshell”). The term, however, has come to include imitations of other products that are not directly “from nature.” Faux leather, faux parchment, faux moldings are some that are now included, as is gilding, antiquing, fresco and some verdigris/patina.

Faux finish does not properly include special effect finishes, graphic finishes, pictorial finishes and tromp d’oeil. These are defined elsewhere. Fantasy finishes may include “creative” faux finishes, or just may create different effects. [MPI]

FINISH: An entire paint or coating system; the texture, color and sheen of a surface. [Craftsman’s]

FINISHED AREA: A vague term that does not imply that paints, coatings, or other decorative finishes are to be applied. [PDCA]

FINISHED LIGHTING: Finished lighting conditions are described as those in place when the project is finished. This includes, but is not limited to, design lighting (e.g., wall washers, spots, floods, etc.) and natural lighting (e.g., skylights, clear view windows, window walls, window treatments, etc.). [PDCA]

FINISH COAT: The last coat applied in a painting operation. A finish coat is formulated specifically for environmental resistance and appearance. [Craftsman’s]

FSCT: Abbreviation for Federation of Societies for Coatings Technology. [FSCT]

GA: Abbreviation for Gypsum Association. [PDCA]

GRAPHICS: Two or more colors decoratively applied to a surface in a clearly defined pattern. [MPI]

HIDING, syn. HIDING POWER: The degree or abil- ity of an opaque coating, applied in a uniform film, to cover, mask or obscure the substrate to which it is applied, or the colors underneath. Hiding power is provided by the paint’s pigment. [MPI]

HOLD POINT: The point at which work must be stopped until inspection or testing is performed. [SSPC]

INACCESSIBLE: Not accessible. (The opposite of “accessible” see 5.4.) [Merriam-Webster’s]

INSPECTION LIGHTING: Illumination of the installed surface from an angle at an intensity sufficient to eliminate any shadowing that may be caused by other illumination striking the surface at any angle. [MPI]

INSPECTOR: A trained, qualified person who examines and documents materials used and work performed to confirm adherence to accepted trade practices, standards and specifications. [MPI]

INTEGRAL COLOR: Term implying that a surface or material does not require additional finish by the painting and decorating contractor. [PDCA]

JOB EQUENCE/SEQUENCING: An order of succession or continuity of progression of work activities. [PDCA]

LATENT DAMAGE OR DEFECTS: Damage to surfaces by cause beyond the control of the paint- ing and decorating contractor. Examples of such include, but are not limited to, building settlement, earthquake damage, and nail and/or screw pops or expansion and/or contraction of substrate. [PDCA Standard P1]

LEAP-FROGGING: The presence of other subcontractor(s) and/or stockpiling of materials in areas, which interferes with and hampers painting and decorating contractor’s crew from completing its work in a given area. [PDCA Standard P7]

MAINTENANCE: The act of maintaining; the state of being maintained; the upkeep of property or equipment [Merriam-Webster’s]

MAINTENANCE PAINTING: The selective repaint- ing of surfaces on an ongoing cyclic basis with

the focus on prevention of coating and subsequent substrate failure. [MPI]

MID-TONE BASE: Paint base used to develop colors darker than a pastel. Tint strength of white has been reduced. (Lighter than deep-tone base.) [Craftsman’s]

MPI: Abbreviation for Master Painters Institute [MPI]

MULTI-COLOR FINISH: A speckled coating contain- ing flecks of small individual colored particles different from the base color. Syn. speckled finish. [FSCT]

MURAL: A painting applied directly to a wall or ceiling.; a wallcovering with a mural scene that continues over several strips to cover one wall with- out a repeat. Also called a scenic. [Craftsman’s]

NACE: Abbreviation for National Association of Corrosion Engineers. [SSPC]

NAWIC: Abbreviation for National Association of Women in Construction. [PDCA]

NORMAL VIEWING POSITION: For the purpose of inspection, a normal viewing position shall be at eye level at a minimum of thirty-nine (39) inches or one (1) meter from the wall. [PDCA Standard P1]

NONCOMPLIANT: Deficiency in characteristic, specification, regulation, documentation or proce- dure. [MPI]

OFF-WHITE: Any number of light colors that are nearly white, but contain minute amounts of color or toner. Off-white colors are used as base colors in interior paints for large surfaces such as walls. (Lighter than a pastel.) [MPI]

OPINION: A view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter; a belief stronger than impression and less strong than posi- tive knowledge; a generally held view; a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert; the formal expression (as by a judge, court, or referee) of the legal reasons and principles upon which a legal decision is based. [Merriam-Webster’s]

OTHERS: Any individual or g roup of individuals other than the painting and decorating contractor or his employees. [PDCA]

PAINT: Any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition designed for application to a substrate as a thin layer, which is converted to an opaque solid film after application. [SSPC]

PAINT ACCENT: See PDCA Standard P3, Designa- tion of Paint Colors.

PAINTER’S CAULK: The application of painter’s caulk shall be as directed and as delineated in specification section 09 90 00 Painting, or in the absence of direction or delineation, the following shall be assumed within the scope of work: Joints between wood or wood composite materials, trim, baseboard, molding, and casements. These joints include and are limited to wood to wood or wood composite substrates, and wood to gypsum drywall, plaster or similar wall surfaces. These joints shall only be between field painted surfaces. Painter’s caulk is to be applied to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the affected surfaces. It is not the responsibility of the applicator of painter’s caulk to waterproof a surface, joint or void, nor is it the responsibility of the applicator of painter’s caulk to conceal, eliminate, minimize, or disguise shrinkage or movement of joints or voids. [PDCA Standard P11]

PAINT DAMAGE: See coating damage.

PAINTING AND DECORATING CONTRACTOR: An individual or firm whose primary business is providing surface preparation, and wallcovering and coating application service [MPI]

PAINTING AND DECORATING CONTRACTOR’S REPRESENTATIVE: An individual, identified to the contracting entity, as having the authority, within stated parameters, to speak and act for the paint- ing and decorating contractor. [PDCA]

PASTEL: A soft, pale shade of any color. (Lighter than a mid-tone base.) [Webster’s]

PDCA: Painting and Decorating Contractors of America. [PDCA]

PDRA: Abbreviation for Painting and Decorating Retailers of America. [PDCA]

PERCENT VOLUME SOLI or material does not require additional finish by the painting and deco- rating contractor. [PDCA]

PERCENTAGE OF ACCENT: See PDCA Standard P3, Designation of Paint Colors.

PHASING SEQUENCE: See PDCA Standard P7, Job Sequencing.

POROSITY: The absorption of a paint by the surface being coated. The ability of a surface to absorb a liquid, vapor or gas. A measure of the degree of voidage in an object expressed as a fraction of the total object’s volume. The major consideration in the absorption of paint, liquid, vapor or gas by the surface. [Craftsman’s] [MPI]

PREFINISHED: PRE-FINISHED: For the purpose of this standard, a completely finished product requir- ing installation only, finished by an entity other than the painting and decorating contractor. An inap- propriate term sometimes used to define “factory finished”. [PDCA] [MPI]

PREPARATION: The action or process of making something ready for use or service or of getting ready for some occasion, test, or duty; a state of being prepared; a preparatory act or measure. Performance of the specified procedures prior to the application of paint, coating, wallcovering or other decorative finish. [Merriam-Webster’s] [MPI]

PRE-SEALER: A product applied prior to the application of stain for the purpose of evening the porosity of the soft wood to which it is applied. [PDCA]

PROPERLY PAINTED SURFACE: A surface uniform in appearance, color, texture, hiding and sheen. It is also free of foreign material, lumps, skins, runs, sags, holidays, misses, or insufficient coverage.

It is also a surface free of drips, spatters, spills or overspray caused by the painting and decorating contractor’s workforce. [PDCA Standard P1]

PUNCH LIST: A checklist of all items on a construc- tion project that are unfinished, or incomplete, have not been done at all, require replacement or repair, or acquire additional work to achieve an acceptable level of workmanship. Such a list

is often established as a result of periodic inspec- tions at the job site during construction and may be included in field reports. All items must be corrected by the contractor in a timely fashion so that the finished construction job conforms to the contract documents. [Dictionary of Architecture and Construction]

QUALIFICATION: A restriction in meaning or appli- cation; a limiting modification; a quality or skill that fits a person; a condition or standard that must be complied with. [Merriam-Webster’s]

QUALITY ASSURANCE (QA) : The verification of the conformance of materials and methods of application to the governing specification in order to achieve a desired result. [Craftsman’s]

QUALITY CONTROL (QC): Administrative and engineering procedures employed to attain the desired level of quality assurance. [Craftsman’s]

QUALITY OF APPEARANCE: Aesthetics; concep- tion of beauty, a particular taste for or approach to what is pleasing to the senses and especially sight. [Merriam-Webster’s]

REFINISH: To give (as furniture) a new surface. (This term does not imply the removal of existing finishes prior to the application of a new finish). [Merriam-Webster’s]

REFURBISH: To brighten or freshen up; renovate (This term does not imply the removal of existing finishes unless specified.) [Merriam-Webster’s]

RE-GLAZE: To replace defective or missing glaz- ing compound or apply a decorative finish. (This term must be further clarified and specified for proper pricing.) To furnish or fit with glass. [PDCA] [Merriam-Webster’s]

REFER TO: Direct attention to another section of the specifications. (This term does not clarify the scope of work.) [PDCA]

ROOM FINISH SCHEDULE: A table or chart show- ing individual rooms and the substrates and/or finishes required. Often requiring further clarifica- tion for proper pricing. [PDCA Estimating Guide Volume 1]

SHADING: Variation, creted in the manufacturing process, in the color, texture or gloss within the same strip of a wallcovering. [ASTM]

SHIFT WORK: Work scheduled in time periods other than the normal workday. [PDCA]

SHOP PRIMED: (shop coated) A prefabricated article that has been primed at the factory. A prime coat applied by an entity other than the painting and decorating contractor. [NAWIC] [PDCA]

SPECIAL FINISHES: Paints and coatings requiring special tools or techniques for application i.e.: faux finishes, decorative finishes, graphics, multi-color or murals. A representative sample must be submit- ted by the contracting entity prior to bid on projects where these finishes are specified. [MPI] [PDCA]

SPECIFICATION: A clear accurate description of the technical requirement for material products, or services, which specifies the minimum require- ment for quality and construction of materials and equipment necessary for an acceptable product. In general, specifications are in the form of written descriptions, drawings, prints, commercial desig- nations, industry standards and other descriptive references. [FSCT]

SQUARE FEET: A common unit of measure of surface area determined in accordance with the methods, procedures and standards as defined in the PDCA Estimating Guide Volume 1, Practices and Procedures and PDCA Estimating Guide Volume 2, Rates and Tables. [PDCA]

SSPC: Abbreviation for The Society for Protective Coatings [SSPC]

STACKING OF TRADES: Simultaneous operation of several trades, resulting in congestion and confu- sion, which in turn causes a decrease in labor productivity. [PDCA]

STAIN CONDITIONER: See pre-sealer.

STANDARD: Something established by author- ity, custom, or general consent as a model or example; criterion; something set up and estab- lished by authority as a rule for the measure

of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality. [Merriam-Webster’s]

SUBSTRATE: A variant of substratum. In paint- ing, any surface to be painted, including wood, concrete, masonry, steel, other metals, and various other materials or previous paints. A substrate can, therefore, be bare or covered. A previously unpainted surface sometimes is called the “original substrate.” [MPI]

SURFACE: The substrate to which paints, coatings, or wallcoverings are applied; the finish obtained after the coating work has been completed. [Craftsman’s]

SURFACE AREA: The measurement of the area of surface to be finished determined in accordance with the methods, procedures and standards as defined by the PDCA Standard P10.

TACIT: Expressed or carried on without words or speech; implied or indicated (as by an act or by silence) but not actually expressed. [Merriam-Webster’s]

TEXTURE: The general physical appearance, or the impression caused by a surface structure. [MPI]

THIRD PARTY: An independent contractor or business entity that is not a principal (contracting entity, general contractor, painting and decorat- ing contractor or material supplier), employee, subsidiary of a principal, or any other party to the contract for coatings application work. [PDCA Standard P2]

TOUCH UP: The correction of deficiencies in the specified work to achieve a “properly painted surface” [PDCA Standard P1]

TRADE USAGE: A practice widely accepted and relied upon in numerous transactions in a particu- lar trade or industry. [PDCA]

TRAINING: The act, process, or method of one that trains; the skill, knowledge, or experience acquired by one that trains; the state of being trained. [Merriam-Webster’s]

TYPICAL: A term that is subject to individual interpretation and requires further clarification from the contracting entity to describe the scope of work. This term does not imply the application of any finish by the painting and decorating contractor unless explicitly specified. [PDCA]

ULTRA-DEEP BASE: Paint base used to develop deep intense colors with no apparent white. Deeper than a mid-tone base. [Craftsman’s]

VERTICALITY: Situated at the highest point; directly overhead or in the zenith; perpendicular to the plane of the horizon or to a primary axis. [Merriam-Webster’s]

WALLCOVERING INSTALLER, syn. PAPERHANGER: The individual responsible for the installation of wallpaper or wallcovering. [PDCA]

WALLCOVERING, syn. WALLPAPER: Any type of paper, vinyl, fabric or specialty material that is pasted onto a wall or ceiling for decoration and/ or protection. Wallcoverings come in a wide array of colors, patterns, textures and performance characteristics, such as washability and abrasion resistance. [Craftsman’s]

WARRANTY: A real covenant binding the grantor of an estate and the grantor’s heirs to warrant and defend the title; a collateral undertaking that a fact regarding the subject of a contract is or will be as it is expressly or by implication declared or prom- ised to be; something that authorizes, sanctions, supports, or justifies; a usually written guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker’s responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts [Merriam-Webster’s]

WHITE: A basic paint color as described by coat- ings manufacturers. ASTM D1535-89 “specifying color by the Munsell System,” 3.2.5 Munsell Value, N-10 – Ideal White. ASTM E31387, indexes of whiteness. [ASTM]

WORK LIST: A vague term sometimes implying a preliminary punch list generated to provide an indication of work remaining to be completed. [PDCA]

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