‘Topping out’ is the term used by contractors to refer to the installation of the final piece of structure, or the completion of the roof on a building, bridge or other large construction. It signifies that the structure has reached its maximum height rather than the project has reached completion. In the UK, the topping out stage may be marked by the installation of a plaque or other feature recording the event and is often used as a PR event for the media.
The significance of topping out is believed to date back to pre-Dark Age Scandinavia, where folklore suggested there was a wide practice of placing a tree on top of a new building to appease the tree dwelling spirits of their displaced ancestors. It became a celebration due to the fact that large numbers of the community would often assist with completing a new building, and as such it was a way that the building owner could show their appreciation. The Scandinavian invaders of the mid-to-late 8th century, introduced the practice to England.
In 14th century England, topping out ceremonies were marked by a yew tree branch being placed at the highest point of the building. Such occasions were included in the writings of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Often the personal flag of the owner would be hoisted to the building’s top once the shell was complete.
In modern construction, topping out ceremonies are celebrated in different ways around the world:
- Jordan: Builders hold a religious ceremony followed by a feast.
- Denmark: The roof of the building is decorated with evergreen garlands.
- America: The final structural piece is often painted white and signed by members of the construction team.
- Germany: Laurels are hung around the chimney of a new house to acknowledge its ‘birth’.
- Brazil: Branches and leaves are fixed to the building.
Media representatives are often present at the topping out ceremonies of major projects, invited to attend in order to generate interest in the project, as well as celebrate its progress and the achievement of the construction team.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Activity schedule.
- Certificate of non completion.
- Completion date.
- End of stage report for construction.
- Final certificate.
- Key dates.
- Handing over possession of the construction site to the contractor.
- Handover to the client.
- Practical completion.
- Programme for building design and construction.
- Scheduling construction activities.
- Sectional completion.
 External references
- Kimmel - Topping out
Featured articles and news
UK-GBC green paper proposes more powers for cities on new-build housing.
The Pompidou Centre – not a monument but an event.
The Chartered Institute of Building restructures and launches 29 new local hubs.
Designing Buildings Wiki talks to the founder of the world's first indoor biophilic gym, now open in London.
£1.3bn Swansea Bay project to be backed as a 'pathfinder' for other tidal lagoon projects.
Designs released for a proposed Las Vegas stadium to entice the Oakland Raiders.
Have a look at these award-winning concept designs for a thermal bath in Latvia.
Flagship project no longer "a going concern" according to the Garden Bridge Trust as funding slows.
How the work of 20th century urbanist Jane Jacobs continues to resonate in light of the government's garden village plans.
New landmark for the Ecuadorean capital of Quito utilises a sinuous facade mold system.
Have a look at this glass piano and violin building in China.