- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 20 Feb 2018
The term ‘topping out’ refers 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 (not that the project has reached completion). In the UK, topping out may be marked by the installation of a plaque or other feature recording the occasion 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 suggests there was a practice of placing a tree on top of a new building to appease the tree dwelling spirits of their displaced ancestors. This became a celebration as large numbers of the community would often assist with completing a new building, and it was a way 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 on top of the building 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.
- Spain: A flag is raised and all workers are invited to a lunch by the boss.
Media representatives are often present at topping out ceremonies on 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.
|Prime Minister Tony Blair at the topping out ceremony for the Millennium Dome on 22 June 1998.|
 Find out more
 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.
Featured articles and news
What U-values are, why they matter and how they are calculated.
The need to ensure that we plan for all aspects of our bio-economy
BSRIA calls on government to reach deeper into the causes of pollution.
George Demetri brings a whole new level of technical knowledge to Designing Buildings Wiki.
Quality professionals need to take an active role in driving the completion process forwards.
The innovations needed to move from rhetoric to realisation.
Creating a sense of place, with radically-low running costs and the highest comfort levels.
A conversation between David Mitchell and Caitlin DeSilvey.
A quick guide to brick sizes.
The Union Street development in Southwark was a passion, as well as a business endeavour.
Do our water quality standards demonstrate to the public that their supply is clean?
A third of practitioners do not have easy access to the knowledge they need.
Sustainable approaches to relief, recovery and reconstruction after a natural disaster.