Last edited 03 Oct 2018


Finishes are used in the final part of the construction or manufacturing process, forming the final surface of an element. They can protect the element they finish from impact, water, frost, corrosion, abrasion, and so on, and/or they can be decorative.

Finishes commonly relate to internal surfaces, but they may also be applied to external elements. They can be applied wet or dry. Some elements are self-finished, that is the final surface is part of the material the element is formed from.

The application of finishes may involve the build up of more than layer, which whilst some of the layers will form the final exposed surface, they are nonetheless considered to be finishes. For example, an undercoat or primer might be applied to a wall before the final paint.

NBS categorise finishes as:

However, this is some overlap in this categorisation with other building components, and some classifications might place some of these items within other categories. For example, plaster might be considered a lining rather than a finish stone might be considered part of the wall or floor construction, and so on.

Uniclass lists the following ‘decorative’ coatings:

The choice of finishes might be influenced by factors, such as:

  • Colour and appearance (matt, gloss, silk, and so on).
  • Texture.
  • Maintenance and cleaning requirements.
  • Durability.
  • Expected life.
  • Weather resistance.
  • Corrosion resistance.
  • Availability.
  • Preparation required.
  • Ease of application.
  • Drying time.
  • Cost.
  • Safety or environmental issues.
  • Waste.

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