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. Thye 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:
- Calcium sulfate based levelling screeds.
- Cement based levelling / wearing screeds.
- Decorative papers / fabrics.
- Edge fixed carpeting.
- Insulation with rendered finish.
- Intumescent coatings for fire protection of steelwork.
- Mastic asphalt flooring/ floor underlays.
- Metal lathing / anchored mesh reinforcement for plastered/ rendered coatings.
- Painting / clear finishing.
- Plastered / rendered / roughcast coatings.
- Resin flooring.
- Rubber / plastics / cork/ lino / carpet tiling / sheeting.
- Sprayed monolithic coatings.
- Stone / concrete / quarry / ceramic tiling / mosaic.
- Terrazzo tiling / in situ terrazzo.
- Wood block / composition block / mosaic parquet flooring.
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:
- Aluminium paints.
- Casein paints.
- Cement paints.
- Concrete finishing coats.
- Concrete flash coats.
- Concrete floor dyes.
- Concrete floor paints.
- Concrete stains.
- High pigment water-borne paint.
- Micaceous iron oxide paints.
- Multi-colour coatings.
- Multi-colour finish spatter coatings.
- Oil-bound distempers.
- Plant oil paints.
- Plastic texture paints.
- Resin-based breathable masonry paints.
- Semi-transparent timber stains and dyes.
- Silicate-based masonry coatings.
- Solvent-based finishing coats.
- Solvent-borne gloss finishes.
- Solvent-borne masonry paints.
- Solvent-borne matt and flat finishes.
- Solvent-borne mid-sheen finishes.
- Tallow lime washes.
- Water-borne gloss finishes.
- Water-borne masonry paints.
- Water-borne matt and flat finishes.
- Water-borne mid-sheen finishes.
The choice of finishes might be influenced by factors such as:
- Colour and appearance (matt, gloss, silk and so on).
- Maintenance and cleaning requirements.
- Expected life.
- Weather resistance.
- Corrosion resistance.
- Preparation required.
- Ease of application.
- Drying time.
- Safety or environmental issues.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Read the story behind the world's most iconic festival stage, Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage.
First ever BREEAM Communities innovation credit is claimed by Temple Farm Development.
Read the story of Ronan Point, another disastrous event which had profound consequences for the construction industry.
CIOB to help conservation specialists gain recognition for their expertise with launch of new Certification Scheme.
A brief introduction to Building Information Modelling - is it the future of construction?
Have a look at Francis Kéré's 2017 pavilion, based on the concept of the tree as a place of shelter.
CIOB announce new commission to assess what more it and the industry can do to tackle build quality issues.
As the UK enjoys a heat wave, read all about the daylight factor.
Not only is this building shaped like a teapot, it can rotate 360-degrees.
What is ACM cladding, what is it used for, and is it banned?
Read about the largest transport project in Norway getting underway.
Read our review of a new guide aimed at helping architects avoid and resolve disputes.
Find out about specifying insulation for inverted roofs.
Have a look at the new project being trialled in Modena that 'eats' the equivalent air pollution of 275 urban trees.