- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 12 Dec 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:
- 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
- Bill of quantities.
- Furniture, fixtures and equipment.
- How to fit skirting boards.
- Interior designer.
- Intumescent coatings.
- Large-scale murals.
- Paints and coatings.
- Room data sheet
- Resin flooring.
- Trompe l’oeil.
Featured articles and news
BIM standards BS 1192:2007+A2:2016 and PAS 1192-2:2013 have been superceded.
What is biophilic design and how can it increase wellbeing?
80 experts come up with the top 7 mistakes the industry makes with BREEAM.
Compliance cannot be verified by inspection on delivery.
Some electric cars have batteries that give a range of over 350 miles.
Assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future.
A sensitive approach to renovating a building of historic stature.
UK energy policy uncertainty as Welsh project put on hold
What collaborative working achieves and how it can be put in place.
BSRIA publishes the 2019 edition of its small but concise annual databook.
Using QSAND to measure the performance of disaster response.
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