First fix (sometimes described as shell and first fix ) is a short-hand term used to describe the processes that are undertaken during construction works up to the point of applying internal surfaces – typically plaster. It is normally used in relation to the work of specific trades such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians.
Generally first fix will include constructing the structure, cladding, flooring, doorframes, stairs and so on and installing cables for electrical and ICT distribution, pipework for water and gas distribution and heating ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) distribution. First fix is not normally visible when looking at the finished building. Where possible first fix should be tested before second fix (for example, plumbing riser stacks).
Second fix takes place after the internal surfaces have been applied. It comprises those items that are visible in a finished area and are held back to avoid damage, or sadly sometimes theft. This may include fitting internal doors, skirting, architraves, handrails, fixtures and fittings, including connection of appliances (such as electrical equipment, sanitaryware, radiators, and so on) testing and commissioning.
Typically there will be a change of trades operating on the site, and a break in activity for some trades between first and second fix.
In hotels and residential work there is sometimes a third fix of fixtures and fittings of high value that require fitting or service connections such as chandeliers, white goods, picture-lit artwork and fabrics.
As first fix, second fix and third fix do not have accurate standard definitions, it is very important that contract documentation sets out precisely what work is to be carried out and by who, rather than relying on ambiguous short-hand terms.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
High quality and high density homes - is it what we need or is it storing up trouble?
Government announces its intention to strengthen planning rules to protect music venues and neighbours.
National Audit Office reports that there is little evidence that PFI offers better value than other forms of contracting.
What is liquidation and how does it apply to contractors in the construction industry?
Scrutiny is placed on Carillion's controversial 2013 decision to extend subcontractor payment terms to 120 days.
RSHP unveil their involvement in a boundary crossing which will provide a new entry point into Hong Kong.
With PFI currently under the spotlight due to Carillion, this introductory article explains what they are.
Estimates suggest that up to 30,000 small firms could be at risk of non-payment as a result of Carillion's collapse.
Sir Oliver Letwin to lead an independent review into the delays in the delivery of housing.
As Carillion collapses, read our article explaining insolvency in the construction industry.
43,000 jobs at risk as Carillion declares insolvency.