What Are Finishes in Construction? A Comprehensive Guide

June 12, 2024

Finishes are critical in the construction and manufacturing processes as they provide the final touch to an element's surface. These finishes serve multifaceted purposes, including protection from impact, water, frost, corrosion, and abrasion, along with enhancing the aesthetics of a structure.

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Types and Applications of Finishes

Finishes can be applied to both internal and external surfaces and can come in wet or dry forms. Sometimes, materials like certain stones or concrete are inherently self-finished. These applications often involve multiple layers; for instance, an undercoat or primer might be applied before the final layer of paint.

Common Types of Finishes


Stucco is known for its durability and aesthetic versatility. It's fire-resistant but can absorb moisture, leading to rapid degradation in humid climates.


Vinyl is lightweight, economical, and easy to install and clean. However, it can crack or warp in extreme weather conditions.

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Fiber Cement

Fiber cement is non-combustible, robust, low maintenance, and environmentally friendly. It can mimic other materials but tends to be on the expensive side.

Brick or Brick Veneer

Bricks are visually appealing, weatherproof, low maintenance, energy-efficient, and fire-resistant but can be expensive and vulnerable to moisture.

Alternative Exterior Finishing Materials

Other materials include sheetrock, metal siding, panel siding, longboard siding, wood panels, and sheet siding. Each material has unique benefits and drawbacks that affect the building's durability and aesthetic appeal.

Factors Influencing Choice of Finishes

Several factors guide the decision-making process for selecting finishes. These include aesthetic preferences, durability requirements, environmental exposure, maintenance considerations, and budget constraints. For example, finishes in a region prone to heavy rainfall need to be water-resistant, while finishes in sunny areas might prioritize UV protection.

Categorization of Finishes

Finishes can sometimes overlap with other building component categories. For instance, plaster can be seen as both a finish and a lining, while stone might be categorized as part of the wall or flooring. The National Building Specification (NBS) categorizes finishes, but there are overlaps and nuances in these classifications.

Uniclass Classification

Uniclass also provides a classification for ‘decorative’ coatings, though not explicitly detailed here. Understanding how these classifications influence project planning and documentation is fundamental for architects and builders.

Technological Innovations in Finishes

Recent technological advancements are addressing the installation and performance challenges of conventional materials. These innovations help even the less experienced installers achieve professional results, thereby improving overall construction efficiency.

ClarkDietrich Solutions

Products like the Easy Embedment System™ (EES) from ClarkDietrich offer a framework for lath embedment, ensuring lasting performance and ease of application. This system helps inexperienced contractors achieve high-quality finishes and incorporates products like Structa Wire, E-Flange™ Casing Beads, and Control Joints to enhance embedment effectiveness.


While the final section might be missing, it's crucial to understand that the process of selecting and applying finishes is comprehensive. From their definition and applications to the nuances in categorization and modern advancements, finishes play a vital role in the aesthetic and functional longevity of constructions.

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